News Briefs – June 17, 2019

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Mortar attack on Iraqi base home to U.S. troops; no casualties

The Iraqi military says three mortar shells have hit an air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers are present, causing a small fire but no casualties.
The military statement says the attack on Balad air base occurred early June 15.
The attack comes amid rising tension in the Middle East between the United States and Iran, which ratcheted up on June 13 after suspected attacks on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has denied involvement.
Last month, a rocket exploded less than a mile away from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
The current crisis is rooted in the U.S. withdrawal last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall. AP
 

Turkey won’t bow to U.S. ‘ultimatums’ on Russia missile system

Turkey’s foreign minister said June 13 his country won’t bow to “ultimatums” after the United States warned Turkey it was excluding it from the F-35 fighter jet program over its deal with Russia to purchase its S-400 missile defense system.
U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a letter to his Turkish counterpart recently week that the training of Turkish pilots will end July 31 and that Turkey wouldn’t be allowed to take final possession of the four F-35 aircraft it bought.
Shanahan also warned that Ankara’s purchase of the Russian system could hamper America’s future relationship with Turkey, a NATO member which has been a critical U.S. partner and base for combat operations, including for the war in Syria.
Washington insists the Russian missile defense system poses a security risk to the F-35 program. The issue has strained already tense ties between the U.S. and Turkey.
Speaking to reporters at a joint news conference with his French counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated that the S-400 deal had been concluded and that Turkey would take delivery of the S-400 missiles.
He said: “Turkey won’t reverse its decision with such letters.”
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar meanwhile, held a telephone conversation with Shanahan during which he told his counterpart that the Turkey was disturbed “by the tone and stance of the letter that does not suit the spirit of alliance,” the Defense Ministry said.
A ministry statement said the two men agreed to hold further talks at a NATO defense ministers in Brussels. AP
 

Trump says he’s sending 1,000 more U.S. troops to ally Poland

President Donald Trump said June 12 that he will send 1,000 more U.S. service members to Poland as part of his broadening security and economic alliance.
Trump made the announcement during a White House news conference with Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda. Trump said the Polish government will pay for the infrastructure to support the additional troops, and he praised Poland for increased defense spending to meeting its NATO commitments.
Earlier in the Oval Office, Trump said the United States has based tens of thousands of troops in Germany for a “long, long time” and that he probably would move a “certain number” of those personnel to Poland, “if we agree to do it.”
Trump also said Poland is buying more than 30 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from the U.S. In recognition of that purchase, a single F-35 flew over the White House on a sunny afternoon. Duda looked up and waved as the jet passed.
Polish leaders have lobbied for additional forces for months and had hoped for a permanent U.S. base they said could be called “Fort Trump.” AP