Russian Aid To Assad Is (Bitch)-Slapping Kerry and Obama—Lindsay Graham

The Barack Obama administration and the U.S. intelligence community have concluded that Russia is set to start flying combat missions from a new air base inside Syria, but there’s disagreement inside the U.S. government on what to do about it.

Thursday at the White House, top officials were scheduled to meet at the National Security Council Deputies Committee level to discuss how to respond to the growing buildup of Russian military equipment and personnel in Latakia, a city on the Syrian coast controlled by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Obama has called on his national security officials to come up with a plan as early as next week, as intelligence reports pour in about the Russian plans to set up an air base there. The options are to try to confront Russia inside Syria or, as some in the White House are advocating, cooperate with Russia there on the fight against the Islamic State.

The State Department had already begun pushing back against the Russian moves, for example by asking Bulgaria and Greece to deny overflight permissions to Syria-bound Russian transport planes. But the president didn’t know about these moves in advance, two officials said, and when he found out, he was upset with the department for not having a more complete and vetted process to respond to the crisis. A senior administration official said Thursday evening that the White House, the State Department and other departments had coordinated to oppose actions that would add to Assad’s leverage.

For some in the White House, the priority is to enlist more countries to fight against the Islamic State, and they fear making the relationship with Russia any more heated. They are seriously considering accepting the Russian buildup as a fait accompli, and then working with Moscow to coordinate U.S. and Russian strikes in Northern Syria, where the U.S.-led coalition operates every day.

For many in the Obama administration, especially those who work on Syria, the idea of acquiescing to Russian participation in the fighting is akin to admitting that the drive to oust Assad has failed. Plus, they fear Russia will attack Syrian opposition groups that are fighting against Assad, using the war against the Islamic State as a cover.

“The Russians’ intentions are to keep Assad in power, not to fight ISIL,” one administration official said. “They’ve shown their cards now.”

The U.S. intelligence now shows that Russia is planning to send a force into Syria that is capable of striking targets on the ground. Two U.S. officials told me that the intelligence community has collected evidence that Russia plans to deploy Mikoyan MiG 31 and Sukhoi Su-25 fighter planes to Latakia in the coming days and weeks. The military equipment that has already arrived includes air traffic control towers, aircraft maintenance supplies, and housing units for hundreds of personnel.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last Saturday to urge him to halt the Russian military buildup, but the Russian told Kerry that his military was doing nothing wrong and that Russia’s support for Syria would continue, according to one official who saw a readout of the call. That response was seen inside the administration as a rebuke of Kerry’s efforts to reach out to Moscow to restart the Syrian political process. Kerry met with Lavrov and the Saudi foreign minister on the issue last month.

This is a turn of events from the situation this summer. In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Obama and according to Obama, Putin was moving away from a weakened Assad.

“I think they get a sense that the Assad regime is losing a grip over greater and greater swaths of territory inside of Syria [to Sunni jihadist militias] and that the prospects for a [Sunni jihadist] takeover or rout of the Syrian regime is not imminent but becomes a greater and greater threat by the day,” Obama told the New York Times. “That offers us an opportunity to have a serious conversation with them.”

But since then, Putin has been moving away from a serious conversation with the U.S. about a diplomatic solution in Syria. Just as the Russian military buildup was beginning last week, Putin said publicly that Assad was ready to engage with the “healthy” opposition, a far cry from the process the U.S. is promoting, which would bring the Western-supported Syrian opposition into a new round of negotiations with the regime.

“Russia’s support for the Assad regime is not helpful at all, it’s counterproductive, and it’s against some of the things they have said about trying to bring about a solution,” Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told me Wednesday. “It’s disappointing, but it’s been consistent with some of the policies they’ve done in the past that we think are just wrong.”

Putin is planning to focus on the fight against “terrorism” in his speech later this month at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Russia will also host a ministerial-level meeting on the sidelines about fighting extremism, which it defines as including all the groups fighting the Assad regime, including the U.S.-backed rebels.

There is concern inside the Obama administration, even among those who advocate for confronting Russian actions in Syria, that the U.S. has no real leverage to fight back. If Obama decides not to accept the Russian air force presence in Syria, he would have several options, all of which have drawbacks or limitations.

The U.S. could impose new sanctions on Russia, although the current punishments related to Ukraine have not changed Putin’s calculus, and there’s little chance European countries would join in on a new round. The U.S. might warn Russia that its base is fair game for the opposition to attack, but that could spur Putin to double down on the deployment. The U.S. could try to stop the flow of Russian arms, but that would mean pressuring countries such as Iraq to stand up to Putin and Iran, which they might not agree to.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Wednesday he would try to impose sanctions on Russia from the Congressional side if the administration doesn’t move in that direction. He said that Russia’s military  involvement in Syria will only make the terrorism threat and the refugee problems emanating from there worse.

“This is a chance for us to slap Russia hard, because what they are doing is making America less safe,” he said. “The Russians are just slapping President Obama and Secretary Kerry in the face. This is a complete insult to their efforts to try to find a solution to Syria. They’ve made Assad’s survivability more likely, which means the war in Syria never ends.”

The White House’s concerns about escalating tensions with Russia inside Syria are legitimate, but cooperating with Russian forces on the ground or in the air would undermine whatever remaining credibility the U.S. has with the Syrian opposition and the Gulf States that support it. The U.S. may not be able to stop Russia’s entry into fighting the Syrian civil war, but at a minimum America shouldn’t be seen as colluding with Moscow. If that happens, the suspicion that Obama is actually working to preserve the Assad regime will have been confirmed.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Josh Rogin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tobin Harshaw at

The Pain of Tasers—more than shocking

Don’t try this at home: See the impact of a Taser in slow motion (VIDEO)



© The Slow Mo Guys

Being shocked by a plug socket feels bad enough. Ever wondered what’s it like to be shot with a police Taser stun gun? The moment a man is tasered has been caught on camera in super slow motion by YouTube wizards The Slow Mo Guys.

Equipped with a high-speed camera, the team traveled to Taser International headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, to have their subject stunned with a Taser X26, the company’s most popular model, at 28,500 frames per second.

The first thing you get to see is a mixture of pink and yellow confetti that explodes from the Taser when it’s fired. That explosion surely isn’t there just to make anyone smile. In fact, each confetti boasts a unique serial number, vital in case police need to find out whether a Taser was fired at a crime scene.

The man who volunteered to be filmed while getting hit with a Taser, Dan Hafen, wasn’t a stuntman, but a colleague who works for the maker of the Phantom camera that The Slow Mo Guys (Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy) used.

The footage shows his muscles contracting as the stun gun’s probes break the skin to deliver a high-voltage payload. In the X26 Taser the voltage peaks at 50,000 volts. “It feels like it’s never going to end,” Dan said after receiving the shock. “It’s a long five seconds.”

He added: “I didn’t really feel the probes. I feel like my muscles have locked up.”

© The Slow Mo Guys

The TaserX26 uses compressed nitrogen to project two small probes five meters at a speed of about 55 meters per second. These probes are connected to the stun gun by high-voltage insulated wire, the description on the company’s website reads. According to Taser, the 26 watt electrical signal is powerful enough to “take down even the largest of assailants.” It’s transmitted thoroughout the area where the probes make contact with the body, resulting in an “immediate loss of the person’s neuromuscular control, balance and the ability to perform coordinated actions.”

While the company insists that Tasers are “non-lethal” weapons, the American Civil Liberties Union says that over 500 people have died in the US since 2001 after law enforcement officers used stun guns against them, according to a 2012 ACLU report.

© The Slow Mo Guys

Police departments across the US have been increasingly embracing the use of Tasers. In the year 2000, only 7 percent of the nation’s police departments employed stun guns, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. By 2013, however, up to 80 percent did.

The New York Police Department is set to spend some $4.5 million to buy a host of new Tasers for its officers, the New York Post reported last month.

Only patrol sergeants and Emergency Service Units are currently allowed to use Tasers, but training has reportedly begun for other officers, and field training officers will also be taught how to use the weapons.

Lying Saudis Boast of Taking-In “MILLIONS” of the Syrians They Have Made Into Refugees

cnn refugees

[SEE:  EXPOSED: How Oil-rich Gulf states have failed to resettle a SINGLE Syrian refugee]

Saudi Arabia Says Accepted ‘Millions’ of Syrians, Facts Disagree


A Syrian refugee prays on a rail track at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, August 22, 2015A Syrian refugee prays on a rail track at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, August 22, 2015 | Photo: Reuters Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia dismissed criticism over having zero Syrian refugees, saying it has welcomed millions. However, all of them are temporary workers.

Saudi Arabia defended itself Friday against mounting criticism the government is facing for not accepting Syrian refugees since the conflict began four years ago. The criticism come after photos of the dead body of Syrian three-year-old boy Aylan Kurdi went viral and prompted international outcry against Europe and other rich countries around the world for refusing to admit Syrian refugees. The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) cited an unnamed official source in the foreign ministry as saying that the kingdom found it “important to clarify these efforts with facts and numbers in response to media reports, which included false and misleading accusations about the Kingdom.” RELATED: Negative Freedom, US Liberals and Saudi Arabia People around the Arab world took to social media and Twitter using the hashtag “Arab conscience,” in English and Arabic languages, to express their outrage over the fact that Saudi Arabia and the other five Arab Gulf states from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman – were hosting no Syrian refugees. The Saudi official said that the Kingdom “has received around 2.5 million Syrians since the beginning of the conflict. In order to ensure their dignity and safety, the Kingdom adopted a policy that does not treat them as refugees or place them in refugee camps.” However, the country and its five allies are not signatories of the United Nation’s convention on refugees, which has governed international law on asylum since World War II. Thus, those countries do not have a legal category for refugees. In fact, the GCC countries, including Saudi Arabia, accepted those Syrians as well as those of other nationalities only on temporary work visas, which they must have before they arrive to the country, or on temporary residence visas for minors as dependents on their close relatives who have already been residing there. Jane Kinninmont, the assistant head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said in a recent article that those Syrians allowed in GCC countries were on temporary visas, which are hard to obtain in most cases. “The lack of recognition for refugees has far less to do with attitudes to the Syrian crisis than with the potential claims that could arise from larger migrant populations—many of whom come from unstable or repressive countries—and the general reluctance of Gulf governments to give permanent residency to anyone beyond a small pool of citizens, with few exceptions,” said Kinninmont. RELATED: Saudi Arabia – Facing A Serf Revolt In the GCC, those who are not citizens are treated as expatriates even after working in those countries for decades. They are also forced to leave the country whenever they lose their jobs or reach a retirement age. Minors, who are dependents on their parents, are required to leave the country by the age of 18 even if they were born in the country, as they also have temporary residence visas since the day they are born. Migrants make up the majority of the workforce in all the Arab Gulf countries, and in the UAE and Qatar, more than 80 percent of the population are migrants who lack civil rights despite having lived in the country for years. In addition to not taking refugees, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and regional Arab nations have been bombing Yemen for the past six months, producing millions of refugees and internally displaced people. This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:
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Deadly Crane Collapse In Mecca—Allah’s Revenge, Or Freak Sand Storm?

Over the past decade the Saudi royal family has spent billions of dollars expanding the Grand Mosque

[SEE:  Saudi Arabia Bulldozes Over Its Heritage]

Collapsed crane in Grand Mosque, Mecca, on 11 September 2015

Mecca crane collapse: Saudi inquiry into Grand Mosque disaster


Elaine Jung reports


Saudi Arabia has begun an investigation into why a crane collapsed in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, killing at least 107 people.

The huge red crane crashed into a part of the Grand Mosque as it was filled with worshippers.

Officials say strong winds and heavy rains caused the crane to fall.

Correspondents say there have previously been concerns about safety records on Saudi construction sites.

The Grand Mosque, known as the Masjid al-Haram, is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds Islam’s holiest place, the Kaaba.

At least 230 people were injured in the incident. It is unclear how many people were hurt by the collapse or the stampede that followed it.

Videos posted online showed the moment the structure collapsed, with a loud crash followed by panic and shouting. Bodies and blood could be seen on the floor of the mosque.

The head of Saudi Arabia’s civil defence agency, Lt Sulayman Bin-Abdullah al-Amr, said an investigation was being carried out to assess the damage, and the “extent of the safety of these sites”.

Essam al-Ghalib, a Jeddah-based journalist, said the crane fell through the outer ring of the Grand Mosque and punctured through the roof sending sending down tonnes of cement and debris onto people either praying or walking through.

Mecca is currently preparing for the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. Up to two million people are expected to arrive in the Saudi city from all over the world later this month.

Irfan Al-Alawi, from the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told the BBC that the Grand Mosque is currently surrounded by 15 large cranes amid major redevelopment work.

Media caption Footage shows the aftermath of the crane collapse in Mecca
Image copyright AFP

“The entire area is like a salvage yard,” Mr Al-Alawi said.

“Saudi Arabia has to re-think its health and safety strategy,” he said, “as there were 800,000 people in the mosque area at the time of the accident.”

The original parts of the Grand Mosque date back 1,400 years. Consisting of a large square surrounded by covered prayer areas, the building has since been extensively modernised, notably from the mid-20th Century.

Saudi authorities began a major expansion of the site last year to increase the area of the mosque by 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet), to allow it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once.