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Officials: 2 American troops, Briton killed in Iraq rocket attack

Multiple rockets hit an Iraqi base housing United States and coalition troops on Wednesday, and an assessment of the incident is under way, said a senior official from the administration of US President Donald Trump. “We are closely following the situation at Camp Taji,” the official said. “We are not going to get ahead of…

Officials: 2 American troops, Briton killed in Iraq rocket attack

Multiple rockets hit an Iraqi base housing United States and coalition troops on Wednesday, and an assessment of the incident is under way, said a senior official from the administration of US President Donald Trump.
“We are closely following the situation at Camp Taji,” the official said. “We are not going to get ahead of the assessment and investigation, which are ongoing.” 
Earlier US media, citing official sources, said that one US soldier and one British soldier were among the three dead. They also said an US contractor was also killed. Those reports have not been confirmed. 
The rocket attack was the 22nd against US military interests in the country since late October, an Iraqi military commander said. 
US Army Colonel Myles Caggins, a US military spokesman in Iraq, said on Twitter more than 15 small rockets hit the base but provided no further details.
One American official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said more information would be given later in an official announcement. 
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Camp Taji, located just north of Baghdad, has been used as a training base for a number of years. There are as many as 6,000 US troops in Iraq, training and advising Iraqi forces and conducting counterterrorism missions.
Previous rocket attacks targeting US soldiers, diplomats and facilities in Iraq killed one US contractor and an Iraqi soldier. None of the attacks has been claimed, but Washington accuses pro-Iran factions of being responsible.

Two days after the death of an American in rockets fired on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk at the end of last year, the US army hit five bases in Iraq and Syria used by the pro-Iran armed faction Kataib Hezbollah.
Kataib Hezbollah was designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the US Department of State in 2009.
Tensions then rose further between foes Washington and Tehran after a US drone strike killed the powerful Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary commander in Baghdad on January 3.
The assassination brought the two countries to the brink of war. 
The US leads an international coalition – comprised of dozens of countries and thousands of soldiers – formed in Iraq in 2014 to confront the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
While ISIL has lost the vast territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, sleeper cells remain capable of carrying out attacks.
The Iraqi parliament voted to expel all foreign soldiers from the country in the wake of the killing of Soleimani, a decision that has still not been acted on by the government.
The outgoing government, which resigned in December in the face of mass protests, has yet to be replaced because of a lack of agreement in parliament – one of the most divided in Iraq’s recent history.

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UAE gets American drones as China ramps up sales |NationalTribune.com

The White House’s recent decision to allow the sale of advanced weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates highlights the deliberate shift in US policy towards the UAE after it signed “normalisation” accords with Israel. Why would the UAE want American drones as it already has dozens of Chinese armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in its…

UAE gets American drones as China ramps up sales |NationalTribune.com

The White House’s recent decision to allow the sale of advanced weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates highlights the deliberate shift in US policy towards the UAE after it signed “normalisation” accords with Israel.
Why would the UAE want American drones as it already has dozens of Chinese armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in its inventory? And why has the United States now agreed to these sales, overcoming its traditional reticence to sell sophisticated weapons to other countries?
Chinese armed drones have made a significant effect on the battlefields across the Middle East and North Africa. They have been used to assassinate Houthi rebel leaders in Yemen, kill ISIL-affiliated fighters in the Sinai, and for a time help Khalifa Haftar dominate the battlespace in Libya. While the US has traditionally refused to sell its latest advanced weapons systems, China is not bound by such constraints and has had no problem exporting its drones right across the Middle East and Africa. 
Factories under licence to build Chinese armed drones have been set up in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Myanmar. Exports of Chinese drones are so extensive the sales have made China the second-largest arms exporter in the world. 
Why are Chinese drones so popular and why has the US held back till now from selling its own combat UAVs?

China steps up
In only a few years, China has been able to research, produce and refine its armed drones, complicated pieces of military hardware, enough to help tip the balance of military power in a conflict. 
Two main types of combat drone have been put up for export, both having achieved significant operational success. The first is the Cai Hong “Rainbow” series, made by the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the most popular version being the CH-4 which has been sold to Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. Earlier versions have seen action in Nigeria as the government battles Boko Haram in the north of the country.
The other main contender is the Wing Loong series of combat drones. Made by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG), they for a time dominated the battlefields of Libya as they have successfully operated out of airbases in the east of the country, giving Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) a significant advantage over the embattled Government of National Accord (GNA).
Both types of drones have several desirable features in common. They have significant range, far greater than other combat drones such as Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2, giving them an enhanced strike capability. They can operate from high up making them more survivable than their competitors and they can carry more bombs and missiles meaning they can pack a heavy punch should they need to. Last but not least they are significantly cheaper. A CH-4 Chinese combat drone at $4m is a quarter of the price of a US-made Reaper MQ-9, which goes for $16m.
So why do countries still seek American weapons systems and why is the US reversing its traditional stance of not selling advanced weapons systems to anyone other than close allies?

US reticence
While Chinese drones have been successful, they have a far from the perfect operational record. There have been significant issues with their satellite command and control. While they fly fairly high, it is still not high enough that they are invulnerable from ground fire, resulting in several combat drones being shot down. Despite being relatively cheap, they still cost several million dollars and procurement of replacements takes time. This can result in reverses on the battlefield for the forces they are backing. 
The MQ-9 Reaper is combat-proven with an excellent operational record, albeit over non-contested skies. The drones can literally be flown from halfway round the world and the Reaper is the world’s first dedicated Hunter-killer drone, able to carry larger, heavier precision-guided bombs as well as missiles. 
The US has been reticent to sell these premier combat drone systems fearing they will either be misused or the technology would fall into the hands of its rivals, such as China, which has been accused of industrial espionage in helping it advance its high-tech military programmes.
To the US’s regional allies, this hesitance to share weapons and technology has seemed hypocritical as it was the US that conducted an extensive assassination programme over Pakistan, with few ethical qualms hindering the campaign.
China has no such problems in selling its technology and has seen its influence grow across the Middle East as a result. Chinese armed drones need Chinese advisers to train foreign personnel and orders for Chinese bombs and missiles are needed as they get used in conflicts and need replacing. It is far easier for new Chinese systems to be integrated into armed forces that already use them. It is this kind of influence that has the US worried. 

An unmanned US Predator drone flies over Kandahar airfield in southern Afghanistan [File: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP]

China has been astute in tying exports of military technology to countries that are an integral part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the sprawling network of ports, highways and rail lines that serve as arteries for the vast amount of vital resources China needs to maintain and guarantee its industrial output in the near future. 
Under President Xi Jinping, China has been more than willing to nurture long-term defence cooperation with its partners along the BRI. A recent report (PDF) published by the London School of Economics foreign policy think-tank directly links sales of Chinese armed drones to countries who are part of the initiative such as the UAE.

Airpower a tall factor in Libya war outcomes

The US did allow the export version of its Predator UAV, which is unarmed, to be exported to the UAE. This did not satisfy Abu Dhabi which long wanted the Reaper as part of its arsenal. The UAE felt they have been fighting the enemies of the US and should therefore have access to those advanced systems. It turned instead to China, which was more than happy to help.
The recent American turnaround, facilitated by the signing of the “normalisation accords” with Israel earlier this month, has seen significant arms deals being pushed through Congress to the UAE. Sales of F-35 stealth fighters and of the much sought-after Reapers have been allowed to go through, despite initial Israeli protests that they would lose their qualitative military edge in the region.
While the F-35 sales would give the UAE a significant boost to its capabilities, the Reaper less so. The US is already looking for a replacement for the system that has been operational since 2007. Useful for counterinsurgent warfare in uncontested skies, the US is moving away from the counterinsurgency operations that largely defined its military posture for more than 10 years, the focus now being on industrial warfare with a near-peer rival like China.
Combat drones will now need to be more survivable, better armed, fly faster and higher, with a much more enhanced layer of autonomy. They will need to start “thinking for themselves”. This is already possible in high-end reconnaissance UAVs such as Global Hawk which, once given orders, can fly its mission without human guidance, should it be needed.
Drones will also need to be cheap, networked and able to fly in swarms, overwhelming their enemies despite several being shot down. It is this kind of technology that the US and China are working on. If China develops these models, given its current way of doing business, it will not be long before they are being sold to China’s emerging network of allies. 
Now the UAE is being sold Reaper UAVs, it is only a matter of time before they are flying combat missions over the skies of Libya and Yemen, in the latest battle for influence between the US and China over the Middle East and Africa.
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Trump ‘American exceptionalism’ history plan knocked by Virginia, California

President Trump is advocating for the teaching of “American exceptionalism” is U.S. classrooms, focusing on the accomplishments of American leaders in exploration, business, science and government. But education officials in states such as Virginia and California are pushing back with curricula in high schools that examine the country’s troubled past with slavery, American Indian conflicts,…

Trump ‘American exceptionalism’ history plan knocked by Virginia, California

President Trump is advocating for the teaching of “American exceptionalism” is U.S. classrooms, focusing on the accomplishments of American leaders in exploration, business, science and government.

But education officials in states such as Virginia and California are pushing back with curricula in high schools that examine the country’s troubled past with slavery, American Indian conflicts, anti-Semitism and Latin immigration.

The opposing viewpoints set the scene for a battle over what is taught in American history classes, and how — given that education has long been the province of state and local authorities, not the federal government.

Amid protests over police brutality, debates over racial justice and efforts to remove Confederate memorials, Mr. Trump used his presidential nomination acceptance speech last week to cite of roster of American heroes and triumphs — including explorers Lewis and Clark, sharpshooter Annie Oakley and the moon landing.

“We want our sons and daughters to know the truth: America is the greatest and most exceptional nation in the history of the world,” Mr. Trump said, signaling his idea of a history class flush with American success stories and not bogged down by tales of social unrest.

Days earlier, the Trump campaign released an education goal for a potential next term: to teach “American Exceptionalism” in classes.

It’s not the first time American exceptionalism has drawn political traction. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich launched his 2012 presidential campaign with the book “Why American Exceptionalism Matters.” President Reagan spoke of America in biblical terms as a “shining city” in his farewell address. Even French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1800s referred to America’s “exceptionalism,” though as a reference to its geographical uniqueness — being set apart from Europe.

It’s unclear how the White House would implement an “America First” education scheme, or if the administration would attempt to tie federal education funding to curricula, as it attempted in a 2019 executive order on free speech on college campuses.

Education Secretary Betsy Devos believes that U.S. schools should provide an educational future in which “our students are number one in the world,” spokeswoman Angela Morabito told The Washington Times.

“We know that federal mandates don’t improve student achievement, and part of what makes America unique is federalism — including the rights of state and local governments to set curriculum in their schools,” said Ms. Morabito.

And many states are doing just that:

⦁ In Texas, schools last year began offering high school elective course on Mexican American studies.

⦁ In Connecticut, the legislature has formed a committee to create a Black and Latino studies course.

⦁ In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed a bill requiring teachers to address anti-Semitism and a 1920s massacre by a White mob that killed dozens of Black residents after a Black man had tried to vote.

“One hundred years ago, the bloodiest day in American political history unfolded in Ocoee, Florida on Election Day,” state Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said at the signing ceremony in June. “Now more than ever it is paramount we educate our citizenry about the origins of racial conflict and its manifestations in policies that are anti-Black, anti-democratic and anti-human.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam last week announced that more than a dozen school districts will pilot an elective in Black American history across the commonwealth.

“Black history is American history,” said Mr. Northam, a Democrat. “But for too long, the story we have told was insufficient and inadequate.”

Virginia’s new history lessons cover the transatlantic slave trade through the Civil War and emancipation, up to the civil rights era. By semester’s end, students will be able to “analyze and understand how the institution of slavery in the U.S. shaped beliefs about race and the supremacy of one race over another and influenced America’s economy and politics,” according to the governor’s office.

What’s more, California’s “ethnic studies” model curriculum would adopt a social justice approach to teaching history. A bill approved Monday in the state Senate would require a semester of “Ethnic Studies” for every public high schooler, including units on African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians and Asian Americans.

“For too long, the experience and contributions of people of color have been left out of the classroom,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina, a Democrat whose bill now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. “Requiring ethnic studies will help ensure that all students learn a more holistic and representative history of the United States and foster a deeper understanding of our commonalities and differences.”

The curriculum was shelved last year over alleged left-wing bias and spurious allegations against Israel. The course encouraged the use of the word “Hxrstory” rather than “history” to emphasize the untold story of women, and spoke in disparaging terms about Jewish people in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After excising its offending materials, the curriculum gained new momentum amid national attention on race following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day.

David Randall, a researcher with the National Association of Scholars, said that the story of immigrants belongs in a course emphasizing “American exceptionalism” and that efforts to suggest otherwise offer a false dichotomy.

“A properly taught American history class would teach that America welcomed immigrants and embraced them as Americans as no other country in the world,” Mr. Randall said in an email. “A properly taught American history class would teach the lives of a catalogue of immigrants grateful to America for the extraordinary success and happiness that America allowed them to achieve, such as Alexander Hamilton, Albert Gallatin, John-James Audubon, Andrew Carnegie, Nikola Tesla, Irving Berlin, Cary Grant, Ayn Rand, Albert Einstein, Vladimir Nabokov, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Madeleine Albright.”

One reality that’s not debatable: students struggle with history. The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that the average score for eighth-graders in U.S. history was 4 points lower in 2018 than in 2014. Only 15% eighth-graders scored as proficient in U.S. history in 2018.

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Trump responds to ‘gloomiest’ DNC: ‘Joe Biden sees American darkness, I see American greatness’

The Democratic National Convention was the “gloomiest” convention ever, according to President Trump who spoke at the 2020 Council for National Policy meeting Friday, saying Democrats have painted the nation as a dark and racist place in need of redeeming. But Mr. Trump said it’s his administration that’s accomplished the most of any president, beginning…

Trump responds to ‘gloomiest’ DNC: ‘Joe Biden sees American darkness, I see American greatness’

The Democratic National Convention was the “gloomiest” convention ever, according to President Trump who spoke at the 2020 Council for National Policy meeting Friday, saying Democrats have painted the nation as a dark and racist place in need of redeeming.

But Mr. Trump said it’s his administration that’s accomplished the most of any president, beginning his remarks by praising the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democrats repeatedly criticized Republicans for the handling of the coronavirus crisis during their virtual convention, saying Mr. Trump mismanaged the health crisis that has led to nearly 175,000 deaths. They claim the GOP denies science and refuses to listen to health experts.

“Where Joe Biden sees American darkness, I see American greatness,” the president said of the Democratic presidential nominee.

Mr. Trump touted first responders and doctors for rushing to help fellow Americans.

He said Congress also passed historic legislation that saved 50 million American jobs, referencing the CARES Act passed in March as most states issued stay-at-home orders.

“We have mobilized American industry like never before,” Mr. Trump said.

The president enacted the War Powers Resolution to produce ventilators and medical equipment. The administration also built military hospitals in hard-hit states, while developing therapies and working to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, which the president said is “years ahead of schedule.”

He was critical of the former vice president, who did not mention law enforcement during his remarks at the DNC on Thursday, as several Democratic-led cities have seen unrest for weeks, such as in Portland, Seattle, Chicago and New York City.

“It’s time to reject the anger and the hate of the Democrat Party,” Mr. Trump said. “No party can lead America that spends so much time tearing down America.”

The president was also critical of Mr. Biden for not mentioning China during his remarks, which was where the COVID-19 pandemic originated and quickly spread all over the globe, killing nearly 800,000 people worldwide.

Mr. Trump accused China of wanting Mr. Biden to be elected in November, citing intelligence reports.

“That would be very insulting if they wanted me to win,” he said. “We’ve taken in billions and billions of dollars from China.”

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