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May 26, 2015

Pentagon slams ‘unhelpful’ Shi’ite code name for Ramadi offensive

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon on Tuesday said it was “unhelpful” for Iraq’s Shi’ite militia to have announced an openly sectarian code name for the operation to retake the Sunni city of Ramadi and added that, in the U.S. view, the full-on offensive had yet to begin.

A spokesman for the Shi’ite militias, known as Hashid Shaabi, said the code name for the new operation would be “Labaik ya Hussein”, a slogan in honor of a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed killed in the 7th Century battle that led to the schism between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims.

May 21, 2015

Despite Obama endorsement, U.S. concerns grow over Iraqi premier

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration is publicly voicing confidence in Iraq’s prime minister in the fight against surging Islamic State militants, but privately some U.S. officials question whether he is too weak to bridge the sectarian divide.

Washington is still betting on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who stands at the center of President Barack Obama’s strategy to roll back the latest conquests of Islamic State while keeping the United States from being pulled deeper into a conflict U.S. combat troops left in 2011.

May 19, 2015

Pentagon says Iran warships ‘linked up’ with cargo vessel

WASHINGTON/LONDON, May 19 (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on
Tuesday that two Iranian warships have “linked up” with a cargo
ship that Iran has said is carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen,
as activists on board the vessel said it was due to arrive at
the Yemeni port of Hodaida on Thursday.

“We’re not overly concerned at this point,” Pentagon
spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told a briefing, adding that the
ships’ locations were being monitored “every step of the way.”

May 18, 2015

U.S. signals no strategy shift in Iraq, despite Ramadi’s fall

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States signaled no intent to shift its strategy in Iraq’s war on Monday, even as the fall of the city of Ramadi to Islamic State called into question the relative strength of Iraq’s army after months of U.S.-led advising and air strikes.

The loss of the western Iraqi city to the militants represents the biggest defeat for Iraq’s government since mid-2014, when Islamic State swept into Iraq and seized more than a third of the country.

May 16, 2015

With swoop on Islamic State compound, U.S. commandos seek to disrupt financing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After weeks of planning and surveillance focused on a compound near the oilfields of eastern Syria, elite American commandos were finally given the green light to swoop in on their target – an Islamic State commander considered to have acted as the group’s “chief financial officer.”

Mounting a rare raid in a war-ravaged country where U.S. President Barack Obama has long been reluctant to commit “boots on the ground,” the Delta Force unit flew in from Iraq under cover of darkness in the early hours of Saturday on Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

May 15, 2015

Iran navy fires shots at tanker as tensions rise in Gulf

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – Iranian naval vessels fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker in the Gulf on Thursday, in what appeared to be Iran’s latest attempt to settle a legal dispute by force with passing commercial vessels, U.S. officials said.

The incident unnerved the shipping industry just as President Barack Obama met with Gulf allies to try to allay their concerns that Iran would be empowered by a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the West lifting sanctions.

May 14, 2015

Iranian ships fire warning shots at Singapore-flagged vessel -U.S. officials

WASHINGTON, May 14 (Reuters) – Iranian naval vessels fired
what appeared to be warning shots over a Singapore-flagged ship
in international waters in the Gulf on Thursday, prompting it to
flee to United Arab Emirates waters, U.S. officials said.

The Alpine Eternity, a 29,130 gross tonnes oil products
tanker, has safely reached the UAE port of Jebel Ali after
coming under attack in the Gulf, its manager said.

May 13, 2015

Pentagon mulls sending planes, ships near disputed South China Sea islands

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around rapidly growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending U.S. military ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of reefs that China has been building up in the disputed Spratly Islands, the official said.

May 12, 2015

U.S. calls on Iran to redirect Yemen-bound cargo ship

WASHINGTON/DUBAI, May 12 (Reuters) – The United States
called on Iran on Tuesday to send humanitarian relief for Yemen
to a U.N. distribution center in Djibouti and criticized plans,
reported by Iranian state media, for Iranian warships to escort
a cargo vessel directly to Yemen.

The Pentagon said it was watching the ship, the Iran Shahed,
which Tehran says is carrying humanitarian supplies.

May 12, 2015

U.S. Marine helicopter with eight aboard missing in Nepal quake zone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Marine Corps helicopter was declared missing on Tuesday with six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers aboard as it was ferrying rice and tarps to earthquake victims in rugged terrain in Nepal, near a town hard hit by the latest deadly aftershocks.

Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said reports from the field indicated the helicopter’s crew was overheard talking about fuel problems before U.S. military officials lost contact with the light attack helicopter.

    • About Phil

      "Phil Stewart has worked for Reuters since 1998 and reported from more than 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt. Before becoming a Washington D.C.-based military affairs and intelligence reporter, Phil covered terrorism, foreign affairs and the Vatican from Rome from 2004 until mid-2009. He has also previously been based in Colombia and Brazil as a foreign correspondent. Before joining Reuters, Phil covered U.S. politics out of Washington D.C. for States News Service. He earned his BS in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. ..."
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