News Briefs – September 25, 2017


Iranian Guard drills near Iraq ahead of Kurdish referendum

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has begun a military exercise in the northwestern Kurdish region near the Iraqi border ahead of a Kurdish independence referendum in the neighboring country.

The Guard’s website did not say how long the drill will last, only that airborne and missile units will participate in the exercise.

Iraq’s Kurds are set to vote Sept. 25 in a referendum on support for independence. The Kurds are likely to approve the referendum, but the non-binding vote is not expected to result in any formal declaration of independence.

Iran and Iraq have been close allies since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. Both are opposed to Kurdish independence, and Baghdad has said the referendum is unconstitutional. AP

Turkey warns Kurdish leaders on vote as parliament convenes

Turkish officials are pressing Iraqi Kurdish leaders to call off an upcoming independence referendum as Turkey’s parliament convenes to renew a mandate for the country’s military to intervene in Iraq and Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Sept. 23 called the Sept. 25 referendum to create a Kurdish state in neighboring Iraq “a mistake, an adventure.”

Yildirim says Turkey would take diplomatic, political and economic measures according to “developments on the ground.” He added that a cross-border operation also was an option.

The prime minister has said Sept. 23 vote would allow the military to get involved in “all kinds of developments” that threatened Turkey’s security.

Meanwhile, the Turkish military said additional units joined exercises near the Iraqi border as the chief of staff welcomed his Iraqi counterpart to the country. AP

Russian sub fires cruises missiles at militants in Syria

Russia’s defense ministry says its submarine in the Mediterranean Sea has fired cruise missiles at militant positions in northwestern Syria.

The Russia military said the missiles strikes from the Veliky Novgorod submarine on Sept. 22 targeted militants, ammunition depots and fortifications in Syria’s Idlib province, which is dominated by the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee.

Moscow says the Kalibr missiles destroyed command centers and a training base of the militants who had attacked members of the Russian military police in Hama province earlier this week.

Three Russians were wounded after al Qaeda-linked militants surrounded 29 Russian military officers deployed outside of Idlib and kept attacking them for several hours.

According to the Russian defense ministry, the Russian troops repelled the attack with the help of local tribes. AP

Defiant Rouhani says Iran will press on with missile program

Iran’s president says his country will press ahead with its missile program and continue to boost military capabilities in defiance of U.S. demands to the contrary.

Hassan Rouhani spoke during a military parade Sept. 22 commemorating the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

He says Iran “will strengthen our defense and military capabilities … whether you want it or not” — a statement directed at the United States and President Donald Trump’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly.

In the speech, Trump accused Iran of supporting terrorists and called Tehran a “corrupt dictatorship” and a “murderous regime.”

Rouhani also said Tehran will keep supporting the “oppressed people of Yemen, Syria and Palestine,” a reference to Iran’s role in wars in Yemen and Syria and its support for Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas. AP

U.S. Navy awards $5 billion to finish ballistic-missile sub design

The U.S. Navy has awarded a $5 billion contract to General Dynamics’ Electric Boat to finish designing a new class of ballistic-missile submarines so construction can start.

The Navy called the program its top priority because ballistic-missile submarines help deter nuclear war. An Electric Boat official says the award keeps the program on track.

The Connecticut-based company is designing 12 Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines to replace the current fleet of 14 aging Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines.

The award was announced Sept. 21. Construction is expected to begin in fiscal 2021 at Electric Boat’s Rhode Island manufacturing plant and at its headquarters in Groton, Connecticut. Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia is the subcontractor.

The first submarine is expected to be delivered to the Navy in fiscal 2028.

The total cost of the shipbuilding program is about $100 billion. AP