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American Resistance To Empire

Proof Or Media Speculation That Obama Wiretapped Trump?

Mr. Manafort is among at least three Trump campaign advisers whose possible links to Russia are under scrutiny. Two others are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative.

The F.B.I. is leading the investigations, aided by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit. The investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said. One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.

Counterintelligence investigations examine the connections between American citizens and foreign governments. Those connections can involve efforts to steal state or corporate secrets, curry favor with American government leaders or influence policy. It is unclear which Russian officials are under investigation, or what particular conversations caught the attention of American eavesdroppers. The legal standard for opening these investigations is low, and prosecutions are rare.

“We have absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation,” said Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition.

In an emailed statement Thursday evening, Mr. Manafort called allegations that he had interactions with the Russian government a “Democrat Party dirty trick and completely false.”

“I have never had any relationship with the Russian government or any Russian officials. I was never in contact with anyone, or directed anyone to be in contact with anyone,” he said.

“On the ‘Russian hacking of the D.N.C.,’” he said, “my only knowledge of it is what I have read in the papers.”

The decision to open the investigations was not based on a dossier of salacious, uncorroborated allegations that were compiled by a former British spy working for a Washington research firm. The F.B.I. is also examining the allegations in that dossier, and a summary of its contents was provided to Mr. Trump earlier this month.

Representatives of the agencies involved declined to comment. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases.

Numerous news outlets, including The New York Times, have reported on the F.B.I. investigations into Mr. Trump’s advisers. BBC and then McClatchy revealed the existence of a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government.

The continuing investigation again puts the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, in the middle of a politically fraught investigation. Democrats have sharply criticized Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Mrs. Clinton has said his decision to reveal the existence of new emails late in the campaign cost her the election.

The F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Manafort began last spring, and was an outgrowth of a criminal investigation into his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and for the country’s former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. In August, The Times reported that Mr. Manafort’s name had surfaced in a secret ledger that showed he had been paid millions in undisclosed cash payments. The Associated Press has reported that his work for Ukraine included a secret lobbying effort in Washington aimed at influencing American news organizations and government officials.

Mr. Stone, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, said in a speech in Florida last summer that he had communicated with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that published the hacked Democratic emails. During the speech, Mr. Stone predicted further leaks of documents, a prediction that came true within weeks.

In a brief interview on Thursday, Mr. Stone said he had never visited Russia and had no Russian clients. He said that he had worked in Ukraine for a pro-Western party, but that any assertion that he had ties to Russian intelligence was “nonsense” and “totally false.”

“The whole thing is a canard,” he said. “I have no Russian influences.”

The Senate intelligence committee has started its own investigation into Russia’s purported attempts to disrupt the election. The committee’s inquiry is broad, and will include an examination of Russian hacking and possible ties between people associated with Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Investigators are also scrutinizing people on the periphery of Mr. Trump’s campaign, such as Mr. Page, a former Merrill Lynch banker who founded Global Energy Capital, an investment firm in New York that has done business with Russia.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Page expressed bewilderment about why he might be under investigation. He blamed a smear campaign — that he said was orchestrated by Mrs. Clinton — for media speculation about the nature of his ties to Russia.

“I did nothing wrong, for the 5,000th time,” he said. His adversaries, he added, are “pulling a page out of the Watergate playbook.”

The lingering investigations will pose a test for Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who has been nominated for attorney general. If Mr. Sessions is confirmed, he will for a time be the only person in the government authorized to seek foreign intelligence wiretaps on American soil.

Mr. Sessions said at his confirmation hearing that he would recuse himself from any investigations involving Mrs. Clinton. He was not asked whether he would do so in cases involving associates of Mr. Trump.

Eleven Shia Women Murdered In Parachinar Suicide-Bombing

[SEE: The actual story of Parachinar Pakistan]

Suicide attack targeting Shia mosque in Pakistan kills 11, wounds 60

 

In this January 21, 2017 photo, security officials inspect the site of an explosion at a vegetable market in Pakistan’s Parachinar city. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami and Pakistani Taliban splinter Shehryar Mehsud group both separately issued a joint claim of responsibility for that blast.

Took place near women’s entrance of the mosque in Parachinar as people gathered for Friday prayers

An explosion apparently targeting a Shia mosque in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Parachinar, in a remote area bordering Afghanistan, killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens, officials said. Parachinar is in the Kurram Valley of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan and has been sporadic target of terror attacks.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the blast, which took place as people gathered for Friday prayers near the women’s entrance of the Shia mosque in the central bazaar, follows a series of attacks this year.

Gunfire before attack

A parliamentarian from Parachinar, Sajid Hussain, said the death toll from the explosion had reached 11, with 60 wounded. He said gunfire preceded the incident, which he described as a suicide attack, adding, “The attack took place in a busy area and a women’s mosque appears to be the target.”

Last month, more than 80 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on a crowded Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan that was claimed by Islamic State.

Authorities in mainly Sunni-Muslim Pakistan said a military rescue helicopter had been sent to the scene to help evacuate the injured.

Two children among dead

Mumtaz Hussain, a doctor at the Agency Headquarters Hospital in the region, said five bodies, including a woman and two children, and more than three dozen wounded, had been brought to the hospital and an appeal for blood donors had been made.

“Patients are being brought to us in private cars and ambulances and we have received over three dozen patients so far,” Dr. Hussain told Reuters.

The attacks have shattered hopes that Pakistan may have come through the militant violence that has scarred its recent history and increased pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to show it was improving security.

Mr. Sharif condemned the attack and said the government would keep up efforts to “eliminate the menace of terrorism.”

In a statement, he said, “The network of terrorists has already been broken and it is our national duty to continue this war until the complete annihilation of the scourge of terrorism from our soil.”

Spate of blasts

On 21 January 2017, a bomb was detonated at a vegetable market here in which at least 25 people were killed and 87 injured. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami and Pakistani Taliban splinter Shehryar Mehsud group both separately issued a joint claim of responsibility for that blast.

The same area has seen several explosions in 2008, February 2012, September 2012, 2013 and in December 2015.

Pentagon Bombed Building Full of People In Mosul Because ISIS Used Them “As Bait”

[After admitting to possession of video made by US aircraft, filming terrorists herding innocent people into the building, before the planes bombed it, the Pentagon spokesman tried to escape responsibility for attacking the building full of civilians with the excuse that they were “Bait.”]

Pentagon responds to criticism over civilian deaths in Mosul blast

 

By Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

The Pentagon on Thursday said it would soon release a video showing Islamic State militants herding civilians into a building in the Iraqi city of Mosul and then firing from it, the U.S. military’s latest response to an outcry over a separate explosion thought to have killed scores of civilians.

The U.S. military has acknowledged that the U.S.-led coalition probably had a role in the March 17 explosion, but said Islamic State also could be to blame.

Local officials and eyewitnesses have said as many as 240 people may have died in the Al-Jadida district when a blast made a building collapse, burying families inside.

Rights group Amnesty International and Pope Francis have both called for better protection for civilians caught in war zones in Iraq.

The Pentagon does not regularly release images or videos from operations. However, it has had to do so once already this month after it denied striking a mosque in Syria, releasing an aerial image to show the mosque was intact. That incident is under investigation.

A spokesman for the U.S-led coalition fighting Islamic State told reporters on Thursday he was working to declassify a video showing militants hiding civilians in a building in west Mosul to “bait the coalition to attack.”

“What was see now is not the use of civilians as human shields … For the first time we caught this on video yesterday as armed ISIS fighters forced civilians into a building, killing one who resisted and then used that building as a fighting position against the (Counter Terrorism Service),” Colonel Joseph Scrocca said. He was using an acronym for Islamic State.

Scrocca said Islamic State tactics have led to adjustments in procedures, adding that about 1,000 Islamic State fighters remained in west Mosul, but did not give details on these changes. He added than an in-depth investigation into the strikes had been opened on March 17.

On Tuesday, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, told reporters by teleconference it was “a little disappointing” that questions during the briefing focused on U.S.-led air strikes.

“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis. ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people,” he said.

Amnesty International has said the high civilian toll in Mosul suggests U.S.-led coalition forces have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths.

Pope Francis on Wednesday said it was “imperative and urgent” to protect civilians in Iraq.

At his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he was “concerned about civilian populations trapped in the neighborhoods of western Mosul”.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by John Walcott and James Dalgleish)

Pakistani Prosecutor Promises Acquittal To 42 Christians Charged w/Murder, If They Convert To Islam

Pakistan’s ‘last Jew’ wins right to convert from Islam 

 

 

 

 

Why 150 Islamic Leaders Are Calling for This Christian Woman’s Hanging  

 

 

[Pakistani “Blasphemy Law” is only slightly less harsh than Saudi “Law,” even though the majority of Pakistanis would prefer a much stricter interpretation of Shariah.  Ordinary Pakistanis, of all faiths, or no religious convictions at all, are made to pay the price for an intimidated judiciary, too afraid to do the right thing or to fairly apply Blasphemy Laws equally to all faiths, without discrimination or political intimidation.  Pakistan’s “Democracy” by militarized mob rule gives the Establishment’s captive courts the leeway to pardon one Islamicized Jew, while they persecute hundreds of Christians who dare to believe that “Issa”/Jesus Christ was the final and The Only Messiah sent from God, to save mankind from himself.–P.C.]

“42 Christians accused of murder were guaranteed their acquittal by a Lahore public prosecutor,  if they renounce Christianity and convert to Islam”

Pakistan: prosecutor offers accused Christians acquittal for conversion

 

 

People at mass in a Church in Pakistan - AFP

People at mass in a Church in Pakistan – AFP

42 Christians accused of murder were guaranteed their acquittal by a Lahore public prosecutor,  if they renounce Christianity and convert to Islam, a local newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 42 people, belonging to Pakistan’s minority Christian community, have been charged with lynching two men after March 2015’s suicide blasts that targeted Sunday Mass in two churches in Youhanabad in Lahore. Many in Youhanabad’s mostly Christian community believed the two men were involved in the planning of the bombings.

The trial is being conducted in an anti-terrorism court. Joseph Franci, a rights activist who’s legally assisting the accused, said that Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah was the one who made the accused the acquittal offer. “He asks them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case,” Franci said.

Franci reportedly told the newspaper that the accused were dumbfounded. One of them even spoke out, saying he was ready to be hanged if he had to convert.

“The government should get rid of such elements that bring bad name to the state by such acts,” said Naseeb Anjum Advocate, counsel for some of the accused, to The Express Tribune, about the Deputy District Public Prosecutor.

When the newspaper contacted the public prosecutor Shah, he first denied it, and when told he was on video offering the acquittal-for-conversion deal, acknowledged that he may have “offered them a choice.”

The minorities in Pakistan in the past have been accusing Muslim clerics of forcibly converting them to Islam but it is for the first time that a state functionary used conversion as an incentive to dodge legal proceeding. ( Tribune, TOI)

China, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey Negotiating Superpower Circle?

The friendship between Turkey and Pakistan may have just given birth to a superpower circle involving Ankara, Islamabad, Russia and China. While Turkey and Pakistan are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic ties, the decades-long mutual trust and cultural, diplomatic and economic relations between Ankara and Islamabad are also bringing together China and Russia to form a formidable four-nation circle.

joannaoman / Pixabay

The brotherly relations between Turkey and Pakistan can trace their roots back several centuries. This very fact has laid the groundwork for bringing together two more nations that could benefit from a superpower circle – Russia from Turkey’s side and China from Pakistan’s side.

The speakers of the Turkish and Pakistani parliaments met on Monday to discuss strengthening the partnership between two nations that share close religious, cultural and economic ties. There are several reasons why closer ties between the two nations can fuel the machine that is the China-Russia-Pakistan-Turkey superpower circle and power it to run the world.

Turkey wants to join China-Russia bloc via Pakistan

The two nations have signed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of military deals and have been trading more and more diplomatic trips. But it was Turkey that first sparked speculations about a possible superpower circle with Pakistan, China and Russia in November. That’s when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly declared that his country would pursue joining a bloc dominated by China and Russia and give up its hopes to join the European Union, which Ankara has expressed interest in joining for decades.

Erdogan declared that Turkey should join forces with Pakistan, China and Russia amid the EU’s criticism toward the Turkish regime’s seemingly dictatorship policies in the wake of the failed anti-government coup in July 2016. In fact, the EU has been stalling talks about Turkey’s membership, something that has enraged the Erdogan regime and motivated it to seek other powerful blocs as an alternative.

In recent months, Erdogan has publicly enhanced his interest in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) led by Russia and China. If Ankara joins what is arguably the most ambitious organization in Eurasia, it would be a game-changer not only for Europe and Asia but also the world as a whole. It could also give rise to the China-Russia-Pakistan-Turkey superpower circle, which is an even more powerful and formidable political, economic and military bloc compared to the China-Rus-Pak triangle.

Why is it time for the Turkey-Pakistan-China-Russia circle?

Last week, the Turkish military band Janissary Mehter participated in the Pakistan Day military parade and was met with a standing ovation when it played “Jeeway Jeeway (Long Live) Pakistan.” This was the first time that the military band, which was established in 1299, took part in the Pakistan Day parade.

Last year, Turkey refused to back India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) while supporting Pakistan’s membership in the NSG. Despite having close trade ties with India, Turkey has remained loyal to its brotherly nation Pakistan on many international issues, including the dispute between Islamabad and New Delhi in Kashmir.

In November, Erdogan visited Islamabad and reiterated that his country is eager to strengthen ties with Pakistan. His visit came months after the Turkish President visited Moscow, where he and Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to strengthen trade, economic, military and diplomatic ties. China and Turkey, meanwhile, share deep economic and military ties, which means the four nations are coming together from all directions and could even form a four-nation superpower circle in the coming months.

In May, China plans to host its first major summit called “One Belt One Road,” which is focused on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The nation is expected to seek partnership support from Russia and Turkey at the summit.

Erdogan to join China, Russia-led bloc, not EU

Erdogan has been facing an incredible amount of criticism from the West in the past few months, which would make more sense if his country officially joins forces with China, Russia and Pakistan and gives up its decades-long hopes of joining the EU, something the Turkish president suggested a few months ago.

Turkey now has more chances of joining the China- and Russia-led SCO than joining the EU. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier this month that Turkey should expect deeper relations within the SCO, as Ankara holds vital importance for Eurasia and has been a prominent ally for the organization. In fact, in December, China said that it would be willing to consider Turkey’s application to join the Chinese- and Russian-dominated bloc.

Erdogan has loudly declared that Turkey doesn’t need to join the EU “at all costs” and should instead pursue joining the SCO. His statements come in the aftermath of plummeting relations and a lack of trust between the West and Ankara after he purged his country’s military following the failed coup in July 2016. While the West criticized the Erdogan regime’s methods of punishing the organizers of the attempted coup, Pakistan, China and Russia stood firm in their support and showed solidarity with Turkey.

Is the Turkey-Pakistan-China-Russia superpower circle happening?

The four allied nations – Turkey, Pakistan, China and Russia – seem to be moving rapidly towards the creation of a four-nation superpower circle, as each country has stepped up efforts to strengthen ties within that circle.

China relies on stability in its relations with Turkey while enjoying a closer partnership in many areas with Pakistan and Russia. Russia is restoring its once-brotherly ties with Turkey, is warming up to China on all fronts and is even seemingly abandoning India, its top Asian ally for decades, to strengthen ties with Pakistan. Pakistan, meanwhile, has been particularly close to both China and Turkey for decades, and in recent years has started getting diplomatic, economic and military support from Russia.

Turkey, meanwhile, remains one of Pakistan’s major allies in terms of diplomacy, trade, economic ties and defense cooperation. Ankara has enjoyed stable trade, economic and military ties with China, but their bilateral relations are set to skyrocket after China’s support for the Erdogan regime over the attempted July 2016 coup. Ankara is also restoring ties with Moscow after their relations took a turn for the worse after the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian jet in 2015.

Nothing seems to be standing in their way of creating a powerful circle of four allied nations between Ankara, Islamabad, Beijing and Moscow.

Bombers from the Maldives

Societies provide oxygen for Islamists to grow in their midst. The liberal atmosphere of Britain, notably in institutions like the London School of Economics, over past decades offered sanctuaries for Islamists, considering their arguments as legitimate politics against imperialism. Saudi Arabia is bankrolling Wahhabism across the world. Pakistani society has been transformed into a 24×7 seminary for nurturing arguments favourable to jihadists and fatal to Muslim reformists. Under Saudi-Pakistani influence, now the Maldivian society is being transformed on a jihadist path.

Jihadists are armed Islamists; their methods differ but goals are the same: establishing sharia rule. In May, Maldivian national Abu Turab was among militants who carried out a suicide bombing in Syria. In tributes, jihadists noted that Turab was a loving husband and a grandfather. Another Maldivian was killed in Syria a few days later. They were not the first Maldivian suicide bombers. The first was Ali Jaleel who attacked a Pakistani intelligence office in Lahore in 2009. Last October, two Syria-bound Maldivian nationals were arrested from Malé as they were to board a plane. Currently, 20 Maldivians are fighting in Syria. The Maldives is at a turning point which favours jihadists.

Also, the latest developments connect India’s southern shore to jihadist threats emerging via Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In January 2010, Air India planes were alerted that hijacking could be attempted from airports at Colombo, Dhaka or Yangon. The recent arrest of Sri Lankan national Shakir aka Zakir Hussain in Chennai revealed that he made 20 reconnaissance trips to India to facilitate terrorists from the Maldives to attack Israeli and US consulates in Bangalore and Chennai. His arrest revealed terror cells in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India operated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). That the threats are real became clear when bombs exploded on a train in Chennai in May. Sri Lanka has stopped its visa-on-arrival facility for Pakistanis, fearing it is becoming a transit point for terrorists.

A vital point: terror attacks in India—those in Kashmir or by the Indian Mujahideen elsewhere—have so far been connected to Pakistan, but in the near future threats will emerge from terrorists who are ideologically committed by jihad, and are not necessarily controlled by the ISI. For example, Muslim youth from Tamil Nadu working in Singapore were recruited into jihad and went to Syria. There are also reports that one Indian went to Iraq to fight as part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, now called the Islamic State. There are also Indian Muslims training as part of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan-Afghanistan. From Syria to the Maldives there’s a Pakistan connection but the Singaporean link points to the rise of ideological jihadists in India.

In February, tourists were furious when hotels in the Maldives abruptly cancelled their bookings. The cancellations were triggered by Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud who booked three entire islands. The Saudis are exerting religious influence on Maldivian society. Journalist Charles Haviland reported: Prince Salman promised to build 10 world-class mosques in the Maldives; Saudi scholars gave $100,000 for Islamic education and announced scholarships for Maldivians to study in Saudi Arabia; a five-year soft loan of $300 million was given last year. Maldivians are visiting the Middle East and Pakistan in large numbers to study, and return.In April, Pakistan’s Roznama Ummat reported that Saudis are “thinking of building a base consisting of three islands” as well as mosques and madrassas with Pakistani manpower.

The Maldives was a Buddhist society till mid-12th century when Islam arrived. Now, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are transforming it into a jihadist hub, aided by local leaders. In a recent article, bloggers Azra Naseem and Mushfique Mohamed warned that the 100 per cent Muslim nation of Maldives has become “an attractive prospect” for those advancing Osama bin Laden’s agenda of an Islamic caliphate. In 2009, nine Maldivian militants were arrested in Pakistan; then Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed confirmed Maldivians were visiting Pakistan to wage jihad. Nasheed is a secular leader, but as president he aided the Islamist takeover of Maldivian society, like all secular leaders across South Asia (apologies to Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh whose counter-extremism is superb).

According to Naseem and Mohamed, the worldview of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the country from 1978 to 2008 was coloured by the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran and his education at Cairo’s Al-Azhar seminary. In 1997, he enacted a constitution which granted him “the ultimate authority to impart the tenets of Islam” but his religious power was questioned by Islamic groups. Gayoom began a crackdown, giving birth to the Adhaalath Party, an Islamist force. Ahead of the 2013 elections, secular president Nasheed forged a coalition with Adhaalath Party, giving Islamists official patronage. Adhaalath Party, which later quit the coalition, advocates converting the Maldives into a sharia state. Nasheed was unseated in a coup-like situation in 2012. Fatwas dictating dress code for women, banning music and dancing, and jihadist videos in Dhivehi language proliferating on YouTube are becoming a norm.

The Islamists are winning: in 2008, non-Muslims were barred from becoming citizens of the Maldives. In 2011, hotels were ordered to close spas to please Islamists, though the order was revoked later; an Indian teacher was deported for having a Bible; then Maldivian foreign minister Ahmed Naseem rejected a call by UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay to debate the practice of flogging women in extra-marital cases. In 2012, a court declared gifts given at the SAARC summit as offensive to Islam. In January, president Abdulla Yameen vetoed a bill on marital rape as un-Islamic after a cleric’s ruling; in April, the government began enforcing sharia law that imposes death penalty on 10-year-olds; police hunt atheists on Facebook to bring charges of blasphemy. New Delhi is shy of interventionism and lacks moral courage to state publicly that it will assist countries to curb Islamist forces. Before India wakes up, the Maldives will be transformed into another Pakistan in its backyard.

Tufail Ahmad is director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington

tufailelif@yahoo.co.uk

Will Trump Have Enough Patience To Deal w/the Taliban?

The Patient War

What awaits Trump in Afghanistan

Haji Din Mohammed met with the Taliban for the first time on the public record on July 7, 2015, in the town of Murree, Pakistan, just outside Islamabad. It was Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. After sunset, he and his colleagues — delegates from the High Peace Council, the Afghan government’s official negotiating body — sat down for a customary iftar dinner at their hotel before heading over to a nearby golf resort.

Din Mohammed, who is in his early sixties, has a white beard and rheumy eyes. That evening, he wore a lungi, a turban that indicated his elite social status, and a shalwar kameez, an elegant tunic and trousers. He and his delegation were ushered into a sparsely appointed room and seated along one side of a long table. Facing them were three Taliban envoys. On their left were the Pakistani hosts; on their right, three observers from the United States and China. For this historic occasion, the resort served milk tea and summer fruit. Like most Afghans, Din Mohammed prefers green tea, considering the Pakistani variety too sweet, so his cup went untouched.

Rubble at the site of a truck bombing in eastern Kabul, August 7, 2015. The blast killed at least fifteen and injured hundreds of civilians; the target was believed to be a nearby military base. Two more major attacks occurred in the Afghan capital over the next twenty-four hours © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Redux

It was already ten in the evening when the discussion began, though in a sense the participants had been waiting fourteen years, as no one could agree on who was fighting whom. The Afghan government viewed the enduring conflict within its borders as an undeclared war between Afghanistan and Pakistan; Pakistan saw it through the prism of a threat from India; the Taliban were resisting American intervention; America was battling Al Qaeda.

That night, the aim was modest: set an agenda for a follow-up meeting. The group eased in with niceties, as some of the adversaries on either side of the table had once been allies and neighbors. Din Mohammed was the first to address the room. He took inventory of the advances that Afghanistan had made over the past decade: the improvements to education, health care, and the national economy. Then he made his case for ending the war. A death is a death is a death, he said. If friendly forces were murdered, the deaths were mourned, and when Taliban fighters were killed, he insisted, “We cry for them too.” He went on, “War will destroy you. War will destroy us all.”

But the dialogue soon buckled. The Taliban emissaries seemed to have “arrived already angry,” Din Mohammed said when he recounted the meeting to me. Abdul Latif Mansour, a member of the Taliban delegation, told the Americans, his temper rising, “We had our own government, but you pushed us out.” Then he erupted at the High Peace Council. “You let them do night raids. You are nothing! We should be leading the country, not you. We are not tired. We can continue fighting for longer!” This was not an idle threat: The Taliban have an operating budget of around $500 million for some 30,000 fighters. It’s not much compared with the $3 billion that the U.S. Department of Defense will spend in 2017 on the 352,000-strong Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, but the group’s benefactors are unhindered by a legislature or recalcitrant public, and a steady stream of money comes in from drug revenues and zakat (religious taxes). Anatol Lieven, a global-terrorism scholar based at Georgetown University’s campus in Qatar, told me, “They can outlast us all.”

Din Mohammed called for a tea break. During the recess, he urged his delegation to stay focused: this was their opportunity to engage, and all they needed was a plan for the next talk. The alternative, he reminded them, was unceasing violence.

When everyone returned to the table, the Taliban negotiators were noticeably less acerbic, more deferential, addressing Din Mohammed with the honorific “mujahed.” The group worked steadily into the night, forgoing the resort’s offer of a breakfast at two-thirty in the morning — the last victual before resuming the fast — so they could keep talking. A few hours before sunrise, they bade one another farewell, promising to meet again at the end of the month.

The following week, Din Mohammed flew from Kabul, where his office is based, to Mecca, to build goodwill with other Taliban representatives. He was told that senior Taliban officials approved of the peace meetings, and returned home glowing with optimism. Days later, the annual Eid al-Fitr message of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s leader, was released. “If we look into our religious regulations,” it read, “We can find that meetings and even peaceful interactions with the enemies is not prohibited.” The president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, praised Mullah Omar’s conciliatory tone in his own Eid address.

But a couple of weeks later, two days before the second meeting was to be held, an announcement was made on the news: Mullah Omar was dead. Not only that, he had died back in 2013. Din Mohammed was shocked, and then filled with questions. Who had written the Eid message? Who had been leading the group for the past two years? And with whom had the High Peace Council really been negotiating?

He learned that the Taliban’s peace delegates were in Islamabad awaiting instructions. They, too, had been stunned by the report of Mullah Omar’s death, which had been kept secret by the organization’s top brass. (According to one account, he had died of tuberculosis at a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan; others reported that he was buried in the southern Afghan province of Zabul.) Yet Din Mohammed was determined to carry on as planned, and convened his team at their office to review the agenda. The discussion had just gotten started when a secretary interrupted with an update: in light of recent events, Pakistan was canceling the meeting. Everyone got up, gathered their things, and left.

That evening, the Taliban Supreme Council in Quetta, Pakistan — known as the Quetta Shura — met to install a new leader. Most were in favor of elevating Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, Omar’s deputy, who had been running daily operations since 2010. But Mansour, a portly man in his late forties, was a drug baron from Kandahar with business interests in Dubai — no revolutionary folk hero. There was an attempt to block his appointment, but by midnight, he managed to win a majority’s consent.

Din Mohammed woke to this news, along with the disquieting revelation that the Taliban envoys he had met with in Murree had likely been sent against their will by the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency. As the confusion mounted, however, he perceived an opportunity. Perhaps the Taliban, with the surprise of a new leader, would be amenable to peace negotiations. Perhaps the United States, after a decade of halfhearted efforts, would put its weight behind ending the civil war. It would be a time of trying all things.

But first, a coronation: in Quetta, thousands of supplicants turned out to swear allegiance to the new Amir al-Muminin (“commander of the faithful”). They hardly could have imagined that within a year, as if in a cosmic test of Afghanistan’s nerve, Mansour would be dead, and the world would be watching the ascent of Donald Trump.

Peace requires patience. It took Vietnam negotiators five years to sign a ceasefire agreement. Resolving the war between Iran and Iraq took eight. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which halted hostilities between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, was built on the failures of three attempts going back to 1973.

In Afghanistan, peace has long been elusive. After the American invasion in 2001 and the rapid collapse of the Taliban regime, international stakeholders met in Bonn, Germany, at the end of the year to choose a new leader for the country. Absent was anyone from the Taliban, who were “running around trying to avoid being killed by the Americans,” Barnett Rubin, who participated in the meeting on behalf of the United Nations, told me. The dignitaries settled on Hamid Karzai, a forty-four-year-old mujahed, as interim president.

Member of the High Peace Council Maulvi Qayamuddin Kashaf, then governor of Kabul province Haji Din Mohammed, and member of Parliament Ustad Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf (from left to right) listen to then president Hamid Karzai during a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on September 22, 2011 © Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

The same day, Karzai went to meet senior Taliban officials in Shah Wali Kot, a town in southern Afghanistan. While he was on his way, a 2,000-pound bomb, guided by satellite from a U.S. B-52 flying north of Kandahar, missed its target, killing three Americans and five Afghan fighters, and wounding many more. When Karzai arrived in Shah Wali Kot, he recalled to me recently, he found a fifteen-man Taliban delegation waiting, with a letter surrendering power to him and “asking nothing in return.” I asked how he had felt. “It was an eventful day,” he said.

The letter was read aloud to the nation on the radio that night. Karzai never saw the document again, but its effects were immediate. In exchange for a public truce, he promised to grant the Taliban total amnesty.

As he was ironing out the details, however, Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. secretary of defense, declared that there would be no such agreement. Night raids began around that time, with U.S. Special Operations Forces going after Taliban officials, “harassing them, attacking their houses, stealing their motorbikes and cows, creating the impression that there was no room for them in the new order,” according to a report from the Open Society Foundations. For the Taliban, the lesson was clear: Karzai was unreliable, and America wished only to impose revenge on its vanquished enemy. Some continued to work on reconciliation, but many more opted to rebuild their movement into the formidable militant group we know.

When Barack Obama took office, in 2009, interest in peace talks was revived. The Taliban were consistent in their demands — they wanted to open an office, see imprisoned members released from Guantánamo Bay, and have their names removed from the U.N. sanctions list. Over years of faltering, informal conversations and trade-offs, many of their requests were eventually granted: a political office was permitted in Doha, Qatar; five Taliban prisoners were released; and fourteen of 137 names were crossed off the list, allowing those members to travel freely.

On June 18, 2013, six months into Obama’s second term, those watching the news in Kabul would have seen two major stories: in the morning, Karzai gave a speech marking the official security handover from NATO to the Afghan military; in the afternoon, the Taliban’s political office opened in a diplomatic enclave of Doha. The Taliban flag, inscribed with the shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith, flew high in a courtyard, as if designating the embassy of a sovereign state. Karzai had only reluctantly consented when American negotiators arranged for the office; now he was livid. Within a month, the place was shuttered, and the peace agenda stalled once again.

Karzai’s second term ended in September 2014. Ashraf Ghani, his successor, made clear in his inaugural address that reconciliation would be a renewed priority. “We are tired of war; our message is peace,” he declared, and went on, “For stability, security, and economic development, we will try to reach a regional cooperation pact with all our neighbors.” Two months later, he visited Pakistan to court military leadership at their base, in Rawalpindi, and decided to offer substantial concessions: cadets would fly there for training, weapons orders from India would be canceled. This was a cop to Pakistan’s pride; the only way to secure cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, many observers believe, is by pandering to Pakistan’s insecurity over its conflict with India. Back home, however, many of Ghani’s countrymen were horrified. Karzai publicly called the arrangement an “atrocious betrayal.” He told me, “Pakistan was allowed to harbor the Taliban leadership and to train them and to equip them. They made serious mistakes that cost them so much and they cost us so much.”

Ghani pushed to get peace talks started before the Taliban began their spring offensive, but he didn’t make it in time. However receptive Mullah Mansour might have been to negotiations — he gave a nod to the Political Commission, the Taliban’s diplomatic wing, to continue their work — when he took over as leader, he needed first and foremost to consolidate his power. On August 7, 2015, a truck bomb went off in central Kabul, killing fifteen people and injuring hundreds. Within hours, a U.S. Special Forces base was attacked, and ten died. Three days after that, an assault on the Kabul airport killed five and wounded seventeen. In October, the northern city of Kunduz became the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since their regime had lost control of the country fourteen years earlier.

This past spring, the violence escalated. On the morning of April 19, a blast ripped through central Kabul. Taliban militants had driven a truck full of explosives into the headquarters of an elite security team. When I arrived a few hours later, the street, normally full of vendors selling cigarettes and biscuits, was deserted and littered with the detritus of the bombing: husks of cars, a sullied prayer rug. Where there once stood walls were sheets of metal contorted like Richard Serra sculptures. The thirty-eight arched windows of the Eid Gah Mosque, where Afghanistan declared its independence from Britain in 1919, were entirely shattered. Broken glass glinted in the sun. A NATO blimp hovered in the sky.

By afternoon, residents began to put the pieces of their lives back together. Stalls reappeared, selling the last strawberries of the season. Commuters were heading home, disks of still-warm bread under their arms. A man carrying a flower passed the bomb site without a glance. Livery cabs slowed to collect passengers.

The next day, the Ministry of Interior Affairs announced the toll: sixty-four killed, 347 injured. Later, more deaths were counted, bringing the official number up to sixty-eight. This was the deadliest attack to date since 2001, a statement from the Taliban to Afghans that their government could not protect them. The chief executive officer and foreign minister lost bodyguards in the bombing, and the vice president lost a nephew. Ghani gave a rare speech before a joint session of parliament, broadcast on television, in which he called elements of the Taliban “the enemy.” Soon after, the government hanged six Taliban militants — prisoners of war or political prisoners, depending on whom you asked. A Taliban official tried to persuade me that it was unlikely the men sentenced to death had any connection to his group, but said, “This execution blocked the way for peace.” When I visited Waheed Muzhda, a political analyst, to talk about the peace process, he shook his head. “After the last attack,” he said, “everything is finished.”

According to the theory of conflict resolution developed by I. William Zartman, a scholar of international politics, there are four conditions that must come together in order to achieve peace: (a) a “mutually hurting” stalemate, (b) awareness that it is mutual and that it is hurting and that it is a stalemate, (c) united leadership, and (d) a belief that you may get from negotiating what you have not gotten from fighting. Afghanistan at the start of 2017 meets one of these: (a) both sides have suffered losses, yes, but (b) neither believes that it has, (c) the Ghani Administration and the Taliban leadership are unstable, and (d) factions on both sides persist that indulge the fantasy of a military triumph.

Conservative estimates by the U.S. military put the Afghan government in control of more than 60 percent of the country and the Taliban at 10 percent, with the rest contested. When I read these numbers to a former high-ranking Afghan security official, he laughed and guessed that, if anything, the figures were likely the reverse, and the expanse of contested territory is really much larger. Over the past fifteen years, checkpoints, district centers, roads, fields, and aqueducts have been fought over, falling into government control, wrested back by the Taliban, and won again by soldiers. These advances and retreats have not amounted to anyone’s victory. In the meantime, essential services can’t be delivered, as some areas switch loyalties back and forth overnight.

Kabul newspapers report on the death of Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, in a U.S. drone strike on May 21, 2016 © Rahmat Gul/AP Photo

And what of the country’s leadership? Ghani came into the presidency after a protracted election that threatened to plunge Afghanistan into deeper chaos. The so-called National Unity Government, a power-sharing coalition brought about by Secretary of State John Kerry, installed Ghani’s opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, in a prime-ministerial position. The administration has, of course, been beset by infighting, and some ministers continue to defer to Karzai. Abdullah, addressing a crowd in his office garden, called Ghani unfit to govern. Last April, when whispers began of a coup, Kerry made a return trip to quell any mutiny.

Apart from deficient governance, the High Peace Council has been hemorrhaging money. In recent years, members’ salaries and stipends for luxury cars, airfare, and security have reportedly run up a bill of as much as $700 million. Last summer, rather than propose a new budget strategy, the council burned through its emergency fund. In response to accusations of corruption, members said it wasn’t their fault that peace eluded them.

At the same time, the disclosure of Mullah Omar’s death had precipitated the biggest leadership crisis in the Taliban’s history. Many fighters questioned the legitimacy of an organization that had been lying to its members. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which for more than a decade had fought alongside the Taliban, broke away to join the Islamic State. Its exasperated leader, Uthman Ghazi, wrote in a public announcement that the only communication he had received from his supposed leader in recent years was “two fabricated letters that were typed off on the computer which didn’t have his signature!”

Mullah Mansour responded by requesting a fatwa that would offer justification for targeting Islamic State fighters. In December 2015, rumor spread of a violent altercation within the Taliban leadership, and Mansour, it was said, was badly injured in a shoot-out. He allowed his delegates to continue to meet on unofficial terms with peace negotiators, but even as the Taliban gained ground, it had become harder to tell what constituency the Political Commission could really speak for.

The discord of Mansour’s reign came to a sudden halt last May, when an American drone struck a taxi across the Pakistani border in Balochistan. The dr

iver and his passenger, Mullah Mansour, were killed. Mansour had been traveling on a fake Pakistani passport. The strike, a high-ranking Afghan government official told me, was a hunting call to the Taliban. “ ‘There is no option that is open to you,’ ” he said. “ ‘Americans will kill you anywhere you go.’ ”

The Taliban quickly chose Maulvi Haibatullah Akhundzada, a religious scholar, as Mansour’s replacement. Maulvi Haibatullah, a preacher’s son from Kandahar, had risen within the organization thanks to his talent for resolving disputes. His promotion would soon enable the Taliban to reset their operations with new force.

Into this mire comes Donald Trump. When his win was announced, Ashraf Ghani sent him a staid note of congratulations. “It breaks my heart to have to say this, but the Republican government is going to be better than the Democrats for Afghanistan,” Scott Guggenheim, an American friend of Ghani’s who advises him on policy, told me. “The Democrats would have said, ‘They are still squabbling, this is a waste of time, let’s just go home.’ The Republicans will say, ‘These guys are fighting the radicals; we have to stay engaged with them.’ ” Does that mean the Trump Administration is likely to accomplish anything in Afghanistan? “I doubt it. But they won’t go home.”

Trump maintains that his guiding political philosophy is “America First.” As a foreign policy, this has generally been interpreted as isolationism, yet he also speaks aggressively on the Islamic State — “Their days are numbered,” he has said. “His policies on the campaign trail were so mutually contradictory and changeable that he is much harder to predict than an orthodox president-elect would be,” Stephen Biddle, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me.

Trump has expressed interest in extracting the United States from its nation-building commitments in Afghanistan — the Obama Administration had already begun to reduce the number of troops there, though 8,400 remain — but he has also suggested the possibility of providing American forces abroad in exchange for cash. In December, during a congressional review of troop caps led by Vicky Hartzler, a Republican of Missouri, House members and military experts sifted out the merits of repealing set limits on the number of forces deployed. The next day, General John Nicholson, the top military commander in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon, “We have adequate resources.” Trump was not caught listening to either consultation, though with the aid of a friendly Republican Congress and expanded executive privileges, he will be wielding greater power than either George W. Bush or Barack Obama to contend with a conflict that stumped both of them.

Over the years, Trump’s comments on Afghanistan have been rare. In 2011, he told Fox News, “In Afghanistan, they build a school. They blow up the school. They blow up the road. We then start all over again.” When asked about the conflict directly, he invariably pivots to a diatribe against Pakistan. “He talks about Afghanistan only if he’s cornered, and when cornered, he has said that he simply wants to get out,” Biddle observed. “On the other side of the ledger, some of his national-security appointees have been very hawkish — and moreover, they are particularly hawkish in what they see as a global war against Islamist militancy.” Trump’s pick for national-security adviser — Michael T. Flynn, a lieutenant general who ran military intelligence in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011 and has persistently characterized the country as a threat to the United States — will have a formidable influence on his decision-making. With the defense secretary James Mattis, who led the first Marine force into Afghanistan in September 2001, and who Trump called “the closest thing we have to General George Patton,” the American military could become ever more entrenched on the battlefield.

Trump’s selection for secretary of state — Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, who has a close relationship with Vladimir Putin — could mean that Russia, which nearly thirty years since its withdrawal from Afghanistan has been investing in housing and factories there, may seize this opportunity to muscle back in. Last year, Putin’s envoy told state media of peace talks, “Honestly speaking, we’re already tired of joining anything Washington starts,” and days later Russia sent the Afghan security forces ten thousand automatic rifles, hoping to strengthen direct ties with Kabul. Meanwhile, “It is openly known that Russia is reaching out to the Taliban,” Jodi Vittori, a senior policy adviser for the organization Global Witness, told me. Tillerson, answering to Trump, appears promising for Russia as it grasps at regional dominance. And this would free up Trump to focus on the domestic priority, Making America Great Again.

Distressing as the virulent anti-Muslim sentiment among many in Trump’s inner circle may be, the extent of their Afghanistan experience thrills the Kabul elite. “We know and everybody knows how heated campaign rhetoric becomes,” Hila Alam, who is second in command at the Afghan Embassy, told me. She had attended the Republican Convention, where she met with several Trump advisers. “There is this rhetoric out there that concerns people who say there is a tendency to be Islamophobic, who see that rhetoric among certain groups in the U.S. But I don’t see this having a hard spillover effect on policy decisions in Afghanistan.” She went on, “You have a real partner to work with here.”

The United States and other foreign donors have already committed $800 million annually to Afghanistan through 2020. But when the author of The Art of the Deal is considering a course of action, the decision may not come down to honoring contracts so much as his temperament. “He is going to have much less patience for less-effective leadership,” Christopher Kolenda, a former senior Pentagon official who is writing a policy brief on Afghanistan for the Center for a New American Security, told me. “And he is more likely to question why we are spending more on security assistance in Afghanistan than we do in any other country in the world.”

The first recorded peace agreement in Islam is from seventh-century Arabia, when the Prophet Mohammed negotiated the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. The treaty granted pilgrimage rights to Muslims living outside Mecca. According to Islamic scholars, talks almost broke down because Meccans objected to the prophet being called the messenger of God. Mohammed, who could neither read nor write, asked for his hand to be guided to the clause in dispute, and struck the mention from the page.

That the prophet himself was the original peacemaker has drawn many to compromise — the sophisticated and charlatans, some selfless and others hubristic. In the spring and summer of 2016, I wandered in and out of the offices of well-known businessmen and tribal elders, only to bump into emissaries from insurgent groups. Underneath the subcutaneous layers of officially sanctioned activities, I came upon scores of small gestures, olive branches extended to former colleagues, inmates, classmates, and family members. The Taliban Political Commission was said to be meeting quietly with representatives from thirty to forty countries. The troubled High Peace Council was involved, too. “There is hardly a political group in Afghanistan that is not in contact with them,” a high-ranking security official told me. Over time, conversations had been taking place in Kyoto, Dubai, Chantilly, Mecca, and Oslo. The hope was to arrange another formal meeting like the one that Din Mohammed had led in Murree.

Even deeper below the surface, I found academics and former officials, informed enough about their country’s positions to serve as messengers without the weight of political office. In negotiation parlance, these most casual talks are called Track 2. Because the participants tend to be nongovernmental, the conversations that began during the Obama years can continue during Trump’s presidency.

Perhaps the most prolific organizer of Afghanistan’s Track 2 initiatives is Khalilullah Safi, a tall, spindly man who wears his hair in a square flattop. He is a habitual texter, and at all times carries five cell phones with as many chargers. He gives different numbers to different groups, and often appears distracted, scrolling through the alerts coming through his Skype, Emo, and Viber accounts. Because there is no Pashto keyboard for the iPhone, he types messages to his Taliban contacts in English.

Safi grew up in an affluent land-owning family in eastern Afghanistan, where his father was an elder in their tribe. He was a small child when the Soviet-backed communist government stormed into power, in 1979, and his family was displaced across the border to Pakistan. There, he enrolled at Dawat al-Jihad, a fundamentalist university where his classmates were future Taliban revolutionaries. Later, he began working with some of them in his capacity as a mediator, which twice landed him in prison, as he was ensnarled by Afghanistan’s legal ban on “illegitimate” contact with the Taliban. In 2011, he was fully acquitted, and hired to serve as the U.N.’s Taliban whisperer.

Safi is now working for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, a conflict-resolution organization, and continuing his informal meetings with high-ranking Taliban officials in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf. Officially, the Afghan government and foreign dignitaries disapprove of Safi’s efforts, considering him a meddler. Nicholas Haysom, who led the U.N. in Afghanistan, told me that the Taliban use Track 2 exercises as a way of avoiding formal negotiations. “The world is saying to the Taliban, ‘You have to come to direct talks.’ They are saying, ‘No, we don’t need to come to direct talks. We will go to Track Two.’ We are saying, ‘That’s not talking to the government. That’s just laying out your propaganda.’ ” But Safi told me that, in the past year, he and his colleagues had made more headway with the Taliban’s delegates than any formal negotiations could have.

One morning this past spring, Safi invited me to attend a Pugwash meeting in Kabul. The central drama was seating. Pugwash’s office had twenty-one comfortable chairs, but he was expecting at least twenty-five guests. Afghanistan is a highly coded society, with rules governing where you sit, your gait, how you serve tea, and the note of your laughter. When a person of higher standing walks into a room, you are expected to position yourself accordingly — it is not uncommon to have an entire room rearrange itself to accommodate a newcomer.

After Safi was satisfied with the placement of the chairs, the doors opened, and everyone entered: former government ministers, tribal leaders, and people identified as “Taliban sympathizers.” Taking their carefully assigned seats, the participants went through a peace proposal sketched out by Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, the head of Pugwash. The discussion lasted hours. The group covered prospects for federalism (intimidating), religious plurality (contentious), constitutional reform (inevitable), and a ceasefire (yes, but how?). In the end, successive meetings were arranged, hands shaken, and cheeks kissed. They had a rough draft. Everyone stepped out to the street, past concertina wire and armed guards.

The following Thursday, the start of the Muslim weekend, Safi called to ask if I would like to accompany him and Cotta-Ramusino to Jalalabad. They had incorporated the feedback from the meeting and were shopping the proposal around. Safi wanted to leave that night. The Kabul–Jalalabad highway extends across a narrow gorge where travelers regularly crash down rock cliffs to their deaths. The sun had been setting by six, which was also when the police guarding checkpoints along the route went home for the evening, and I preferred to travel in daylight, I told him. A compromise was struck: we would leave at three in the afternoon and arrive just before the sun set.

We rode east. Cotta-Ramusino told me about his time as a member of the Avanguardia Operaia, the Trotskyist student group in 1970s Italy. Cotta-Ramusino, who now teaches functional analysis at the University of Milan, has the build of a jumbo egg. He was squeezed uncomfortably into the front passenger seat, next to a hired driver. Like many leftists of his time, he explained, he once supported the Cultural Revolution in China. “I regret it,” he said, and sighed.

Safi, without glancing up from his phone, gestured out the window. “Okay, Paolo, from here until where you can see is Taliban area,” he said. We passed vertiginous hills set against a cornflower-blue sky.

Cotta-Ramusino looked at the landscape. “I understand how radicals think,” he said. “I was one myself.”

As the sun dipped behind palm fronds, we arrived at our first meeting, with peace activists at the home of a local elder. Sugarcane juice was served. Cotta-Ramusino took notes. Consultative democracy, it turned out, is a small nightmare. There was nothing to inoculate the process from tangents, and much got lost in translation. “Forecasting is particularly difficult, especially concerning the future,” Cotta-Ramusino said, borrowing the line from Niels Bohr. When no one laughed, he added, “It’s a joke.” Nothing still. The conversation began to coalesce around blaming Pakistan, a conversational bog from which there is no escape, and yet Cotta-Ramusino exhibited the same patience with illiterate villagers as he did with high-ranking Taliban members. Afghanistan’s shoes-on, shoes-off custom was tough on his bad right knee, but he did not complain.

The next day, Safi introduced us to two men who “understand the situation very well” — code for “linked to the Taliban.” This can mean anything from “I sat next to one of them in Koran-reading class once” to “I am an active fighter.” These men were from Bati Kot and Achin, areas farther east that had fallen to the Islamic State. Over a lunch of fried fish and watermelon, they said that they approved of the drafted peace proposal but remained upset at Ghani for the hangings in April. To them, it was proof that the president was not serious about reconciliation. Why else, they wondered, would he do something that would alienate the base he was trying to make nice with?

The proposal-shopping continued the following week, this time in Doha, where we were to meet with the Taliban’s Political Commission at a five-star hotel. When we arrived, Cotta-Ramusino headed upstairs to sort out the seating. I waited for the Taliban. I was wearing a black, tent-like abaya and a scarf around my head. Out of habit, I’d put on red lipstick, but when I caught my reflection in the stainless-steel elevator doors, it seemed too much, and I wiped it off.

The Taliban delegation arrived eight minutes late, with mea culpas about the traffic. There were three of them, wearing taqiyah caps, beards, and shiny metallic watches. The older men were avuncular, the youngest handsome. I led them up to the meeting room. After everyone sat down, Cotta-Ramusino and the head of the Taliban delegation discussed whether they should eat the cookies that had been put out on the table. They were both watching their sugar, they said, and decided against it.

For the next two hours, the men wrangled over the same subjects they always talked about: reopening the Doha office, releasing the last of the Guantánamo prisoners, and removing the remaining Taliban members from the sanctions list. Cotta-Ramusino urged the delegation not to get hung up on the specifics of the proposal. “Don’t make this into a wish list,” he warned. “Otherwise we will get nowhere. You have to think about what is essential for you and what is not essential for you.”

Cotta-Ramusino contended that both sides agreed, roughly, on the outlines of peace: everyone knew that foreign troops could not remain in Afghanistan forever; a ceasefire needed to be negotiated; and power, however bitterly, had to be shared. “It should be within the framework of Islamic rule and Afghan tradition,” one of the Taliban members said.

“Sure, sure, sure,” Cotta-Ramusino replied, with the wave of a hand. Then he added, “Tradition is one thing, but we have to improve on that tradition.”

The Taliban representatives suggested that they were open to progress. When the subject of women’s rights came up, one of the men pointed at me, and said, “You can receive education. You can hold positions.”

As Cotta-Ramusino walked them through the proposal, the delegates would stop, discuss each point among themselves, and then ask him to explain. “Everyone is working on your return to political life,” he assured them. They did not appear convinced. The Ghani Administration’s hangings, they complained, defied any understanding. “They only raised slogans of peace, but in practice, they oppose peace,” one of the older men said.

Still, they agreed to convene again soon. “To have a normal life, it’s a very strong feeling,” another Taliban delegate said. “Nobody wants the war anymore.” As they took their leave, I looked down at the plate of cookies. Despite the earlier promise, all had been eaten.

How can the war end? The best-case scenario may be a negotiated settlement, reached with or without Donald Trump’s help. “Like other nations of the world, Afghans also have the right to elect their own leadership and to decide about their future without the interfering of foreigners,” Safi told me when we spoke after the election. He was glad that Trump had won, viewing him as an isolationist. On the other hand, perhaps the new U.S. president could give an interventionist nudge: “It will be great if he bombs all these elements and groups who are anti-peace,” Safi said.

The Taliban are similarly looking forward to the arrival of Trump. “He should withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and unlike other former U.S. rulers, he should neither seek any more titles of ignominy for himself and American generals nor worsen the American prestige, economy, and military by engaging in this futile war,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, told me. “Let the Afghan people as an independent nation build an autonomous system that has interaction with one another and with the world.”

Trump may be amenable to satisfying the Taliban’s request. “There is a willingness on his part to entertain all options, and a total pullout is one of those options,” Kolenda told me. But, he warned, “A total troop withdrawal will encourage the Taliban to keep fighting.”

Haysom, who was the U.N.’s man in Afghanistan, said he was “professionally obligated to be an optimist,” and that he still believed in the Afghan peace process, because the dueling sides were more similar than they cared to admit. The problem, Safi told me, is that they do not see each other for what they are. “The Taliban believes the power is in the hands of the Americans,” he said. “The Afghan government accuses the Taliban of being spies of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.”

Many Taliban leaders remain bitter over Washington’s strike against Mullah Mansour. At a meeting in September, the Political Commission fumed at America’s apparent lack of sincerity. “We have doubts whether the U.S. is honest about the peace process,” the minutes from the meeting read. “They are not taking any initiative since the past ten years to show they are genuine.” Safi suggested that the novelty of Trump might encourage his contacts to return to talks.

But when I called Din Mohammed at the High Peace Council to ask about his outlook, he said of the attack on Mansour, “When he died, everything ended with him. Slowly, slowly, we were going to the point of speaking with the Taliban.” He did not know when their next chance would come. These days, few bother showing up at his office.

Over the years, some local communities have taken matters into their own hands. Tribal elders, tired of the fighting that destroys their villages, set out to resolve conflict on their own — without the High Peace Council, the U.N., or NATO. “Mediation is a part of Afghan culture,” Barnett Rubin, who is now a senior fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, told me. In the Dand-e Ghori district, in the north, a feud between the Pashtuns and Persian speakers broke out over a proposed power line but soon became about other, ancient grievances. Over five trips last spring and summer, a twenty-eight-year-old Afghan American named Ali Wardak met with tribal leaders and managed to negotiate an electricity-sharing agreement. Fighting subsided. Wardak has since continued working to expand his success to the rest of the province.

The grassroots progress was encouraging, but insufficient as the broader conflict lurched to its next turning point. So far, Maulvi Haibatullah, the new Taliban leader, has been unburdened by the controversies of his predecessor and more effective at consolidating power, which has meant a diminished interest in peace. The fracturing observed under Mansour has, in places, led to alliances between militants affiliated with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, including the Islamic State. In the north, the cooperation threatens hard-fought territory and places the capital at risk. The National Unity Government has fallen into greater disarray, with ministers being fired en masse. In the fall, Ghani signed a peace agreement with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the historically violent Hezb-e-Islami (Islamic Party), who has for twenty years remained in exile after commanding the slaughter of some 50,000 Afghans; this was meant to demonstrate the possibility of domestic accord with groups designated by the United States as terrorist organizations, yet its effects were merely theoretical, as there has been no relief from bloodshed.

On July 23, two suicide bombers struck Kabul, killing at least eighty, injuring more than 260, and usurping the title of the war’s deadliest attack. Now, each day, fifty Afghan soldiers are killed, and 180 are lost to injuries and desertions. A high-ranking Afghan security official told me that the annual casualty rate at the end of 2016 was the highest ever recorded in Afghanistan, with more than 10,000 soldiers dead, and thousands more civilians have lost their lives.

The survivors of the conflict, awaiting the next chapter of diplomacy, have no choice but to be patient.

lives in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her work on this article was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

The One Reason That Barack Obama Set the Middle East On Fire

Syrian Oil Ministry Announces Huge Oil and Gas find offshore, the Next Day Obama Signs Ex. Order Freezing Syrian Assets 

Barack Obama’s Pre-War Attempt To Steal Syrian Gas Find for Israel—Executive Order 13582

[Thanks to the limping messenger, for preserving the map photo of Syrian “Open Areas” for oil and gas exploration…it is missing from the Internet, except for this post, even scrubbed from original Syrian Oil and Gas News site.  The following photo is from the Syrian Oil and Gas site, showing the offshore blocks which were offered for bidding on Mar. 30, 2011, the day the West turned against Syria and the anti-Assad protests began.]

 

The backdrop of the policy for Libya and Syria by European Union and associated NATO countries is always painted with oil. (1) British/Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, French Total, CNPC from China and ONGC of India are main investors in Syrian crude oil and gas. (2)

13 November 2009 humanitarian oil diplomacy by Assad, the other way around: “I asked President Sarkozy to interfere as to stop the daily killing of the Palestinians by the Israel Army,” said H.E. President Al-Assad citing today’s killing of a Palestinian citizen. (3)

His Excellency President Al-Assad described his talks with President Sarkozy as ‘very successful”, ‘constructive” ”transparent” and as ”bolstering the confidence built between Syria and France”, ”dealing with many international as well as regional issues, bilateral relations, the Iranian nuclear file, the recent positive developments in Lebanon, particularly following the formation of the Lebanese Government, which we expect to be an important step for the stability in Lebanon.” (…) ”The talks, further, dealt with the situation in Gaza from a human perspective; I asked President Sarkozy to interfere as to stop the daily killing of the Palestinians by the Israel Army,” said H.E. President Al-Assad citing today’s killing of a Palestinian citizen.

 “… discovery of treasure, a huge oil and gas in the basin of the Mediterranean is estimated reserves to 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 107 billion barrels of oil.”

SYRIAN OIL AND GAS NEWS: Announcement for International Offshore Bid Round 2011 Category: Oil Ministry Decisions & Declarations | Posted on: 30-03-2011 The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and General Petroleum Corporation (GPC) invite international petroleum companies for an International Bid Round to explore, develop and produce petroleum from three offshore blocks in some areas of the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of the Syrian Arab Republic in the Mediterranean Sea according to the production sharing contract.The announcment contains three marine areas ( block I, block II, blockIII) with covarage area estemated by 3000 cubic kilometers per one block. the annoncement date starts in 24/3/2011 for six monthes and closed on 5/10/2011.The modern American studies recently confirmed the discovery of treasure, a huge oil and gas in the basin of the Mediterranean is estimated reserves to 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 107 billion barrels of oil. (4)

—–
(1) oilprice.com 14/4/2011: “Oil Production Figures in Areas of Unrest (Middle East & North Africa)”

(2) royaldutrchshellplc.com 3/12/2011: “E.U. sanctions force Shell to leave Syria.”

(3) www.presidentassad.net: Presidents Al-Assad/ Frnace visit statements (13/11/2009)

(4)  Syrian Oil and Gas News; 8/2/2010:International announcement for developing 7 oil field in Arraqah

Russians and Syrians Plan Joint Rehabilitation Effort For Recovered Western Gas Industry

[SEE: Russian Gas Co. Wins Drilling Rights To Syrian Offshore Gas Bonanza Potentially Rivaling “Leviathan”Syrian Oil Ministry Announces Huge Oil and Gas find offshore, the Next Day Obama Signs Ex. Order Freezing Syrian Assets ]

Syria Moscow is discussing with Damascus the partnership in oil and gas projects in Syria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hayyan gas plant burned by retreating ISIL

Moscow stressed that it is discussing with Damascus the prospects of participation of Russian companies in oil and gas projects in Syria, with a focus on the issue of ensuring the safety of the activities of these companies, considering at the same time that the military and political situation in Syria is complex.
According to the website of the Russian channel today, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in an interview on the eve of his visit to Kuwait to attend the second meeting of the follow-up committee to the reduction of production on the issue of Russia’s assistance to Syria in the development and extraction of oil. To trust with the Syrian partners on the possibility of participation of Russian companies in the implementation of oil and gas projects or modernization of existing projects on Syrian territory ».
“The military and political situation in Syria is complex. At the same time, Russia continues to make efforts to reach a political settlement to the conflict in Syria and create additional opportunities to combat terrorist groups there,” Novak said. Novak expressed his confidence in the participation of Russian companies in the oil and gas projects on Syrian territory, in the event of securing the appropriate level of comfortable accommodation for employees of Russian companies in Syria.
It is noteworthy that the Syrian Arab army has recently been able to recover most of the oil and gas fields in the central region of the organization calling for the terrorist, while the organization still controls most of the oil wells in the eastern region. On February 2, the organization organized the burning of Hayyan gas plant in the eastern Homs countryside, which is the largest gas plant in Syria, before withdrawing from it. A military source at the time said that the organization called on the senior terrorist to burn the Hayyan gas plant on Thursday evening (February 2) and completely destroy it prior to withdrawing from it to the city of Palmyra to block the progress of the Syrian Arab army into oil and gas fields.

ISIL Releases Photo of Bomb-Damaged Tabqa Dam

Engineer says Tabqa dam not in immediate damage, but needs urgent repairs

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:34 P.M.) – The ISIS-affiliated Amaq Agency has published a picture of Tabqa dam control room in complete disarray. This has led to fears that Syria’s largest dam can collapse.

The damage was done from US-led airstrikes.

However, an engineer at the dam has said there is no need to panic yet, but critical repairs are needed as soon as possible.

“If water flow from Turkey remains unchanged, we have about 30 days to time of collapse,” the engineer said.

Essentially, Turkey with its control of the water flow have the power on whether the dam can be salvageable or not.

Pentagon’s Kurdish SDF Invites the Syrian Army To Help-Out w/Their Coming Raqqa Offensive

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:33 P.M.) A spokesperson from the Kurdish-led “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) declared his organization welcomes the participation of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the coming operations to kick Islamic State (ISIS) forces out of their de-facto captial, Raqqa.

In declarations to the Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, Talal Silo claimed the SDF has always stated that the Syrian people have the right to liberate their areas, and that the Syrian Army is an essential part of the Syrian homeland and people.

The Syrian Army have the right to do what “others” shouldn’t do, he said, rejecting any kind of Turkish involvement in the coming operations.

Silo also claimed that, with US support, the SDF are now between 10 to 15 days ahead of reaching the borders of Raqqa city.

He highlighted that any kind of SAA involvement in the Raqqa operation will be discussed with the main SDF partner, the US-led Coalition.

The Syrian Arab Army – spearheaded by their elite “Tiger Forces” – is currently engaging ISIS in the Maskanah Plains in eastern Aleppo; a potential offensive towards Raqqa by the SAA will advance from the Maskanah and the Itriyah axes.

Silo’s remarks came days after growing coordination and cooperation between Syrian and Kurdish forces, and their backers, the Russia and the US.

Weeks ago, Syrian and Russian forces were deployed in and around the city of Manbij in northern Aleppo, creating a buffer to prevent an impending Turkish offensive agains those areas; humanitarian and trade corridors were also established between Manbij and Aleppo city.

In Trump-World, Only Christian Liberals Are Burdened w/the Poor, the sick, etc.

[The topic of this article nails a point of view that has been a festering splinter in my mind for many months, the changing of the social welfare paradigm and its relation to Trumpism (a.k.a., the dying of the Republican Party).  For many decades, the destruction of the American “Welfare State” has been the cornerstone of Republican and Conservative ideology, the First Item on their golden “Agenda”.  They have always planned to starve the Welfare State to death from the inside, without ever considering a replacement social service mechanism, to preserve the life of ordinary Americans who happened to be too old to work, too sick or disabled to work, veterans, children, whoever was too “poor” to finance their lots in an expensive world.

Sorry for the rant, but I do have a point to make (in my circular way) about a new phenomenon, a dramatic increase in the number of “begging” commercials (Shriners, feed the children, save the tormented animals, the list is growing…), since the Republican takeover.  The point is, that this is the beginnings of the new Republican social service solution…let charities, especially religious charities, feed the hungry, bring health care to the helpless, pay the bill for humanity, tend to the human “flotsam” from the great “ship wreck” of God’s Plan.  Republicans seem to believe that only the Democrats and other “Bleeding Hearts” have been charged by God with the burden of serving their fellow man, the following Commandment only refers to them…. 

Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me.”

This is the primary reason for the ongoing deconstruction of the Republican Party…they claim to represent Christianity, even though everything they do is a blatant attack upon some under-performing segment of society, from their perpetual war upon the world, to their war upon the Welfare State.  If Americans would simply find a quiet moment of introspection and reflect upon the last fifteen years of war, those who have been sincere in their looking would see the truth that the American Government is hostile to humanity.  Everything from our national debt, to our perpetual/persistent war and the resultant international refugee crisis can be laid on the American doorstep.  The Republican war upon the world is coming to a head and the human fallout has only just begun.

Trump can be counted on to continue his assault upon the Welfare State, no matter what the cost.  Americans will not allow him to dismantle our fledgling health care solution, or to shift the burden of taxation to the middle class and the poor.  The longer it takes for Trump to kill the Republican Party, the more pissed-off everyone will become.  It is going to be a hot, long summer.

Anyway…welcome to the demolition of the Welfare State and the American Republic, along with it.]

–PeterChamberlin@hotmail.com


Can Religious Charities Take the Place of the Welfare State?

 

Supporters of Trump’s budget are eager to restore the central role of faith-based organizations in serving the poor—but it’s not clear they can be an adequate substitute for government.

President Trump’s initial budget proposal would end aid for poor families to pay their heating bills, defund after-school programs at public schools, and make fewer grants available to college students. Community block grants that provide disaster relief, aid neighborhoods affected by foreclosure, and help rural communities access water, sewer systems, and safe housing would be eliminated. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, suggested recently that even small amounts of federal funding for programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to house-bound seniors, may not be justified.With billions of dollars worth of cuts to federal social services likely ahead, the wars of religion have begun. Bible verses about poverty have suddenly become popular on Twitter, with Republicans and Democrats each claiming to better know how Jesus would think about entitlement spending. While conservatives tend to bring religion into public-policy conversations more than liberals, the valence is often switched when it comes to the budget: Liberals eagerly quote the Sermon on the Mount in support of government spending, while conservatives bristle at the suggestion that good Christians would never want cuts.

But it’s more than posturing. If government steps back, religious organizations may need to step up. Much of the infrastructure and money involved in the charitable provision of social services is associated with religion, whether it’s a synagogue’s homeless-sheltering program or a large aid organization such as Catholic Relief Services. People like the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner believe these private services could potentially be expanded even further. While some government programs should be scrapped altogether, he argued, “other programs may well be replaceable by private charity—either dollar-for-dollar, or more likely, they can be done more effectively and efficiently.”

I spoke with roughly a half dozen scholars from a variety of ideological backgrounds who study religious giving, and they were all skeptical that churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith-based organizations could serve as an adequate substitute for the government in providing for the needy and vulnerable. The scale and structure of government services, the sectarian nature of religious programs, and the declining role of religion in public life are all challenges, they argued; if anything, states would have to step in to take on the burden, or some current services would go away entirely. The budget debate may seem like a wonky back-and-forth about economic forecasts. But it probes long-standing questions about how society should provide for people’s needs. As David Campbell, a political-science professor at the University of Notre Dame, put it, “No religion is on the sidelines when it comes to caring for the poor.”

People’s views on budget questions are often determined by their political beliefs, said Campbell. Whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, “religious people across the spectrum would agree the poor need to be helped.” The question is who should do the helping, and how much government should be involved.In their private lives, religious Americans are extremely generous. According to the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University, donations to congregations, denominations, mission board, and TV and radio ministries account for roughly one-third of all annual giving in the U.S. The impact of this money is difficult to calculate, but it’s large: In 2001, the University of Pennsylvania professor Ram Cnaan tried to tally the financial value of all congregational social services in Philadelphia, estimating that it added up to roughly $247 million. When all social-service organizations with a religious mission are taken into account, the value of those services in many communities would likely be much higher.

“Religious congregations do a lot … the scale of what they do is trivial compared to what the government does.”

These services aren’t exactly private, however. According to Oklahoma Representative Steve Russell, who testified on religious-freedom issues before Congress last spring, more than 2,000 federal contracts are awarded to religious organizations each year. If programs like the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants are cut, as Trump has proposed, many religious organizations would lose major parts of their operating budgets. This kind of federal-spending cut can have tangible consequences: World Relief, an evangelical organization that works with the federal government on refugee resettlement, cut 140 staffers and closed five offices earlier this year when the Trump administration announced a sharp decrease in the number of refugees that will be accepted into the United States.

A lot of religious giving also doesn’t go toward helping the needy. “The vast majority of religious congregation budget [money] is spent on in-house expenses: clergy, building, materials,” said Christian Smith, a sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame. “Some congregations have more outreach ministry and social services than others. But in almost all cases, it ends up being a small part of the budget, just because it costs so much to run a congregation.”Using a national survey of religious congregations in the U.S., the Duke Divinity School professor Mark Chaves found that 83 percent of congregations have some sort of program to help needy people in their communities. Most often, these efforts provide clothing, food, and temporary shelter, rather than intensive, long-term programs on substance abuse, post-prison rehabilitation, or immigrant resettlement. The median amount congregations spent on social-service programs was $1,500. “Religious congregations do a lot,” said Mary Jo Bane, a professor at Harvard University. But “the scale of what they do is trivial compared to what the government does. Especially if you think about the big government programs like … food stamps and school lunches, or health services through Medicaid, what religious organizations do is teeny tiny.”

If large-scale cuts to domestic social services do make it through the long budget-negotiation process, “there’s an argument to be made [that] … churches, synagogues, etc., might step up,” said Lisa Keister, a professor of sociology at Duke University. Keister has argued that religious engagement is closely associated with financial generosity—in a recent paper, for example, she found that those who attend religious services every week give nearly three times as much as those who don’t.

“Mainline Protestants wouldn’t know how to ‘share the gospel’ if their life depended on it.”

People of all religious backgrounds are generous, but the style of giving differs by faith and denomination. For example: “Jewish families … tend to be wildly generous,” said Keister. Many conservative Christians tithe 10 percent or more of their income, she said, often giving to their churches, which leaves them with less accumulated wealth. Mormons provide a complex array of social services to people in need, but mostly focus on their own members, said Smith. And Catholics and mainline Protestants are less likely to proselytize while helping others: “Mainline Protestants wouldn’t know how to ‘share the gospel’ if their life depended on it,” he said. “They’re just going to help people, and in their mind, they’re doing it in Jesus’s name.”

For some groups, though, proselytizing may be part and parcel of how they reach out to the needy. Liberals often cite this as a reason why the government should provide social services: In the absence of federal funding, people seeking things like education and housing may be left without a non-sectarian alternative. Tanner waved this concern away, though. “If someone has to listen to preaching to get free food—is it less than optimal? Sure,” he said. “But it’s probably not the thing I’m most worried about.”

Americans’ declining level of religious involvement may also cripple institutions’ ability to provide wide-scale services to vulnerable populations. “While I would be hesitant to say that highly secular people are callous, it is the case that religious people, in general, do give more to charitable causes,” said Campbell, and “they are much more likely to give time than money.”

Campbell divided “secular people” into two categories: Those who are “actively secular,” meaning they’ve embraced a secular worldview that involves high levels of political and civic engagement, and the “quintessential nones,” or people who are detached from a wide range of civic, social, and religious institutions. Across demographic groups, and especially among Millennials, that latter group of Americans has been getting bigger. Right now, the government requires them to contribute tax dollars to education, hunger-prevention programs, homelessness services, and more. But, Campbell hypothesized, it’s unlikely that they’d channel that money through private institutions, religious or otherwise, in a world where Trump’s proposed cuts are in place.

“We do have a responsibility to help the poor and those in need. That means taking care of them yourself.”

At some level, this is what the debate over federal spending is all about: What should American communities look like, and how directly should they be responsible for providing for the poor and needy? “It’s an open question whether the rise of the ‘nones’ … will significantly affect religious institutions’ ability to be that hub for social engagement,” said David King, the director of Indiana’s Lake Institute, suggesting that they may grow more involved over time. “I still hold out hope that that’s actually quite possible.” Especially among Millennials, he said, he has seen evidence that Americans are more willing to get involved in their community through “common work,” or direct action on the issues they care about, rather than volunteering with or donating to institutions. As traditional charitable institutions decline, he said, this kind of communal engagement may expand.

For his part, Tanner imagines a world where government no longer crowds out private giving, as he claims it does now. “What’s translated as ‘charity’ in the Bible is ‘agape,’ which literally means love,” he said. “We do have a responsibility to help the poor and those in need. That means taking care of them yourself—giving money yourself, giving your time, your efforts, not someone else’s.”

There is a long road ahead for Trump’s budget. Dismantling the welfare state as thoroughly as he has proposed would be a radical overhaul of the American system. It would shift not just government, but the way organizations that partner with it—including a lot of religious groups—provide services to the poor and vulnerable.

Afghanistan At the Brink of A Transnational War

[Nearly a year old, but still relevant.]

At the brink of a transnational war

At the brink of a transnational war
The rapid unfold of events in Afghanistan has taken the entire conflict to the brink of a deadly Civil War. The target killing of Mullah Manan, shadow governor of Taliban for the southern Helmand, after the execution of Mullah Akhtar Mansour has convoluted the total political picture of Afghanistan. Back to back strikes against the Taliban Leader who were generally considered to be the proponents of peace settlement in Afghanistan, is a colossal setback for both the Taliban and United States.

Mullah Mansour’s assassination has ended any possible political settlement on Afghan soil, while Mullah Manan’s murder paves the passage for an escalation from both the ends i.e. Afghan forces and Taliban. Yet the question remains unanswered for President Barrack Obama. The Kabul regime has practically no authority beyond Kabul and its outskirts. What would be the end-game for Obama administration in this scenario?

What global political landscape did he get from his predecessor? The crisis was limited to Iraq and Afghanistan when he took the office. He propagated the policy of reconciliation, during his election campaigns, through political means instead of military actions. However, his politics resulted in an endless war across the entire Middle East leading up to the Horn of Africa.

The conflict would further intensify with the recent developments which will definitely create a crisis situation for Obama administration. The demand for more US forces would arise and his plans for keeping a small number of forces confined to their embassy in Kabul, before leaving the office in 2017, does not seem to be achievable.

Last year, following the Taliban’s gains on multiple fronts, Obama announced that 9800 troops would remain stationed in Afghanistan for most part of 2016, to provide training and assistance to Afghan forces. He declared that at the end of 2016, the leftover forces in Afghanistan will stay at Kabul at the US embassy and around 5500 troops will be stationed at four different locations in Afghanistan.

Per contra, to his announcements in 2015, the current crisis might call for a different policy. This we have witnessed recently when President Obama in April this year announced the deployment of 250 additional US military personnel to assist the local forces on ground against ISIL. Moreover, Defense Secretary Ash Carter made an announcement for the deployment of 200 US military personnel to Iraq, in order to support the Iraqi forces combating the ISIL.

Ironically, incase if US goes for more military reinforcements in Afghanistan then it would be disastrous for the regional peace. As with reference to the growing Russian influence across the Trans-Caspian region that includes military exercises on Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and reports of Russia’s relations with the Taliban, US would possibly have to bear a new era of war in Afghanistan, this time with multiple insurgent groups such as ISIL.

On top of everything, one thing United States must learn from its experience of Iraq, installation and backing of an incompetent and unpopular puppet regime could never be a sustainable solution to establish stable democracy. The consequence of such a regime was enormous chaos and anarchy, which instead of dislodging Al-Qaeda, gave rise to ISIL, an extreme radical version of Al-Qaeda.

There is always a vacuum which provides, a pitch to penetrate and space to breathe, to the insurgent groups. It was the anarchic political nature, during the 1990s civil war in Afghanistan, which gave the way to Taliban to step into the Afghan political realm. Already ISIL is getting tremendous support from the radical segments of Taliban groups.

Nevertheless, the recent strikes targeting the Taliban Leader would undoubtedly weaken the position of moderate Taliban who supports the political settlement of the conflict not to mention the strengthening of those who wants to fight the infidel invaders and their supported government in Kabul. Now from whom US is going to negotiate for peace is beyond imagination?

The key prominent moderate figures are dead whereas the Mullah Haibatullah, Taliban’s top judicial executive along, as new Emir of the Organisation, with Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, the eldest son of Mullah Mohammad Omer, as his two deputy officers, would now, without a doubt, go for a mortal head on against the American and Afghan security forces. The legitimate Afghan government is paralyzed in front of Taliban let alone ISIL.

Apart from US’s restrains for the re-introduction of its forces in Afghanistan, one thing is for sure, Afghanistan is on the verge of a lethal civil war. Though, at the moment the war is going at a considerable pace, but from now onwards its scope would get broad probably taking the entire region into its sphere.

Additionally, the main challenge arises for International community, is regarding the potential emergence of Middle Eastern conflict phenomenon into Afghanistan. It is quite possible that like Iraq, Syria and Libya, Afghanistan which historically has porous borders on all sides might lose its International boundaries.

Nonetheless in terms of the contemporary geo-political situation of the region if the Middle Eastern phenomenon started to happen in Afghanistan, then it would instantly incorporate into the Central Asian region where ISIL and Al-Qaeda, unquestionably, has strong support bases. Besides the movement of more foreign fighters from Central Asia into Afghanistan, the incursion of ISIL militants in Afghanistan could be a much bigger threat to U.S. as that would attract transnational actors from all over the Globe towards Afghanistan, as happening in Syria and Iraq.

In addition to the threat, Afghanistan poses to the Central Asia and Pakistan, the story would not remain simple for Iran, China and India. Iran a Shia government an all-out opposition for ISIL and China’s Sing Kian province which has deep-rooted Islamist militancy will have to face the direct consequences of the war or they might have a high intensity conflict into their own land. Last but not the least India, from where reportedly, many people are joining ISIL in Middle East, very much lies into the ISIL’s Khorasan map.

However, for Pakistan, the hatred among the Taliban will increase. But the biggest threat lies in US statements in which they repeatedly says Aft-Pak region which sounds like Iraq and Syria.

Pentagon Plans To Turn Anti-ISIL Efforts Into N. Africa Offensive Against Someone

[Why Spend $54 Billion More on the Pentagon? To Start a War, Obviously.]

[Is the Pentagon moving to block ISIS or Russia in N. Africa (SEE: Russia Has Bought-In To the Libyan War, Siding w/Gen. Khalifa Haftar)?]

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military will keep an unspecified number of ground troops in Libya to help friendly forces further degrade the Islamic State faction there, and officials are seeking new leeway to target al Qaida loyalists in Somalia, the top commander overseeing operations in Africa said Friday.

“We’re going to maintain a force that has the ability to develop intelligence, work with various groups as required, or be able to assist if required … to take out ISIS targets,” said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command. Speaking to media at the Pentagon, he indicated also the ISIS presence in coastal Libya has fallen below 200 from an estimated 5,000 or 6,000 only a year ago.

The region no longer appears to be a “backup plan” for foreign fighters unable to join the the Islamic State’s primary fight in Syria and Iraq, he added. That’s due in large part to an intense four-month air campaign led by U.S. Marines operating from Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Between August and December, their attack aircraft flew nearly 700 missions in support of Libyan militias battling ISIS militants in Sirte.

The last major U.S. operation in Libya occurred during mid-January, when American warplanes unleashed a massive attack on two Islamic State training camps, killing an estimated 80 militants who had fled the group’s crumbling stronghold. The strike was enabled, Waldhauser said, by U.S. personnel who’d spent several weeks coordinating face-to-face with allies to ensure there would be no collateral damage.

“When you conduct precision airstrike, close-air support operations in an urban environment with the requirements to not have civilian casualties, with the requirements to be careful about infrastructure, destruction and the like, you can’t do an operation like that without somebody on the ground to interface,” the general added.

The dynamic in Libya is complicated for many reasons. In the years since former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, rival groups have battled for power and influence. More recently, Russia has entered the picture, establishing a military presence in neighboring Egypt.

Asked about Moscow’s potential involvement in Libya, Waldhauser confirmed Russian operatives are “on the ground in the area” but sought to walk back his earlier suggestion they have in fact crossed into Libya from their outpost in Egypt. Regardless, Russia is attempting to influence the security environment there, the general said, and reestablish financial ties — Libya is flush with oil and a target market for Russian-made weapons — that were lost after Gaddafi’s demise.

“We watch what they do with great concern,” Waldhauser said.

In Somalia, where the al-Qaida affiliate al Shabaab remains a threat, Waldhauser is hopeful the Trump White House will loosen rules of engagement established by the Obama administration, which was intently focused — to a fault, some have argued — on avoiding collateral damage. That’s still an important concern, Waldhauser said, but current restrictions slow the approval process for conducting airstrikes in populated areas.

The general would like more of that authority to rest with his headquarters in Germany, versus the White House or the Pentagon, so targeted attacks can occur quickly. “I think the combatant commanders, myself included, are more than capable of making judgments and determinations on some of these targets.”

Under existing rules, armed drones flying over Somalia are approved to strike if U.S. military advisers and their partners come under attack and are unable to repel the threat. In those instances, airstrikes can be used for self defense. “But that’s not an offensive capability,” Waldhauser noted.

About 50 U.S. troops, all elite special operations personnel, are on the ground in Somalia. The plan that’s pending White House approval would boost that number slightly, The Associated Press reported last month.

Ultimately, Waldhauser wants more flexibility to pick apart al Shabaab, both by stepping up efforts to train and assist U.S. allies doing much of the fighting in Somalia, and by making it easier to take out suspected terrorists when they step out of the shadows. But the broader American mission there, he said, would remain focused and deliberate.

“We are not,” the general added, “going to turn Somalia into a free-fire zone.”

Andrew deGrandpre is Military Times’ senior editor and Pentagon bureau chief. On Twitter: @adegrandpre

Israeli-American Man Arrested For Anti-Semitic Bomb Threats Made In Ohio and Midwest

An Israeli American Teen Has Been Arrested in the JCC Bomb Threats Case

 

Officials have taken a suspect into custody in connection with threatening calls made to Jewish institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

A police officer stands outside of a Jewish Community Center in Louisville, Kentucky, after it received a bomb threat. Bryan Woolston / Reuters
Officials have arrested a Israeli American teenager in connection with a string of bomb threats made to U.S. Jewish Community Centers and schools over the past several months. He has also been accused of making threatening calls in New Zealand and Australia, along with a call to a commercial airline that forced it to make an emergency landing, according to The New York Times.

An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the arrest to the Times on Thursday. In a statement, Israeli officials said that law-enforcement officials from multiple countries, including the United States, worked together on the investigation. The Times reports that “investigators confiscated computers, an antenna and other equipment” from the suspect’s home. The Jerusalem Post reported that the suspect’s father has also been detained and is being questioned about whether he knew about the calls.

Israel’s minister of public security, Gilad Erdan, congratulated to Israeli police on “leading a complex international investigation,” according to the Forward. “We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government,” he said. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions affirmed in a statement that “the Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs,” according to Haaretz.

Juan Thompson, a 31-year-old former journalist, had previously been arrested in connection with a fraction of the calls. Officials believe he made the threats to harass an ex-girlfriend.

Since January, dozens of calls have been made to Jewish institutions across the United States, many nearly identical in message and form. JCCs, which provide child-care services, recreation, and community meeting spaces, have been repeatedly forced to evacuate upon receiving these calls. In some cases, such as the JCC in Nashville, they have been threatened multiple times.

“The impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement on Thursday. “These were acts of anti-Semitism. These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert.” He added that no one has been arrested in associated with the recent desecration of Jewish cemeteries or multiple instances of anti-Semitic vandalism.

The head of the JCC Association of North America, Doron Krakow, also applauded law enforcement in a statement on Thursday. The organization is “troubled,” he noted, “to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers … is reportedly Jewish.”

Some in the U.S. have connected the threats to a perceived rise in hostility toward Jews during the 2016 election. The motivation behind crimes like this can be extremely difficult to prove, however, and Haaretz reports that the suspect arrested on Thursday is being accused of involvement in “hundreds of incidents involving threats to institutions around the world, including Israel, over a period of two or three years.” So far, it’s unclear how or why the Israeli American suspect who was arrested on Thursday made the calls.

Ukrainian Ammo Dump Blown-Up Near Donbass Region

In Balaklje, the ammunition depot is burning, missiles are flown, strong explosions. Kharkov region. HD. Evacua.  Alex Popov

“Diversion of Poroshenko” near Kharkov: details

 

nakanune.ru 

[Russian state media supervision service]

 

A catastrophe at military depots near Kharkov is considered a diversion. The total area of ​​storage facilities of 122- and 152-mm howitzer shells, rockets to salvo fire systems and even, according to some information, ballistic missiles “Tochka U” is amazing – 368 hectares. According to official data, the total mass of ammunition in the warehouse was 138 thousand tons .

Here is how the main military prosecutor of the Kiev regime Anatoly Matios describes what happened:

“According to preliminary information (now as a result of investigative actions) of the investigative-prosecutorial group of the military prosecutor’s office of the Kharkov garrison and the investigation department of the SBU in the Kharkiv region (which are on the scene), due to the sabotage last night, at 2:45, at several storage sites (Tank and artillery shells 125 and 152 mm) near the city of Balakleya in the Kharkov region there was an explosion (a fire broke out), which caused detonation of ammunition. ”

The total area of ​​the arsenal is 368 hectares and 138 thousand tons of ammunition.

From the place of detonation through the establishment of the blockade, a conditional seven kilometer cordon of the zone of danger of the spread of ammunition is organized.

There are no data on human casualties.

On the site of events, a staff is working as part of the regional leadership and law enforcement agencies.

|Фото:

On the instructions of the Ministry of Defense, a board with a commission headed by the deputy defense minister for armament of Pavlovsky flew from Kiev.

Taking into account the possibility of increasing the area of ​​detonation of ammunition and their dispersal, an evacuation of local population from the settlements of Verbovka and Yakovenkovo ​​is organized . All necessary measures are taken to prevent the loss of human life, to establish eyewitnesses of sabotage and to examine the place of events.

According to Matios, the heavy fire fighting equipment of the Defense Ministry arrived at the scene of the events. Prepares to take off the UAV to establish the actual volumes of the affected areas of the arsenal. The State Border Service has strengthened the border control regime in the north-eastern direction.

It should be noted that there is a fire train in the warehouse itself, and fire tanks, at least, were in 2011, when the exercises were held there just for a similar case , therefore, probably, the prosecutor exaggerates the merits of the “emergency response” of the Defense Ministry. He does not have information on other items:

No UAVs will allow to determine in the morning the area covered by fires and explosions – due to smoke and turbulent flows on the borders of the burning area, caused by the rising streams of hot air (more than 100 km / h).

Because of the spread of not only the fragments of shells, but also missiles, no investigative actions “at the scene” can not be carried out. Maximum, investigators who arrived only a couple of hours ago from Kharkov, could find and interview those who are in a state of shock, but managed to escape, sentries from which nothing coherent and reliable can be achieved simply because witnesses can not determine at night where and how It all began. And for objective reasons – 368 hectares are simply not visible from one point and it is impossible to speak about “simultaneous” ignition (and diversion).

 

The Ukrainian military said unknown saboteurs blew up a warehouse storing tank ammunition at a military base in the east of the country early on Thursday, but nobody was hurt.

The base, which contained about 138,000 tonnes of ammunition, is located in the city of Balakleya about 100 km (60 miles) from the frontline of Ukraine’s war against Russian-backed separatists.

Rescue teams were evacuating nearby villages in the eastern Kharkiv region, the military said.

“According to preliminary data … as a result of sabotage, last night at 2.46 AM (0046 GMT), fire and explosions caused the detonation of ammunition at several sites storing rockets and artillery weapons,” Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor Anatoly Matios wrote on Facebook.

Military spokesman Oleksander Motuzyanyk said security around other bases was being beefed up. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman was due to fly to the area later on Thursday.

Saboteurs previously tried to destroy the same base using drones in 2015, another military spokesman, Yuzef Venskovich, told the 112 TV channel.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Ukraine and the separatist rebels since 2014.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by Matthias Williams and Gareth Jones)

Russia Refutes Kurdish (US) Lies About Russian/Kurd Military Base In Syria

[SEE:  Russia strikes deal with Syrian Kurds to set up base: Syrian Kurdish militia–Reuters]

The statement added that a section of its “reconciliation centre”, which Russia says helps negotiate local truces between the warring sides in Syria, was deployed near Afrin for the prevention of ceasefire violations.

Russia rejects creating a new military base in Syria.

Image of Russian military aircraft [Russian Ministry of Defence/Wikipedia]

Image of Russian military aircraft [Russian Ministry of Defence/Wikipedia]

The Russian defence ministry rejected reports claiming the country is creating a new military base in Syria.

The ministry moved to quell speculations after the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said it had reached a deal with Moscow for a new military base in the north-west of the country.

Media reports also surfaced claiming that Russian forces were setting up a military base in Afrin in agreement with the YPG.

There are no plans to create new Russian military bases on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic

the defence ministry statement read yesterday.

The statement added that a section of its “reconciliation centre”, which Russia says helps negotiate local truces between the warring sides in Syria, was deployed near Afrin for the prevention of ceasefire violations.

The ministry said the move was taken according to an agreement between Russia and Turkey on monitoring the ceasefire.

“To prevent violations of the cessation of hostilities, one of the branches of the Russian centre for reconciliation of warring sides [in Syria] was deployed in the province of Aleppo near the Afrin populated area in the contact line between Kurdish militia units and Turkey-controlled units of the Free Syrian Army.”

Russia has a naval base in the Syrian coastal city of Tartus. The facility was established during the Cold War to support the Soviet navy fleet in the Mediterranean. Political analysts cite Moscow’s need for unhindered access to the sea as one of the main reasons for its support for Bashar Al-Assad regime.

Another Prominent Russian (this one a lawyer) Falls From Hi-Rise Window…(still alive somehow)

[Lawyer of dead Russian whistleblower injured after fall from window ; Nine prominent Russians who have all mysteriously died since the Trump-Russia scandal exploded ; Opposition figure Navalny attacked with antiseptic dye ]

Key witness in Preet Bharara’s Russian crime probe was just thrown from fourth floor of building

Palmer Report

Just days after Donald Trump took care of business on his end by firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who had been investigating a Russian financial crime ring in New York, it appears the Kremlin is trying to take care of business on its end. According to the BBC, one of the key Russian witnesses in Bharara’s case was just thrown from the fourth floor of a building in Moscow.

Remarkably, Nikolai Gorokhov is still alive and in intensive care. Daniel Sandford of the BBC tweeted this afternoon that “Gorokhov has been “thrown from the 4th floor of his apartment building” in Moscow.” Sandford then added that “Nikolai Gorokhov is in the intensive care unit of Botkin hospital in Moscow with severe head injuries according to Bill Browder.” Browder is a longtime vocal critic of Vladimir Putin.

Gorokhov is notable for two reasons. One is that he was the attorney for Russian political activist Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered in Russia in 2009, allegedly by Vladimir Putin. But as the Daily Beast has pointed out, Gorokhov was also a key witness in Preet Bharara’s Russian crime probe in the United States. And perhaps most alarmingly, Sandford is also reporting that “Gorokhov was due at the Moscow City Appeals Court tomorrow to argue on behalf of Sergei Magnitsky’s mother.”

It appears the Kremlin is already attempting to float a coverup story involving Gorokhov falling out a fourth story window while he was helping some workers move a bathtub. But it’s entirely unclear why an attorney would be helping workers move a bathtub, particularly one day before he was due to appear in court. Here’s hoping Gorokhov survives his injuries so that we don’t have to add him to the list of nine prominent Russians who have all mysteriously died since the Trump-Russia scandal exploded.

Trump Yet To Learn That “VICTORY” In the War On Terror Cannot Be Bought AT ANY PRICE.

 

 

Trump delivers remarks aboard the pre-commissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.Trump delivers remarks aboard the pre-commissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Donald Trump’s military policy is a win-win proposition: The United States will win, and then it will win some more. Last week, the White House released its proposed budget, which calls for $639 billion in defense spending—a $54 billion increase from 2017 levels—along with massive cuts for diplomacy and foreign aid. Congress is likely to amend these plans, but they nevertheless signal how the administration views defense policy.

A core tenet of the emerging Trump doctrine is that more military spending will translate into victory on the battlefield. According to the president, “We have to start winning wars again. I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say we never lost a war. We never lost a war, remember? And now we never win a war.” In a speech earlier this month to sailors onboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, a newly built $13-billion aircraft carrier, Trump promised: “We will give our military the tools you need to prevent war and, if required, to fight war and only do one thing. You know what that is? Win. Win! We’re gonna start winning again.”

To sum up: more big-ticket hardware like the Gerald R. Ford—in Trump’s words, “a monument to American might”—means more winning. We might term this philosophy: Tweet loudly and carry a big stick.

In a sense, the president’s vision of swift martial triumph is as American as apple pie. The traditional American way of war is based on using firepower and high technology to destroy enemy countries on the battlefield. General Douglas MacArthur—who Trump once praised as an ideal general to fight ISIS—famously declared, “there is no substitute for victory.” At the same time, the president’s fixation on collecting “wins” is pure Trumpism.

Will extra military capabilities allow the United States to march into what Winston Churchill once called the “broad sunlit uplands” of victory? It’s the $54 billion question.

To start, what does it even mean to “win” a war? Success is not about blowing things up, or conquering battlefields and seeing the enemy flee. Success is about achieving political goals. This means deciding who governs and how. It means attaining a consolidated victory, or a stronger peace where national interests will be protected in the long term. During the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the United States and its allies won the early battles. But in every case, the countries became destabilized and dueling militias and insurgents arose. As a result, Iraq was a grave debacle, Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of failure, and Barack Obama described the collapse of Libya as his worst mistake.

Will the new budget give the U.S. military the tools to win? The story of the last 70 years is that American military power doesn’t translate into victory. Up until World War II, the United States had a tiny peacetime army (in 1939, the U.S. Army was ranked 19th in the world in terms of size, just after Portugal’s), but it won almost every major war. After 1945, Washington became a military colossus and it endured a string of failures and stalemates in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. During the height of the Vietnam War, for example, Washington estimated that it spent $9.60 to cause just one dollar of damage to the enemy.

U.S. military strength was ineffective after World War II because global warfare shifted from interstate wars, or wars between countries, to civil wars. Today, about 90 percent of conflicts are internal, including in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. In 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remarked: “Think of where our forces have been sent and have been engaged over the last 40-plus years: Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa, and more. In fact, the first Gulf War stands alone in over two generations of constant military engagement as a more or less traditional conventional conflict from beginning to end.” In the last decade, little changed, as Washington sent forces to battle ISIS in civil wars in Syria and Iraq.

In the new era of internal conflict, victory wasn’t about who had the biggest guns, or even who killed the most troops. What mattered in the fight between regimes and rebels was legitimacy and commitment. Successful counterinsurgency required a multifaceted approach, and a range of military, economic, and diplomatic tools. At the same time, the very nature of a “win” became much murkier. Forget about surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay. Instead, defeated insurgencies would fade away over years and decades.

Greater defense expenditures can help the United States intervene more effectively in complex civil wars. For example, foreign advisory programs can improve the performance of allied soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere—which is critical because Trump is continuing Obama’s policy of relying on indigenous partners to do much of the fighting on the ground against extremist groups. Similarly, cultural and language training can help narrow the gulf of ignorance when U.S. soldiers enter politically and socially alien environments like Iraq. And Special Operations forces are central to counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts in an era where there’s little appetite for deploying a large military footprint.

But Trump has shown little interest in enhancing capabilities at counterinsurgency or nation-building. Indeed, the proposed budget slashes spending on the State Department (by 28 percent), foreign aid, UN programs, and peacekeeping, which are central to stabilization missions. Instead, Trump wants more big ships and F-35 war planes. In other words, the White House intends to pour resources into capabilities designed for the least likely scenarios, like a naval showdown with China, rather than the most likely scenarios, like battling terrorists and insurgents.

Greater U.S. military spending could even produce more American defeats if it tempts Washington into unwise interventions. Power can trigger hubris and lure the United States into distant lands. At the height of America’s post-Cold War strength, a senior adviser to George W. Bush remarked to a reporter: “We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Achieving more military wins is less about spending money, and more about tailoring U.S. capabilities to the current and future threat environment. Of course, Washington needs sufficient conventional strength to deter China, Russia, and Iran. But given that Trump’s proposed defense increase ($54 billion) is close to Russia’s entire annual military budget ($52 billion in 2015), this is not at risk. The danger is that Washington will abandon its capabilities for preventing war and stabilizing foreign societies, in favor of military might. Winning also means focusing on ultimate strategic success in wartime, and not being guided by the kind of overconfident illusions we saw in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. And most of all, winning means picking and choosing America’s wars more carefully, and using force as a last resort. In 2013, James Mattis told Congress: “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Russia strikes deal with Syrian Kurds to set up base near Aleppo

Russia strikes deal with Syrian Kurds to set up base: Syrian Kurdish militia

 

 

 

Russia is setting up a military base in northwestern Syria in agreement with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia that controls the area and will be training YPG fighters as part of the fight against terrorism, the militia’s spokesman said on Monday.

YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Reuters the agreement with Russia was concluded on Sunday, and that Russian troops had already arrived at the position in the northwestern region of Afrin with troop carriers and armored vehicles.

The move will likely anger neighboring Turkey. Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency inside Turkey.

“The Russian presence … comes in agreement between (the YPG) and the Russian forces operating in Syria in the framework of cooperation against terrorism and to help train our forces on modern warfare and to build a direct point of contact with Russian forces,” Xelil said in a written statement.

“It is the first (agreement) of its kind,” he added.

Turkey has launched a cross-border offensive along a section of the Turkish-Syrian frontier to prevent further gains by the YPG, which controls swathes of northeastern Syria and the Afrin pocket of northwestern Syria.

The YPG is also allied to the United States in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, and is playing a major part in the U.S.-backed offensive against Islamic State’s urban stronghold of Raqqa, further east.

“The agreement came into force today,” Xelil said, declining to say how many Russian troops had arrived in Jandaris, the place where the base is being established.

Jandaris has previously been shelled by Turkish forces from across the nearby frontier, Xelil added.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Gareth Jones)

 

Russia summoned Israeli ambassador over Syria strikes

 

 

MOSCOW, March 20 — Russia’s foreign ministry today said it had summoned Israel’s ambassador over air strikes close to Moscow’s forces near the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.

Deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Interfax news agency that Ambassador Gary Koren was summoned on Friday and “asked about” the strikes.

The ministry “expressed concern” about the action taking place near Russian military locations, Bogdanov said.

Russia — which is conducting its own bombing campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad — said earlier this month that more than 180 of its troops have started demining around Palmyra’s ancient monuments.

Russia and Israel have set up a “hotline” aimed at avoiding air clashes over Syria and Bogdanov said Moscow “would like this channel to work more effectively” to ensure no “misunderstanding on who is doing what.”

Israeli warplanes struck several targets on Friday, prompting retaliatory Syrian missile launches, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the war began six years ago.

Israel’s military said it had been targeting weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which backs Assad in Syria.

Syria’s military said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near Palmyra, the famed desert city it recaptured from jihadists this month.

The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit.

Yesterday, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to destroy Syria’s air defence systems “without the slightest hesitation” if there was a similar incident.

Russia has deployed its own high-tech missile defence systems to Syria to protect its forces there. — AFP

Trump 2nd American President To Fight Illegal CIA Abuse of Authority

The New York Times, in a front-page story, said that the president “wanted to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

Whether that quote is accurate or not we don’t know, but it makes sense that after the agency damaged the president’s reputation so badly, he would react with such anger.

If you are a student of history, you already know that the president who swore a vendetta against the Central Intelligence Agency wasn’t Donald Trump, but John F. Kennedy, and that although he did not abolish the agency before his assassination, he did fire its director, Allen Dulles, in an effort to gain control over what was considered a rogue agency that had forced Kennedy’s hand in the Bay of Pigs disaster.

The tangled tentacles of the CIA’s machinations wind their way throughout President Kennedy’s shortened term in office, from the Bay of Pigs through the Mafia assassination attempts against Fidel Castro to Kennedy’s own assassination, and then reappear in the Watergate break-in (five of the so-called Watergate “burglars” had connections to the CIA) and in the secret White House tapes where President Nixon is heard telling his chief of staff to tell CIA director Richard Helms that the arrest of the burglars is “likely to blow the whole Bay of Pigs thing which we think would be very unfortunate for CIA and the country at this time, and for American foreign policy.”

Watergate, in case, you don’t remember, involved a sitting president plotting against his potential opponents by participating in illegal activities to spy on the opposition party, and particularly by using intelligence agency assets to accomplish it.

Yet when President Trump suggested that his predecessor had used spy technology against him, there was shocked outrage — not against President Obama, but against President Trump for suggesting the inconceivable. How… HOW… (the media asked innocently) could anyone ever believe that the CIA would have the audacity to engage in political espionage!

I have no idea if President Trump will be able to prove his accusations. I would not be surprised if he cannot (even if they were true) because, let’s face it, the CIA doesn’t give up its secrets easily — which brings us back to President Kennedy and “the whole Bay of Pigs thing.”

For those of you too young to remember, the Bay of Pigs is shorthand for the April 1961 invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles with the assistance of the CIA. Most people don’t realize that Kennedy’s 1960 presidential opponent, Vice President Richard Nixon, was one of the planners of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Nixon was also one of many critics of Kennedy for his last-minute decision not to provide U.S. military air cover for the invasion. That decision doomed the invasion, and turned many Cuban exiles as well as CIA operatives against Kennedy.

It was in March 1960 that President Eisenhower had signed off on “A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime,” and Nixon took at least an oversight role in planning the overthrow of Castro, and almost certainly knew of the assassination attempts that the CIA was planning against Castro in cooperation with the Mafia. Since Nixon and his allies in the Eisenhower administration were confident that he would be elected president in November 1960, they were making plans to overthrow the Castro regime which they thought Nixon himself would be carrying out.

It requires some speculation to ponder what adjustments the CIA made when Kennedy instead was elected, and just how they revealed their plans to the new administration. Remember that Allen Dulles had been appointed director of the CIA by President Eisenhower in 1953 and was intimately involved with the 1953 coup in Iran, the 1954 coup in Guatemala, the assassination plots against Castro, and the mind-control project code-named MK-Ultra. Moreover, documents released in 2004 and reported by Tim Weiner in his 2007 book “Legacy of Ashes” proved that Dulles had authorized the CIA to break into Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s office and fed disinformation to him in order to discredit him. The question to be asked is just how comfortable would Dulles and the CIA be about revealing such information to the new president. Would they share it all, or would they keep him in the dark?

Unfortunately, the labyrinthine world of the covert intelligence agencies is too complex to be analyzed in one brief newspaper column, but suffice it to say that Kennedy was leery of the CIA from day one of his administration, and by the time of the Bay of Pigs, he had come to the conclusion that he could not trust the agency. Thus, his famous proclamation that he would “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces,” as reported by the New York Times in 1966, three years after Kennedy’s assassination.

What is fascinating to anyone concerned about the power of what is now being called the “Deep State” is that there are CIA fingerprints all over the Kennedy assassination as well as Watergate. Allen Dulles, the CIA director fired by President Kennedy, was appointed by President Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission that investigated the murder of JFK. Yet neither Dulles nor his successor John McCone revealed to the Warren Commission that the CIA had engaged in assassination attempts against Castro, despite the immediate relevance of this information to the investigation. Remember that Lee Harvey Oswald, the president’s accused assassin, had public ties to Castro and Cuba. Since it was known that Castro was aware of the CIA plot against him, it gave him a motive to kill Kennedy in revenge. Moreover, both the CIA and the FBI covered up their own involvement with Oswald, a former defector to the Soviet Union.

The 1995 book, “Oswald and the CIA,” by former military intelligence officer John Newman provides invaluable insight into the close relationship between the accused assassin and the spy agency. Other books have laid out the case for how CIA assets, possibly but not necessarily including Oswald, could have turned against Kennedy for his abandonment of the invasion force at the Bay of Pigs.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention that the CIA has spent many years cultivating assets in both the foreign and U.S. media in order to promote their own agenda. Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein wrote an extensive expose, “The CIA and the Media,” in 1977 that should send chills up the spines of anyone who takes the word of the various news agencies as gospel. Bernstein exposes the complicity of, among others, The New York Times (“the Agency’s relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers”), CBS (“unquestionably the CIA’s most valuable broadcasting asset”) and Time magazine (which “agreed to provide jobs and credentials for … CIA operatives.”)

The recognition that the Central Intelligence Agency has freely used assets in the news industry should give everyone pause. If the CIA lied about its involvement in various covert operations in the past, and if it used news media operatives to misdirect public attention from its misdeeds in the past, how can anyone be so naive as to accept the narrative being offered against President Trump today?

We are told that it is ridiculous that Obama would wiretap Trump, and that the intelligence agencies would admit it publicly if it had happened. But as President Trump reminded everyone Friday, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, Obama ordered the wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone in 2010. The German government entered into an extensive investigation of these allegations but, according to the Guardian newspaper, finally gave up because they could not penetrate the secrecy of the spy agencies. As reported by The Guardian, “The federal prosecutor’s office received virtually no cooperation in its investigation from either the NSA or Germany’s equivalent, the BND.”

Yet we expect the National Security Agency or the CIA or the FBI to gladly cooperate with congressional investigators, or even more absurdly the media, and admit to carrying out a political vendetta against Trump? That is what is truly ridiculous.

Trump, like Kennedy, is intent on effecting change across a wide swath of the government. The entrenched bureaucrats known as the “Deep State” resented both Kennedy and Trump. Kennedy fought back hard against the CIA and against J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Whether that cost him his life, we may never know, but history does teach us that conspiracies exist. Unfortunately, anyone who blindly accepts the word of either the mainstream media or their “sources” (bosses?) in the intelligence community simply doesn’t understand history.

Frank Miele is the managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana.

The soul of our country

 

 

Steve and Cokie Roberts

Donald Trump made this promise on the campaign trail: “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.”

All politicians make promises they cannot keep, but this one is a particularly devastating deception. The health care bill drafted by the House, and enthusiastically endorsed by the president, makes major cuts in Medicaid, the joint federal/state program that protects the most vulnerable Americans.

Like so many of Trump’s proposals, this one is not just bad public policy. It’s also immoral, violating the most basic obligation of Christianity, described in the New Testament as caring for “the least of these brothers and sisters.”

As John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We’re talking about lives. … We better be careful we’re not losing the soul of our country because we’re playing politics.”

The health care debate has focused primarily on proposed alterations to the insurance system established by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but the Medicaid issue is equally important. Under Obamacare, states could utilize federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to families earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Thirty-one states took advantage of the option, adding about 11 million Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

Under the House bill (call it Ryan/Trumpcare), that expansion would be phased out in 2020. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about 5 million people would be forced off Medicaid in the first year, and 15 million would lose coverage by 2026.

Speaker Paul Ryan defends his plan by saying, “We’re going to have a free market and you buy what you want to buy.” Nice words, which totally ignore the fact that most of those covered by Medicaid cannot afford any health insurance at any price.

But that’s not the whole story. Ryan has spent his whole career plotting to do exactly what Trump said he would not do: reduce entitlements. By abandoning his promise, Trump has reinforced the impression that he doesn’t really care about policy at all.

What he cares about is winning. So he’s bought into Ryan/Trumpcare because he thinks it’s the only health plan with a chance of passing.

Fortunately, a number of Republicans are appalled, especially governors who actually have to solve real problems in their states. They cannot afford Ryan’s theological crusade against government spending or Trump’s refusal to recognize the human misery this proposal would entail.

Many of those governors agree with Kasich, who notes that 700,000 Ohioans have gained insurance coverage under Medicaid expansion. “If they don’t get coverage, they end up in the emergency room, they end up sicker, more expensive,” he told state business leaders. “I mean, we pay one way or another. And so this has been a good thing for Ohio.”

Attacks on Medicaid often echo the old debate about welfare, implying that beneficiaries are able-bodied slackers who don’t want to work. Of course some people game the system, but they’re far from a majority. Many suffer from a range of disabling conditions: physical handicaps, mental illness and substance abuse, for example. Kasich says a “big chunk” of those covered in Ohio “are mentally ill and drug-addicted and have chronic diseases.”

Impoverished seniors who cannot afford nursing care are also major Medicaid recipients. Under Ryan/Trumpcare, says Tom Wolf, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, “You’re either basically consigning the seniors to less care or the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to spend more, or a combination of both. That’s a real problem.”

Those real problems are not limited to governors who would have to administer Medicaid under Ryan/Trumpcare. The Republicans who vote for it also stand to pay a large price: Their souls, as well as their seats, could well be at stake.

 

Steve and Cokie Roberts: can be reached at stevecokie@gmail.com.

Somali Pirates Surrender Tanker Seized Off Yemeni Island of Socotra

 

Aris 13The hijacked product tanker Aris 13 was released by pirates without condition and ransom after gunshots with local naval forces. The vessel and its eight Sri Lankan crew were freed and vessel proceeded to the port of destination in Mogadishu. The releasing of the tanker happened several hours after naval troops from the semi-autonomous state of Puntland attacked the pirates and tried to stop a boat carrying reinforcement pirates to the ship. The pirates opened fire and the naval troop responded, which caused injury of four people. Following the gunbattle the pirates moved the vessel from its anchorage and tried to negotiate for its releasing.

“There has been discussion going on after the gunfight of this afternoon … We pulled our forces back and so the pirates went away”, said the director general of the maritime police force for Somalia’s semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan.

After several hours the vessel was released without paying a ransom. The pirates said that they had agreed to forego a ransom after learning that Somali businessmen had hired the Aris 13, which was taking oil from Djibouti to the Somali capital Mogadishu. Pirates have traditionally been wary of tangling with Somalia’s powerful businessmen.

“After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom”, said representative of the pirates, called Abdullahi.

The local authorities are investigating the root cause of the accident. It is not yet known is the pirates were professionals or just fishermen.

More about hijacking of tanker Aris 13:
Product tanker Aris 13 hijacked by Somali pirates in Gulf of Aden [14/03]
Master of hijacked tanker Aris 13 get in contact with EU Naval Force [16/03]

Hillary (Democrats) Smells Blood In the Water, Sensing Trump Vulnerability

[And she got a new HAIRCUT!]

[Exposing The Clinton/Obama Scheme To Wage Political War On Donald Trump]

Hillary Clinton says she’s ‘ready to come out of the woods’

 

 

 

SCRANTON, Pa. – Hillary Clinton said Friday she’s “ready to come out of the woods” and help Americans find common ground.

Clinton’s gradual return to the public spotlight following her presidential election loss continued with a St. Patrick’s Day speech in her late father’s Pennsylvania hometown of Scranton.

“I’m like a lot of my friends right now, I have a hard time watching the news,” Clinton told an Irish women’s group.

But she urged a divided country to work together to solve problems, recalling how, as first lady, she met with female leaders working to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

“I do not believe that we can let political divides harden into personal divides. And we can’t just ignore, or turn a cold shoulder to someone because they disagree with us politically,” she said.

Friday night’s speech was one of several she is to deliver in the coming months, including a May 26 commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The Democrat also is working on a book of personal essays that will include some reflections on her loss to Donald Trump.

Clinton, who was spotted taking a walk in the woods around her hometown of Chappaqua, New York, two days after losing the election to Donald Trump, quipped she had wanted to stay in the woods, “but you can only do so much of that.”

She told the Society of Irish Women that it’ll be up to citizens, not a deeply polarized Washington, to bridge the political divide.

“I am ready to come out of the woods and to help shine a light on what is already happening around kitchen tables, at dinners like this, to help draw strength that will enable everybody to keep going,” said Clinton.

Clinton was received warmly in Scranton, where her grandfather worked in a lace mill. Her father left Scranton for Chicago in search of work during the Great Depression, but returned often. Hillary Clinton spent summers at the family’s cottage on nearby Lake Winola.

She fondly recalled watching movies stretched across a bedsheet in a neighbor’s yard, and told of how the cottage had a toilet but no shower or tub.

“Don’t tell anybody this, but we’d go down to the lake,” she said.

Saudis Murder Boatload of Somali Refugees Off the Coast of Yemen

LCRD condemns Saudi airstrike on Somali refugees

 

SABA NET

 

[18/March/2017]

SANA’A, March 18 (Saba) – The Legal Center for Rights and Development (LCRD) strongly condemned Thursday night air Saudi airstrike on Somali refugees off Yemen’s coast of Hodeida, in a statement obtained by Saba on Saturday.

“This was the latest in a series of war crimes committed by Saudi aggression against civilian targets,” read the statement , the bombing of the Saudi aggression in May 2015 refugees headquarters of UNICEF in Midi region.

The statement called on the United Nations and international organizations to protect human rights and do their responsibilities toward stopping Saudi barbaric massacres against the civilians in Yemen, considering targeting Somali refugees as a new war crime.

 

 

 

[18/March/2017]

SANA’A, March 18 (Saba) – The National organization for rights and freedoms on Saturday stressed that targeting African refugees on their boat off the Yemeni coast of Hodeida was a disgrace to the United Nations Security Council.

The organization said in a statement received by Saba that targeting the boat carrying dozens of African migrants on Thursday night by the alliance of Saudi aggression was a heinous war crime, condemning the fresh new war crimes.

The statement denounced the continuation of war crimes and violations Against the Yemeni people through repeatedly targeting civilian boats of fishermen and African refugees.

The statement called on the United Nations and its Security Council to bear responsibility towards stopping the barbaric war, bloody war crimes, economic blockade against the humanity and the Yemeni people.

Deadly Mosque Airstrike In Idlib, Syria Blamed On US Navy

[US admits Syria airstrike that killed 46 but denies targeting mosque ]

Conflicting claims on a U.S. role in deadly airstrike near mosque in Syria

 

 

Aftermath of airstrike at mosque in Jenneh area in northern Syria on March 17, 2017; attack killed dozens

AFP

 

BEIRUT — An airstrike at a mosque in a rebel-held area of northern Syria on Thursday killed at least 35 people, first responders and activists said.

The Syrian Civil Defense, volunteer paramedics known as the White Helmets, said first responders were racing to the scene after the airstrike in the Jeeneh area, near the rebel-held province of Idlib. It said at least 35 people were killed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 46 people were killed, mainly civilians.

Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American journalist with close links to militant Islam groups in Syria, is reporting that he is at the mosque. He put the death toll at 56.

The Reuters news agency reports that the powerful Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham said Friday the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was behind the mosque attack.

U.S. officials say the strike killed dozens of militants and they’re investigating reports that civilians were killed. U.S. Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said the U.S. did not target or strike a mosque.

“We targeted an al Qaeda gathering across the street from a mosque. The mosque does not appear to be damaged following the strike,” said U.S. Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman. “We are aware of the reports of civilian casualties and we are looking into it.”

The U.S. Central Command based in Tampa, Florida, said separately that U.S. forces killed “several terrorists” in a strike at an al Qaeda meeting place in Idlib. It said in a statement that Idlib has been a significant safe haven for al Qaeda in recent years. The U.S. has struck dozens of locations in northwestern Syria in the past, targeting al Qaeda-linked militants.

Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, told CBS News correspondent David Martin there was a mosque across the street from the building the U.S. hit on March 16. He said post-strike photos show two craters and half the target building destroyed, with the small mosque across the street still standing.

However other reports indicate the building may have been a newer annex to the old mosque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pentagon released this image of a March 16 airstrike in al-Jinah, Syria. In the center is the building struck in the airstrake, which the Navy says was the site of an al Qaeda senior leader meeting. The Navy says they deliberately did not target the mosque at the left edge of the photo, and the area was extensively surveilled prior to the strike.–Pentagon

[If the mosque is the building at the top left of the photo, then one end of that building obviously caught the blast debris, as evidenced by the black patch extending from the bomb craters to the building.–ed. ]

Jeeneh is in the western Aleppo countryside which, along with Idlib, is home to hundreds of thousands of Syrians displaced by fighting in other areas.

Russian and Syrian aircraft are known to operate in the opposition-held region.

The airstrike on the mosque came a day after suicide attacks in the capital, Damascus, killed at least 30 people on the sixth anniversary of the start of the Syrian conflict.

The civil war has killed about 400,000 people, wounded more than a million and displaced half the country’s population.

Putin Trying To Sow Peace Where Obama Only Sowed War and Death

[SEE: Moscow Tells Kabul Ties With Taliban Only to Promote Afghan Peace
; Next round of Astana-hosted Syrian peace talks scheduled for May 3-4 ]

Can Russia resolve the conflict in Libya?

 

 

Moscow is trying to become an arbiter between Haftar and Sarraj and position itself as an indispensable negotiator.

Russian analysts agree that Russia’s support for General Haftar has been dictated by its concerns about the spread of ISIL on Europe’s doorstep [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

Russia is ready to step up its support of rebel factions in Libya’s eastern region and get a foothold in North Africa, but it will not deploy its military there, Russian analysts say.

The Kremlin is adamant about establishing itself as a mediator in the Libyan conflict and regain its former influence on the Arab country, in a bid to contain both the Western ambitions and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group’s threat in the North African region, Kremlin insiders told Al Jazeera.

However, they said that at this stage Moscow may not have the financial or military capabilities to play anything more than an indirect role in support of its Libyan ally, renegade General Khalifa Haftar.

As the Libyan National Army loyal to General Haftar regained control of the two oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider early this week, news reports suggesting Russia has deployed private military contractors in security operations near Benghazi, an area under Haftar’s control, have been denied by Russian official sources.

Russia’s support for Haftar, who has refused to acknowledge the UN-backed Tripoli Government led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, has frustrated Western attempts to implement a political solution that would include all Libyan factions, including Islamists, in a power-sharing deal.

Relying on sponsors such as Russia, Egypt, the UAE and France, Haftar has succeeded in creating a stalemate that has gradually eroded Sarraj’s chances of governing the country under the label of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in 2015.

“Russia’s relationship with Haftar is the result of a very simple equation. Russia backs Egypt, Haftar’s main supporter,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based military analyst. “General Haftar has declared war on terrorism and this coincides with Russia’s main objective in the region: wiping out the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State,” Felgenhauer told Al Jazeera.

Felgenhauer confirmed reports that Russia is using military contractors in Libya, saying that it is part of a consolidated trend in recent conflicts. He added that outsourcing the military fight helps avoid a political backlash at home.

“Russia is not sending its troops to help Haftar and is unlikely to do so in the near future. We are rather relying on private military contractors and mercenaries. We are already using contractors in Syria, where they are suffering serious losses, because they are doing the real fighting instead of Russian servicemen. Private contractors are very convenient because they have no political strings attached.”

Felgenhauer said the employment of private contractors has been facilitated by a new legal framework aimed at regulating Russian private military companies. In addition to limited financial resources, Russia cannot afford outstretching its military or financial capabilities at a moment when Moscow is involved in other strategic conflicts on its doorstep.

“Contractors are cheaper [than servicemen] and we need to use our financial resources as best as we can. With the conflict in Donbass simmering, Crimea, the war in Syria still under way, Russia doesn’t have the appetite or the resources to go into Libya,” Felgenhauer said. “Russia is keen on establishing a foothold in Libya and have some influence there, but committing resources is a different matter.”

Asked whether Russia was already supporting Haftar financially and militarily, Felgenhauer said Russia was ready to trade with Haftar but would not offer its help for free.

“Russia may provide weaponry, military training, logistical support, but we would seek some sort of compensation. Haftar has an oil income and Russia may be ready to trade.”

The same discourse applies to Egypt, the Kremlin’s main ally in the region. Asked to comment on Russian media reports that the Kremlin was negotiating the opening of a military base on the border with Libya, Felgenhauer didn’t deny the reports. He said Egypt asked for enormous economic aid in exchange for allowing a Russian military base on its soil.

“We are ready to sell […] to Egypt, as much as they are ready to buy. But not for a military base. We have other strategic interests in the Arctic, the Caucasus, Central Asia. President [Fattah el-] Sisi will have to compete with other priorities in Russia’s defence spending,” Felgenhauer said.

Russian analysts agree that Russia’s support for General Haftar has been dictated by its concerns about the spread of ISIL on Europe’s doorstep and its intent to set up a broad anti-terrorism coalition. In addition, Moscow is seeking to play a mediating role in Libya that would allow it to establish a privileged relationship with the country’s leadership in its future dealings.

On March 3, Moscow invited Fayez Sarraj to a two-day visit to Moscow, where he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and a representative of Haftar’s camp. According to Sergey Strokan, a political commentator at Kommersant, the meeting was a turning point in Russia’s strategy in Libya.

“Moscow is now able to communicate with both sides directly and play a pivotal role in the future of the conflict. An outcome that Western leaders may not have welcomed but they formally acknowledged Russia’s role as potentially useful to solving the stalemate in Libya,” Strokan told Al Jazeera.

“Moscow has been successful in imposing strongman Haftar as an indispensable player. And Russia is officially sitting at the negotiating table, after Syria, now also in Libya.”

President Vladimir Putin’s veiled ambition is to re-establish a Soviet-style presence in the Middle East and North Africa, while taking advantage of the void left by the United States in the region, where Arab leaders have consolidated the perception of a political disengagement by the White House in the region.

Moscow is trying to become an arbiter between General Haftar and Sarraj and position itself as an indispensable negotiator, an investment on its future role in the region that comes with limited investment, the Russian analysts agreed.

“We are doing the same in the case of Egypt and Turkey, Israel and Iran. We talk to those who do not talk to each other. Is it a strategy that will pay off? I don’t know, but that’s the blueprint,” said Felgenhauer.

Sergey Markov, director of Russian Institute of Political Studies and a pro-Kremlin voice, provided a very different perspective of Russia’s intentions towards Libya.

“Libya is a camp for Russia’s confrontation against NATO. Toppling the former regime has been a foolish move that has sent into motion the collapse of all the states in the North African continent. Russia has considered this an act of aggression,” Markov said. “Russia has felt obliged to intervene into the conflict and will try to do so to its advantage, although I don’t think there is a defined strategy towards Libya right now.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Markov said Russia’s main concern is the possible spread of ISIL on large sections of Libyan territory, with its potential devastating consequences for Europe. “Haftar is the most secular figure in Libya right now and it was obvious for Russia to bet on him, given also Egypt’s support.”

But Libyan analysts say Russia has a simplistic vision of the reality on the ground in Libya and by endorsing Haftar or imposing a negotiating model, they won’t go too far.

Six years after the ousting of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, the country is a failed state in which anarchy reigns. Divisions are not just between the east and the west of the country, there are many more players and centres of power within the country’s tribal tissue.

[AlJazeera’s ending struck through, but not deleted, below.–ed.]

Nezar Krikshi, a Libyan analyst based in Turkey, said foreign powers on both sides of the conflict should stop fuelling sectarian tensions and work around the UN-backed LPA, the only legitimate legal framework now available. 

“If Russia and Egypt and others continue to support Haftar there is no way out of the crisis … It’s tragic how we are just seeing foreign players repeating the model of many other civil wars, whereby they formally endorse a peace agreement but work under the table to undo it,” said Krikshi. “The LPA is not perfect, but it is the only thing we have right now.”

Krikshi said Libyan public opinion is deeply divided over who to support, as distrust towards all the players involved, foreign and domestic, has sunk in, making a political solution more and more unlikely. However addressing the people’s basic needs is essential to reignite some of the people’s hope into the capability of the UN-backed government of Sarraj to overcome the political and economic crisis, he said.

Source: Al Jazeera

 

What If We Froze The Pentagon Budget For One Year…Would It Hurt Or Help Humanity?

What if We Took $54 Billion From the Pentagon, Instead?

Dreamy.

President Trump has released some details of his budget proposal, and his priorities are crystal clear: he would take $54 billion away from human development and needs – a greater than 10% cut – and give it to the military.

But imagine if we instead did the reverse: what if we took $54 billion from the military, and gave it to human needs?

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.  Cutting the military budget by $54 billion would still mean:

  • A larger military budget than we had from 1987-2002: through four presidents, the end of the Cold War, the first Gulf War, and the dawn and death of grunge rock.
  • A military budget larger than the average during the presidency of notorious military champion Ronald Reagan.
  • And, it would still give us a military budget larger than the next six countries combined (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, and France).

And there are perfectly reasonable ways to cut military spending. The Pentagon itself identified $25 billion per year in wasteful bureaucratic spending. The F-35 – which will cost over a trillion dollars and has never been used – isn’t doing anyone any good.  And so on.

So, what about that $54 billion? What should we do with it?

Here are 8 things we could do with $54 billion instead:

  1. Cover 12 million people under the Affordable Care Act .
  2. Resettle 2.7 million refugees in the U.S. – enough for 32 years’ worth under the stepped-up Obama resettlement rate.
  3. Create nearly one million infrastructure jobs.
  4. Pay the salaries for half the elementary school teachers in the United States.
  5. Send 1.6 million students to college for a four-year degree – for free.
  6. Insure 15 million adults through Medicaid.
  7. Fund Meals on Wheels (threatened with cuts in Trump’s budget) for 7,180 years.
  8. Fund the entire Environmental Protection Agency (at current levels) for 6.6 years.

Any one of those would make our country stronger. We might be dreaming, but it’s a dream worth having.

THE UPCOMING CIVIL WAR IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD

THE UPCOMING CIVIL WAR IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD

Source: Katehon.com


The destabilization of the Islamic world is the grand strategy of the US in order to eliminate any alternative poles to its hegemony.

Introduction

When the Cold War ended peacefully in 1989 with the collapse of Communist bloc led by the USSR, the hope to build a just, secure and democratic world rose in the minds of many people. The ultraliberal rhetoric of globalization accompanied with developments in communication and transportation brought the nations of the world closer together. The interaction and cooperation between countries in politics, trade, tourism and culture increased. Many thinkers assumed that as the advocate of democracy, freedom and equality, the US would lead the world to a just and secure international system and no hegemony would be imposed on other countries.

Unfortunately the reality was just the opposite. Although the US promised Russians that if the USSR peacefully ended the Cold War, the West would not advance East even one centimeter, twelve ex-Communist countries joined NATO, and US and UK troops have been deployed to the Baltic countries, Poland and Romania. Even twin brothers, Russians and Ukrainians, began to fight against each other in Ukraine due to the provocations of the US and EU to isolate Ukraine from the sphere of the Slavic world and incorporate her into Western Bloc as a buffer zone and exploit the cheap labor, good quality commodities, and 45 million market for EU export products.

The grand strategy of the US is always to hinder any pole that can empower Heartland, Eurasia. Assuming itself to be invincible and the sole lord of the world, the US chose the Islamic world as the second target that must be weakened. After the collapse of the Communist bloc, in addition to surrounding Russia, a war against the Islamic world was very crucial for the US to eliminate the potential pole that could empower the Heartland,which in the long run can challenge the US hegemony, especially if cooperation between the Islamic world and Slavic world or China and the Pacific can be established. Unsurprisingly, the US lost no time, and 434 days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it invaded Iraq in the first days of 1991.

Why Was Iraq Selected As The First Country To Be Destabilized?

Iraq was a consciously selected target and most suitable country for the US invasion to destabilize the Islamic world. When we talk about the Islamic world, we mean mainly Arabs, Turks, Persians and Kurds in terms of ethnicity, and Sunnis and Shiites in terms of sects. Of course, there are considerable amounts of Muslims living in other parts of world such as Pakistan, Indonesia, etc., but the center of the Islamic world is Mesopotamia.

Iraq’s population is composed of Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, Sunni Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Turks (Turkomans), and Iraq is surrounded by Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Therefore, Iraq, not only due to her geographical location, but also her uniqueness as a small example of the Islamic world both in terms of ethnicities and sects, is the most suitable country to destabilize the whole Islamic World.

On the other hand, Iraq was ruled by the Sunni Arab Saddam Hussein since 1979, and he engaged in a war against Iran between 1980 and 1988. Most of the Arab countries supported Iraq against Iran to defend Arab frontiers in the East. But half of the population of Iraq is Shiite Arab, and the war against a Shiite country discomforted them. Moreover, the suppressing of the Kurds in the North of Iraq by the Saddam Hussein regime, and massacres especially in Halabja by using chemical weapons, are unforgettable for Kurds.

Consequently, as a Sunni Arab, Saddam Hussein’s reign paved the way for tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Persians, Kurds and Arabs. The US exploited the situation, and destabilization of the Islamic world began from Iraq with the First Gulf War in 1991, and finally the direct invasion of the county in 2003 by the US.

Events went as the US planned and Iraq was de facto divided into three parts. In the North of the country, the Kurds founded autonomous semi-independent government, in the South and Baghdad, Shiite Arabs ruled, and in the center, Sunnis lived without an administration. Bombings between Sunnis and Shiites began which increased tension in the country in terms of inter-sect relations. Shiites and Kurds founded their own semi-regular armies other than the national army of the Iraq. Due to the separation in terms of sect and ethnicity accompanied by the fight against the US invasion, radical Salafi organizations found base among Sunni Arabs which finally resulted in the establishment of ISIS. On the other hand, the foundation of an autonomous Kurdish Region in the North threatened Turkey, Syria and Iran, where Kurdish minorities live. Therefore Pandora’s box was opened in the Islamic world.

Prototype Civil War In the Islamic World

Currently, the struggle in Iraq between Sunni and Shiite Arabs and Kurds is ongoing. Especially after the recapturing of Mosul from ISIS, the fate of the country will be clearer. In the South, Shiite Arabs are supported by Iran, while Sunni Arabs are not represented in the Iraq government and to some extent Turkey and Saudi Arabia try to represent their interests. Kurds are divided also. Barzani Kurds are supported by Turkey while the Talabani side is closer to Iran. Unfortunately, in such a separated situation, Iraq is far from unity and stabilization in the near future.

The Syrian Civil War was the most devastating and bloodiest scene of the the so-called Arab Spring (It is better to say “Arab Winter”). Not only the local people of Syria – Sunni Arabs, Allewites (close to Shiites), Kurds, and Turkomans – but also Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia directly or via proxies engaged and fought each other in the Syrian Civil War. Though the ceasefire is obeyed generally in the country between moderate opponents and the Assad regime, the fight against ISIS is ongoing and the future of the country is unclear as the tension and clashes continue between Turkey and Syrian Kurds, Turkey and Russia’s direct military interventions, and the influx of foreign warriors such as Shiite Hezbollah, Salafi Al Nusra. The current situation in Syria is similar to Iraq in terms of territorial disunity and destabilization.

The Yemeni Civil War relying on sectarian differences between Sunni and Shiite Arabs has divided the country, and Saudi Arabia with its Arab allies  have interfered directly. There is no hope for ending the conflict in the short run, and it is the scene of a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Furthermore, Pakistan and Lebanon are other unstable countries where Sunni-Shiite clashes may easily increase to a bloodier degree. In Pakistan, suicide bombings occur between Sunnis and Shiites and in Lebanon Shiites have the armed organization Hezbollah. While Hezbollah is supported by Iran, Sunni Muslims are supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. If the civil war in the Islamic world spreads to a greater area, Israel, India, Azerbaijan, and Armenia can be other candidates to be involved in military clashes.

Consequently in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the core of the Islamic world in terms of ethnicity and sects (Arabs, Turks, Persians and Kurds and Sunnis and Shiites) either directly or via proxies are at war against each other. Unfortunately, if the main actors of the Islamic world do not change their policies against each other, the ongoing battles are only prototypes and signal a great civil war in the Islamic world. The great civil war in the Islamic world will be not via proxies such as in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, but direct and conventional, i.e. regular armies and devastating armaments will be used. War will overwhelm and ruin the Middle East and Islamic world.

Possible Battlefields In The Islamic World Civil War

Saudi Arabia & Gulf Kingdoms vs Iran

The Sunni Arab Kingdoms – United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman – act together under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) led by Saudi Arabia. Although Sunni leaderships exist in GCC countries, 70% of the population of Bahrain, 15% of the population of Saudi Arabia, and 30% of the population of Kuwait is composed of Shiites. Unrest and protests among Shiites increased with the Arab Spring especially in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. GCC countries have close military and political ties with the US, UK, and Turkey. Although they invest heavily in armaments, they need foreign military support against Iran. In addition to US and UK military bases in GCC, Turkey established a military base in Qatar last year.

GCC kingdoms are in a defensive position against Iran currently. Iran’s military power solely based on local sources may easily crush GCC countries. Incidents in Iraq, Syria and Yemen are in favor of Iran, and GCC countries are on the losing side regionally. Iran’s operational military capacity and capability via proxies is another factor that threats GCC countries where considerable Shiite populations live. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria and Shiite militias in Iraq are acting as semi-professional armies. Although the GCC mainly rely on US and UK military assistance, Turkey becomes an ally against Iran due to increasing tension between Turkey and Iran. On the other hand, the GCC try to incorporate other Arab and African Muslim Sunni countries under the umbrella of an Islamic Army against Iran.

Turkey vs Iran

Turkey is struggling against the Kurdish separatist PKK since 1984. After the US military intervention in Iraq in 1991, Kurds in the North of Iraq declared autonomy. Turkey firstly perceived the Iraqi Kurds as a threat to her territorial unity, but later Turkey and Iraq Kurds began to cooperatively act against Shiites in Iraq. Turkey treated Iraq’s Kurds as a buffer to Shiite Arabs and Iran’s influence in Iraq. On the other hand, Iraqi Kurds regard Turkey as an ally for their existence and an economic partner. After the Syrian Civil War, the PKK-linked YPG began to dominate the Syrian Kurds in Northern Syria. Unlike Iraqi Kurds, Syrian Kurds have close linguistic and kinship ties with the Kurds living in the southeastern regions of Turkey.

Moreover the US has let the YPG rule the Sunni Arab-populated parts of Syria once ruled by ISIS. Therefore, in addition to her territorial unity concerns, Turkey regards the US and Iran’s efforts as an attempt to found a Kurdish and Shiite belt in Syria and Iraq to break the ties of Sunni Turks and Sunni Arabs. The historical ties between Turks and Sunni Arabs date back to the time of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans ruled all of the Arab territories and western parts of Iran where Shiite Azerbaijani Turks live. The Turks and Arabs’ alliance against Iran continued for centuries and Iran never had an opportunity to impose hegemony on the Arab world, which was under the protection of Sunni Turks. Contrary to the GCC countries, as the second largest army of NATO, Turkey has a strong military power that can compete against Iran.

Furthermore both Turkey and Iran have Kurdish minority problems that are not solved yet. On the other hand, 20% of the population of Iran living in the northern provinces are Azerbaijani Turks who are the same nation as Turkey’s Turks. In a clash between Turkey and Iran, their attitude towards this sect and ethnicity and choice will be very crucial ing determining the result of war.

Turkey vs Kurds: Turks and Kurds have distinct historical relations. In Ottoman times, Kurds acted against Shiite Iran as a buffer layer. All of the Kurds are Sunni Muslim and loyal to the Muslim Caliphate in Istanbul. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the modern nation-state of Turkey that is founded mainly on a Turkish majority, the Kurds began to be alienated and in 1984 armed struggle for secession was initiated by the PKK. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were separated into four countries: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The Kurdish PKK in Turkey and the PKK-linked YPG in Syria that dominates Northern Syria are the current foes of Turkey. On the other hand, Iraqi Kurds are divided. While the Barzani side acts in collaboration with Turkey, the Talabani side is an ally of Iran.

Kurds vs Arabs: Because of the US military intervention in Iraq and Syrian Civil War, the clashes are mainly on a sectarian basis between Arabs. Kurds exploited the intra-Arab conflicts and founded semi-independent regimes in the northern parts of those countries. Kurds are regarded as threats to the central Arab governments of both Iraq and Syria although the former is ruled by Sunni and the latter by Alawites. Therefore, in a comprehensive civil war in the Islamic world, it would be no surprise to witness Arab-Kurd battles.

Lebanon Scene: Lebanon, composed of Sunni and Shiites Muslims as well as Christians, and internal politics based on sharp religious and sectarian identities, is a perfect scene where harsh clashes could take place between Sunnis and Shiites. Refugees from Palestine and Syria, Syrian and Israel occupation in the last two decades, Hezbollah’s presence and its active interference in the Syrian Civil War all add to the complexity of the country. Iran’s support for Hezbollah against Israel and Sunni opponents, Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s backing for Sunni Lebanese Arabs and Palestinian refugees, Israel’s security concerns and military operations against both Hezbollah and Palestinian armed groups can easily draw the country into the civil war in the Islamic World.

Pakistan Scene: Pakistan as a Sunni Muslim country, due to its geographic location, is a historical and natural ally of Turkey. Squeezed between India and Shiite Iran, it may be another bloody scene in the civil war of the Islamic World. The country currently faces bombing attacks between Sunnis and Shiites, and radical Islamist armed groups, which originated in unstable Afghanistan, struggle against the government. On the other hand, the unsolved Jammu and Kashmir problem with India, where Muslims and Indians sometimes clash, is another source of instability for Pakistan.

Azerbaijan Scene: “The same nation, two countries” is the slogan of Turks in Turkey and Azeri Turks in Azerbaijan which expresses the degree of close ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan. On the other hand, “the same nation but different sect” is the differentiating point in Turkey-Azerbaijan relations. If Turkey initiates a nationalistic revolt in South Azerbaijan that is part of Iran, then Azeri Turks have to choose either ethnicity or their Shiite sect. Their choice is extremely important to determining the fate of the war between Turkey and Iran. In such a situation, Armenia could enter the war against Azerbaijan either as an ally of Iran against Turks, or just to exploit the war conditions to consolidate her military presence in Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan.

War Scenario Of The Civil War In The Islamic World

In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution took place in Iran, the biggest threat to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Kingdoms was the very fact of possible influence on their populations to overthrow the pro-Western monarchies and establish an Islamic type of governments in those countries. The US invasion in Iraq, followed by the Syrian and Yemen Civil War, removed the tension to a Sunni-Shiite civil war that is carried on via proxies. Turkey has joined the conflict mainly to cope with Kurdish separatism. Although Kurds are Sunni Muslim, they have nationalistic concerns and try to exploit the conflicts in the Middle East to gain their independence from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Iran.

Iran’s next step will be the most important breaking point to determine the fate of the civil war in the Islamic world. If Iran, via her armed proxies in Iraq, interferes in Kuwait and/or Bahrain, then Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar will immediately respond heavily. The next step could be direct clashes in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the Arab Kingdoms. At this point, with the arbitration of Russia and Turkey, the tension of the war can be decreased, otherwise Turkey enters Northern Iraq in order to hit PKK military camps and protect Sunni Arabs and Barzani Kurds. If the Iraqi central government and Shiite militias respond to Turkey, then Syrian Kurds will also join the war against Turkey. Turkey’s response will be to drawn Iran’s Azeri Turks into the conflict in order to weaken Iran internally. Iran will rush to promote Armenian efforts against Azerbaijan in order to block possible support from Azerbaijan to Azeri Turks in Iran.

To exploit these war conditions, Israel will not wait to hit Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Kingdoms will use their close ties with Sunni Palestinian armed groups to weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. As a response, if Iran provokes India to exploit the Jammu Kashmir conflict and block Pakistan’s possible assistance to Turkey, then the armed Uzbek Turks and Sunni Islamic groups in Afghanistan will be the proxies of Turkey and Saudi Arabia against Iran.

This potential civil war in the Islamic world would cause millions of casualties, change the frontiers of the Middle East, ruin towns and the economy of Islamic countries, and the Islamic world would need at least a century to recover. In this scenario, outside actors such as the US, Russia and China, are not excluded. In fact, their attitudes will determine the conclusion of the war. If they directly intervene militarily, this means the beginning of the Third World War.

Conclusion

The destabilization of the Islamic world is the grand strategy of the US in order to eliminate any alternative poles to its hegemony. Russia, China, India, and the EU should be aware of this danger that is against multipolarity, and mediate between Sunnis and Shiites to avoid a civil war in the Islamic world while it is still in the preliminary stage. Muslim countries should seek dialogue and instead of using sectarian beliefs for their national interests, prefer peace and diplomacy to solve conflicts, focus on economic development to prevent poverty that feeds unrest among Muslims, democratize their political systems to represent different groups in their countries, and contribute to world civilization by interacting with other civilizations in terms of peace, diplomacy, economic, and cultural cooperation.

America is in a pre-Civil War State

Back to the Roots: America is in a pre-Civil War State

The following is from an interview transcript

 

In my opinion, in regards to Trump’s presidency and the attempt by globalist forces to use Russia in particular to weaken or even reverse the results of the elections, it is important to understand the historical context of it.

This is something that is not widely reported in the media because it requires a more intellectual format than most of the media is used to.

It’s important to see that the Trump phenomenon is a kind of a resurrection of the American people against the occupation of the federal government.

In historical terms, the Founding Fathers, when they were thinking about the American Constitution, they were familiar with governing model of Russia, France and England. All these countries were governed from centers. The system that the Founding Fathers wanted to put in place was completely opposite. They wanted to distribute power to the states. They didn’t want all power in Washington D.C.

The American Constitution gives very limited power to the central government – only those powers that are related to foreign relations and common defense. Therefore ,the Federal Government used to have very limited power and the states could basically have almost complete self-ruled autonomy with respect to the Constitution.

But then, starting in the 1960’s, the Federal Government used three instruments to take over power from the states and bring it to Washington D.C.

The first instrument was human rights. What the Federal Government did and is still doing today is defending minority groups. These minority groups, first of all African Americans, were being hurt and imposed upon. So, they declared that the rights of these groups need to be protected. Then they federalized everything that has to do with that group. For example, in 1969, schools in America that used to be segregated were desegregated. In order to do that, the government had to deploy the American federal military to accomplish that result. The next group was homosexuals, and in recent time we are talking about transgenders. Using this one instrument, a tremendous area of control that used to belong to the states, especially when it comes to education and criminal justice, was transferred from the states to the center, Washington.

The second instrument was environmental policy. Under various acts and regulations like the “Clean Air and Water Act”, major areas of state control, such as land use, were transferred from the states to the Federal Government. For instance, a state that has its economy based on coal extraction like it was in Virginia, would want to mine coal, because that’s where the money comes from. But the Federal Government is using Environmental Protection Agency to stop that by putting in place regulations that have to do with how water is damaged and so forth, so they make it impossible to mine coal. Therefore, states that used to have wealth all of a sudden became powerless and poor.

The third tool that the government used to take power from the states to the center was constant conflict, and this is really where Russia comes in. Everything about national defense and foreign relations belongs to the Federal Government, but the Founding Fathers wanted American to mind its own business, to be friendly to other countries and not interfere in affairs, not join any  complicated alliances. But later, after the First World War and during the Second World War, the United States became much more involved. Then, starting with Churchill’s Iron Curtain in 1946, there was this Cold War that many Americans loved because it made them rich. The military industrial complex was taking over the country in the late ’50’s. Back then, it wasn’t even the small fraction of what it is today. So, many people loved this idea of constant conflict because they could justify the uncontrollable growth of Federal Government and justify money that went from the states to the Federal Government in order to build more nuclear weapons and other arms, to create surveillance agencies and so on. When the Cold War ended with the collapse of Soviet Union in 1990, for about ten years those people in Washington were frustrated and disappointed, they had interests in this idea of constant war. So, when the 9/11 attacks happened, there was a kind of relief in the American Industrial Military Complex and in Washington. Now they could create another permanent war – the war on terror.

It’s very clear that in America – whether on the Left and on the Right or people who support Trump or not – everybody is tired of these endless Middle Eastern wars. This idea of keeping war alive forever didn’t really work. What was beautiful with the Cold War from the American perspective is that they could justify spending a lot of money but nobody really shot anybody on a battlefield and nobody expected to win. However, when we are talking about ISIS, you’re suppose to win.

What they are trying to do now is transition from this constant war in the Middle East back to Russia. And that is really the foundation of the whole idea of war against Trump: using Russia as a cover. The globalists need Russia as a permanent enemy against whom you can never win but you can always fight.

So, through these three instruments, America stopped being in reality a constitutional republic and became a kind of meritocratic oligarchy. If you graduated from one of the prestigious American universities like Harvard or Princeton, if you know the right people, you can start working for the American bureaucracy. And it doesn’t matter who the president is, there is no difference between George Bush and Obama. The country is really governed by this enormous bureaucracy.

It took a long time, but finally people in places like Ohio and Kentucky and even Michigan decided that that’s enough. They couldn’t recognize their own country anymore. People in the outlying areas are living worse than they lived twenty years ago.

So, along came somebody like Donald Trump, who is a classic kind of revolutionary figure. He is a reaction against all this transfer of power. Trump promised that he will undo all three of those instruments that the Federal Government used to steal power. He wants to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by one third; he is already undoing these regulations that make it impossible to mine coal and so on; as for human rights side he is stopping this whole transgender idea and giving much more power back to the states; and what the most important is that Trump is against this permanent war against Russia. This idea was impossible for the globalists.

If Trump succeeds, this means the end of this takeover of America by the bureaucrats and the return of America to its constitutional roots. Enormous amount of money went from the state to Washington, and when people have that money and power, they are not likely to give it back.

That’s what is happening now.

From 97% to 99% of American bureaucrats voted for Hillary. In states like Western Virginia, more than 70% voted for Trump. Therefore, America is now divided into two countries. That’s why we have this pre-Civil War atmosphere. In the states, there is about 2/3 of the population against globalization, but in Washington everybody is pro-globalization. The power equation is what will now determine the outcome of this.

As president, Trump has very limited power because the bureaucracy is completely against him, and these people don’t care about Constitution. Unfortunately, in this kind of struggle, there will be no truth, there will be a winner or loser. On Trump’s side, there are the people who have guns and most of the military, on the other side there is the Deep State – the oligarchs and bureaucrats who have all the information and the media. And it will be interesting who will win.

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US Border Agents Can Now Search Your Cell Phone Upon Entry Into Our Police State

 

 

 

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/american-citizens-u-s-border-agents-can-search-your-cellphone-n732746?google_editors_picks=true

These individuals shown have all reported encounters with officers at U.S. border checkpoints. Officers have been removing Americans from airport terminals or their vehicles, demanding access to citizens’ SmartPhones and social media accounts. From left to right in the top row are: Adeel Syed, Akram Shibly, Kelly McCormick, Ali Khan, Mohammed Mamun, Bilal Farooqi, and Haisam Elsharkawi. On the bottom row, from left to right are: Zainab Merchant, Mohammed Hossain, Mohammed Rasheed, Sidd Bikkannavar, Rizwan Merchant, and Mohammed Bhamji.

When Buffalo, New York couple Akram Shibly and Kelly McCormick returned to the U.S. from a trip to Toronto on Jan. 1, 2017, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers held them for two hours, took their cellphones and demanded their passwords.

“It just felt like a gross violation of our rights,” said Shibly, a 23-year-old filmmaker born and raised in New York. But he and McCormick complied, and their phones were searched.

Three days later, they returned from another trip to Canada and were stopped again by CBP.

“One of the officers calls out to me and says, ‘Hey, give me your phone,'” recalled Shibly. “And I said, ‘No, because I already went through this.'”

The officer asked a second time.

Watch Cynthia McFadden on Nightly News for More

Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend’s face turn red as the officer’s chokehold tightened.

Then they asked McCormick for her phone.

“I was not about to get tackled,” she said. She handed it over.

American citizens Akram Shibly, left, and Kelly McCormick had their phones searched as they reentered the U.S. at Niagara Falls, New York on two separate trips in January 2017. They say Shibly was put in a chokehold when he refused to hand over his phone on the second crossing. Michael Adamucci / for NBC News

Shibly and McCormick’s experience is not unique. In 25 cases examined by NBC News, American citizens said that CBP officers at airports and border crossings demanded that they hand over their phones and their passwords, or unlock them.

The travelers came from across the nation, and were both naturalized citizens and people born and raised on American soil. They traveled by plane and by car at different times through different states. Businessmen, couples, senior citizens, and families with young kids, questioned, searched, and detained for hours when they tried to enter or leave the U.S. None were on terror watchlists. One had a speeding ticket. Some were asked about their religion and their ethnic origins, and had the validity of their U.S. citizenship questioned.

What most of them have in common — 23 of the 25 — is that they are Muslim, like Shibly, whose parents are from Syria.

Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.

According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015.

“That’s shocking,” said Mary Ellen Callahan, former chief privacy officer at the Department of Homeland Security. She wrote the rules and restrictions on how CBP should conduct electronic searches back in 2009. “That [increase] was clearly a conscious strategy, that’s not happenstance.”

“This really puts at risk both the security and liberty of the American people,” said Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. “Law abiding Americans are being caught up in this digital dragnet.”

“This is just going to grow and grow and grow,” said Senator Wyden. “There’s tremendous potential for abuse here.”

What Changed?

What CBP agents call “detaining” cellphones didn’t start after Donald Trump’s election. The practice began a decade ago, late in the George W. Bush administration, but was highly focused on specific individuals.

The more aggressive tactics of the past two years, two senior intelligence officials told NBC News, were sparked by a string of domestic incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which the watch list system and the FBI failed to stop American citizens from conducting attacks. The searches also reflect new abilities to extract contact lists, travel patterns and other data from phones very quickly.

DHS has published 24 reports detailing its extensive technological capability to forensically extract data from mobile devices, regardless of password protection on most Apple and Android phones. The reports document its proven ability to access deleted call logs, videos, photos, and emails to name a few, in addition to the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps.

But the officials caution that rhetoric about a Muslim registry and ban during the presidential campaign also seems to have emboldened federal agents to act more forcefully.

“The shackles are off,” said Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “We see individual officers and perhaps supervisors as well pushing those limits, exceeding their authority and violating people’s rights.”

And multiple sources told NBC News that law enforcement and the Intelligence Community are exploiting a loophole to collect intelligence.

Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement needs at least reasonable suspicion if they want to search people or their possessions within the United States. But not at border crossings, and not at airport terminals.

“The Fourth Amendment, even for U.S. citizens, doesn’t apply at the border,” said Callahan. “That’s under case law that goes back 150 years.”

Customs and Border officers can search travelers without any level of suspicion. They have the legal authority to go through any object crossing the border within 100 miles, including smartphones and laptops. They have the right to take devices away from travelers for five days without providing justification. In the absence of probable cause, however, they have to give the devices back.

CBP also searches people on behalf of other federal law enforcement agencies, sending its findings back to partners in the DEA, FBI, Treasury and the National Counterterrorism Center, among others.

Callahan thinks that CBP’s spike in searches means it is exploiting the loophole “in order to get information they otherwise might hot have been able to.”

On January 31, an engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was pulled into additional screening upon his return to the U.S. after a two-week vacation in Chile. Despite being cleared by the Global Entry program, Sidd Bikkannavar received an “X” on his customs form. He is not Muslim, and he is not from any of the seven countries named in President Trump’s original “travel ban” executive order. Half his family comes from India but he was born and raised in California.

Bikkannavar was brought into a closed room and told to hand over his phone and passcode. He paid particular notice to the form CBP handed him which explained it had the right to copy the contents of the phone, and that the penalty for refusal was “detention.”

“I didn’t know if that meant detention of the phone or me and I didn’t want to find out,” said Bikkannavar. He tried to refuse but the officer repeatedly demanded the PIN. Eventually he acquiesced.

“Once they had that, they had everything,” Bikkannavar said. That access allowed CBP officers to review the backend of his social media accounts, work emails, call and text history, photos and other apps. He had expected security might physically search any travelers for potential weapons but accessing his digital data felt different. “Your whole digital life is on your phone.”

The officers disappeared with his phone and PIN. They returned 30 minutes later and let him go home.

Sidd Bikkannavar poses for a portrait in 2014. Takashi Akaishi

CBP also regularly searches people leaving the country.

On February 9, Haisam Elsharkawi was stopped by security while trying to board his flight out of Los Angeles International Airport. He said that six Customs officers told him he was randomly selected. They demanded access to his phone and when he refused, Elsharkawi said they handcuffed him, locked him in the airport’s lower level and asked questions including how he became a citizen. Elsharkawi thought he knew his rights and demanded access to legal counsel.

“They said if I need a lawyer, then I must be guilty of something,” said Elsharkawi, and Egyptian-born Muslim and naturalized U.S. citizen. After four hours of questioning in detention, he unlocked his smartphone and, after a search, was eventually released. Elsharkawi said he intends to sue the Department of Homeland Security.

The current policy has not been updated since 2009. Jayson Ahern, who served in CBP under both Bush and Obama, signed off on the current policy. He said the electronic searches are supposed to be based on specific, articulable facts that raise security concerns. They are not meant to be random or routine or applied liberally to border crossers. “That’s reckless and that’s how you would lose the authority, never mind the policy.”

The Customs & Border Patrol policy manual says that electronic devices fall under the same extended search doctrine that allows them to scan bags in the typical security line.

“As the threat landscape changes, so does CBP,” a spokesperson told NBC News.

Since the policy was written in 2009, legal advocates argue, several court cases have set new precedents that could make some CBP electronic searches illegal.

Several former DHS officials pointed to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling in Riley v California that determined law enforcement needed a warrant to search electronic devices when a person is being arrested. The court ruled unanimously, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion.

“Modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,'” wrote Roberts. “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”

Because that case happened outside of the border context, however, CBP lawyers have repeatedly asserted in court that the ruling does not apply to border searches.

For now a Department of Justice internal bulletin has instructed that, unless border officers have a search warrant, they need to take protective measures to limit intrusions, and make sure their searches do not access travelers’ digital cloud data. The ‘cloud’ is all content not directly stored on a device, which includes anything requiring internet to access, like email and social media.

Former DHS officials who helped design and implement the search policy said they agreed with that guidance.

Wyden Pushes to Change the Policy

On February 20, Sen. Wyden wrote to DHS Secretary John Kelly demanding details on electronic search-practices used on U.S. citizens, and referred to the extent of electronic searches as government “overreach”. As of publication, he had yet to receive an answer.

Now Sen. Wyden says that as early as next week he plans to propose a bill that would require CBP to at least obtain a warrant to search electronics of U.S. citizens, and explicitly prevent officers from demanding passwords.

“The old rules … seem to be on the way to being tossed in the garbage can,” said Senator Wyden. “I think it is time to update the law.”

Akram Shibly at home in Buffalo, Sunday March, 12, 2017. Michael Adamucci / for NBC News

Asked about the Shibly case, a CBP spokesperson declined to comment, but said the Homeland Security Inspector General is investigating. The spokesperson said the agency can’t comment on open investigations or particular travelers, but that it “firmly denies any accusations of racially profiling travelers based on nationality, race, sex, religion, faith, or spiritual beliefs.”

Explaining the sharp increase in electronic searches, a department spokesperson told NBC News: “CBP has adapted and adjusted to align with current threat information, which is based on intelligence.” A spokesman also noted that searches of citizens leaving the U.S. protect against the theft of American industrial and national security secrets.

After repeated communications, the Department of Homeland Security never responded to NBC News’ requests for comments. Nonetheless, the Homeland Security Inspector General is currently auditing CBP’s electronic search practices.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also has filed two dozen complaints against CBP this year for issues profiling Muslim Americans. CAIR and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are considering legal action against the government for what they consider to be unconstitutional searches at the border.

China ready to neutralise THAAD After US Deployment

 

Catherine Wong Catherine Wong

The military will deploy its own system before Seoul sets up the American one, Wang Hongguang says

 

China knew it might not be able to stop Seoul deploying a US anti-missile system and was prepared to counter with its own anti-radar equipment, a retired PLA general said on Monday.

The comments by Wang Hongguang came as a South Korean court’s decision to uphold the impeachment of Park Geun-hye, the country’s former president, fanned hopes Seoul might put plans for the Terminal High Altitude Area ­Defence system on hold.

China vows ‘resolute’ measures as US deploys first parts of THAAD missile system to South Korea

Park supported the installation of the system to help protect South Korea against threats from North Korea, which Beijing says can peer through China’s defences.

Wang, former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region, said China could not take the chance the next South Korean president would change policy and roll back the deployment.

The first THAAD components arrived at the Osan Air Base in South Korea last week.

 

Wang said Beijing had measures in place to neutralise THAAD’s radars. “We will complete our deployment before THAAD begins operations. There is no need to wait for two months [before the election of the next South Korean president],” he said on the sidelines of the political sessions in Beijing. “We already have such equipment in place. We just have to move it to the right spot.”

Yue Gang, a military commentator and former People’s Liberation Army colonel, said China could either destroy THAAD or neutralise it.

“Destroying [THAAD] should only be an option during wartime,” Yue said.

But China could interfere with the system’s functions through electromagnetic technology, he said.

Yue said an ideal place to install the Chinese equipment was on the Shandong peninsula on the country’s east coast, opposite South Korea.

US must ditch deployment of THAAD missile-defence system

Fu Qianshao, an aviation equipment expert with the PLA Air Force, said China could also send planes – manned or unmanned – to fly close to THAAD to interfere with its radar signals. All the country’s armed forces had the capacity to interfere with radar signals, Fu said.

Wang said China’s chief concern was not just with South Korea’s deployment of the American system but also the United States’ broader potential to contain the region in a sophisticated web of missile defence systems in Japan, Singapore, the Philippines and even Taiwan.

The THAAD system consists of a sophisticated radar and interceptor missiles designed to spot and knock out incoming ballistic missiles.

Will Mosul Ever Be Liberated?

Russian diplomat blasts global media for hushing up Mosul tragedy

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 210,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Mosul during the Iraqi army’s operation to liberate the city

Families flee clashes between Iraqi forces and Islamic State group militants in Mosul

Families flee clashes between Iraqi forces and Islamic State group militants in Mosul  © AP Photo/Susannah George

MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. The global media has been carefully hushing up the tragedy of Iraq’s Mosul, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

“It seems strange that not a single English-speaking girl suffering in Mosul has yet opened a Twitter account,” she commented. “It is strange that every day Christiane Amanpour (CNN’s Chief International Correspondent) fails to ask how many people were killed as a result of the international coalition’s activities in this city. It is strange that nobody mentions the humanitarian catastrophe in Mosul at important press conferences in world capitals, there are neither impressive photos, nor hashtags, nor catchy headlines in leading newspapers and magazines. It is strange that there are no actual numbers, facts and information about refugees, displaced persons and makeshift camps.”

“It is also surprising that there have been no demonstrations in front of the coalition members’ embassies, with banners and all. There is nothing,” Zakharova stressed. “The global media are going to great lengths to sweep the Mosul tragedy under the rug, taking into account the scale of the disaster.”

“It is just another example of the mainstream media’s fake news,” the Russian diplomat pointed out.

The campaign to free Iraq’s second largest city was launched on October 17, 2016. Over this period, the country’s authorities have managed to regain control over eastern Mosul and drive the extremists out of some of the western quarters. Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) terrorists were smoked out of the eastern part of the city in late January. On February 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi launched an offensive against the western part of Mosul.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 210,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Mosul during the Iraqi army’s operation to liberate the city from the Islamic State militants.

“the CIA don’t just report on wars and the like, they go out and make their own,”–HST

Truman Was Right About the CIA

 

 

Say what you will about President Harry Truman, but at least he didn’t leave the White House a suspiciously rich man. He also actually went home, to Independence Missouri, and moved into a modest house he didn’t own. It was the same house belonging to his wife’s family where he had lived with Bess (and his mother-in-law!) decades earlier.

Flat broke, and unwilling to accept corporate board positions or commercial endorsements, Truman sought a much-needed loan from a local Missouri bank. For several years his sole income was a $113 monthly Army pension, and only the sale of a parcel of land he inherited with his siblings prevented him from nearly “being on relief,” as Truman allegedly stated. In the 1950s, perhaps almost entirely to alleviate Truman’s embarrassing financial situation, Congress authorized a $25,000 yearly pension for ex-presidents Truman and the much-wealthier Herbert Hoover.

Contrast this with the luxe post-presidential life of the Reagans in Bel Air, or the still-unfolding saga of the Obama’s jet-setting life between Kalorama, Palm Springs, and Oahu!

But even if Truman’s homespun honesty and common man persona sometime wore thin, he deserves enormous credit for the startling admission that he regretted creating the CIA. Speaking to a biographer in the 1960s, less than 20 years after signing the National Security Act of 1947, Truman expressed a sense of foreboding about what the agency had become, and would become:

Merle Miller: Mr. President, I know that you were responsible as President for setting up the CIA. How do you feel about it now?
Truman: I think it was a mistake. And if I’d know what was going to happen, I never would have done it.

This is decidedly not the kind of thing ex-presidents usually say. We won’t expect George W. Bush to announce his regrets over invading Iraq anytime soon. But Truman’s instincts were right, even if he couldn’t have imagined what the CIA and the entire Deep State nexus would become. In Truman’s era, spying and subterfuge were physical endeavors, involving skilled agents and analog technology. Today the covert arts don’t require James Bond, but instead a trained technician who can pull information from a server farm.

The digital revolution gives modern intelligence agencies vastly more power than they had during the Cold War spy days: they simply access existing metadata, from whatever source, rather than collect it in real time. And intelligence gathering is not just a supplementary form of warfare waged against hostile foreign governments, but also a domestic political tool that allows Deep State actors to strike at civilian and political targets. As Mr. Trump has discovered, the “strike” can consist of a coordinated media attacks, leaks from trusted officials, and even bizarre triangulations aimed at pinning his election on Vladimir Putin.

One justification Truman provides for his action is the old bureaucratic unicorn known as “consolidation,” which is often promised by politicians but never delivered. When then-congressman Ron Paul and his staff furiously argued against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, GOP congressional leaders assured us that an entirely new department would actually consolidate several different agencies and functions. “It will save money!”, they told us, to bring all of these disparate federal employees under one efficient umbrella. Fast forward to 2017, and DHS is just another failed department with a thousand-page, $42 billion annual budget.

But Truman apparently bought into the consolidation argument:

Truman: the President needed at that time a central organization that would bring all the various intelligence reports we were getting in those days, and there must have been a dozen of them, maybe more, bring them all into one organization so that the President would get one report on what was going on in various parts of the world. Now that made sense, and that’s why I went ahead and set up what they called the Central Intelligence Agency.

Unfortunately it was only in hindsight that Truman came to see the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” at work, which posits that all organizations– particularly government bureaucracies– eventually fall under the control of an elite few. That elite, he came to understand, did not include the president or his cabinet:

Truman: But it got out of hand. The fella … the one that was in the White House after me never paid any attention to it, and it got out of hand. Why, they’ve got an organization over there in Virginia now that is practically the equal of the Pentagon in many ways. And I think I’ve told you, one Pentagon is one too many.

Now, as nearly as I can make out, those fellows in the CIA don’t just report on wars and the like, they go out and make their own, and there’s nobody to keep track of what they’re up to. They spend billions of dollars on stirring up trouble so they’ll have something to report on. They’ve become … it’s become a government all of its own and all secret. They don’t have to account to anybody.

That’s a very dangerous thing in a democratic society, and it’s got to be put a stop to. The people have got a right to know what those birds are up to. And if I was back in the White House, people would know. You see, the way a free government works, there’s got to be a housecleaning every now and again, and I don’t care what branch of the government is involved. Somebody has to keep an eye on things.

And when you can’t do any housecleaning because everything that goes on is a damn secret, why, then we’re on our way to something the Founding Fathers didn’t have in mind. Secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix. And if what happened at the Bay of Pigs doesn’t prove that, I don’t know what does. You have got to keep an eye on the military at all times, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s the birds in the Pentagon or the birds in the CIA.

This is a remarkable statement by Truman, even if delivered during a relatively unguarded moment with a trusted biographer. It shows a humility and willingness to admit grave error that is lacking in public life today. It also stands on its own as a inadvertent libertarian argument against state power itself.

Did Truman stand by his statements about the CIA? Yes and no. Speaking to Esquire in 1971, he continued to praise the agency as a needed consolidation:

When I took over the Presidency he received information from just about everywhere, from the Secretary of State and the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Department of Agriculture. Just everybody. And sometimes they didn’t agree as to what was happening in various parts of the world. So I got couple of admirals together, and they formed the Central Intelligence Agency for the benefit and convenience of the President of the United States . . . So instead of the President having to look through a bunch of papers two feet high, the information was coordinated so that the President could arrive at the facts. It’s still going, and it’s going very well.

Hypocritical backpedaling on Truman’s part? Perhaps. But his biographer Merle Miller calls the Esquire quote “pretty faint praise,” and more importantly Truman never ordered the removal of his brief chapter on the CIA from the Plain Speaking biography. His mea culpa still stands, in print. So while he could not have fully imagined what the CIA would become, he knew in his gut he had made a terrible mistake– a mistake we are only beginning to understand today thanks to WikiLeaks.

Jeff Deist is president of the Mises Institute. He previously worked as a longtime advisor and chief of staff to Congressman Ron Paul. Contact: email; twitter.

Exposing The Clinton/Obama Scheme To Wage Political War On Donald Trump

170222-trump-obama-getty-1160.jpg
Former President Barack Obama’s new group plans to drill into issues that aren’t already hitting the headlines, like potential intervention in and intimidation of regulatory agencies by West Wing staff. | Getty

[Obama…Sore Loser, Wants Old Job Back…Hires Civilian Army To Sabotage Trump  ; Obama Rallies the Radical Left, Expecting To Wage Political Civil War Upon Trump Presidency]

Exposing The Clinton/Obama System To Discredit Donald Trump

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Thierry Meyssan via VoltaireNet.org,

This article is a warning – in November 2016, a vast system of agitation and propaganda was set up in order to destroy the reputation and the authority of President Donald Trump as soon as he arrived in the White House. It is the first time that such a campaign has been scientifically organised against a President of the United States, and with such resources. Yes, we are indeed entering a post-Truth age, but the distribution of rôles is not what you may think it is.

The campaign waged against the new President of the United States by the sponsors of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the destruction of the Greater Middle East is on-going. After the Womens’ March on 22 January, a March for Science is scheduled to be held not only in the USA, but also throughout the Western world on 22 April. It’s goal is to show that Donald Trump is not only a misogynist, but also an obscurantist.

The fact that he is the ex-organiser of the Miss Universe pageant, and that his third wedding was to a model, is apparently enough to prove that he holds women in contempt. The fact that the President contests the rôle played by Barack Obama in the creation of the Chicago Climate Exchange (a long time before his Presidency) and rejects the idea that climatic disturbances are caused by the expulsion of carbon into the atmosphere attest to the fact that he understands nothing about science.

In order to convince US public opinion of the President’s insanity – a man who says that he hopes for peace with his enemies, and wants to collaborate with them in universal economic prosperity – one of the greatest specialists of agit-prop (agitation & propaganda), David Brock, set up an impressive system even before Trump’s investiture.

At the time when he was working for the Republicans, Brock launched a campaign against President Bill Clinton which would eventually become Troopergate, the Whitewater affair, and the Lewinsky affair. Having changed his colours, he is today in the service of Hillary Clinton, for whom he has already organised not only the demolition of Mitt Romney’s candidacy but also her riposte in the affair of the assassination of the US ambassador in Benghazi. During the first round of primaries, it was Brock who directed the attacks against Bernie Sanders. The National Review qualified Brock as «a right-wing assassin who has become a left-wing assassin».

It is important to remember that the two procedures of destitution of a serving President initiated since the Second World War were set in motion for the benefit of the deep state, and not at all for the benefit of democracy. So Watergate was entirely managed by a certgain «Deep Throat» who, 33 years later, was revealed to be Mark Felt, the assistant of J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI. As for the Lewinsky affair, it was simply a way of forcing Bill Clinton to accept the war against Yugoslavia.

The current campaign is organised in secret by four associations:

Media Matters is tasked with picking up on Donald Trump’s mistakes. You read his bulletin every day in your newspapers – the President can’t be trusted, he got this or that point wrong.

American Bridge 21st Century has collected more than 2,000 hours of videos showing Donald Trump over the years, and more than 18,000 hours of other videos of the members of his cabinet. It has at its disposition sophisticated technological equipment designed for the Department of Defense – allegedly not in working order – which enables it to look for contradictions between their older declarations and their current positions. It should be extending its work to 1,200 of the new President’s collaborators.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — CREW is a firm of high level lawyers tasked with tracking anything that could create a scandal in the Trump administration. Most of the lawyers in this association work pro bono, for the cause. These are the people who prepared the case for Bob Ferguson, the Chief Prosecutor of the state of Washington, against the immigration decree (Executive Order 13769).

Shareblue is an electronic army which has already connected with 162 million internauts in the USA. It’s job is to spread pre-ordained themes, for example:

  • Trump is authoritarian and a thief.
  • Trump is under the influence of Vladimir Putin.
  • Trump is a weak and quick-tempered personality, he’s a manic-depressive.
  • Trump was not elected by the majority of US citizens, and is therefore illegitimate.
  • His Vice-President, Mike Pence, is a fascist.
  • Trump is a billionaire who will constantly be faced with conflicts of interest between his personal affairs and those of state.
  • Trump is a puppet of the Koch brothers, who are famous for sponsoring the extreme right.
  • Trump is a white supremacist and a threat to minorities.
  • Anti-Trump opposition just keeps growing outside Washington.
  • To save democracy, let’s support the democrataic parliamentarians who are attacking Trump, and let’s demolish those who are co-operating with him.
  • Overthrowing Trump will take time, so don’t let’s weaken in our resolve.

This association will produce the newsletters and 30-second videos. It will base itself on two other groups – a company which makes documentary videos, The American Independent, and a statistical unit, Benchmark Politics.

The whole of this system – which was set up during the transitional period, that is to say before Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House – already employed more than 300 specialists to which should be added numerous voluteer workers. Its annual budget, initially calculated at 35 million dollars, was increased to the level of about 100 million dollars.

Destroying the image – and thus the authority – of the President of the United States, before he has had the time to do anything at all, can have serious consequences. By eliminating Saddam Hussein and Mouamar Kadhafi, the CIA plunged their two countries into a long period of chaos, and the «land of Liberty» itself may suffer severe damage from such an operation. This type of mass manipulation technique has never before been levelled at a head of state in the Western world.

For the moment, the plan is working – no political leader in the world has dared to celebrate the election of Donald Trump, with the exception of Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

IMU…Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan…Tohir Yuldashev/Juma Namangoniy

Who is he, Namangani?

independent-nr-ru


The current fighting in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and their mercenaries (the Taliban in Afghanistan, representatives of Arab, Chechen and so on.) – This is the second attempt to break through the fighting on the territory of the Ferghana Valley. The first, unsuccessful, was made last fall in the Batken region. Then the head of Islamic terrorists was Abduvali Yuldashev, in a night of fighting, he was killed. This year the militias led Jumabai Khodzhiev – one of the most influential leaders of the IMU. Who is he? Why was the implacable enemy of democracy in Uzbekistan? Jumabai Khodzhiev better known as Namangani. He served in the airborne troops in Afghanistan, was discharged in 1989 Back home, quickly gained a reputation as a “tough” guy. At the beginning of the 1990s. He became a member of “Tovba” ( “Repentance”), the Islamic militant group. Since its inception, the group its purpose was to create in the Fergana Valley Islamic state, living under Sharia law. Members of the group were taught the theory of jihad in its limited sense – just as the armed struggle against the “infidels”. Members of the “Tovb” were committed a criminal offense. Financing of the organization, its weapons were provided at the expense of the stolen funds. Already in 1992, the group went underground, its activists have preferred to leave the country and to conduct subversive activities against Uzbekistan from neighboring territories.

Escapes in Tajikistan and Jumabai Hodge, wanted by law enforcement bodies of Uzbekistan for committing a number of criminal offenses – from robberies and looting before the assassinations. In Tajikistan, he joined the fighting against the central government troops and the Islamists became a close associate of the organizer and chief leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir Yuldashev.

In February 1993 Jumabai again falls in Afghanistan, but now with the so-called Tajik government in exile headed by Said Abdullo Nuri and Akbar Turajonzoda. These opposition leaders appointed him “emir” of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan revival (IDVU) and deputy chairman of the Islamic Revival Movement of Tajikistan (MIRT).

While in Afghanistan, Khodzhiev are trained in mujahideen camps in the provinces of Takhar and Kunduz. Later, he will visit the Iranian Mashhad and Pakistan Peshawar. It is here and there is a final “polishing” Namanganiy image as a fighter for the triumph of ideological faith. He acquires extensive connections among the spiritual authority of the country in which he was able to attend, but are not limited to: establish contacts with them and representatives of the intelligence services of these states.

Back in Tajikistan, Namangani organize their training camps of militants in the Karategin Valley. By 1997, he already controls significant territory in Tajikistan.

Today Namangani – one of the most prominent figures in the IMU. Influence in Tajikistan among the participants of the United Tajik Opposition, on the side where he fought during the civil war in the country. It is considered a friend and perhaps a relative of Mirza Ziyoev – a recent authoritative field commander Jago – late to get in a coalition government as head of the Tajik Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Namangani called a master of guerrilla warfare tactics and sabotage operations. His battle groups are well-equipped, have on their arms not only almost all types of small arms, but also a few units and BMP armored personnel carriers, as well as rocket launchers “Grad”.

The main base Namanganiy located in Tajikistan, near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border – in Yasmanskom Gorge Jirgatal district and village Hoit Tojikobod area. Jeep, which he used during an operation in Batkente had Alma-Ata rooms.

Namangani and his men directly involved in narkotranzit from Afghanistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan. This forced residents participated in controlled areas Namanganiy Jirgatal. One of the smuggling routes of the area passes through Chon-Alai place Karamyk that IMU fighters mastered three times. In addition to illegal drug trafficking, Namanganiy actively involved in the smuggling of weapons, ammunition, as well as gold and precious stones mined in Afghanistan and Tajikistan Jirgatal area. This allowed him to acquire houses in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly in Kabul, Kunduz, Taloqan, Tavildara and Peshawar.

As evidenced by some subordinates Namanganiy in his unit there are a number of unique constraints – such as, for example, the rejection of proper names and replacing them in circulation previously assigned to the personal number, the slightest violation of the established rules threatens death. Strictly prohibited and unauthorized contacts with civilians or militants of other warlords. For actions that can be regarded as a betrayal Namanganiy death threatens not only the offender, but to all his friends.

Sometimes among his subordinates Juma boasts of huge sums, which he directed from abroad. But even his fighters say that commitment Namanganiy terrorist methods is explained by no means a fanatical loyalty to the idea of jihad – it works for a lot of money and at the behest of foreign intelligence services. Some consider him an agent of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services.

Daesh and Taliban are not opposed to each other, says Hanif Atmar, Afghan NSA

Daesh and Taliban are not opposed to each other, says Hanif Atmar, Afghan NSA

In an exclusive chat with TOI, Hanif Atmar, Afghan NSA, says Pakistan should  understand that their proxy terror group, Afghan Taliban, is providing sanctuary to its enemy group, TTP, just like Daesh and Taliban are not really opposed to each other.
To what would you attribute the increased instability in Afghanistan in 2017?It’s no longer about a lone wolf or one specific terrorist organisation. It’s about the evil axis of three actors, violent extremism, criminal economics and state sponsorship of terrorists. These three have come together to challenge the legitimate state of Afghanistan and turn it into a sanctuary for international terrorism, and to expand the criminalized economy with narcotics, use its proceeds to finance terrorism.

Is there something you are missing which fighting the Taliban? Something you can do differently?

Definitely. First of all, the violent extremist organisations that we are confronted by are not just Taliban. There are four groups — first, Taliban and Haqqanis; second Pakistani groups including LeT, JeM, LeJ, TTP and others; third are regional groups like ETIM and IMU, and fourth are international terrorists like Daesh and Al Qaeda.

These four groups have a symbiotic relationship with the Afghan terrorists. They need the Afghans, the Afghans need them. Second, they have symbiotic relationships with the two other relationships I described earlier, the criminal economy and state sponsorship.

What should be your response?

Our response cannot be peace and reconciliation. We can make peace and reconciliation with the Afghan groups based on certain principles, but cannot reconcile with the other three groups. They are not fighting there for anything related to Afghanistan. They want to have a sanctuary there to fight others. LeT would like a sanctuary to fight India, ETIM to fight China, and so on. We told our Pakistani interlocutors that Taliban will allow sanctuary to the TTP, your enemy. Therefore, blind support to the Taliban will be creating a frankenstein again.

Therefore our regional and global partners will have to look at a global strategy to pursue these different elements pursing different objectives.

Russia, China, Pakistan want to do things differently, engage Taliban to fight Daesh. What did you say at the meeting in February?

We objected to the first meeting in December. We said, as a friend you cannot have a meeting about us, but without us. We were present at the next meeting in February. But we also said we wanted US, India and Iran, because these are our partners, especially US and India are critical partners to advance our counter-terrorism and peace and reconciliation agendas.

We said to them, if you want to make peace with the Taliban, that’s one thing, but you cannot make peace between the government and Taliban, especially with the government not being there.

Third we said, your peace with the Taliban will never be seen as legitimate by the Afghan people or the governement. This idea that Taliban and Daesh are opposed to each other is wrong. No Daesh has come from Syria or Iraq, it’s actually the morphing and mutating of Taliban, TTP and IMU into Daesh. They are the same people, but there is a lot of re-branding here.

People who are now saying that Daesh is the enemy of Taliban and Taliban will fight Daesh are wrong. We give them specific examples — there was a local dispute between Taliban and Daesh in Nangarhar, but Daesh and Taliban worked closely with each other in northeastern Afghanistan to fight us.

In addition, using one terrorist group against another is not an ethically correct way forward.

We did ask our friends, if you have such influence with Taliban, use it for peace, bring them to the table, which will be the most effective strategy against Daesh. If you remove the Afghan Taliban from Daesh and other foreign terrorist groups, including Pakistani groups, then they will not have sanctuary in Afghanistan. If they are trying to get sanctuary, it’s only because of the Taliban. The best way to defeat Daesh and other groups is first either defeat the Taliban militarily or if they prefer to have a principled peace, accept Afghan constitution, cut ties with international terror groups and renounce violence then that would be the best way forward.

Rather than getting Taliban to fight Daesh, bring Taliban to the negotiating table, you will never have Daesh.

You mentioned ETIM. Has their activities increased in Afghanistan?

Yes. For all the above reasons. They work closely with the Taliban, they are in Badakshan, under protection of the Taliban. They are also in Zabul, where they come in from Pakistan.

We tell the Chinese, you have our full commitment in fighting ETIM wherever they are in Afghanistan. But we also have to appreciate where they come from and how to actually separate the Taliban from them. They agree with us and they say lets look at peace and reconciliation as a first strategy.

What has been the response of the new Trump administration?

Their commitment to Afghanistan is strategic and long term and not driven by a few operational or tactical issues. We have a strong convergence of interests. The most important interest we share with US and India is to defeat terrorism, which is a common enemy of all of us. The US again strongly expressed commitment to work with Afghanistan under the NATO framework. They are not looking at a drawdown or withdrawal.

What more can India do in the security sector in Afghanistan?

Rather than going into details of our defence cooperation I would say the most important objective here is the strengthening of the ANSF. This is a goal we’ve set for all of our strategic partners. We have a shared interest — the Afghans have demonstrated their will and capability to fight. The enemy we are fighting is three times bigger than the enemy we were fighting in 2009-14. Then we had 150,000 international soldiers. There are much less now, but we are battling them successfully. The Afghans are ready to fight. Not just for themselves, but also to protect the world from the menace of terrorism.

 

They need tools and resources. Let me clarify — we are not asking for troops from India or any other country apart from the NATO mission. Asking for a wide range of strengthening measures, which I think we will keep away from public conversation.

Trump not involving Russia in terror meeting is odd

Rolling into Raqqa: But not involving Russia in terror meeting is odd

Two new U.S. moves related to Syria raise the inevitable question of what is going on in foreign policy under the new administration of President Donald Trump. The first is an increase in the U.S. force level in Syria, announced Thursday, of 400 Army, Marine and Special Forces personnel, in effect doubling U.S. troops there involved in the now six-year-long multiparty civil war. The ostensible reason for the increase is to aid Kurdish and other, Turkish-backed forces in the campaign to take Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s declared capital in Syria.

The other new U.S. enterprise, also announced Thursday, is the convening of an international conference in Washington, March 22-23, to discuss fighting terrorism. Some 68 nations and international organizations are invited. Russia is not — which in effect abandons the idea that it is on our side in the battle against international terrorism. Also, perhaps snubbing it takes some of the starch out of the suggestion that the Trump administration is too close to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. China isn’t invited, either.

There may be some thought in Washington that Raqqa can be made to fall either before or during the U.S.-hosted meeting, although that is a risky gamble given the months it has taken for Iraqi and U.S. forces to take Mosul from IS, a feat not yet accomplished.

There are some flaws in what appears to be the new, two-pronged U.S. effort. The first is that Raqqa, the town the new U.S. forces are being sent to take, doesn’t amount to much. A hundred miles east of Aleppo, population 200,000 or so, under IS control since 2013, it is likely that IS forces will simply fade away from Raqqa rather than fight and die to hold it. Victory there would be a minor prize, considering the U.S. investment put into it.

A second problem is that the Kurdish troops the U.S. is supporting in the effort to take Raqqa are considered by NATO ally Turkey to be a bitter enemy. (Turkey also has troops in Syria engaged in the effort to take Raqqa.) So who takes Raqqa and who will govern it after the presumed victory?

Not inviting the Russians to the Washington anti-terrorism conference is probably a mistake also, although the argument for excluding them is somewhat clear. Russia does honestly consider itself engaged in the global war against terrorism, based in part on the Moscow government’s own problems with Islamic extremists in the Caucasus and elsewhere. It could be better to take them at their word on that issue and include them in the late-March Washington deliberations.

China, also not invited, considers Muslim Uighur separatists in the west of China to be Islamic terrorists.

There aren’t that many issues that the United States, Russia and China agree on, but fighting international terrorism is definitely one of them. Besides, the Washington-based media could occupy themselves during the conference trying to figure out with whom in the Trump administration the Russian delegates are meeting, publicly and privately.

Merkel’s Migrant Deception

  • In a government report published last month by the German newspaper Rheinische Post, experts recommended an annual intake of up to 300,000 migrants a year for the next 40 years, to counter lower German birth rates.
  • As they embark on a bizarre social engineering project on a continental scale, members of Germany’s political class evidently do not see the need to consult even their own electorates. Instead, they apparently believe in creating irreversible facts on the ground, and giving voting rights to migrants permanently residing in Germany.

“Never believe anything until it has been officially denied,” people use to say in days of the Soviet Union. Today, the same seems to be true for the European Union’s migrant policy. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel engineered the EU-Turkey deal on migrants, it was widely described by the European politicians and the media as a “breakthrough”. Merkel and other EU leaders agreed on offering a down payment of €3 billion to the regime of Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in return for its promises to “stem migrant flows”.

In December 2015, nearly four months before the EU-Turkey agreement was even formalized, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accused Chancellor Merkel of working on a “secret deal” with her Turkish counterparts. President Orbán was quite specific in his claims, apparently certain that Berlin would soon reveal the details to the public.

“Beyond what we agreed with Turkey in Brussels there’s something that doesn’t figure in the agreement,” President Orbán said in December 2015. “We’ll wake up one day — and I think this will be announced in Berlin as soon as this week — that we have to take in 400,000 to 500,000 refugees directly from Turkey.”

President Orbán was ridiculed for his claims. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans dismissed President Orbán’s allegations of a secret deal with Turkey as “nonsense”.

Bloomberg News reported the German and French outrage to President Orbán’s allegations at that time:

“France and Germany are working together to manage the flow of migrants, which is a challenge to everyone,” French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters in Paris on Wednesday. “Last weekend the union reached an agreement with Turkey,” and Orban should be aware of the details since he was there, Le Foll said.

A German government official, requesting anonymity because EU-Turkey talks are ongoing, said Orban’s claim that Germany made a secret deal is false.

As it now turns out, PM Orbán was right about a “secret deal” all along. According to the latest revelations made by the German newspaper Die Welt, Chancellor Merkel, along with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, had agreed to accept 150,000 to 200,000 Syrian migrants from Turkey into the EU without consulting other European member states.

Pictured above: German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, on February 3, 2017. (Image source RT video screenshot)

Die Welt reported on March 13, 2017:

Contrary to previous information, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte made concrete commitments on a legal refugee quota during the negotiations on the refugee deal between the EU and Turkey. Merkel and Rutte promised directly to bring in 150,000 to 200,000 Syrian refugees to Europe from Turkey each year…

The plan agreed upon by Merkel, [Turkey’s Prime Minister] Davutoglu and Rutte was presented the following day as an unexpected suggestion by Turkey. The heads of the state and governments agreed on a “voluntary intake due to humanitarian reason” in the final document of the summit.

The exact number was not revealed to the European [leaders] by Merkel, Davutoglu or Rutte. The three heads of government reached an understanding on the number 150,000 to 250,000 through a gentleman’s agreement. This has been confirmed by several individuals involved in the negotiations.

There is a plausible reason why Merkel and Rutte are still hiding these migrant figures from the public. Both Rutte and Merkel have to face their voters this year and are looking at a real prospect of anti-mass immigration parties making strong gains in the March and September general elections respectively.

Regardless of any secret dealings, however, the idea of importing hundreds of thousands of migrants into Europe fits seamlessly into what seems to be Merkel’s agenda of transforming the German and European demography.

In September 2015, before the migrant crisis could even fully unfold, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel declared that country could absorb up to 500,000 migrants each year.

In a government report published last month by the German newspaper Rheinische Post, experts recommended an annual intake of up to 300,000 migrants a year for the next 40 years, to counter lower German birth rates. According to these official estimates, Germany will have to take in 12 million migrants to keep the current size of the German population — 82 million — stable through 2060.

As they embark on a bizarre social engineering project on a continental scale, members of Germany’s political class evidently do not see the need to consult even their own electorates. Instead, they apparently believe in creating irreversible facts on the ground. They are even proposing a contingency plan to thwart a potential backlash from the population. In case of any future national referendum, Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Refugees and Migrants, Aydan Özoguz, recommends giving voting rights to migrants permanently residing in Germany.

Considering the ironclad support for Merkel’s “Refugees Welcome” policy in the German media and across the political establishment, there seems to be a consensus within Germany’s political establishment to keep the floodgates of mass-migration open, no matter how high the price.

For Merkel and Germany’s political elite, the victims of Islamist terror attacks across Germany or the hundreds of women who were sexually assaulted in Cologne’s central square on New Year’s Eve are merely roadkill on the Autobahn leading to their promised multicultural paradise.

Vijeta Uniyal, a journalist and news analyst, is based in Germany.

American Game of Footsie with Saudi Arabia Must End

American Game of Footsie with Saudi Arabia Must End

 

American Game of Footsie with Saudi Arabia Must End

This isn’t your granddaddy’s Saudi Arabia. For decades, America purchased Saudi oil and mostly ignored the country’s human-rights issues, including the treatment of women as second-class citizens, while the Saudi royals enjoyed the benefits of having a rich, thirsty customer who paid on time.

But now, Saudi Arabia has become a liability for America’s future energy interests, attempting to hinder North American energy independence by flooding the global market with oil as the lead OPEC nation. As the global price of oil dropped due to skyrocketing supply, related projects in North America stalled.

A great many people have questioned America’s recent pivot to Iran. The U.S., along with the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, reached a nuclear deal that eased sanctions against the Iranians and opened up trade with them. What was the impetus for such a reversal? Well, Saudi tampering with oil prices could certainly be viewed as one justification for America’s courting of Saudi Arabia’s sworn enemy. The collapse in oil prices occurred in late 2014. The deal with Iran was reached in July 2015 (after many years of diplomatic jostling).

All right, so now Trump has the option of courting either Iran or Saudi Arabia — or somehow trying to win the affections of both. What will he do, and what should he do? So far, Trump’s harsher rhetoric has been reserved for Iran.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s status as a longstanding U.S. ally, the Kingdom has largely been a nuisance of late. OK, I concede that if you’re a Western nation and you decide to overthrow a nation-state (let’s say Syria, for instance) and you need to finance and mobilize terrorists to be sold to the public as freedom-fighting “rebels,” then Saudi Arabia is the right friend for the situation — the sort of mischievous friend whose company you sometimes enjoy despite your mom’s instructions to stay away from him.

But here we are now with Trump playing footsie with the Saudi defense minister in the White House this week, nationalist to nationalist. Where’s mom when you need her?

The Saudis have been on a nationalist kick, even as chaos has expanded in the Middle East, making Saudi Arabia sort of a nationalist pyromaniac Pollyanna. You see, the glass is half-full for Saudi Arabia when creating the terrorist killing machine known as the Islamic State ends up driving a significant percentage of the Middle Eastern population into Europe and away from your borders. (Unlike the Saudis, European leaders weren’t smart enough to close those borders to prevent an unmanageable flood of refugees.) And now, Saudi Arabia is using the Islamic State as a pretext to request security assistance from Pakistan — a country that, according to some intelligence officials, might be willing to provide Saudi Arabia with a nuclear weapon should the need ever arise.

According to The National, a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, “Pakistan is in discussions with Saudi Arabia to send combat troops to protect the kingdom amid growing concern over threats from ISIL militants and Houthi rebels.”

Ah yes, the Houthis: Iranian proxies fighting against Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Somehow it always comes back to the Saudi-Iran cage match — now with a touring roadshow.

If Trump wanted to use his business sense, he’d become the first U.S. president to invoke the “sunk cost fallacy” in dealing with Saudi Arabia. In other words, when you build a hotel or casino and it runs at a loss, you don’t get romantic lamenting all the labor and time you’ve invested. Such emotional weakness in the face of an imminent loss could lead to a much larger loss over the long run. Instead, you just cut those losses. Yes, Saudi Arabia was an American ally, but its recent behavior has harmed the interests of the American people.

It’s time for this new and unconventional American president to disengage the establishment’s autopilot and rethink conventional wisdom.

Erdogan Castigates European Arsonists For Setting Middle East On Fire w/No Plan For Survivors

 

YUSUF KANLI

Islamophobia, Turcophobia, Erdoğanphobia or whatever it might be called, is a reality that Western nations perceive that they face an existential threat from foreigners flooding into their countries. The number of Syrian refugees embraced by all EU countries cannot exceed a fraction of the number of refugees Turkey has taken, which became their second home. If Germany is to be excluded, it could easily be argued that Europe has indeed turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the worst humanity the world has faced since the war in former Yugoslavia.

The world should not of course forget how a Dutch commander and his soldiers watched thousands of Muslim people get butchered in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War. Accusing only Serbian ultranationalists and the Slobodan Milosevic regime for the Srebrenica massacre would be a big unjust to reality. The Dutch commander, who preferred to watch the butchering of Muslims from a distance rather than taking action in line with the mandate he was dispatched with, to this day is provided impunity, making him a less criminal.–(SEE: Dutch officers sue their government for blaming them for Srebrenica)

Accusing the Christian culture of the West alone, however, cannot be a remedy for anything. The other day Murat Yetkin, the editor-in-chief of Hürriyet Daily News, had asked in one of his articles why despite all the negative perception toward the West, Muslim people saw western countries as places where they could live in security. He asked, what the reason behind it was if those “running for their lives are Muslims, but they are not seeking shelter in other Muslim countries, except for Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where the political systems are not based on religious law. They turn their eyes to predominantly non-Muslim, mostly Christian societies in the West.”

The reason, unfortunately, is obvious. Why are thousands of Turks fleeing Turkey these days? Why were they leaving the country during the period of Feb. 28, 1997? Was it a national sport in the 1980s to escape to Greece and embark to a Scandinavian country or to Germany? The regimes in countries compel people to seek security outside their countries. And, unfortunately, neither of the Muslim countries is better than the rest when it comes to political oppression, isolationism, sheer political torture or use of political power to cleanse the country of everyone who is not subscribing to the views of the absolute power holder.

If the West was and is still a destination for people uncomfortable with the situation in their Muslim countries, if the West is still considered a “secure place,” despite all the differences and the frequently professed social mood not so receptive to foreigners in those countries, perhaps Muslim countries should first try to look at themselves. What was and is wrong with them that people prefer a Christian and not so receptive country as a more secure place to seek refuge in?

It is no secret that the latest escalation of tension between Turkey and Europe did not start with some exchange of furious remarks between Turkish and German politicians. It might be preferred to be perceived as such, but that’s not the reality. The problem is far bigger and more complicated than that. Western societies are very much concerned with the probability of their countries flooded by millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq and who knows from where tomorrow. The Muslim world is on the move and this move unfortunately is not one conducive to cohesion, prosperity, wellbeing or peace.

Right, the latest problem in Muslim geographies was ignited with the so-called “Arab Spring” prepared in some deep places of the West with the aim to usher Muslim societies into an era of democracy in smaller states controllable by the West, which would serve best to the security of Israel. That was a very ill perception. Not only the Americans lost their ambassador in Tripoli to such ugly and shallow policies, the entire region was placed on fire. Innocent societies all of a sudden found themselves in fire, abandoned their homes, and are seeking shelter abroad. Can anyone blame them for abandoning their homes?

In any case, the latest tension started with Germany refusing to shoulder more refugee-related problems, continued with concerns over internal security that could be destabilized with a referendum campaign carried to German soil by the Turkish absolute power holder to win support of millions of Turks living there. Climaxing since then with other European countries telling Ankara “This is your campaign, why should we allow you to export the polarization you created at home to our societies?”

That is, in a way, the Dutch, as well as the Danes who advised the Turkish prime minister to “come at another time” as well as the other capitals not so receptive to Erdoğan’s efforts to create a self-cut super and all the time demanding presidential system in Turkey are turning a cold shoulder to the Turkish government.

Turkish authorities are fuming that European bodies have supported the Netherlands rather than siding with Turkey in the latest crisis. Poor Turkish diplomacy could not understand what the European Union is after sixty more years knocking on the same door. EU is a solidarity organization at the same time. If a son does something bad, should anyone expect the father to punish the son in front of others? Let us be realistic.

Tomorrow, very much like with the Russians, Turkey is compelled to find ways and patch up with the Netherlands and the EU. Don’t we remember the appalling Russia to patch up efforts with Erdoğan? Why escalate tension to such crazy levels if we know that tomorrow there will be a humiliating patch up effort?
The crisis with Russia was concocted by the Fethullah Gülen gang, the government claims. Who concocted the current crisis with Europe?

Erdogan Throws Srebrenica Into NATOs Dutch Face

[SEE:  Intelligence and the war in Bosnia 1992-1995: The role of the intelligence and security services–(UPDATED–3/14/2017)]

“You know, I was offered by Clinton in April 1993 (after the fall of Cerska and Konjevic Polje) that the Chetnik forces enter Srebrenica, carry out a slaughter of 5,000 Muslims, and then there will be a military intervention.”–President Izetbegovic, Interview with Hakija Meholjic, president of Social Democratic Party for Srebrenica, by Hasan Hadzic–Rekindling the Political Fires of Srebrenica

The Latest: Dutch leader says Srebrenica charge ‘disgusting’

 

ANKARA, Turkey

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has condemned comments by Turkey’s president holding Dutch U.N. peacekeepers responsible for the massacre by Serb forces of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, in 1995.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there.”

Speaking to Dutch broadcaster RTL Z on Tuesday, Rutte called the comment a “disgusting distortion of history.”

Rutte added: “We will not lower ourselves to this level. It is totally unacceptable.”

___

4:05 p.m.

Germany’s top security official says his country needs no “extra tuition” from Turkey on fighting terrorism or countering the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday renewed accusations that Germany supported “terrorists” battling Turkey.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere noted Tuesday that the PKK is banned in Germany and “we don’t tolerate terrorism, including by the PKK.”

He added: “Any leads from Turkey on such activities in Germany that are usable in court are very welcome — but we don’t need extra tuition on how to deal with fighting PKK terrorism that is supported and organized from Germany.”

De Maiziere said that “Turkey itself remains an important partner for us in the fight against international terrorism.”

___

4:00 p.m.

Germany’s interior minister is appealing to residents of Turkish origin not to regard people who disagree with them as traitors, Nazis, terrorists or enemies of Turkey.

Thomas de Maiziere said Tuesday: “We will not tolerate it if representatives of other states try to position whole groups of the population against the country in which they have lived freely for many years or since their birth, where they work, go to school, bring up their children, in which they are at home.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany of “Nazi practices” after local authorities blocked appearances by Turkish officials campaigning ahead of a referendum on giving Erdogan more extensive powers. That drew a rebuke from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

De Maiziere said: “We should not endanger the integration successes of the last decades for a short-term, questionable success.”

___

3:30 p.m.

Italy’s foreign minister has urged for calm in the ongoing diplomatic spat between the Netherlands and Turkey, saying further confrontation is in no one’s interest.

Angelino Alfano, on a visit to Serbia, says that “we have an obligation to ask the parties involved to tone down the rhetoric, to bring the level of argument down.”

But Alfano adds that “we can however understand the decisions taken by certain countries, starting with Holland.”

He says Italy’s good cooperation with Turkey “does not mean we should close our eyes on certain questions that our tradition and the history of our country will not allow us to close our eyes to.”

Alfano spoke after meeting Serbia Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. His comments were translated from Italian to Serbian.

___

3:10 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Germany and the Netherlands “bandit states” that are harming the European Union. His remarks came amid Turkey’s growing tensions with the two countries over Turkish ministers’ plans to hold campaign meetings there.

In an address to health sector workers that was televised live on Tuesday, Erdogan said the two countries’ reluctance to let Turkish ministers attend political rallies there was diminishing the EU as a symbol of laws, human rights and freedoms.

He said: “Europe is too important a continent to be abandoned to the mercy of the bandit states.”

Erdogan said Turkey would seek the help of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other organizations to intensify the fight against what he called hatred against foreigners, racism and anti-Islam trends.

Erdogan said Turkey would consider other sanctions against the Netherlands, but did not elaborate.

___

2:15 p.m.

In a new verbal attack against the Dutch amid their growing diplomatic spat, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held the Netherlands responsible for Europe’s worst mass killing since World War II.

Erdogan was referring to a Dutch battalion of United Nations peacekeepers who failed to halt the slaughter by Bosnian Serb forces of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, in 1995.

In a speech televised live on Tuesday Erdogan said: “We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there.”

___

12:25 p.m.

The mayor of Rotterdam says that specialized armed security forces he sent to a standoff with a Turkish minister on Saturday night had permission to open fire if necessary.

Speaking late Monday night on a television talk show, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said he sent the special armed intervention unit to the Turkish consulate amid fears that a 12-man security detail that had driven to the Netherlands from Germany with Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya could be armed.

Aboutaleb said on the Nieuwsuur show that it was important to “be sure that if it came to a confrontation that we would be the boss” and that the unit had been given “permission to shoot.”

The Turkish minister was eventually escorted out of the Netherlands in the early hours of Sunday. Earlier, the Dutch also had refused Turkey’s foreign minister permission to visit. Both ministers wanted to address rallies about next month’s constitutional reform referendum on giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more power.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte repeated Tuesday, on the last day of campaigning for Dutch elections that have been overshadowed by the diplomatic crisis that Dutch authorities are working to de-escalate tensions with Ankara.

___

10:10 a.m.

Turkey has criticized the European Union for siding with the Netherlands in a diplomatic dispute over Turkish ministers’ plans to hold campaigns there, saying the EU’s position “lends credence” to extremists.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement Tuesday said the EU’s stance on Turkey was “short-sighted” and “carried no value” for Turkey. It said the European bloc, which called on Turkey to cease excessive statements, “ignored the (Netherlands’) violation of diplomatic conventions and the law.”

The spat is over the Netherlands’ refusal to allow two Turkish ministers to campaign and court the votes of Turks eligible to vote in an April 16 referendum on expanding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

Turkey on Monday slapped a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands, including halting political discussions between the two countries.

Nawaz Sharif Plays “Pious” Card, Goes For Full Wahhabization of Pakistan

[EXCLUSIVE: Pakistan sends combat troops to Saudi southern border]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday ordered  ministry of interior to take measures for immediate blockage of blasphemous content on social media.

The premier in his statement categorically remarked that any kind of insult to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was unforgivable.

Nawaz Sharif said the feelings of Muslims, when it comes to the honour of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), must be respected.

‘The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the benefactor of entire humanity,’ the PM added.

He directed that international organizations relating to social media should be approached for blockade of blasphemous contents and Foreign Office should play its role in this regard.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the issue is before the court and all steps should be taken in line with the guidance of the court, radio Pakistan reported.

It may be mentioned here that the Islamabad High Court had already ordered to block blasphemous pages on social media.

Obama’s “Democrat” Disguise Slowly Crumbles, Revealing the Hardcore Republican Underneath

https://i2.wp.com/www.theamericanconservative.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/obama-website-554x414.jpeg source

The Original Lie About Obamacare

President Obama signing the health insurance reform bill at the White House in 2010. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

You hear it from Republicans, pundits and even some Democrats. It’s often said in a tone of regret: I wish Obama had done health reform in a bipartisan way, rather than jamming through a partisan bill.

The lament seems to have the ring of truth, given that not a single Republican in Congress voted for Obamacare. Yet it is false —demonstrably so.

That it’s nonetheless stuck helps explain how the Republicans have landed in such a mess on health care. The Congressional Budget Office released a jaw-dropping report Monday estimating that the Republican health plan would take insurance from 24 million people, many of them Republican voters, and raise medical costs for others. The bill effectively rescinds benefits for the elderly, poor, sick and middle class, and funnels the money to the rich, via tax cuts.

The AARP doesn’t like the bill, nor do groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, the disabled and people with cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, it’s a great bill.

To understand why that description is wrong, it helps to recall some history. Democratic attempts to cover the uninsured stretch back almost a century. But opposition to universal government-provided insurance was always too strong. Even Lyndon Johnson, with big congressional majorities, could pass programs only for the elderly and the poor — over intense opposition that equated Medicare with the death of capitalism.

So Democrats slowly moved their proposals to the right, relying more on private insurance rather than government programs. As they shifted, though, Republicans shifted even farther right. Bill Clinton’s plan was quite moderate but still couldn’t pass.

When Barack Obama ran for president, he faced a choice. He could continue moving the party to the center or tack back to the left. The second option would have focused on government programs, like expanding Medicare to start at age 55. But Obama and his team thought a plan that mixed government and markets — farther to the right of Clinton’s — could cover millions of people and had a realistic chance of passing.

They embarked on a bipartisan approach. They borrowed from Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts, gave a big role to a bipartisan Senate working group, incorporated conservative ideas and won initial support from some Republicans. The bill also won over groups that had long blocked reform, like the American Medical Association.

But congressional Republicans ultimately decided that opposing any bill, regardless of its substance, was in their political interest. The consultant Frank Luntz wrote an influential memo in 2009 advising Republicans to talk positively about “reform” while also opposing actual solutions. McConnell, the Senate leader, persuaded his colleagues that they could make Obama look bad by denying him bipartisan cover.

At that point, Obama faced a second choice – between forging ahead with a substantively bipartisan bill and forgetting about covering the uninsured. The kumbaya plan for which pundits now wax nostalgic was not an option.

The reason is simple enough: Obamacare is the bipartisan version of health reform. It accomplishes a liberal end through conservative means and is much closer to the plan conservatives favored a few decades ago than the one liberals did. “It was the ultimate troll,” as Michael Anne Kyle of Harvard Business School put it, “for Obama to pass Republican health reform.”

Today’s Republican Party has moved so far to the right that it no longer supports any plan that covers the uninsured. Of course, Republican leaders are not willing to say as much, because they know how unpopular that position is. Having run out of political ground, Ryan, McConnell and Trump have had to invent the notion of a socialistic Obamacare that they will repeal and replace with … something great! This morning they were also left to pretend that the Budget Office report was something less than a disaster.

Their approach to Obamacare has worked quite nicely for them, until now. Lying can be an effective political tactic. Believing your own alternative facts, however, is usually not so smart.

Pakistan Army and Modi

[Despite the fact that the writer is a BBC correspondent and an anti-Pakistani Baloch, and worse still, the article was the Qatar state mouthpiece, AlJazeera, I felt the writer had a lot of good points to present us in the following interview.  The more that Modi agitates Balochistan the more power and leeway to act transfers to the Pak Army.  Mr. Modi has always been a dangerous man (SEE: Gujarat riots: Indian SC orders inquiry against Modi ; The Gujarat Pogrom of 2002).]

‘Modi is God’s gift to Pakistan security establishment’

Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif talks about shrinking freedoms, liberal voices and human rights in Balochistan.

Pakistani journalist and writer Mohammed Hanif [Eefa Khalid/Al Jazeera]

By Hafsa Adil is a freelance multimedia journalist. She tweets @Hafsa_Adil

In January, five Pakistani activists disappeared. Some were picked up from their homes, others from their place of work. One man went missing while searching for a house to rent for his family.

Their crimes remain unclear. Roughly three weeks later, four of them were released, but not charged with an offence. Some have spoken of being tortured by Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence agencies. Others have chosen not to speak at all, bound to silence by those who abducted them.

For those who have spoken out, the reason for their abduction appears to be that they were linked to Facebook pages or social media accounts that were criticising the military’s policies and the religious right, or for espousing the cause of persecuted minorities.

Mohammed Hanif is a Pakistani journalist and writer who has been nominated for several awards, including the prestigious Man Booker prize for his debut novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, in 2008.

He has reported extensively on minority rights, as well as enforced disappearances in Pakistan’s campaign against separatist fighters in the country’s southwestern Balochistan province.

In an interview with Al Jazeera on the sidelines of the recently held Karachi Literature Festival, he talked about the shrinking freedoms in mainstream and social media in Pakistan, the role of liberal voices and the state of human rights in Balochistan.

Al Jazeera: Social media, at least when it started off, allowed a lot more democratic space for dissidents and those with a liberal or minority point of view. However, it is increasingly making them vulnerable to state surveillance and reprisals. How do you see the transformation of social media and what lessons have you drawn from the goings-on in Pakistan and other countries?

Mohammed Hanif: I think social media has thrown many of our lazy assumptions into question.

After all, what is a dissident? Someone sitting with a gun on a mountain or someone tweeting bad poetry?

What is a liberal? Someone who wants to be saved from both but wants all the freedom to tell us what is really wrong with this world?

And aren’t social media users in Pakistan actually a minority as compared with the ones who can’t afford smartphones or can’t read or write? Social media in Pakistan is a love-fest and a lynch mob.

I think the state realises its potential and it tried to send a message by kidnapping some activists in Pakistan.

The perverse thing about social media is that nobody really knew these guys who were picked up, but after they were picked up, we all knew about them.

They were either our potential liberators or certified traitors. When luvvies and lynch mob collide on the internet, who needs facts?

It’s all very entertaining and also reassuring that something very new can confirm our oldest prejudices.

Al Jazeera:India is seen as a land of opportunity for Pakistani film artists and musicians. Why have Pakistani writers – novelists, essayists, commentators in English, Urdu, Punjabi etc – not been able to exploit the opportunity in the same fashion? Or do we not hear about it as much?

Hanif: Every Pakistani writer I know has been published in India, translated into Indian languages and has done the festival circuit.

There’s lots more money at stake when singers or actors get banished, so we hear more about it.

Once or twice Indian right-wingers have tried to force the bookshops to stop selling books by Pakistani authors, but that reeked of desperation.

Go and burn albums of Pakistani musicians if you want to make an impact. Who cares about books anyway?

Al Jazeera: You have written in The New York Times deploring the way India-Pakistan issues are handled by jingoistic Indian TV channels and their Pakistani counterparts. Do you think this trend has to do with authentic ultra-nationalistic passion or is it a symptom of failing media business models on both sides of the border?

Hanif: I think passions are real. You don’t kill over a million people as we did during the partition or fight four and a half wars without passion.

Every few years comes a time when it seems we are getting a bit less passionate.

We can trade tomatoes and onions and cheaper heart bypasses across the border. But then someone rekindles our murderous passions.

I don’t think media businesses on both sides are failing; they are transforming into more intelligent monsters. Is there more money in peace or is there more money in war?

Al Jazeera: What can the writers and intellectuals of Pakistan and India do to wrest back public discourse from the ultranationalists and hardline politicians in order to inject good sense, goodwill and a spirit of unity among the peoples of common rich heritage?

Hanif: I think maybe they can start by going on about common rich heritage.

We kind of lived together and killed each other for centuries.

Our common rich heritage is very contested and we should continue to contest that.

Writers and intellectuals from both sides have been hugging each other at festivals and conferences and in music collaborations.

They should continue doing that but let’s not live in the illusion that they can erase an inch of barbed wire on our borders.

Al Jazeera: Do you think Pakistan’s liberal-secular forces are strong enough to confront the new set of challenges they are facing from illiberal elements of the state? Leaving the country for a haven abroad may be necessary for some people, but does it really advance their cause?

Hanif: I think the first cause is to stay alive. So if someone is lucky enough that they can leave the country, let’s not grudge them.

Let’s not say they have betrayed some cause. Let’s not get into definitions. But I tend to believe Pakistan liberals have had a lot of power, still do.

I think instead of doing a hard day’s liberal work, they like to point out the illiberal elements in the state. I do feel that the illiberal elements you blame provide more of a sense of community here.

Liberals just sit by themselves and fume over “these people”, but where did they come from? Oh, OK, let’s blame General Zia-ul-Haq.

Al Jazeera: Do you think the advent of a Hindu nationalist government in India and the Indian security crackdown in Kashmir have, in an indirect way, influenced the political and security climate in Pakistan?

Hanif: Modi is God’s gift to the Pakistani security establishment. And what you call a crackdown in Kashmir is a campaign of mass blinding of a population, as Kashmiri writer Mirza Waheed has written.

It has never happened in human history.

Al Jazeera: Your second novel revolves around the life of a person from Pakistan’s minorities. What have your observations and experiences been with the minority communities that prompted you to pick this subject? How drastically do you think the space and voice for minorities has shrunk in Pakistan?

Hanif: My experiences are quite limited. I have this Christian property-dealer friend who has written essays and books about Pakistani Christian heroes.

In order to prove his community’s patriotism, he has to write these glorious stories about Christian officers and men who fought in our wars against India.

I don’t know why Azam Miraj should have to prove his patriotism when his forefathers and my forefathers have lived on the same land and spoken the same language for centuries.

He now has to worry about what bits of newspaper he can throw into the trash can because, you know, sometimes newspapers have bits of sacred texts.

Al Jazeera: Do you think the recent spate of arrests of activists shows a growing intolerance towards any criticism of the state, the establishment and their policies towards religious extremism? What role, if any, does mainstream media play in vilifying these liberal voices?

Hanif: I feel that the state is tired and jaded. Mainstream media and social media are not that different: a bit of a love fest, a bit of a lynch mob. It’s the same old game.

A businessman playing a politician, politicians playing the media, an intelligence-agency type trying to tell everyone what to do.

In social media, small voices sometimes get amplified, and whenever that happens we are back to the old-fashioned games where we have to figure out who can kidnap someone, or who can kill and never be held accountable.

Al Jazeera: Pakistan regularly makes the list of the most dangerous places for journalists, and Balochistan in particular has been termed the graveyard for journalists. Can you share what your interactions with people in Balochistan, particularly journalists, writers and activists, revealed about the province’s place in the media? Do you see any hope for improvement in the environment for journalists in Balochistan and Pakistan?

Hanif: The grand old man of Balochi literature, Ghani Parwaz, said it about why we don’t hear more Baloch voices: fear of the state and prejudice from the people outside of Balochistan who seem to believe that it’s a land of gold and copper and gas.

Journalists in Balochistan have been killed for simply reporting that someone else has been killed.

I have seen parents worry if their kids have done high school and picked up any politics. If you are a literate and political Baloch, your life expectancy automatically comes down drastically.

But I am told things are getting better. If you are a journalist in Pakistan, you should thank your stars that you are not Baloch.

Source: Al Jazeera News

ISIS Forming New Caliphate On Turkish Border?

Former captive of an al-Qaida affiliated group warns, “Something very dangerous is occurring in northwestern Syria”

 

Malaysia Sun Sunday 12th March, 2017

former captive of an al-qaida affiliated group warns, “something very dangerous is occurring in northwestern syria”• American journalist Peter Theo Curtis was held captive for two years by the al-Qaida affiliated group al-Nusra Front

• Theo warns that a number of dangerous groups, including “hardcore Islamists” are going unnoticed in Syria

• As coalition forces continue to reclaim ISIS territories, the terror group is facing a defeat in the region

PARIS, France – As coalition forces in Syria continue to defeat the Islamic State and reclaim territories that were once strongholds of the world’s most dreaded terrorist group – now claims made by a former captive have shocked the world.

In October 2012, American journalist Peter Theo Curtis – who also goes by the name Theo Padnos, sneaked into the rebel-controlled Syrian territory to write an article about an abducted journalist Austin Rice.

He was kidnapped by the al-Qaida affiliated group al-Nusra Front in Syria – a group that had announced their formation earlier the same year.

The group initially praised ISIS attacks on the West – but is now said to be pursuing its own take on Sharia law.

He was held in the war-torn region for two years, during which period, his family reportedly received several calls for a ransom from the group and after a tough period, he was finally freed in 2014 with the help of the Qatari secret service.

Theo has now issued a grave warning – one that has shocked the world – as he claims that a new, more dangerous terror group is on the rise near Europe.

According to Theo, rebels from across Syria have formed a new terror group, to replace terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s outfit, described as a “second Islamic State.”

Theo has claimed, “Something very dangerous and alarming is occurring in northwestern Syria, and this is the emergence of the second Islamic State there. It’s right on the Turkish border.”

He claimed that the Syrian government is winning the war in Syria, but the victory is coming with a cost.

“[The Syrian Army] is dispersing the rebels. The rebels have been concentrating in certain urban neighborhoods, and now they’re going off into the countryside. They’re occupying villages. And when the U.S. Army or the Kurds or some combination finally arrives in Raqqa [the capital of the Islamic State], all those ISIS fighters — they will have been gone for weeks. They’re out of town now.”

He said that a number of dangerous groups, including “hardcore Islamists”, are going unnoticed in Syria – warning in an interview, “We will know it when they turn up in Paris or London with Kalashnikovs.”

Recalling his two years of torture, Theo said that while he was abducted, he was able to witness a number of armed factions emerging in northwestern Syria. This, he said, led him to believe there will be rise of a “second Islamic State” near Europe and the Turkish border.

He said, “I think that the Western understanding of what is happening in Syria is inadequate. They [The West] don’t know what’s happening on the ground, they either don’t understand the language, or they can’t make sense of the videos, or their informants are, perhaps, biased,”

He even noted that the rising rebel group possesses “tonnes of weapons” and could be more dangerous than ISIS.

What, he said was even more worrisome was that, “To get to this second Islamic State from any European country, it’s a couple of days on the bus. Young kids are going every day, that’s what the guys on the ground in Syria are telling me: ‘Oh yes, we have new French people, new English people every day.’”

Adding, “I know because I’m in touch with some of these people, and they’re making videos all the time. We just haven’t connected the dots.”

The warnings come at a time that the coalition forces continue their offensive against ISIS and reports from the region indicate that the terror leader al-Baghdadi has admitted defeat.

Theo said, “We must develop a strategy that is more powerful than their ‘fade into the hills’ strategy. Otherwise, it will be whack-a-mole forever … If it sounds like I’m advocating for peace with ISIS, well I am. There’s too many of them to kill.”

Trump’s Pentagon Declares Whole World As Its Stage of Operations

White House is asked to designate ‘temporary areas of active hostility’, giving commanders same latitude to launch actions as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria

Women walk past graffiti in Yemen, parts of which are the first ‘temporary’ battlefield designations. Under Obama, the president and his counter-terrorism adviser played a big role in authorizing attacks on suspected terrorists.
Women walk past graffiti in Yemen, parts of which have been designated ‘temporary’ battlefields. Under Obama, the president played a big role in authorizing attacks on suspected terrorists. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Donald Trump’s administration is considering a military proposal that would designate various undeclared battlefields worldwide to be “temporary areas of active hostility”, the Guardian has learned.

If approved, the Pentagon-proposed measure would give military commanders the same latitude to launch strikes, raids and campaigns against enemy forces for up to six months that they possess in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

The proposal would in effect unravel a highly controversial bureaucratic structure for launching lethal assaults, such as drone strikes and counter-terrorism raids, set up by Barack Obama’s White House.

Under Obama’s structure, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG), the president and his counter-terrorism adviser at the National Security Council played a substantial role in approving life-or-death strikes on suspected terrorists on undeclared battlefields such as Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

The Pentagon’s proposal would push those authorities down to military commanders during the 180-day lifespan of the temporary designations, according to an administration official familiar with the proposals, who described Obama’s PPG as, functionally, a dead letter.

Accordingly, the proposal would lower a threshold for ensuring the safety of civilians in such strikes, from a “near certainty” that civilians would not be harmed to “reasonable certainty”, similar to the standard on official battlefields.

It is unclear from the proposal, described by an administration official, how many countries would be designated temporary zones of active hostility. It is similarly uncertain how such designation would square with the War Powers Resolution, a much-eroded 1973 law that permits presidents to launch military hostilities for 60 days before needing congressional approval.

“It’s completely disregarding the War Powers Resolution,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

“This takes Trump out of approving [operations] mission by mission.”

Similarly, unraveling the PPG and loosening its standards for launching strikes and avoiding civilian casualties is likely to be difficult in practice, said Micah Zenko, who studies counter-terrorism at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It’s embedded in the bureaucracy and in targeting practices” by the US air force, Zenko said, though “there are lots of ways to change policy without formal guidance”.

The New York Times, which first reported elements of this story, found that areas within Yemen and soon Somalia were the first such designations of the “temporary” battlefield designations.

The Pentagon, which did not reply to a request for comment, is said to be seeking the change in order to gain greater operational flexibility over the sprawling battlefield worldwide.

In February, the Guardian reported a debate within senior levels of the military about designating Yemen an active battlefield, with the attendant devolution of responsibilities to ground commanders and a swifter operational pace to combat the local al-Qaida affiliate.

As the Times reported, nearly 40 former national security officials, most of whom served in the Obama administration, have urged the Trump administration to retain its predecessor’s procedures for limiting civilian casualties. Human rights groups sharply criticized the Obama administration for allowing untold numbers of civilian deaths in drone strikes and called its figures for civilian casualties, delivered after those procedures were in place, too low to be credible.

The Trump administration should “use lethal force only when there is a near certainty – or a similarly high standard – that no civilian harm will occur”, the ex-officials wrote in a 10 March letter to the Pentagon chief, James Mattis, as well as urging the requirement of a “near-certainty – or a similarly high standard – that [a counter-terrorism] target has been accurately identified and is present”.

Even before adoption of any of the new aggressive proposals, Trump has shown a willingness to escalate the sprawling US wars against al-Qaida and Isis, despite occasionally positioning himself during the campaign as a peace candidate.

In Syria, approximately 400 US marines armed with heavy artillery have arrived to support an assault on Isis’s capital, Raqqa, that is expected in the coming weeks. In Afghanistan, commanders have signaled a desire for a troop augmentation totaling in the low thousands.

In Iraq, with the final Isis stronghold in western Mosul expected to fall soon, the US and Iraqi governments have “expressed an interest” in an enduring US troop presence in Iraq, the war’s commander, army Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, told reporters on 1 March.

And in Yemen, in addition to a fateful raid that left several children and a Navy Seal dead, Trump has sharply accelerated drone-launched bombings.

O’Connell, the Notre Dame professor, noted that temporarily designating a battlefield to be an active combat zone carried a host of second-order effects for US troops operating there, from expanding authorities to capture detainees to creating combat-pay claims for service members.

Should the temporary designations proposal win Trump’s approval, O’Connell said, it was unlikely Trump would seek a new Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), a controversial wellspring of legal authority for US military operations. Congress passed the current AUMF days after 9/11. Its critics in and outside of Congress have long argued that its powers are stretched beyond their limits to confront a now obsolete version of the terrorist threat.

Nawaz Sharif Sends Combat Troops To Protect His Saudi Benefactors

 

Brigade deploys to shore up border against Houthi reprisal attacks from Yemen, but sources tell MEE it will ‘not be used beyond Saudi borders’

Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa, met Saudi Arabia’s king in December (Twitter)
David Hearst's picture

The Pakistan army is sending a brigade of combat troops to shore up Saudi Arabia’s vulnerable southern border from reprisal attacks mounted by the Houthis in Yemen, according to senior security sources.

The brigade will be based in the south of the Kingdom, but will only be deployed inside its border, the sources told Middle East Eye. “It will not be used beyond Saudi borders,” one said.

It is the latest twist in a brutal and devastating two-year war, which has killed more than 10,000 people in Yemen, injured over 40,000 and brought the impoverished nation to the verge of famine.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes and starving civilians trapped in the carnage.

The war was launched by Saudi Arabia and its Arab coalition allies after the Houthis overran Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, and the southern port of Aden and ousted the Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Hadi.

Increasingly, the Houthis have been retaliating with cross-border missile strikes on targets deep inside the kingdom.

Last month the Houthis claimed to have hit a military camp near al-Mazahimiyah near Riyadh with what they called “a precision long-distance ballistic missile”. The Saudis denied the claim.

On 31 January, a missile killed 80 soldiers on a base run jointly by the Saudis and Emiratis on Zuqar island in the Red Sea, according to reports in Arabic media. The Saudis did not confirm nor deny the strike.

In October a missile was shot down about 65km from Mecca, although the Houthis denied targeting the holy city.

The deployment of the Pakistani brigade follows a visit by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistani chief of army staff (COAS), to Saudi Arabia on a three-day official visit in December last year.

“COAS reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the security and protection of the Holy Mosques and also the territorial integrity of the kingdom,” the Pakistani army said in a statement.

“Later, General Qamar Javed Bajwa met chief of general staff of Saudi Forces, General Abdul Rehman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, to discuss military to military relations, defence cooperation and regional security situation.

“Both leaders agreed to boost military cooperation and collaboration.”

The area of deployment for the Pakistani brigade is politically sensitive in Islamabad, because two years ago the parliament rejected a request by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman for Pakistan to join a “Sunni” coalition to fight the Houthis.

The Houthis, whose tribesmen mostly follow Zaidism, a variant of Shia Islam practised by a minority in northern Yemen, are backed by Iran, although the level of direct support provided by Tehran is disputed.

Parliament debated the deployment for four days, a debate dominated by the fears of further stoking sectarian violence in Pakistan where 20 percent of the population is Shia.

The parliamentary debate also became the target of intense lobbying.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, met both Pakistani Prime Minister Prime Nawaz Sharif and the former chief of army staff, Raheel Sharif, as the debate took place.

The Iranians back the Houthis politically, and Saudi Arabia, the US and Australia all say they have supported them militarily as well.

The senior Houthi leaders have been trained by, and their paramilitary structures modelled on, Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militia. Advisers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have also been involved.

Last year, state-affiliated media in Iran said the Houthis were using Iran-made Zelzal-3 surface-to-surface solid fuel missiles, although they insisted the weapon was produced “indigenously”.

Sharif owes his life to the Saudis, who saved him from execution after a military coup which brought Pervez Musharraf to power in 1999.

However, the prime minister’s wish to repay a personal debt to the Saudis was not reciprocated by the Pakistan army.

Generals argued then that they were overstretched with campaigns against the Pakistani Taliban in the North West Tribal Areas.

Since then, however, senior military sources in Pakistan claim to have pushed the Taliban out of Swat valley and North Waziristan.

Parliament however is currently pursuing expanding trade links with Iran. Awaid Leghari, the chairman of the foreign affair’s committee of the National Assembly, recently met Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian Majlis, and Alludin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Iran’s foreign policy and security committee in the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

A parliamentary delegation from Islamabad is also due to visit Tehran in May. They will discuss re-opening three border markets, a projected gas pipeline and tourism.

Leghari told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper that both sides, he observed, were now feeling “internal pressures” to engage in a big way for mutual benefit.

“More pressure would have to be exerted from within the economies and people and media,” he said.

The deployment would not be the first in relations between the two states. President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq deployed an elite Pakistani armoured brigade to the kingdom at King Fahd’s request after the Iranian revolution in 1980.

The brigade was deployed for a decade and some 40,000 soldiers served in it.

CIA’s Frankfurt Bureau Possible Source of Disinformation On Putin and Trump

The den of vipers….and the nest of spies.

CIA’s Frankfurt Spy HQ Could Be Source of ‘Ties’ Between Putin and Trump

 

CIA’s Frankfurt Spy HQ under scrutiny as Russia’s Alfa Bank claims “manipulated” data came from “mainland Europe”

By Matthew Allen at Russia Insider.
Evidence suggests that alleged “ties” between Putin and Trump could have been manufactured in Frankfurt, Germany by the CIA.
The “Vault 7” Wikileaks dump of more than 8,000 CIA files confirmed that the American consulate in Frankfurt, Germany is a “base for covert and overt CIA operatives. It also provided a window into how American spies operate in Europe and – most importantly — why Frankfurt has been so valuable for a specialized form of computer espionage.”
Here’s where things get interesting.
U.S. media outlets are peddling a story about “odd” links between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. The allegation is that unusually high internet traffic was recorded between the two institutions.
But according to Alfa Bank, the “odd” internet traffic isn’t even real, and came from “mainland Europe”:
The bank told CNN it is now trying to identify the person or entity who disseminated this internet traffic. “We believe that DNS traffic in mainland Europe was deliberately captured – in a manner that is unethical and possibly illegal — in order to manufacture the deceit,” it said.
Let’s return to Frankfurt.
According to Nathan Wenzler, chief security strategist at San Francisco-based security consultancy AsTech Consulting, Frankfurt is the perfect location for a CIA hacking center because
“Frankfurt would allow for a more ‘social engineering’ style of hacking, where the agent would need to gain physical access to a system by convincing the people around it to allow the agent to use it. Since that would require moving people around to get to those destinations, having a central location like Frankfurt to use as a hub for your operations just makes logistics more simple and reduces the time needed to execute,” Wenzler added.
So, for example, if you needed to intercept internet traffic from Russia, and manipulate it before it’s sent across the Atlantic — Germany would be prime real estate.
But what happens now?
Berlin says it’s investigating:
Germany’s chief federal prosecutor will carefully examine a trove of new documents released by anti-secrecy group Wikileaks related to the CIA, and will launch an investigation if it sees concrete indications of wrongdoing, a spokesman said.
“We will initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators,” a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office told Reuters. “We’re looking at it very carefully.”
We obviously don’t expect the Germans to bust the CIA.
Image result for sexy merkel
Merkel licked Washington’s boots after it was revealed that her phones had been tapped by her American ally — so why would she put up a fuss about the CIA tampering with Russian data?
Image result for sexy merkel

German Prosecutor to Start Probe if Wrongdoing Seen in Wikileaks CIA Cache http://dlvr.it/NZPTmC 
 
However, this saga is far from over.
We’ve only seen a fraction of “Vault 7”.
There’s a very good chance that we will learn more about the CIA’s activities in Frankfurt.
For now, there’s good reason to believe that Germany has served as a major hub for “Russian hackers”.

Survivors of Kabul Army Hospital Attack Describe Insider Attack–Entire Staff Missing, Power Cut-Off Preceding the Event

“the so-called caliphate’s Khorasan province released an image of the jihadis. The photo can be seen above.”–LWJ


[Non-Taliban Terrorists Now Attacking Kabul Army Hospital, Across the Street From US Embassy ; IS or Taliban? Hospital raid leaves Kabul stupefied]

Surviving doctor suspects insider’s hand in hospital raid

 

 

KABUL (Pajhwok): A doctor who survived yesterday’s attack on a military hospital in Kabul said on Thursday the hospital’s electricity was disconnected moments before the assault, suspecting inside support.

The doctor, who declined to be identified, told Pajhwok Afghan News the attack involving five gunmen on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital lasted seven hours and came to an end with the killing of all the attackers.

The death toll from the Islamic State-claimed attack has risen to 49 with another 70 wounded.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sadiq Sadeqi on Thursday said the Afghan intelligence had not yet identified the group behind the attack, but had launched investigation in this regard.

The surviving doctor at the 400-bed hospital said they were busy attending patients when all of a sudden there was a big blast, shattering the widow glasses.

“We thought it was a powerful earthquake. It was a powerful blast. When a colleague went outside to know what happened, he came back quickly running and shouting we are attacked, but no one believed him.”

The doctor said the attackers had inside support. He said most of the hospital staff including senior and junior officials were absent from duty the day the attack happened.

He said the hospital electricity was suspended moments before the attack in order to insure CCTV cameras installed in the hospital did not record the attack. The electricity was restored after half an hour, he said.

“Security guards manning the hospital gate were instantly killed in the blast. The attackers dressed in white lab coats and with bags in their hands entered the hospital via the new building,” the doctor said.

He believed the attackers carried arms, ammunition and food in the bags because they resisted the security forces for several hours.

“Inside the hospital, only a watchman is deputed at the first gate to keep watch. We don’t have armed guards inside the hospital and that was why the attackers easily got inside and did their job.”

“The attackers first entered the second floor and killed doctors and patients there, then went upstairs to the third and fourth floor.”

He said most of the casualties occurred on the second floor. The dead and wounded included doctors, patients and other hospital staff.

“They were killing everyone coming their way; they were spraying with bullets doctors, nurses, patients and their relatives.”

Some patients and their attendees jumped off the second and third floors of the hospital building, breaking their limbs.

“It was like a doomsday. All were terrified, no one could help the other, people were running in all directions, and everyone looked at others with suspicion because the attackers were dressed like doctors.”

The doctor said female doctors and other staff members were in bad condition and male doctors tried to shift the female colleagues to a safe place and they did so.

Three hospital workers fearlessly went to the second and third floor and brought down the injured, saving many lives, the doctor said.

“But when the attackers spotted the three and attacked them with hand grenades, the three workers moved to safety and survived.”

The doctor said it seemed the attackers had enough information about the hospital building.

Three blasts took place inside the hospital during the attack, leaving a number of people dead and wounded, he said. He said helicopter-borne special forces killed all the attackers after a two-hour firefight.

Syria Petitions Sec. Gen. of UN Security Council To Stop Turkish Aggression

FM: Syria calls for the Secretary – General of the United Nations and the Security Council to compel Turkey to withdraw its invading forces of Syrian territory immediately

 

 

 

Damascus , ( SANA )

It asked the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Security Council and the international community to oblige Turkey to withdraw its invading forces of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic immediately and stop the attacks and maintain security and stability in the region and the world.

And it came in identical letters their destination Ministry Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the Security Council SANA received a copy of them today .. Turkish regime forces pursued during the last days aggressions treacherous on the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic and the inviolability of its territory, in flagrant violation of the UN Charter and the principle of good neighborliness and flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions on combating terrorism.

The ministry said .. represented the blind by the Turkish army to invade more territory of the Syrian Arab Republic Turkish politics and kill more Syrian citizens in Albuehj and Albogaz and Abrianh and high 543 where the existing Turkish regime forces have illegally on Syrian territory on Thursday, March 9, 2017 under the guidance fire Rmayat artillery and rockets at an Arab Syrian army positions and allied forces near a city to Manbej in rural areas of Aleppo province, it has led the Turkish shelling that targeted a border guard points to the fall of a number of martyrs and wounded.

It said the ministry .. The Syrian Arab Republic that holds the Turkish regime responsible for supporting terrorism that has killed tens of thousands of sons of innocent people, destroying Syria’s infrastructure direct instructions from the Turkish regime Prime Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his security forces, which provided all the needs of the terrorist organizations of weapons, financing and harboring and treated patients Reiterates its demand Secretary-General of the United Nations and members of the Security Council to stop the Turkish army attacks and the system of Erdogan and the AKP Almtoslm and development that can only be explained as a direct attempt to stop the successes and progress accomplished by the Syrian Arab army forces and forces allied to him in defeating these terrorist organizations and groups affiliated to restore security and stability to the countryside Aleppo and all Syrian territory.

It ministry .. The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic calls for the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Security Council and the international community to oblige Turkey to withdraw its invading forces of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic immediately what that means from a breach of international law and stop the attacks and maintain security and stability in the region and the world.

She concluded the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry of its letters saying .. Any attempt to cover up the Turkish outrages on the sovereignty of Syria and the unity of its territory was also stressed that all Security Council resolutions on Syria does not only mean keeping an explosive situation and flames in the area and it does not serve inevitably only groups terrorist and those who stand behind them supporters of terrorism as systems Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others.

The US Is Sending 2500 Man Back-Up Force To Kuwait,

The US is sending 2500 troops to Kuwait, ready to step up the fight in Syria and Iraq 

 

 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is sending an additional 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait from which they could be called upon to back up coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The deployment will include elements of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which is based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. About 1,700 soldiers from the same unit are overseas now, spread between Iraq and Kuwait. They’re focused on the U.S.-led effort to train and assist the Iraqi troops doing much of the fighting against ISIS there.

These new personnel, however, will be “postured there to do all things Mosul, Raqqa, all in between,” Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, told House lawmakers Wednesday. He was referring to the Islamic State’s two main strongholds: Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, major urban centers where U.S.-back allies are fighting a well entrenched enemy.

“So the whole brigade will now be forward,” Anderson said.

It’s unclear when this new wave of paratroopers will deploy. Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, an 82nd Airborne Division spokesman, referred additional questions to the U.S. military command in Baghdad. Officials there did not immediately respond to Military Times’ request seeking additional details.

All told, the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team includes about 4,400 soldiers who compose infantry, artillery and cavalry units, plus their supply pipeline.

Russian Oil Giant Rosneft Could Claim Half-Ownership of Citgo Oil

How Russian oil giant Rosneft could claim U.S. oil

 

 

Rosneft, an oil corporation majority-owned by the Russian government, says it has the right to claim an ownership stake in U.S. oil company Citgo Petroleum if Citgo’s cash-strapped parent company defaults on billions in loans, according to a lien Rosneft recently filed in Delaware. If that claim succeeds, Rosneft, which is run by one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, would own a sizable chunk of a company that is among the 10 largest petroleum refiners in America.

Russian ownership of a large portion of a U.S.-based oil company would be unprecedented, according to experts contacted by CBS News. Those experts also emphasize that the White House has the power to block the deal — either on national security grounds or simply by leaving in place Obama administration sanctions against Russia.

Citgo’s parent company, the Venezuela state-owned PDVSA, pledged a 49.9 percent stake in Citgo to Rosneft as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan signed on Nov. 30. That same day, attorneys for Rosneft filed the lien with the Delaware Department of State, asserting that Rosneft — whose CEO, Igor Sechin, has long been considered Putin’s right-hand man — would claim the collateralized 49.9 percent if the struggling Venezuelan debtor defaults or folds.

A PDVSA default in the near future would not be a surprise, said Praveen Kumar, who is the executive director of the Gutierrez Energy Management Institute at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business.

In fact, credit rating agency Fitch reported in January that a default at PDVSA is probable. And in September, another credit rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, downgraded PDVSA to a CCC rating — near the bottom of the junk-bond ladder — after a complex bond swap that Standard & Poor’s called “tantamount to default.” Meanwhile, Venezuela, reeling from the global collapse in oil prices since 2014, has less than $10.7 billion remaining in foreign reserves, down from $30 billion six years ago, according to the latest data from the country’s central bank.

Kumar, whose research focuses on energy finance, said a default would leave the door open for Rosneft to seize the promised stake in Citgo, a company whose U.S. holdings include three refineries and three pipelines

If [PDVSA] gets in trouble and if Rosneft thinks it’s in their best interest to grab Citgo’s assets, they’re going to grab the assets,” Kumar said.

The players involved make the deal particularly newsworthy, said Philip Jordan, an oil, gas and mineral law partner at the Dallas-based firm Gray Reed & McGraw.

“If there was a default under the loan, Rosneft would have ownership on that stock,” Jordan said. “It’s not unusual from a legal perspective — companies use stock as collateral all the time — but it’s very unusual from a geopolitical perspective to have a Russian company and a Venezuelan company doing business in Delaware [where Citgo Holdings is based].”

PDVSA is believed to owe billions of dollars to corporations that sued after the Venezuelan government seized international oil and mining operations based in the country a decade ago during President Hugo Chavez’s reign. The Rosneft lien was included as an exhibit in a federal lawsuit for alleged unpaid debts filed by ConocoPhillips, another oil company, against PDVSA. The Houston-based corporation estimates in the court filing that PDVSA owes it “multiple billions of dollars” in damages.

ConocoPhillips added Rosneft to the lawsuit after the Russian oil company and PDVSA agreed to the loan.

“The key to open all the locks here is the Venezuelan government’s desperation for cash,” Kumar said. He and other experts said PDVSA has been siphoning money from its American company to the Venezuelan government, which for more than a decade has used oil profits to subsidize social commitments.

Both ConocoPhillips and Crystallex, a Canadian mining company that is also owed more than $1 billion from PDVSA, have asked the Delaware federal court to cancel Rosneft’s lien.

Just over 50 percent of Rosneft is owned by Rosneftegaz, a Russian state agency run by Sechin, the Rosneft CEO. A 19.5 percent stake in the company was purchased in December by a consortium of investors that include the Anglo-Swiss commodities producer and trader Glencore, the Qatar Investment Authority and anonymous investors based in the Cayman Islands. The rest is owned by British oil company BP and Russia’s National Settlement Depository, a division of the Moscow stock exchange.

View note
Representatives of PDVSA, Citgo and Rosneft did not reply to requests for comment on this story.

While the terms of Rosneft’s loan to PDVSA could lead it to own nearly half of Citgo — the other 50.1 percent would remain under PDVSA control — there are two major roadblocks in its way.

U.S. sanctions against Russia

Rosneft, with $86 billion in annual revenue, is the world’s largest public oil company in terms of reserves and output. But it is barred from acquiring U.S. holdings because of sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama’s administration after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in March 2014.

However, as a candidate for president, Donald Trump expressed an openness to relaxing those sanctions, which include a ban on business transactions with dozens of companies and officials, including Rosneft and CEO Sechin.

A former British spy’s 35-page dossier about alleged communications between Trump associates and a Russian official, which has gained credibility among law enforcement, includes claims that in July Sechin met with energy industry investor Carter Page, who at the time was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. Page and Russian officials have denied the meeting occurred.

Mr. Trump said in a January interview with the Times of London that he would consider removing sanctions as part of a nuclear arms reduction deal. And ExxonMobil lobbied Congress about the sanctions while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the company’s chief executive, arguing they were harmful to U.S. business interests.

In late December, U.S. surveillance of Russian officials picked up soon-to-be National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s voice on a call with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, discussing Obama administration sanctions on Russia. It is not clear which sanctions were discussed and Flynn resigned on Feb. 13, following media reports about the call. The New York Times later reported that in early February two Trump business associates met with a Ukrainian politician about a plan to lift Russian sanctions as part of an effort to solve the violent conflict simmering between Ukraine and Russia.

Ilya Ponomarev, a Russian politician and former vice president of Yukos — which was Russia’s largest oil and gas corporation before the early 2000s, when the Russian government seized its assets, absorbing them into Rosneft — said in an interview with CBS News that Rosneft is likely betting the sanctions will be lifted.

“Right now you have Trump and he seems favorable to Russia, and so they think in a year maybe the sanctions are gone, and maybe it goes through,” said Ponomarev, during a phone call from Kiev, Ukraine, where he lives in self-imposed exile after being the lone member of Russia’s State Duma to vote against the annexation of Crimea.

Ponomarev noted that although Venezuela and Russia have long-standing friendly ties, it is unusual that they would agree to a deal involving U.S. assets.

“U.S. markets are interesting for Russian companies, but they stay away because of the sanctions,” Ponomarev said. “Generally, Rosneft is pretty cautious internationally, [because] it’s a state actor. It’s like a state ministry.”

But even if sanctions are lifted, there would still be one more hurdle that Rosneft would have to jump to assert ownership over PDVSA’s collateral after a default: the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS.

What is CFIUS?

When foreign companies make major investments in American properties, each side is expected to voluntarily file a notice with the White House committee known as CFIUS, a collection of nine Presidential Cabinet members who review the national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies. Its chair is the U.S. Treasury Secretary.

AP355545789222.jpg
Mikhail Metzel

CFIUS has never previously had so many members with ties to the oil industry. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, was closing in on an oil exploration deal with Rosneft reportedly worth in the tens of billions when the Obama administration announced the Crimea sanctions. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross purchased through his investment firm hundreds of millions of dollars in energy debt in 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been on the board of directors of two pipeline companies. All three have left their previous positions and taken steps to divest their business interests in the energy industry.

Experts interviewed by CBS News said companies involved in CFIUS reviews are not told if a committee member with potential conflicts has recused himself.

“We don’t know because of the nature of the CFIUS process, which is confidential,” said Mark Plotkin, a partner at the Washington law firm Covington & Burling, who has handled CFIUS cases

Representatives of each CFIUS member agency, as well as the White House, directed CBS News to the Treasury Department for comment when asked whether the department head would support any transaction that would allow ownership of U.S. oil properties by a Russian state-owned firm. A spokesperson for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to comment beyond noting that “information filed with CFIUS may not be disclosed to the public.”

In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, CFIUS reviewed 147 filings, rejecting one. Another 12 filings were withdrawn during the review process.

While rejections are rare, there have been cases in which foreign state-operated companies have withdrawn their bids due to political pressure. In 2005, for instance, the Chinese state-owned oil and gas company CNOOC cancelled its $18.5 billion bid for U.S. oil company Unocal after members of Congress sought to extend CFIUS’ review of the case.

Every expert contacted by CBS News predicted the Rosneft transaction would meet similar, if not fiercer opposition.

LeJ…Mother of All Taliban

LeJ leads international terrorist organisations in Pakistan  

 

LeJ leads international terrorist organisations in Pakistan   

KARACHI: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a proscribed organization, left with only a 10 percent effective network has become the leader of international terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al-Qaida and TTP in the country, particularly in the port city of Karachi , the largest city of Sindh, and Quetta, the largest city of Baluchistan, officials involved in anti terrorist operations have revealed.

LeJ’s terror activities after many years of calm had resurfaced in the middle of last year, 2016, which drew attention of intelligence agencies as some of its key members were effectively neutralized.

The Organization is still the prime target of law enforcement agencies LEAs for its close liaison with banned “Jamat-ul-Ahrar”. Most of the organization’s activists have gone underground to escape arrests.

The officials claim that LeJ’s almost 90 percent network has been disabled by eliminating its top leadership.

According to the officials, LeJ ties with ISIS surfaced last year when terrorists attacked the police academy in Quetta in October.

The group is active in Karachi and Quetta with two deferent off-shoot groups namely the Naeem Bukhari Group in Karachi and LeJ Al-Aalmi in Quetta, after the start of operation “Zarb-e-Azb” the leadership and its workers went underground while the members of TTP and Al-Qaida fled to Afghanistan and from there they launched terror attacks inside Pakistan with the help of LeJ due to its extensive penetration.

It is pertinent to mention here that on Monday the Counter Terrorism Department CTD Sindh had busted a sleeper cell of LeJ Naeem Bukhari Group by killing it chief “Dildar Chacha” and arresting four complies. The raiding team had also recovered a huge cache of explosives and rocket launchers.

The leader of the group Naeem Bukhari was arrested by the intelligence agencies in January this year. Bukhari, said to be expert in terror networking, had formed sub groups with difference tasks assigned to them including target killings, bomb making and financial support.

Turkey sees a threat in U.S. plan against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria

Turkey sees a threat in U.S. plan against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria

 

 

 

ANKARA, Turkey —  U.S.-Turkey relations would be harmed if the United States goes ahead with its plan to partner with a Kurdish militia in Syria to clear the Islamic State from its de facto capital of Raqqa, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Thursday.

Turkey will not participate in the Raqqa operation, Yildirim said, if the U.S. does not heed the warning that was repeated this week by several Turkish politicians here, .

The U.S. military says it has already begun isolating Raqqa with Syrian Arab forces allied with the a Kurdish militia linked to a Kurdish separatist group that the State Department has designated as a terrorist organization.

Time is of the essence because the fight for Raqqa will be easier while the Islamic State leadership is preoccupied with defending western Mosul, the militants’ last stronghold in Iraq, Col. John Dorrian, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told USA TODAY.

“This operation should be carried out jointly by the U.S. and Turkey,” Yildirim said during a lunch with several American journalists at his office compound in Turkey’s capital. “You cannot use one terror organization to fight another terrorist organization.”

He warned that if the United States insists on working with the Kurds in Syria, “the friendship between the United States and Turkey will be damaged.”

Yildirim said Turkey can prove that weapons the U.S. supplied to Kurdish allies have been used against Turkish forces by Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. Dorian said the U.S. military has not seen “any evidence the (Kurdish force) is doing anything to threaten Turkey.”

The U.S., Turkey and other members of the coalition fighting the Islamic State have been consulting for months about the makeup of the force that will participate in the Raqqa operation, Dorrian said.

“For months, we have said we are open to a Turkish role in liberating the city,” he said. But the liberating force should reflect the city’s Arab population, “so you have a legitimate force ruling there,” he said.

The Turkish-backed forces have yet to field a group large enough to tackle Raqqa and had a difficult time in liberating Al Bab, which “was a much smaller problem set,” he said.

The Kurdish militia has secured major roads in and out of Raqqa, disrupting the Islamic State’s ability to replenish manpower and supplies, as well as the group’s ability to launch attacks on targets in the United States and Europe, Dorrian said.

The attack on the city could happen as soon as coalition partners decide on the makeup of the force, but it will go easier, meaning fewer coalition casualties while the fight in Mosul in ongoing, he said.

“The more problems they have at the same time, the more overwhelmed they’re going to be,” he said. “The command and control of (the Islamic State) has not been able to handle that in the past.”

Yildirim said he hopes President Trump will abandon what Turkey considers the flawed policy of former president Barack Obama, whose administration developed the current Raqqa campaign.

Turkey wants Raqqa liberated by Syrian Arab troops it trained and supported in recent battles to free the cities of  Al Bab and Jarabolus from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Those Turkish-supported forces recently took up positions near Manbij, where they clashed with Arab forces allied with the U.S.-backed Kurdish force.

Adding to the tensions in the region: Last week, those Kurdish militias were displaced by Russian-backed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Now the Turkish-backed forces cannot advance toward Raqqa without dealing with Assad’s troops and Russia’s air force.

And Turkey, whose leaders have called for Assad’s ouster since the civil war began six years ago, will never cooperate with his regime, Yildirim said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to Moscow Friday to discuss this issue, among others, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow Refutes False Al-Jazeera Reports Suggesting “Green Light” To Attack Hezbollah In Syria

(TASS) Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected information on Thursday that Moscow would allegedly allow Israel to fight Hezbollah Islamist militant group from the Syrian airspace.

“I cannot comment on the information. This has nothing to do with reality,” the presidential spokesman said.

According to the spokesman, this theme “was not discussed.”

“There is no talk about that,” Peskov added.

The Qatar-based TV Channel Al-Jazeera earlier reported, citing a source close to the Israeli prime minister, that Moscow would allegedly allow Israel to fight Hezbollah from the Syrian airspace.