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American Resistance To Empire

US Congress Debates the Unthinkable…Forever War, Made “Legitimate” By Legislation

Damir Sagolj / Reuters
A rising generation of Americans has never known peace.

Very soon, in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Somalia or Libya or perhaps elsewhere, an 18-year-old man or woman will be deployed by the United States military to risk his or her life in a War on Terror that began before they were even born.

Already, every single spring, roughly 3.5 million high-school graduates reach adulthood with no memory of a time when their country wasn’t waging multiple wars.

The United States is at war in so many places, against so many groups, that the majority of citizens would struggle to name half of them—and no reader can name all of them, unless an official with access to highly classified information is among us, because the identities of some of the groups the United States is fighting are state secrets.

Last year, when four American fighters died in Niger, multiple United States senators declared their surprise that the military they oversee had troops deployed in that country.

The American public elected successive presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who expressed skepticism of foreign wars that they did not then end. Members of the U.S. Congress have been unwilling to endorse several of the wars that successive presidents waged anyway, despite their unpopularity and illegality. Last Friday, one American was killed and four wounded in fighting in Somalia, though it is unlikely that a proposal to put boots on the ground there would pass.

The need for Congress to act—to rein in the president, to protect American blood and treasure, to preserve republican government, and to reassert its lawful, constitutional authority over war—has never been more urgent, with the single exception of the years of fighting in Vietnam, another conflict that began without a declaration of war and stretched across multiple presidencies, resulting in the deaths of 58,220 Americans.

To avert a like catastrophe, prominent Republicans and Democrats have been urging Congress to reassert itself on the matter of where the president is permitted to wage war and expressing their belief that the status quo undermines the rule of law.

President Trump’s saber-rattling only adds urgency to the question.

But incredibly, the most widely supported effort to improve on the  Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a resolution that has been stretched past the breaking point by successive presidents, would actually legalize war in all of the places it is presently being waged and radically increase the president’s ability to legally expand the Forever War.

Proposed by Senators Tim Kaine and Bob Corker, its radicalism approaches that of a constitutional amendment. Their new AUMF would subvert an article at the core of the Constitution, gutting a vital protection against tyranny devised by the Framers. It would authorize multiple existing wars without even debating them individually. It would empower Trump and his successors to unilaterally wage war in new countries, expand their ability to indefinitely detain prisoners without charges, and empower them to unilaterally kill individuals even inside the United States.

In opposition, the ACLU has declared, “It would be hard to overstate the depth and breadth of the dangers to the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights that the Corker-Kaine AUMF would cause … The Corker-Kaine AUMF would cause colossal harm to the Constitution’s checks and balances, would jeopardize civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, would lead to a broad expansion of war without meaningful oversight, and would represent a sharp break from adherence to international law, including the United Nations Charter.”

The Fox News host Andrew Napolitano declared in testimony to Congress that “the legislation would give the president far more powers than he has now, would directly violate Congress’s war-making powers by ceding them away to the president, would defy the Supreme Court on the unconstitutionality of  giving  away core governmental  functions, would commit the U.S. to foreign wars without congressional and thus popular support, and would invite dangerous mischief by any president wanting to attack any enemy—real or imagined, old or new—for foreign or domestic political  purposes, whether American interests are at stake or not.”

And in his view it would be unconstitutional.

“Just because the branch of government that is losing power consents to that loss does not make it Constitutional,” he argued. “The Separation of Powers Doctrine was not written to preserve the power or the hegemony of the three branches for their own sake, but rather to preserve human liberty by keeping the branches at tension.”

Yet the law might well pass. And for that reason, while there is still time to stop it, the bill warrants the attention of every adult American, regardless of party or clique.


Before going further, it is important to understand exactly what the proposed law says, and why some well-meaning legislators believe that passing it is a prudent course.

  1. The bill would authorize the president to wage ongoing wars against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in Syria, the Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya.
  2. The bill would create a way for the president to lawfully wage counterterrorism campaigns against those terrorist organizations in still other countries, and to add still other groups or individuals as “associated forces.”
  3. More specifically, to wage war in a new country, or against a new group or person, Trump would merely have to notify Congress within 48 hours. Legislators would review his expansion of war and could vote to stop it—but that congressional “no” would be subject to a presidential veto, so it would effectively take a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to stop any expansion of war. (Waging war against a new country would still be governed by the War Powers Resolution of 1973—not that presidents generally adhere to that law.)
  4. It would repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization.
  5. It would expand the list of those vulnerable to indefinite detention without charges or trial by applying a former National Defense Authorization Act to new groups.

For proponents, those provisions are attractive because they bring existing wars under the color of law; define what groups count as “associated forces” of al-Qaeda; force the president to notify Congress upon adding a new associated force—which doesn’t always happen now—and force a legislative debate; and guarantee no White House lawyer can misuse the Iraq War AUMF.

That isn’t nothing.

Kaine’s thinking is perhaps illuminated by an anecdote he related on the Senate floor last year while discussing the notification provision in his proposed law. In April of 2014, he said, the Department of the Navy solicited contractual bids for “personnel recovery, casualty evacuation, and search and rescue” in “high risk environments” in 14 countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Tunisia.

“Only five of those 14 countries have ever been notified to Congress pursuant to war-powers letters, but we were planning to engage in casualty evacuation in connection with high-risk activities in all of these countries in Africa,” Kaine said. “I’d like a process that informs Congress and informs the public equal to what we put in contracting documents to inform military contractors.”

That would be nice. The oft-violated War Powers Resolution ought to do the trick already; still, a new law that forced public disclosure of all warring might prove useful. But even as the Corker-Kaine bill attempts to wrest new information about where the president is waging war, it undercuts Congress’s ability to do anything about it, as if gaining a bit of transparency is worth trading away the war power itself.

Senator Rand Paul has rightly objected that the bill flips the Constitution on its head. “This authorization transfers the power to name the enemy and its location from Congress to the president,” Paul observed. “Worse yet,” he added, “this authorization changes the nature of declaring war from an affirmative vote of a simple majority to a negative, supermajority vote to disapprove of presidential wars. So if the president defines a new associated force that our military will attack, Congress can only stop that president with a two-thirds vote to overcome his veto.”

Napolitano sharpened the point in testimony to Congress. “So a president with one-third plus one vote in either House of Congress can wage war on any target at any time the president chooses,” he fumed. “That is so contrary to what Madison intended, so contrary to the plain meaning of the Constitution, so violative of the separation of powers as to be a rejection of the oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. And none of you wants to reject that oath.”

The legal scholar Jonathan Turley most effectively underscored how anathema the proposal would be to the Framers who so deliberately vested the war power in Congress.

“This is one of the few points on which there was almost unanimity [at the Constitutional Convention],” he explained. “I say almost because Pierce Butler actually proposed to give this entire power to the president of the United States. He didn’t receive a second. He spoke to a room of Framers and made that proposal, and not a single one seconded that motion. That was one of the most important moments of our republic. That silence, the absence of a sound, shows where we began.”

And one needn’t care at all about the views of the Framers to see the dangerous implications of empowering the president today as the Corker-Kaine bill would do.

“Do I want my son going to war with al-Shabbab in Somalia?” Christopher Anders of the ACLU asked. “My son can’t find Somalia on a map,” he declared. “Probably very few people in this room know what al-Shabbab is.” Yet under the law being considered, “if the president wants to send 200,000 troops there and go all out in house-to-house fighting, as we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, he can do that.”

Or say, for instance, that President Trump wanted to invade Pakistan, a nuclear power, with a force of 50,000 American troops. Even after the reckless precedents that Obama set with the constitutionally dubious arguments he offered to justify his illegal intervention in Libya, and the similarly dubious arguments Trump offered to justify his illegal bombing of Syria, a ground invasion of Pakistan would be hugely difficult to justify without the imprimatur of Congress.

But if Corker-Kaine becomes law, Trump could simply order the invasion, then notify Congress that he intended to wage war in a new country where the Taliban operates. And he would be perfectly within the law to start deploying troops without advance permission or notification, and to keep doing so even if majorities in the House and Senate were against him, so long as even a third of either chamber declined to order him to reverse the expansion of the Forever War.

Now say Trump wanted to wage war in Mexico. He might do so within the law by declaring a drug cartel that trafficked in Afghan opium to be an associated force of the Taliban.

Hours after the first drone strikes fell on Ciudad Juarez, he could notify Congress that he was targeting a new associated force in a new country. Once again, a majority of Congress could vote against him without stopping the war. The law’s failure to exclude the United States as a country that the president can add, and language that allows individuals to be added as “associated forces,” even raises the specter of drone strikes or other targeted killings on American soil—something many today would consider not only unlawful, but an impeachable offense.

Little wonder that Turley considers the law worse than the current AUMF. “It will make this body a pedestrian to war,” he said. “It will put war-making on autopilot. And this law does not even have a sunset provision. It just goes on. Under the former AUMFs, we’ve gone through 17 years of war. Adopt this proposal and we’ll have 170 more. It will revise the Constitution without an amendment.”

At Just Security, Tess Bridgeman offers several changes to the legislation that would allow Congress to retain more control. “First and foremost,” she writes, “a new AUMF could explicitly state that it does not authorize the use of force against ‘associated forces’ beyond those named in the statute, and that the President must come back to Congress and seek authority to use force when necessary.”

The same should go for combat in new countries. And rather than requiring mere congressional debate on ongoing wars every four years, “the new AUMF should sunset in 4 years,” Bridgeman writes. “Congress can reauthorize force just as it reauthorizes other extraordinary authorities, and a decision not to do so should be taken seriously.” She concludes that “if Congress truly wants to reassert its role in authorizing military force, which I strongly believe it should do, it should not hand the President the permanent authority to expand the conflict unless a veto-proof supermajority can be mustered to stop him.”

There are those in Congress who agree. Representative Barbara Lee, the lone member of Congress to predict the Forever War that the post-9/11 AUMF ushered in, warned in an open letter, “I have grave concerns about the current proposal authored by Senator Bob Corker and Senator Tim Kaine that would continue our state of perpetual war.” Paul organized a hearing against the bill, where Senators Sanders, Lee, Udall, Peters, and Merkely shared their misgivings. But the fate of the proposal remains unclear.

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

US Drops Threatened Opposition To Russian/German Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline

[SEE: Trump Threatens Economic Warfare Against Germany If Nord Stream 2 Is Built ]

Pass the peace pipe: US promises Germany to leave Russian gas pipeline alone

Pass the peace pipe: US promises Germany to leave Russian gas pipeline alone
Germany’s Economy Ministry said Berlin was assured by the United States that any punitive measures introduced against Moscow wouldn’t affect the building of gas pipelines from Russia.

The ministry’s spokesperson said Germany opposed sanctions with extraterritorial effect but, in the specific case of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany, guidelines that had been provided by Washington suggested that the construction would be unaffected, Reuters reports.

Earlier, Washington repeatedly voiced disapproval of the Nord Stream 2 project, pledging to introduce sanctions against European firms participating in the building of the gas pipeline. The project, led by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom, is being implemented in cooperation with German energy firms Wintershall and Uniper, French multinational Engie, British-Dutch oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell and Austrian energy company OMV.

The US administration claimed that the pipeline, aimed at delivering Russian gas to Germany, undermined Europe’s energy security and stability. The White House threatened to sanction project participants using a provision in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), approved by US Congress last summer.

The natural gas pipeline, which is of great importance for Germany along with the other EU nations, has been repeatedly opposed by smaller members of the European Union. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Hungary have severely criticized the project. On Thursday, Hungarian Foreign and Foreign Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto accused the bloc of applying double standards to Nord Stream 2.

“We are not part of the project, we can’t resist it. But I can say there are unacceptable double standards,” the minister told Sputnik, stressing that the former South Stream project, which could provide diversification of gas supplies for Central Europe was “killed” by the EU. “And now we don’t see any encouragement on the part of the European Commission. I can’t imagine any excuses or reasons the Commission could bring,” he said.

Another Eastern European country opposed to the project has been Ukraine, which fears the pipeline may deprive its budget of transit fees.

Syrian Army Cleans-Up On Terrorists In Daraa, To Border w/Golan

Syrian Opposition Ignores US Advice on Daraa

“Commander of the Southern Front factions Colonel Khaled Al-Nabulsi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the group ignored the US advice by choosing to confront regime forces and their allied militias.”

 

 

Jordanian Official Reports Cease-fire in Southern Syria as Nasrallah Hails ‘Very Big Victory’

 

 

An Assad regime-offensive has made rapid gains against insurgents, causing a wave of refugees to amass near the Syria-Israel border

Smoke rises above opposition held areas of the Daraa province countryside during airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on June 27, 2018
Smoke rises above opposition held areas of the Daraa province countryside during airstrikes by Syrian regime forces on June 27, 2018MOHAMAD ABAZEED/AFP 

A ceasefire has been agreed for southern Syria between the government and rebels, a Jordanian official source said on Friday, amid fears of a gathering humanitarian catastrophe in a region sensitive to neighbours Jordan and Israel.

The source did not elaborate further on the reports of an agreement in the territory where Syrian government forces have been waging an offensive to regain rebel-held territory since last week.

“Haaretz has reported that officers from the Free Syrian Army, that is operating in the Dara area, have sent messages to Syrian government forces in recent days saying that they will lay down their weapons if they are allowed to stay in their villages and homes.”

DaraaGoogle Maps 

In Washington, a State Department official said the United Sattes could not confirm the truce report, and the situation in southern Syria remained “grim” with Russia and Syrian government forces continuing to bomb the area.

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, which fights alongside Damascus, said meanwhile that a “very big victory” was near in southern Syria, where pro-government forces have made rapid gains in Deraa province. State media said troops had marched into several towns and a rebel official said opposition front lines had collapsed.

Government forces backed by Russian air power have turned their focus to the southwest since defeating the last remaining besieged insurgent pockets including eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.

A war monitor said the offensive has uprooted more than 120,000 civilians in the southwest since it began last week. Tens of thousands of people have fled towards the border with Jordan and thousands more to the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel and Jordan — which already hosts over 666,000 U.N. registered refugees — say they will not let refugees in.

“We left under bombardment, barrel bombs, (air strikes by) Russian and Syrian warplanes,” said Abu Khaled al-Hariri, 36, who fled from al-Harak town to the Golan frontier with his wife and five children.

Makeshift encampments housing Syrians fleeing from Daraa, as seen from the Israeli side of the Golan

“We are waiting for God to help us, for tents, blankets, mattresses, aid for our children to eat and drink.”

President Bashar al-Assad has pressed ahead with the offensive despite U.S. warnings of “serious repercussions”. Washington has told rebels not to expect military support against the assault.

The campaign has shattered a “de-escalation” deal negotiated by the United States, Russia and Jordan that had mostly contained fighting in the southwest since last year.

A Jordanian official source told Reuters there were confirmed reports of a ceasefire in southern Syria that would lead to “reconciliation” between opposition and government forces. The source did not elaborate.

Jordan has been facilitating talks between rebel factions and Moscow over a deal that would end the violence in return for the return state rule to Deraa province.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein warned that many civilians risk being trapped between government forces, rebels, and Islamic State which has a small foothold there – an outcome he said would be a “catastrophe”.

“The real concern is that we are going to see a repetition of what we saw in eastern Ghouta – the bloodshed, the suffering, the civilians being held, being under a siege,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said the campaign has killed at least 98 civilians since June 19.

Residents celebrate the army's arrival in the formerly rebel-held town of Ibta, northeast of Deraa city, Syria in this handout released on June 29, 2018
Residents celebrate the army’s arrival in the formerly rebel-held town of Ibta, northeast of Deraa city, Syria in this handout released on June 29, 2018\ SANA/ REUTERS 

The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri has decried “U.S. silence” over the offensive and said only a “malicious deal” could explain the lack of a U.S. response.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump will have a detailed discussion about Syria when they meet in July.

The war has been going Assad’s way since Russia intervened on his side in 2015, when he held just a fraction of the country. Today he commands the single largest part of Syria, though much of the north and east is outside his control.

Syrian troops have seized a swathe of rebel territory northeast of Deraa city. State TV broadcast scenes of what they said were locals celebrating the army’s arrival in the formerly rebel-held town of Ibta and said rebels turned in their weapons.

The assault has so far targeted Deraa, not rebel-held parts of nearby Quneitra province at the Golan which are more sensitive to Israel.
State media said that government forces seized al-Harak and Rakham towns, and that insurgents in four other towns agreed to surrender their arms and make “reconciliation” deals.

A series of offensives and local deals – accept state rule or leave – has helped Damascus suppress insurgent bastions across western Syria.
“Most of the (people in) the eastern villages have fled to west Deraa and to Quneitra,” said Abu Shaima, a Free Syrian Army rebel spokesman. Another rebel official said some towns were trying to negotiate deals with the state on their own. “There was a collapse in the eastern front yesterday,” he added. “The front in Deraa city is steadfast.”

Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman, speaking by phone, said some people had also fled to government territory, while others crossed to a corner of southwest Syria held by an Islamic State-affiliated group.

Jordan reiterated its position that newly displaced Syrians must be helped inside Syria. “Jordan has reached its capacity in receiving refugees,” Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the pan-Arab broadcaster al-Jazeera late on Thursday.

Israel transferred aid to Syrians seeking refuge near border in overnight mission

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, in an interview with Tel Aviv Radio 102FM, said: “I think we must prevent the entry of refugees from Syria to Israel, in the past we have prevented such cases.”

The Israeli military said an increased number of civilians had been spotted in refugee camps on the Syrian side of the Golan over the past few days, and that it had overnight sent aid supplies at four locations to people fleeing hostilities.

The IDF raised Thursday its alert level in the Golan Heights in light of the recent escalation in the fighting in southern Syria between the Assad regime and rebel militias and the Syrian army’s increasing proximity to the Israeli border.

Israel isn’t expecting a direct confrontation with the Syrian army, but it is preparing for possibility of spillover effects from the regime’s attack, with Russian and Iranian assistance, on the Daraa region, which is just sixty kilometers from the Israeli border.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot flew to Washington on Thursday for a quick meeting with his U.S. counterpart. On Sunday, the security cabinet will meet to discuss the home front’s preparedness for a war in the north.

Eisenkot’s meeting with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, was arranged over the past few days. The two will mainly discuss events in Syria, as well as their countries’ joint effort to restrain Iran’s military intervention in the region.

US-Repackaged Anti-Iranian Terrorist Group Finds A Soft Spot In The Bosom of Trump Republicans

Rudy Giuliani is pictured. | AP Photo
Rudy Giuliani applauds as a video is displayed before he speaks at the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights on May 5. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Giuliani, Gingrich to address controversial Iranian group

The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, formerly considered a terrorist group, has several friends close to Trump and is seeing some of its longtime goals advanced.

Two close confidants of President Donald Trump are scheduled to speak Saturday before a controversial Iranian opposition group previously designated as a terrorist outfit, raising fresh questions about the group’s Washington influence as Trump pursues a pressure campaign against Tehran.

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and informal adviser Newt Gingrich are listed as headliners for Saturday’s “Free Iran” conference in Paris, organized by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and its affiliates. For 15 years, the U.S. designated the MEK a terrorist group, while analysts describe it as a cult – both allegations the group rejects.

The MEK holds frequent conferences, but this weekend’s gathering comes at a heady moment for the group. Several of the politicians it has cultivated in recent years, with the help of handsome speaking fees, are now key figures in Trump’s orbit — including not only Giuliani and Gingrich but National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Trump has also taken several steps in line with the group’s desire to oust Iran’s Islamist rulers. They include Trump’s exit from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the MEK repeatedly criticized, and increased sanctions and other pressure that some Trump aides hope will weaken the regime in Tehran.

On Tuesday, a State Department official announced that other nations, including China and India, must stop purchasing Iranian oil by Nov. 4 or face U.S. sanctions. Iran is already experiencing significant economic pain, sparking a series of recent protests that have rekindled hopes in Washington for a popular revolution that would install a more moderate government.

State Department and White House officials declined to speak on the record or on background when asked whether the Trump administration has had any contact with the MEK or its affiliates, and it’s not clear whether Gingrich, Giuliani or Bolton have discussed the group with Trump.

Giuliani did not respond to requests for comment, but the former New York City mayor has spoken at MEK events in the past, leading chants in recent months of “regime change” and openly talking about the possibility of MEK rule in Iran. Gingrich, another long-time MEK backer, confirmed that he will attend the Paris event.

In emails, Gingrich declined to discuss his conversations with Trump, but he argued that the MEK has been unfairly “maligned.” “In meetings I have been in they draw very large, enthusiastic crowds and have sustained a spirit of opposition,” Gingrich wrote. “Their sources inside Iran including reporting on recent mass demonstrations indicate a level of support greater than any other group I have seen.”

The appearance of Giuliani and Gingrich at the conference “underscores once more how some of Trump’s top surrogates are advocates of regime change in Iran,” said Dartmouth University’s Daniel Benjamin, a former Obama administration counterterrorism official with expertise on the MEK.

The MEK, which reportedly pays its speakers tens of thousands of dollars, has enlisted allies from across the U.S. political spectrum. Other scheduled speakers listed by the group for Saturday include former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, and Fran Townsend, who served as homeland security adviser in the Republican presidential administration of George W. Bush.

Officials involved with the MEK and its more polished affiliate, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, did not answer multiple requests for comment.

The Clinton administration designated the MEK a terrorist group in 1997 due to its decades-long armed campaign against Iran’s current theocratic regime and its predecessor, the U.S.-backed monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The MEK is alleged to have carried out a string of bombings in the 1970s that killed several Americans then in Iran, including military personnel. The MEK, which was founded by a group of leftists and has some Marxist ideological roots, also earned the enmity of many Iranians because of its support for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

The Obama administration reversed the group’s terrorist designation in 2012 amid arguments that the group had shed its militant past. The group’s defenders say it is waging a heroic fight against Iran’s repressive theocratic government, and note that it has supplied some useful intelligence about events within Iran, including about the country’s nuclear program. The MEK and its affiliates say they support a secular democratic government in Iran.

However, many analysts say that, even if it no longer espouses violence, the MEK has come to resemble a cult. It imposes strict rules on members, its funding sources are mysterious and it has little genuine support within Iran. The MEK is led by Maryam Rajavi, and, supposedly, her husband Massoud, who has not been seen publicly in years.

Despite what the MEK may hope for from the Trump administration, aides to the president have denied that regime change is an official U.S. goal. But Iran experts say the administration’s policy suggests otherwise.

In the spring of last year, for instance, Joel Rayburn, a senior National Security Council official who deals with the Middle East, spoke with Washington think-tanks experts about the possibility of creating a coalition of Iranian minority groups — such as the Kurds, the Baluch or the Azeris — to try to topple the regime, according to a former senior Trump administration official. (National Security Council spokesmen declined to offer comment.)

Since his May 8 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, Trump has re-imposed a raft of sanctions directly on Iran. He is also threatening to sanction European and other countries that do business with the country.

Soon after, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech laying out U.S. grievances with Iran and listing 12 demands that many analysts said were tantamount to a call for regime change. In the days afterward, Pompeo downplayed that idea.

“It’s not about changing the regime,” he told Voice of America’s Persian language service. “It’s about changing the behavior of the leadership in Iran to comport with what the Iranian people really want them to do.”

The new economic pressure from Washington is taking a toll on Iran. Several large European companies have said they’ll quit the Iranian market to avoid potential U.S. penalties. Further rattling Iran’s economy were remarks from a State Department official, speaking on background to reporters Tuesday, who said the Trump administration expects other countries to stop purchasing Iranian oil, the country’s top export.

The news, which rocked oil markets, further dashed the hopes of Iranians who believed the nuclear deal might transform the country’s economy but have endured continued economic stagnation. That contributed to a wave of demonstrations in December and January which were snuffed by a harsh government crackdown that reportedly left at least 25 dead and thousands arrested.

Protests have flared again in recent days, apparently driven by economic grievances. As in the December-January protests, there were also hard-to-verify reports of Iranians openly criticizing the regime and demanding that it stop spending money on military activities in other countries and invest more on its citizens at home.

The senior State Department official who spoke to reporters on Tuesday seized that narrative.

“Iranians are basically fed up with the regime squandering the nation’s wealth on not-particularly productive ventures abroad,” the official said. “This situation exists because of the regime’s behavior.”

Still, some Iran experts warned that any Trump administration effort to try to take credit for the protests could backfire, especially given many Iranians’ dim views of Trump. Far from seeing the U.S. president as their ally against the Islamist regime, many instead despise Trump for imposing a travel ban, upheld this week by the Supreme Court, that bars most Iranians from setting foot on U.S. soil.

“Iranians are both bitter about American pressure and their own government,” said Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution, who added, however, that, “one way or another the regime will try to discredit and taint those who dissent as somehow driven by outside support or orchestration.”

Another Iran analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that even if the protesters are tired of the current regime, that doesn’t mean they have any sympathy for the MEK.

“Iranians don’t want to replace one regime with another,” he said. The MEK is “a regime in exile tied to Marxism. They just don’t have the backing in Iran.”

Still, the Trump administration appears eager to fan the unrest, especially online.

The web site of America’s “virtual embassy in Iran” – the U.S. has no formal diplomatic presence in Iran – is filled with statements and announcements bashing the Iranian government on issues such as human rights and terrorism.

The Iran unit at the State Department also operates a Twitter feed in the Persian language that has been unusually aggressive under Trump.

One tweet, sent out in mid-February, features a menacing caricature of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, saying the phrase “A resistance economy” even as a chart behind him shows the falling value of Iran’s currency. “How would you describe this cartoon?” the tweet asks readers.

On Tuesday, it tweeted a poll asking if readers thought Iran’s economic condition was adequate.

Pompeo, too, has gotten in on act. Using his official Twitter handle, the secretary of state has sent out a series of images and comments in recent days emphasizing the plight of ordinary Iranians. On Wednesday, Pompeo tweeted out a photo that appeared to show Iranians protesting.

“It should surprise no one #IranProtests continue,” he wrote. “People are tired of the corruption, injustice & incompetence of their leaders. The world hears their voice.”

The messages on the U.S. diplomatic accounts in many ways echo the extensive social media network set up by the MEK and its affiliates, which also hype any instance of protest in Iran. In recent days, the group’s Twitter accounts have frequently re-tweeted Pompeo’s comments, while prominently featuring news of Trump’s efforts to re-impose sanctions.

Iraq Stages Tit for Tat Revenge Executions of ISIS Terrorists, After Islamic State Murders 8 Iraqi Civilians

[FACING THE NOOSE:  Hundreds of ISIS terrorists including 100 foreign women to be executed immediately by Iraq in revenge for hostage killing]

Iraq Executes Twelve ISIS Terrorists In Response To Killing Of Captives

Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after expelling the terrorists from all major towns and cities in a vast offensive.

Iraq Executes Twelve ISIS Terrorists In Response To Killing Of Captives

The terrorists were immediately condemned to death after they exhausted all of their appeals.

Baghdad:Iraq executed a dozen death row terrorists on the order of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, his office said Friday, in retaliation for the ISIS group’s murder of eight captives.

The executions on Thursday came shortly after Abadi ordered the “immediate” implementation of the death sentences of hundreds of convicted terrorists in response to the killings by ISIS.

“By order of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, 12 terrorists sentenced to death (whose appeals were exhausted) were executed on Thursday,” a statement released by Abadi’s office said.

It did not specify how they were executed but death sentences in terrorism-related cases are usually carried out by hanging.

More than 300 people, including around 100 foreign women, have been condemned to death in Iraq and hundreds of others to life imprisonment for membership of ISIS, a judicial source said in April.

Abadi, who has faced charges of failing to respond in force to ISIS, on Thursday ordered “the immediate punishment of terrorists condemned to death” whose appeals have been exhausted, his office said.

He vowed to avenge the deaths of the eight ISIS captives, a day after their bodies were found along a highway north of Baghdad.

“Our security and military forces will take forceful revenge against these terrorist cells,” he told senior military officials and ministers.

“We promise that we will kill or arrest those who committed this crime,” he added.

Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after expelling the terrorists from all major towns and cities in a vast offensive.

COMMENT

But the Iraqi military has kept up operations targeting mostly remote desert areas where terrorists have continued to carry out attacks.

Is A New Civil War Inevitable?

https://youtu.be/-1Fu3g1MGHY

Is America headed toward a civil war? Sanders, Nielsen incidents show it has already begun

A second member of the Trump administration was hounded at a restaurant in less than a week. This time it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Susana Victoria Perez has more. Buzz60

Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen experiences at restaurants suggest a ‘soft’ civil war is well underway. It will get worse unless we learn to stop hating each other.

The other day, author Tom Ricks asked whether we’re heading toward a civil war. “I don’t believe we’re to Kansas of the 1850s yet. But we seem to be lurching … in that direction,” he wrote.

Ricks was commenting on “What Democratic rage would look like,” a Bloomberg opinion column that quotes political scientist Thomas Schaller as saying, “I think we’re at the beginning of a soft civil war. … I don’t know if the country gets out of it whole.”

That sounds pretty serious. The column by Francis Wilkinson presents a catalog of things Democrats are mad about — from the existence of the electoral college to Trump’s “propaganda apparatus” — and predicts that if Democrats lose the midterm elections, there will be hell to pay. (And Republicans, you know, could make a similar list of their own complaints.)

“I don’t know exactly what that would look like,” Wilkinson writes. “But liberals have a great deal of cultural, academic and economic heft, stretching from Hollywood to Harvard. Just this week, someHollywood powerhouses flirted with leveraging their clout against the Trumpist Fox News. There are endless variations on such a power play. If Democrats opt to use their power more aggressively — breaking rules — Schaller’s soft civil war hardly seems unlikely.”

The civil war is already starting

Well, actually this sort of thing seems to be well underway. Hollywood has basically turned its products, and its award shows, into showcases for “the resistance.” Americans are already sorting themselves into communities that are predominantly red or blue. And in heavily blue Washington, D.C., Trump staffers find that a lot of people don’t want to date them because of their politics.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was even kicked out of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because the owner and employees disliked her politics. This seems like a small thing, but it would have been largely unthinkable a generation ago.

And, in a somewhat less “soft” manifestation, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was bullied out of a restaurant by an angry anti-Trump mob, and a similar mob also showed up outside of her home.

Will it get worse? Probably. To have a civil war, soft or otherwise, takes two sides. But as pseudonymous tweeter Thomas H. Crown notes, it’s childishly easy in these days to identify people in mobs, and then to dispatch similar mobs to their homes and workplaces. Eventually, he notes, it becomes “protesters all the way down, and if we haven’t yet figured out that can lead to political violence, we’re dumb.”

Apparently, some of us are dumb or else want violence. As Crown warns, “We carefully erected civil peace to avoid this sort of devolution-to-a-mob. It is a great civilizational achievement and it is intensely fragile.” Yes, it is indeed fragile, and many people will miss it when it’s entirely gone.

Marriage counselors say that when a couple view one another with contempt, it’s a top indicator that the relationship is likely to fail. Americans, who used to know how to disagree with one another without being mutually contemptuous, seem to be forgetting this. And the news media, which promote shrieking outrage in pursuit of ratings and page views, are making the problem worse.

What would make things better? It would be nice if people felt social ties that transcend politics. Americans’ lives used to involve a lot more intermediating institutions — churches, fraternal organizations, neighborhoods — that crossed political lines. Those have shrunk and decayed, and in fact, for many people politics seems to have become a substitute for religion or fraternal organizations. If you find your identity in your politics, you’re not going to identify with people who don’t share them.

The rules of bourgeois civility also helped keep things in check, but of course those rules have been shredded for years. We may come to miss them.

America had one disastrous civil war, and those who fought it did a surprisingly good job of coming together afterward, realizing how awful it was to have a political divide that set brother against brother. Let us hope that we will not have to learn that lesson again in a similar fashion.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself,” is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @instapundit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pentagon Set To Unleash “SKYNET” (AI) To Balance the Audit Books

AI Can Help Fix DoD Spending And Audits

“I just had a general who came to my office,” said Chris Lynch, head of DoD’s internal hoodie-wearing geek squad, the Defense Digital Service. “The problem was the entire mission was being run out of Excel.”

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. photo

Chris Lynch, director of the Defense Digital Service.

WASHINGTON: Artificial intelligence and big data can help the Pentagon figure out how it actually spends almost $700 billion a year, especially since much of the Defense Department still runs on two-finger typists entering data into old versions of Microsoft Excel.

“I just had a general who came to my office,” said Chris Lynch, head of DoD’s internal hoodie-wearing geek squad, the Defense Digital Service. “The problem was the entire mission was being run out of Excel.”

How is that even possible? “You would be amazed,” Lynch told the DefenseOne tech conference at the Newseum here. “The answer is that one person puts information from a piece of paper into an Excel spreadsheet; they email it to another (person), who then takes that and merges it into another (spreadsheet). That person then pivots in their chair; there’s another computer, they type it into that. That gets fired out on a different network, so both get sent out to another person who merges that into another spreadsheet — and then at the end of the day, after about 17 versions of that same step being done over probably a month, it goes into a PowerPoint presentation.”

The room erupted in incredulous laughter. But Lynch is serious about how badly the Defense Department handles data. It’s not just money, either. The worst of the worst is probably the perpetually backlogged process for vetting security clearances. “It is the definition of nearly everything wrong with …. doing a process,” Lynch said. “It’s feet on the streets, it’s paper, and….most of the time, we end up finding things out, (after) doing all of that work, that the person self-reported.”

After Lynch’s public talk, I asked him how the private sector did this better. “That’s not an easy question,” he said, because there’s a whole industry devoted to figuring out data sharing and workflows, which vary widely from company to company and industry to industry. “Understanding workflows (is) fundamental (to) the efficiency of businesses…. Sometimes you can just buy a piece of software (off the shelf). In other cases it may be bespoke to your organization.”

Robert Work

Pentagon processes are so complex and so dysfunctional that they’re potentially fertile ground for artificial intelligence and machine learning. During Bob Work‘s time as deputy Defense secretary under both Obama and Trump, Work told the conference, “we couldn’t really track” how much money the Pentagon actually spent on top priorities like cybersecurity, electronic warfare, or the artificial intelligence-focused Third Offset Strategy.

As anyone knows who’s paid attention to Pentagon spending knows, Congress appropriates funds every year, but the Defense Department’s information systems can’t follow the flow of money down to the military services and defense agencies and out to specific contractors on “literally millions of contracts,” he said. That’s part of the reason behind the Defense Department’s continuing inability to audit itself. The Pentagon announced its first system-wide audit in December last year.

Then-Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, at the time Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, showed Work an analysis of Third Offset-related spending by a big data/AI company called Govini. (Work and Winnefeld are now both on Govini’s board). “They showed me a simple graph (showing) this is how the money’s being spent down to the specific contracts,” Work recalled. “I was just blown away, because that type of data’s just not available in the Department of Defense.”

In one case, the Defense Department thought it was funding 38 separate projects on artificial intelligence, Govini founder Eric Gillespie told the conference. Govini was called in to double-check. The number of AI programs they found DoD was funding? 593.

Today it takes tremendous effort to get this kind of clarity, Gillespie and other panelists said, because the Pentagon’s data is fragmented amongst different agencies, offices, and contractors, each of which tends to guard its data jealously. Even when two groups want to share, they may not be able to because their software is incompatible. Recent advances allow artificial intelligence and big data analytics to scour this chaotic wilderness of information, the same way Project Maven scours hundreds of hours of drone surveillance footage for hints of terrorist activity.

“For the first time in history,” Gillespie said, “data science allows you to do things like that at scale that you just couldn’t do three, four, five years ago.”

California Chemist Murder Deepens w/Rogue Stock Deals, Tax Shelters and N.Y. Indian Tribe

Tribe looks to stop patent board’s review of Restasis IP

Patent board rules Mohawk tribe is not immune to challenges over Restasis IP

Icahn Builds Small Position in Drugmaker Allergan

Tristan Beaudette of Irvine, his wife, Erica, and two young daughters, aged 2 and 4.

[HOW COULD ANYONE FIRE A SHOTGUN NEAR THE HEADS OF THESE LITTLE ANGELS?]

[SEE: California Chemist Mysteriously Shotgunned In His Sleep, While His Two Young Daughters Slept In L.A. Campground]

 

 

Main reason of conflicts in ME was and still Israeli occupation of Arab territories

Al-Jaafari: Main reason of conflicts in ME was and still Israeli occupation of Arab territories

New York, SANA-Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari said that Syria has suffered, during the latest eight years, from a terrorist war in which many governments were involved through supporting, funding and inflaming it.

“Those governments have allocated billions of dollars to militarize the situation in Syria and they have created and funded armed terrorist groups that adopted odd slogans,” al-Jaafari added during a UN Security Council session on Monday.

He affirmed that some states practice the direct military aggression and occupy others’ territory through force, then they describe the aggression and occupation as “war on terrorism,” they also support the Israeli occupation of the Arab lands.

“Since decades, there have been crises that hit our world due to policies of states that create crises and wars to carry out greed and agendas which pose main threat to international peace and security,” al-Jaafari said.

He went on to say that the main reason behind conflicts in the Middle East was and still is the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories including the Golan, indicating that all attempts to artificially create new crises in order to save the Israeli entity through obliterating the Palestinian Cause will further increase tensions and escalate threats to international peace and security.

“Some governments still politicize the humanitarian aid file in Syria and they falsify information, fabricate evidence and tamper with reports about chemical weapon use in Syria,” al-Jaafari added.

He stressed that the US still trains terrorists in 19 occupied sites in Syria including al-Tanf and al-Rukban camp on the Iraqi, Jordanian and Syrian triangle border and it also provides them with weapons and ammunition via 22 US military bases abroad Syria, not to mention facilitations offered to Daesh (ISIS) terrorists to launch more attacks against the Syrian Arab Army.

“The Syrian government has never and it will not use any toxic chemical weapons that it originally doesn’t possess after eliminating them onboard US ships in the Mediterranean Sea,” al-Jaafari affirmed.

He added that the Syrian people have believed in their Home, independence of their decision and have resisted terrorism and expelled it in large parts of the country.

Responding to the statement made by the Turkish Representative to the UN, al-Jaafari said that the Turkish representative has claimed that his country fought terrorism in the north of Syria and liberated around 4000 square kilometers and I would like to remind him that according to principles of the International Law, Turkey is obliged to coordinate and cooperate with the Syrian government in this regard if the former has good intentions to combat terrorism, stressing that no state has the right to infringe on other states’ territories without the permission of their governments.

Al-Jaafari noted that the Turkish government hols responsibility for spreading terrorism in Syria, particularly in the northern region, through facilitating the access, funding and training terrorists who came from different countries with the knowledge of the Turkish government and intelligence apparatus, adding that this presents clear evidence on Turkey’s involvement in the crisis which threatens the security and stability in the region.

He stressed that Syria will continue fighting terrorism and its supporters across the country and will liberate what has been occupied by the Israeli entity or Turkey.

For his part, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin made clear that the de-escalation zone in southern Syria has not been established to maintain the presence of terrorists, noting that there can not be a cessation of combating activities with groups classified by the UN Security Council under “terrorist organizations”.

“Despite its obligations, the United States has done nothing to support anti-terrorism efforts over the year that has elapsed since the establishment of a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria,” he added.

Japan’s $100 Million+ Science Project

This insane golden chamber contains water so pure it can dissolve metal, and is helping scientists detect dying stars

Super Kamiokande
The neutrino detector Super-Kamiokande.

Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research), The University of Tokyo
  • The Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector is a physics experiment the size of a 15-storey building, buried under a mountain in Japan.
  • Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles that pass through us all the time, and studying them can tell us about supernovas and the composition of the universe.
  • The detector is full of ultra-pure water, which can leach the nutrients out of your hair and dissolve metal.

Hidden 1,000 metres under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream.

Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.

Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and learn more about the universe. Business Insider spoke to three scientists about how the giant gold chamber works — and the dangers of conducting experiments inside it.

Seeing the sub-atomic world

Neutrinos can be very hard to detect, so much so that Neil deGrasse dubbed them “the most elusive prey in the cosmos.” In this video, he explains that the detection chamber is buried deep within the earth to stop other particles from getting in.

“Matter poses no obstacle to a neutrino,” he says. “A neutrino could pass through a hundred light-years of steel without even slowing down.”

But why catch them at all?

“If there’s a supernova, a star that collapses into itself and turns into a black hole,” Dr Yoshi Uchida of Imperial College London told Business Insider. “If that happens in our galaxy, something like Super-K is one of the very few objects that can see the neutrinos from it.”

Before a star starts to collapse it shoots out neutrinos, so Super-K acts as a sort of early-warning system, telling us when to look out for these dazzling cosmic events.

Crab Nebula
The Crab Nebula is the result of a supernova explosion observed in 1054.
NASA, ESA, G. Dubner (IAFE, CONICET-University of Buenos Aires) et al.; A. Loll et al.; T. Temim et al.; F. Seward et al.; VLA/NRAO/AUI/NSF; Chandra/CXC; Spitzer/JPL-Caltech; XMM-Newton/ESA; and Hubble/STScI

 

“The back-of-the-envelope calculations say it’s going to be about once every 30 years that a supernova explodes in the sort of range that our detectors can see,” said Dr Uchida. “If you miss one you’re going to have to wait another few decades on average to see the next one.”

Firing neutrinos through Japan

Super-K doesn’t just catch neutrinos raining down from space.

Situated on the opposite side of Japan in Tokai, the T2K experiment fires a neutrino beam 295 km through the Earth to be picked up in Super-K on the west side of the country.

Studying the way the neutrinos change (or “oscillate”) as they pass through matter may tell us more about the origins of the universe, for example, the relationship between matter and anti-matter.

Inside Super-Kamiokande
Looking at the top of Super-Kamiokande.

Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research), The University of Tokyo

“Our big bang models predict that matter and anti-matter should have been created in equal parts,” Dr Morgan Wascko of Imperial College told Business Insider, “but now [most of] the anti-matter has disappeared through one way or another.” Studying neutrinos might be one way of figuring out how this came to be.

How Super-K catches neutrinos

Buried 1,000 metres underground, Super-Kamiokande is as big as a 15-storey building, and looks a little something like this.

Super-Kamiokande diagram
A diagram of Super-Kamiokande.

Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research), The University of Tokyo

The enormous tank is filled with 50,000 tonnes of ultra-pure water. This is because when travelling through water, neutrinos are faster than light. So when a neutrino travels through water, “it will produce light in the same way that Concord used to produce sonic booms,” said Dr Uchida.

“If an aeroplane is going very fast, faster than the speed of sound, then it’ll produce sound — a big shockwave — in a way a slower object doesn’t. In the same way a particle passing through water, if it’s going faster than the speed of light in water, can also produce a shockwave of light.”

The chamber is lined with 11,000 golden-coloured bulbs. These are incredibly sensitive light-detectors called Photo Multiplier Tubes, which can pick up these shockwaves. Here’s one close up:

SOURCE

A post shared by Kim Nielsen (@knielsen73)

Dr Wascko describes them as “the inverse of a lightbulb.” Simply put, they can detect even minuscule amounts of light and convert it into an electrical current, which can then be observed.

Terrifyingly pure water

In order for the light from these shockwaves to reach the sensors, the water has to be cleaner than you can possibly imagine. Super-K is constantly filtering and re-purifying it, and even blasts it with UV light to kill off any bacteria.

Which actually makes it pretty creepy.

“Water that’s ultra-pure is waiting to dissolve stuff into it,” said Dr Uchida. “Pure water is very, very nasty stuff. It has the features of an acid and an alkaline.”

“If you went for a soak in this ultra-pure Super-K water you would get quite a bit of exfoliation,” said Dr Wascko. “Whether you want it or not.”

People on a boat in Super-Kamiokande
People on a boat in Super-Kamiokande.

Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research), The University of Tokyo

When Super-K needs maintenance, researchers need to go out on rubber dinghies (see above) to fix and replace the sensors.

Dr Matthew Malek, of the University of Sheffield, and two others were doing maintenance from a dinghy back when he was a PhD student.

At the end of the day’s work, the gondola that normally takes the physicists in and out of the tank was broken, so he and two others had to sit tight for a while. They kicked back in their boats, shooting the breeze.

“What I didn’t realise, as we were laying back in these boats and talking is that a little bit of my hair, probably no more than three centimeters, was dipped in the water,” Malek told Business Insider.

As they were draining the water out of Super-K at the time, Malek didn’t worry about contaminating it. But when he awoke at 3 a.m. the next morning, he had an awful realisation.

“I got up at 3 o’clock in the morning with the itchiest scalp I have ever had in my entire life,” he said. “Itchier than having chickenpox as a child. It was so itchy I just couldn’t sleep.”

People on a boat in Super-Kamiokande
People on a boat in Super-Kamiokande.

Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research), The University of Tokyo

He realised that the water had leeched his hair’s nutrients out through the tips, and that this nutrient deficiency had worked its way up to his scalp. He quickly jumped in the shower and spent half an hour vigorously conditioning his hair.

Another tale comes from Dr Wascko, who heard that in 2000 when the tank had been fully drained, researchers found the outline of a wrench at the bottom of it. “Apparently somebody had left a wrench there when they filled it in 1995,” he said. “When they drained it in 2000 the wrench had dissolved.”

Super-K 2.0

Super-Kamiokande may be massive, but Dr Wascko told Business Insider that a yet bigger neutrino detector called “Hyper-Kamiokande” has been proposed.

“We’re trying to get this Hyper-Kamiokande experiment approved, and that would start running in approximately 2026,” he said.

Hyper-K would be 20 times bigger than Super-K in terms of sheer volume, and with about 99,000 light detectors as opposed to 11,000.

California Chemist Mysteriously Shotgunned In His Sleep, While His Two Young Daughters Slept In L.A. Campground

[California chemist murdered here, most likely, with shotgun (confusion in reports on site of wound, or number of shots), while two daughters age 2 and 4 slept by him.  Murder at 4:45 a.m.,

in 1900 block, near Hindu temple, at 1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Rd.]

Updated: Man Shot Dead in Malibu Creek State Park Friday Morning

Homicide Investigation
An LASD vehicle is parked near where the homicide investigation took place Friday morning, June 22, on Las Virgenes Road.

[Update:5:20 p.m.] All overnight camping at Malibu Creek State Park was suspended at least through next Thursday, June 28, according to California State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap. The closure would not affect day use areas such as hiking trails.

“We’ve cancelled [reservations] through the 28th and [on] Monday or Tuesday we’ll reassess where we’re at in terms of extending that or, if we’re so lucky as to catch the individual responsible for this—or individuals responsible for this—we’ll hopefully be able to then open the campground,” Sap explained.

Sap also described increased ranger and officer presence at the park Friday morning and into Friday night.

“We brought in some staff to cover this incident, especially this morning, we had several officers come in,” Sap said, including officers extending shifts and coming in on days off. Throughout the day, those staying in the campground have been asked to leave, as well as the camp host, who was “relocated down the coast.”

“For the security of the campers, they’re all going to be gone and the campground will be empty, so there’s not a need for additional rangers there to look over them,” Sap said.


[Update: 2:55 p.m.] The victim of a shooting at Malibu Creek State Park was shot and killed inside of a tent early this morning, according to Lt. Rodney Moore, a homicide investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“He was pronounced dead at the scene,” Moore described in a telephone call with The Malibu Times. “Also inside of the tent—I don’t know if I mentioned he was located inside a tent—also in his tent at the time of the incident were two children, both female, two and four years old. They were not injured.”

Moore also specified that “because of the conditions” of the body at the time he was found, it was not immediately known whether the victim had been shot in his head or upper torso.

As of Monday afternoon, there was “no suspect information” and “no motive,” Moore described.


[Update: 2 p.m.]: LA County Sheriff’s Department Officer Robinson confirmed that the family members at the scene were the victim’s two daughters, ages two and four, in a phone call with The Malibu Times.

According to The Acorn, the girls were taken to Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station for interviews with the county’s homicide bureau detectives.


[Update: 1:04 p.m.]: The body has been identified as a white adult male, according to a statement released by LA County Sheriff’s Department. The male had “sustained at least one gunshot wound to his upper torso;” he was pronounced dead at the scene thereafter.

The shooting took place at Malibu Creek State Park, where the victim was camping with family members. According to the shared statement, deputies from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station also responded to the scene after a “shots fired” call was made.

The family members were not injured.

Homicide detectives are still investigating the crime. There is no known suspect or motive.

Anyone with information about the homicide is advised to contact the LA County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau at 323.890.5500.


Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detectives were on scene at Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas after the body of an adult male was found there early Friday morning, June 22, according to an alert from the department.

At 4:44 a.m. Friday, the body of an adult male was discovered at the 1900 block of Las Virgenes Road, not far from the entrance to Malibu Creek State Park. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

This is the second such investigation undertaken in that area this year. On May 16, the body of Reynaldo Cruz was discovered in the 1600 block of Las Virgenes Road, near the Malibu Hindu Temple. According to the autopsy report, Cruz had died from “sharp force injuries” to the chest and neck, as well as from a “blunt force injury to the head.”

Cruz was reportedly not killed at that location, but rather “dropped there,” sheriff’s reported at the time.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Shivani Patel contributed to this report.

IDF Fires Patriot Missile At Syrian Drone, Hitting Nothing But Air

Israeli Army Fires Patriot Missile at Drone Approaching From Syria

IDF says drone turned back after missile launch ■ Pro-Assad commander says drone was operating in southern Syria

A trail of smoke seen over Safed in Israel's north, June 24, 2018
A trail of smoke seen over Safed in Israel’s north, June 24, 2018Elimelech Gerstel/Safed

The Israeli army fired a Patriot missile at an unmanned aerial vehicle that approached Israel from Syria on Sunday. As a result of the launch, the drone moved away from the border.

The army said it could not verify whether the target was hit. “We will not allow violation of our aerial sovereignty,” the military said in a statement.

A commander in the regional alliance backing Syrian President Bashar Assad said the drone was engaged in operations in southern Syria when it was targeted by an Israeli anti-aircraft missile.

Earlier, residents of the Upper Galilee in Israel’s north reported hearing an explosion and seeing a smoke trail in the sky.

The incident comes after the Syrian army and allied forces pounded rebel-held areas in the strategic region bordering Jordan and the Golan Heights. Thousands of civilians have fled to safer opposition areas along the border with Jordan and Israel, aid workers and rebels said.

The bombings were supported by Russian aircraft, marking the first time in a while that Russian aircraft attacked targets so vigorously in southern Syria. Aa a result, it is likely that the Israeli side of the border will likely remain particularly alert.

The Syrian army’s offensive threatens to wreck a de-escalation zone agreed by the United States and Russia last year and risks drawing Washington deeper into the war. Israel and Russia agreed in the fall of 2015 on a mechanism to prevent friction in the skies over Syria. A short time later, Russia sent two squadrons of combat planes to assist the Assad regime against the rebels.

Reuters contributed to this report.

US tells rebels not to count on its help as Syrian army advances into country’s southwest

US tells rebels not to count on its help as Syrian army advances into country’s southwest – report

US tells rebels not to count on its help as Syrian army advances into country’s southwest – report

In a letter to the commanders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose umbrella group of armed rebels, Washington wrote that they should not base their decisions “on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us.”

The message, which was reported by Reuters on Sunday, calls on the group to decide for themselves on their response to the rapidly-advancing Syrian forces that continue their assault eyeing to reclaim the swathes of land along the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

“We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone,” the message states.

There have been mounting concerns that the new push by the Syrian army might drag the US troops, especially those deployed in Al-Tanf military base along the Jordanian border, into the showdown with the Syrian forces.

Tensions have flared up amid reports by Syrian state media about the spike in the US-led coalition attacks on its military. At least eight people were killed in the alleged strike by the coalition in Deir ez-Zor on Thursday, the same day the US military claimed that its Al-Tanf base was targeted by unknown hostile forces.

The message comes after Washington accused Damascus of “unambiguously violating” the ceasefire agreed between Russia, the US and Jordan last July.

The deal paved the way for the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Syria’s southwest, where rebels and the Syrian government forces are barred from fighting each other. The truce was ultimately aimed at separating ‘moderate’ opposition from terrorists, as terrorist groups were excluded from the agreement.

 “The Syrian regime’s violations of the ceasefire in southwest Syria need to stop,” Ambassador Nikki Haley said at a UN meeting on Friday. On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert warned the Syrian government of “serious repercussions,” without elaborating.

Some 2,000 US troops have been stationed in Syria, some of them are embedded with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the others are in Al-Tanf. While US President Donald Trump floated the idea of a withdrawal earlier this year, now the Pentagon says that its troops are to stay in Syria for as long as needed, meaning it can be indefinitely.

While Washington does not seem eager to engage in a direct confrontation with the Syrian troops now, the US has a long history of using Syrian rebels as proxies, supplying them with weapons that occasionally fall in the wrong hands.

A study conducted by Conflict Armament Research group in December found that the arms sent by the US to what it claimed are “vetted” rebel groups “have significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to (Islamic State) forces.” While it’s hard to determine whether terrorist groups, such as ISIS or the former Al-Nusra front, seized the weapons from US-backed forces, or that the so-called “moderate” rebels blended in with them and handed over the deadly supplies, the tendency has been a source of major concern for Moscow.

The cooperation between the US forces and militants stretches beyond that, and it includes false flag attacks and provocations with chemical weapons, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, citing intelligence.

In one of its latest warnings, the military said that the US Special Forces were helping the FSA militants to set up a chemical incident, that can serve as a pretext for a new bombing campaign.

Russian jets make first foray into south-west as government ramps up campaign to regain strategic area

Smoke rises after an attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria’s south-west Daraa province.
Smoke rises after an attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria’s south-west Daraa province. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The US has warned Syrian rebels in the south-west of the country they should not expect military support to help them resist a major government offensive.

The message from Washington comes as Russian jets struck an opposition-held town on Sunday in the first air cover provided by Moscow to an expanding Syrian army offensive in the strategic area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The US message sent to heads of the Free Syrian Army said Washington wanted to make clear that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us”.

The Syrian army began ramping up its assault last week in order to recapture the area.

Washington had warned the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and his Russian allies that violations of a “de-escalation” zone agreed by the US and Russia last year would have “serious repercussions” and pledged “firm and appropriate measures”.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Friday the Syrian military escalation “unambiguously violates” the de-escalation arrangement.

“Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any further escalations in Syria,” Haley said in a statement.

The strongly worded statements had raised the hopes of the western-backed opposition of a possible American military intervention in the event the Syrian army’s days-long bombing campaign broadens to an all-out offensive across the south-west.

But the US message told the rebels it was left to them alone to take the right decision on how to face the Syrian army’s military campaign based on what they saw was best for themselves and their people.

“We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone,” the message also said.

The advice seems to be going unheeded by the Russians. Two tracking centres that monitor military aircraft movements recorded at least 20 strikes on Busra al-Harir, north-east of Daraa, two sources told Reuters.

“We have tracked a sortie of five Russian jets that performed 25 raids,” said one source, adding the jets had set off from Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in the western coastal province of Latakia.

Syrian government forces had so far made heavy use of artillery and rockets in the current assault, and Russian warplanes that were critical to the recovery of other rebel-held areas had not been deployed until now.

Rebels in southern Syria have received support, including arms, from Assad’s foreign foes during the seven-year-long war, but analysts believe the aid has dropped off after the US president, Donald Trump, shut down a program run by the CIA last year.

Unless an agreement is reached between Moscow and Washington over the fate of southern Syria, a big offensive risks an escalation that could draw the US deeper into the war. South-west Syria is of strategic concern to US allies Israel and Jordan.

ISIS Acquires Escape Route From Syria To Afghanistan Next Week, When Air Corridors Open From Saudi Arabia and Turkey

https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/afghanistan-presents-a-perfect-location-for-isis-to-regroup-and-continue-its-bloodshed-1.727156

http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/world-news/around-the-globe/russia-claims-isis-regrouping-in-afghanistan-33242

https://sofrep.com/99983/russia-accuses-the-us-of-supporting-isis-in-afghanistan-and-once-again-their-claims-dont-hold-water/

https://www.voanews.com/a/afghan-officials-islamic-state-finds-sanctuary-in-afghanistan/4122270.html

http://www.aopnews.com/taliban/isis-aided-by-ex-taliban-groups-makes-inroads-in-northern-afghanistan/

https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/09/how-isis-is-transforming.html

 

Air corridors with Saudi and Turkey to be inaugurated next week

https://www.khaama.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Kabul-Mumbai-Air-Corridor.jpg

New air corridors between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as well as Turkey will be inaugurated next amid ongoing efforts to boost the exports of the country.

A spokesman for the senior presidential aide for banking Samir Rasa informed regarding the planned inauguration of the new corridors as he was updating the government’s ongoing efforts to expand the exports.

Rasa told reporters that the first flight as part of the air corridor agreement between Afghanistan and Turkey will take off next week.

He said around 15 tons of goods will be transported to Turkey during the first flight which will include fruits, carpets, and other trade commodities.

According to Rasa, the first flight as part of the air corridor agreement between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia will also take place next week.

He said around five tons of goods will be exported in the first flight to Saudi which will include Saffron and other trade commodities.

In the meantime, Rasa said the government is also engaged in boosting the trade of granite and marble.

Rasa further added that the government is working to include the marbles and granite trade in its national exports strategy which will pave the way for the exports of the marbles to China and other countries.

UNHCR Commissioner Philip Alston’s Testimony On Widespread Poverty and Denial of Basic Human Rights, Witnessed On US Tour

[“It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America.”–Nikki Haley]

[Washington quits UN Human Rights Council, but the reason is not ‘bias against Israel’]

Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights*

Spanish

Washington, December 15, 2017

I. Introduction

1. I have spent the past two weeks visiting the United States, at the invitation of the federal government, to look at whether the persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens.  In my travels through California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington DC I have spoken with dozens of experts and civil society groups, met with senior state and federal government officials and talked with many people who are homeless or living in deep poverty.  I am grateful to the Trump Administration for facilitating my visit and for its continuing cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council’s accountability mechanisms that apply to all states.

2. My visit coincides with a dramatic change of direction in US policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty. The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans.  The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by the President and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.  It is against this background that my report is presented.

3. The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.

4. I have seen and heard a lot over the past two weeks.  I met with many people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles, I witnessed a San Francisco police officer telling a group of homeless people to move on but having no answer when asked where they could move to, I heard how thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers, I saw sewage filled yards in states where governments don’t consider sanitation facilities to be their responsibility, I saw people who had lost all of their teeth because adult dental care is not covered by the vast majority of programs available to the very poor, I heard about soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by prescription and other drug addiction, and I met with people in the South of Puerto Rico living next to a mountain of completely unprotected coal ash which rains down upon them bringing illness, disability and death.

5. Of course, that is not the whole story.  I also saw much that is positive.  I met with State and especially municipal officials who are determined to improve social protection for the poorest 20% of their communities, I saw an energized civil society in many places, I visited a Catholic Church in San Francisco (St Boniface – the Gubbio Project) that opens its pews to the homeless every day between services, I saw extraordinary resilience and community solidarity in Puerto Rico, I toured an amazing community health initiative in Charleston (West Virginia) that serves 21,000 patients with free medical, dental, pharmaceutical and other services, overseen by local volunteer physicians, dentists and others (WV Health Right), and indigenous communities presenting at a US-Human Rights Network conference in Atlanta lauded Alaska’s advanced health care system for indigenous peoples, designed with direct participation of the target group.

6. American exceptionalism was a constant theme in my conversations.  But instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights.  As a result, contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound.

7. In talking with people in the different states and territories I was frequently asked how the US compares with other states.  While such comparisons are not always perfect, a cross-section of statistical comparisons provides a relatively clear picture of the contrast between the wealth, innovative capacity, and work ethic of the US, and the social and other outcomes that have been attained.

  • By most indicators, the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries.  It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined.
  • US health care expenditures per capita are double the OECD average and much higher than in all other countries. But there are many fewer doctors and hospital beds per person than the OECD average.
  • US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.
  • Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the U.S. and its peer countries continues to grow.
  • U.S. inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries
  • Neglected tropical diseases, including Zika, are increasingly common in the USA.  It has been estimated that 12 million Americans live with a neglected parasitic infection. A 2017 report documents the prevalence of hookworm in Lowndes County, Alabama.
  • The US has the highest prevalence of obesity in the developed world.
  • In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, ahead of Turkmenistan, El Salvador, Cuba, Thailand and the Russian Federation. Its rate is nearly 5 times the OECD average.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.
  • The Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks the most well-off countries in terms of labor markets, poverty, safety net, wealth inequality, and economic mobility. The US comes in last of the top 10 most well-off countries, and 18th amongst the top 21.
  • In the OECD the US ranks 35th out of 37 in terms of poverty and inequality.
  • According to the World Income Inequality Database, the US has the highest Gini rate (measuring inequality) of all Western Countries
  • The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality characterizes the US as “a clear and constant outlier in the child poverty league.” US child poverty rates are the highest amongst the six richest countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.
  • About 55.7% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. In the OECD, the U.S. placed 28th in voter turnout, compared with an OECD average of 75%.  Registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than just about any other OECD country. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016, compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2016), 96% in Sweden (2014), and nearly 99% in Japan (2014).

II. The human rights dimension
8. Successive administrations, including the present one, have determinedly rejected the idea that economic and social rights are full-fledged human rights, despite their clear recognition not only in key treaties that the US has ratified (such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the US has long insisted other countries must respect.  But denial does not eliminate responsibility, nor does it negate obligations.  International human rights law recognizes a right to education, a right to healthcare, a right to social protection for those in need, and a right to an adequate standard of living.  In practice, the United States is alone among developed countries in insisting that while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, or growing up in a context of total deprivation.

9. Since the US has refused to recognize economic and social rights agreed by most other states (except for the right to education in state constitutions), the primary focus of the present report is on those civil and political rights reflected in the US Bill of Rights and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the US has ratified.

III. Who are ‘the poor’?
10. I have been struck by the extent to which caricatured narratives about the purported innate differences between rich and poor have been sold to the electorate by some politicians and media, and have been allowed to define the debate.  The rich are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic, and the drivers of economic success.  The poor are wasters, losers, and scammers.  As a result, money spent on welfare is money down the drain.  To complete the picture we are also told that the poor who want to make it in America can easily do so: they really can achieve the American dream if only they work hard enough.

11. The reality that I have seen, however, is very different.  It is a fact that many of the wealthiest citizens do not pay taxes at the rates that others do, hoard much of their wealth off-shore, and often make their profits purely from speculation rather than contributing to the overall wealth of the American community. Who then are the poor?  Racist stereotypes are usually not far beneath the surface.  The poor are overwhelmingly assumed to be people of color, whether African Americans or Hispanic ‘immigrants’.  The reality is that there are 8 million more poor Whites than there are Blacks.  Similarly, large numbers of welfare recipients are assumed to be living high on the hog.  Some politicians and political appointees with whom I spoke were completely sold on the narrative of such scammers sitting on comfortable sofas, watching color TVs, while surfing on their smart phones, all paid for by welfare.  I wonder how many of these politicians have ever visited poor areas, let alone spoken to those who dwell there. There are anecdotes aplenty, but evidence is nowhere to be seen.  In every society, there are those who abuse the system, as much in the upper income levels, as in the lower.  But the poor people I met from among the 40 million living in poverty were overwhelmingly either persons who had been born into poverty, or those who had been thrust there by circumstances largely beyond their control such as physical or mental disabilities, divorce, family breakdown, illness, old age, unlivable wages, or discrimination in the job market.

12. The face of poverty in America is not only Black, or Hispanic, but also White, Asian, and many other colors.  Nor is it confined to a particular age group.  Automation and robotization are already throwing many middle-aged workers out of jobs in which they once believed themselves to be secure.  In the economy of the twenty-first century, only a tiny percentage of the population is immune from the possibility that they could fall into poverty as a result of bad breaks beyond their own control.  The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion as the US since the US now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.

IV. The current extent of poverty in the US
13. There is considerable debate over the extent of poverty in the US, but for the purposes of this report principal reliance is placed upon the official government statistics, drawn up primarily by the US Census Bureau.

14. In order to define and quantify poverty in America, the Census Bureau uses ‘poverty thresholds’ or Official Poverty Measures (OPM), updated each year. In September 2017, more than one in every eight Americans were living in poverty (40 million, equal to 12.7% of the population). And almost half of those (18.5 million) were living in deep poverty, with reported family income below one-half of the poverty threshold.

V. Problems with existing policies
15. There is no magic recipe for eliminating extreme poverty, and each level of government must make its own good faith decisions.  But at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power.  With political will, it could readily be eliminated.

16. What is known, from long experience and in light of the government’s human rights obligations, is that there are indispensable ingredients for a set of policies designed to eliminate poverty.  They include: democratic decision-making, full employment policies, social protection for the vulnerable, a fair and effective justice system, gender and racial equality and respect for human dignity, responsible fiscal policies, and environmental justice.

17. Currently, the United States falls far short on each of these issues.

1. The undermining of democracy
18. The foundation stone of American society is democracy, but it is being steadily undermined.  The principle of one person one vote applies in theory, but it is far from the reality.  In a democracy, the task of government should be to facilitate political participation by ensuring that all citizens can vote and that their votes will count equally.  In the US there is overt disenfranchisement of vast numbers of felons, a rule which predominantly affects Black citizens since they are the ones whose conduct is often specifically targeted for criminalization.  In addition, there are often requirement that persons who have paid their debt to society still cannot regain their right to vote until they paid off all outstanding fines and fees.  Then there is covert disenfranchisement, which includes the dramatic gerrymandering of electoral districts to privilege particular groups of voters, the imposition of artificial and unnecessary voter ID requirements, the blatant manipulation of polling station locations, the relocating of DMVs to make it more difficult for certain groups to obtain IDs, and the general ramping up of obstacles to voting especially by those without resources. The net result is that people living in poverty, minorities, and other disfavored groups are being systematically deprived of their voting rights.

19. A common explanation is that people see no improvement in their well-being regardless of who they elect, so that voting is pointless.  But the most compelling and dispiriting explanation I received came in answer to my question as to why voting rates are so extraordinarily low in West Virginia. A state official pointed to apathy, which he explained by saying that “when people are poor they just give up on the electoral system.”  If this is the case, as seems likely, some political elites have a strong self-interest in keeping people in poverty.  As one politician remarked to me, it would be instructive to undertake a survey of the campaign appearances of politicians in overwhelmingly poor districts.

2. An illusory emphasis on employment
20. Proposals to slash the meager welfare arrangements that currently exist are now sold primarily on the basis that the poor need to get off welfare and back to work.  The assumption is that there are a great many jobs out there waiting to be filled by individuals with low educational standards, often suffering disabilities of one kind or another, sometimes burdened with a criminal record (perhaps for the crime of homelessness or not being able to pay a traffic ticket), and with no training or meaningful assistance to obtain employment.  It also assumes that the jobs they could get will make them independent of state assistance. Yet I spoke to workers from Walmart and other large stores who could not survive on a full-time wage without also relying on food stamps.  It has been estimated that as much as $6 billion dollars go from the SNAP program to support such workers, thus providing a huge virtual subsidy to the relevant corporations.

21. In terms of the employment market, the reality is very different from that portrayed by the welfare to work proponents.  There has been a long-term decline in employment rates.  For example, by 2017, only 89% of males from 25 to 54 years were employed.  While ‘supply’ factors such as growing rates of disability, increasing geographic immobility, and higher incarceration rates are relevant, a 2016 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors concluded that reductions in labor supply are far less important than reductions in labor demand in accounting for the long-run trend1.  Factors such as automation and new technologies such as self-driving cars, 3D printers, and robot-staffed factories and warehouses will see a continuing decline in demand for low-skilled labor.

22. Reflecting on these developments, leading poverty experts have concluded that:

Because of this rising joblessness, the U.S. poverty population is becoming a more deprived and destitute class, one that’s disconnected from the economy and unable to meet basic needs. … 40 percent of the 1999 poverty population was in deep poverty … [compared to 46 percent of the 2015 poverty population … . Likewise, rates of extreme poverty (i.e., living on less than $2 per day per person) are also increasing, again because of declining employment as well as growing “disconnection” from the safety net2.

3. Shortcomings in basic social protection

23. There are a great many issues that could be covered under this heading.  In view of space limitations I will focus on three major concerns.

(i) Indigenous peoples
24. Chiefs and representatives from both recognized and non-recognized tribes presented me with evidence of widespread extreme poverty in indigenous communities in the USA.  They called for federal recognition as an essential first step to address poverty, indicating that without it their way of life is criminalised, they are disempowered, and their culture is destroyed – all of which perpetuate poverty, poor health, and shockingly high suicide rates. Living conditions in Pine Ridge, Lakota, were described as comparable to Haiti, with annual incomes of less than $12 000 and infant mortality rates three times higher than the national rate. Nine lives have been lost there to suicide in the last three months, including one six year old. Nevertheless, federally funded programmes aimed at suicide prevention have been de-funded.

25. Testimony also revealed an urgent need for data collection on poverty in all indigenous communities, greater access to healthcare, and stronger protection from private and corporate abuse. The Red Water Pond Navajo tribe spoke about predatory loans involving 400% interest rates, and a high incidence of kidney, liver and pancreatic cancers.

(ii) Children in poverty
25. A shockingly high number of children in the US live in poverty. In 2016, 18% of children – some 13.3 million – were living in poverty, with children comprising 32.6% of all people in poverty.  Child poverty rates are highest in the southern states, with Mississippi, New Mexico at 30% and Louisiana at 29%.

26. Contrary to the stereotypical assumptions, 31% of poor children are White, 24% are Black, 36% are Hispanic, and 1% are indigenous.  When looking at toddlers and infants, 42% of all Black children are poor, 32% of Hispanics, and 37% of Native American infants and toddlers are poor. The figure for Whites is 14%.

27. Poor children are also significantly affected by America’s affordable and adequate housing crisis. Around 21% of persons experiencing homelessness are children.  While most are reportedly experiencing sheltered homelessness, the lack of financial stability, high eviction rates, and high mobility rates negatively impact education, and physical and mental health.

28. On a positive note, most children living in poverty do have medical insurance. Due to the expansion of Medicaid and the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, as of 2016, some 95% of all children had health insurance.  Medicaid and CHIP have lowered the rate of children without health coverage from 14% in 1997 to 5.3% in 2015.

29. Other support programs are also important, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which is estimated to lift some five million children out of poverty annually, while in 2015 the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) lifted a further five million children out of poverty.  By contrast, TANF is not getting to enough children, with less than 25% of all poor families that are eligible for cash assistance under TANF actually receiving it.  Proposed cutbacks to most of these programs would have dramatic consequences.

(iii) Adult dental care
30. The Affordable Care Act greatly expanded the availability of dental care to children, but the situations of adults living in poverty remains lamentable.  Their only access to dental care is through the emergency room, which usually means that when the pain becomes excruciating or disabling, they are eligible to have the tooth extracted.  Poor oral hygiene and disfiguring dental profiles lead to unemployability in many jobs, being shunned in the community, and being unable to function effectively.  Yet there is no national program, and very few state programs, to address these issues which fundamentally affect the human dignity and ultimately the civil rights of the persons concerned.

4. Reliance on criminalization to conceal the problem
31. Homeless estimates published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in December 2017 show a nationwide figure of 553,742, which includes 76,500 in New York, 55,200 in Los Angeles, and 6,900 in San Francisco3.  These figures are widely considered to be an undercount, as illustrated by estimates of 21,000 in San Francisco provided by various experts with whom I met.

32. In many cities, homeless persons are effectively criminalized for the situation in which they find themselves.  Sleeping rough, sitting in public places, panhandling, public urination (in cities that provide almost zero public toilets) and myriad other offences have been devised to attack the ‘blight’ of homelessness.  Ever more demanding and intrusive regulations lead to infraction notices, which rapidly turn into misdemeanors, leading to the issuance of warrants, incarceration, the incurring of unpayable fines, and the stigma of a criminal conviction that in turn virtually prevents subsequent employment and access to most housing.  Yet the authorities in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco often encourage this vicious circle.  In Skid Row, LA., 6,696 arrests of homeless persons were reported to have been made between 2011 and 2016.  Rather than responding to homeless persons as affronts to the senses and to their neighborhoods, citizens and local authorities should see in their presence a tragic indictment of community and government policies.  Homelessness on this scale is far from inevitable and again reflects political choices to see law enforcement rather than low cost housing, medical treatment, psychological counselling, and job training as the solutions.  But the futility of many existing approaches was all too evident as I walked around some of the worst affected areas.

33. In many cities and counties the criminal justice system is effectively a system for keeping the poor in poverty while generating revenue to fund not only the justice system but diverse other programs.  The use of the legal system, not to promote justice, but to raise revenue, as documented so powerfully in the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, is pervasive around the country.  So-called ‘fines and fees’ are piled up so that low level infractions become immensely burdensome, a process that affects only the poorest members of society who pay the vast majority of such penalties.  State, county and municipal police and law enforcement agencies are not always forces for change in such settings. While they play an indispensable role in keeping the citizenry secure, they sometimes also pressure legislatures to maintain high staffing and overtime levels, at the expense of less expensive approaches which would address the social challenges constructively and effectively and eliminate the need for a law enforcement response.

34. Another practice which affects the poor almost exclusively is that of setting large bail bonds for a defendant who seeks to go free pending trial.  Some 11 million people are admitted to local jails annually, and on any given day there are more than 730,000 people are being held, of whom almost two-thirds are awaiting trial, and thus presumed to be innocent. Yet judges have increasingly set large amounts of bail, which mean that wealthy defendants can secure their freedom, whole poor defendants are likely to stay in jail, with all of the consequences in terms of loss of their jobs, disruption of their childcare, inability to pay rent, and a dive into deeper destitution. A major movement to eliminate bail bonds is gathering steam, and needs to be embraced by anyone concerned about the utterly disproportionate impact of the justice system upon the poor.

35. Finally, mention must be made of the widespread practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for a wide range of non-driving related offences, such as a failure to pay fines.  This is a perfect way to ensure that the poor, living in communities which have steadfastly refused to invest in serious public transport systems, are unable to earn a living which might have helped to pay the outstanding debt.  Two paths are open: penury, or driving illegally, thus risking even more serious and counter-productive criminalization.

5. The gendered nature of poverty
36. Many statistics could be cited to demonstrate the extent to which women shoulder a particularly high burden as a result of living in poverty. They are, for example, more exposed to violence, more vulnerable to sexual harassment, discriminated against in the labor market.  Luke Shafer and Kathryn Edin conclude that the number of children in single-mother households living in extreme poverty for an entire year has ballooned from fewer than 100,000 in 1995 to 895,000 in 2011 and 704,000 in 2012.  But perhaps the least recognized harm is that austerity policies that shrink the services provided by the state inevitably mean that the resulting burden is imposed instead upon the primary caregivers within families, who are overwhelmingly women.  Male-dominated legislatures rarely pay any heed to this consequence of the welfare cutbacks they impose.

6. Racism, disability, and demonization of the poor
37. Demonization of the poor can take many forms.  It has been internalized by many poor people who proudly resist applying for benefits to which they are entitled and struggle valiantly to survive against the odds.  Racism is a constant dimension and I regret that in a report that seeks to cover so much ground there is not room to delve much more deeply into the phenomenon. Racial disparities, already great, are being entrenched and exacerbated in many contexts.  In Alabama, I saw various houses in rural areas that were surrounded by cesspools of sewage that flowed out of broken or non-existent septic systems.  The State Health Department had no idea of how many households exist in these conditions, despite the grave health consequences.  Nor did they have any plan to find out, or devise a plan to do something about it.  But since the great majority of White folks live in the cities, which are well served by government built and maintained sewerage systems, and most of the rural folks in areas like Lowndes County, are Black, the problem doesn’t appear on the political or governmental radar screen.

38. The same applies to persons with disabilities.  In the rush to claim that many beneficiaries are scamming the system, it is often asserted, albeit with little evidence, that large numbers of those receiving disability allowances are undeserving.  When I probed the very high rates of persons with disabilities in West Virginia, government officials explained that most recipients had attained low levels of education, worked in demanding manual labor jobs, and were often exposed to risks that employers were not required to guard against.

7. Confused and counter-productive drug policies
39. The opioid crisis has drawn extensive attention, as it should.  It has devastated many communities and the addiction often leads to heroin, methamphetamine, and other substance abuse.  Many states have introduced highly punitive regimes directed against pregnant women, rather than trying to provide sympathetic treatment and to maximize the well-being of the fetus.  As one submission put it:

Mothers in Alabama face criminal prosecutions which can result in years of incarceration, as well as civil child welfare proceedings that have the power to separate families and sever a person’s parental rights. Families living in poverty are already disproportionately the subject of child welfare investigations in the United States. Experts have found that poor children disproportionately suffer impositions of the child welfare system, and families who receive public assistance are four times more likely than others to be investigated and have their children removed from the family home on the basis of alleged child maltreatment4.

40. Similarly, states are increasingly seeking to impose drug tests on recipients of welfare benefits, with programs that lead to expulsion from the program for repeat offenders.  Such policies are entirely counter-productive, highly intrusive, and punitive where care is required instead.  The justification offered to me in West Virginia was that the state should not be supporting someone who is addicted to drugs.  It would be interesting to see if the same rationale were accepted if it was proposed that legislators and senior officials, who must keep the public trust, should also be regularly drug-tested, and punished for failure to go clean in a short time.

41. Similarly, the contrast between the huge sentences handed down to those using drugs such as crack cocaine, contrasts dramatically and incomprehensibly with the approach applied in most cases of opioid addiction.  The key variable seems to be race.  The lesson to be learned is that the generally humane and caring response to opioid users should be applied to most cases of substance addiction.

8. The use of fraud as a smokescreen
42. Calls for welfare reform take place against a constant drumbeat of allegations of widespread fraud in the system.  The contrast with tax reform is instructive.  In that context immense faith is placed in the goodwill and altruism of the corporate beneficiaries, while with welfare reform the opposite assumptions apply.  The poor are inherently lazy, dishonest, and care only about their own interests.  And government officials with whom I met insisted that the states are gaming the system to defraud the federal government, individuals are constantly coming up with new lurks to live high on the welfare hog, and community groups are exaggerating the numbers. The reality, of course, is that there are good and bad corporate actors and there are good and bad welfare claimants.  But while funding for the IRS to audit wealthy taxpayers has been reduced, efforts to identify welfare fraud are being greatly intensified.  The answer is nuanced governmental regulation, rather than an abdication in respect to the wealthy, and a doubling down on intrusive and punitive policies towards the poor.  Revelations of widespread tax avoidance by companies and high-wealth individuals draw no rebuke, only acquiescence and the maintenance of the loopholes and other arrangements designed to facilitate such arrangements.  Revelation of food stamps being used for purposes other than staying alive draw howls of outrage from government officials and their media supporters.

9. Privatization
43. Solutions to major social challenges in the US are increasingly seen to lie with privatization.  While the firms concerned have profited handsomely, it is far from clear that optimum outcomes have been achieved for the relevant client populations.  In particular, greater consideration needs to be given to the role of corporations in preventing rational policy-making and advocating against reforms in order to maintain their profits at the expense of the poorest members of society. During my visit I was told of many examples.  For example, bail bond corporations which exist in only one other country in the world, precisely because they distort justice, encourage excessive and often unnecessary levels of bail, and fuel and lobby for a system that by definition penalizes the poor.  The rich can always pay, and can avoid the 10% or even more that bail bond companies demand as a non-refundable down-payment. I heard cases of individuals who paid thousands of dollars to post bail, and lost it all when charges were dropped a day later. If they were subsequently charged with a different offence, the whole process begins again and all previous payments are lost.  Other examples include the corporations running private for-profit prisons, as well as bounty-hunters.

10. Environmental sustainability
44. In Alabama and West Virginia I was informed of the high proportion of the population that was not being served by public sewerage and water supply services.  Contrary to the assumption in most countries that such services should be extended systematically and eventually comprehensively to all areas by the government, in neither state was I able to obtain figures as to the magnitude of the challenge or details of any government plans to address the issues in the future.

VI. Principal current governmental responses
45. The analysis that follows is primarily focused on the Federal level.  Federalism complicates questions of responsibility but one irony that emerged clearly from my visit is that those who fight hardest to uphold State rights, also fight hard to deny city and county rights.  If the rhetoric about encouraging laboratories of innovation is to be meaningful, the freedom to innovate cannot be restricted to state politicians alone.

1. Tax reform
46. Deep and dramatic changes look likely to be adopted in the space of the next few days as Congress considers a final unified version of the Tax Bill.  From a human rights perspective, the lack of public debate, the closed nature of the negotiation, the exclusion of the representatives of almost half of the American people from the process, and the inability of elected representatives to know in any detail what they are being asked to vote for, all raise major concerns.  Similarly, the proposed immediate upending of many longstanding arrangements on the basis of which citizens have planned their futures, raises important issues relating to the need for a degree of predictability and respect for reasonable expectations in adopting tax reform.

47. One of the overriding concerns however is the enormous impetus given to income and wealth inequality by the proposed reforms. While most other nations, and all of the major international institutions such as the OECD, the World Bank, and the IMF have acknowledged that extreme inequalities in wealth and income are economically inefficient and socially damaging, the tax reform package is essentially a bid to make the US the world champion of extreme inequality.  As noted in the World Inequality Report 2018, in both Europe and the US the top 1% of adults earned around 10% of national income in 1980. In Europe that has risen today to 12%, but in the US it has reached 20%. In the same time period in the US annual income earnings for the top 1% have risen by 205%, while for the top 0.001% the figure is 636%. By comparison, the average annual wage of the bottom 50% has stagnated since 1980.

48. At the state level, the demonizing of taxation, as though it is inherently evil, means that legislature effectively refuse to levy taxes even when there is a desperate need.  Instead they impose fees and fines through the back door, some of which fund the justice system and others of which go to fund the pet projects of legislators.  This sleight of hand technique is a winner, in the sense that the politically powerful rich do not have to pay any more taxes, while the politically marginalized poor bear the burden but can do nothing about it.

2. Welfare reform
49. In calculating how the proposed tax cuts can be paid for, the Treasury has explicitly listed welfare reform as an important source of revenue5.  Indeed, various key officials have made the same point that major cuts will need to be made in welfare provision.  Given the extensive, and in some cases unremitting, cuts that have been made in recent years, the consequences for an already overstretched and inadequate system of social protection are likely to be fatal for many programs, and possibly also for those who rely upon them.

3. Healthcare reform
50. The Senate majority leader recently wrote that “the Senate also voted to deliver relief to low- and middle-income Americans by repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate tax. For too long, families have suffered under this unpopular and unfair tax imposed under an unworkable law.” Many observers with whom I spoke consider that this move will, over time, make the rest of the ACA unviable, thus removing many millions of persons from the ranks of the insured.

51. There have also been many references in statements by senior officials to the desirability of reducing Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.  When I asked state officials what they thought the consequences would be of repealing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, the unanimous response was that it would be disastrous, not just for the individuals concerned but also for state health care systems.

52. In addition, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), on which almost 9 million low-income children depend for their primary health and dental care6. If long-term funding is not secured, those children could be left unprotected. If funding is secured, but threats to gradually decrease funding for the program over the short-term eventuate, this would also have devastating on the health of millions of poor children in America.
Similarly, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQCHs) are federally-funded, “safety-net” providers of comprehensive primary and preventive health care, regardless of the insurance status or ability to pay7. The health center program has been able to grow due to expanded Medicaid eligibility and increases in federal grant funding, including under the Affordable Care Act8. The future of these centers is, however, uncertain, with a re-funding bill having passed the House but Senate consideration being delayed. If the funding is lost, some 2,800 health centers across the country could close9, 9 million patients could lose access to primary and preventive care, more than 51,000 providers and staff could lose their jobs, and $7.5 billion revenue will be foregone in economically distressed communities10. If the funding is decreased, one can only presume the effects will be commensurately devastating.

4. New information technologies
53. The term ‘new information technology’ or ‘new technology’ is not well-defined, despite its frequent use. It is commonly used for such widely different but interrelated phenomena as the spectacular increase in computing power, ‘Big Data’, machine learning, algorithms, artificial intelligence and robotization, among other things. These separate terms often also lack a clear definition11.  There are clear benefits to the rapid development of new information technology. A 2016 White House Report, for example, highlights the major benefits of new artificial intelligence technology “to the public in fields as diverse as health care, transportation, the environment, criminal justice, and economic inclusion” in artificial intelligence12. But the risks are also increasingly clear.  Much more attention needs to be given to the ways in which new technology impacts the human rights of the poorest Americans13.  This inquiry is of relevance to a much wider group since experience shows that the poor are often a testing ground for practices and policies that may then be applied to others.  These are some relevant concerns.

(i) Coordinated entry systems
54. A coordinated entry system (CES) is, in essence, a system set up to match the homeless population with available homeless services. Such systems are gaining in popularity and their human rights impact has not yet been studied extensively14. I spoke to a range of civil society organizations and government officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco about CES.

55. In Los Angeles, CES is one of the pillars of mayor Garcetti’s strategy15 to tackle the homelessness crisis in the city. The system is administered by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA). Tens of thousands of Los Angeles’ homeless population have been included in the system since it was first set up in 2013.  It works as follows. A homeless service caseworker or volunteer interviews a homeless individual using a survey called the Vulnerability Index-Service Priority Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT). This data is stored in a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) that stores the data. A ranking algorithm gives the homeless respondent a vulnerability score between 1 and 17 and a second, matching, algorithm, matches the most vulnerable homeless to appropriate housing opportunities.

56. The CES replaces a previous system of matching the homeless to housing that was described to me by various interlocutors as dysfunctional. It is based on the principle of ‘Housing First’, which focuses on providing housing before anything else. But despite the good intentions of officials in Los Angeles, there is an Orwellian side to CES. Similar concerns were expressed to me about the San Francisco CES.

57. A first, and major, concern is that the VI-SPDAT survey asks homeless individuals to give up the most intimate details of their lives. Among many other questions, the VI-SPDAT survey requires homeless individuals to answer whether they engage in sex work, whether they have ever stolen medications, how often they have been in touch with the police and whether they have “planned activities each day other than just surviving that bring [them] happiness and fulfillment”. One researcher I met with who has interviewed homeless individuals that took the VI-SPDAT survey explained that many feel they are giving up their human right to privacy in return for their human right to housing.

58. A civil society organization in San Francisco explained that many homeless individuals feel deeply ambivalent about the millions of dollars that are being spent on new technology to funnel them to housing that does not exist. According to some of my interlocutors, only a minority of those homeless individuals being interviewed actually acquire permanent housing, because of the chronic shortage of affordable housing and Section 8 housing vouchers in California. As one participant in a civil society town hall in San Francisco put it: “Computers and technology cannot solve homelessness”.

59. A third concern related to access to and sharing of the wealth of data collected via coordinated entry systems and stored in HMIS. According to 2004 data standards by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, homeless organizations that record, use or process Protected Personal Information on homeless clients for a HMIS may share that information with law enforcement in a number of circumstances, including in response to “an oral request for the purpose of identifying or locating a suspect, fugitive, material witness or missing person” without the need for a warrant or any other form of judicial oversight16.

60. I understood from civil society organizations that homeless individuals who have been interviewed for VI-SPDAT have expressed a fear, a fear that does not seem unjustified in light of the current legal regime, that the police would access the very sensitive personal data stored in HMIS.  When I met with the Executive Director of LAHSA, he assured me that LAHSA is working on a policy decision to deny the LAPD access to HMIS, which would be an important step in safeguarding the human right to privacy and other civil rights of the homeless. Other local and county officials have also assured me that the LAPD is currently not allowed access to HMIS.

61. However, since federal standards allow such access and given the fact that the LAPD informed me that it is “unfortunate” that they currently have no access to CES data, it is likely there will be continued pressure on LAHSA and similar agencies in other municipalities to give access to the police to this ‘gold mine’ of information. Access by the police to HMIS is only one policy decision away.

(ii) Risk assessment tools in the pre-trial phase
62. Across the United States, a movement is underway to reform the pretrial system. At the heart of the reform is an effort to disconnect pretrial detention from wealth and to tie it to risk instead. And to accomplish that goal, a growing number of jurisdictions are adopting risk assessment tools (also called actuarial tools, or Actuarial Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments -APRAIs17) to assist in pretrial release and custody decisions18. This move from pretrial detention and money bail to risk assessment is widely supported, but new risks to the human rights of the poor in the United States arise with the use of risk assessment tools.

63. Automated risk assessment tools, take “data about the accused, feed it into a computerized algorithm, and generate a prediction of the statistical probability the person will commit some future misconduct, particularly a new crime or missed court appearance.”19 The system will generally indicate whether the risk for the particular defendant, compared to observed outcomes among a population of individuals who share certain characteristics, is ‘high’, ‘moderate’, or ‘low’. Judges maintain discretion, in theory, to ignore the risk score.

64. One fundamental critique is that risk assessments are based on turning individual circumstances into risk categories. The overwhelmingly poor defendants who are confronted with these new practices are turned into ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ risk classes, a demeaning process for those involved which goes directly against the principle of an individualized criminal justice system.

65. Several interlocutors warned that these tools may seem to produce objective scores, but that the decision what risk level to qualify as ‘high’ or ‘low’ is not an objective, but a political choice, that should ultimately be decided by voters, not the, often private, developers of these tools.

66. Risk assessment tools pose the same risks associated with privatizing public functions that currently plague the money bail system. I met with a Division Chief in the Public Defender’s Office of Los Angeles County who explained the pressure court systems are under to buy risk assessment tools ‘off the shelf’ from private vendors. As in other contexts, the inner workings of such tools as proprietary to the company that sells it, which leads to serious due process concerns that affect the civil rights of the poor in the criminal justice system20.

(iii) Access to high-speed broadband access in West Virginia
67. Civil society organizations have urged me to focus on obstacles to internet connectivity in impoverished communities in West Virginia21. This is a persistent problem in the state, where an estimated 30% of West Virginians lack access to high speed broadband (compared to 10% nationally) and 48% of rural West Virginians lack access (compared to 39% of the rural population nationally)22. But when I asked the Governor’s office in West Virginia about efforts to expand broadband access in poor, rural communities, it could only point to a 2010 broadband expansion effort. It downplayed the extent of the problem by claiming that there were “some issues” with access to Internet in West Virginia’s valleys.

5. Puerto Rico
68. I spent two days of the nine days I traveled outside of Washington, DC, in Puerto Rico. I witnessed the devastation of hurricane Irma and Maria in Salinas and Guayama in the south of the island, as well as in the poor Caño Martin Peña neighborhood in San Juan. Both in the south and in San Juan I listened to individuals in poverty and civil society organizations on how these natural disasters are just the latest in a series of bad news for Puerto Ricans, which include an economic crisis, a debt crisis, an austerity crisis and, arguably, a structural political crisis.

69. Political rights and poverty are inextricably linked in Puerto Rico. If it were a state, Puerto Rico would be the poorest state in the Union. But Puerto Rico is not a state, it is a mere ‘territory.’ Puerto Ricans have no representative with full voting rights in Congress and, unless living stateside, cannot vote for the President of the United States. In a country that likes to see itself as the oldest democracy in the world and a staunch defender of political rights on the international stage, more than 3 million people who live on the island have no power in their own capital.

70. Puerto Rico not only has a fiscal deficit, it also has a political rights deficit, and the two are not easily disentangled. I met with the Executive Director of the Financial Oversight and Management Board that was imposed by Congress on Puerto Rico as part of PROMESA. This statement is not the place to challenge the economics of the Board’s proposed polices, but there is little indication that social protection concerns feature in any significant way in the Board’s analyses.  At a time when even the IMF is insisting that social protection should be explicitly factored into prescriptions for adjustment (i.e. austerity) it would seem essential that the Board take account of human rights and social protection concerns as it contemplates far-reaching decision on welfare reform, minimum wage and labor market regulation.

71. It is not for me to suggest any resolution to the hotly contested issue of Puerto Rico’s constitutional status.  But what is clear is that many, probably most, Puerto Ricans believe deeply that they are presently colonized and that the US Congress is happy to leave them in the no-man’s land of no meaningful Congressional representation and no ability to really move to govern themselves.  In light of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence and Congress’s adoption of PROMESA there would seem to be good reason for the UN Decolonization Committee to conclude that the island is no longer a self-governing territory.

* I am grateful for the superb research and analysis undertaken by Christiaan van Veen, Anna Bulman, Ria Singh Sawhney, and staff of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the many inputs made by civil society groups, including those organized by the US Human Rights Network, and by leading scholars in the field.

Notes

1. Council of Economic Advisers, The Long-Term Decline in Prime-Age Male Labor Force Participation (2016).

2. Charles Varner, Marybeth Mattingly, & David Grusky, ‘The Facts Behind the Visions,’ Pathways, Spring 2017, p. 2.

3. https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2017-AHAR-Part-1.pdf

4. The National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Submission to the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (4 October 2017), at 4.

5. https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Documents/TreasuryGrowthMemo12-11-17.pdf

6. https://ccf.georgetown.edu/2017/08/03/what-every-policy-maker-needs-to-know-about-the-childrens-health-insurance-program-chip-a-refresher/ ; https://www.medicaid.gov/chip/downloads/fy-2016-childrens-enrollment-report.pdf;

7. National Association of Community Health Centers, http://www.nachc.org/about-our-health-centers/find-a-health-center/

8. Julia Paradise et al, Community Health Centers: Recent Growth and the Role of the ACA (18 January 2017),

9. National Association of Community Health Centers, http://www.nachc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/NACHC-2017-Policy-Paper-Funding.pdf.

10. National Association of Community Health Centers, The Health Center Funding Cliff and its Impact, September 2017; Peter Shin et al, What are the Possible Effects of Failing to Extend the Community Health Center Fund?, RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative
Policy Research Brief # 49 (21 September 2017), https://publichealth.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/images/GG%20Health%20Center%20Fund%20Brief_9.18_Final.pdf

11. In a written submission received by the Special Rapporteur from researchers at the Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy, they write: “The concept of AI has been proven to be notoriously difficult to define. A basic though popular definition of AI refers to “intelligence exhibited by machines” or “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.” These definitions assume that ‘intelligence’ is clearly defined itself, though it, too, is ambiguous. No commonly agreed upon definition of artificial intelligence currently exists.” Available here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/Callforinput.aspx

12. Executive Office of the President National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology’, ‘Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence’, October 2016, p.1.

13. Cathy O’Neil, ‘The Ivory Tower Can’t Keep Ignoring Tech’, 14 November 2017, available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/opinion/academia-tech-algorithms.html

14. One important exception is an excellent book that will be published in January: Virginia Eubanks, Automating Inequality: Automating Inequality How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (Forthcoming, 2018)

15. https://www.lamayor.org/comprehensive-homelessness-strategy

16. https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2004HUDDataandTechnicalStandards.pdf

17. The Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP) at Harvard Law School, ‘Moving Beyond Money: A Primer on Bail Reform’, October 2016, p. 18.

18. Sandra G. Mayson, ‘Bail Reform and Restraint for Dangerousness: Are Defendants a Special Case?’ Public Law Research Paper No. 16-30 Yale Law Journal (Forthcoming DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION), p.1, available from: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2826600; Human Rights Watch, ‘Not in it for Justice: How California’s Pretrial Detention and Bail System Unfairly Punishes Poor People’, April 2017, p. 87-88.

19. Human Rights Watch, ‘Not in it for Justice: How California’s Pretrial Detention and Bail System Unfairly Punishes Poor People’, April 2017, p. 88.

20. Written submission from the AI Now Institute: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/Callforinput.aspx

21. Written submission from Access Now: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/Callforinput.aspx

22. West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy & American Friends Service Committee, ‘2016 State of Working West Virginia: Why is West Virginia so Poor?’, p. 55.

 

Unidentifed Forces Shell US Proxy Terrorists and Military Advisers Stationed in al-Tanf, Illegal US Syrian Base

The spokesperson for the US-led international anti-Daesh coalition told Sputnik, it had responded to the attack by “unidentified hostile force” near Syria’s al-Tanf, reporting that there were no casualties.

“Maghawir al-Thowra fighters and Coalition advisors within the de-escalation zone near al-Tanf were engaged by an unidentified hostile force located just outside the de-escalation zone in the early evening of June 21,” the Public Affairs Office for Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson said in an email.

According to the official, during the incident, coalition advisers and Maghawir al-Thowra fighters returned fire in self-defense, after which the other part disengaged.

The coalition representatives immediately contacted Russian military about the issue.

“Coalition officials are engaged with Russian counterparts on the deconfliction [de-escalation] line to ensure no miscalculations,” the spokesperson added.

This attack occurred just a day after the coalition had performed an airstrike on Syrian army positions in the east of Homs province. The sudden strike has claimed the life of a Syrian officer, leaving several other Syrian soldiers injured.The US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against Daesh* targets in Syria since 2014. The coalition’s mission was neither approved by Damascus nor the UN. Currently, about 2,000 US troops are deployed in Syria.

#حسين_مرتضى

@HoseinMortada

Syrian tribes announce the formation of resistance factions to confront the US occupation, French and Turkish

العشائر السورية تعلن تشكيل فصائل المقاومة لمواجهة الاحتلال الاميركي والفرنسي والتركي

 

 

 

 

The Russian Sell-Out of Bashar al-Assad

“On Monday an airstrike killed and wounded dozens of members of Iraq’sKata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shia militia which has been operating near the Iraqi border in Syria. According to Al-Jarida, Israel carried out the airstrike and killed 52 members of the militia.”JERUSALEM POST

[There is no report anywhere, to link the Kata’ib Hezbollah, or any of the Iraqi Popular Defense Forces to attacks upon Israeli interests, or American interests since joining the war against ISIS.  This Iranian supported rebel group only kills Sunni terrorists…so what Interest could the IDF, or the USAF, for that matter have had in attacking them?  One possible reason has been raised in the following article (Amid Syrian chaos, Iran’s game plan emerges: a path to the Mediterranean).]

Report: Russia demanded withdrawal – Hezbollah refused

Is an anti-Iran bloc of Russia, U.S. and Israel forming in Syria? 

Iraq slams “mysterious airstrikes” against forces fighting IS on Syrian borders

إسرائيل تضرب إيران في دير الزور بموافقة روسية

[orig. link, now switched into dead end]

Israel strikes Iran in Deir al-Zour with Russian approval

 

In response to reports that Moscow has lifted its air cover from Tehran and its pro-Syrian militias in eastern Syria, Israel carried out an air strike Sunday night in Deir al-Zour, targeting pro-Iranian Iraqi militias and fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, 52 of them. While Damascus and the Iraqi Popular Forces accused Washington of carrying out the strike, informed sources said that Tel Aviv wanted to deliver a double message that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s recent remarks that Israel wants Iran outside Syria are not just statements, And that it will work to achieve this goal, and that Iran’s approval of the “South Agreement”, and the removal of its forces and militias from the border with Jordan and Israel, does not give them any immunity, does not mean that it can work freely in the rest of the Syrian regions. The sources told Al-Jarida that the Israeli strike this time won the approval of the United States, and Moscow as well, which now considers that Tehran is playing a role recently, disrupting Russian goals, adding that Tehran’s route to the Mediterranean will not be easy. On the second front, the Turkish forces, once entering the countryside of Aleppo, began joint patrols with their US counterpart in the city of Manbaj, within the framework of a road map agreed by the foreign ministers of the two countries Mouloud Javishoglu and Mike Pompeo, on 13 June. The commander of the Military Council of Mnjj Adnan Abu-Faisal that they are officially informed of the start of the work of US-Turkish joint patrols, explaining that its work will be concentrated on the lines currently.

 

 

 

 

Brit and Syrian Press Report An Israeli Airstrike On Iranians At “al Hari in Deir Ezzor”

[Netanyahu says he told Putin that Israel will oppose Iran’s presence in Syria]

[US-led coalition attacks a military position in the countryside of al-Boukamal–SANA NEWS]

[Is an anti-Iran bloc of Russia, U.S. and Israel forming in Syria?]

[Israel strikes Iran in Deir al-Zour with Russian approval19 June 2018]

US says Israel responsible for Syria air strike that killed dozens of pro-Assad fighters

 

 

If US claims are true, unusual move marks first time Israeli forces have targeted Iraqi Shia fighters, in an area hundreds of miles away from normal zone of Israeli operations

Bethan McKernan Beirut
@mck_beth

Smoke rises as Syrian army soldiers stand near a checkpoint in Deir Ezzor in this file photo from 21 September, 2017

Smoke rises as Syrian army soldiers stand near a checkpoint in Deir Ezzor in this file photo from 21 September, 2017 ( Reuters )

Israel has not responded to reports in US media that it was behind an airstrike in Syria which killed more than 50 regime-allied troops in the east of the country.

Sunday night’s attack on the town of al Hari in Deir Ezzor, near the border with Iraq, killed 52 fighters, including 22 members of an Iraqi Shia militia, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Syrian state news blamed the US-led coalition fighting Isis for the casualties and Damascus has demanded an explanation for the targeting from Washington. Baghdad, too, condemned the attack on Iraqi paramilitary forces, calling it “support for Isis”.

Syrian military video shows air defences trying to intercept Israeli missiles

US Central Command denied responsibility, however, saying in a statement there were “no strikes by US or Coalition forces in that area during the time in question”.

Instead, unnamed US officials told AFP and CNN that the strike was carried out by the Israeli air force – a move that would represent several new developments for Israeli involvement in neighbouring Syria’s civil war.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not comment on the strike, as per its usual policy.

If the IDF was indeed behind the attack, it is the first time Israel has targeted Iraqi Shia forces in the country, and hundreds of miles away from the area it normally operates in, which already has a heavy US, Russian and Syrian air force presence.

“We will take action – and are already taking action – against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria. We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday at a cabinet meeting.

Though formally neutral on Syria’s complex civil war, Israel is believed to have carried out more than 100 strikes in the south and west of the country in the last few years to prevent weaponry shipments to Lebanese militant organisation Hezbollah, which, along with troops belonging to Shia militias from Iran and Iraq, fights alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops.

As the tide of the seven-year-old war has slowly turned in Assad’s favour, tensions between Iran and Israel have ratcheted up, with Israeli officials warning they will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria.

Last month, the hostility between the two regional powers came to a head when Israel launched its most intensive attack on Iranian positions to date after what the IDF said was the first ever direct Iranian rocket attack on its troops in the occupied Golan Heights.

The confrontation, in which at least 23 people were killed, marked the most significant military skirmish between the two enemies amid a backdrop of escalating regional tensions.

Strike on Syrian army base kills 18 people

In Syria’s east, US-led coalition, Russian and Syrian planes carry out airstrikes against Isis targets.

While the US uses a de-confliction line to avoid run-ins with the other parties, in May it is believed a US strike killed at least 12 pro-government fighters.

The bloodiest incident occurred in February, when at least 100 pro-government forces, including Russian mercenaries, were killed in a US-led coalition airstrike in Deir Ezzor.

Pentagon’s “Junkie Jihadi Army” At al-Tanf Loses Its Stash To Pentagon’s Kurdish Horde

[CAPTAGON]

CAPTAGON—Saudi Mind Control Drug of Choice

The Kingdom of Captagon

Saudi Prince Arrested In Beirut, Smuggling 2 TONS of Captagon, Addictive, Amphetamine Mind-Control Drug

Dubai Axis of Captagon Mind-Control Drug Network

 

$1.4M ISIS cache of “jihadist’s drug” seized, U.S. says

An image from a video posted on Twitter by the U.S.-allied Free Syrian Army group Maghawir al-Thowra shows a haul of the amphetamine-type narcotic Captagon, seized from ISIS near al-Tanf, Syria.

U.S. allies in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have found and destroyed an massive cache of narcotics previously held by the jihadist group in Syria, the Pentagon said early Monday morning. The haul of “Captagon,” an amphetamine-type narcotic often used by militants to stay awake and alert during prolonged battles, was worth an estimated $1.4 million, according to the U.S. military’s statement.

The Pentagon statement said the allied Free Syrian Army group Maghawir al-Thowra found the drugs during anti-ISIS operations near al-Tanf, an area on Syria’s southeast border with Iraq, on May 31.

“Despite Daesh’s façade of Islamic purity, its criminal terrorists are known drug users and traffickers,” the military statement said, referring to ISIS by an Arabic acronym. “The cache included more than 300,000 pills of Captagon, an illegal drug frequently trafficked and used by Daesh members.”

A video uploaded by the Maghawir al-Thowra militia to Twitter, complete with dramatic music and on-screen text touting the destruction of the drugs and the group’s commitment to defeating ISIS, showed thousands of pills being emptied into a barrel which was then set alight.

مغاوير الثورة @MaghaweirThowra

سنتعامل مع كل تجار ومروجي المخدرات بشكل قانوني وحازم ونقوم بتنظيف منطقة الـ٥٥ من كل المواد المخدرة والمسكرة التي تهلك الاسرة والمجتمع.

The brutal war in Syria turned the country into a far larger producer of amphetamine-type drugs, including Captagon. The narcotics have been used by the militants but also sold for profit to help fund their fight. ]

While relatively unheard of in the Western world, Captagon has been a big problem in the Middle East for years. A Saudi prince was arrested in 2015 after Lebanese officials said his plane was stopped at Beirut airport before two tons of Captagon pills were loaded onto it.

The drug, first manufactured in the West five decades ago to treat hyperactivity, narcolepsy and depression, was banned in most countries by the 1980s due to its addictive properties. It is no longer prescribed anywhere for medical use. The active ingredient in Captagon, fenethylline, is metabolized by the body into the stimulants amphetamine and theophylline.

US Calls Upon Sponsors of ISIS-Daesh to “Rebuild” Iraq

US Calls Upon Sponsors of ISIS-Daesh to “Rebuild” Iraq

Like a local mafia that breaks car windows by night and repairs them by day, the United States has enlisted its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners – namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates – to “rebuild” in Iraq in the wake of the defeated, self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) these same states sponsored. 

Reuters in an article titled, “Coalition members must help Iraq rebuild, Tillerson says,” would report (emphasis added):

The U.S. leads the coalition and hopes that after a three-year fight to defeat the militants it can count in large part on Gulf allies to shoulder the burden of rebuilding Iraq and on a Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement to weaken Iran’s influence in the country, which is run by a Shi‘ite led government. 

The article also reports (emphasis added):

Donors and investors have gathered in Kuwait this week to discuss efforts to rebuild Iraq’s economy and infrastructure as it emerges from a devastating conflict with the hardline militants who seized almost a third of the country.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be quoted by Reuters as claiming:

If communities in Iraq and Syria cannot return to normal life, we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory.

Yet even a causal student of history, military affairs, or modern warfare knows that armies tens of thousands strong, with regional, even global recruiting, training, and logistical networks do not spring up out of poverty or economic ruination. The operation capacity demonstrated by ISIS is only possible with significant state sponsorship.

US Enlists Those Who Sponsored ISIS to Rebuild Iraq 

Mention of Kuwait serving as a venue for “donors and investors” seeking to “reconstruct” Iraq is particularly ironic for those who remember the UK Telegraph’s 2014 article titled, “How our allies in Kuwait and Qatar funded Islamic State.”

The article states (emphasis added):

Islamic State (Isil), with its newly conquered territory, oilfields and bank vaults, no longer needs much foreign money. But its extraordinarily swift rise to this point, a place where it threatens the entire region and the West, was substantially paid for by the allies of the West. Isil’s cash was raised in, or channelled through, Kuwait and Qatar, with the tacit approval and sometimes active support of their governments.

And while the article attempts to frame Kuwait and Qatar’s state-sponsorship of terrorism as a betrayal of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, the fact remains that such sponsorship was not only well known to Western intelligence and political circles, it was the GCC’s ability to raise massive legions of terrorists that formed the cornerstone of the US-GCC alliance against Libya, Syria, Iran, and Shia’a majority Iraq beginning in 2011.

It was revealed in a leaked 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo that the US and its GCC – as well as Turkish – allies sought the creation of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria for the specific purpose of “isolating” the Syrian government.

The 2012 memo (PDF) would state specifically that:

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran). 

The DIA memo would also explain who these “supporting powers” are:

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

That “Salafist principality” would eventually take shape as the so-called “Islamic” (Salafist) “State” (principality) and be used specifically to both pressure the Syrian government in Damascus as well as create a pretext for the permanent occupation of Syrian territory by US military forces when US proxies stood little chance of holding it themselves.

While the US declares ISIS more or less defeated, the fact remains that militants still fighting on in Syria include ISIS fighters in their ranks – and despite superficial differences – those particularly fighting in and around Idlib province in northern Syria are indistinguishable from ISIS in both terms of extremist ideology and from which states they receive their funding and weapons.

Rebuilding or Retrenching? 

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A similar slash and burn method was used in Iraq to invite a greater US role in Iraqi security in a conflict that cut a swath of destruction across Iraqi territory, particularly in Sunni-majority regions of Iraq.

The conflict created an opportunity for the US to strengthen Kurds in northern Iraq to further isolate and diminish the power of the Shia’a majority-led government in Baghdad, as well as create a pretext for US-GCC “rapprochement” as Reuters put it – to knock Sunni-majority regions of Iraq out of Baghdad’s orbit.

Reports in October last year indicated that the US was particularly interested in Iraqi highways connecting Baghdad with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Analysts speculated that this was literally an inroad into Iraq the US and its GCC allies could use to not only build a permanent foothold in Iraq upon, but also a logistical corridor the “coalition” could use to bring in a future wave of militants aimed at rolling back Iran and its allies in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

Unlike in Syria where Russian airpower in 2015 quickly targeted and eliminated ISIS’ logistical networks streaming out of NATO territory in Turkey, highways in Iraq controlled by US contractors with a possible US military presence there as well would make repeating Russia’s success infinitely more difficult.

Kurdish media has also reported that the money Secretary Tillerson lobbied the GCC to contribute would also flow into northern Iraq. While under the guise of reconstruction aid, the investments in truth will give the GCC greater influence over the Kurds as well.

Pushing Out Iran 

While the United States attempts to credit itself and its GCC partners with the defeat – rather than the creation of ISIS – it was in fact Iran’s role in both Iraq and Syria that provided the key to the organization’s defeat.

From across the Western media itself, articles like The Atlantic’s “The Shia Militias of Iraq” and PBS’ “Iraq’s Shia Militias: The Double-Edged Sword Against ISIS” admit to the central role Iran and its allies within Iraq played in defeating ISIS.

The wars the US and GCC launched against Syria and Iraq by proxy were aimed primarily at Iran. The rise of ISIS emerged from the proxy conflict’s failure to topple the Syrian government and move quickly onward to Iran.

The momentum of the West’s proxy campaign against Iran has been broken, leaving the West searching for footholds, while it continues whittling away at both Damascus and Tehran.

While the US claims it must “weaken Iran’s influence” in Iraq, it is only because it seeks to impose its own will on both Baghdad and the Middle Eastern region itself. For Iran, ties with Iraq, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East are owed to geographical proximity, shared history, and socioeconomic and religious ties that stretch back centuries. For the United States, its presumed role in the region stems solely out of its desire for hegemony – economic and geopolitical – in the same vein as traditional colonialism.

Watching the Footholds 

Iraq has proven a desire to prevent its involuntary reordering in the wake of ISIS. Baghdad mobilized military forces that swiftly rolled Kurdish forces back to their pre-ISIS boundaries after Kurds took, and announced they would then hold them after ISIS forces vacated them.

A similar story appears to have unfolded regarding US attempts to control Iraqi highways leading out of Baghdad toward Iraq’s neighbors to the west and south. Iraq appears determined to assert its control over its own territory.

However, investments in the form of both obvious and more subtle footholds will likely still develop in the wake of ISIS’ defeat. What the US-GCC backed ISIS campaign destroyed will be rebuilt – and likely by US-GCC contractors representing US-GCC interests.

Watching these footholds develop and gauging Baghdad and its Iranian allies’ response to them will be essential in discerning what future opportunities the US-GCC might attempt to exploit amid their next attempt to reassert control over a Middle East quickly slipping away from them.

*

Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published.

All images in this article are from the author.

US Allies SDF Release Other Primary Pentagon Allies, ISIS, Back Into the Fight Against Assad

Members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather at the al-Tanak oil field as they prepare for a military campaign near the city of al-Bukamal, Dayr al-Zawr Province, eastern Syria, on May 1, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
Members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather at the al-Tanak oil field as they prepare for a military campaign near the city of al-Bukamal, Dayr al-Zawr Province, eastern Syria, on May 1, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Western-backed coalition of mainly Kurdish militants, has reportedly released foreign Daesh elements, including Europeans, back to the Takfiri terrorist group through secret prisoner swap deals.

The British Daily Telegraph cited people with knowledge of the talks between the two sides and relatives of those detained as saying that the SDF had struck three agreements with Daesh to exchange terrorists and their families with its own captured members.

The first exchange, which took place in February, involved about 200 mostly Chechen and Arab Daesh terrorists as well as a number of French and at least one German, the report said.

It further noted that the terrorists were bused out of SDF-run detention centers to Daesh-held areas in eastern Syria.

In another prisoner swap deal in April, 15 Daesh elements and 40 women and children, including Moroccans, French, Belgians and Dutch, were exchanged, according to the report.

The third swap also involved wives of Daesh terrorists earlier this month.

However, the report said, four of the 15 mediators of the agreements were later assassinated, causing the remaining negotiators to withdraw from further discussions.

The SDF, which is dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants, controls swathes of northern and eastern Syria.

The group has recently taken into captivity several foreign Daesh members, particularly since it fully captured the northern Syrian city of Raqqah in October 2017.

People walk past rubble of damaged buildings in Raqqah, Syria, on May 14, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

The SDF has complained that it does not have the capacity to keep Daesh prisoners and that the Western countries have refused to take responsibility for their nationals.

Back in March, SDF spokesman Gabriel Kino told the Middle East Eye news portal that the group had called on the Western states to take action regarding the issue of foreign Daesh prisoners.

“The SDF so far has captured thousands of IS (Daesh) militants, both Syrian or foreign fighters that joined IS during the last few years,” he said.

“We send letters to ask foreign governments to take these foreign fighters back and put them on trial, but so far we have not received any responses.”

Earlier this month, SDF officials expressed the group’s readiness to hold talks with Damascus over the future of the territory under its control.

It came after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Washington of using the “SDF card now” that other US-backed militant outfits have lost ground on the battlefield.

Assad also stressed that his government had two options in dealing with the SDF issue: first, negotiations and second using force against the militants.

“We don’t have any other option. So, this is our land, it’s our right, and it’s our duty to liberate it, and the Americans should leave, somehow they’re going to leave,” he said.

Car Bomb Attack On Taliban/Afghan Army Eid Celebration–20 Reported Killed

Basir Pashteen Atiqzai‏ @BasirAtiqzai Jun 15

#Taliban and #Afghan security forces jointly celebrates in MaidanWardak province. The unprecedented move towards peace and ceasefire is gaining hearts of the #Afghans.

An explosion at a gathering of Taliban, civilians and security forces claimed the lives of 17 people including Taliban.

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An explosion rocked a gathering of Afghan security forces, civilians and Taliban on Saturday at about 5:30pm, killing at least 17 people, local officials confirmed.

Nangarhar spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said the explosion happened in Rodat district at an Eid gathering between Taliban and Afghan security forces who were celebrating the ceasefire.

According to Khogyani, 17 people were killed and a number of others were wounded including Taliban, security forces and civilians.

Explosives in a Taliban vehicle reportedly exploded.

The explosion happened during the Eid ceasefire between Taliban and the Afghan government.

Afghan government has said it will continue operations against other insurgent groups, including Daesh, and only Taliban are part of the ceasefire.

Daesh militants are active in parts of Nangarhar province.

ISIS Video Simulates Terror Attack By Drone Upon Russia’s Sochi Stadium Depicting Mobs in Flames

Pro-ISIS Video Threatens Attacks on World Cup, Shows Russia’s Sochi Stadium in Flames

On June 13, the pro-ISIS media outlet Al-‘Adiyat released a short video threatening attacks on the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament in Russia. The video consists mainly of a compilation of combat footage from ISIS videos documenting battles in Mosul, Iraq, with a segment from a 2016 video released by the organization’s Caucasus branch in which operatives issue threats to Russia. The final scene is an animated clip of a drone with an ISIS logo surveilling the Olympic village in Sochi and the stadium where the World Cup games are to be held, followed by animated explosions.

Man 1: “Nobody knows that we are mujahideen and that we are operating here in the city – not our families, not our friends, not our work colleagues, and not even our brothers. It is only these few people, and they have been working together for many years. You have been arresting us and you have been afraid of us just because of our beards, even though we have not done anything. You were afraid of what we would do today, and you wanted to postpone it, but today, Allah willing, we will not postpone fighting you anymore. Nobody knows that we are setting out today. We have been lying in wait for you, just like predators do with their prey. I say to the tyrannical rulers: If this group does not get you, another will, Allah willing. We are not ten people, or twenty, or even fifty – we are more. Only Allah knows how many people we have. We are among you, we are your relatives, we are from your cities and villages, we are everywhere. We are lying in wait for you, and we know everything about your moves, Allah willing. So watch out for that moment, watch your cars, watch your homes. The brothers are going to hunt you down, Allah willing.”

[…]

Man 2: “I say to the infidels of Russia: Oh infidels, we are going to get to you after we kill the apostates. By Allah, our soldiers are among you. Oh infidels in Volgograd, watch out. By Allah, we are among you. Oh Jews and Christians, you will not find peace. By Allah, we have sharpened our knives, and we are coming for you. By Allah, the vanguard of our army will get to you, not only from Iraq and Syria, but also from our army in Russia. By Allah, the Province of Caucasus is not our only force. By Allah, you have been defeated the day you waged war against Islam. By Allah, oh Putin, you dog, you will burn in the Hellfire, Allah willing. You will have no protector, and the Devil will leave you on your own. By Allah, oh Russian people, know that we will kill you, because of this tyrant who started a war against us. By Allah, he started the war for his personal goals, but you will be the ones who will pay the price. By Allah, you will not find peace – not even in your homes. By Allah, we will enter your homes, we will take you and slaughter you, even if you hide behind your women. By Allah, we will take your women captive, and we will enslave your children.”

[…]

On screen: “Preparations for surveillance and reconnaissance. Surveillance and reconnaissance of targets. The operation will be executed in the heart of the Crusaders’ land.”

How Many Times Must The Pentagon/CIA Claim To Have Just Killed Terrorist Leader Fazlullah?

[In keeping with the constantly repeating pattern set by the Pentagon/CIA in the beginning of the drone assassination program, we are once again, handed another bit of fake news on an alleged successful execution of another infamous Taliban leader, in this instance, the third reported kill of the notorious “Radio Mullah” (Fazlullah), some secret nefarious purpose must be served by this latest distortion of historical fact in the terror war. ]

SOURCE

[May 27, 2010, the FIRST TIME that “Radio Mullah” was reportedly killed, this time by Afghan ground forces (TTP Swat chief Fazlullah killed in Afghanistan).]

[Dec. 21, 2014, the SECOND TIME that Fazlullah was reported to be killed, but the first time that he was allegedly killed in a US drone assassination ( Pakistan Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah ‘killed in air strike’).]


A U.S. drone strike has targeted the leader of the Pakistani Taliban in an Afghan province near the border with Pakistan, a U.S. military official confirmed to VOA. Unconfirmed reports from locals Thursday said Mullah Fazlullah has been killed.

The U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the strike late Wednesday targeted Fazlullah, the chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“U.S. forces conducted a counterterrorism strike June 13 in Kunar province, close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which targeted a senior leader of a designated terrorist organization,” a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, also told VOA Thursday, without specifying that Fazlullah was the target.

Pentagon officials declined to comment at this time on whether the strike was successful.

U.S. officials said Fazlullah directed numerous high-profile attacks against U.S. and Pakistani targets since he was appointed the group’s leader in 2013, such as the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 151 people, including more than 130 children.

The U.S. also said Fazlullah ordered the 2012 attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, who had been advocating for the right of girls to have access to an education.

The U.S. State Department offered a $5 million reward for Fazlullah in March, the same month Pakistani sources said his son was killed in a U.S. drone strike on a TTP training facility.

The strike comes amid a cease-fire between the Afghan Taliban and government security forces to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support, said the United States would adhere to the cease-fire announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which did not include U.S. counterterrorism attacks on other terror groups.

“As previously stated, the cease-fire does not include U.S. counterterrorism efforts against IS-K, al-Qaida, and other regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of U.S. and international forces to defend ourselves if attacked,” O’Donnell told VOA.

VOA Urdu Service, Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

 

UAE Complains That Pentagon Opted-Out of Hudaida Offensive

[Pentagon denies involvement in Yemen’s Hudaida military offensive]

US rejects UAE request for support to capture Yemeni port city

Saudi-backed forces attack Yemen port 03:05

(CNN)The US rejected a request from the United Arab Emirates to provide military support to the Saudi-led coalition’s operation to capture the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, US and UAE officials tell CNN.

The US government rejected the coalition’s request for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support as well as the use of an American minesweeper vessel to help clear the area of Houthi mines, a senior UAE official told CNN.
A US official confirmed the request for the minesweeper had been received and that it had been rejected.
The coalition had sought the minesweeper due to the Houthis’ decision to mine the waters near Hodeidah, an action that the UAE official said had prevented the coalition from taking the port.
The UAE official did say the coalition is waiting for a minesweeper from France to clear the mines.
The Emirati official said the request had been rejected within the last 24 hours, saying that while the US did not give a reason for the rejection the official believed the request was denied because of congressional opposition over concerns about potential civilian casualties.
In recent days several members of Congress have publicly criticized the Saudi-led effort to capture Hodeidah, which is seen as a vital lifeline for supplies for war-torn Yemen. Some estimates have said the operation could put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.
But while the request for US military assistance was denied, the Emirati official said the Trump administration has publicly and privately said it supports the operation, as long as the coalition coordinates with the United Nations, takes efforts to protect civilians and continues to deliver humanitarian aid.
“They did not encourage us, but did not discourage us,” the official said. “Not giving us military assistance is not the same as telling us not to do it.”
The official said the coalition has rolled out a plan for humanitarian aid, including plans to establish a shipping lane to Hodeidah from Abu Dhabi and Jizan, a southern city in Saudi Arabia. The plan includes delivery of food, medical supplies, economic aid and electricity. Several ships in the area are stocked with aid and once the airport is open, that aid will be delivered by air.
The Pentagon would not say Thursday whether it had rejected the request for support but called Hodeidah “critical to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to relieve the suffering of the Yemeni people.”
“We are not directly supporting the coalition offensive on the port of Hodeidah,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told CNN.
The US military has for some time been providing aerial refueling support to coalition warplanes and has provided the coalition with information to help prevent civilian casualties.
The Saudi-led coalition announced Wednesday the launching of the military operation to capture the last Houthi-controlled port. The UAE official said the operation was part of an effort to break the military stalemate between the coalition and the Houthis, who the US and the coalition view as being armed and backed by Iran.
The internationally recognized government of Yemen — led by Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi — has also signaled its support for the Hodeidah operation.
But the attackers have encountered resistance, with one UAE landing craft catching fire after coming under fire from Houthi defenders, Houthi, Emirati and US officials told CNN. The UAE official said four Emirati soldiers were killed in that attack.
The US has said it supports UN-mediated efforts to resolve the issue.
“Secretary of Defense James Mattis strongly supports the efforts of the new UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, to bring all sides of the conflict to the negotiating table,” Rankine-Galloway, the Pentagon spokesman, told CNN.
The senior UAE official said the coalition gave Griffiths a chance to negotiate with the Houthis and get them to abandon the port but that the Houthis rejected those efforts.

VIDEO: Frenchman Commits Suicide In Mecca, Jumping Off Roof of Grand Mosque

[Some early foreign sources described the man as a “suicide-bomber“, but mentioned no device.]

VIDEO: Frenchman commits suicide in Mecca Grand Mosque

  • Almowaten Photo
  • Almarsd Photo
  • Almowaten Photo
  • Almowaten Photo
  • Almowaten Photo
  • Image may contain: one or more people, crowd, stadium and outdoor
  • SOURCE
Riyadh: A Frenchman has committed suicide by throwing himself off the roof of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi and French officials said on Saturday.

“A foreigner threw himself from the roof of the Grand Mosque in Mecca” to the courtyard below, “resulting in his instant death”, Saudi police told SPA.

A French foreign ministry official told AFP in Paris that the dead man was French but gave no further details.

The body was transported to hospital, with an investigation underway “to determine the victim’s identity, what led to the act and how he was able to commit it despite the existence of a metal fence”, SPA said.

Houthi Missiles Sink UAE Warship, Seriously Damage Saudi Vessel

Yemeni War Report – June 14, 2018: Battle For Hudaydah

On June 13, the Saudi-led coalition launched a new operation to capture the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah from the Houthis.

“Liberation of the port is the beginning of the fall of the Houthi militias. It will secure navigation in the Bab al-Mandab Strait and cut off the hands of Iran,” the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi said in a statement.

The ground operation is reportedly supported by the air and naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition. Pro-Saudi and pro-UAE sources claim that the attack is ongoing from multiple directions. However, according to local sources, the advance is mainly taking place south of Hudaydah, near the airport.

On the same day, the Yemeni Navy [loyal to the Houthis] announced that it had targeted a vessel of the Saudi-led coalition off the coast of Hudaydah with two anti-ship missiles. According to the Navy, the vessel was one of the many participating in the attack on the city. The vessels attempted to carry out a landing operation in the framework of the advance on Hudayadh, but were forced to retreat after the strike.

Over the past months, the coalition’s forces have made multiple attempts to reach and capture Hudaydah. However, they have not been able to achieve this goal.

Pro-coalition sources also claim that the Houthis use the port to smuggle weapons from Iran. The city also hosts at least one of the facilities used by the Houthis to make water-born improvised explosive devices to attack the coalition’s vessels.

At the same time, Hudaydah is the last remaining humanitarian lifeline in the Houthis-controlled part of the war-torn country.


SOURCE

 

Russian Min. of Def. Warns of Impending Chemical Provocation In Deir Ezzor

‘Free Syrian Army’ & US Preparing Chemical Provocation in Deir Ezzor: Russian MoD

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov
Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov

 

 

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Monday that militants of the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ had already brought canisters with chlorine to a settlement in Deir Ezzor to stage another “chemical attack against civilians.”

“According to the information received via three independent channels in Syria, the command of the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ with assistance from the servicemen of US special operations forces is preparing a serious provocation with the use of toxic substance in Deir Ezzor province,” Konashenkov said.

The ministry noted that the video of the use of chemical substances would become grounds for US coalition’s attacks on institutions of the Syrian government.

“The staffed video, after it is disseminated in the western media, should become new grounds for the US-led coalition to carry out a missile strike against Syrian state objects and to justify militants’ offensive against Syrian government troops on the eastern bank of Euphrates,” Konashenkov added.

The Russian Defense Ministry warns that the use of such provocations to destabilize the situation in Syria is unacceptable, he stressed.

In April, the US, the UK and France launched airstrikes against Syria accusing Damascus of a chemical attack in the city of Douma. The Syrian and Russian governments have charged the US and UK-funded White Helmet group with staging a false-flag chemical attack in the city to prompt Western military intervention.

Source: Sputnik

Italy Sends Troops Into Eastern Syrian Melee

Italian soldiers stand to attention during a change of command ceremony at an Italian military camp near Herat airport© AFP 2018 / Aref KARIMI

Italy Sends Troops to Syria’s Oil-Rich Deir Ez-Zor Province – Reports

Italy has sent troops to the Eastern Syrian province of Deir Ez-Zor, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported, citing local anonymous sources. According to the outlet, Italian forces were deployed to areas controlled by Kurds roughly a week ago.

The news agency also reported that they are stationed at a US base in the oil-rich Al-Omar region. There has been no official information about the number of Italian troops deployed, nor has there been any confirmation of the reports.

READ MORE: Truman Carrier Group Renews Attacks on Daesh From E Mediterranean — US Navy

The US-led coalition is currently battling Daesh* in its last bastions in the Deir Ez-Zor and Al-Hasakah provinces. Turkish media reported that Italian forces have not yet participated in any action against the terrorists, but suggested they would be supporting YPG/PKK forces.

*Daesh, also known as ISIS, Islamic State, is a terror group banned in Russia.

Trump is writing the US out of the Middle East

The US is writing itself out of the Middle East

Trump’s preference for posturing over policy has given Putin more leverage

Donald Trump, who went to Saudi Arabia last year for his first trip abroad as US president, met King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Riyadh © Saudi Press Agency/EPA

Donald Trump’s bluster has done little except backfire in the Middle East. In a region already in flames, his attitude has every chance of lighting new fires. The US under this president is manifestly incapable of using its unique military might to reach the delusional goals he is pursuing — such as eliminating Iran’s influence across the Middle East and even toppling its Shia Islamist regime.

This US preference for posturing over policy has, by default, left Vladimir Putin’s Russia holding the mediation ring in the region. Even if President Putin’s main goal is to preserve his own fragile gains — above all Moscow’s mastery of Syria as a springboard for Russia’s return to the top table of world powers — this presents him with a problem.

To recap: a year ago Mr Trump went to Saudi Arabia and Israel for his first trip abroad as president. In Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto Saudi ruler known as MbS, laid on a roomful of about 50 Arab and African leaders — mostly Sunni despots. Mr Trump called for a Saudi-led Sunni jihad against Shia Iran. The idea was fanciful.

Three years after launching an air war in Yemen, MbS has shown that, whatever it spends on US and British arms, Saudi Arabia cannot defeat rag-tag rebels in the poorest Arab nation, let alone Iran, with the potent paramilitary forces it has nurtured in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and, indeed, Yemen. Incited by the Riyadh summit, the young crown prince went on to lead a blockade of Qatar, the maverick Gulf emirate, and detain Saad Hariri , prime minister of Lebanon. Both countries have now moved closer to Iran.

One year on, it is not a putative Saudi-led jihad against Iran that is convulsing the region but the real and accelerating possibility of war between Israel and Iran — cheered on, once again, by Mr Trump. Though the Israeli air force has been bombing Iranian and Lebanese Hizbollah targets in Syria for five years, the first direct confrontation between Israel and Iran took place just after the president noisily withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal Tehran had signed with the US and five other world powers.

Last week, there were at least two more big Israeli air strikes in Syria against Iran/Hizbollah targets. That is the hot potato Mr Putin is holding. Russia is the only power with close links to both Israel and Iran. It was the combination of Russian air power and Iranian paramilitary forces on the ground that saved Syrian president Bashar al-Assad from a Sunni-majority rebellion. Yet Moscow has turned a blind eye to Israel operating in the Syrian airspace that Russia supposedly controls.

If Israel seriously damages the capability of Iran and its allies in Syria, that would kick away the props with which Mr Putin has shored up the Assads. Aside from the fireworks, therefore, there have been stirrings in the diplomatic undergrowth. Mr Putin had meetings in Russia this month with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and Mr Assad. Meanwhile Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, met Mohammad Javad Zarif, his Iranian counterpart.

Israel has long said it will not accept Iran establishing a permanent presence in Syria, or the threat of Hizbollah’s arsenal of Iranian rockets. This month it added it would hit Tehran and its allies in every corner of Syria. Russia appears to have helped negotiate the withdrawal of Iran and proxy forces from the south-west corner of Syria bordering Israel. There are, meanwhile, small signs that France is making headway on resolving the crisis in Yemen, where Iran supports the heterodox Shia Houthi rebels. President Emmanuel Macron has been talking to Mr Putin on a range of Iran-related problems.

This is all very tentative. May has been a dangerous month in the Middle East, during which Mr Trump has helped reignite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Arab east of which has been illegally occupied by Israel for half a century. Nor should anyone think Mr Putin is a worthy candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize. The master of the Kremlin is acting partly out of frustration that he has not been able to leverage Syria to lift sanctions imposed against Russia; and partly from the realisation that his control of Syria is an illusion.

There is narrow path away from war here and it makes sense to deal with Mr Putin, as Mr Macron is doing. But Mr Trump, with the self-satisfied flourish of the outsize signature he so delights in showing the camera, has largely written the US out of the Middle East script.

Did Trump Green Light Zionist State Aggression To Finalize Theft of Golan Heights?

Israeli minister says U.S. may soon recognize Israel’s hold on Golan

[Syrian Army Enhancing Anti-Aircraft Defenses on Golan Heights – Reports]

Israeli Army Launches Surprise Military Drill in Syria’s Occupied Golan Heights

US/Saudi/UAE/Brit Forces Pound Yemen’s Only Humanitarian Port of Entry

[U.S. Deepens Role in Yemen Fight, Offers Gulf Allies Airstrike-Target Assistance

American military to provide information to fine-tune list of targets in important port]

 

The Saudi-led coalition just launched an attack on Yemen’s Hodeidah — and it could be disastrous

Tribal fighters loyal to the Yemeni government stand by a tank in al-Faza area near Hodeida, Yemen June 1, 2018.
Tribal fighters loyal to the Yemeni government stand by a tank in al-Faza area near Hodeida, Yemen June 1, 2018.
Reuters

 

  • Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition started an assault on Wednesday on Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, which is held by the Houthi movement.
  • The news came Wednesday night after US military officials said that the US is helping the Saudi-led coalition choose targets that will minimize civilian casualties.
  • The United Nations and aid groups have been scrambling to stall the attack, warning that an assault on Hodeidah could spiral out of control, compounding already arguably the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.

Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition started an assault on Wednesday on Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, which is held by Iranian-backed Houthis, according to Al-Arabiya television.

The battle for Hodeidah is expected to be by far the biggest of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iranian-backed Houthis.

The news came Wednesday night after US military officials said that the US is helping the Saudi-led coalition choose targets that will minimize civilian casualties.

The Trump administration last week was reportedly considering helping the UAE, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, in an assault on Hodeidah.

Meanwhile, the United Nations and aid groups have been scrambling to stall the attack, warning that an assault on Hodeidah could spiral out of control, compounding already arguably the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.

Houthi supporters hold up rifles as they rally to protest the killing of Saleh al-Samad, a senior Houthi official, by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in Hodeidah, Yemen April 25, 2018.
Houthi supporters hold up rifles as they rally to protest the killing of Saleh al-Samad, a senior Houthi official, by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in Hodeidah, Yemen April 25, 2018.
Reuters

 

“We fear that a prolonged attack or siege on Hodeidah could be catastrophic for civilians,” Lise Grande, the UN’s head Yemen humanitarian coordinator, previously told The Wall Street Journal, adding that 250,000 of the city’s 400,000 people could be killed.

The US also helps the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen with “limited intelligence sharing,” aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise, Major Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesperson, previously told Business Insider.

Green Berets are even reportedly helping Saudi Arabia locate and destroy Iranian-backed Houthi ballistic missiles and launch sites in the war-torn country.

The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of conducting indiscriminate and unlawful airstrikes, as well as blocking food, fuel, and medicine into Yemen, according to Human Rights Watch. At the same time, the Houthis have repeatedly fired artillery at Yemeni cities, missiles at Saudi Arabia (most recently on June 9), been accused of using child soldiers, and more.

The Gazan Martyr of Malaysia – Sheikh Dr Fadi al-Batsh

The Gazan Martyr of Malaysia – Sheikh Dr Fadi al-Batsh

Where do we begin when we speak of an inspirational man who proved that you do not need to be in Palestine to win martyrdom? One who showed that you do not need to be on the battlefield to die with honour and nobility? One who established that academic excellence can be combined with Islamic distinction, estrangement and very humble means and beginnings?

Sheikh Dr Fadi al-Batsh was a man true to his word, an icon of Palestinian bravery and sacrifice, intimately in service of Palestine, but murdered in the Malaysian Capital of Kuala Lumpur, nearly 5,000 miles away.

A scholar and a companion of the Book of Allāh, having committed it to heart and memory, a pioneer in Electrical Engineering, Fadi al-Batsh was killed in cold blood whilst on his way to dawn (Fajr) prayers in the Masjid. Several of fourteen bullets penetrated his body, and whilst Malaysian authorities continue to investigate the perpetrators of this cowardly assassination, it is the hallmark of the insidious ‘Israeli’ Mossad,[1] cowed by their pathological existential complex and encouraged by a pseudo-state, built and fed on murder.

Military analyst in Israel Hayom, Yoav Limor, said: “It is natural to attribute the assassination of Fadi Al-Batsh to Mossad. The target is an engineer who worked for Hamas.”[2]

Fadi al-Batsh, the lecturer and aspiring-Professor was a husband and the father of three toddlers. Al-Batsh graduated from Electrical Engineering with a Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees from the Islamic University of Gaza in 2009 scoring over 85% in each, before pursuing a PhD in the same discipline at the University of Malaya in 2015.

Al-Batsh, loyal to his homeland, transferred his knowledge back to Gaza and had momentous contributions, addressing some of Gaza’s teething power system challenges and established research partnerships between his university in Malaysia and the besieged strip. Asked about why he decided to relocate to Malaysia despite the huge travel and study expense, he replied:

“I decided to risk it, despite not being sure I would obtain a scholarship. At that moment, I recalled the ḥadīth of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam): ‘He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allāh will make the path of Jannah (Paradise) easy for him.’”[3]

Speaking about his achievements during his studies, al-Batsh indicated that he had published some 30 journal and conference papers and had participated in conferences in all of the United Kingdom, Finland, Spain, Saudi Arabia and of course, Malaysia, heading many of them. Al-Batsh was also awarded the ‘Best Student’ award in the presence of Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak.

On the non-academic front, al-Batsh won first place in Malaysia’s 6th International Postgraduate Qur’ān Competition and completed memorising the Qur’ān, with certification (Ijāzah) in the recitations of Shu’bah and Hafs. On top of this, al-Batsh delivered a multitude of sermons at Masājid, schools and universities, with particular focus on enlightening Muslims on issues relating to Palestine. He actively participated in training Malaysian Imāms and Mu’athins. Al-Batsh would later join the panel of judges for Malaysia’s yearly Qur’anic competition held by the ‘Itqan’ Institute in Kuala Lumpur.[4] He achieved all this, and was only 35 years old, by the grace of Allāh.

Some Reflections on the Assassination of Fahad al-Batsh

Al-Batsh stood ‘accused’ of sharing his academic knowledge with Gaza, much of which is already known and documented. Zionist media rushed to allege he was the developer of Gaza’s military drones and technology.[5]

Regardless of his contributions, it is already known that the mere existence of Palestinians is enough of a threat to ‘Israel’ that it sanctions the murder of their service-providers, be they military pioneers, or in the case of al-Batsh and others, civilians. The existence of a ‘state’ established on the homes and corpses of hundreds of thousands of innocents cannot expand but on murder. ‘Israel’ is threatened by Palestinians cognisant of its illegality. Its snipers assassinate protestors who clearly pose no threat whilst shouting with laughter and security of no criminal repercussion; “(look how) he flew in the air.”[6]

The Zionist entity has a disposition to kill not as a result of ‘threats’ but in fear of determination. There is absolutely no explanation for its intentional targeting of women, for instance, except that it fears they will impart determination to their children and inculcate in them a yearning for Palestine. It is a pre-emptive cleansing of self-determined generations.

Failing that objective, Zionist warmongers murder such women’s targetable children when they hurl rocks or draw close to a border fence. But their extermination becomes politically daring and embarrassing. Moral standards or ‘justice’, when anticipated from its government, are met with its Defence Minister saying that the aforementioned sniper “deserves a medal.”[7]

Zionist brutes are shameless in reiterating their immoral standards at the highest level of ‘government’. Anticipating justice from such a government indoctrinated on brutality is futile. In 2015 its Justice Minister tweeted,

“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just.”[8]

Premediated to kill determined Palestinians, the occupation does not spare child or even the physically incapacitated, as in the case of wheelchair-bound, amputee Ibrahim Abu Thuraya[9] or Ahmad Abu Aqel,[10] a disabled man on crutches. The 40 protestors executed at Gaza’s borders and 5,000 wounded since the March of Return rallies began on the 30th of March,[11] are not Fadi al-Batsh, but are as determined, and that is enough in ‘Israel’s’ eyes to make their killers deserving of medals.

If this is the narrative of Zionists, why then do we shy away from reiterating that Dr al-Batsh, a Gazan contributor to research and development in Gaza, in whatever capacity, and a service provider of a just cause of academia or resistance is in fact the one deserving of a real medal of honour.

Is it a Loss for Palestine?

‘Israel’ is an entity sustained on foreign aid and charged by sensationalist media and inferential adverts in the entertainment industry. As such, it will kill bearers of knowledge, writers and political activists. Just causes, however, cannot be put out by bullets. Let us say this another way, how many of Palestine’s resistance figureheads have been assassinated by ‘Israel’? And who can recall the last time Gaza hosted 30,000 protestors, knowing full well that Gaza’s borders is littered with graceless snipers?

Did the assassination of Mazen Fuqaha, Tunisian Mohammed al-Zawari, Raed al-Atar, Ahmad al-Mabhouh and the tens and tens of other such members of the Palestinian resistance, the academic population such as Fadi al-Batsh or the thousands of Palestinians butchered over the seven decades of Palestine’s occupation kill the Palestinian cause?

Let us go back further. Did the martyrdom of 70 of the Prophet’s companions (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhum) at a time the ‘Muslim World’ culminated in the few thousand citizens of the Madani Community disable the Da’wah of Islām? It was in fact after the Battle of Uḥud that Allāh revealed,

“Many a Prophet has been killed, when there were many thousands with him! They did not give up in the face of what assailed them in the Way of Allāh, nor did they weaken, nor did they yield. Allāh loves the steadfast.”[12]

The assassination of al-Batsh is sorrowful but not disheartening. If anything, it demonstrates how perturbed the Zionist entity is by determined individuals who live as far away as Malaysia or by activists who may feel their contribution is worthless. It is a reminder that no effort for Palestine and Jerusalem is too small. Despite his monumental work, were al-Batsh to die an ordinary death, lessons from this young, inspirational scholar and academic, applicable for the lives of millions, would have never reached us. So his martyrdom is not a loss for Palestine, but a treasure for the Muslim world and no doubt a privilege for this young man, raḥimahu Allāh.

“Do not suppose that those killed in the Way of Allāh are dead. No indeed! They are alive and well provided for in the very presence of their Lord.”[13]

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180423-israel-media-pins-targeting-of-palestinian-engineer-on-mossad/

[2] As above

[3] Abū Dāwūd and Tirmidhi on the authority of Abū al Dardā’

[4] https://www.palinfo.com/news/2018/4/22/تعرف-على-سيرة-العالم-الفلسطيني-الشهيد-فادي-البطش-كما-رواها

[5] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180423-israel-media-pins-targeting-of-palestinian-engineer-on-mossad/

[6] http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/04/10/558080/israel-liberman-Gaza-sniper

[7] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/10/middleeast/video-israeli-sniper-intl/index.html

[8] https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-what-does-ayelet-shaked-really-think-about-arabs-1.5360885

[9] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/ibrahim-abu-thuraya-dead-shot-killed-israel-jerusalem-protest-disabled-no-legs-wheelchair-a8114766.html

[10] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/20/middleeast/mladenov-slams-killing-in-gaza/index.html

[11] http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/gaza-palestinian-dies-israeli-gunfire-wounds-ministry-1204369864

[12] Qur’an 3:146 note. The translation is from the Warsh recitation of the verse ‘Qutil’ rather than ‘Qaatal’. Both are authentic recitations of the verse.

[13] Qur’an 3:169

Saudi Arabia Uses Counter-Terrorism to Justify Terror

Saudi Arabia Uses Counter-Terrorism to Justify Terror

Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism measures are violating human rights and the kingdom’s legislation is criminalising peaceful expression of opinion, assembly and association, as well as freedom of thought and religion, a report by the UN’s special rapporteur on anti-terrorism says.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud in 2017

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud in 2017The report, conducted by British QC Ben Emmerson, was published Wednesday after a five-day official inspection of the country at the invitation of the Saudi government.

The root of the problem is the government’s broad definition of terrorism. Saudi Arabia’s first counter-terrorism legislation was enacted in February 2014.

“Articles of the 2014 Law criminalise a wide spectrum of acts of peaceful expression, opinion, assembly and association, as well as freedom of thought and religion,” the UN report says.

In March of that year, the Interior Ministry expanded the definition by adding a list of acts that classified as terrorism. It included “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of any Islamic religion on which this country is based” as well as anyone who had “contact or correspondence with any groups, currents of thought, or individuals hostile to the Kingdom.”

The Interior Ministry was in charge of anti-terrorism but in October 2017, the task was transferred to two newly established factions of the government, both which report to the King.

The October changes also included a new article which extends the definition of terrorism to “those who describe the King or Crown Prince in any way offensive to religion or justice.”

In May 2018, Saudi police arrested the founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), Mohammed al-Bajadi. The government has been prosecuting members from the group for the last six years, Human Rights Watch reported.

The offenses were classified as crimes of misleading public opinion and defaming the loyalty and faith of council members.

Though Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has publicly presented himself as a reformer, critics say this is misleading.

In addition to Saudi Arabia’s early issuing of driver’s licenses to women on Tuesday, the government has also been cracking down on women’s rights activists in the last month, arresting 17 activists with nine still in jail, the BBC reported.

According to the public prosecutor, the detainees allegedly admitted to communicating and cooperating with individuals and organizations opposed to the kingdom, offering support to hostile elements abroad, and seeking secret information that hurt the country’s interests, Reuters reported. All actions that violate the country’s counter-terrorism laws.

“Under crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is undergoing the most ruthless crackdown on political dissent that the country has experienced in decades,” Emmerson told The Guardian.

“Just as the Kingdom is handing out the first driving licences for women, it is locking up the very people who campaigned for this modest reform.”

But in addition to the broad definition of terrorism to justify acts of terror and stifle government dissent, Emmerson also addresses unfair trials in the criminal court, the use of torture, coerced confessions, and flawed investigations. He also points to the the use of the death penalty, which is given for crimes that do not involve loss of life.

The report concludes with numerous recommendations for the Saudi government and emphasizes the commitments it made when it applied to be a candidate of the Human Rights Council in 2016.

The picture that emerges from this report casts doubt upon whether it was wise for Saudi Arabia to be admitted to the Council, and threatens to undermine the authority of the Council itself in the eyes of the world,” Emmerson said in the report.

Huge Load of Nitrate Explosives Seized Entering Afghanistan, From Pakistan

Huge explosive material cache seized at Torkham

Jun 10, 2018

KABUL (Pajhwok): Intelligence operatives on Sunday seized three and a half tons of potassium chloride from a truck after crossing from Pakistan into eastern Nangarhar province, the spy service said.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a statement said the chemical, used in making bombs by the insurgents, came from Pakistan to “carry out terrorist attacks in Kabul.”

The NDS statement said the potassium chloride weighing 3,500 kilograms was from 150 sacks loaded on the truck at Torkham border crossing.

It alleged the chemical had been skillfully hidden in the sacks in the name of sugar and terrorists intended to use the explosives in terrorist activities by transferring it to Kabul.

One person was arrested in connection with the seizure, the statement said, without giving further details.

Austria Igniting Interfaith Conflict Over Turkish Mosque Closures?

[Federal Law on the External Legal Relations of Islamic Religious Societies – Islam Act 2014]

Austria to shut down mosques, expel foreign-funded imams

Erdogan furious over Austria’s shutdown of Turkish-funded mosques

Erdogan denounces Austrian decision to close mosques
The closed door of the “Nizam-i Alem” mosque in Vienna’s 10th district. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP
[“The mosque is suspected to be under the influence of the classified as extremist and fascist Turkish ‘Gray Wolves’.”–Austrian government wants to close seven mosques–Weiner Zeitung]

Kurdish Syrian Democratic Council ready for ‘unconditional talks’ with Assad regime

A Syrian child walks past a gun among destroyed buildings in Kobane on May 27, 2018. Photo: Delil Souleiman / AFP
A Syrian child walks past a gun among destroyed buildings in Kobane on May 27, 2018. Photo: Delil Souleiman / AFP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), a Kurdish-Arab alliance and political wing of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), announced on Sunday it is ready for peace talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

In a statement, the SDC said is wants to resolve the deadly conflict in Syria, now in its eight year, through dialogue and would not “hesitate to agree to unconditional talks” with the Syrian government, as reported by AFP.

Hekmat Habib, head of the SDC, told AFP both the council and the SDF “are serious about opening a door to dialogue” with the Syrian regime.

“With the SDF’s control of 30 percent of Syria, and the regime’s control of swathes of the country, these are the only two forces who can sit at the negotiating table and formulate a solution to the Syrian crisis,” he said.

Kurdish authorities hope to avoid military confrontation and attempt a rapprochement with the Syrian regime.

In an interview with the Kremlin-backed Russia Today (RT) network last month, President Assad said the SDF is “the only problem left in Syria” and threatened to use force if negotiations over Syrian territory proved unsuccessful.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the regime is holding informal talks with the Kurds, but negotiations have not officially started. Details have not been shared by either side.

The conflict in Syria began after mass protests in March 2011 escalated into a full scale civil war between pro-Syrian regime forces and rebel factions.

The rise of ISIS across Iraq and Syria in 2014 further complicated the situation, causing regional and global powers to be drawn into the conflict.

Kurds in Syria’s northern provinces carved out their own autonomous region of Rojava. They have generally maintained an uneasy truce with Assad over the course of the war.

The US-led anti-ISIS coalition has been working with the SDF to oust the terror group.

Turkey has been a main backer of opposition groups trying to remove Assad from power, while Russia and Iran have been among his main allies.

However, Turkey, Iran and Russia have teamed up to help mediate a peace settlement to end the conflict.

They have failed to negotiate a lasting ceasefire through several rounds of peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana, which officially began in December 2016. United Nations-led talks in Geneva have also failed to end the conflict.

SDC chief Habib told AFP all non-Syrian military forces should leave the war-torn country, including roughly 2,000 US troops.

“We are looking forward, in the next phase, to the departure of all military forces from Syria and the return to Syrian-Syrian dialogue,” he added.

More than half a million people have been killed over the course of the war, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Around half of all Syrians have been displaced at one time or another, sparking the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Israeli Butchers Shoot Palestinian Man In Face w/Teargas Canister…had to be surgically removed

Horrific moment IDF gas canister hits Palestinian in the face (GRAPHIC PICTURES)

Horrific moment IDF gas canister hits Palestinian in the face (GRAPHIC PICTURES)
A Palestinian protester is on life support after a tear gas canister launched by an Israeli soldier hit him square in the face. The still-smoking canister got lodged in the man’s cheek and had to be surgically removed.

A Reuters photographer snapped the moment after a tear gas canister caught Palestinian protester Haitham Abu Sabla in the face. The blood-chilling images show the man splattered with blood, with the canister embedded right next to his nose, with the tear gas still billowing out of it, as well as from the protester’s mouth.

Abu Sabla was taken to a hospital, where the canister was surgically removed, and he was placed on life support. Abu Sabla is a regular attendant of the weekly protests at the Gaza-Israeli border, his brother told Reuters.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been cracking down on the months-long protests along the Gaza border, dubbed the Great March of Return by Palestinians, which were started to mark 70 years since thousands of Palestinian Arabs fled or were chased off their land to make way for the newly-established Israel. While IDF claims to act with surgical precision and accuses the protesters of being terrorists and Hamas puppets, over 120 of the protesters have been killed by the Israeli forces so far.

In the latest case, a 21-year-old female Gaza medic was shot and killed while giving first aid to wounded Palestinians. The IDF then posted a heavily-edited clip online, alleging she was “incited by Hamas” and was taking an active part in the rioting.

CFR Member Openly Admits the Need For Propaganda To Direct American Thinking

Council on Foreign Relations Tells Gov’t They “Have To” Use Propaganda on Americans

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations insisted that the United States government must use propaganda on its own citizens.

propaganda

The Council on Foreign Relations delivered an Orwellian presentation recently that unsurprisingly went unnoticed in the mainstream media, in which CFR’s Richard Stengel forwarded the notion that governments “have to” direct “propaganda” at their own domestic populations.

The Council is recognized as one of the United States’ oldest and most establishment think tanks of the American power-elite, and it often sets the agenda on important policy questions—or, as former senior editor at the Washington Post, Richard Harwood, in a column entitled “Ruling Class Journalists,” approvingly described the Council as, the nearest thing we have to a ruling establishment in the United States.”

Harwood admiringly wrote: “The membership of these journalists in the Council, however they may think of themselves, is an acknowledgment of their active and important role in public affairs and of their ascension into the American ruling class. They do not merely analyze and interpret foreign policy for the United States; they help make it…. They are part of that establishment whether they like it or not, sharing most of its values and worldviews.”

CFR is a key cog in the hub of Washington think-tanks promoting endless war. As former Army Major Todd Pierce described, think-tanks act as primary provocateurs” using “‘psychological suggestiveness’ to create a false narrative of danger from some foreign entity with the objective being to create paranoia within the U.S. population that it is under imminent threat of attack or takeover.”

In late January 2018, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange publicized the extensive sway the Council on Foreign relations carried over U.S. mass media by Tweeting a graphic created by Swiss Propaganda Research (SPR), a research and information project on geopolitical propaganda in Swiss media, which illustrated the heavy influence CFR exercises over the media narrative delivered to the American public, i.e. domestic propaganda.

The illustration of the Council’s deeply entrenched media presence is based on official membership rosters compiled by SPR, revealing the interconnectedness of CFR’s extensive mass media influence network and its main international affiliate groups—the Bilderberg Group (covering mainly the U.S. and Europe) and the Trilateral Commission (covering North America, Europe and East Asia).

Full graphic HERE

 

According to the report from Swiss Propaganda Research:

Largely unbeknownst to the general public, many media executives and top journalists of almost all major US news outlets have long been members of the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)

Established in 1921 as a private, bipartisan organization to “awaken America to its worldwide responsibilities”, the CFR and its close to 5000 elite members have for decades shaped U.S. foreign policy and public discourse about it. As one Council member famously explained, the goal has indeed been to establish a global Empire, albeit a “benevolent” one.

Stengel, a former editor of TIME magazine, told the audience at a CFR event in late April called Political Disruptions: Combating Disinformation and Fake News that governments “have to” direct “propaganda” toward their own populations.

In the full video of the CFR event shown below, Stengel openly argues in favor of propaganda against U.S. citizens starting at the 1:15:26 mark in the footage.

Stengel, who is a former high-level U.S. government official, head of the office for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department from 2013 to 2016, and a regular pundit on MSNBC, explained:

Basically, every country creates their own narrative story and, you know, my old job at the State Department was what people used to joke as the ‘chief propagandist’ job. We haven’t talked about propaganda… I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it, and they have to do it to their own population, and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.

Zero Hedge reported that Stengel’s personal bio site notes that he “helped create and oversee” the Global Engagement Center at the State Department whose official mission is to “counter propaganda and disinformation from international terrorist organizations and foreign countries” (with a “special focus on Russia”).

Perhaps most ominous of all is the fact that a man who publicly says that he isnot against propaganda” on the U.S. government’s “own population was recently named a “distinguished fellow” as part of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab).

Yes, the same Atlantic Council that espouses a strongly anti-Russian agenda that is funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who also happened to donate at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Pinchuk just so happens to be the CTO and co-founder of CrowdStrike—the company used by the DNC to inspect their servers allegedly hacked by Russia, after refusing the FBI access to the same servers.

Obviously, it seems to be very peculiar behavior by the DNC to refuse the FBI access to their servers, and instead rely on a private company—unless they had an ulterior motive. Consequently, the assessment by CrowdStrike was used as a basis for what eventually resulted in the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Ironically, just two weeks ago the DFRLab announced that its team has partnered with Facebook to “monitor disinformation and protect elections. The DFRLab defined the new initiative as follows:

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab today announced a partnership with Facebook to independently monitor disinformation and other vulnerabilities in elections around the world. The effort is part of an initiative to help provide credible research about the role of social media in elections, as well as democracy more generally.

The Digital Forensic Research Lab is launching a partnership with Facebook to support the world’s largest community in its efforts to strengthen democracy

As if on cue, and with an utterly Orwellian feel, Facebook announced on June 2, 2018, that the user-generated “trending news” section will be replaced by a “breaking news” section—which will be comprised of 80 publications selected by Facebook—that will feed approved content to users.

Facebook will essentially have complete control of the topics and narratives that are fed to their users in a clear act of social engineering, which will give the social media giant—and their political/ideological allies—the ability to directly manipulate people’s perceptions of any event.

During the 2016 election, leaked internal documents from Facebook revealed that the editors in charge of the company’s “Trending News” section repeatedly discriminated against conservative articles, while promoting progressive content, which resulted in the threat of an investigation from the Senate commerce committee.

The new changes were explained in a Friday announcement:

  • Breaking News Label: A test we’re running with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia lets publishers put a “breaking news” indicator on their posts in News Feed. We’re also testing breaking news notifications.
  • Today In: We’re testing a dedicated section on Facebook called Today In that connects people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city, as well as updates from local officials and organizations.
  • News Video in Watch: We will soon have a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives that are exclusive to Watch.

So, when CFR is publicly advocating for the societal benefits of domestic propaganda, and Facebook is jettisoning an already meager user-generated “Trending News” section and aligning itself with an anti-Russian, Clinton-connected thinktank, Americans should be keenly aware that they are being actively propagandized, and they should work to intentionally diversify their news sources as an omnipotent mass propaganda regime is being covertly implemented.

Saudi Arabia To Underwrite New SDF Force in northern Syria Acceptable To Turks

Saudi Arabia in talks with SDF to form new force in northern Syria

Fatıma Taşkömür

Saudi Arabia started its talks with one of the Arab militias of the SDF, otherwise dominated by the YPG terror organisation.Saudi Arabia started its talks with one of the Arab militias of the SDF, otherwise dominated by the YPG terror organisation. (Reuters)

Saudi military consultants met with the SDF at the US base in Harab Isk in the northern Syrian town of Kobani for coalition talks with the group, weeks after Washington said it was seeking to replace US troops in Syria with an Arab force.

Anadolu Agency (AA) reported that the Saudi military consultants met with the Al Sanadid Forces, an Arab militia under the SDF, an umbrella group established and dominated by the YPG/PKK terrorist organisation.

Saudi officials had set up communication checkpoints in Hasakeh and Qamishli to recruit fighters, and were promising $200 to new recruits to the force, which is to be a part of the YPG-held, unilaterally declared, “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.”

The Al Sanadid Forces is a militia formed by the Arab Shammar tribe, which is known to have an anti-Wahhabi position that seeks the breakup of Saudi Arabia, where it is the dominant sect.

Although US President Donald Trump has proposed immediate withdrawal of the reported 2,000 US troops from Syria, the Pentagon has underlined the US desire to remain.

Meanwhile, Saudi officials have been signalling their readiness to send troops to Syria in the case of such a demand, and have stated that the US should remain in the country for “at least the mid-term, if not the long-term.”

“We are in discussion with the US and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said after reports of the possible Arab Force emerged in April.

“There are discussions regarding … what kind of force needs to remain in eastern Syria and where that force would come from, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Anadolu Agency also reported that the YPG/PKK sent encouraging messages to Saudi Arabia on their social media accounts.

Saudi attempts to maintain foothold in the region

This is not the first time Saudi Arabia has interacted with the SDF. There have been reports of Saudi Arabia sending truckloads of aid to the YPG/PKK via Iraq, including last month.

In October 2017, after the YPG took control of Raqqa, Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al Sabhan visited the city to discuss its reconstruction with US officials and SDF members.

And in 2016, it said it could send ground troops for the US-led anti-Daesh coalition. “The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition may agree to carry out in Syria,” military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al Asiri said at the time. Most recently, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman also said Saudi Arabia could participate in the military response declared by Trump following the April 2018 chemical attack by the Syrian regime.

Longtime allies the US and Saudi Arabia have drawn closer in the face of the growing influence of their mutual foe Iran in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia’s most recent steps in Syria could be one way that it is attempting to maintain a hold on its waning influence in the region, a high-ranking Turkish diplomatic official told TRT World, referring to Saudi Arabia’s failed efforts in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

Since the start of the Syrian war, Saudi Arabia has been providing material and monetary support to various opposition groups, and, until recently, rejected the idea of a Syria with Assad.

However, opposition groups have steadily lost ground to Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers, and even with Saudi efforts at bringing together various opposition groups in Riyadh for representation in Geneva, did not bear much fruit.

The only other area that has maintained captured territory is the US-backed SDF in northern Syria. While the regime tacitly allowed the SDF to hold territory in the north, particularly in the fight against Daesh, it has maintained that it wants to regain control of the whole of Syria.

On Thursday, Syria’s Bashar al Assad said the regime had started now “opening doors for negotiations” with the SDF, and that the US should leave Syria.

“This is the first option. If not, we’re going to resort to … liberating those areas by force. We don’t have any other options, with the Americans or without the Americans,” he said.

“The Americans should leave, somehow they’re going to leave,” he continued.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

Lebanon Election Outcome a Response to US, Israeli Hostility

Iran: Lebanon Election Outcome a Response to US, Israeli Hostility

 

candidate registration
Tuesday was the final day for potential candidates to submit their candidacy to the Lebanese Interior Ministry

Iran’s parliament speaker hailed the outcome of Sunday’s election in Lebanon as a response to the hostile policies of the US and Israel towards Lebanon, such as their attempts to upset the Arab country’s security by supporting terrorists.

Addressing the parliament on Tuesday, Ali Larijani lauded the Lebanese nation for responding to the US and Israeli hostile moves by voting in the parliamentary elections.

The wise Lebanese nation expressed their comments by voting “no to the US and no to Zionists” in the elections in spite of all the dirty dollars that the US, Zionists and their regional followers spent to harm Lebanon, he added.

The speaker called on the US president to notice the result of the American and Zionist plots against Lebanon in the vote of the Lebanese people, warning the US that lack of commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will have the same outcome.

Donald Trump should realize that political and military pressure against people of the region will be faced with the voice of nations who stand against bullies, Larijani underlined.

A top adviser to Iran’s Leader also hailed Hezbollah’s landslide victory in Sunday’s elections, saying the landslide victory will pay an important role in the future of the region. “This great victory was a complementary to other victories of Lebanese nation against Israel,” Ali Akbar Velayati said on Tuesday.

Velayati added that the victory was also a victory for both the executive and legislative branches of the Lebanese government as both president and the prime minister are elected by the parliament.

He praised the Secretary General of Hezbollah Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s role in the great victory, saying that despite Saudis and Zionists’ enormous efforts to derail the elections, Nasrallah led the people to the victory.

The top adviser to Iranian Leader went on to add that Israel and Saudi Arabia found out that the huge amount of money they spent on the elections proved to be futile.

Velayati underlined that Hezbollah’s victory will strengthen the Resistance Movement against Israel in the region and Syria.

 

On Sunday, Lebanese people voted for their favorite candidates competing for 128 parliamentary seats.

Hezbollah and its political allies won more than half of the seats in the polls.

Earlier, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman lauded the exemplary democratic process in Lebanon, saying Tehran respects the vote of Lebanese people and will support any government that the Arab country’s new parliament elects.

“Lebanon is an independent state. Democratic process is well in progress in that country and provides a very good example for many countries in the region,” Bahram Qassemi told reporters on Monday when asked about Iran’s stance on the Arab country’s parliamentary vote.

The Islamic Republic of Iran will support and cooperate with any government elected by the Lebanese people, the spokesperson added.

Qassemi also congratulated the candidates that have won the vote of people in the first parliamentary elections in Lebanon in nine years.

US Rejects Saudi/UAE Plea To Support Assault Upon Key Yemeni Port City

In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, fighters against Shiite rebels known as Houthis gather at the road leading to Al-Anad base near Aden in the southern province of Lahej, Yemen. The capture of the Al-Anad base was a significant victory for the forces allied to Yemen’s exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in their battle to reverse the gains of Houthis. (AP Photo/Wael Qubady)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:15 A.M.) – One week after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia sought the U.S.’ military support to capture the strategic Yemeni port-city of Hodeideh, the latter has issued a warning to the two Gulf states about carrying out such an offensive.

“In terms of an operation on Hodeidah, we’ve been quite clear that we want to engage on the political track,” a Western official said on condition of anonymity, adding that U.N. envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths “now has the best chance of anyone in quite some time of getting it moving.”

“This is a point that we’ve made at the top level,” the official added. “The Saudis and Emiratis have made clear that they would not move without a joint understanding from their friends and partners of what the next steps are – what the day after will be – if there were an assault on Hodeidah.”

However, despite the ‘understanding,’ the UAE and Saudi-backed forces have continued their offensive to capture Hodeideh from the Houthi forces.

“The United States has been clear and consistent that we will not support actions that destroy key infrastructure or that are likely to exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation that has expanded in this stalemated conflict,” said the spokesperson to Reuters, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and asked not to be named.

“We expect all parties to abide by the Law of Armed Conflict and avoid targeting civilians or commercial infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.

Zionist Colonizer Forces Plotting Massive Invasion of Stolen Golan Heights

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:25 A.M.) – Israel’s Deputy Minister Michael Oren told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that his government is mulling the idea of massively expanding their presence inside the occupied Golan Heights region.

“We’ve been settling the Golan for more than 50 years now, but there are just 22,000 Israeli citizens there,” Oren stated.

“The Golan is an inseparable part of the character of the State of Israel, and we must develop the area,” he said on the 51st anniversary of Israel’s victory during the 1967 Six Days War.

According to Oren, expanding Israel’s presence in the occupied Golan Heights is not only a moral issue, but also, a security one, as he accuses Iran of purposely displacing the local Sunni population.

“This is not just a demographic or moral issue, but a serious security threat. Iran is working to replace the local Sunni population with Shi’ite forces [on the Syrian side of the Golan], and to establish itself militarily in Syria in order to turn the Golan into a new front with Israel. We have a window of time that is critical to take advantage of – our presence there is important to the security of the State of Israel, the Middle East, and the world,” he added.

Israel captured the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Days War; they would later annex the region 1981.

In response to Israel’s refusal to hand back the Golan Heights, the United Nations passed Resolution 497, which recognized the region as a part of Syria.

While Israel claims just 22,000 citizens in the occupied Golan Heights, the remaining population is Syrian Druze, who refuse to accept Israeli citizenship.

Erdogan/Trump Strike Deal To Relocate Northern Kurdish Forces To Anti-Assad Southern Front

Russia says teams up with Turkey for first time to bomb Syrian militants

“Russia said its war planes had joined forces with Turkish jets for the first time on Wednesday to target Islamic State militants holding the town of al-Bab in northern Syria.”

Kurds left in the cold as US & Turkey agree on ‘roadmap’ for Syrian city pullout

“The city of Manbij would be secured by both Turkish and US forces, he said, and the roadmap will be implemented in other parts of Syria as well.”

YPG confirms withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij after Turkey-US deal

Satellite images show US expanded Tanf base as battle for Syria’s south looms–[report below]

 

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:50 P.M.) –

Over the last week, the rebel forces in the provinces of Dara’a and Al-Quneitra have been mass mobilizing their troops in preparation for the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) upcoming offensive, a military source told Al-Masdar News from Damascus.

According to the source, the rebel forces have increased their number of fighters near the towns of Al-Samdaniyah and Al-Hamidiyah in the Al-Quneitra Governorate, along with several axes in the Dara’a Governorate.

In particular inside the Dara’a Governoate, the rebel forces have greatly increased their personnel strength in the provincial capital, which is a major target for the Syrian Arab Army.

Furthermore, pro-opposition activists have released footage of large convoys heading to the battlefronts, with many of these units linked to the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Southern Front Brigades.

With both the Syrian Army and rebel forces mobilizing their troops in southern Syria, this battle is likely to be the biggest of the year and quite possibly the war.

Satellite images show US expanded Tanf base as battle for Syria’s south looms

 

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:35 P.M.) – The US military has reportedly expanded its base in Tanf area as the Syrian government forces amass more troops for final battle in Daraa province.

Recently-published satellite images show several buildings and barricades have been added to the base during the past three months, as well as heavy military equipment including at least 30 technical vehicles.

According to latest reports, the US military shall hand over the Tanf base to the Syrian forces under the Daraa offensive expected to be launched an moment, in exchange, Russian guarantees that no attacks will be waged by the Syrian Army against the US-backed forces in eastern Syria.

Meanwhile, more reinforcements pour into the southern battleground of Daraa for the upcoming major offensive.

America’s Unrelenting Hostility To Iran Moves Tehran To Focus On PsyWar Strategy

Iran’s Top General Urges Psych War Tactics to Counter US ‘Unending’ Hostility

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The US enmity towards the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution will never end, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said, calling for constant intelligence readiness and psychological operations to counteract the US plots.

Iran’s Top General Urges Psych War Tactics to Counter US ‘Unending’ Hostility

Addressing a group of Police commanders in Tehran on Sunday, Major General Baqeri pointed to the US government’s unrelenting hostility towards the Iranian nation, saying one of the harsh realities on the ground is that the incumbent White House leaders are among “the most anti-Iranian critters” in the history of the US.

All of the US officials are seeking to harm the Islamic Republic and have no compunction about expressing their hostility towards Iran, the general added.

Warning against the enemy’s “diverse and complicated plots” for damaging the Islamic Revolution, Major General Baqeri stressed that the Iranian Armed Forces need to boost intelligence power and monitor all moves by the internal and foreign adversaries.

The Iranian military forces should formulate and employ cultural and propaganda plans and work on “psychological operation” tactics to achieve success in countering the hostile plots, he underlined.

In comments in April 2017, the general had announced that every effort will be made to counter the anti-Iran psychological warfare waged by the US and its allies.

“By God’s grace and in line with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defense doctrine… we will not back off for a moment from the process of strengthening the country’s deterrent power and defense might, will not give in to pressure, the propaganda war and the psychological operation by the US and its allies, and will keep fighting with the upper hand,” the top officer had noted.

US Puppets France and UK Eager To Help American Master Taunt the Chinese

Defence ministers tell security forum they are contributing to rule-based order

The two countries, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, made the remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, echoing the latest US plan to ramp up its freedom of navigation operations to counter Beijing’s militarisation in the region and its stance that territorial disputes should be a matter between China and its Asian neighbours.

A French maritime task group, together with British helicopters and ships, will visit Singapore next week and then sail “into certain areas” of the South China Sea, French armed forces minister Florence Parly told the annual defence forum.

Without naming China, she suggested the warships will cross into “territorial waters” claimed by Beijing and envisioned a potential encounter with its military.

“At some point a stern voice intrudes into the transponder and tells us to sail away from supposedly ‘territorial waters’,” she said. “But our commander then calmly replies that he will sail forth, because these, under international law, are indeed international waters.”

Parly said although France was not a claimant in the South China Sea disputes, by conducting such exercises “on a regular basis with allies and friends” it was contributing to a rule-based order.

“By exercising our freedom of navigation, we also place ourselves in the position of a persistent objector to the creation of any claim to de facto sovereignty on the islands,” she said.

Instead of accepting the situation as a fait accompli, Parly said France should question it, otherwise it will be established as a right.

“I believe we should broaden this effort even further,” said Parly, adding that Europe was mobilising more widely to support this endeavour and there were also German observers on board.

Beijing’s claims to more than 90 per cent of the South China Sea overlap with several of its neighbours’ and in recent months it has expanded militarisation of its man-made islands in the resource-rich waterway.

British Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson also told the summit that three warships would be sent to the region this year to counter malign influence and preserve the rule-based order for the long-term.

“We have to make it clear that nations need to play by the rules, and there are consequences for not doing so,” Williamson said.

US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis on Saturday warned that Beijing’s militarisation of the South China Sea would face “much larger consequences”, without elaborating.

The Pentagon is reportedly considering a more assertive approach in the region which, compared to their previous freedom of navigation operations, could involve longer patrols, more ships and closer surveillance of Chinese facilities such as electronic jamming equipment and advanced military radars.

US officials are also reportedly pushing international allies and partners to increase their naval deployments in the vital trade route as China builds up its military presence on the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands, even if they stop short of a direct challenge.

At the forum, Beijing’s representatives responded to the French and British plans by saying the South China Sea is free and open for all to travel through, and there would be no restrictions on normal freedom of navigation.

“But violation of China’s sovereignty will not be allowed,” said Lieutenant General He Lei, vice-president of the Academy of Military Science and head of China’s delegation.

Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, director of the Centre for Security Cooperation under the defence ministry, said the question was whether France and Britain intended to sail within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-controlled islands and reefs.

“The Chinese features are not on the usual international shipping route, so if they deliberately enter those waters within 12 nautical miles, it will be seen by China as an intentional provocation,” Zhou said.

Last week, two US warships came within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands – which are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan – and carried out manoeuvring operations.

The Pentagon also cancelled the PLA’s invitation to join an upcoming international maritime exercise off Hawaii, citing “China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea”.

All life on Earth, in one staggering chart–VOX

All life on Earth, in one staggering chart

Scientists estimated the mass of all life. It’s mind boggling.

By weight, human beings are insignificant.

If everyone on the planet were to step on one side of a giant balance scale, and all the bacteria on Earth were to be placed on the other side, we’d shoot violently upward. That’s because all the bacteria on Earth combined are about 1,166 times more massive than all the humans.

Comparisons to other categories of life similarly demonstrate how very, very small we are. As a sweeping new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds, in a census sorting all the life on Earth by weight (measured in gigatons of carbon, the signature element of life on Earth), we make up less than 1 percent of life.

There are an estimated 550 gigatons of carbon of life in the world. A gigaton is equal to a billion metric tons. A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, or about 2,200 pounds.

We’re talking in huge, huge, mind-boggling terms here.

So, using the new data in PNAS, we tried to visualize the weight of all life on Earth to get a sense of the scale of it all.

All life on Earth, in one chart

What you’ll see below is a kind of tower of life. Each large block of this tower represents a gigaton of life, and the blocks are grouped into broad kingdoms. There are the protists (think microscopic life like amoebae), archaea (single-celled organisms somewhat similar to bacteria), fungi (mushrooms and other types of fungus), bacteria (you’re familiar with these, right?), plants, and animals.

As you can see, plants dominate our world. If the tower of life were an office building, plants would be the main tenants, taking up dozens of floors. Comparatively, all the animals in the world — seen in gray in the tower — are like a single retail shop (a trendy one, to be sure) on the ground floor.

And if we zoom in on all animal life, we again see how insignificant humans are compared to everyone else in the kingdom. Arthropods (insects) outweigh us by a factor of 17. Even the mollusks (think clams) weigh more.

What’s missing from this chart is just as important

Yet despite our small biomass among animals, we’ve had an overwhelmingly huge impact on the planet. The chart above represents a massive amount of life. But it doesn’t show what’s gone missing since the human population took off.

The authors of the PNAS article estimate that the mass of wild land mammals is seven times lower than it was before humans arrived (keep in mind it’s difficult to estimate the exact history of the number of animals on Earth). Similarly, marine mammals, including whales, are a fifth of the weight they used to be because we’ve hunted so many to near extinction.

And though plants are still the dominant form of life on Earth, the scientists suspect there used to be approximately twice as many of them — before humanity started clearing forests to make way for agriculture and our civilization.

The census in the PNAS paper isn’t perfect. Though remote sensing, satellites, and huge efforts to study the distribution of life in the ocean make it easier than ever to come up with estimates, the authors admit there’s still a lot of uncertainty. But we do need a baseline understanding of the distribution of life on Earth. Millions of acres of forests are still lost every year. Animals are going extinct 1,000 to 10,000 faster than you’d expect if no humans lived on Earth. Sixty percent of primate species, our closest relatives on the tree of life, are threatened with extinction.

We have to know how much more we stand to lose.

Malaysians Mourn Palestinian Scientist Fadi Albatsh and Remember His Charming Smile

[Another Palestinian engineering student gunned-down, “NOT BY MOSSAD”, another scholar in UAV/DRONE technology, his sin was in co-authoring the following short report on drones (Challenges of Integrating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles In Civil Application ).  The other drone scholar was murdered in Tunisia (SEE: Mossad Fingerprints in Assassination of Arab and Muslim Scientists)]

Malaysians Mourn Palestinian Scientist Fadi Albatsh and Remember His Charming Smile

Palestinian scientist, Dr. Fadi Albatsh, who was assassinated in Malaysia. (Photo: via Twitter)

By Yousef Aljamal

On April 21, two unidentified men riding a high-powered motorcycle shot dead a Palestinian engineering lecturer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Palestinian Ambassador Anwar Al-Agha identified the victim as Fadi Albatsh, 35.

His family accused the Mossad of standing behind the assassination.

UniKL Official @UniKLOfficial

. It is with deep sorrow to inform the sad demise of Dr Fadi M R AlBatsh, Senior Lecturer at Universiti Kuala Lumpur British Malaysian Institute (@UniKLBMI_ ) Gombak this morning.

Read the full statement at https://www.facebook.com/UniKLOfficialPage/posts/1626832300718408 

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement and Hamas condemned the assassination, directing fingers at Mossad as well. Hamas said in a statement that Albatsh was one of its members.

mohammed mosleh 🇵🇸 @MohammadMusle18

🇲🇾 : Students of Dr. Fadi Albatsh crying after seeing remains of their lecturer at Malaysian hospital. Dr. Fadi was killed by unidentified assassins shooting last Saturday early morning.

Malaysian friends of the renowned scientist, whose Ph.D. research was focused on a device that would have reduced 18% of electrical resistance and could have been useful to solve the electricity outages problem in the Gaza Strip, mourn the victim and remember him as a very talented academic and a good-hearted person, always with a charming smile on his face.

“The news broke at about 9 am. The incredulity was palpable. No one could believe it. No one wanted to. Then when it was confirmed, I just broke down in tears, in the middle of a shopping mall. I sat transfixed, trying to make sense out of this heinous act,” said Azra Banu, a Malaysian activist, to The Palestine Chronicle.

“He was easy to talk to and was never without a smile on his face. Attentive, giving his attention to whoever was talking to him. I last saw him just over a month ago, at a cycling event calling for the relocation of Giro d’Italia. I cycled past him and he and some Palestinian brothers were cheering me on, jesting that they needed to get into shape,” she added.

AFP news agency

@AFP

Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, a Hamas-affiliated professor, was “believed to have become a liability for a country hostile to Palestine,” according to Malaysia’s security chief http://u.afp.com/oGqT 

Family accuses Israel’s Mossad of killing Palestinian in Malaysia

The family of a Palestinian professor and Hamas member accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency of assassinating him on the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. Malaysian authorities said Fadi Mohammad…

yahoo.com

One of his friends, who asked not to be identified, said:

“Fadi was a friend and a colleague. I have never met a more active, passionate, and enthusiastic researcher like Fadi. He was an asset to Palestine and science and a liability to the enemies of Palestine and enemies of enlightenment. Only Israel benefits from murdering Fadi. Israel has always come after Palestinian intellectuals, academics, and talents. This has Israel’s dirty, and blood-soaked fingerprint all over it.”

Words of appreciation also came from the academic community.

New Straits Times @NST_Online

: Photofits of men suspected of gunning down Palestinian lecturer Dr Fadi Albatsh have been put up at country’s exit points: IGP Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun

Dr. Mohd Nazari Ismail, a lecturer at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, told The Palestine Chronicle:

“He was an outstanding and very committed academic in the field of electrical engineering. He published many outstanding academic papers. His students really loved him because he was a very committed teacher and very helpful to them.”

Dr. Musa Mohd Nordin, the Chairman of Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), said:

“He was undoubtedly an academic scholar of distinction, a genius really. He won the Ivy League, Yayasan Khazanah-VPM scholarship for his Ph.D. studies in 2013. Three years later, in August 2016, he received both the Special Mention Award and High Achiever Award, at the Yaysan Khazanah Scholarship, 10th  Anniversary, presented by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. This is apart from the many other honors and prizes for his scholastic excellence. And within a year of working as a senior electrical engineering lecturer in UNIKL, he won a research grant from the Malaysian government and was supervising 3 postgraduate engineering students. His work and research in electrical engineering and power electronics have been widely published in the top tier engineering journals.”

Quds News Network

@QudsNen

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says the killers of Hamas member Fadi Al-Batsh in Kuala Lampur earlier today hail from the Caucasus region, and could have some links with foreign intelligence agencies.

He also noted:

“Despite his brilliance and multiple achievements, Fadi remained a very humble person, soft-spoken, thoughtful and contemplative. He has been very active on various platforms, including VPM, Boycott Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) and Palestinian Students Organisations in Malaysia to advance the cause for justice and peace for Palestine.

(PalestineChronicle.com)

NATO chief says alliance won’t aid Israel if Iran attacks

NATO chief says alliance won’t aid Israel if Iran attacks

AFP AFP_14D9FC I DIP BEL
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference during a Foreign ministers meeting at the Nato headquarters in Brussels on April 27, 2018.(Photo: John Thys, AFP/Getty Images)

BERLIN — NATO’s secretary-general says the alliance wouldn’t come to Israel’s defense in case of attack by arch enemy Iran.

Jens Stoltenberg told the magazine Der Spiegel in comments published Saturday that Israel is a partner, but not a member and that NATO’s “security guarantee” doesn’t apply to Israel.

Stoltenberg says NATO isn’t involved in Mideast peace efforts or in conflicts in the region.

He spoke at a time of rising Israel-Iran tensions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently intensified his criticism of a 2015 agreement between world powers and Iran that offered Tehran sanctions relief for curbs on its nuclear program. The U.S. withdrew from the deal last month.

Israel and Iran have also clashed militarily over Iran’s military presence in Syria.

 

Saudi Arabia threatens Qatar with “military action” For Purchase of Russian S-400 ABM System

S-400

Saudi Arabia threatens Qatar with “military action”

LE MONDE, original source



A year after its beginning, the internal crisis in the Gulf monarchies gives no sign of appeasement. The tension between Qatar, on the one hand, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, on the other, which have broken off diplomatic and economic relations with Doha since June 5, 2017, may have never even been so alive.

According to information obtained by Le Monde, the Saudi Crown has recently sent a letter to the French presidency, in which Riyadh says it is ready to carry out a “military action” against Qatar if it acquires, as it has expressed the intention , the Russian anti-aircraft defense system S-400.

Qatar’s ambassador to Moscow, Fahad Bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah, said in January that his country intends to acquire this missile missile model, considered one of the most successful in the world, saying that the negotiations with the Kremlin were in an “advanced stage”. A month later, Riyadh admitted to being in the running to get these ground-air batteries.

In the letter sent to the Elysée, whose content was unveiled in Le Monde by a French source close to the issue, King Salman expresses his “deep concern” vis-à-vis the ongoing negotiations between Doha and Moscow. The Saudi ruler is worried about the consequences that an installation of S-400s on Qatari territory would have on the security of Saudi airspace and warns of a risk of “escalation”.

Cold War

In such a situation, “the kingdom would be ready to take all necessary measures to eliminate this defense system, including military action,” writes the monarch, who concludes his letter by asking Emmanuel Macron for help to prevent the sale and preserve the stability of the region.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asked by Le Monde, did not want to comment. The Saudi authorities, also contacted, had not reacted when publishing this article.

The threats made in the letter are symptomatic of the cold war that has been tearing apart for a year the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the petro-marine club of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar is accused by its neighbors of supporting terrorist movements in the Middle East and of complacency towards Iran, the number one enemy of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Placed overnight under a virtual blockade, the emirate has amortized the shock by reorganizing its supply channels at full speed and drawing in its very comfortable foreign exchange reserves. The pressure of its former GCC partners is, according to Qatar, a campaign of intimidation, intended to force him to realign his foreign policy on that of Riyadh.

Frenzy of weapons purchases

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh condition the lifting of their blockade to a series of concessions such as the closure of the Al-Jazeera chain – accused of promoting extremist currents in the Middle East – the closure of the Turkish military base on Qatari territory and the downward revision of Doha’s relations with Tehran. Unacceptable measures for the emirate, equivalent according to him to an abandonment of sovereignty.

Intimately convinced that they narrowly escaped a military invasion in June 2017, Qatari leaders have since embarked on a frenzy of arms purchases, intended in their minds to dissuade their neighbors. In the second half of 2017, they signed a € 5 billion contract for seven Italian warships, another $ 12 billion for some thirty American F-15s and a third of five, 5 billion for twenty-four British Typhoon fighter planes.

In this debauchery, the acquisition of Russian S-400 marks a turning point. Such a deal would bring Doha closer to Moscow, despite deep differences between the two countries, as on the Syrian file. Such an evolution could irritate the United States, which maintains a military base in Qatar and is its historical supplier of arms.

Egale distance

Is Emir Tamim Al-Thani, the Doha ruler, really ready to take the risk of ruffling with the country whose support is indispensable in the current crisis? It remains to be seen. In June 2017, immediately after the quarantine of Doha, US President Donald Trump published a Tweet in support of the Saudi-UAE initiative.

But in the following weeks, under the influence of the Pentagon and the State Department, the White House repositioned itself at an equal distance from the enemy brothers of the Gulf, preventing de facto the Abu Dhabi-Riyadh duo to take measures of retaliation against Doha.

Mediation efforts deployed

Israel Improving Saudi Nuclear Know-How, As Backdoor Anti-Iranian Action

“Israel Recognizes Saudi Nuclear Knowledge”

The goal: to accelerate the Saudi ability to develop nuclear weapons by itself so that Iran will not be the only nuclear player to threaten the integrity of the kingdom
One day we all woke up in the morning and became astonished, because suddenly it would turn out that our world had changed for the worse. If until now we knew that there was a gang of lawbreakers hovering over our heads, it is now clear that a new player aspires to join the group: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Which also wants to have an atomic bomb. The first signs of this strategic goal are already surfacing. Based on Western intelligence reports published in the BBC’s investigative program. On the eve of the opening of another round of negotiations between Iran and the Western powers, it is reported that Pakistan is stockpiling nuclear bombs and that it is ready to transfer them to Saudi Arabia within a month if an arms race is launched in the Middle East. A certain amount of credibility was added to the publication when the former head of MI, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, told the BBC: “The Saudis will not wait a month. They will go to Pakistan and take what they need. “

The United States is concerned that the Saudi-Pakistani deal will be implemented in case the West fails to stop the completion of Iran’s nuclear program, which is not a new development: As early as 2012, US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross said that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia President Obama that Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if Tehran does so.

In light of this development, it is reasonable to assume that Israel is doing all it can to accelerate Saudi efforts to independently develop nuclear weapons and not rely solely on Pakistan. One possibility in this context, according to western intelligence sources, is that with the improvement in Israeli-Saudi relations, Israel is also stirring up in the Saudi nuclear dossier. This is not the transfer of finished atomic bombs, as in the case of Pakistan, but rather the fact that Israel is transferring nuclear information to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will allow Saudi Arabia to develop its own capability to produce nuclear weapons.

The fact that Maj. Gen. Yadlin, who was the head of Military Intelligence in Israel, who knows a thing or two about nuclear capabilities, provides additional credibility for this assessment: One of the intelligence interpretations in this context is that Israel sells nuclear information to Saudi Arabia in order to accelerate its progress and capabilities to develop its own nuclear weapons. “President Trump’s will not oppose such development in order to create pressure leverage against Tehran.

A confirmation of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear intentions can be found in the statement by Saudi Foreign Minister Adal al-Jubeir, who said openly that Saudi Arabia would not hesitate to develop a nuclear bomb if Iran obtained nuclear weapons. “If Iran has nuclear weapons, we will have such weapons,” he told CNN.