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31 Jan 14. The Obama administration on Thursday explicitly accused the Bashar al-Assad regime of deliberately stalling on its obligations to turn over its chemical weapons arsenal, putting the White House at risk of both domestic political fallout – the president touted the chemical weapons agreement in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, and today’s admission is already being treated by journalists as evidence that the section was misguided – and potentially reinforcing global perceptions of American fecklessness. The Washington Post quoted Robert P. Mikulak, the U.S. representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, assessing that “the effort to remove chemical agents and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled,” and dismissing Syrian requests for more equipment as pretexts for delays. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had separately declared this week that Damascus has turned over less than 5% of its chemical arsenal. The Obama administration has significant prestige at stake in the Syrian bargain. Washington had last fall suddenly called off airstrikes which seemed set to occur after Damascus violated President Barack Obama’s red line against the use of chemical weapons. Syria’s Russian allies seized on what appeared to be a gaffe by Secretary of State John Kerry to maneuver the administration into suspending the strikes in exchange for a deal under which Damascus would forfeit its chemical arsenal. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki assured reporters on Thursday that Washington was “deeply concerned” about the Syrian foot-dragging. (Source: theisraelproject.org)

30 Jan 14. US hears conflicting accounts on Lockheed’s $400bn F-35 fighter. It is either comfortably on track to forming the cornerstone of the western world’s militaries or a flop so unairworthy that lightning could down it. The US public has this week been presented with sharply contrasting takes on the world’s biggest-ever military procurement project. Which account of the development of the F-35 joint strike fighter gains the ascendancy will be critical to the future defence of not only the US but also at least 13 other countries that intend to use the super-advanced aircraft. It will also be critical to Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest military contractor by sales, the main recipient of the US government’s expected $12.6bn average annual spending over the next 23 years for the 2,443 US aircraft on order. However, there remains strikingly little common-ground between proponents of the opposing views of the aircraft, which the US alone is projected to spend at least $400bn to buy. Loren Thompson, an analyst for the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, says the F-35 is set to be as “stealthy” – invisible to enemy radar, a key attribute for the aircraft – as it was designed to be. “It’s the most stealthy aircraft that the United States or its European allies are likely to field in the next few decades,” Mr Thompson says. “It can do all its missions.” Winslow Wheeler, director of the military reform project at Project on Government Oversight, a think-tank, says a government report leaked this week on the programme is only the latest evidence suggesting it should be scrapped. “The fundamental design of the aircraft itself and the acquisition programme, the aeroplane itself – fatally flawed doesn’t do it justice,” Mr Wheeler says. The controversy over the F-35, which was first conceived more than 20 years ago, reignited this week after the premature release online of a section on the F-35 of the annual report of the US defence department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT & E). The report lists scores of problems facing the programme, including the peeling-off of parts of the aircraft’s stealth coating after extended use of its engines’ afterburners, unpredictable airborne handling and troublesome software. Most eye-catchingly, the report says th

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