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What’s Behind the US-Saudi Nuclear Mega-Deal?

Saudi-Russian Agreements Result with Two Nuclear Reactors in 2018

What’s Behind the US-Saudi Nuclear Mega-Deal?

Up to 16 nuclear power plants for civilian purposes? Really?

By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles for WOLF STREET:

Last week, the NY Times ran a front-page story on Saudi Arabia’s efforts to purchase nuclear fuel enrichment capabilities and as many as 16 nuclear power generating plants from the US. The principal concern expressed here was the Saudi’s insistence on ownership of nuclear fuel-enrichment technologies.

Typically, when the US has exported its reactor technology, it is accompanied by a fuel purchase agreement. We sell the fuel more or less as finished product. In the past, reluctance to export fuel-processing technology stemmed from concerns regarding proliferation of nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia does have domestic sources of uranium they could mine but they have also expressed the need to respond to a potential nuclear arms rivalry with Iran.

But this article omitted the most important point. The key question is what are the Saudi’s motives regarding construction of a vast number of nuclear power plants for supposedly civilian purposes? The answer is obvious. There is no earthly commercial or economic reason for them to produce those quantities of electricity in the proposed nuclear fashion.

We should also point out that the seemingly large number cited for these nuclear power plants, $80 billion, is understated by a factor of almost five. Sixteen Westinghouse-designed nuclear stations with two reactors apiece would cost roughly $30 billion apiece! And 16 such plants would cost $480 billion – not $80 billion.

This sounds to us more like a bribe. Sell us nuclear fuel-processing technology (which it appears they really want), and we promise to purchase a large number of extremely expensive power plants from the US (the need for which is presently unclear).

Major nuclear construction projects currently underway in the West, V.C. Summer in South Carolina, Plant Vogtle in Georgia, Hinkley Point in the UK, Flamanville in France and lastly Olkiluoto in Finland all have two things in common: They are all vastly over-budget as well as years behind schedule.

  • The V.C. Summer project in South Carolina was recently canceled in mid-construction due to its lack of economic viability (used the Westinghouse reactor design under discussion in the article).
  • The Plant Vogtle in Georgia (also using the Westinghouse reactor design under discussion in the article) has turned into an economic albatross for Southern Company’s Georgia Power subsidiary.
  • Hinkley Point in the UK has required huge government subsidies to continue and if completed will produce overly expensive power for decades.
  • The Moorside nuclear project in the UK was recently abandoned by its developer after incurring almost a half a billion dollars in costs.
  • The UK government is also negotiating a major subsidy-disguised-as-investment in the Wylfa nuclear plant to keep that project afloat.

There are cheaper and cleaner ways to produce electricity other than from nuclear energy. The sun shines and the wind blows even in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, does it not? The Times’ story states that nuclear arms competition with Iran is a Saudi concern. As a result, they are eager to also obtain nuclear fuel enrichment technology.

This article leaves us with two possibilities:

Either, that the electricity-needy Saudi kingdom is truly embarking on a nearly half-trillion-dollar endeavor to bring reliable, carbon free energy to its people and perhaps the region as well.

Or, that this is merely a cynical ploy to dangle an enormous contract in front of gullible Americans in order to obtain nuclear fuel enrichment technology. And we would bet that following the technology transfer currently under discussion, the actual number of US reactors eventually purchased will total one or two at most, not 16. Not that we’re cynical or anything.

In March of last year, Westinghouse’s corporate parent Toshiba filed Westinghouse into bankruptcy in the US. Westinghouse is now a subsidiary of Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management who, as corporate strategy, has been a purchaser of distressed utility and infrastructure properties. Perhaps the AP1000 reactor design will be a winner for them.

Although Westinghouse still retains a presence in Cranberry Township, PA, we wonder what President Trump will say when he learns Westinghouse is now owned by a Canadian company? By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles for WOLF STREET

For investors there is little clarity through the smoke and haze. Read…  Will PG&E Have to File for Bankruptcy Protection? 

The Saudi/US/Israeli War To Steal Lebanon’s Natural Gas Bonanza

The Lebanese/Israeli “Line In the Sand” Is Drawn In the Water

Int’l Expert: Lebanon’s Offshore Gas Reserves Larger than in “Israel”

Israel Planning “Gas Piracy” Over Lebanon’s Offshore Natural Gas Bonanza?

US Pushes Surrender To Israel of Token Slice of Lebanon +Undersea Rights To Gas and Oil

Trump “Green-Lighting” Saudi Plans For Lebanon’s Destruction?

Gas: The solution to Lebanon’s electricity crisis

In Lebanon, the Mediterranean country devastated by war, gas could solve key economic issues and help the country keep its lights on

Lebanon has 10 offshore blocks that have yet to be explored
Lebanon has 10 offshore blocks that have yet to be explored

 

Lebanon has been defined by instability for decades, but one thing remains constant. Every day, without fail, the electricity cuts. In the country’s capital city, Beirut, the electricity cuts for around three hours a day, but in other areas, residents face more than 12 hours of power outages per day.

To cope, the average Lebanese household relies on a personal diesel-fuelled generator at a cost of around $1,300 per year, or 15% of income per capita, according to a 2017 report by the World Bank. But the cuts also affect business— in 2008, the World Bank estimated that power outages cost Lebanese industries close to $400mn in sales losses.

The reasons for the outages are varied—the 15-year Lebanese Civil War, which ended in 1990, ravaged the country’s infrastructure, power plants are ageing, but above all else, Lebanon has no gas.

When asked about the gas shortage in a phone call, Wissam Chbat, a board member and head of geology and geophysics at the state’s Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA), interrupts: “No, it’s not a shortage,” he says. “There is no gas. None.”

As a result, state-run electricity company Electricité du Liban (EDL) borrowed around $1.4bn from the country treasury to purchase fuel in 2018, according to the country’s budget.

As such, while its Gulf counterparts might be celebrating a moderate rise in oil prices, higher prices are bad news for this small, Mediterranean country.

“The average production cost for every [kilowatt hour (KwH)] is 14-15 cents, depending on the fuel price, and we sell it for 9 cents to the consumer,” Chbat says. The country’s seven thermal power plants use heavy fuel oil, and its gas turbines run on diesel oil instead of gas.

The situation is cyclical: the government cannot justify increased tariffs unless generation capacity is increased, and cannot increase capacity without more investment into the sector. Projects to build more power plants have been continually made and shelved.

This situation has made EDL, which says it controls 90% of the country’s electricity sector, a huge deficit centre for the government.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) wrote in a February 2018 report that “the electricity sector has not only been widely identified as Lebanon’s most pressing bottleneck, but it also remains a significant drain on the budget,” pinpointing the electricity sector as a key issue for economic reform. In the report, the IMF warned that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio could shoot up to 180% by 2023 if reforms are not undertaken.

Chbat estimates that EDL has, over the years, accounted for around $30bn of Lebanon’s total debt. The Ministry of Finance estimates that gross public debt was at $82.9bn by the end of Q2 2018 (160% of GDP in 2017), up $1bn from the previous quarter.

“If we look at the state, it is estimated that if we switch the current existing capacity for electricity, around 60% or 65% of it, which is realistic, to fired gas, we are saving around $1bn dollars a year,” Chbat says.

There have been attempts to remedy this situation with no substantial success. Gas was imported from Egypt for a few months in 2009 through the Arab Gas Pipeline to the North Lebanon Beddawi plant, but this project stopped due to gas shortages in Egypt and escalating turmoil in the country, followed by the war in Syria.

But Lebanon could soon have its own network of pipelines along the country’s coast, interconnecting major power plants. As part of this plan, a contract is up for tender for the development and operation of three liquid natural gas (LNG) floating storage and re-gasification units (FSRUs) and associated pipelines, which will be awarded early next year.

“If the tender goes smoothly and things work as planned we might have our gas from these FSRUs in 2021 or 2022,” Chbat says. It is the fastest potential fix to the problem, and might save the country some money on fuel purchases, but still requires imported LNG.

When gas was first discovered in the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean in 2009, it must have seemed like a saving grace to the Lebanese government. But licensing was delayed because of recurring political issues.

Since then, Lebanon has surveyed the acreage for its 10 blocks, and in early 2018 awarded exploration licenses for blocks four and nine to a consortium led by Total, Eni and Novatek.

Chbat says each round has its own objectives. For the first licensing round, a main concern was striking a commercial discovery—Chbat believes they achieved this goal by awarding block four, which, based on studies, has the highest chance of commercial success of the blocks that were open in the first licensing round.

He notes that the LPA ranks blocks based on ‘attractiveness,’ in line with the goals for that licensing round, and that finding companies with shared goals is a key concern for them. Now, the LPA is working on its second licensing round, which will launch by the end of the year.

For the second licensing round, the LPA aims to accelerate exploration activity while diversifying the play types in which they award blocks. One strategy: learn from the successes of neighbouring countries, like Cyprus, which he admits is “three or four years ahead of [Lebanon]” in its oil and gas activities. After studying successful blocks in Cyprus, the LPA might consider opening blocks with similar geological systems to attract companies to bid.

Prequalification for the second licensing round is expected to open in January 2019, and Chbat says that by April 2019, they should be prepared to announce the prequalified companies and open the six-month bidding period, which will close towards the end of 2019. The LPA plans to award contracts every two years.

Since signing its first exploration license with Total, Eni and Novatek, LPA has approved exploration plans for the next three years.

“The consortium has started to scan the Lebanese coast to see which location is best to launch operations from,” Chbat says. “Also, the preparation for environmental studies and the sampling of water and samples on the drilling site are going to start.”

The consortium has also committed to hiring 80% Lebanese employees. Given that Lebanon’s oil and gas sector is virtually non-existent, Chbat concedes that this will have to be gradually achieved. Early next year, the consortium will tender sub-contractors, who will also be held to this rule.

Exploration is still in its early days, and there is no guarantee that development will yield the results that Lebanon needs. But part of the LPA’s job is to plan for development even if it is not certain.

“The Lebanese market would require, in the first estimate, 0.2 trillion cubic feet [of gas] to fire the power plants on gas and to use it for some industries,” Chbat says, noting that it is a small market.

In such a small market, the effect of gas production would be substantial. The cost of electricity generation would drop to 11-12 cents per KwH, Chbat estimates, still higher than the 9 cents per KwH that the government charges residents.

But reducing fuel expenditure could give the government more breathing room to update power plants and work to increase capacity—Chbat says the state would need to “move to above 20 hours [of electricity] a day to be able to justify an increase in tariffs.”

The hope is that improved service from EDL will motivate residents to rely solely on EDL’s supply, instead of using black market generators, which are not metered and weigh down EDL’s supply and performance.

If gas discoveries are more than enough to saturate the market, Lebanon has a few options: send gas to Egypt through existing pipelines to be liquefied and exported by ship, or build a Lebanese pipeline under 250km transporting gas from offshore Lebanon and Syria to Turkey, where it could connect to the Eurasian pipeline network.

Depending on discoveries in Cyprus, where in early October Eni, Total and Exxon were invited to bid for its offshore Block 7, Lebanon could have another option. If Cyprus has large amounts of recoverable gas, it is expected to invest in LNG infrastructure, which Lebanon could use to liquefy its gas for export.

But the potential for Lebanon’s energy sector could be even bigger. “Initially, we were under the impression that it was purely gas,” Chbat says. “Now, the oil story is coming in more vigor for offshore Lebanon, with the possibility of having a mixture of oil and gas.”

Lebanon’s entrance into the regional oil and gas sector could mark a turn in its economy, providing new job opportunities, a new revenue stream for the country and cutting national debt. But issues persist. The IMF in February 2018 pointed out corruption as a key obstacle to economic reform.

Oil and gas production might not cause immediate, sweeping change, resolving deep-rooted issues like corruption, political strife or neighbouring conflicts. But it could keep the lights on for a change.

Kurdish Website Documents First Illegal US Observation Post On “Occupied Syrian” Territory

Kurdistan 24 captures completion of first US observation post on Syria-Turkey border


Kurdistan 24 captures completion of first US observation post on Syria-Turkey border

The building of the first US observation post is shown as completed and being supplied by military supplies in east of Tal Abyad town in north Syria on border with Turkey, November 27, 2018. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

TAL ABYAD (Kurdistan 24) – The US-led coalition forces on Tuesday have established the first observation post east of Tal Abyad town in northern Syria on the border with Turkey.

“There will be three posts in Tal Abyad and two in Kobani,” local security sources told Kurdistan 24.

It has already been supplied with military and communication equipment, the sources added.

Last week, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US-led coalition had decided to set up observation posts in northern Syria along parts of the border with Turkey.

Mattis further explained that recent Turkish attacks on Kurdish areas of Syria had delayed efforts of the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in the war-torn country.

Recent Turkish attacks on towns have killed or wounded dozens of people, including civilians in the districts of Kobani and Tal Abyad (also known as Grespin in Kurdish).

The observation posts are aimed at ensuring that Turkey and the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) remain focused on clearing the remnants of IS.

Additionally, the US army has been patrolling the region since early 2017 after Turkey bombed YPG military headquarters and even threatened to strike American troops.

However, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar recently told his country’s state media that Turkey had rejected US plans to set up the observation posts.

“We have stated that the observation points to be established by US troops on the Syrian border will have a very negative impact,” he said over the weekend.

The Kurdish-led SDF are America’s main partner in the fight against IS in Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish component—the People’s Protection Units (YPG)—to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which both Turkey and the US, as well as the European Union, consider a terrorist organization.

Editing by Nadia Riva

(The video was taken in Tal Abyad by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Redwan Bezar)

In Syria’s Tangled Conflict, a Kind of Regional War Has Already Begun

In Syria’s Tangled Conflict, a Kind of Regional War Has Already Begun

 

HATAY, TURKEY – FEBRUARY 14: A photo taken from Turkey’s Hatay province shows military vehicles are being transported to border units as artillery units of Turkish Armed Forces continue to hit PYD/PKK terror group targets across Turkey’s Reyhanli, Kirikhan and Hassa districts, within the ‘Operation Olive Branch’ launched in Syria’s Afrin, on February 14, 2018. Eren Bozkurt/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

OVER THE COURSE of three days, four intervening countries in Syria lost aircraft during operational missions. The many overlapping battles in Syria saw Russia, Iran, Turkey and now Israel for the first time lose aircraft at different moments and in different battles.

The dizzying implications of these intersecting battles – Turkey invading Afrin, Russia enforcing de-escalation zones, Iran sending drones into Israel and Israel attacking Syrian military installations – suggest that the possibility for escalation and wider regional conflict is always imminent.

But if this week’s reports are true that Israel’s involvement in Syria has been much more serious and widespread than originally thought and that Iran has been acquiring intelligence information about sites in Israel, then war is not imminent but rather it has already started.

Intersecting Conflicts

This is not to be dramatic but to state the obvious; Syria’s intersecting conflicts are not isolated from each other, and a general state of war exists between antagonistic, intervening states, even if it remains undeclared and unacknowledged.

Virtually every intervening state pursues its objectives in spite of the presence –- or threat – of the other intervening states. The established red lines determine what is and is not possible for intervening states to do in Syria.

Russia has clearly tolerated the decimation of Syrian air defences by the Israeli air force, even as it shores up the Syrian government’s territorial control. Similarly, Turkey has invaded Afrin against the objections of the United States and others and has essentially been given a green light to do so by the Syrian government and its regional allies.

As the conflict has become more regionalised and neighbouring states intervene directly rather than through proxies, the entanglements of the conflict have grown ever deeper.

This new order has not been upset – or even threatened – by the downing of the Israeli F-16 jet. At the same time, the downing of the plane should not be seen as some serious victory for the Syrian government, Iran, and Hezbollah given the provocations of almost daily Israelis raids into Syrian territory.

The successful targeting of one plane does not shift the battlefield in any meaningful way.

Nor should it shift the calculations of the many actors, including Israel, intervening in Syria. We should not forget that Israel has been targeting military installations in Syria since very early on in the conflict and has been quite successful in doing so.

Neither the empty threats of retaliation from the Syrian government nor the downing of a single aircraft should change Israeli calculations in this regard. It seems to be a small price to pay given the military effectiveness of the on-going attacks in Syria.

Red lines defined

The question becomes what this may mean for the various entanglements of the conflict and whether they can be unravelled or will escalate in the coming months. To date, each country’s red lines have been more or less clearly defined and enforced in various ways.

Yes, the battlefield has shifted dramatically and new sub-conflicts – Turkey’s invasion of Afrin, the Syrian government’s campaign in Idlib – emerge, but these are all subsumed and sustained within the larger jockeying and red lines established by the regional states.

Herein lies the dilemma facing all of the intervening states and the reason behind the new regional military stalemate in Syria. Any attempt to renegotiate the red lines would certainly be met by rejection and force and would thus require a serious escalation.

Despite Israeli hubris and belligerent insistence that it will not tolerate any Iranian presence in Syria, there are few military options beyond its existing strategies through which it can make this happen.

And it is unlikely that all of the other intervening states in Syria would see to it that the battlefield should shift so decisively in Israel’s favour. The stalemate will continue. Intervening states will define and redefine their strategic goals accordingly as a political process with no hope of creating regional consensus putters on.

Russia may hold the keys to Syria’s political future but it has proven remarkably content to allow other countries, especially Israel and Turkey, to freely and recklessly pursue their own strategic goals. This is not a recipe for de-escalation but for continued stalemate.

Intervention scenarios

Regional war is thus not imminent, it is here. It is not on the horizon but right in front of us. What forms the war takes and under what conditions will it escalate or de-escalate should inform the questions we ask about the conflict today.

To date, the forms of intervention by regional states have been palatable to all of the other intervening parties. Turkish intervention, Israeli raids and Russian bombardment have all co-existed in an ecosystem of violence that somehow sustains such entanglements while also preventing their outbreak into direct state-to-state conflict.

It is one thing for states to marshal proxies in their wars against one another, but it is an entirely different thing when they are in direct conflict with one another. This seems to be the red line that no state is yet willing to cross.

Until direct state-to-state conflict in Syria breaks out, we can expect that dizzying news cycles like the one witnessed this last week when four intervening countries’ planes were downed, to be the norm and not the exception.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Syria Deeply.

This article was originally published by Middle East Eye and is reprinted here with permission.

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

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

Weeks after President Trump suggested that the US forces should pull out of Syria and be replaced with an Arab army, Saudi Arabian military officials met with an Arab faction of the YPG-dominated SDF for talks regarding a new force.

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.

“Russia-gate” Is Nothing Compared To “Saudi-gate”

[Saudi Arabia and UAE Have the Dirt On Trump and They Are Not Afraid To Use It]

Arab Paper: S. Arabia, UAE Threatening Trump over Khashoggi’s Case

Arab Paper: S. Arabia, UAE Threatening Trump over Khashoggi's Case

TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi Arabia and the UAE have threatened to disclose the details of US President Donald Trump’s questionable contracts and financial transactions with the two countries if he takes any action against the ruling Bin Salman family in the Khashoggi’s case, a leading Arab paper reported on Saturday.

The Arabic-language Khaleej Online quoted a senior Saudi prince as saying that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has threatened Trump that if he helps a coup against him after the scandal over the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he will release documents and details of the deals which will trouble Trump and his administration.

According to the source, similar threats have also been posed by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed who has declared since the first moments of revelations about Khashoggi’s case that he would stand beside bin Salman.

The source added that bin Salman has also threatened Trump that he would cancel the major arms deals between the two countries and would withdraw financial support for tens of billions of dollars of financial investment in the US.

The report came after Trump said the CIA did not conclude that bin Salman ordered the murder of Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was killed on 2 October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The US officials have reportedly said that such an operation would have needed the prince’s approval. But Saudi Arabia maintains it was a “rogue operation”.

“They didn’t conclude,” Trump said when asked about the CIA’s reported evaluation by reporters in Florida.

Also, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, tweeted to say the UAE “will always be a loving and supportive home for our brothers in Saudi Arabia”.

George Soros Fails To Debone Turkey, Decides To Get the Hell Out of Dodge/Istanbul

Billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundation said on Monday it has decided to cease operations in Turkey.

It said recent investigations by the Interior Ministry had attempted to show a link, which the foundation denied, to mass protests in Turkey five years ago.

The foundation said it would apply for the legal liquidation and winding up of the company’s operations as soon as possible.

The Pentagon’s Illegal Presence In “Occupied Syria”

ALWAYS REFER TO THE PENTAGON OCCUPIED PARTS OF SYRIA AS “OCCUPIED SYRIA”, since it introduces two important and so far missing facts to the Syrian debate–(1) THE TRUTH and (2) It really pisses-off the Pentagon talking heads to suggest that American forces EVER “OCCUPY” another nation.

What we have in Syria is an multinational American-dominated “WAR OF AGGRESSION.”

 

[SEE: The Syrian “War” Is Really A Saudi/US “Turn-Key” Aggression Operation…NOT A CIVIL WAR, Or A Revolution]

Why America Will Never End Its Worldwide Wars of Aggression

US Imperialist Wars of Aggression Have Created More Refugees Than Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan Combined

White House Threatens Justices of Int. Criminal Court Over Attempts To Prosecute US War Crimes

Pentagon Plots Coming To Fruition–“Planet of War” 

Pentagon Setting Up Observation Posts Inside Occupied Syria, Under Pretense of Separating Turkish Army and Kurd-Dominated SDF

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday the United States is preparing to set up observation points in northern Syria in a move to address Ankara’s concerns over the U.S.’ relationships with the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG), independent news site Diken reported.

The observation points are designed to prevent clashes between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprised mostly of the Kurdish YPG, and Turkey, Mattis said, noting that Ankara has “legitimate” concerns about terror threats in Syria and the U.S. does not dismiss any of its concerns, while addressing reporters at the Pentagon.

“We are going to track any threat that we can spot going up into Turkey. That means we will be talking to Turkey’s military across the border,” the U.S. defense minister noted, highlighting that the United States is consulting “closely” with the Turkish military and the State Department.

Ankara strongly disagrees with the United States backing the YPG, which Turkey maintains is a terrorist organisation no different from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group at war in Turkey for over 30 decades.

U.S. troops have armed and trained YPG fighters who make up the bulk of the U.S.-backed SDF that has pushed Islamic State (ISIS) out of most of northern Syria.

Turkey has repeatedly voiced its concern regarding the partnership between the United States and the YPG.

Ankara earlier this month announced that it would launch a large scale operation east of River Euphrates, a region controlled by U.S. backed SDF, and started shelling YPG positions.

Washington, in response, called both parties to de-escalate the situation, warning that American personnel may be present in areas shelled by Turkish Armed Forces.

Ukrainian/Russian Navies Engaged In Hostile Situation Near Crimea, Russia Blocks Kerch Strait

Moscow deployed naval and air assets in the Kerch Strait on Sunday after Ukraine sent several ships into Russia’s territorial waters in what the Federal Security Service said could only be described as a “provocation” orchestrated by Kiev.

Russian defence ministry TV channel Zvezda has published footage showing a Russian border guard ship converging on and escorting Ukrainian Navy ships as they approach the Kerch Strait.

Earlier, Sputnik reported that at around 7 am Moscow time, three Ukrainian Navy vessels illegally crossed the maritime border with Russia and proceeded to move through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea. Two more Ukrainian vessels were later reported to be heading to the area from the Sea of Azov.
Su-25 jets of the Russian Aerospace Forces at the Hmeymim airbase, Syria
© SPUTNIK / DMITRIY VINOGRADOV

Russia deployed border guard and military patrol ships and military aircraft in the area to contain the situation, with footage earlier emerging of Su-25 attack aircraft flying in the vicinity of the recently-built Crimean Bridge spanning the Strait. Russian Navy vessels and cargo ships have blocked access to the Strait to prevent unauthorized entry or exit in connection with Sunday’s incident.The situation in the Sea of Azov and around the Kerch Strait was aggravated in March, after Ukraine detained a fishing trawler with ten Russian nationals onboard, and then again in August, when a Russian sailor was arrested in the Ukrainian port of Kherson. Moscow has described Ukraine’s actions as “maritime terrorism,” and strengthened its maritime border in the Sea of Azov.

Russian MoD Confirms Chlorine Used in Attack On Aleppo

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russian military chemists arrived in the Syrian city of Aleppo, at which militants fired shells filled with poisonous agents on Saturday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Sunday.

“Groups from the observation posts of the radiation, chemical and biological protection units with special equipment stationed in Syria arrived to the area of shelling urgently. They work with the injured taken to medical institutions, monitor the situation in the area where the militants used poisonous substances,” Konashenkov said.

The symptoms of those injured shows that most likely, the shells had been filled with chlorine, he added.”According to preliminary confirmed data, in particular, by the symptoms of poisoned victims, the shells that were fired at residential areas of Aleppo had been filled with chlorine,” the spokesman said.

He stressed that earlier the Russian side had drawn attention to the fact that the White Helmets organization had been trying to organize provocations using chemical agents in the demilitarized zone around Idlib to accuse government forces of using chemical weapons against the local population.

READ MORE: Syrian Troops Pound Militants in Response to Aleppo Chlorine Attack — Source

“It is clear that the White Helmets are directly connected with terrorist organizations operating in Syria, and in particular, in the Idlib de-escalation zone,” he said.

Russian specialists conduct a thorough monitoring of the situation around the Idlib de-escalation zone, for which the Turkish side is responsible, Konashenkov said.

According to the information of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian reconciliation, at 21.50 on Saturday, terrorist groups located in the Idlib de-escalation zone fired 120-millimeter shells at the northwestern districts of Aleppo from the southeastern part of the demilitarized zone (near the village of Al-Buraykat, controlled by the militants of Hayat Tahrir Ash-Sham, former Nusra Front).

Shells filled with poisonous substances exploded in the area of Nile Street in the quarter of Al-Khalidia.”As a result of the shelling, 46 people, including 8 children, received a chemical damage. All the victims were taken to medical institutions of the city of Aleppo, where they received medical assistance,” Konashenkov said.

Earlier, Konashenkov reported that six special radiation, chemical and biological reconnaissance vehicles had been deployed to Russian observation posts in the immediate vicinity of the demilitarized zone in the province of Idlib, which would regularly carry out an assessment of the radiation, chemical and biological conditions.

The American Government Anti-Russia Lie Machine

[V.O.A. Propaganda Website, Polygraph.info, Exists Solely To Brand RT Truth As Lies]

America’s Collusion With Neo-Nazis

Neo-fascists play an important official or tolerated role in US-backed Ukraine.

Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of russian studies and politics at NYU and Princeton, and John Batchelor continue their (usually) weekly discussion of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments, now in their fifth year, are at TheNation.com.)

Cohen begins: The orthodox American political-media narrative blames “Putin’s Russia” alone for the new US-Russian Cold War. Maintaining this (at most) partial truth involves various mainstream media malpractices, among them lack of historical context; reporting based on unverified “facts” and selective sources; editorial bias; and the excluding, even slurring, of proponents of alternative explanatory narratives as “Kremlin apologists” and carriers of “Russian propaganda.”

An extraordinary example appeared on May 1, when Jim Sciutto, CNN’s leading purveyor of Russiagate allegations, tweeted that “Jill Stein is…repeating Russian talking points on its interference in the 2016 election and on U.S. foreign policy.” To the extent that Sciutto represents CNN, as he does almost nightly on air, it is useful to know what this influential network actually thinks about a legitimate third party in American electoral democracy and its presidential candidate. And also about many well-informed Americans who have not supported Stein or her party but who strongly disagree with CNN’s orthodox positions on Russiagate and US foreign policy. No less important, however, is the highly selective nature of the mainstream narrative of the new Cold War, what it chooses to feature and what it virtually omits. Among the omissions, few realities are more important than the role played by neofascist forces in US-backed, Kiev-governed Ukraine since 2014. Not even many Americans who follow international news know the following, for example:

§ That the snipers who killed scores of protestors and policemen on Kiev’s Maidan Square in February 2014, thereby triggering a “democratic revolution” that overthrew the elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, and brought to power a virulent anti-Russian, pro-American regime—it was neither democratic nor a revolution, but a violent coup unfolding in the streets with high-level support—were sent not by Yanukovych, as is stillwidely reported, but instead almost certainly by the neofascist organization Right Sector and its co-conspirators.

§ That the pogrom-like burning to death of ethnic Russians and others in Odessa shortly later in 2014 reawakened memories of Nazi extermination squads in Ukraine during World War II has been all but deleted from the American mainstream narrative even though it remains a painful and revelatory experience for many Ukrainians.

§ That the Azov Battalion of some 3,000 well-armed fighters, which has played a major combat role in the Ukrainian civil war and now is an official component of Kiev’s armed forces, is avowedly “partially” pro-Nazi, as evidenced by its regalia, slogans, and programmatic statements, and well-documented as such by several international monitoring organizations. Congressional legislation recently banned Azov from receiving any US military aid, but it is likely to obtain some of the new weapons recently sent to Kiev by the Trump Administration due to the country’s rampant network of corruption and black markets.

§ That stormtroop-like assaults on gays, Jews, elderly ethnic Russians, and other “impure” citizens are widespread throughout Kiev-ruled Ukraine, along with torchlight marches reminiscent of those that eventually inflamed Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s. And that the police and official legal authorities do virtually nothing to prevent these neofascist acts or to prosecute them. On the contrary, Kiev has officially encouraged them by systematically rehabilitating and even memorializing Ukrainian collaborators with Nazi German extermination pogroms and their leaders during World War II, renaming streets in their honor, building monuments to them, rewriting history to glorify them, and more.

§ Or that Israel’s official annual report on anti-Semitism around the world in 2017 concluded that such incidents had doubled in Ukraine and the number “surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined.” By the region, the report meant the total in all of Eastern Europe and all former territories of the Soviet Union.

Americans cannot be faulted for not knowing these facts. They are very rarely reported and still less debated in the mainstream media, whether in newspapers or on television. To learn about them, Americans would have to turn to alternative media and to their independent writers, which rarely affect mainstream accounts of the new Cold War. One such important American writer is Lev Golinkin. He is best known for his book ‘A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka,’ a deeply moving and highly instructive memoir of his life as a young boy brought to America by his immigrant parents from Eastern Ukraine, now the scene of tragic civil and proxy war. But Golinkin has also been an unrelenting and meticulous reporter of neofascism in “our” Ukraine and a defender of others who try to chronicle and oppose its growing crimes. (Many of us seeking reliable information often turn to him.)

The significance of neo-Nazism in Ukraine and the at least tacit official U.S support or tolerance for it should be clearly understood:

§ This did not begin under President Trump but under President George W. Bush, when then Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s “Orange Revolution” began rehabilitating Ukraine’s wartime killers of Jews, and it grew under President Obama, who, along with Vice President Joseph Biden, were deeply complicit in the Maidan coup and what followed. Then too the American mainstream media scarcely noticed. Still worse, when a founder of a neo-Nazi party and now repackaged speaker of the Ukrainian parliament visited Washington in 2017, he was widely feted by leading American politicians, including Senator John McCain and Representative Paul Ryan. Imagine the message this sent back to Ukraine—and elsewhere.

§ Fascist or neo-Nazi revivalism is underway today in many countries, from Europe to the United States, but the Ukrainian version is of special importance and a particular danger. A large, growing, well-armed fascist movement has reappeared in a large European country that is the political epicenter of the new Cold War between the United States and Russia—indeed a movement that not so much denies the Holocaust as glorifies it. Could such forces come to power in Kiev? Its American minimizers say never because it has too little public support (though perhaps more than has Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko today). But the same was said of Lenin’s party and Hitler’s until Russia and Germany descended into chaos and lawlessness. And a recent Amnesty International article reports that Kiev is losing control over radical groups and the state’s monopoly on the use of force.

§ For four years, the US political-media establishment, including many prominent American Jews and their organizations, has at best ignored or tolerated Ukrainian neo-Nazism and at worst abetted it by unqualified support for Kiev. Typically, The New York Times may report at length on corruption in Ukraine, but not on the very frequent manifestations of neofascism. And when George Will laments the resurgence of anti-Semitism today, he cites the British Labor Party but not Ukraine. When Ukrainian fascism is occasionally acknowledged, a well-placed band of pro-Kiev zealots quickly asserts—maybe, but the real fascist is America’s number one enemy, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Whatever Putin’s failings, this allegation is either cynical or totally uninformed. Nothing in Putin’s statements over 18 years in power are akin to fascism, whose core belief is a cult of blood based on the alleged superiority of one ethnicity over all others. As head of a vast multiethnic state, such statements by Putin would be inconceivable and political suicide. There are, of course, neofascist activists in Russia, but many of them have been imprisoned. Nor is a mass fascist movement feasible in Russia where so many millions died in the war against Nazi Germany, a war that directly affected Putin and clearly left a formative mark on him. Though born after the war, his mother and father barely survived near-fatal wounds and disease, his older brother died in the long German siege of Leningrad, and several uncles perished. Still more, there is no anti-Semitism evident in Putin. Indeed, it is widely said, both in Russia and in Israel, that life for Russian Jews is better under Putin than it has ever been in that country’s long history.

§ We are left, then, not with Putin’s responsibility for the resurgence of fascism in a major European country, but with America’s shame and possible indelible stain on its historical reputation for tolerating it even if only through silence.

At least until recently. On April 23, a courageous first-term congressman from California, Ro Khanna, organized a public letter to the State Department, co-signed by 56 other members of the House, calling on the US government to speak out and take steps against the resurgence of official anti-Semitism and Holocaust denialism in both Ukraine and Poland. In the history of the new and more perilous Cold War, “Ro,” as he seems to be known to many in Washington, is a rare profile in courage, as are his co-signers. We will see what comes of their wise and moral act. In a righteous representative democracy, every member of Congress would sign the appeal and every leading newspaper lend editorial support. But not surprisingly, the mainstream media has yet even to report on Representative Khanna’s certainly newsworthy initiative, though, also not surprisingly, he has been slurred —and promptly defended by the inestimable Lev Golinkin.

The previous 40-year experience taught that Cold War can corrupt even American democracy—politically, economically, morally. There are many examples of how the new edition has already degraded America’s media, politicians, even scholars. But the acid test today may be our elites’ reaction to neofascism in US-supported Ukraine. Protesting it is not a Jewish issue, but an American one. Nonetheless, it is fitting to paraphrase again the Jewish philosopher Hillel: If not now, when? If not us, who?

V.O.A. Propaganda Website, Polygraph.info, Exists Solely To Brand RT Truth As Lies

 [“Neo-fascists play an important official or tolerated role in US-backed Ukraine,”
By American-Jewish writer, Stephen F. Cohen–America’s Collusion With Neo-Nazis]

RT Distorts History of Maidan Revolution in Ukraine

RT Russian state-owned foreign-language media outlet

“Five years on, what has become of the protesters’ dreams to rid Ukraine of corruption and build an equal, transparent and functional democracy? The sad answer is that Ukraine’s revolution was a disaster which left the country teetering on the edge of becoming a failed state.”

About Polygraph.info

Polygraph.info is a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America (VOA)​ and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The website serves as a resource for verifying the increasing volume of disinformation and misinformation being distributed and shared globally. A similar website in the Russian language can be found at factograph.info.

VOA and RFE/RL journalists research and analyze quotes, stories, and reports distributed by government officials, government-sponsored media and other high-profile individuals. The reporters separate fact from fiction, add context, and debunk lies.

Pentagon Plots Coming To Fruition–“Planet of War” 

Planet of War 

Still Trapped in a Greater Middle Eastern Quagmire, the U.S. Military Prepares for Global Combat 


By Danny Sjursen

American militarism has gone off the rails — and this middling career officer should have seen it coming. Earlier in this century, the U.S. military not surprisingly focused on counterinsurgency as it faced various indecisive and seemingly unending wars across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa. Back in 2008, when I was still a captain newly returned from Iraq and studying at Fort Knox, Kentucky, our training scenarios generally focused on urban combat and what were called security and stabilization missions. We’d plan to assault some notional city center, destroy the enemy fighters there, and then transition to pacification and “humanitarian” operations.

Of course, no one then asked about the dubious efficacy of “regime change” and “nation building,” the two activities in which our country had been so regularly engaged. That would have been frowned upon. Still, however bloody and wasteful those wars were, they now look like relics from a remarkably simpler time. The U.S. Army knew its mission then (even if it couldn’t accomplish it) and could predict what each of us young officers was about to take another crack at: counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fast forward eight years — during which this author fruitlessly toiled away in Afghanistan and taught at West Point — and the U.S. military ground presence has significantly decreased in the Greater Middle East, even if its wars there remain “infinite.” The U.S. was still bombing, raiding, and “advising” away in several of those old haunts as I entered the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Nonetheless, when I first became involved in the primary staff officer training course for mid-level careerists there in 2016, it soon became apparent to me that something was indeed changing.

Our training scenarios were no longer limited to counterinsurgency operations. Now, we were planning for possible deployments to — and high-intensity conventional warfare in — the Caucasus, the Baltic Sea region, and the South China Sea (think: Russia and China). We were also planning for conflicts against an Iranian-style “rogue” regime (think: well, Iran). The missions became all about projecting U.S. Army divisions into distant regions to fight major wars to “liberate” territories and bolster allies.

One thing soon became clear to me in my new digs: much had changed. The U.S. military had, in fact, gone global in a big way. Frustrated by its inability to close the deal on any of the indecisive counterterror wars of this century, Washington had decided it was time to prepare for “real” war with a host of imagined enemies. This process had, in fact, been developing right under our noses for quite a while. You remember in 2013 when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began talking about a “pivot” to Asia — an obvious attempt to contain China. Obama also sanctioned Moscow and further militarized Europe in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Crimea. President Trump, whose “instincts,” on the campaign trail, were to pull out of America’s Middle Eastern quagmires, turned out to be ready to escalate tensions with China, Russia, Iran, and even (for a while) North Korea.

With Pentagon budgets reaching record levels — some $717 billion for 2019 — Washington has stayed the course, while beginning to plan for more expansive future conflicts across the globe. Today, not a single square inch of this ever-warming planet of ours escapes the reach of U.S. militarization.

Think of these developments as establishing a potential formula for perpetual conflict that just might lead the United States into a truly cataclysmic war it neither needs nor can meaningfully win. With that in mind, here’s a little tour of Planet Earth as the U.S. military now imagines it.

Our Old Stomping Grounds: Forever War in the Middle East and Africa

Never apt to quit, even after 17 years of failure, Washington’s bipartisan military machine still churns along in the Greater Middle East. Some 14,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan (along with much U.S. air power) though that war is failing by just about any measurable metric you care to choose — and Americans are still dying there, even if in diminished numbers.

In Syria, U.S. forces remain trapped between hostile powers, one mistake away from a possible outbreak of hostilities with Russia, Iran, Syrian President Assad, or even NATO ally Turkey. While American troops (and air power) in Iraq helped destroy ISIS’s physical “caliphate,” they remain entangled there in a low-level guerrilla struggle in a country seemingly incapable of forming a stable political consensus. In other words, as yet there’s no end in sight for that now 15-year-old war. Add in the drone strikes, conventional air attacks, and special forces raids that Washington regularly unleashes in Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan, and it’s clear that the U.S. military’s hands remain more than full in the region.

If anything, the tensions — and potential for escalation — in the Greater Middle East and North Africa are only worsening. President Trump ditchedPresident Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and, despite the recent drama over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has gleefully backed the Saudi royals in their arms race and cold war with Iran. While the other major players in that nuclear pact remained on board, President Trump has appointed unreformed Iranophobe neocons like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to key foreign policy positions and his administration still threatens regime change in Tehran.

In Africa, despite talk about downsizing the U.S. presence there, the military advisory mission has only increased its various commitments, backing questionably legitimate governments against local opposition forces and destabilizing further an already unstable continent. You might think that waging war for two decades on two continents would at least keep the Pentagon busy and temper Washington’s desire for further confrontations. As it happens, the opposite is proving to be the case.

Poking the Bear: Encircling Russia and Kicking Off a New Cold War

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is increasingly autocratic and has shown a propensity for localized aggression in its sphere of influence. Still, it would be better not to exaggerate the threat. Russia did annex the Crimea, but the people of that province were Russians and desired such a reunification. It intervened in a Ukrainian civil war, but Washington was also complicit in the coup that kicked off that drama. Besides, all of this unfolded in Russia’s neighborhood as the U.S. military increasingly deploys its forces up to the very borders of the Russian Federation. Imagine the hysteria in Washington if Russia were deploying troops and advisers in Mexico or the Caribbean.

To put all of this in perspective, Washington and its military machine actually prefer facing off against Russia. It’s a fight the armed forces still remain comfortable with. After all, that’s what its top commanders were trained for during the tail end of an almost half-century-long Cold War. Counterinsurgency is frustrating and indecisive. The prospect of preparing for “real war” against the good old Russians with tanks, planes, and artillery — now, that’s what the military was built for!

And despite all the over-hyped talk about Donald Trump’s complicity with Russia, under him, the Obama-era military escalation in Europe has only expanded. Back when I was toiling hopelessly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army was actually removing combat brigades from Germany and stationing them back on U.S. soil (when, of course, they weren’t off fighting somewhere in the Greater Middle East). Then, in the late Obama years, the military began returning those forces to Europe and stationing them in the Baltic, Poland, Romania, and other countries increasingly near to Russia. That’s never ended and, this year, the U.S. Air Force has delivered its largest shipment of ordnance to Europe since the Cold War.

Make no mistake: war with Russia would be an unnecessary disaster — and it could go nuclear. Is Latvia really worth that risk?

From a Russian perspective, of course, it’s Washington and its expansion of the (by definition) anti-Russian NATO alliance into Eastern Europe that constitutes the real aggression in the region — and Putin may have a point there. What’s more, an honest assessment of the situation suggests that Russia, a country whose economy is about the size of Spain’s, has neither the will nor the capacity to invade Central Europe. Even in the bad old days of the Cold War, as we now know from Soviet archives, European conquest was never on Moscow’s agenda. It still isn’t.

Nonetheless, the U.S. military goes on preparing for what Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller, addressing some of his forces in Norway, claimed was a “big fight” to come. If it isn’t careful, Washington just might get the war it seems to want and the one that no one in Europe or the rest of this planet needs.

Challenging the Dragon: The Futile Quest for Hegemony in Asia

The United States Navy has long treated the world’s oceans as if they were American lakes. Washington extends no such courtesy to other great powers or nation-states. Only now, the U.S. Navy finally faces some challenges abroad — especially in the Western Pacific. A rising China, with a swiftly growing economy and carrying grievances from a long history of European imperial domination, has had the audacity to assert itself in the South China Sea. In response, Washington has reacted with panic and bellicosity.

Never mind that the South China Sea is Beijing’s Caribbean (a place where Washington long felt it had the right to do anything it wanted militarily). Heck, the South China Sea has China in its name! The U.S. military now claims — with just enough truth to convince the uninformed — that China’s growing navy is out for Pacific, if not global, dominance. Sure, at the moment China has only two aircraft carriers, one an old rehab (though it is building more) compared to the U.S. Navy’s 11 full-sized and nine smaller carriers. And yes, China hasn’t actually attacked any of its neighbors yet. Still, the American people are told that their military must prepare for possible future war with the most populous nation on the planet.

In that spirit, it has been forward deploying yet more ships, Marines, and troops to the Pacific Rim surrounding China. Thousands of Marines are now stationed in Northern Australia; U.S. warships cruise the South Pacific; and Washington has sent mixed signals regarding its military commitments to Taiwan. Even the Indian Ocean has recently come to be seen as a possible future battleground with China, as the U.S. Navy increases its regional patrols there and Washington negotiates stronger military ties with China’s rising neighbor, India. In a symbolic gesture, the military recently renamedits former Pacific Command (PACOM) the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM).

Unsurprisingly, China’s military high command has escalated accordingly. They’ve advised their South China Sea Command to prepare for war, made their own set of provocative gestures in the South China Sea, and also threatened to invade Taiwan should the Trump administration change America’s longstanding “One China” policy.

From the Chinese point of view, all of this couldn’t be more logical, given that President Trump has also unleashed a “trade war” on Beijing’s markets and intensified his anti-China rhetoric. And all of this is, in turn, consistent with the Pentagon’s increasing militarization of the entire globe.

No Land Too Distant

Would that it were only Africa, Asia, and Europe that Washington had chosen to militarize. But as Dr. Seuss might have said: that is not all, oh no, that is not all. In fact, more or less every square inch of our spinning planet not already occupied by a rival state has been deemed a militarized space to be contested. The U.S. has long been unique in the way it divided the entire surface of the globe into geographical (combatant) commands presided over by generals and admirals who functionally serve as regional Roman-style proconsuls.

And the Trump years are only accentuating this phenomenon. Take Latin America, which might normally be considered a non-threatening space for the U.S., though it is already under the gaze of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Recently, however, having already threatened to “invade” Venezuela, President Trump spent the election campaign rousing his base on the claim that a desperate caravan of Central American refugees — hailing from countries the U.S. had a significant responsibility for destabilizing in the first place — was a literal “invasion” and so yet another military problem. As such, he ordered more than 5,000 troops (more than currently serve in Syria or Iraq) to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Though he is not the first to try to do so, he has also sought to militarizespace and so create a possible fifth branch of the U.S. military, tentatively known as the Space Force. It makes sense. War has long been three dimensional, so why not bring U.S. militarism into the stratosphere, even as the U.S. Army is evidently training and preparing for a new cold war (no pun intended) with that ever-ready adversary, Russia, around the Arctic Circle.

If the world as we know it is going to end, it will either be thanks to the long-term threat of climate change or an absurd nuclear war. In both cases, Washington has been upping the ante and doubling down. On climate change, of course, the Trump administration seems intent on loading the atmosphere with ever more greenhouse gases. When it comes to nukes, rather than admit that they are unusable and seek to further downsize the bloated U.S. and Russian arsenals, that administration, like Obama’s, has committed itself to the investment of what could, in the end, be at least $1.6 trillion over three decades for the full-scale “modernization” of that arsenal. Any faintly rational set of actors would long ago have accepted that nuclear war is unwinnable and a formula for mass human extinction. As it happens, though, we’re not dealing with rational actors but with a defense establishment that considers it a prudent move to withdraw from the Cold War era Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.

And that ends our tour of the U.S. military’s version of Planet Earth.

It is often said that, in an Orwellian sense, every nation needs an enemy to unite and discipline its population. Still, the U.S. must stand alone in history as the only country to militarize the whole globe (with space thrown in) in preparation for taking on just about anyone. Now, that’s exceptional.

 

Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army major and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his podcast “Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vet Chris Henriksen.

Trump About To Achieve His Mideast Regional War–Saudi Arabia, UAE Send Troops To Support Kurds Against Turkey In Syria

Saudi Arabia, UAE send troops to support Kurds in Syria

Saudi troops [SGT. H. H. DEFFNER/Wikipedia]

Saudi troops [SGT. H. H. DEFFNER/Wikipedia]

 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent military forces to areas controlled by the Kurdish YPG group in north-east Syria, Turkey’s Yenisafak newspaper reported.

The paper said the forces will be stationed with US-led coalition troops and will support its tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons.

Quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the newspaper reported that a convoy of troops belonging to an Arab Gulf state recently arrived in the contact area between the Kurdish PKK/YPG and Daesh in the Deir Ez-Zor countryside.

This comes at a time when Ankara is preparing to launch an expanded military operation with the Free Syrian Army against the Kurdish PKK group in the northeast of Syria.

Read: Saudi-UAE-Kurdish military meeting in northern Syria

Saudi and Emirati military advisers have in recent months met with officials of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered by Turkey as terrorist organisations, at the US base in north-east Syria.

There are fears of Arab-Turkish confrontations that will be the first of their kind on Syrian soil.

[The following is a Google translation of the source of the story.]

Turkey is entering the atmosphere choose from today. The AK Party will announce a significant part of the mayoral candidates today. In fact, the candidates for mayor candidates in Istanbul, Ankara and many other provinces, and the districts of some districts such as Istanbul are already known.


It is a fact: In this election, AK Party and other parties, rather than the election race, what kind of electoral process will be followed by the AK Party, what kind of innovations will be displayed, what the candidate profiles will show and what will add new to the politics will be the main topic of discussion.

The center of gravity of the campaign period will be the AK Party discourse and methods rather than election. This is due to the fact that the AK Party’s discourse and manpower are far ahead in Turkish politics. Of course, from now on, we will discuss and write them down.

What does hazırlık preparation for a big situation “mean?

But; We will never turn away from what is going on in our geography. Because; Radical forces quite likely this election period, including Turkey, we will witness the developments that will affect the whole region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Bahrain after Oman, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Selman’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the murder of Cemal Kasikci, UAE and Gulf countries and Israel, S. Arabia, Egypt The strange traffic between the alarming signs offers us. Netanyahu’s visit to Bahrain is:

This is a regional war preparation

Hazırlık This visit is preparation for a great situation for another Middle East. To change the course of history ben em I read this qualification as a regional war. I read as a preliminary preparation of a regional fire that will cover all the countries between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

for the construction of a new geography, try to push out to be an axis against their will and in Turkey, established facades. We will probably see the results of these preparations in this election period. The main issue of the discussions we had on the Cemal Kaşıkçı event was its axis.

The bosses of all these are certain: the United States, Britain and Israel. The main contractor of the economy and power, S. Arabia.He was the leader of S. Arabia, so he ordered the murderer of the spoonbill. The name of the UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zaid (Zayed), who conducts regional traffic for all of these.

The occupation front was rebuilt a hundred years ago. Seemingly facing those planning to push to punish Iran completely out of Turkey, in Anatolia were designed oriented compression.

S. Arabia should decide to save the present or tomorrow

Saudi Arabia, the key country of the project, has to make a choice between saving the present or saving the future. Both the country and the geography will be devastated if it is concerned about saving the present. He can save the Crown Prince, insist on him, pass the present, but lose the future. Because if it does, Saudi Arabia will become a fully ıyla hostage country Çünkü.

The project, which was served through Muhammad bin Selman and Muhammad bin Zaid, would extend to the destruction of the geography and to the fragmentation of S. Arabia before that. In particular, Zaid’s operations against every point around the Red Sea-Persian Gulf, such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, are an external intervention, the preparation of a major project’s infrastructure.

They build the big front against us.

This person is completely involved in the region so as to surround each of Turkey, not the UAE plan is a multinational scenario.Again this person’s terrorist funding, organizations and assassination teams are a harbinger of a bad future. The front formed against the Ottoman Empire in the First World War is now building up one against Turkey.

This scenario is shaped by the money and power of the Saudis.The project is implemented by Zaid and Muhammad bin Selman.They also market it with moderate Islam, with a cute look to the West. They are trying to freeze the Israeli-Arab problems by trying to gain space. Especially a great hostility towards Turkey, driven by the Ottoman hostility, they’re trying to do this by building a new kind of wave of Arab nationalism.

Turkish-Arab war: This plan does not hold!

The mind behind the new axis wants the Turkish-Arab war. A hundred years ago the scenario was re-enacted. But it is unfortunate that some Arab ruling elites have been mobilized in this direction while they cannot achieve this. When the time comes, we will see these circles’ own political future disappear.

We’re already seeing. Turkey knows all these accounts, it is taking steps accordingly. This will not come to the game, also showed that you will not come. scale somewhere in geography that Turkey will not take any game accounts.

Riyadh’s political blindness: Danger endures door

Let me tell you something more important: All these find the field of application through the political blindness of the Riyadh administration. The Saudi people and country will pay for this blindness. This country is in danger. It is the country that will become an open destination after Syria. The country itself is set up by two Crown Prince.

The danger was based on the Saudi border. Arab countries have so far failed to demonstrate the power and initiative to ward off any international threat to them. This is because of so much dependence on the West and political blindness.

The aim is not to perceive the whole of the Western plans that direct the whole of the geography. Only good relations with the US and Western countries are to believe that they will save themselves. However, this is an account of hundreds of years, not a process that can be managed with good relations. Without a future perspective, there is no way to overcome this work.

Arab-Persian border regressed to Saudi border

At the moment, Saudi Arabia has been transformed into an incredible field of play, a field of plunder, which has further increased Riyadh’s astonishment. In fact, it is not even able to develop the initiative that may arise from the heir crisis. If he cannot, he cannot see that he cannot take the next step or steps.Imagine a wounded Crown Prince came to S. Arabia. Where will this country be in the international arena? The Riyadh administration cannot even see it.

Since the 1991 Gulf War, geography’s defeats have been shaped and implemented through the Saudi political blindness. Look carefully at the mobility of the Arab-Persian border. By 1991 the Iraq-Iran border was the Arab-Persian border. Now this border has fallen to the borders of S. Arabia.

Might be heard on Mecca-Medina

I feel very close to the Mecca-Medina debate. Turkey and other Muslim countries, especially after the last two holy Jerusalem on the collusion of political thought that they should try to ripen, albeit already in their minds. Because Westerners have already begun to do this before us.

While we are engaged in local elections, we will witness very rapid developments in our region. But inside Turkey shuts out who’s already had become a forgotten country. If he has such ideas, he won’t work.

Michael Hayden, “The Tickler”, Strokes-Out

[CIA HAS BEEN TICKLING PEOPLE TO DEATH FOR YEARS]

Former CIA director Michael Hayden suffers stroke

Former CIA and and NSA director Michael Hayden suffered a stroke near his home earlier this week, officials said.

Hayden’s family confirmed the news to CNN in a statement, but did not elaborate on how severe the stroke was.

Current CIA director Gina Haspel spoke about Hayden after hearing about his condition.

“On behalf of the men & women of CIA, I want to wish Gen. Hayden a speedy recovery,” Haspel wrote.

“Mike’s long career of public service & commitment to national security continue to be an inspiration to all intelligence officers. Our thoughts are with Mike, Jeanine, & their family.”

Hayden, 73, served under both the George W. Bush and Obama. He’s a retired Air Force general and now works for CNN as a security analyst.

Hayden has been a sharp critic of President Trump since he was elected in 2016.

In August, Hayden said he would consider it an honor if Trump took away his security clearance.

Hayden made the statement to show solidarity with former CIA director John Brennan after Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance.

The White House said in August that Hayden’s security clearance was under review.

Baluch Liberation Army Terrorists Attack Chinese Embassy In Karachi, Pak.

 Fidayeen Sarbaz of Majeed Brigade BLA, Azal Khan Baloch, Razio Baloch, Raees Baloch

 

An attacker was identified, belonging to Balochistan

Security agencies prepared a preliminary report on the Chinese consulate attack. The name of the attacker Abdul Razzaq was linked to the Khorasan area of ​​Balochistan.

The main conspiracy of the terrorists on the Chinese Consulate took place. Law enforcement agencies identified a terrorist killed. Terrorist’s identity is known as Abdul Raziq-ul-Din Din Muhammad.

Security agencies presented the report with the Chief Minister. According to the initial report, Abdul Raziq was the employee of Balochistan government. It is clear that according to reports, three invaders were killed in a Chinese consulate attack, while 4 people including 2 activists were killed in firing.

Consulate staff was safe in the terrorist attack.

Murdering Little Prince Looking For American Nuclear Tech, i.e., Nukes

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia set off alarms in Washington when he declared earlier this year that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”Credit Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Before Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was implicated by the C.I.A. in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, American intelligence agencies were trying to solve a separate mystery: Was the prince laying the groundwork for building an atomic bomb?

The 33-year-old heir to the Saudi throne had been overseeing a negotiation with the Energy Department and the State Department to get the United States to sell designs for nuclear power plants to the kingdom. The deal was worth upward of $80 billion, depending on how many plants Saudi Arabia decided to build.

But there is a hitch: Saudi Arabia insists on producing its own nuclear fuel, even though it could buy it more cheaply abroad, according to American and Saudi officials familiar with the negotiations. That raised concerns in Washington that the Saudis could divert their fuel into a covert weapons project — exactly what the United States and its allies feared Iran was doing before it reached the 2015 nuclear accord, which President Trump has since abandoned.

Prince Mohammed set off alarms when he declared earlier this year, in the midst of the negotiation, that if Iran, Saudi Arabia’s fiercest rival, “developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” His negotiators stirred more worries by telling the Trump administration that Saudi Arabia would refuse to sign an agreement that would allow United Nations inspectors to look anywhere in the country for signs that the Saudis might be working on a bomb, American officials said.

Asked in Congress last March about his secret negotiations with the Saudis, Energy Secretary Rick Perry dodged a question about whether the Trump administration would insist that the kingdom be banned from producing nuclear fuel.

Eight months later, the administration will not say where the negotiations stand. Now lurking behind the transaction is the question of whether a Saudi government that assassinated Mr. Khashoggi and repeatedly changed its story about the murder can be trusted with nuclear fuel and technology. Such fuel can be used for benign or military purposes: If uranium is enriched to 4 percent purity, it can fuel a power plant; at 90 percent it can be used for a bomb.

Privately, administration officials argue that if the United States does not sell the nuclear equipment to Saudi Arabia someone else will — maybe Russia, China or South Korea.

They stress that assuring that the Saudis use a reactor designed by Westinghouse, the only American competitor for the deal, fits with Mr. Trump’s insistence that jobs, oil and the strategic relationship between Riyadh and Washington are all far more important than the death of a Saudi dissident who was living, and writing newspaper columns, in the United States.

Under the rules that govern nuclear accords of this kind, Congress would have the opportunity to reject any agreement with Saudi Arabia, though the House and Senate would each need a veto-proof majority to stop Mr. Trump’s plans.“It is one thing to sell them planes, but another to sell them nukes, or the capacity to build them,’’ said Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Following Mr. Khashoggi’s death, Mr. Sherman has led the charge to change the law and make it harder for the Trump administration to reach a nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia. He described it as one of the most effective ways to punish Prince Mohammed.

“A country that can’t be trusted with a bone saw shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Sherman said, referring to Mr. Khashoggi’s brutal killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

Nuclear experts said Prince Mohammed should have been disqualified from receiving nuclear help as soon as he raised the prospect of acquiring atomic weapons to counter Iran.

“We have never before contemplated, let alone concluded, a nuclear cooperation agreement with a country that was threatening to leave the nonproliferation treaty, even provisionally,” said William Tobey, a senior official in the Energy Department during the Bush administration who has testified about the risks of the agreement with Saudi Arabia.

He was referring to the crown prince’s threat to match any Iranian nuclear weapon — a step that would require the Saudis to either publicly abandon their commitments under the nonproliferation treaty or secretly race for the bomb.

The Trump administration declined to provide an update on the negotiations, which were intense enough that Mr. Perry went to Riyadh in late 2017. Within the last several months, a senior State Department official engaged in further discussions over the deal in Europe.

The Saudi energy ministry said in a statement: “The Saudi government has repeatedly confirmed that every component of the Saudi atomic energy program is strictly for civil and peaceful uses. The Saudi government has decided to move with this project not only to diversify energy sources but also to contribute to our economy. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly called for a Middle East free from all forms of nuclear weapons.”

Saudi Arabia has long displayed interest in acquiring, or helping allies acquire, the building blocks of a program that could make nuclear weapons and protect the kingdom from potential threats from its neighbors — first Israel, then Iraq and Iran.

The Saudi government provided the financing for Pakistan to secretly build its own nuclear arms, the first “Sunni bomb,” as the Pakistani creators of the program called it. That financial link has long left American intelligence officials wondering if there was a quid pro quo: that if Saudi Arabia ever needed its own small arsenal, Pakistan could provide it — perhaps by moving Pakistani troops to Saudi territory.

The Saudis were also thinking of delivery systems. In 1988, the kingdom bought medium-range missiles from China that were designed to be fitted with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads, drawing protests from American officials.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry met with Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, in Riyadh last year.CreditFayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Riyadh’s worries spiked in 2003 when it was revealed that Tehran had secretly built a vast underground plant for enriching uranium — a fuel for nuclear arms and reactors.

Back then, the Iranians made the same argument that the Saudis are currently making: that they needed to possess all of the production facilities necessary for fueling nuclear power plants. (The Iranians in 2011 opened one such plant, a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, built by the Russians.)

That insistence is what set off the Iranian nuclear crisis. Over the years, several nations have demonstrated that it is possible to turn ostensibly civilian programs into sources of bomb fuel, and thus atomic warheads and military power. Israel recently released an archive of material, stolen from Tehran in January, to prove that the Iranian government deceived the world for years.

The Saudis, meanwhile, had no equivalent facilities. They promised to get them.

“Whatever the Iranians build, we will also build,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief, warned as the Obama administration sought to negotiate what became the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

Under that pact, Iran is currently spinning a small number of nuclear centrifuges, though it had to ship 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country. The Saudis believe they need to be positioned to match Iran’s every move, though experts say it would take a while. “No one thinks the Saudis would be able to do this anytime soon,” said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “They couldn’t plausibly build a weapon without outside help.”

The core challenge for the Trump administration is that it has declared that Iran can never be trusted with any weapons-making technology. Now, it must decide whether to draw the same line for the Saudis.

The United States’ own actions may be helping to drive the Saudis’ nuclear thinking. Now that the Iran agreement, brokered with world powers, is on the edge of collapse after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States, analysts are worried that the Saudis may be positioning themselves to create their own nuclear program in response.

The kingdom has extensive uranium deposits and five nuclear research centers. Analysts said Saudi Arabia’s atomic work force was steadily growing in size and sophistication — even without producing nuclear fuel.

Saudi leaders saw a political opening when Mr. Trump was elected.

In its early days, the administration spent considerable time discussing ways that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states could acquire nuclear reactors. Michael T. Flynn, who briefly served as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, backed a plan that would have let Moscow and Washington cooperate on a deal to supply Riyadh with reactorsbut not the ability to make its own atomic fuel.

As a precondition, American economic sanctions against Russia would have been dropped to allow Moscow to join the effort. Mr. Flynn was fired in early 2017 as questions swirled around his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, including about ending the trade restrictions.

In late 2017, Mr. Perry, the energy secretary, picked up the nuclear cooperation issue. Excluding Russia, he began negotiating with Riyadh over the terms. Whether the Saudis would be banned from fuel production quickly became a flash point in Congress.

At his Senate confirmation hearing in November 2017, Christopher A. Ford, the assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, called the safeguards a “desired outcome.” But he equivocated on whether the United States would insist on them.

Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the administration’s approach as “a recipe for disaster.”

In February, Mr. Perry led a delegation to London to discuss a pact that would ban fuel production, known as a 1-2-3 agreement, for at least 10 to 15 years. (As it happens, the time frame is about how long the Iranians are banned from fuel production under the Obama-era nuclear agreement, which Mr. Trump has called “a disaster.”)

The Saudi delegation was led by the energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, who resisted the proposal.

Nuclear experts said the kingdom wanted to build as many as 16 nuclear power plants over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. Recently, it scaled back its initial plan to the construction of just two reactors. Westinghouse, based in Pennsylvania, would provide the technology, but probably under a license to South Korean manufacturers.

The crown prince made headlines in March by shifting the public discussion over Riyadh’s intentions from reactors to atomic bombs. In a CBS News interview, he said that if Iran acquired nuclear arms, Saudi Arabia would quickly follow suit.

“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb,” Prince Mohammed told “60 Minutes.” “But without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

A few days later, Mr. Falih, the energy minister, raised concerns about the outcome of negotiations with Washington by insisting publicly that Riyadh would make its own atomic fuel.

He said in an interview with Reuters that he was hopeful for a deal.

“It will be natural,” he said, “for the United States to be with us and to provide us not only with technology, but to help us with the fuel cycle and the monitoring, and make sure we do it to the highest standard.”

But Mr. Falih emphasized that the kingdom had its own uranium deposits and wanted to develop them rather than relying on an overseas supplier.

“It’s not natural,” he said, “for us to bring enriched uranium from a foreign country.”

Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting from Washington, and David Kirkpatrick from London.

War of Terror Has Increased Number of Terrorists By 270 Percent Since 9/11/2001

Fighting Terrorists By Creating Terrorists

Tallying-Up the Saudi Terrorists and Troublemakers

Obama’s Plan To Win the Terror War By Enlisting All the Terrorists On Our Side

Qatar Being Scapegoated For Carrying-Out CIA/Bandar Terrorist Support Operation In Syria

US Actions Still Multiplying Mideast Terrorists…Critical Mass Inevitable

Our terrorists 

Manufacturing Terrorists–How FBI sting operations make jihadists out of hapless malcontents

The War To Breed Terrorism

Rand Corp — War On Terrorism Is A Failure

Trump, Like Obama and Bush, Fixes World Attention Upon Shiite Iran In Order To Create More Sunni Terrorists

Western Aggression—The Highest Form of Terrorism

War empowers Washington.

It is not that the Middle East is exporting terrorism to America; America imported terrorism (to the Middle East)

There are nearly four times as many jihadist militants today than on 9/11, and the ‘war on terror’ has been a ‘terrifyingly expensive failure’

isis fighters
ISIS fighters parade in the streets of Fallujah, Iraq in March 2014.
 AP

 

Analysis banner

  • There are nearly four times as many jihadist militants across the world today as there were on September 11, 2001, according to a new report (The Evolution of the Salafi-Jihadist Threat–Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)).
  • Foreign policy analysts say it’s yet another sign the war on terror has been a colossal failure.
  • There are approximately 230,000 Salafi jihadist fighters across almost 70 countries, according to the report.

There are nearly four times as many jihadist militants across the world today as there were on September 11, 2001, according to a new report, and foreign policy analysts say it’s yet another sign the war on terror has been a colossal failure.

“Despite the Islamic State’s loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, an increasingly diffuse Salafi-jihadist movement is far from defeated,” the new report from the Washington, DC-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

There are approximately 230,000 Salafi jihadist fighters across almost 70 countries, according to the report, which drew from a number of databases going all the way back to 1980. There has been a slight decline in the estimated number of total fighters since 2016, but the report said the current estimate is still among the highest in the past 40 years.

Read more: The most elite US-trained forces in Afghanistan routed by the Taliban, another sign the war is a lost cause

“The slight decline may be due to the absence of new battlefields and successful US and allied counterterrorism campaigns against Salafi-jihadist groups in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq,” the report aid. “However, the estimate of fighters—with a high of 230,000 fighters—remains concerning.”

Beyond the Islamic State group, Al Qaeda, and their affiliates, the report found 44 other groups operating in various parts of the world. Based on the findings, the highest number of Sunni Islamic militants are in Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In short, nearly two decades after the 9/11 terror attacks, jihadist extremist groups continue to have a strong presence globally as the US conducts counterterrorism operations in 76 countries.

‘The American war on terror has been a terrifyingly expensive failure’

Trevor Thrall, a senior fellow specializing in defense and foreign policy at the DC-based Cato Institute, told INSIDER the CSIS report “confirms what critics have been saying for years: The American war on terror has been a terrifyingly expensive failure.”

“Defending Americans against terrorist attacks is an important goal that we need to take seriously, but one that does not require endless military intervention abroad,” Thrall added. “And though politicians and many analysts continue to make hyperbolic claims about terrorism, the historical evidence since 9/11 shows that the terrorist threat to the United States is quite modest and does not justify the trillions of dollars spent to date.”

U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment take a position on a rooftop while fighting the Taliban in the village of Dahaneh Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.
U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment take a position on a rooftop while fighting the Taliban in the village of Dahaneh Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

 

Thrall said the sheer number of jihadists operating across the globe today makes it clear that the US, despite its incredible military might, is not equipped to “to address the root causes of terrorism in the Muslim world.”

“American-led regime change, nation building, and efforts to partner with weak and/or oppressive governments abroad have not only failed to reduce the problem they have also made things worse in many cases,” Thrall said.

Neta Crawford, professor of political science at Boston University and foreign policy expert, echoed these sentiments.

“Worse than arguably making more enemies, our policies have hurt the US economy for the last 17 years and will continue to sap the US economy in terms of opportunity costs and future spending obligations even after the wars end,” Crawford told INSIDER.

A recent report from the Costs of War Project, which Crawford directs, showed the US is on track to spend $6 trillion on the war on terror by October 2019. The project also found the war has contributed to approximately half a million deaths.

“The war on terror may have elements that were successful, namely no major attack on the US homeland since 9/11; however, we don’t know for sure whether and how the entire gamut of US policies worked,” Crawford said, calling for more analysis by the US government about the “effects and effectiveness of its policies” in this regard.

Crawford also noted that “we can’t kill all actual or potential terrorists without harming civilians,” adding, “for every civilian the US and its allies unintentionally kill, it has not made friends” in war zones.

‘Killing one extremist can actually produce more extremists by activating family or acquaintances’

Brandon Valeriano, the Donald Bren chair of armed politics at the Marine Corps University, told INSIDER the CSIS report “demonstrates something Gen. Stanley McChrystal mentioned a long time ago,” which is that “combating an insurgent movement requires a different way of figuring out impact.”

“Killing one extremist can actually produce more extremists by activating family or acquaintances,” Valeriano added.

Read more: ‘We are losing’: Trump and his top advisors aren’t publicly admitting how bad things are in Afghanistan

Valeriano said that if there’s a “vision of victory in the modern combat zone,” which has become increasingly convoluted, then “it has to include more than simply enemy combatant deaths but also attention to aide and welfare, making the situation better and less hopeless so the desire for violence is minimized.”

Osama bin Laden’s vision realized

Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and terrorism expert, seems to believe the war on terror is a never-ending, hopeless cause for the US.

osama bin laden
Osama bin Laden.
 Mazhar Ali Khan/AP

 

Based on the current status of jihadist extremism and the various conflicts occurring across the Muslim world, Soufan added that the US has clearly failed to kill Osama bin Laden’s ideology even though it succeeded in assassinating him.

“Regional conflicts – like those we are seeing in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and other places – are central to the Salafi-Jihadi terrorism that is borne out of Osama bin Laden’s ideology,” Soufan said.

“Before his death, bin Laden called for ‘the Management of Savagery’— a strategy of exploiting government collapse to create chaos, then turning that chaos to one’s own advantage in order to seize power,” Soufan added. “That is very much what we are seeing today across the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.”

SEE ALSO: America’s ‘war on terror’ has cost the US nearly $6 trillion and killed roughly half a million people, and there’s no end in sight

The CIA Is The International Clearinghouse for Islamic Terrorism, Saudi Arabia Recruiter and Financier

[I re-posted the following article about US ownership of the global jihadi enterprise as well as all of the “Fake News” peddled by the “respectable”, global news industry, just to repeat my article’s closing line about us, the alternative news freedom fighters…YOU…and ME.]

“It is the primary mission of the alternative news fighters to teach the American/Western viewing public ‘discernment’, and to instill within them a hunger for truth which rejects all fake news.”

Which CIA Are We Talking About, the National Spy Agency, Or the International Clearinghouse for Islamic Terrorism?

which-cia

Trump’s Intelligence Showdown Over Russia

Peter Chamberlin

Which CIA are we talking about, the one assigned to protecting American security through the acquisition of vital strategic information, or the one assigned to creating wars throughout the world, in order to create work for the Pentagon?

The introduction of the “Fake News” meme within both the “legitimate press” and the “alternative” Internet media was a strategic move, intended to disrupt the Internet press and to enforce the ownership of “the news” by the authoritarian “Mainstream News.”  It did not expose the abject failure of the old established news sources to maintain the principle of integrity in reporting, but it did highlight the fact that the majority of Internet alternative news sources have lacked integrity, been devoid of factual information and often perpetuated hoaxes as a form of satirical entertainment.  The frequent mixing of news and entertainment has given rise to thousands of bits of “Fake News,” which readers of the Internet must constantly wade through in order to intercept an accurate sampling of “real news,” that news which is based on facts and is sound in reason.  An old, leather-bound Black Book calls this process “discernment,” the learning of right from wrong, developing the natural capability to discern truth from lies.  In other words, we learn to recognize “bullshit” whenever we step in it, or have it thrown in our faces.

But these drawbacks to keeping track of reality in the age of cyber-streaming news, cannot be used by the lying Mainstream press as an obscuring shield to hide the inherently dangerous nature of the “Nightly News” that the legitimate press is drip-feeding into the minds of our unsuspecting friends and relatives.  If American and world popular opinion is to be led down a rabbit hole in a witch-hunt for Fake News, it cannot become the end of Truth itself.  The alternative press provides Americans access to foreign news, some of it untainted by American and Western news filters.  This is the single reason that the Establishment has determined to either destroy the alternative press, or to censor the Internet.  This is the objective of the Fake News witch-hunt.

Alternative news sources must continue to debunk and destroy Fake News whenever the Western media puts out a patently false report, with the intention of coercing their viewers into accepting whatever doctored news that the Govt wants NBC, CNN, etc. to put-out.  The alternative press has, so far, made great strides in “scooping” real news, revealing much truth which the powers that be would normally ignore, preferring that none of us see anything which would demand explanation.

Even though a large percentage of our media lies usually come from the NYT, or the Wash. Post stable of writers, the majority of all Western fake news reports seem to ooze out of the British press or its large international coterie of surrogate writers.  Most of the British Empire disappeared long ago, except for the British media empire, which is still strung throughout the world in London’s last vestiges of colonialism. Its longstanding reputation as the global standard for “news” automatically sanitizes whatever propaganda emerges from the BBC, Reuters, etc., convincing most of “the free world to accept it as “Gospel.”

(Donald Trump wants summit with Russia’s Putin in Reykjavik ; Russian embassy in UK denies info that Putin to meet Trump in Reykjavik)

(Donald Trump denies he will meet Putin on first foreign trip as President)

Over and over, the various Western news sources create false Trump/Putin love stories in order to pump-up the volume of the press (SEE: Brit Press Turns Real Trump Interview By NYT and De Bild Into Disinformation Piece).  It is the primary mission of the alternative news fighters to teach the American/Western viewing public “discernment”, and to instill within them a hunger for truth which rejects all fake news.]

 

peter.chamberlin@hotmail.com

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls Out Trump For Being ‘Saudi Arabia’s Bitch’

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard eviscerates Trump as ‘Saudi Arabia’s bitch’

“Hey @realdonaldtrump: being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First,'” the Hawaii Democrat tweeted.

Image:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, greets supporters on Nov. 6, 2018, in Honolulu.Marco Garcia / AP

By Adam Edelman

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on Wednesday slammed President Donald Trump as “Saudi Arabia’s bitch” in the latest scathing criticism of the commander-in-chief’s extraordinary statement this week to stand by the country’s rulers despite the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Hawaii Democratic congresswoman made the remarks in a brief and blistering tweet Wednesday afternoon.

“Hey @realdonaldtrump: being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First,'” wrote Gabbard, a 37-year-old Iraq War veteran who at various points has been considered a rising star in her party.

Tulsi Gabbard

@TulsiGabbard

The tweet was in apparent reference to Trump’s exclamation point-filled formal presidential statement Tuesday that his administration would take no actions against Saudi Arabia’s rulers regarding the Khashoggi killing — despite NBC News and other reports last week that the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

The white-hot words from Gabbard mark a departure from an earlier apparent attempt to work with him. In November 2016, just weeks after Trump won the election, Gabbard met with the president-elect at Trump Tower to discuss the war in Syria and other foreign policy issues. Gabbard called the meeting “frank and positive,” and there was speculation at the time that she was being considered for a job in his administration.

Trump Highlights Saudi Immunity To Human Rights Laws…Seems To Blame Iran For Saudi-Created Global Sunni Terrorism

Subject: Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 20, 2018
Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia

America First!

The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!
###

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Public Pool is an automated feed of White House press pool reports. For live updates, follow @WHPublicPool on Twitter.

Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia contradicts the CIA, subverts national security and puts millions of lives at risk

USA, CIA Created Sunni Islamic Terrorism

Most World Terrorism Is By Sunni Terrorists, 4 Years Running–Dec 6, 2013

Sunni Terrorism is Killing Internationally but America Blames Iran: Christians and Hezbollah

2013 Jamestown Foundation Report Blasting Saudi and Qatari Sponsorship of All Radical Islamist Terrorists In Syria

[Former Saudi intelligence chief, Bandar bin Sultan, ran the Saudi/Qatari terrorist recruitment, training and supply mission in Syria.  The multiple terrorist organizations created by them, all under direct control of the Pentagon and CIA, have been responsible for the majority of world terrorism since the beginning of the anti-Syrian war of aggression.  The following list of articles represents a small part of the ongoing documentation at ThereAreNoSunglasses of that US/SAUDI/QATARI terrorist army building program.  All of it authentic war crimes and crimes against humanity.–ed.]

Prince Bandar of Al-Qaeda, Quits In Enbarrassment Over His Islamization of Syrian War

Bandar’s 2008 Plan To Overthrow Bashar al-Assad—Mar. 30, 2011

Bandar bin Sultan’s Blueprint for Civil War

Timeline for Bandar’s Blueprint for Civil War In Libya and Syria

Bandar Flips the “Chechen Switch,” Followed By the “Al-Qaeda In Iraq Switch”

Posted on 

Bandar Claims “Two Months” To Turn the War Against Assad Around–(it takes time to cut that many throats)

Bandar Organizes Betrayal of SNC, Prepares American Al-CIA-da/al Nusra Offensive from Jordan

Prince Bandar’s Wake-Up Call

Obama’s Capitulation To Saudi Arabia, In Order To Destroy Putin

Did Izzat al-Douri Accept Saudi Money To Facilitate the ISIS Takeover of Mosul?

Secret Riyadh/Obama Deal To Abandon Saudi Jihadis In Syria?

Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis

Bandar’s Boy, Ahmad Jarba, Claims To Lead Arab Assault Force Upon Raqqa

Bandar Threatens To Return Chaos To Egypt If al-Sisi Ever Criticizes ISIS Or Iraq Project Again

Former Brit Secret Service Chief Dearlove–Bandar’s Pre-9/11 Plans for Mideast Sectarian Civil War

Bandar In Royal Dog House for Screwing-Up Syrian Plan

Bandar Disappears Into Saudi Royal Gulag Again—This Time for Screwing-up In Syria

Bandar Allegedly Threatens To Ruin Journalists Who Broke Report On Saudi Source of Ghouta Chemical Weapons

Yemen Fighting Bandar’s Boys Under the Alias of “Al-Qaeda In Arabian Peninsula,” AQAP

Al-Zawahiri and the Rest of “Al-Q” ALL Work For Bandar

Bandar to escalate Syria conflict

Bandar Praises British Help In Importing Terrorism and Civil War Into Syria

Bandar’s Boys Stage Assault On Abu Ghraib Prison, Reuters Reports 500 Escapees, Mostly “Al-Q In Iraq”

CIA’s favorite Saudi prince is laying the groundwork for a post-Assad Syria

Bandar Bush, CIA Terror, Money-Laundering, Creating “Al Qaida”

Bandar Bush and the Saudi Sell-out of the Arab World

 

W. Bush’s Evil Little Whore, Mohammed Dahlan, Implicated In Saudi Cover-Up of Khashoggi Murder

[SEE: The Gaza Bombshell (for those who missed it)]

Mohammed Dahlan, George Bush’s “Whore,” Now He’s Selling His Ass To the Saudis

U.A.E., Mohammed Dahlan and Zionist Terrorist Conspiracies Called “DAESH”

Saudi/Israeli Moves Reveal Old Plan to Re-plant the US Hitman Dahlan Over Gaza

Bomb Under Seat of Hamas Official In Sidon 1st. Military Action By Dahlan’s Terrorist Forces?

Report: Dahlan team helped cover up Khashoggi murder

Image of Fatah member Mohammed Dahlan

Mohammed Dahlan [File photo]

 

Four members of Mohammed Dahlan’s security team participated in covering up evidence related to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

According to high-level sources quoted by the Turkish Yeni Safak newspaper on Sunday, the four men arrived in Istanbul from Lebanon on 1 October. They used fake passports to travel and carried tools and chemicals to cover up any traces of the brutal murder.

The sources said Turkish security authorities have video records of the men carrying the materials to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, before leaving Turkey on 4 October.

Dahlan – a dismissed Fatah member – is accused of being involved in many cases in the Middle East, including paying a US assassination team which operated in the ongoing civil war in Yemen and was funded by Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed.

The Turkish Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday that it had received information from high-ranking Turkish sources investigating Khashoggi’s murder which indicate that, after his death, the late journalist was injected with a liquid in his stomach that caused his blood to clot in order not to leave any traces during the dismembering of his body.

Saudi FM Blames Qatari, Turkish Media for “Anti-Riyadh (Truth-Telling) Campaign”

CAIRO (Sputnik) – Qatari and Turkish media have launched a full-scale anti-Riyadh campaign after the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said on Thursday.

“The Turkish and Qatari media have launched a powerful anti-Saudi campaign that is still underway. That is very sad because it is about a crime that is being investigated by judiciary bodies,” Jubeir said at a press conference in Riyadh aired by Al-Arabiya television.

READ MORE: US Sanctions 17 Saudis Including Crown Prince Top Aide Over Khashoggi Killing

He pointed out that those responsible for the death of Khashoggi would be punished in line with the Saudi legislation.

From the minister’s point of view, some parties are trying to politicize the investigation into the murder by leaking various rumours to media.

“It would be better for everyone, if anyone possessing the information, which may clarify the situation, would share it with investigators instead of disseminating these data via media,” the diplomat added.

2 Navy SEAL Team 6 Operators, 2 Marine Raiders Charged For Murdering Army Green Beret For Exposing “Spec Forces Gone Wild In Mali”

 

 [“Petty Officer Antony DeDolph and Chief Petty Officer Adam Cranston Matthews” and 2 unnamed Marine Raiders have been charged with murder of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, in counter-terror operations in Mali.  The SEALs who were under investigation over Melgar’s death had been taking money from a fund used to pay informants, “gathering intelligence on a confluence of capable local militants trending Islamist.” (SEE: Green Beret Discovered SEALs’ Illicit Cash. Then He Was Killed.This follows on the heels of a previous Mali special op gone bad, where 2 Special Operators were killed in a covered-up accident in Mali, involving 2 local prostitutes. (SEE: Special Ops US Commandos Found Dead In Mali With Moroccan Prostitutes ).]

2 Navy SEALs, 2 Marines charged after Green Beret duct-taped and strangled to death

The charges do not allege a specific motive. But the counts filed against the four men range from felony murder to involuntary manslaughter. They also have been charged with hazing.

The Navy has also accused them of obstructing justice after the Green Beret’s death: Officials said the men disposed of alcohol that was kept in quarters shared by sailors and Marines and also lied to Navy commanders and investigators.

The man who died was Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a native of Lubbock, Texas. He had deployed to Afghanistan twice before his death in Bamako, Mali, in June 2017, Army officials said.

The charging documents don’t state why the service members were in Mali. But U.S. Special Forces have been in Africa to support and train local troops in their fight against extremists.

The names of the service members who have been charged are redacted in the charging documents. Beth Baker, a Navy spokeswoman, said the Navy is prohibited at this time from releasing the names of the accused as well as their civilian lawyers. The service members are not in confinement, Baker said.

The two Marines are listed as being part of Special Operations Command. The SEALs belong to the Navy Special Warfare Development Group. The unit is better known as SEAL Team 6, which participated in the May 2011 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at his compound.

The two SEALs are based in Virginia Beach. A preliminary hearing to review the case against all four service members is scheduled for Dec. 10 at a Navy base in nearby Norfolk. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service conducted the investigation.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jason Salata, a spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, said Thursday that “we honor the memory of Staff Sgt. Melgar.”

“We will not allow allegations or substantiated incidents of misconduct to erode decades of honorable accomplishments by the members of U.S. Special Operations Command.”

Little Bitch “Royal” Has “Hissy-Fit”, Trying To Block UN Resolution On Yemen Slaughter

Saudi crown prince’s ‘fit’ delays UN resolution on war in Yemen

Washington (CNN)Multiple sources tell CNN that a much-anticipated United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen and for Saudi Arabia to allow humanitarian aid to reach millions of starving people was “stalled” this week after the resolution’s sponsor, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, met face-to-face with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Two sources said the crown prince “threw a fit” about the resolution. Two other sources with knowledge of the discussion didn’t go so far as to describe the crown prince as angry, though they didn’t deny he was annoyed.
Putting it into more carefully diplomatic terms, one said, “He didn’t like the idea.” According to the other source, the Saudis “have their reservations,” but the source said it remained a courteous discussion.
As part of a British effort to draft a Security Council resolution against the continued fighting and humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Hunt flew to Riyadh this week to sit down with bin Salman, who has faced intense criticism and scrutiny over the brazen killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in early October at the hands of officials in his inner circle.

Sources say Hunt took the draft with him and discussed it with the crown prince, who wanted changes or better yet, no resolution at all. Bin Salman, known in diplomatic circles by his initials, MBS, viewed the pending resolution as weakening the Saudi position in the conflict over Yemen and emboldening its Houthi rebel rivals.

“MBS didn’t like the resolution on principle,” said a source familiar with the Riyadh meeting.
But the message Hunt delivered was a strong one, a fourth source said, and came after he’d consulted with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. “‘This is what Western powers think, and this is what you need to do. What is your plan to stop this?'” Hunt conveyed to the Saudi, according to this source, who added, “He heard what we said.”
In what’s seen as a positive move, the Saudis have now agreed to facilitate Houthi negotiators’ travel to Sweden for talks.
Starving girl who became iconic symbol dies

Hunt left with the understanding that he would work on changes to the resolution with his team, as well as with his counterparts in the US and elsewhere. These allies share concerns that a bad reaction from Saudi Arabia to a strongly worded UN resolution could set back the start of a process to resolve the war in Yemen.
Even so, one of the sources familiar with the Riyadh meeting said Western allies “are not inclined to act on all of MBS’s recommendations.”
At a Security Council meeting on Friday, British Ambassador Karen Pierce said the UK would introduce the new resolution on Monday.
The Department of State and Saudi Arabian Embassy in the US did not respond to requests for comment.
The encounter puts in stark light the efforts of the UK, US and other allies to hold the kingdom’s leadership accountable for serious alleged human rights violations, while still maintaining good working relationships with Saudi Arabia in the volatile region.
The US and UK were the top two arms sellers to Riyadh in 2017, with $5.2 billion and $1.2 billion in sales, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Babies like ghosts

Hunt’s meeting with the crown prince also underscores bin Salman’s resistance to pressure on Yemen, which has become the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster, as babies, children and adults slowly starve to death.
The three-year conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and its enemies, Iran-backed Houthis, has devastated the country and killed at least 10,000 people. UN experts say the Saudi coalition’s bombings of civilians are potential war crimes. The world body has also said the Saudis’ partial blockade of the country means 18 million people don’t have reliable access to food, creating the conditions for the worst famine in 100 years.
The World Food Program warned Friday that the country is “marching to the brink of starvation.” Its executive director, David Beasley, who just returned from Yemen, told reporters he touched babies who felt like “ghosts” due to starvation.
The UK’s willingness to make changes to the resolution to ease Saudi concerns drew sharp criticism from human rights advocates.
British NGO Save the Children warns that millions of children are at risk of famine in the war in Yemen.

British NGO Save the Children warns that millions of children are at risk of famine in the war in Yemen.
“The Saudi sway over some members of the UN Security Council has become a serious liability,” said Akshaya Kumar, the deputy United Nations director for Human Rights Watch. The UK for months has resisted bringing a UN resolution on Yemen and the US has been loath to criticize Riyadh for the destruction there.
“It’s absolutely mind-boggling that the world’s most powerful body has chosen silence for months even as warnings of famine have mounted,” Kumar said. “At this point, vague appeals to ‘all parties’ to improve their behavior won’t work. Any resolution that doesn’t specifically mention the Saudi-led coalition by name and call it out for its role in the carnage in Yemen won’t have the required effect in Riyadh.”
In an effort to win an edge in any negotiations, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly tried to gain a definitive military edge before agreeing to talks. Khashoggi’s killing, tied to bin Salman’s inner circle, put Saudi Arabia on the defensive diplomatically, giving the US and UK an opening to press Riyadh.
In late October, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Pompeo called on all participants in the civil war to agree to a ceasefire “in the next 30 days,” amid criticism of US support for the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict. The administration will likely face greater pressure to restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia and act on Yemen now that midterm elections have given Democrats control of the House of Representatives.
Shrapnel ties US-made bombs to Yemen deaths

The UK Foreign Office said in a statement that Hunt’s trip, which also included meetings with the United Arab Emirates and Yemeni leaders, “helped improve understanding on steps that would lead to a cessation of hostilities. The Foreign Secretary had constructive discussions on pathways to achieve de-escalation and reduce tensions, and was clear that both sides would need to play their part in the confidence-building measures.”
The fourth source familiar with Hunt’s discussions said the foreign secretary was in the region “to talk about a full sweep of issues in relation to Yemen” and as a result, also visited the UAE, a core member of the Saudi coalition.
Hunt also spoke to the Saudi crown prince about the country’s standoff with Qatar and about the need for accountability in Khashoggi’s killing. On Thursday, the Saudi Public Prosecutor’s Office charged 11 people and sentenced five to death for the Virginia resident’s killing.
One source with knowledge of the discussion between Hunt and the crown prince told CNN that such a meeting, between a British foreign secretary and the Saudi de facto head of state, is unusual; that based on diplomatic protocols, the foreign secretary would normally meet with a lower-level counterpart to talk over a pending action.

‘Reality on the ground’

The fourth source familiar with Hunt’s meeting said the Saudis “have their reservations” about the resolution, “but it’s a tool to get both sides to come to the table. And it does need to reflect the reality on the ground.”
One source with knowledge of discussions says the US has not been shying away from supporting the resolution, and that US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been enthusiastic about getting something done.
The source said others in the US administration don’t seem to be as willing as Haley to forcefully call out Saudi Arabia in this way.
But MBS’s serious pushback to a potential statement by the UN Security Council — merely a resolution calling for humanitarian aid and stopping the fighting — also shows that such moves have an impact at the highest level of Saudi government.
“The Saudis are hugely sensitive — ultra, ultra sensitive — to international perceptions,” a diplomatic source told CNN. “They hate criticism. And MBS brings a whole new level of paranoia about this.”

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered killing of Khashoggi

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s killing: reports

WASHINGTON – The CIA has concluded in an assessment that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to the Associated Press and Washington Post.

The assessment comes weeks after the Saudi government admitted Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the royal family, was killed in its Turkish consulate at the hands of interrogators. Saudi officials, however, denied that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved or aware of the killing.

The CIA reached its conclusions on intelligence, including phone calls between the crown prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, and Khashoggi, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed officials.

The Post reported the CIA had evidence showing Khalid told Khashoggi he should visit the Saudi’s consulate in Istanbul, the location where Khashoggi was killed and dismembered.

Khalid denied having any recent communications with Khashoggi, saying in a statement from an Embassy spokesperson that the last time he’d communicated with the columnist was in October of 2017.

Khalid bin Salman خالد بن سلمان

@kbsalsaud

Unfortunately the @washingtonpost did not print our full response. This is a serious accusation and should not be left to anonymous sources. Our full response was the following:

6,134 people are talking about this

“The claims in this purported assessment is false,” the statement read. “We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations.”

The Trump administration this week sanctioned individuals for their alleged role in the killing, but the intelligence officials’ conclusion bolsters efforts in Congress for a harsher U.S. response.

Major Mainstream News Player–L.A. TIMES–Recognizes That Nat. News Has Devolved Into Propaganda

President Donald Trump speaks during a conference supporting veterans and military families through partnership at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

The “P” word.

It’s a pivotal part of the story on Donald Trump’s camera-lit path to the White House. The media, of course, rarely if ever uttered the taboo term on air, even as demonstrators shouted it at cameras during women’s marches and scrawled it across protest signs they brandished outside the White House.

But here we are, two years in, tiptoeing around The Word That Cannot Be Said. Let’s just call it what it is: Propaganda.

The state-sponsored spread of deliberate misinformation is not a “half-truth,” “distortion of reality” or “the president’s loose relationship with the facts,” as many a mainstream news correspondent and pundit have said. It’s also not “a bold truth” or simply “The Truth” as many voices on the right have asserted.

The doctored “karate-chop” video of CNN’s Jim Acosta allegedly manhandling a White House intern at a press conference, posted by press secretary Sarah Sanders last week, was not a matter of differing perspectives, dueling truths or conflicting political beliefs. Nor were the White House transcripts of public meetings where Trump’s flubs were mysteriously omitted, altered presidential approval ratings posted by Don Jr. before the midterms or the cropped photo that Sean Spicer insisted was proof of the biggest inaugural crowd ever. “Period!”

They were all cases of purposefully manufactured narratives, disseminated from the highest levels of government, sometimes with the help of adversary nations, to sway public opinion, quash dissenting voices and consolidate power.

I know, it’s not half as fun as Kellyanne Conway’s wacky spiel on alternative facts or just Trump being Trump. In fact, it’s associated with some of the uglier chapters of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Propaganda is something most of us read about in history class and wondered how people were so easily duped. Certainly they saw through such obvious attempts to manipulate? Its use dates back well before Nazi Germany and Cold War Russia and stretches up to present-day China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. It arrives in the form of fake Facebook accounts created abroad and meant to influence our elections, or surveillance video from a Turkish embassy where Saudi operatives sought to cover up a murder by posing as their victim.

It’s the mark of a country we never wanted to be: a nation that divides its own people and pits them against one another. And it never ends well.

Democracy relies on people being informed…A society [with] their own set of facts is absolutely devastating.–Stephan Lewandowsky, cognitive scientist

“On page one of any political science textbook it will say that democracy relies on people being informed about the issues so they can have a debate and make a decision,” Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist who studies the persistence and spread of misinformation, told the BBC shortly after Trump’s inauguration. “Having a large number of people in a society who are misinformed and have their own set of facts is absolutely devastating and extremely difficult to cope with.”

No wonder fabrications from the Oval Office are often viewed as singular events or anomalies caused by an outsider who crashed Washington rather than age-old propaganda. It’s too frightening to admit the calls are coming from inside the house.

Orwellian state messaging has even permeated the TV series we binge for entertainment. Shall we be terrified by “The Man in the High Castle” or “The Handmaid’s Tale” tonight, honey? We’ve also been desensitized by reality TV, the modern-day answer to the documentary, where scripted moments of drama are an acceptable and almost expected part of serialized “reality.”

Take Trump’s old show “The Apprentice,” where the bankruptcy-prone son of a real estate mogul was reimagined into a self-made billionaire. The lines between fantasy and reality weren’t just blurred by “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett, they were erased entirely and redrawn by some of television’s best alchemists.

It was all fun and games and great ratings until someone got elected to office.

With such deep cultural references as “You’re Fired!” permeating American society, it’s no wonder the idea of propaganda seems like a relic from the paranoid 1950s or a cruel fate meant for other countries with fist-shaking Ayatollahs or military strongmen. We’ll stick with Rosie the Riveter, thanks, a nostalgic symbol of the domestic war effort. She smiled on the factory floor while assembling deadly munitions. What could be cuter? And please don’t say Flo, the perky Progressive Insurance lady.

'Mission accomplished'
President Bush stands in front of the now-famous “Mission accomplished” banner on May 1, 2003. Stephen Jaffe / AFP/Getty Images

There’s of course nothing new about politicians evangelizing their version of events or extolling their successes. George W. Bush gave the “mission accomplished” thumbs up shortly after the U.S. invaded Baghdad, though the mission was predicated on faulty intel and the war would drag on for over a decade. Barack Obama graciously accepted the Noble Peace Prize as the drone strikes he ordered killed civilians in Pakistan.

War propaganda is as old as, well, war. And hard spin is used just as frequently to influence in diplomatic times. Leaders must always look like leaders. But perhaps you’ve heard: This presidency isn’t like the others.

In July when speaking to a group of veterans in Kansas City about his distrust of the media, Trump said it plainly: “Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

He couldn’t have been more truthful, at least in that instance.

The altered Acosta video, which appeared to have been uploaded by Sanders from the conspiracy-minded website InfoWars to her Twitter feed, was used to justify banning the CNN correspondent from future press briefings, and now CNN is suing. No word yet if Final Cut Pro will be hired as the next press secretary.

The crowd
This pair of photos shows a view of the crowd on the National Mall at the inaugurations of President Barack Obama, above, on Jan. 20, 2009, and President Donald Trump, below, on Jan. 20, 2017.. Associated Press

That wasn’t the only clumsy attempt at recasting a moment already witnessed by millions. Recently released government documents acquired through a Freedom of Information request confirmed what many suspected following Trump’s first days in the White House. The Guardian reported that “a government photographer edited official pictures of the inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger” after a request by Trump “who was angered by images showing his audience was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009.”

He called the correction “fake news,” a phrase that Trump seems to have brought into the lexicon to muddy the waters.

Trump propaganda is of course reflected and fed by his unofficial media wing, Fox News. It’s a back-and-forth feeding frenzy that’s become so acceptable at the network that even two of its star hosts campaigned on stage alongside the president at political rallies.

So many ethical lines have been crossed in the past two years, it’s doubtful anyone — let alone Sean Hannity — can locate where the defining boundaries of “normal” used to be.

There are a few who can see through the gentle euphemisms — namely, the old guard who remember a time when Russia was the enemy, presidents showed their tax returns and Gold Star families were honored by their country’s Commander in Chief. Military analyst Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, left Fox News but not before stating: “With the rise of Donald Trump, Fox did become a destructive propaganda machine. And I don’t do propaganda for anyone.”

Still, the slow drip of repeated terms like “fake news” wears a groove that’s hard to get out of, even when the real fake news is coming from the White House and undermining democratic institutions critical to our nation’s health. And let’s not forget the sharpest tool of all: fear. Beware of caravans, Nancy Pelosi, transgender bathrooms, black women journalists, yadda, yadda.

Many in the media must have expected Trump to develop from a reality-show ringleader to a world leader when they used non-corrosive terms like “distortions” and “half-truths” while correcting his 2017-era falsehoods.

But by his second year in office, even the euphemisms got tired. Now several mainstream journalists use the L-word: lie.

Perhaps the “P-word” is next.

lorraine.ali@latimes.com

@lorraineali

Trump Reportedly Explores Option of Letting Turkey Kill US Resident Gulen, As Bribe To Forget Saudi Murder of Khashoggi

 

Fethullah Gülen. Photo: Matt Smith/picture alliance via Getty Image

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Marco Rubio wrote that Donald Trump’s brand of nationalism is not a creed that subordinates enlightenment values to zero-sum tribalism — as French president Emmanuel Macron had recently suggested. Rather, the Florida senator argued that the president’s nationalistic ethos was rooted in his deep appreciation for America’s “identity as a nation committed to the idea that all people are created equal, with a God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

There are more than a few problems with the thesis that Donald Trump only puts “America First” because America does the same for the concept of universal human rights. But an especially conspicuous one is that the president disdains the concept of human rights more than he reveres his fellow Americans.

Or so Trump’s handling of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder would suggest. From the moment the Turkish government revealed that Saudi agents had killed a Washington Post columnist — and legal U.S. resident — in Istanbul, the American president made it clear that he viewed the murder as less of a moral atrocity than a PR headache.

Trump’s first response to Turkey’s revelation was to demand that the public give his friends in Riyadh the presumption of innocence. His second was to allow that, if the Saudis did in fact murder and dismember a U.S.-based journalist, “it would not be a positive” — but nevertheless insisted that the American government couldn’t respond too harshly to such an offense because the Saudis are “spending $110 billion on [American] military equipment” (and those arms sales must be protected at all costs).

Now, with Khashoggi’s death buried beneath the ruins of a thousand subsequent news cycles, Trump has (reportedly) shifted his focus away from offering Riyadh constructive criticism on its lackluster cover-up, and toward getting Turkish president Recep Erdogan to let bygones be bygones.

More specifically, the president is reportedly trying to persuade Erdogan to forgive the Saudis for murdering a U.S. resident who was critical of their government by helping Erdogan imprison (and, in all probability, murder) a U.S. resident who was critical of the Turkish government.

As NBC News reports:

The White House is looking for ways to remove an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two senior U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests.

Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government, the four sources said.

 

… They said the White House specifically wanted details about Gulen’s residency status in the U.S. Gulen has a Green Card, according to two people familiar with the matter. He has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Career officials at the agencies pushed back on the White House requests, the U.S. officials and people briefed on the requests said.

“At first there were eye rolls, but once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious,” said a senior U.S. official involved in the process.

Erdogan has accused Gülen (without any substantial evidence) of masterminding the failed 2016 coup attempt against his government. Last year, Erdogan vowed to behead the “traitors” who had attempted to depose him. Thus, there is little doubt that to expel Gülen to Turkey would be to put the longtime Keystone State resident, and charter-school entrepreneur, in mortal danger.

To review: In order to help an Islamist theocracy get away with executing one American immigrant, Trump is (reportedly) trying to find a legal rationale for letting another (much less totalitarian) Islamist theocracy execute a different American immigrant.

If this is true, then it seems safe to say, contra Rubio, that Trump is less of an American nationalist who harbors a deep commitment to human rights than an American solipsist who is ready and willing to abet crimes against humanity if he believes that he stands to benefit personally from doing so.

US State Dept. Whitewashing Pentagon’s Dirty History Creating ISIS

[ISIS is Al-Qaeda In Iraq, rebranded within the confines of US Prison Camp Bucca, near Basra, Iraq, where all of the primary leaders of ISIS were held…a prison referred to by the guards as “jihadi university“.  
ISIS is a creation of Obama/Hillary, who assigned the job to Bandar bin Sultan, Emir of Qatar,  CIA, MI-6, and Mossad.]

[What Is the Truth About ISIS?]

In this file photo, Islamic State group militants hold up their flag as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq © AP Photo / File

US State Department Claims Daesh Was Created to ‘Protect People’ From Assad

Damascus and its allies have repeatedly accused Washington of waging a phony war on the jihadists, and of providing various forms of covert support for terrorists operating on Syrian territory.

The Syrian government is directly responsible for creating Daesh (ISIS)*, US special representative for Syria engagement James Jeffrey has alleged.

“The Syrian regime produced ISIS,” the diplomat said, speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday. “The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

“That created a space for ISIS to recruit people; to protect people to some degree, ironic as it sounds, from the depredations of the Assad regime; and very soon, ISIS had an army of 35,000 troops and had seized big chunks of both Iraq and Syria,” Jeffrey said.

Later in the press conference, Jeffrey appeared to contradict himself, recalling that al-Qaeda in Iraq, the direct precursor to Daesh, was actually started in Iraq.

“ISIS’s predecessor under the same leader, [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda in Iraq, was almost completely defeated when I was in Iraq…But it was able to regenerate itself because there was no long-term strategy in either Syria or Iraq, but particularly in Iraq at the time, because that’s where we were focused on, to ensure the enduring defeat of these elements,” the diplomat said.

Daesh’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), was formed in 2004, soon after the US invasion of Iraq, which caused the country to descend into chaos as a number of terrorist groups, warlords and militia groups waged guerrilla warfare against the central administration, US forces, and each other for control of their territories.

No US Aid for Reconstruction

Calling Syria a “pariah” state, Jeffrey stressed that neither Washington nor “most of the rest of the international community that typically provides reconstruction funds” would do so “until we see a great deal more progress” in Syria.

Earlier this year, Syrian President Bashar Assad estimated that Syria’s reconstruction could cost up to $400 billion and take 10-15 years to complete.

US Will Stay in Syria After Daesh is Gone

Noting that the US and its allies expect Daesh’s holdings in Syria to be mopped up “in a few months'” time, Jeffrey admitted that the US military presence also supports other, “secondary” goals, including countering alleged Iranian “malign activities” and demonstrating a US “interest in achieving a political solution by the various ways we have, not just diplomatic but security and military, through economic tools and other assets that we have and that we’re deploying in this conflict”.

Accusing Iran of “contributing greatly” to Daesh’s rise in 2013 and 2014, the US diplomat said that any resolution to the conflict will require their withdrawal. “Technically, the Syrian government invited them in; we expect the Syrian government to ask them to leave.”Damascus has repeatedly urged US forces to end their illegal presence in Syria, and have alleged that the US anti-Daesh mission was never about fighting terrorism.

* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

Saudis Defend Against Khashoggi Murder By Deifying Young Prick Prince

[Saudi Arabia Says Calls for Internationalization of Holy Sites ‘A Declaration of War’ ]

Saudi Arabia Is Misusing Mecca

In the aftermath of the Jamal Khashoggi murder, the kingdom has exploited the podium of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by using its imams to praise, sanctify and defend the rulers and their actions.

By Khaled M. Abou El Fadl

Mr. Fadl teaches law at the University of California, Los Angeles.

CreditCreditChristina Hägerfors 

The rulers of Saudi Arabia derive much of their legitimacy and prestige in the Muslim world from their control and upkeep of the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba in Mecca and the mosque of Prophet Muhammad in Medina. King Salman, like the rulers before him, wears the title of the “Khadim al-Ḥaramayn al-Sharifayn,” which is translated as the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” or, more precisely, “The Servant of the Two Noble Sanctuaries.”

Despite the humility of the royal title, the Saudi monarchy has a long history of exploiting the podium of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by using its imams to praise, sanctify and defend the rulers and their actions.

In the aftermath of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the world’s accusatory gaze was transfixed on Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi monarchy has again used the Grand Mosque to defend and deify the crown prince in a manner that makes its legitimacy and control of Mecca and Medina morally troubling like never before.

On Oct. 19, Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sudais, the officially appointed imam of the Grand Mosque and the highest religious authority in the kingdom, delivered his Friday sermon from a written script. Friday sermons at the Grand Mosque are broadcast live on cable networks and social media sites, watched with great reverence by millions of Muslims and carry a great deal of moral and religious authority.

Imam Sudais delivered a troubling sermon, violating the sanctity of the sacred space he occupied. He referenced a saying attributed to Prophet Muhammad that once every century, God sends a mujaddid, a great reformer to reclaim or reinvigorate the faith. He explained that the mujaddid is needed to address the unique challenges of each age.

He proceeded to extol Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a divine gift to Muslims and implied that the crown prince was the mujaddid sent by God to revive the Islamic faith in our age. “The path of reform and modernization in this blessed land … through the care and attention from its young, ambitious, divinely inspired reformer crown prince, continues to blaze forward guided by his vision of innovation and insightful modernism, despite all the failed pressures and threats,” the imam declared, from the podium where Prophet Muhammad delivered his last sermon.

Invoking the debate following the Khashoggi murder, Imam Sudais warned Muslims against believing ill-intended media rumors and innuendos that sought to cast doubt on the great Muslim leader. He described the conspiracies against the crown prince as intended to destroy Islam and Muslims, warning that “all threats against his modernizing reforms are bound not only to fail, but will threaten international security, peace and stability.”

He cautioned that the attacks against “these blessed lands” are a provocation and offense to more than a billion Muslims. Imam Sudais used the word “muhaddath,” or “uniquely and singularly gifted” to describe Prince Mohammed. “Muhaddath” was the title given by Prophet Muhammad to Umar Ibn al-Khattab, his companion and the second caliph of Islam. The imam implicitly compared the crown prince to Caliph Umar.

Imam Sudais prayed for God to protect Prince Mohammed against the international conspiracies being woven against him by the enemies of Islam, the malingerers and hypocrites, and concluded that it was the solemn duty of all Muslims to support and obey the king and the faithful crown prince, the protectors and guardians of the holy sites and Islam.

Muslim Hajj pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, located in the center of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.CreditMustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images 

When an imam of the Grand Mosque calls upon Muslims to obediently accept Prince Mohammed’s incredulous narrative about the murder of Mr. Khashoggi; to accept his abduction, jailing and torture of dissenters, including imprisonment of several revered Islamic scholars; to ignore his pitiless and cruel war in Yemen, his undermining the democratic dreams in the Arab world, his support for the oppressive dictatorship in Egypt, it makes it impossible to accept the imam’s categorization of the crown prince as a divinely inspired reformer. The sanctified podium of the prophet in Mecca is being desecrated and defiled.

The control of Mecca and Medina has enabled the clerical establishment and the monarchy flush with oil money to extend their literalist and rigid interpretations of Islam beyond the borders of the kingdom. Most Muslims will always prefer a tolerant and ethically conscientious Islam to the variant championed by the crown prince and the acquiescent Saudi clergy.

By using the Grand Mosque to whitewash acts of despotism and oppression, Prince Mohammed has placed the very legitimacy of the Saudi control and guardianship of the holy places of Mecca and Medina in question.

Khaled M. Abou El Fadl is a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of “Reasoning With God: Reclaiming Shari‘ah in the Modern Age.”


Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated a term that Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sudais used to describe Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a divinely inspired reformer. The word was “mujaddid,” not “mujtahid.” The earlier version also misspelled one of King Salman’s titles. It is Khadim al-Haramayn al-Sharifayn, not Khadim al-Ḥaramayn as-Sarifayn.

Trump “Green-Lighting” Saudi Plans For Lebanon’s Destruction?

Are the Saudis set to turn up the heat on Lebanon?

Lebanon’s ‘lung’ to Gulf markets choked by politics

US warns Lebanon that Hezbollah Cabinet pick would cross ‘red line’

Lebanese premier accuses Hezbollah of blocking government

Lebanon’s Hezbollah insists on government demand, warns Israel

‘Lebanese Connection’ drug trial opens in Paris

Israel and U.S. Set Eyes on Lebanon as Iran-Saudi Proxy Clash Heats Up

US names son of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah terrorist

John Abizaid.jpg
Gen. John Philip Abizaid, Lebanese decent, former head of Iraq mission.

Gen. John P. Abizaid’s nomination as the next ambassador to Saudi Arabia comes six weeks after the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi.CreditCreditWin McNamee/Getty Images

By Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Tuesday that he will nominate Gen. John P. Abizaid, a retired commander of forces in the Middle East, as his new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a position that has taken on new sensitivity with the assassination of a Saudi journalist.

The selection, if confirmed by the Senate, will finally give the president a representative of his own in Riyadh at a time when the relationship with Washington has grown strained over the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who lived in the United States and wrote for The Washington Post.

General Abizaid, a Lebanese-American who speaks fluent Arabic and spent years in the Middle East, served as head of the United States Central Command with responsibility for the region and oversaw the early years of the Iraq war under President George W. Bush. Since 2016, he has served as special envoy to the Ukrainian military helping bolster its capacity against Russian aggression.

The nomination comes six weeks after Mr. Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain paperwork needed for his coming wedding. A team of Saudi agents flew to Istanbul and killed him minutes after his arrival, then dismembered his body, according to Turkish officials.

After initially denying it, Saudi officials have acknowledged that Mr. Khashoggi was killed in the consulate and that it was premeditated, but have continued to deny that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often known by his initials, M.B.S., knew in advance or had any involvement in the operation. A recording shared by Turkish officials with the C.I.A. captured a member of the kill team instructing a superior over the phone to “tell your boss” that the operation had been carried out.

The lack of an ambassador in either Saudi Arabia and Turkey has been a point of contention since Mr. Khashoggi’s death, underscoring that many important diplomatic posts remain unfilled nearly two years into Mr. Trump’s administration, some because no one has been nominated and others because the Senate has not acted.

Mr. Trump has promised “severe punishment” if it were demonstrated that the Saudis were behind the killing, but he has resisted curbing arms sales as lawmakers in both parties have urged. His Middle East strategy to confront Iran and force Palestinians to make peace with Israel has relied largely on Saudi Arabia, a relationship cultivated by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, with Prince Mohammed.

General Abizaid, 67, graduated from West Point, where his 1973 yearbook described him as “an Arabian Vince Lombardi” in that he “just couldn’t accept second place.” He spent 34 years in the Army, rising from infantry platoon leader to a celebrated four-star general. As a company commander in Grenada in 1983, he used a bulldozer to advance on a Cuban bunker, a moment later recreated in the Clint Eastwood movie “Heartbreak Ridge.”

As deputy head and then commander of the United States Central Command, he oversaw the early years of the Iraq war, including the quick defeat of the Baghdad government and the capture of Saddam Hussein. His deep understanding of the Middle East made him “our version of Lawrence of Arabia,” as John P. Hannah, Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, once described him. He coined the phrase “long war” to describe the nation’s struggle with terrorists to make clear to Americans that it would not be a quick battle.But a Sunni insurgency grew on his watch, turning the war into a bloody quagmire. General Abizaid favored a strategy of turning over the war to Iraqi forces as early as possible and resisted sending more American troops when Mr. Bush opted to dispatch a “surge” of reinforcements in 2007 that helped turn around the war, at least for a time. As the surge began, General Abizaid retired, having served as head of Central Command longer than any of his predecessors.

General Abizaid remains highly regarded by both military and diplomatic veterans. Three people familiar with the selection said it had been in the works for months and one of the people said General Abizaid turned down the job twice before relenting.

“Excellent choice with experience in the kingdom, but he faces an unprecedented challenge dealing with a crown prince whose reputation is in tatters, probably irredeemably,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and former C.I.A. officer who wrote a recent book on Saudi Arabia and American presidents.

“He has deep knowledge of the area, thinks strategically and should be good,” said Ronald E. Neumann, a former ambassador to Afghanistan and the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy.

Gerald M. Feierstein, a former ambassador to Yemen and the State Department’s second-ranking diplomat for Middle East policy from 2013 to 2016, said the selection showed that Mr. Trump continued to favor military officers for senior civilian positions.

“But Abizaid isn’t a bad choice and may have some influence with the Saudis,” he said. “The timing is also interesting after delaying for two years. It may indicate that the administration has finally figured out that the Kushner-M.B.S. channel isn’t sufficient for managing the relationship.”

Still, it was unclear how much leeway General Abizaid would have in managing the relationship rather than being a figurehead while Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed maintain their channel. “It’s a very conventional pick,” said Andrew Miller, the deputy director for policy at the Project for Middle East Democracy and a former State Department and White House official under President Barack Obama. “There’s a long history of retired military officers serving in that post.”

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

“Islamist NATO”

Image: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (2nd L) welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump to dance with a sword during a welcome ceremony at Al Murabba Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Creating a New Arab Alliance

Donald Trump doesn’t like the original NATO, so why does he want a second one?

by Doug Bandow

Rather, the region’s greatest problems are internal, often exacerbated or even created by the U.S. government. Indeed, Washington is the region’s most destabilizing force: blowing up both Iraq and Libya, attempting to overthrow the Syrian government, pushing barely disguised regime change in Iran, and backing the Saudi regime’s reckless military intervention in Yemen and elsewhere. No other government has wreaked nearly as much havoc throughout the region.

Some Americans care much more about Israel than they do about U.S. energy supplies or regional stability. However, the radical Likud government also is playing the United States. Israel is a nuclear-armed regional superpower, capable of defending itself from all comers. Like its neighbors, the principal existential threat facing Israel is internal: if it seeks to forcibly maintain a growing Arab population as a subject labor force, then Israel may find it impossible to be both democratic and Jewish.

Fourth, Iran is in no position to dominate the Mideast. President Trump recently argued that “When I came into here, it was a question of when would [the Iranians] take over the Middle East?” But Iran faces severe domestic challenges. The Islamist elite lacks legitimacy, especially among a younger population which looks West. The economy is isolated and weak. The military as never recovered from the revolution which overthrew the Shah.

Indeed, Iran’s conventional military strength is anemic; Tehran’s military outlays ran about $16 billion last year, trailing both Saudi Arabia’s $77 billion and UAE’s $25 billion. The Islamic Republic is in no position to launch a blitzkrieg assault on its immediate neighbors, let alone more distant states such as well-armed Egypt.

Iran’s missile program, oft criticized by U.S. officials who control the world’s most powerful military, is a deterrent borne of weakness, ensuring deterrence as city-busting weapons targeting desert city-states. Saudi Arabia is the region’s most threatening aggressor, having invaded its poor neighbor, Yemen, used military forces to maintain Bahrain’s brutal Sunni monarchy over the majority Shia population, subsidized Egypt’s murderous al-Sisi dictatorship, underwritten radical jihadists in Syria, and kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister. Abu Dhabi, with a more effective military, has joined in many of these destructive interventions. Tehran is a piker in comparison.

Iran’s supposed empire of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen is a fantasy. The Bush administration empowered the Islamist regime by ousting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but even so Baghdad is no puppet. Tehran enjoys influence in desperately dysfunctional Lebanon through Hezbollah, but at most that offers Iran a possible deterrent weapon against Israel. Tehran has never dominated Yemen and is assisting Houthi rebels mostly to bleed the aggressors, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In Syria Iran has worked hard to preserve a long-standing ally under siege by Riyadh and others. These foreign-policy initiatives are largely defensive and, even if successful, have been economically ruinous.

The Saudi Crown Prince has admitted that “Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world. The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy. Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia.” So why does Riyadh, which candidate Donald Trump denounced for its military dependence on Washington, need U.S. defense subsidies formalized by treaty?

An Arab NATO cannot supply the region’s governments with what most desperately crave: political legitimacy. A gaggle of corrupt, authoritarian monarchies, highlighted by Saudi Arabia’s totalitarian absolute rule, plus one ostentatiously brutal dictatorship (Egypt), cannot appeal to disaffected young Arabs. To survive they must rely on repression. MESA would formally put the U.S. military at their service. So much for the president’s insincere rhetoric about human rights.

Today the Gulf states contract out most work, from gardening to medicine. They informally do the same with the military. MESA would make official their reliance on the U.S. armed services as their bodyguards—and certainly not for America’s benefit.

The Middle East has been a graveyard of U.S. expectations. Decades of military intervention have had counterproductive, often disastrous consequences. Washington has blown up Iraq and Libya with devastating impact and intervened in the Lebanese and Syrian civil wars with no good result. The United States has backed tyranny throughout the region, including in Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Failing to recognize that the illegitimate Gulfdoms need Washington more than Washington needs them, the United States has backed Riyadh’s and Abu Dhabi’s monstrous war in Yemen. Even support for Israel, a democracy for its Israeli citizens but not millions of Arab subjects, has created blowback, encouraging violent terrorism against Americans at home and abroad.

It is a catastrophic record. Yet MESA would reinforce Washington’s failed strategy. The United States should step back and disengage from the Middle East. The original NATO has turned into a deadweight for America. A new Mideast alliance start badly and go downhill from there.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire .

Trump, Like Obama and Bush, Fixes World Attention Upon Shiite Iran In Order To Create More Sunni Terrorists

An ‘Arab NATO’ and America’s militarized Mideast policy

 

The Dangers of Creating a New Arab Alliance

The Dangers of Creating a New Arab Alliance

Donald Trump doesn’t like the original NATO, so why does he want a second one?

by Doug Bandow 

How to explain the Trump administration’s fixation with Iran? The Islamic Republic is an economic wreck and in political disarray, and lacks an effective conventional military. It obviously cannot seriously threaten America.

Moreover, Tehran’s capabilities are dramatically overshadowed by Israel’s nuclear arsenal, Saudi Arabia’s lavishly appointed military, and the United Arab Emirates’ brutal war-making. The obvious response to Iran’s threats, which have been far exceeded by Riyadh’s reckless aggressiveness, is regional cooperation—and for Tehran’s neighbors to better treat their own oppressed populations, so the latter do not find Iran’s Islamist message appealing.

Yet President Donald Trump, who doesn’t like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, through which the Europeans have become embarrassingly dependent on America, wants to create an Arab NATO, provisionally named the Middle East Strategic Alliance. The organization’s leading member would be Saudi Arabia, another nation which candidate Trump criticized for taking advantage of the United States.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the latest UN General Assembly meeting to host prospective members while Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs Tim Lenderking criss-crossed the Gulf promoting the idea. If all goes well, it will be introduced at a summit hosted by the United States in January.

At least the original NATO served a useful purpose. Western European countries had been wrecked by World War II and the Soviet Union turned Central and Eastern European states into dismal satellites. Soviet domination of Eurasia, though not sufficient to threaten American independence, would have presented the U.S. with a dangerous security environment for years if not decades.

The alliance’s chief shortcoming was allowing Europeans to treat America’s military commitment as welfare. NATO’s European members are capable of confronting Russia or any other presumed adversary. Yet after recovering economically, they continued to rely on Uncle Sam, dismissing ever more embarrassing pleas from Washington that they do more. They knew American officials would defend the continent, no matter what.

Today even countries claiming to be vitally threatened by Russia—Poland and the Baltic States—spend only about two percent of gross domestic product on their militaries. They expect the United States to swoop in at the last minute and save them if the worst happens. NATO is an alliance primarily in name rather than action. President Trump has repeatedly made this point, but his own officials have done their best to undermine his efforts.

Alas, an Arab NATO, whether called MESA or something else, would multiply the original NATO’s many infirmities. First, by its own terms the proposed organization would be bound to target its own members. A spokesman for the National Security Council declared that the alliance “will serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism, and will bring stability to the Middle East.”

However, virtually all the Gulf States have facilitated terrorist funding over the years. Saudi Arabia provided most of the 9/11 terrorists and spent some $100 billion in recent decades subsidizing intolerant Wahhabist thought, which acts as a precursor to terrorism. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have actively destabilized Yemen, Libya, Syria and Lebanon. Contrary to Washington’s position, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar all maintain civil relations with Tehran. Taken literally, the administration would have MESA’s members engage in a war of all against all.

Second, there is little agreement on anything among the nations Washington expects to join the new group. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UAE want to rule over their neighbors, determined to impose their agenda through war, if necessary. They launched a murderous invasion on Yemen, pressed their neighbors to isolate Doha, and even planned to invade Qatar, but were blocked by Turkish military intervention and U.S. opposition.

Kuwait and Oman traditionally have acted as mediators between their larger neighbors. Facing grievous domestic economic and political challenges, Jordan looks inward. In Bahrain the Sunni monarchy is focused on suppressing the Shia majority. Egypt is a common hireling, because of poverty beholden to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi for the billions they have spent propping up the el-Sisi dictatorship.

Qatar’s independent course angered rigidly authoritarian Saudi Arabia and the UAE, especially since it allowed media coverage of their crimes and the sanctuary for their political opponents. Even Lenderking admitted the obvious, that the intra-Gulf dispute poses a long-term impediment to the idea of MESA.

Nor do the presumed alliance members agree on the supposed threat of Iran, around which the Trump administration intends to center MESA. Lenderking cited Tehran as the “number one threat” to be confronted. However, though Riyadh and Abu Dhabi desire U.S. support against Iran, their priority is regional dominance rather than national defense. Bahrain’s thuggish monarchy is angry because Tehran has backed the Shia majority against the repressive Khalifa ruling family, not because Iran is threatening to attack. As noted earlier, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar treat Tehran with balance; Qatar shares a natural gas field. Egypt does not fear Iran, but does what it is paid to do. Jordan is far more worried about its domestic problems than Tehran.

Unfortunately, the only way a coalition of these states will “work” is if the United States browbeats the other members into accepting Saudi control, which would threaten to drag them into multiple conflicts orchestrated by Riyadh for Riyadh’s benefit. But most vulnerable to manipulation would be Washington, which would be expected to backstop the Saudis irrespective of their actions, such as the criminal destruction of Yemen.

In fact, turning policy over to the Saudi royals is an open invitation to region-wide war, incompetence, and corruption. Saudi Arabia and the UAE would use MESA to advance their own objectives and not those of America or other fellow members. With Bahrain and Egypt already on their payrolls, the Saudis and Emiratis would attempt to use the new U.S.-backed alliance to cow their more moderate Gulf neighbors.

Third, the Persian Gulf is not vital to America. It never really was, but at least during the Cold War the Soviet Union conceivably could have interfered with the industrial world’s energy consumption. Today sources of energy supplies have multiplied around the world, with America emerging as the world’s largest energy producer. No one imagines Moscow plotting, say, a thrust to the Gulf through Afghanistan.

Thousands of Corpses Recovered From Under America-Created Raqqa Rubble–Russian diplomat

The bodies of over 8,000 Syrians killed in bombing raids by the US-led coalition have been found in mass graves in Syria’s Raqqa after the rubble was partially cleared away, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

“Last week, the Syrian government, in its letters addressed to the UN secretary general and the UN Security Council president, provided the tragic statistics on the victims of the coalition’s bombing raids in the city of Raqqa during its ‘liberation’ from ISIL (former name of the Islamic State terror group, outlawed in Russia – TASS),” she noted.

“The bodies of over 4,000 people were found while clearing away the rubble in two of the city’s residential neighborhoods left over from the airstrikes and also around the stadium and the zoo. Those were mainly women, the elderly and children. In addition, a mass grave where more than 2,500 people were buried was uncovered at a farm near a pediatric clinic and the National Hospital, while another burial site was opened near Al-Panorama where 1,500 bombing raids’ victims were buried.”

“The letters stressed that to date just two percent of the rubble had been cleared away in Raqqa, which had been literally razed to the ground,” Zakharova emphasized.

According to the diplomat, the statistics turned out to be in stark contrast with “the hysterical reaction expressed by the US and other Western countries with respect to protecting Syrians’ rights,” and “the information provided in recent reports by various Western NGOs on the situation in Raqqa.”

The Raqqa Governorate and its capital of the same name served as the main outpost for the Islamic State terror group in Syria.

The city of Raqqa was recaptured from the terrorists last October by predominately-Kurdish units, which form part of the Syrian Democratic Forces backed by the US-led coalition.

Moscow and Damascus have drawn attention to the situation in Raqqa on numerous occasions. On November 29, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said that the US and its allies were trying “to hide the dire consequences of their military operation” to liberate the Syrian city.

For its part, Damascus sent a letter to the UN, which laid the blame for the bloody carnage on the US-led coalition, whose air raids claimed thousands of lives, while the city itself was razed to the ground.

More:
http://tass.com/politics/1029851

MEK—the Only Islamist Terror Group That Washington Can Openly Embrace

Terrorists, cultists – or champions of Iranian democracy? The wild wild story of the MEK

 

Maryam Rajavi in Tirana, Albania in September 2017. Photograph: NurPhoto via Getty

They fought for the Iranian revolution – and then for Saddam Hussein. The US and UK once condemned them. But now their opposition to Tehran has made them favourites of Trump White House hardliners.

By 

Mostafa and Robabe Mohammadi came to Albania to rescue their daughter. But in Tirana, the capital, the middle-aged couple have been followed everywhere by two Albanian intelligence agents. Men in sunglasses trailed them from their hotel on George W Bush Road to their lawyer’s office; from the lawyer’s office to the ministry of internal affairs; and from the ministry back to the hotel.

The Mohammadis say their daughter, Somayeh, is being held against her will by a fringe Iranian revolutionary group that has been exiled to Albania, known as the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq). Widely regarded as a cult, the MEK was once designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and UK, but its opposition to the Iranian government has now earned it the support of powerful hawks in the Trump administration, including national security adviser John Bolton and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

The couple have spent the past two decades trying to get their daughter out of the MEK, travelling from their home in Canada to Paris, Jordan, Iraq and now Albania. “We are not against any group or any country,” Mostafa said, sitting outside a meatball restaurant in central Tirana. “We just want to see our daughter outside the camp and without her commanders. She can choose to stay or she can choose to come home with us.” The MEK insists Somayeh does not wish to leave the camp, and has released a letter in which she accuses her father of working for Iranian intelligence.

Since its exile from Iran in the early 1980s, the MEK has been committed to the overthrow of the Islamic republic. But it began in the 1960s as an Islamist-Marxist student militia, which played a decisive role in helping to topple the Shah during the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-American, MEK fighters killed scores of the Shah’s police in often suicidal street battles during the 1970s. The group targeted US-owned hotels, airlines and oil companies, and was responsible for the deaths of six Americans in Iran. “Death to America by blood and bonfire on the lips of every Muslim is the cry of the Iranian people,” went one of its most famous songs. “May America be annihilated.”

Such attacks helped pave the way for the return of the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who quickly identified the MEK as a serious threat to his plan to turn Iran into an Islamic republic under the control of the clergy. The well-armed middle-class guerrillas, although popular among religious students and intellectuals, would prove to be no match for Khomeini’s organisation and ruthlessness.

Following the revolution, Khomeini used the security services, the courts and the media to choke off the MEK’s political support and then crush it entirely. After it fought back, killing more than 70 senior leaders of the Islamic republic – including the president and Iran’s chief justice – in audacious bomb attacks, Khomeini ordered a violent crackdown on MEK members and sympathisers. The survivors fled the country.

For almost two decades, under their embittered leader Massoud Rajavi, the MEK staged attacks against civilian and military targets across the border in Iran and helped Saddam suppress his own domestic enemies. But after siding with Saddam – who indiscriminately bombed Iranian cities and routinely used chemical weapons in a war that cost a million lives – the MEK lost nearly all the support it had retained inside Iran. Members were now widely regarded as traitors.

Isolated inside its Iraqi base, under Rajavi’s tightening grip, the MEK became cult-like. A report commissioned by the US government, based on interviews within Camp Ashraf, later concluded that the MEK had “many of the typical characteristics of a cult, such as authoritarian control, confiscation of assets, sexual control (including mandatory divorce and celibacy), emotional isolation, forced labour, sleep deprivation, physical abuse and limited exit options”.

After the US invasion of Iraq, the MEK launched a lavish lobbying campaignto reverse its designation as a terrorist organisation – despite reports implicating the group in assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists as recently as 2012. Rajavi has not been seen since 2003 – most analysts assume he is dead – but under the leadership of his wife, Maryam Rajavi, the MEK has won considerable support from sections of the US and European right, eager for allies in the fight against Tehran.

In 2009, the UK delisted the MEK as a terror group. The Obama administration removed the group from the US terror list in 2012, and later helped negotiate its relocation to Albania.

At the annual “Free Iran” conference that the group stages in Paris each summer, dozens of elected US and UK representatives – along with retired politicians and military officials – openly call for the overthrow of the Islamic republic and the installation of Maryam Rajavi as the leader of Iran. At last year’s Paris rally, the Conservative MP David Amess announced that “regime change … is at long last within our grasp”. At the same event, Bolton – who championed war with Iran long before he joined the Trump administration – announced that he expected the MEK to be in power in Tehran before 2019. “The behaviour and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself,” he declared.

The main attraction at this year’s Paris conference was another longtime MEK supporter, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, now Donald Trump’s lawyer. “The mullahs must go. The ayatollah must go,” he told the crowd. “And they must be replaced by a democratic government which Madam Rajavi represents.” Giuliani also praised the work of MEK “resistance units” inside Iran, that he credited with stoking a recent wave of protests over the struggling economy. “These protests are not happening by accident,” he said. “They’re being coordinated by many of our people in Albania.” (Giuliani, Bolton and the late John McCain are among the US politicians who have travelled to Albania to show support for the MEK.)

It would be hard to find a serious observer who believes the MEK has the capacity or support within Iran to overthrow the Islamic republic. But the US and UK politicians loudly supporting a tiny revolutionary group stranded in Albania are playing a simpler game: backing the MEK is the easiest way to irritate Tehran. And the MEK, in turn, is only one small part of a wider Trump administration strategy for the Middle East, which aims to isolate and economically strangle Iran.

Before the MEK could become a darling of the American and European right, it had to reinvent itself. Democracy, human rights and secularism would become the group’s new mantra – as its leader, Maryam Rajavi, renounced violence and successfully repositioned an anti-western sect as a pro-American democratic government-in-waiting.

The long march to respectability began with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The war toppled Saddam Hussein, the MEK’s patron and protector, but it brought the group into direct contact with US officials – who would soon be looking for additional ammunition against Iran.

The US had designated the MEK as a terrorist group in the late 1990s, as a goodwill gesture toward a new reformist government in Tehran. When George W Bush accused Saddam Hussein of “harbouring terrorists” in a 2002 speech that made the case for invading Iraq, he was actually referring to the MEK. But in the early days of the US occupation of Iraq, a row erupted inside the White House over what to do with the 5,000 MEK fighters inside their base at Camp Ashraf.

Members of the MEK near Camp Ashraf in the 90s.
 Members of the MEK near Camp Ashraf in the 90s. Photograph: Alamy

Rumsfeld’s faction won out. Although the group was still listed as a terrorist organisation, the Pentagon unilaterally designated MEK fighters inside Camp Ashraf as “protected persons” under the Geneva conventions – officially disarmed, but with their security effectively guaranteed by US forces in Iraq. The US was protecting a group it also designated as terrorists.

There is no doubt that US hawks regarded the MEK as a weapon in the fight against Iran: as early as May 2003, the same month that Bush famously declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq, the New York Times reported that “Pentagon hardliners” were moving to protect the MEK, “and perhaps reconstitute it later as a future opposition organisation in Iran, somewhat along the lines of the US-supported Iraqi opposition under Ahmed Chalabi that preceded the war in Iraq”. In 2003, the Bush administration refused an offer, signed off by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to hand over MEK leaders in Iraq in exchange for members of the military council of al-Qaida and relatives of Osama bin Laden, who had been captured by Iran as they fled Afghanistan after September 11.

As the US occupation of Iraq collapsed into a nightmarish civil war, the American right increasingly blamed Iran for the country’s disintegration. Senior politicians openly called for bombing the Islamic republic, amid growing panic over Iran’s nuclear programme – the existence of which had first been exposed by the MEK in what the BBC called a “propaganda coup” for the group. (Several experts on Israeli intelligence have reported that Mossad passed these documents to the MEK.) By 2007, US news outlets were reporting that Bush had signed a classified directive authorising “covert action” inside Iran.

Between 2007 and 2012, seven Iranian nuclear scientists were attacked with poison or magnetic bombs affixed to moving cars by passing motorcyclists; five were killed. In 2012, NBC news, citing two unnamed US officials, reported that the attacks were planned by Israel’s foreign intelligence agency and executed by MEK agents inside Iran. An MEK spokesperson called this a “false claim … whose main source is the mullahs’ regime”.

It was around this time that the MEK began working to remake its image in the west. Groups associated with the MEK donated to political campaigns, blanketed Washington with advertisements and paid western political influencers fees to pen op-eds and give speeches – and to lobby for its removal from the list of designated terrorist organisations.

A handful of UK politicians have attended two or more of the MEK’s Paris events in the past three years, including the Conservatives Bob Blackman and Matthew Offord, and the Labour MPs Roger Godsiff and Toby Perkins. The Conservative MP and former minister Theresa Villiers has attended the past two annual Paris events. So has David Amess, the Conservative MP for Southend West – the MEK’s loudest champion in the UK parliament, who has also travelled to the US to speak at a rally in support of the group. (All of the MPs declined to reply to questions about their attendance.)

The other British attendees at this year’s Paris rally included three peers and five former MPs, including Mike Hancock, who resigned from the Liberal Democrats after admitting inappropriate behaviour with a constituent, and Michelle Thomson, who was forced to resign the SNP whip in 2015 in a controversy over property deals. The former Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, was also there, carrying a petition in support of the MEK signed by 75 bishops, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

At this year’s event, flanked by union jacks and “#RegimeChange” signs, Villiers spoke of the importance of women’s rights, “paid tribute” to Maryam Rajavi – who is barred from entering the UK – and pledged support for her “just cause” in seeking to create “an Iran which is free from the brutal repression of the mullahs”. In a carefully stage-managed performance, Rajavi laid flowers and wrote a tribute in an enormous yearbook of MEK martyrs. “The time has come for the regime’s overthrow,” she said. “Victory is certain, and Iran will be free.”

One day after the conference, the MEK accused Tehran of plotting a bomb attack against the event, following the arrest of four suspects – including an unnamed Iranian diplomat – in Belgium, Germany and France. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, rejected claims of Iran’s involvement and described the accusations as a “sinister false flag ploy”.

Even as the MEK successfully amassed political allies in the west, its security in Iraq eroded as US troops departed. Between 2009 and 2013, Iraqi security forces raided the MEK base at least twice, killing about 100 people. Nouri al-Maliki, then the prime minister of Iraq – whose ambassador to the US called the group “nothing more than a cult” – insisted it leave the country.

Daniel Benjamin, who was then the head of counter-terrorism at the state department, told me that the US decided to remove the MEK from the list of foreign terrorist organisations not because it believed it had abandoned violence, but to “avoid them all getting killed” if it remained in Iraq. After the MEK was no longer designated a terrorist group, the US was able to convince Albania to accept the 2,700 remaining members – who were brought to Tirana on a series of charter flights between 2014 and 2016.

The testimony of these recent defectors follows earlier reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch, which reported former members witnessed “beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution and torture that in two cases led to death”.

The MEK grew out of Iran’s Liberation Movement, an Islamic-democratic “loyal opposition” established in 1961 by the supporters of Mohammad Mossadegh, the prime minister ousted in a 1953 coup orchestrated by Britain and the US. The movement called for national sovereignty, freedom of political activity and the separation of mosque and state. The MEK cleaved to these traditions, but responded to the growing repression of the Shah throughout the 1960s and 70s by rejecting nonviolence.

At the time, the MEK, whose members were largely idealistic middle-class students, combined Islamism with Marxist doctrine. They reinterpreted the Qur’anic passages that undergirded their Shia faith as injunctions to socialise the means of production, eliminate the class system and promote the struggles of Iran’s ethnic minorities. Steeped in thinkers such as Frantz Fanon and Régis Debray, they expressed solidarity with national liberation movements in Algeria, Cuba, Palestine and Vietnam. Quoting Lenin’s famous pamphlet, the MEK posed the question: “What Is to Be Done?” “Our answer is straightforward,” the MEK wrote: “Armed struggle.”

Rajavi was among 69 members of the MEK tried in 1972 by a military tribunal for plotting acts of terrorism. “The ruling class is on its deathbed,” he told the tribunal. When the prosecutor interrupted him to ask why he had acquired weapons, Rajavi replied: “To deal with the likes of you.”

Newt Gingrich delivers a speech during the Free Iran rally in Paris in July 2016.
 Newt Gingrich delivers a speech during the Free Iran rally in Paris in July 2016. Photograph: NurPhoto via Getty

Of the 11 members of the MEK central committee tried in 1972, nine were immediately executed and one remained in jail. When Rajavi emerged from prison in 1979, three weeks before the Iranian revolution, he was the undisputed leader of Iran’s most deadly underground rebel group.

The MEK played an important role in the 1979 revolution, seizing the imperial palace and doing much of the fighting to neutralise the police and the army. Two days after the revolution, Massoud Rajavi, who was 30, met the 77-year-old supreme leader. The two did not hit it off. “I met Khomeini,” Rajavi told a journalist in 1981. “He held out his hand for me to kiss, and I refused. Since then, we’ve been enemies.”

Khomeini saw the MEK as a threat to his power, barring Rajavi from running for president and casting his organisation as an enemy of Islam. Armed members of the newly created Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) disrupted MEK events, burned its literature and beat up its members. Without political power, the MEK relied on street protests. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians attended its rallies, which the courts soon banned.

In response, the MEK and the president, Abolhassan Banisadr, who was also antagonistic to Khomeini, organised two days of protests across 30 cities – forcing Khomeini to go on television to reiterate the ban. The MEK, he said, were “waging war on God”. Other clerics warned that demonstrators would be shot on sight. On 20 June 1981, the MEK organised a mass protest of half a million people in Tehran, with the aim of triggering a second revolution. The clerics were true to their word: 50 demonstrators were killed, with 200 wounded. Banisadr was removed from office and a wave of executions followed.

Over the following months and years, the violence escalated. Khomeini rounded up thousands of MEK supporters – while his loyalists launched waves of mob violence against MEK members and sympathisers.

By December, the regime had executed 2,500 members of the MEK. The group counter-attacked with a spate of assassinations and suicide bombings against Friday-prayer leaders, revolutionary court judges and members of the IRGC. “I am willing to die to help hasten the coming of the classless society; to keep alive our revolutionary tradition; and to avenge our colleagues murdered by this bloodthirsty, reactionary regime,” wrote one MEK fighter, Ebrahimzadeh, who killed 13 IRGC and Ayatollah Sadduqi, a close advisor to Khomeini, by detonating a hand grenade in a suicide attack in July 1982.

By the mid-1980s, thousands of people labelled as MEK had been executed or killed in street battles by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This was the time when Rajavi accepted Saddam’s offer to fight Iran from the safety of Iraq. Over the next few years, Rajavi launched an “ideological revolution”, banning marriage and enforcing mandatory “eternal” divorce on all members, who were required to separate from their husbands or wives. He married one of the new divorcees, Maryam Azodanlu, who became, in effect, his chief lieutenant and took his name.

In July 1988, six days after the ceasefire that officially ended the Iran-Iraq war, the MEK launched a suicidal mission deep into Iranian territory, dubbed Operation Eternal Light. Once again, Rajavi predicted his actions would spark another revolution. “It will be like an avalanche,” Rajavi told the fighters he was about to send to their deaths. “You don’t need to take anything with you. We will be like fish swimming in a sea of people. They will give you whatever you need.”

The mission would end in a massacre: hapless MEK fighters were lured into an ambush by the Iranian army, which crushed them with minimal effort. One Iranian soldier who took part in the operation recently described it to me. Mehrad, who volunteered in 1987 at the age of 15, recalled that his division, which had fought against Iraqi soldiers on the southern front, was redeployed to the north in July 1988 to repel a new assault from Iraq. His division was sent to a location near the city of Kermanshah, about 111 miles (180km) from the border with Iraq. Mehrad and his fellow soldiers were surprised to hear that enemy soldiers had managed to make such a deep incursion into Iran. “We thought our army had given up,” he said.

When he arrived, Mehrad discovered that the enemy was the MEK – which had been led into a trap. “Their military strategy was very stupid,” he told me. “They just drove down the Tehran highway. It was like if the French army wanted to invade England and they just drove down the motorway from Dover to London.”

“We very quickly killed thousands of them,” Mehrad said. “There were piles of bodies on either side of the road. What was interesting to us was that many of them were women.” Some MEK took cyanide rather than be captured alive. The MEK subsequently claimed that 1,304 of its members were martyred, and another 1,100 returned to Iraq injured.

The survivors were tried on the spot and quickly executed; Mehrad watched as hundreds were hanged at gallows erected in the nearby town of Eslamabad. Khomeini then used the failed invasion as a pretext for the mass execution of thousands of MEK and other leftists in Iranian jails. Amnesty estimates that more than 4,500 people were put to death, and some sources say the numbers were even higher.

Eternal Light marked a major turning point for the MEK. Inside the barbed wire of Camp Ashraf, as the reality of indefinite exile sank in, a traumatised and grief-stricken membership turned against itself under the paranoid leadership of Rajavi. Several former members told me that after the bloody defeat, Massoud Rajavi cast himself as the representative of al-Mahdi, the 12th Imam who was “hidden” in the 9th century and who, according to Iranian Shia, will return alongside Jesus to bring peace and justice to the world.

Outside Camp Ashraf, the MEK continued to stage cross-border attacks against Iran, and helped Saddam to crush uprisings against his rule after his defeat by the US in the 1990 Gulf war. In March 1991, Saddam deployed the MEK to help quell the armed Kurdish independence movement in the north. According to the New York Times, Maryam Rajavi told her fighters: “Take the Kurds under your tanks, and save your bullets for the Iranian revolutionary guards.” The MEK vehemently denies it participated in Saddam’s campaigns to put down the Shia and Kurdish rebellions, but an Iraqi human rights tribunal has indicted MEK leaders for their role in suppressing the uprisings.

Karwan Jamal Tahir, the Kurdistan regional government’s high representative in London, was a fighter for the Kurdish peshmerga in 1991. He told me that he remembers how the MEK arrived in the town of Kalar, about 93 miles (150km) south-east of Kirkuk, just after Saddam had lost control of the north of Iraq after the first Gulf war. “They came in Saddam’s tanks,” he said. “We thought they were returning peshmerga because the tanks were covered with portraits of Kurdish leaders … but they opened fire on the town … It was a big atrocity.”

Maryam Rajavi and Rudy Giuliani at a ceremony in Tirana in March marking the Iranian new year.
 Maryam Rajavi and Rudy Giuliani at a ceremony in Tirana in March marking the Iranian new year. Photograph: Alamy

In the next decade, the MEK continued to fight against Iran. In 1992, the group launched concurrent attacks on Iranian diplomatic missions in 10 countries, including Iran’s permanent mission to the UN in New York, which was invaded by five men with knives. The MEK also settled more personal scores. In 1998, an assassin killed Asadollah Lajevardi, the former warden of Evin prison who had personally overseen the executions of thousands of MEK members.

Back at Camp Ashraf, commanders would tell wavering members that if they escaped, they would face certain death at the hands of either Saddam or the Iranian authorities. “We were far away from the world,” one member, who only escaped the MEK after the move to Albania, told me. “We had no information. No television, no radio.” Instead, within the camp, they had “Mojahedin television”, which consisted of looped speeches by Maryam and Massoud Rajavi, played “all day long”.

Rajavi told his followers that the failure of Eternal Light was not a military blunder, but was instead rooted in the members’ thoughts for their spouses; their love had sapped their will to fight. In 1990, all couples inside the camp were ordered to divorce – and women had their wedding rings replaced by pendants engraved with Massoud’s face. Spouses were separated, and their children were sent to be “adopted” by MEK supporters in Europe.

MEK commanders demanded that all members publicly reveal any errant sexual thoughts. Manouchelur Abdi, a 55-year-old who also left the MEK in Albania, told me that the confession sessions used to take place every morning. Even feelings of love and friendship were outlawed, he says. “I would have to confess that I missed my daughter,” he says. “They would shout at me. They would humiliate me. They would say that my family was the enemy and missing them was strengthening the hand of the mullahs in Tehran.”

Another recent defector, Ali (not his real name) showed me scars on his arms and legs from what he described as weeks of torture after he first joined the group in the early 1990s, including cigarette burns on his arms. When it was over, he said, he was taken to Baghdad to meet the leader. “They took us into a big hall. Massoud Rajavi was sitting there with a group of women,” Ali recalled. “[Rajavi said] ‘If any of you say one word to any one … One word, if any of this is exposed, reaches anyone else’s ears, or if you talk about leaving, you’ll be delivered to [Saddam’s] intelligence service immediately.’”

Batoul Soltani joined the MEK in 1986 with her husband and infant daughter. At first, her family was able to live together, but in 1990, she says she was forced to divorce and give up her five-year-old daughter and newborn son, who were sent abroad to be raised by MEK sympathisers. Soltani alleges that she was forced to have sex with Massoud Rajavi on multiple occasions, beginning in 1999. She says that the last assault was in 2006, the year that she escaped from Camp Ashraf and a time when Rajavi had not been seen in public for three years. When we spoke recently, Soltani accused Maryam Rajavi of helping Massoud to abuse female MEK members over the years. “[Massoud] Rajavi thought that the only achilles heel [for female fighters] was the opposite sex,” Soltani told me. “He would say that the only reason you women would leave me is a man. So, I want all of your hearts.”

Another former female member, Zahra Moini, who served as a bodyguard for Maryam Rajavi, told me that women were threatened with punishment if they did not divorce their husbands and “marry” Massoud. “Maryam was involved in this sexual abuse, she used to read the vows to allow for the marriage to be consummated,” Moini said, in a telephone interview from Germany.

“Those who didn’t accept to marry would be disappeared. I was told that if I didn’t divorce [my husband], I would end up in Ramadi prison and I would have to sleep with the Iraqi generals every night.” (In response to questions about these allegations, an MEK spokesperson said: “The mullahs’ propaganda machine has been churning out sexual libels against the resistance and its leader for the past 40 years.”)

Two other female defectors, Zahra Bagheri and Fereshteh Hedayati, have alleged that they were given hysterectomies without their consent in the Camp Ashraf hospital, under the pretext they were being operated on for minor ailments. In the eccentric ideological language of the group, the women say the procedure was retrospectively justified to victims as representing “the peak” of loyalty to their leader.

Hedayati, who survived the massacres of Operation Eternal Light, joined the MEK as a 22-year-old in 1981 with her husband, who is still inside the group. “They said I had a cyst,” she told me. “But they also took out my womb. They told me that it meant that I had an even stronger connection to our ideological leader.” Hedayati, who left the group in Iraq and now lives in Norway, says she was never sexually abused, but was “brainwashed” by the group into divorcing her husband, and alleges that more than 100 other women were sterilised by MEK doctors. “I always ask myself why they did this to us,” Bagheri said. “Of course, to take away our futures.”

Between an escape attempt in 2001 and her exit from the MEK in 2013, Hedayati says she was subject to extraordinarily harsh treatment by her commanders. “They said I was a lesbian,” she says. “They spat on me, they beat me, they locked me up. I was put in jail, in solitary confinement.”

Albania ostensibly accepted the MEK members for humanitarian reasons – but the country’s leaders may have seen an opportunity to curry favour with the US government, which had seen its offers rejected by various other European states. “They were the only ones who would take them,” the former state department official Daniel Benjamin has said.

Olsi Jazexhi, a professor of history at the University of Durres critical of the government’s decision to accept the MEK fighters, says that Albanian politicians hoped the deal would lead the US to turn a blind eye to their own corruption. “The MEK is a card which gives them leverage with the United States,” he said. “They think that by taking the MEK, the Americans will leave their business alone.” (A secret US state department cable from 2009, published by WikiLeaks, said that the country’s three major parties “all have MPs with links to organised crime … Conventional wisdom, backed by other reporting, is that the new parliament has quite a few drug traffickers and money launderers.”)

For the Trump administration, the MEK is a valuable asset in the escalating regional conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This summer, Trump abruptly pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement and announced new sanctions, triggering a currency collapse and four months of sporadic protests across Iran. The US has reimposed tough sanctions this week, targeting Iranian oil exports and banking. But Trump’s Middle East strategy has come under new scrutiny after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul – which has sparked a backlash against the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and his allies in the Trump administration.

For most of its life in exile, the MEK was funded by Saddam. After his downfall, the group says it raised money from Iranian diaspora organisations and individual donors. The MEK has always denied it is financed by Saudi Arabia – but the former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, made waves when he attended the group’s 2016 rally in Paris and called for the fall of the Iranian regime.

“The money definitely comes from Saudis,” says Ervand Abrahamian, a professor at the City University of New York and author of the definitive academic work on the group’s history, The Iranian Mojahedin. “There is no one else who could be subsidising them with this level of finance.”

Analysts agree that the MEK lacks the capacity or support to overthrow the Iranian government – as even Bolton and Pompeo would surely concede. “They are probably smart enough to know that this group is not democratic and anyway has no constituency inside Iran,” said Paul Pillar, who served in the CIA for 28 years, including a period as the agency’s senior counter-terrorism analyst. Trump and his Iran hawks, Pillar said, are not concerned with replacing the current regime so much as causing it to crumble. “They are pursuing anything that would disrupt the political order in Iran so they and the president can cite such an outcome as a supposed victory no matter what comes afterwards.”

According to one recent MEK defector, Hassan Heyrani, the group’s main work in Albania involves fighting online in an escalating information war between Iran and its rivals. Heyrani, who left the MEK last summer, says that he worked in a “troll farm” of 1,000 people inside the Albanian camp, posting pro-Rajavi and anti-Iran propaganda in English, Farsi and Arabic on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and newspaper comment sections.

According to Marc Owen Jones, an academic who studies political bots on social media, “thousands” of suspicious Twitter accounts emerged in early 2016 with “Iran” as their location and “human rights” in their description or account name, which posted in support of Trump and the MEK. These accounts, says Jones, were created in batches and would promote Trump’s anti-Iran rhetoric using the hashtags #IranRegimeChange, #FreeIran and #IstandwithMaryamRajavi.

Albanian journalists say that the MEK, which has close contacts with senior politicians and the security services, operates with impunity within Albania. Ylli Zyla, who served as head of Albanian military intelligence from 2008 to 2012, accused the MEK of violating Albanian law. “Members of this organisation live in Albania as hostages,” he told me. Its camp, he said, was beyond the jurisdiction of Albanian police and “extraordinary psychological violence and threats of murder” took place inside.

Former members accuse the MEK of responsibility for the death in June of Malek Shara’i, a senior commander who was found drowned by police divers at bottom of a reservoir behind the group’s Albanian base. Shara’i’s sister, Zahra Shara’i, said that his family had received news from former members that Malek was about to escape, and says the MEK was responsible for his death. “I am their enemy and I will not rest until I get my revenge,” she told the Guardian from Iran. The MEK said that Shara’i drowned while attempting to save another member from drowning. The Albanian police said the death was not suspicious.

While defectors with private means have been smuggled out of the country into the EU, many former members live hand-to-mouth in Tirana. The Albanian state has not granted refugee rights to the MEK or its defectors, and a UN monthly stipend of 30,000 lek (£215) lapsed on 1 September. “They’re stuck,” says Jazexhi, who has worked to support the defectors. “They don’t know the languages, they don’t know the laws, they don’t know what democracy is. They are used to dictators. We tell them that they shouldn’t be afraid.”

Migena Balla, the lawyer representing Mostafa and Robabe Mohammadi, the couple in Tirana fighting for the release of their daughter Somayeh, believes that pressure has been put to bear on both the police and the judiciary to ensure the MEK does not “create political problems”. “Politics is interfering in the judicial system,” she says. “When I went to the police station to register their complaint the police officers actually ran away. They are scared of losing their jobs.”

The MEK has not taken kindly to the presence of the Mohammadis in Albania. They accuse Mostafa – and any former member who has spoken out against the MEK – of being a paid agent of the “mullah regime”. On 27 July, Mostafa was hospitalised following an assault by four senior members of the MEK, which was captured on video by his wife. The attackers, who shouted “Terrorist!” at Mohammadi, were briefly detained by Albanian police. But, after a phalanx of MEK members arrived at the police station, the men were promptly released.

The MEK has published letters, purportedly written by Somayeh, accusing her father of being an Iranian intelligence agent. A nervous-looking Somayeh recently gave a video interview inside the MEK base saying that she wishes to remain a member of the group.

The Mohammadis have responded with open letters to their daughter and to Albanian politicians, calling for an unsupervised meeting with their daughter. “I am your mother Mahboubeh Robabe Hamza and I want to meet with you,” Robabe wrote to Somayeh. “I am the woman who fed you at my breast, I held you in the crook of my arm. You are my flesh and blood … I love you more than my life … I’m getting old, I am getting tired, but life is not worth living without seeing you.”

Arron Merat was a Tehran correspondent for the Economist between 2011 and 2014. He has covered Iran for the Guardian, the Sunday Times and Vice News. He tweets at @a_merat

Taliban Splinter Faction (Mullah Rasool Faction) Says Moscow Meeting Was A “Lie”

The HPC has meanwhile been sharply criticized for not having being “better prepared” for the summit.

A splinter faction of the Taliban, led by Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, said on Sunday the recent Moscow meeting on peace in Afghanistan was a “lie”.

But officials from Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) said Friday’s Moscow meeting was an important platform towards building peace in Afghanistan and that the peace facilitating body is optimistic about starting direct talks with the Taliban.

This comes two days after a meeting in Moscow where representatives of the Taliban and envoys from 11 countries, including the US, exchanged views on the prospects of peace in the country.

A delegation from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) also attended the meeting.

Inaugurating the meeting, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he hoped the Moscow summit would pave the way for direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

Lavrov said Afghanistan should not become a competition field between powerful countries once again.

He also said Daesh, with support of foreign countries, wants to find a footprint in Afghanistan and from there expand its activities to Central Asia and further. Lavrov said the countries that attended the Moscow meeting want to help Afghanistan eradicate such a threat.

Mixed reactions

Meanwhile, Niazi said: “Moscow meeting is nothing except a lie like other meetings held by the Afghan government, they only deceive the poor and the oppressed people.”

“This delegation (HPC delegation) rushed to the discussions without any information; the HPC finalized its decision to participate only two days before the conference; this delegation was not fully prepared to attend the meeting,” said political analyst Nasrallah Stanekzai.

Meanwhile, sources within the HPC have confirmed that the body only decided to attend two days before the summit.

“The delegation which attended the meeting was very weak; the Taliban described Afghanistan at the summit as an invaded country, but the delegation were not able to react,” said one politician Najibullah Kabuli.

But HPC’s Assadullah Barakzai defended the decision and said: “If there is peace and security in Afghanistan, there is no longer a need for the US’ presence and also the Afghan people are not in need of support of the US.”

In the meantime, President Ashraf Ghani met with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Saturday night and was briefed on the envoy’s schedule over the next week, which will see him visit a number of countries in the region.

Ghani thanked Khalilzad for the work he’s doing to bring about peace and discussed issues around his second trip to the region, the statement added.

Khalilzad was in the region last month – stopping first in Kabul before visiting four other countries and meeting with the Taliban in Qatar.

After wrapping up his trip he returned to Kabul and briefed government on his meetings. He also called on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to establish official negotiating teams.

The US State Department said last week, Khalilzad, along with a delegation, will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar between November 8 and 20.

On Sunday meanwhile, members of Afghanitan’s Meshrano Jirga (lower house of parliament) accused Russia of exploiting the Moscow summit for its own benefit.

They said that Russia by holding such a meeting wants to legitimize its secret ties with the Taliban.

“The Afghan government should play its own political and diplomatic roles at such meetings,” said a senator Gul Ahmad Aazami.

“Taliban appeared in this meeting from a powerful position, but the Afghan delegation appeared in a very weak and vague position,” said senator Ghairat Baheer.

“We saw weakness from the delegation in this meeting,” said senator Farhad Sakhi.

Afghanistan Closes Fethullah Gulen School In Herat, Arrests Teachers and Students

 

The Herat governor said based on a court order, security forces have taken control of the school.

A number of students and teachers from the Afghan-Turk school in Herat province were arrested on Sunday morning, officials have confirmed. 

According to officials from the school a number of NDS and police forces arrived at the school on Sunday morning and arrested students and teachers. They were taken to the local police HQ.

Security forces in Herat also confirmed the arrests. No details were given on exactly how many students or teachers were arrested.

Herat governor’s spokesman Jelani Farhad said that based on a court order, security forces took control of the school based on its links to the Fethullah Gulen movement.

Meanwhile, Afghan-Turk CAG Educational NGO issued a statement shortly after the arrests and condemned the move. They said it was against the constitution, civil law, criminal code and other applicable laws and international norms.

In February Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education (MoE) formally handed over the management of Afghan-Turk schools to the Turkish government, defying calls by parents and students to keep the schools under Afghan control.

Following a failed military coup in 2016, the Turkish government formally asked Afghanistan to hand over control of these schools to the Turkish government.

Turkey claims that these schools are run by Turkish cleric Muhammed Fethullah Gülen who is currently in exile in the United States.

Turkey blamed Gülen for orchestrating the failed military takeover in 2016. However, former officials from the Afghan-Turk schools have said the schools had nothing to do with politics and they only provide education to Afghan children.

According to some reports, the Turkish government reportedly offered a number of incentives in exchange for taking control of these schools.

First, Saudis Help Israel Deny Palestinians Right to Live, Now, They Take Their Right To Worship Allah

Saudi Arabia bars nearly 3 million Palestinians from Hajj and Umrah

Riyadh is denying visas to Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, East Jerusalem and Israel who wish to perform pilgrimages

The Kaaba during pilgrimage, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, since June 2017 (AFP/Reuters)
Mustafa Abu Sneineh's picture

Saudi Arabia is barring more than one and a half million Palestinian citizens of Israel from travelling on temporary Jordanian passports to perform the Islamic pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah in the holy city of Mecca, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The measure is part of Saudi Arabia’s new policy to stop issuing visas for Hajj and Umrah to Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, East Jerusalem, and, most recently, to Palestinians living in Israel, who hold temporary travel documents issued by Jordan or Lebanon – a policy that became effective on 12 September.

This Saudi move affects 2.94 million Palestinians in total across these states, who have no access to any other form of travel document allowing them to go to Saudi Arabia, where millions of Muslims travel each year on pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Several travel agents spoken to by MEE in Israel, East Jerusalem and Jordan said that they were informed by Jordan’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs that the Saudi embassy in Amman told them to not apply for visas for anyone seeking to travel to Mecca on a temporary Jordanian passport.

Israeli-Saudi agreement

A Jordanian source, with an inside knowledge of his country’s diplomatic affairs, told MEE that the Saudi decision is part of a bilateral agreement with Israel to put an end to the “Palestinian identity and the right of return for refugees”.

“Saudi Arabia is pressuring Jordan to naturalise the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and now Palestinians in Israel. The same could happen in Lebanon. Then, you will not have a Palestinian refugees problem,” the source said.

“It is all part of a bilateral agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But Jordan is refusing to naturalise Palestinians.”

‘The decision is affecting every Arab and Muslim who has the right to worship’

– Saud Abu Mahfouz, Jordanian MP

Jordanian MPs told MEE that Jordan has been issuing temporary travel documents since 1978 for Palestinian citizens of Israel, who fell under Israeli military administration after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Saud Abu Mahfouz, a Jordanian MP, said that they have asked Jordan’s minister of interior and the minister of Awqaf to send a committee to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to negotiate a reversal of the policy, and called upon King Salman to intervene.

“The decision is affecting every Arab and Muslim who has the right to worship. We have been hearing complaints about this matter since last year, and we were surprised to find almost 200 tourist companies in Jordan not able to issue an electronic visa for Umrah from the Saudi embassy for Palestinians,” Abu Mahfouz said.

Another Jordanian MP, Yahya Al-Saud, said that they have asked for a meeting with the Saudi ambassador in Amman, Khaled bin Faisal, but the embassy has yet to set a date for the meeting.

“There is a pressure on Jordan. The Saudis are saying that only people with permanent passports could get a visa for Hajj and Umrah,” he said.


A Jordanian temporary passport carried by Palestinians of East Jerusalem and Jordan (AP)

30 years of Hajj ban

Prior to 1978, Palestinian citizens of Israel endured three decades without going to Hajj and Umrah, a situation that ended when Jordan’s King Hussein began a policy in coordination with the Arab League to issue travel cards for them to perform Hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars.

After 2000, Jordan’s Civil Status and Passports Department in Amman started issuing them temporary passports instead of travel cards that are valid for a year and cost 50 Jordanian dinars ($70).

Saudi Arabia and the majority of Arab states do not recognise the Israeli passport. The Jordanian temporary passport was a tool to facilitate Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca for Palestinian citizens of Israel who hold an Israeli passport.

“Since 1978, we were just allowed to go to Hajj, but in the 1990s Saudi Arabia allowed us to go to Umrah [also],” Saleem Shal’atah, the head of the Hajj and Umrah Committee for Muslims of 48 that organises the journeys to Saudi Arabia, told MEE.

‘Since 1978, we were just allowed to go to Hajj, but in the 1990s Saudi Arabia allowed us to go to Umrah’

– Salim Shal’atah, head of Hajj and Umrah committtee

Shal’atah said that he and two of his colleagues were denied a visa by the Saudi embassy in Amman on their Jordanian temporary passports, Jordan’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs told them last month.

“We were going to check the hotels and other travel arrangements for the new season of Umrah that starts on 16 December, as we do annually, but no visas were issued,” he said.

Shal’atah said that Palestinian citizens of Israel have to deposit their Israeli passports at the border point with Jordan and continue their journey to Saudi Arabia. Upon their return, the Jordanian authorities will take the Jordanian temporary passports, which is valid for just one journey, and hand them over the Israeli passports at the border.

There are 4,500 Palestinian pilgrims from Israel who go to Hajj each year, Shal’atah said, and between 20,000 to 25,000 perform Umrah.

Palestinian refugee problem

MEE reported in September that Saudi Arabia had banned Palestinians holding temporary Jordanian passports from entering the country, a measure directly affecting almost 634,000 Palestinians living in Jordan and 324,000 in the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

Several travel agents who spoke to MEE at the time said they had been told at the start of September that they should not apply for visas for anyone seeking to travel on a temporary Jordanian passport, although no official Saudi announcement had been made.

The Jordanian temporary passport is a document valid for five years issued to Palestinians who live in occupied East Jerusalem by the Civil Status and Passports Department in Amman.

The holders of temporary passports do not have a national identification number and are therefore not entitled to the full rights of Jordanian citizenship.

Palestinians living in East Jerusalem use the passport merely as a travel document to move from one country to another, especially in the majority of Arab states that do not recognise Israel or Israeli-issued travel documents.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon hold a travel document issued by the General Directorate of the General Security (Screengrab)

In October, MEE reported on another decision by the Saudi embassy in Lebanon to bar Palestinian refugees entry visas for Hajj and Umrah on their refugee travel documents.

An official at the Saudi consul’s office in Beirut confirmed to MEE then that following a decision by the Saudi Foreign Ministry in Riyadh, they had informed tourism companies in Lebanon that no Hajj and Umrah visas would be issued to Palestinians on their refugee travel documents – a decision that became effective on 12 September.

“The Palestinian refugees [in Lebanon] can now get visas on a Palestinian Authority passport,” the official said.

Ashraf Dabbour, the Palestinian Authority ambassador in Beirut told MEE that the embassy knew about the Saudi visa decision through unofficial channels and word of mouth from Palestinian local figures.

But he denied that the PA would issue travel documents for refugees in Lebanon wishing to travel to Saudi Arabia.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are estimated to number 174,422, according to the country’s first and only census of the community in December.

They hold refugee travel documents issued by Lebanon’s General Directorate of the General Security and currently have no access to any other form of travel documents allowing them to go to Saudi Arabia.

They can apply for a Lebanese travel document that is valid for one, three or five years, and the application fees are similar to that of the Lebanese passport, which costs $40 for each valid year.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have no political rights of citizenship to vote in elections for parliament or local municipalities.

They are also prohibited from practising 20 professions including law, medicine and engineering, and are not allowed to work in government institutions because they are designated as “foreigners” under Lebanese law.

Saudi visa ban in media

Some Palestinian and Arab media have linked the Saudi move to US President Donald Trump’s as-yet-unannounced “deal of the century” proposal, amid rumours that Washington sought Saudi support for measures that would revoke the right of return of Palestinian refugees displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948 and subsequent Arab-Israeli wars.

The measures would see Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan fully naturalised and granted national ID numbers.

Haaretz reported that the new Saudi visa ban for Palestinian citizens of Israel is aiming “to examine the possibility that Muslim citizens of Israel could travel directly to Saudi Arabia, as part of the growing detente between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”

Israel Katz, Israel’s minister of transport, tweeted on 11 September welcoming Trump’s “initiative” regarding the issue of Palestinian refugees, saying that the Palestinian refugee “problem” in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq “would be good to disappear from the world”.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Congress Takes Aim At US Aid In Yemen Aggression–Saudis Then “ASK” Us To Stop Helping Them

[THE U.S. WILL STOP REFUELING SAUDI-LED COALITION JETS IN YEMEN, BUT PROGRESSIVES IN CONGRESS WANT MORE]

[Saudi-led coalition ASKS US to end refueling of aircraft in Yemen war]

Trump Administration to Punish Saudis in Moves That Could Stop Tougher Acts by Congress

The American military will end air refueling flights for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen.CreditCreditYahya Arhab/EPA, via Shutterstock 

By Julian E. Barnes and Edward Wong

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is ending air refueling flights for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen and preparing sanctions against Saudis linked to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, current and former American officials said on Friday. The moves would impose a limited punishment on the kingdom.

The steps appear calibrated to respond to international outrage over the death of Mr. Khashoggi and to thousands of civilian deaths in the Yemen war, but avoid directly punishing the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and could head off tougher congressional action.

Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who wrote for The Washington Post and lived in Virginia, was killed last month in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by what the Turkish government has described as a kill team dispatched from Riyadh, the Saudi capital. President Trump has called the killing of Mr. Khashoggi a “very sad thing, very terrible thing,” but his administration has signaled it intends to continue working with Prince Mohammed. Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser on the Middle East, is the prince’s biggest supporter in the White House.

On Friday night, hours after The New York Times and The Washington Post reported on the Trump administration’s decision to end the air refueling flights, the Saudi-led coalition waging war on Houthi rebels in Yemen announced that it would do the refueling on its own. This came after “consultation with the United States,” it said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said afterward that the United States supported the decision.

The Trump administration is also expected to soon announce economic sanctions against Saudi officials linked to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, according to current and former officials. They said senior officials at the White House and State and Treasury Departments had discussed imposing the sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which gives the executive branch the power to punish foreign officials involved in human rights abuses. The announcement could come in days.

Last week, Mr. Mattis and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, called on all sides in the war to end hostilities and take part in United Nations-led negotiations. But Saudi leaders did not immediately move to limit their airstrikes, angering some in the Trump administration, according to former officials.

“The Saudis have escalated; they have intensified the war,” said Bruce Riedel, an expert on Saudi Arabia at the Brookings Institution. “It is a very public rebuke of both the secretary of state and the secretary of defense by the Saudis. The administration has not said anything about that. But curtailing air refueling would be their response.”

The American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen has been deeply controversial, especially as civilian casualties have mounted — many children are among the victims — and a famine resulting from the war has gripped the country.

The administration has faced growing bipartisan criticism over the American military’s support for the Saudi campaign. On Friday, Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, called for an end to the air refueling mission.“If the administration does not take immediate steps, including ending U.S. refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft, we are prepared to take additional action when the Senate comes back into session,” the senators said in a statement.

The American military is considering other measures to try to help blunt the excesses and missteps of the Saudi military conducting the war, including prodding Riyadh to tighten its rules of engagement and improve its targeting.

But the problem for the Saudi military is that after missiles fired from Yemen strike near Saudi cities, the kingdom’s leaders demand immediate reprisals. Senior American officials said they hoped they could persuade the Saudi military to exercise more discipline and care.

Officials said the ending of the refueling was not directly related to the killing of Mr. Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. But some current and former officials said the rising pressure by the United States for Saudi Arabia to de-escalate the war was unlikely to have been as strong except for the outrage over Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

Since the beginning of the Saudi war in Yemen, the United States military has been conducting air refueling missions to aid the offensive. Last month, Mr. Mattis said that only about 20 percent of Saudi sorties used American refueling aircraft.

In September, Mr. Pompeo provided formal certification saying that Saudi Arabia and the coalition it was leading in the Yemen war were taking significant actions to limit harm to civilians. The certification is needed for the United States military to refuel aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition. A congressional act passed in August requires the United States to provide certification every 180 days.

Mr. Pompeo faced significant resistance to the certification from several bureaus inside the department, including from the Near Eastern affairs bureau.

In his late October speech, Mr. Mattis set a deadline for an end to the violence. “Thirty days from now, we want to see everybody around a peace table based on a cease-fire, based on a pullback from the border,” he said.

The sanctions expected to be announced soon follow minor punishments that Mr. Pompeo laid out last month. In late October, he said the United States was gathering information on what happened to Mr. Khashoggi and the role of Saudi officials in the murder.

He announced at the time that the United States was putting 21 Saudis on a visa blacklist or canceling visas that they already held. Those 21 presumably included 15 Saudi citizens whom Turkey had named at the time as being involved, as well as Saudi officials who were dismissed from their posts that month.

“These penalties will not be the last word on the matter from the United States,” Mr. Pompeo said at the time.

It is unclear to what degree the targets of the coming sanctions will overlap with the 21 on the visa blacklist.

On Oct. 10, bipartisan leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote to Mr. Trump demanding an investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s death, including whether “the highest-ranking officials in the government of Saudi Arabia” were involved. The 22 members of Congress who signed the letter said the Trump administration should use the Global Magnitsky Act to impose sanctions on those involved.

The prospect of Saudi sanctions was raised at an internal Treasury Department meeting on Thursday when Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, was asked how the administration planned to respond to the killing. A Treasury employee in the room said that Mr. Mnuchin lamented the horrible nature of the killing and suggested that some action was likely to be taken in the next week.

A Treasury spokeswoman confirmed the subject had been discussed at an internal meeting but disputed that account, saying that the secretary made no such promise.

Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti and Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.

 

Russia Opens Afghan Peace Conference In Moscow

Afghanistan peace conference kicks off in Moscow

The conference marks Russia’s attempt to get the Afghan authorities and the Taliban together at negotiating table.

Sergey Lavrov said the meeting is meant to seek paths to national reconciliation in Afghanistan [Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters]
Sergey Lavrov said the meeting is meant to seek paths to national reconciliation in Afghanistan [Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters]

Russia is hosting talks in Moscow to end the war in Afghanistan, drawing delegates from a body appointed by the Western-backed government in Kabul and a group representing the Taliban, as well as officials from a dozen nations, including the United States.

Opening Friday’s meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the participation of both Afghan leaders and the Taliban was an “important contribution” aimed at creating “favourable conditions for the start of direct talks”.

“I am counting on you holding a serious and constructive conversation that will justify the hopes of the Afghan people,” he said before the talks continued behind closed doors.

Russia hopes “through joint efforts to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan,” the Russian foreign minister said.

He emphasised the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Afghanistan, saying that it has relied on foreign sponsors in a bid to “turn Afghanistan into a springboard for its expansion in Central Asia”.

Pakistan, which has long been accused of providing support to the Afghan Taliban, would “definitely” attend, foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal told AFP news agency.

India has also sent its representatives at a “non-official level”, reassessing its policy on talks with the Taliban group.

The conference marks Moscow’s attempt to get the Afghan authorities and the Taliban together at a table. The US Embassy in Moscow has sent a diplomat to observe the discussions.

Russia’s first attempt to hold the conference in September fell through after the Afghan authorities refused to attend.

This time, the Afghan government has not sent its envoys, but members of the government-appointed High Peace Council (HPC) are attending the event. The council was established to lead reconcilation efforts with the Taliban.

Taliban officials and HPC members have met at past forums elsewhere, and while no formal talks were ever held they have had some face-to-face discussions.

Push for peace

The talks come weeks after newly appointed US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, held talks with the Taliban group in Qatar. He will visit Afghanistan,Pakistan , the United Arab Emirates and Qatar from November 8 to 20 to push for peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Khalilzad’s meeting with the Taliban, which was overthrown from power by US-led forces in 2001, is part of efforts to find a way to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.

“On his last trip to the region in October, Special Representative Khalilzad called on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to organise authoritative negotiating teams, and has been encouraged to see that both parties are taking steps in that direction,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The United States remains committed to a political settlement that results in an end to the war and to the terrorist threat posed to the United States and the world.”

A US watchdog agency said last week that the Afghan government was losing control of districts to the Taliban while casualties among security forces had reached record levels.

The government had control or influence over 65 percent of the population but only 55.5 percent of Afghanistan‘s 407 districts, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report.

The latest phase of Afghanistan’s decades-old war began in 2001 when the US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The Fuse To American Political Civil War Has Been Lit…Anti-Trump Minions Busted-Down Door To News Commentator’s Home

Antifa protesters chant outside Fox’s Tucker Carlson’s home, break door

A group of Antifa protestors gathered outside of Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson’s home to protest his television show. USA TODAY

A group of angry Antifa protestors gathered outside of Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson’s home on Wednesday evening.

The anti-fascists group, possibly associated with Smash Racism D.C., chanted “Tucker Carlson, we will fight. We know where you sleep at night” outside of Carlson’s Washington home, according to Fox News. In a video posted online, the group can also be heard saying, “Racist scumbag, leave town!”

Carlson’s wife, Susie, was home alone at the time. He told Fox she locked herself into a pantry and called police.

The host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” said the group broke his oak door and one person mentioned a pipe bomb, as heard on a security video.

“Here’s the problem, I have four children,” he told Fox. “I never thought twice about leaving them home alone, but this is the reaction because this group doesn’t like my TV show.”

A mob has gathered outside Tucker Carlson’s home demanding his family leave DC because he is a “racist scumbag.” 

Smash Racism D.C., posted Carlson’s family address on Twitter in a now-deleted post, The Daily Caller reports. Carlson told Fox the home addresses of his brother and his former college roommate, Neil Patel, who co-founded “The Daily Caller” with him, were also made public.

The group’s Twitter account was suspended as of Thursday morning.

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and the network’s president, Jay Wallace, issued a joint statement calling the incident “reprehensible” and “unacceptable.”

“We as a nation have become far too intolerant of different points of view,” the statement said. “Recent events across our country clearly highlight the need for a more civil, respectful, and inclusive national conversation. Those of us in the media and in politics bear a special obligation to all Americans to find common ground.”

Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly reacted to the news on Twitter, saying, “This has to stop.”

Megyn Kelly

@megynkelly

This has to stop. Who are we? What are we becoming? @TuckerCarlson is tough & can handle a lot, but he does not deserve this. His family does not deserve this. It’s stomach-turning.

Breaking911

@Breaking911

WATCH: Activists ring doorbell, gather outside of Fox News Personality Tucker Carlson’s home.

“Tucker Carlson, we will fight!
We know where you sleep at night!”

https://twitter.com/SmashRacismDC/status/1060319124126134272/video/1 

Fox News commentator Brit Hume called the incident “revolting, and frightening.”

Local University (Ports., OH) Entering National Spotlight In Transgender Wars

University Puts Religious Freedom on Trial, Punishes Christian Professor Over Transgender Pronouns

A philosophy professor in Ohio filed a lawsuit against his university on Monday for punishing him after he refused to refer to a transgender student according to their preferred gender pronoun.

In January, Nicholas Meriwether, an evangelical Christian and 22-year employee at Shawnee State University, responded to a question from Alena Bruening by saying, “Yes, sir.” Bruening is a biological man who identifies as a woman.

Bruening approached Meriwether after class and demanded that he refer to him using feminine pronouns. When Meriwether did not instantly agree, Bruening promised to get him fired and used derogatory language towards the professor.

Meriwether, who refers to all of his students as “sir,” “ma’am,” “Mr.,” or “Miss,” offered to use the student’s first or last name instead, but this did not satisfy university administrators or the student.

Shawnee State University’s “Nondiscrimination policy” defines gender identity as a “person’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call
themselves.”

Meriwether believes God created only two genders, male and female, which are determined by a person’s biology.

Roberta Milliken, acting dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, launched an investigation into the matter and formally charged Meriwether with causing “a hostile environment” in his classroom for refusing to violate his religious beliefs.

The university defines “hostile environment in the educational context” to include “any situation in which there is harassing conduct that limits, interferes with or denies educational benefits or opportunities, from both a subjective (the complainant’s) and an objective (reasonable person’s) viewpoint.

Following the investigation, Dean Milliken gave Meriwether two options, stop referring to students by their last names and titles, or violate his conscience and refer to students according to whichever gender they choose.

Meriwether submitted a grievance request to the union, arguing the university violated his freedom of expression. The professor met with a school administrator and union representative to explain how his religious freedom was being corroded. According to the lawsuit, they “openly laughed” at Meriwether’s religious convictions and denied his grievance request.

Meriwether’s religious beliefs were also ridiculed by school faculty in 2016 after the Obama administration issued Title IX guidance on transgender students. The professor met with Jennifer Pauley, chair of the humanities department, to discuss how the guidelines affected him.

The suit claimed Pauley said Christians are “primarily motivated out of  fear” that the “doctrines of hell are harmful and should not be taught,” and that “faculty members who adhere to a certain religion should be banned from teaching courses regarding that religion.”

Meriwether is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, which has won two Supreme Court cases related to religious freedom.

“Tolerance is a two-way street,” said ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham. “Universities are meant to be a marketplace of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thought, but apparently, Shawnee State has ignored that foundational truth. The university refused to consider any solutions that would respect the freedoms of everyone involved. It instead chose to impose its own orthodoxy on Dr. Meriwether under threat of further punishment if he doesn’t relinquish his rights protected by the First Amendment.”

CBN News asked Shawnee University for comment but did not receive a reply before publishing.

Western Media Spreading NATO Myth of “Dangerous Interceptions” of Russian Aircraft In NATO Airspace

[Russian military planes make pair of provocative appearances during NATO war games]

Almost every month, Nato announces that its interception at air protocols have been activated by a Russian airplane getting too close to the border of a Nato member state. These alarm bells constantly sirening in our ears, create the impression we are under a perpetual threat of war. Yet these Russian airplanes never actually violate Nato airspace. What is actually going on?

 | BUCHAREST (ROMANIA)

JPEG - 42 kb

For several years, the Western media, Nato officials and an army of “analysts” have been contaminated with Russiaphobia. Their hearts seem to be heavy with a mortal fear of “aggression” by the Russian Air Force in the proximity of Nato territorial waters in the Baltic and the Black Sea. Let us examine the reasons for this fear, which you are sure to conclude are trivial.

In the three Baltic states and Romania, Nato has established a mechanism called “Quick Reaction Alert” (QRA). QRA is a system of rotation involving 150 soldiers, 6 pilots and four fighter planes which respond to a simple mandate imposed on the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy and other Nato countries to undertake air policing, every four months.

To examine what is happening, we’ll use Romania as a case study. On several occasions, the warning mechanism for rapid response has announced to the press that Russian military planes have tried to enter the Romanian air space without first obtaining permission to fly within it. Each time such cases have been signalled, British Eurofighter Typhoon planes or Canadian F-18 plane have taken off with a view to intercepting Russian planes to “defend the integrity of Romania’s air space over its territorial waters.”

For example, during August 2018, in just one week, the British Royal Air Force made an official announcement that it had carried out three take offs during day and night, from the air base at lMihail Kogalniceanu (Romania), with its Typhoon airplanes in the context of the QRA, to intercept Russian planes that were flying over international airspace above the Black Sea.

Zooming in on the facts, we note that the British have intercepted the following: 
• An Antonov An-26, transport plane; and 
• A Beriev Be-12 plane for search and rescue 
Both these planes had taken off from Crimea and were on a training flight above the Black Sea, at a distance of 100 miles from the Romanian coast.

The British declared that the trajectory of these planes made you think that they were going to leave the international air space and enter accidentally or deliberately the Romanian air space. Yet, the Be-12 is a non-armed hydroplane dating back to the 1960s. It is unarmed and crosses at a speed equal to that of a helicopter.

So what is actually going down? It’s all about the pilots keeping their ranking. In this domain, every country has the same regulation for the military Air Force. The six British pilots drafted to the Romanian base of Mihail Kogalniceanu for a period of four months, are carrying out combat service. This is why they cannot carry out training flights like their colleagues in the United Kingdom. If these pilots cannot fly at least once a month, when they return to their country, they have to undergo training, accompanied by an instructor, in planes with pilots.

Thus the Western press, with a complete lack of professionalism, makes the inference that the alarm bells signal a real threat and make it “news” for the public. The press do not go to the Defense Ministers of the United Kingdom or Canada to ask him the reasons for such superficial missions and why they do not send training planes (with double commands) to Romania which, although a host nation, is not equipped with Typhon and F18 planes.

Thus maintaining the ranking of the Nato pilots drafted in Romania is a necessity. Nato member states fraudulently resolve this issue, agitating the name of Russia. As the Russian Air Force takes off and lands everyday in the air bases at Crimea, 150 – 200 miles from the base of Mihail Kogalniceanu, British and Canadian pilots do not need to make training flights to reconfirm their ranking after a month on the ground. The Russia planes of Crimea are able to play the role of an air force for Nato fighter planes, given that the radars on board the Typhoon and F-18 planes can detect air targets at a distance of 100 miles.

To maintain their ranking, two British or French pilots fly for training purposes and choose a day with difficult conditions corresponding to the minimum parameters of difficulty for Typhoon and F-18 airplanes (that is a ceiling of low clouds and poor visibility). They can also choose to fly at night, again in the conditions specified in the minimal parameters. The only prerequisite is that on this day or night, Russian planes are taking off from Crimea.

Thanks to this ruse, the six Nato pilots drafted in Romania manage to resolve their problem of keeping their ranking in conditions of a fighting service and with two or three flights per month.

After all, they are only men and not machines. This is the entire secret behind the hysteria artificially provoked by the rhetoric “The Russians are attacking us”, the mantra of the Western Press.

Translation
Anoosha Boralessa

Erdogan–US sanctions on Iran wrong, aimed to unbalance world

Erdogan: US sanctions on Iran wrong, aimed to unbalance world

 

 

Turkish president rejects re-imposition of economic sanctions against Iran, saying they are wrong and unfair.

Erdogan: US sanctions on Iran wrong, aimed to unbalance worldErdogan said Turkey imports about 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Iran [Evrim Aydin/Anadolu]

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed the new US economic sanctions on Iran, saying that Turkey will not abide as they are aimed at unbalancing the world.

“US sanctions on Iran are wrong. For us, they are steps aimed at unbalancing the world; we don’t want to live in an imperialist world,” Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday after addressing ruling party MPs at the parliament in the capital, Ankara.

His comments come after Washington this week imposed a second set of sanctions on Iran that aim to isolate the country’s banking sector and slash its oil exports.

Eight countries including Turkey – a NATO member – have received a US waiver to continue importing Iranian oil without consequences.

According to Turkish Daily Sabah, Erdogan said that Turkey imports about 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Iran.

According to the data from the Energy Market Regulatory Authority’s (EMRA) Natural Gas Market Report for December 2017, about one-fifth of Turkey’s natural gas exports come from Iran.

Isolating Iran is dangerous

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also warned Washington against the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, saying isolating the country is “dangerous”.

“While we were asking [for] an exemption from the United States, we have also been very frank with them that cornering Iran is not wise. Isolating Iran is dangerous and punishing the Iranian people is not fair,” he said at a press conference during a trip to Japan.

“Turkey is against sanctions, we don’t believe any results can be achieved through the sanctions,” he added.

“I think instead of sanctions, meaningful dialogue and engagement is much more useful.”

Cavusoglu had earlier conveyed the same message last July to a delegation of US officials, stressing that Turkey would not abide by anti-Iran sanctions since Iran is an important neighbour and partner.

“We buy oil from Iran and we purchase it in proper conditions. What is the other option?” Cavusoglu said.

Washington has imposed two sets of sanctions this year after pulling out of the landmark 2015 nuclear pact agreed between world powers and Iran that President Donald Trumpderided as “defective”.

The latest round went into effect on Monday.

Oil waivers

The new sanctions have sparked furious reactions from Iran, whose President Hassan Rouhani said the country would “proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions”.

On Monday, Washington vowed to be “relentless” in countering Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the US wanted Iran to make a “180-degree turn” and abandon its “current revolutionary course”.

UN inspectors say Iran is abiding by an agreement reached with Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama to draw down its nuclear programme. That deal was backed by European powers, Russia and China and sealed by a UN Security Council resolution.

Those other parties to the nuclear deal have vehemently opposed the US move and vowed to keep alive the accord, technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

American Democracy Is Organized Bribery On A National Scale…How Does Russia Interfere?

It’s not Russia that’s damaging American democracy – it’s money

 

 Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

It’s not Russia that’s damaging American democracy – it’s money
It is estimated that over $5.2 billion will be spent on the US midterm elections and it’s no secret that hundreds of millions of those dollars are supplied by billionaire donors. This system is incompatible with real democracy.

In a piece for The Guardian last week, Chuck Collins wrote that the three wealthiest families in the US — the Waltons of Walmart, the Mars candy family and the Koch brothers — own a combined fortune of $348.7 billion — a sum which is 4 million times the median wealth of a normal American family.

recent study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University found that despite the popular narrative of the so-called ‘philanthropic’ liberal billionaire in the style of Bill Gates, most of these super rich mega-donors are “extremely conservative” in their political views. They believe in cutting taxes for the rich and abolishing the estate tax. They are opposed to banking and environmental regulation — and they aren’t overly enthusiastic about social programs upon which millions of Americans rely.

Instead of being loud and proud about these views, however, they practice what the study authors called “stealth politics” — in other words, they rarely speak publicly on politics, but spend massive amounts of money lobbying politicians on the quiet.

This is not to imply that conservative billionaire donors are bad and liberal billionaires donors are good, which is what mainstream liberal media would seemingly like us to believe when they promote the likes of George Soros as a paragon of goodness while lamenting the influence of the Koch brothers. It is, however, a simple fact that America’s wealthiest billionaires are overwhelmingly conservative — and very rarely are they interested in creating a society that is fairer and better serves the average working American.

But, regardless of the politics of those doling out the dosh, this is a rotten and corrupt system of legalized bribery and one that is completely incompatible with true democracy. How could it be? Politicians are beholden not to the people, but to wealthy donors and special interests. Don’t just take it from me. Former congressman Mick Mulvaney, who is now the White House budget director, was remarkably candid about all this during a speech back in April.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Rich donors and lobbyists shovel obscene amounts of money into political campaigns knowing that politicians will serve their interests in Congress. Conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson, for example, has funneled more than $100 million into the 2018 midterms. If you’re wondering why people like Adelson, who have billions in hoarded wealth, would even bother with elections the answer is simple: abject greed. As Collins wrote in the Guardian, they are “spending millions to save themselves billions” down the road. Meanwhile, normal Americans, despite how politically active they may be, have a near-zero impact on public policy.

Yet, getting money out of politics and taking back control of their democracy does not seem to be as big a focus as it should be for most Americans. Instead, super-rich elites, aided by the mainstream media, have been massively successful in distracting the population with conveniently constructed narratives.

For the Democrats, so-called Russian ‘collusion’ and ‘interference’ has acted as a successful distraction tactic since Donald Trump was elected. For Republicans and Trump himself, over-the-top fear-mongering about immigration while ignoring its root causes (often destabilizing US foreign policy) has been a wonderful distraction tactic.

READ MORE: #ICYMI: How to spot Russian interference in the US midterm elections (VIDEO)

When Americans are talking non-stop about Russians and migrants coming to get them, they’re not focused on the fact that the political system in which they are operating is corrupt to the core and serves only a tiny minority of mega-rich citizens who reside in ivory towers. Actress Marsha Warfield summed it up perfectly in a tweet last week:

“Why the hell are you mad at immigrants seeking a better life and not the tiny percentage of greedy f*cks hoarding the world’s resources while we fight amongst ourselves for crumbs?”

In 2016, about $6.5 billion was spent on presidential and congressional campaigns. That’s about enough to give every teacher a $2,000 pay rise. Aside from the many ways such money could clearly be put to better use, there’s also the fact that money is a huge barrier to entry for any American trying to get into politics. If you can’t raise the money, you can’t run a campaign — and if you do manage to raise the money (thanks to wealthy donors), you are beholden to them later. Only very rarely does a candidate manage to build a successful grassroots campaign without accepting big donor and corporate money. Democrats often pay lip-service to the idea of getting money out of politics, but in reality, they’re just as happy as Republicans to take money from anyone who wants to throw it at them.

More than $1 billion has been spent by outside groups (independent of and not coordinated with campaigns) to influence the midterm elections. Nearly $128 million has been spent by “dark money” groups which do not disclose who their donors are. And, consider this: Only 0.42 percent of Americans have given $200 or more to elections this year. Yet, miniscule as that number is, those people account for more than 66 percent of all campaign donations.

READ MORE: From dumpster fires to deportation buses: The midterms’ craziest campaign ads

This is not democracy in action. Until Americans realize that choosing between corporate Democrats and Republicans is like choosing between a slap in the face or a punch in the nose, nothing will be any different. When the ballots are counted on November 6, whether it’s a victory for the Democrats or Republicans, it will still be a tiny minority of elites who hold all the power.

Trump said the military was building migrant detention facilities along the border. The Pentagon Said “NO”

Exclusive: Pentagon balked at U.S. border troops building detention facilities – officials

Pentagon says troops won’t ‘come in contact’ with caravan migrants at Mexico border

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump said last week the army was building “massive tent cities” to house more migrants detained along the border. The Pentagon said he was wrong.

The Trump administration pushed the U.S. military to build facilities to accommodate migrants detained under Trump’s new “catch but don’t release” policy, federal officials tell Reuters. But the Pentagon reportedly refused, and last week, an official told reporters no detention centers were slated for construction.

Last Thursday in a freewheeling speech, Trump said he’d soon require the detention of anyone caught illegally crossing the southern border. Even migrants seeking asylum would be detained while waiting for their asylum hearing, Trump added. Seeing as a massive “migrant caravan” was weeks from arriving in the U.S., Trump said he had ordered the military to build tent cities to house them all.

Despite the Trump administration’s request, “the U.S. military declined a draft proposal … last month to build housing for detained migrants,” officials told Reuters. General Terrence O’Shaughnessy confirmed last week that the Pentagon was only working on requests to build facilities to support border patrol personnel and members of the military deployed to the border. And with 15,000 troops headed south to meet the much smaller — and shrinking — caravan, the Pentagon-sanctioned project will likely keep the military plenty busy. Kathryn Krawczyk

Pentagon Spins Taliban Defeat of ISIS As Its Own Victory

US military continues to spin a Taliban victory against Islamic State as its own

In the Department of Defense’s latest quarterly report on Afghanistan, the US military claimed the Taliban’s victory against the Islamic State Khorasan Province in Jawzjan over the summer as its own. The US military’s claim highlights just how desperate it is to report success in Afghanistan, and how infrequent those successes are in reality.

At the end of July 2018, the Taliban massed its forces and targeted a large cadre of Islamic State fighters that were based in Darzab district in Jawzjan. The Taliban operation was decisive; the Islamic State was routed. More than 150 of the 600 Islamic State operatives based in the district were killed and an estimated 100 more were wounded. Another 134 were captured by the Taliban. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban says Islamic State has been ‘completely defeated’ in Jawzjan.]

Following the drubbing by the Taliban, more than 250 Islamic State fighters and a handful of leaders, including the group’s military commander for the north, surrendered to the Afghan government to prevent being captured by the Taliban.

At the time, both the US military and Afghan government spun the surrender as a successful operation. General John Nicholson, then the commander of US Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support, touted the Taliban’s dominance over the Islamic State Khorasan Province as evidence that the security situation Afghanistan is improving.

“I want to highlight a recent success since we last talked, when over 250 ISIS-K fighters and their family members surrendered to the Afghan security forces in Jowzjan, which eliminated one of the three pockets of ISIS in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said at a press briefing in August.

Fast forward to Oct. 31 and the Special Investigator General for Afghan Reconstruction’s {SIGAR} release of the latest quarterly report on Afghanistan. Nicholson’s appropriation of the Taliban’s victory in Jawzjan as a success for the US and the Afghan government is repeated in the report. And it is at the top of the list of so-called counterterrorism successes over the quarter.

“However, counterterror efforts against Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) scored some successes this quarter. In early August, 250 IS-K militants surrendered to Afghan security forces in Jowzjan Province, a development that General Nicholson described as ‘eliminat[ing] one of the three pockets of ISIS in Afghanistan,’” the SIGAR report noted.

Again, the surrender of the Islamic State cadre in Jawzjan was not the result of a successful counterterrorism operation, but the result of a Taliban victory. Additionally, the Afghan government’s treatment of the Islamic State fighters who surrendered has enraged many Afghans, including members of the military. The Islamic State fighters were evacuated using helicopters, while Afghan soldiers, who during the same timeframe were besieged by the Taliban at bases in the north, could not receive critical resupply. Government officials spoke of amnesty for fighters who brutally murdered, raped, and enslaved civilians in Jawzjan.

In fact, the Jawzjan incident highlights just how weak and ineffective the Afghan security forces actually are in the Afghan north. The Taliban did what the Afghan government and military could not do: mass its forces and conduct a decisive military operation against a nest of Islamic State fighters.

The US military’s repeated attempts to spin the Taliban’s victory in Jawzjan as its own only serves to demonstrate just how eager it is to manufacture successes in Afghanistan when they are few and far between.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

CNN Actively Helping Riyadh Spread Propaganda and Terrorize Khoshoggi’s Sons

View image on Twitter Jamal Khashoggi’s Son Forced To Meet Saudi King and Crown Prince For Photo-Op Whitewash

[Jamal Khashoggi’s sons are obviously being forced into dispensing Riyadh’s propaganda line in the photo below…the same look that Salah Khashoggi had on his face in the previous forced photo-op with the mad, young prince.]

Abdullah and Salah, the sons of late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, speaking to CNN in their first media interview following their father’s death in Istanbul on Oct. 2. — Screengrab

Death over politicized by some parties: Salah and Abdullah

By Hasan Al-Najrani

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

MADINAH — The statements of the sons of the late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi emphasize unequivocally the trust that they reposed in Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman who promised to investigate and hold accountable those who were behind the killing of their father.

During their interview with CNN, Salah and Abdullah, Jamal Khashoggi’s sons, stressed patriotism of citizens and their solidarity with the leadership.

They rejected attempts by some parties to politically exploit their father’s death and expressed displeasure at lies being fabricated to harm Saudi Arabia and its leadership.

Their statements have now left no rooms for spreading gossips to the effect that they had left their homeland out of anger following the murder of their father.

Since Salah decided to travel to the United States, leftist newspapers, US Democrats, the Qatari and Turkish media, and their sympathizers have involved in circulating false news that this is a sign of Salah’s dissidence and departure from the mainstream. But they have eloquently exposed the lies and the media smear campaign.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia told the United Nations on Monday it would prosecute those responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and defended its human rights record.

Bandar Al-Aiban, President of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia who headed the government delegation at the Universal Periodic Review, said that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman had instructed the Saudi public prosecutor to “proceed with the investigation into this case according to the applicable laws and preparation to reaching all facts and bringing all the perpetrators to justice”.

Pakistan Renews Servitude To Saudis After Latest Bailout

Pakistan Army To Submit To Saudi Anti-Iranian Warfare Plans?

Pakistani media delegation affirms support for Saudi Arabia against hostile media campaign

Riyadh — Minister of Media Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad met today in Riyadh with a Pakistani media delegation, currently visiting Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani media delegation confirmed the solid relations between the two countries and affirmed their support for Saudi Arabia against the current hostile media campaign. — SPA

Donald Trump’s Tough Talk About The Border Deployment Doesn’t Match What’s Really Taking Place

Migrant Caravan: Pentagon Refuses Trump Order to Deploy US Troops to Border

Donald Trump’s Tough Talk About The Border Deployment Doesn’t Match What’s Really Taking Place

“He creates this word picture for people that these troops are going to be hurling back invaders at the border. That’s just not the case.”

Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Battalion and the 41st Engineer Company from Fort Riley, Kansas, string concertina wire near the Mexican border.

Department of Defense  Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Battalion and the 41st Engineer Company from Fort Riley, Kansas, string concertina wire near the Mexican border.

The image President Donald Trump has presented of what US troops will be doing along the southern border bears almost no resemblance to what military leaders say the troops will be doing.

Trump has promised the US military would be blocking “very bad thugs and gang members” from crossing into the country, and he’s painted a picture of armed US troops repelling “very tough fighters” from entering the country. “We hope nothing happens,” he said Thursday during a White House address. “But if it does, we are totally prepared.”

That bellicose language, however, is a clear exaggeration of what Pentagon planners anticipate the up to 7,000 active-duty troops will actually be doing.

The deployment includes no ground combat units. The troops are not allowed to detain or arrest anybody at the border. They are barred from enforcing immigration or criminal law. There is no indication that troops will be manning border checkpoints. Of the 39 units dispatched, only seven are military police units. The rest are trained to do engineering work and provide logistical support or medical assistance.

Five of the units are made up of public affairs specialists, combat photographers, and media support staff — troops assigned to provide photos and news releases about what the other units are doing. As of Saturday afternoon, the Defense Department’s media site had posted more than 350 photos and videos showing the troops’ deployment and arrival in Texas and Arizona.

A soldier from the 309th Military Intelligence Battalion hammers a stake into the ground at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

Spc. Brandon Best / Via US Army  A soldier from the 309th Military Intelligence Battalion hammers a stake into the ground at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

The Pentagon is sending the units that make sense for the support work they have been tasked with. But that mission does not at all resemble what the president has been describing on television, Twitter, and campaign rallies.

“This was never a combat mission but rather a support mission,” Todd Harrison, the director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told BuzzFeed News. “It makes sense that the specific types of units they are sending are essentially support and logistics.”

There is a reason the Pentagon usually sends National Guard units for these missions, as there can at least be a “real training benefit” for part-time soldiers in working logistics, flying helicopters, working radars and managing civilian–military relations, said Todd Rosenblum, a former senior official at the Pentagon who oversaw defense policy on homeland security matters and who also served as DHS deputy undersecretary during the Obama administration.

“When we send active-duty troops … they’re going to have a way suboptimal role down there,” he said. “There’s such limitations on what they can do — they can’t be on the front lines, there’s no authority.”

Even if there were fewer restrictions, there would be little for them to do as active-duty soldiers when faced with migrants asking for asylum, or “checking radars and using binoculars to call out 20 people coming in to find work,” Rosenblum said.

Soldiers from the 541st Sapper Company board a C-130J Super Hercules at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Airman 1st Class Daniel Hernandez / Via Department of Defense
Soldiers from the 541st Sapper Company board a C-130J Super Hercules at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

“You’re talking about taking people who have been deployed over and over again, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa…and asking them to spend the holidays away from their families unnecessarily,” he said. “It’s miserable on a human standpoint, knowing your orders are silly to begin with.”

While some of the troops will be armed, they are allowed to use deadly force only in self-defense. It’s not clear how they would find themselves in that situation, given that they are largely barred from interacting with migrants or going on patrol.

“Everything we are doing is in line with and adherence to posse comitatus,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, who heads US Northern Command, said when he announced the deployment, referring to the law that prohibits military personnel from acting as law enforcement inside the borders of the US.

“Trump is not being honest with the American people about what these troops are going to be doing. When he talks about them, he creates this word picture for people that these troops are going to be hurling back invaders at the border, side by side with the border patrol,” retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, a former Defense Department spokesperson, said on CNN. “That’s just not the case. In fact, many of them will never even get close to the border.”

A look at what units are being deployed to the border provides more evidence that Trump’s bellicose rhetoric is a stretch. The 39 military units come from 14 military installations across the country. They include 13 logistics units that will coordinate operations; nine engineering units “with expertise in building temporary vehicle barriers”; seven military police units whose precise use has yet to be defined; five public affairs and media production units; three aviation units that will transport Customs and Border Protection tactical units; and two medical units, whose most recent deployment included supporting Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

Pentagon planners have yet to release an estimate of how much the deployment will cost. Former president Barack Obama’s 14-month deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops in 2010’s Operation Phalanx cost $145 million. Former president George W. Bush’s deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops over two years, from 2006 to 2008, ran up to$1.2 billion. Both were criticized by government watchdog groups and Pentagon officials for the “absence of a comprehensive strategy” that identified a role for US troops that justified the cost.

But while the financial cost of Trump’s deployment can be absorbed by the Defense Department budget, the opportunity cost is “reduced readiness in the event a military contingency arises in which these forces would be necessary,” Harrison said.

“Whenever military forces are used like this it disrupts their training and degrades their readiness,” he said. “Once the deployment is over, they will have to retrain for their primary combat support missions.”

Taliban On Taliban Violence Continues In Herat

[SEE: NYT Highlights Taliban Split and Afghan Govt Sponsorship of Mullah Rasoul Faction–(updated)]

[SEE: Afghanistan Sponsoring Guantanamo Taliban Mullah Rasoul?]

[SEE:  Mullah RASOUL/ZAKIR]

 *   *   *   *   *

Taliban vs. Taliban clash in Afghanistan’s west leaves 40 dead

Police officials display 129 [MOSTLY JUNK] weapons they say they seized from militants fighting the government in Herat province in western Afghanistan on June 4, 2018. Infighting between Taliban factions had led to 40 deaths recently, Herat officials said Nov. 2, 2018.

HERAT, Afghanistan — Infighting between factions killed 40 Taliban fighters in October in the western province of Herat and is part of the reason a militant group is seeking peace talks, government officials said Friday.

Over the last three years, armed clashes between rival Taliban groups in the region have left hundreds dead, said Jailani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor.

The faction pursuing peace talks is led by Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, who split from the main insurgent command with about 1,000 fighters in 2015. The split occurred after the revelation that senior Taliban commanders had covered up the death of the group’s leader, Mullah Omar, for almost two years.

Meanwhile, the faction fighting the Rasoul group has been accused by the U.S. of taking money from Iran, the Taliban’s traditional enemy.

Police officials display 129 weapons [MORE JUNK] they say they seized from militants fighting the government in Herat province in west Afghanistan on June 4, 2018. Infighting between Taliban factions had led to 40 deaths recently, Herat officials said Nov. 2, 2018. J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes
J.P. LAWRENCE/STARS AND STRIPES

The breakaway Rasoul group also has pledged to protect a massive government pipeline project in western Afghanistan. One of its commanders even encouraged people to vote in the country’s parliamentary elections last month, Farhad said. This stance puts the group in opposition to the main Taliban, which is opposed to the elections.

Government officials in Herat said their security forces are not targeting the Rasoul-led Taliban faction in night raids. A New York Times report said the group has operated with the tacit support of the Afghan government, and last year accepted cash and intelligence from Kabul for their fight against other Taliban factions.

“The provincial government’s stance is clear,” Farhad said. “We have an open door for reconciliation and peace with any group.”

The Rasoul group has fought in at least 60 clashes between the summer of 2015 and December 2017 with a Taliban faction known as the Quetta Shura, according to research by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

The breakaway group expected other disaffected Taliban would join, but no new groups seem to be signing on, said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. The group suffered a further blow in 2016 when Pakistani authorities said they arrested Rasoul.

The group’s rivals, the mainline Taliban, are led by a commander recently placed on a U.S. government blacklist. The blacklist also includes two Iranian military officers accused by the U.S. to be supporting the Taliban in western border provinces such as Herat.

Tehran, which has historically opposed the Taliban, denies those claims.

Mohammad Aref Karimi and Ghulam Rasoul Murtazawie contributed to this report.

lawrence.jp@stripes.com
Twitter: @jplawrence3

Donald Trump Strong-Armed Baghdad To Give Contract To Rebuild Iraqi Electric System To Bankrupt General Electric over Siemens

“The U.S. government is holding a gun to our head”–Iraqi Govt. Spokesman

“As the Financial Times reports, Donald Trump’s administration bullied Baghdad to choose General Electric over Siemens, claiming that the deal with the German firm could put the US-Iraqi relations at risk. The outlet cited a source familiar with the situation, who revealed that an adviser to Al-Abadi said “The U.S. government is holding a gun to our head,” and told Siemens to give up on the contract two weeks ago.”

What General Electric Is Doing to Dodge the Question: “When Will GE File for Bankruptcy?”

Yves here. I’m old enough to remember when General Electric was widely seen as a superbly managed company and “Neutron” Jack Welch was touted as the CEO to emulate. McKinsey praised GE’s bulking up in financial services, which represented about 40% of its business in the 1990s.

Note the role that overpaying for some big deals played in General Electric’s fall.

By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street

Wolf here: Shares of General Electric [GE] are down over 3% this beautiful Friday morning, trading at $9.20. If they close at this level, they would mark a new nine-year closing low. Shares are down 52% year-to-date:

 

The lowest close since the 1990s was $6.66 on March 5, 2009, during the Financial Crisis. I remember well: The next morning, then CEO Jeff Inmelt was on CNBC, which was owned by NBC, which was owned by GE at the time. And Inmelt was hyping GE’s shares on GE’s TV station that gave him a huge slot of time to do so, and the share price, displayed prominently onscreen, ticked up with every word he spoke.

Inmelt was also on the Board of Directors of the New York Fed, which at that time was implementing the Fed’s alphabet-soup of bailout programs for banks, industrial companies with financial divisions, money market funds, foreign central banks (dollar swap lines), and the like. This included a bailout package for GE in form of short-term loans, without which GE might have had trouble making payroll because credit had frozen up and GE had been dependent on borrowing in the corporate paper market to meet its needs, and suddenly it couldn’t. Inmelt was involved in those bailout decisions and knew what GE would get, but didn’t mention anything on CNBC.

Now Inmelt is gone from GE (resigned in 2017 “earlier than expected”), and he is gone from the New York Fed (resigned in 2011 “due to increased demands on this time”), and CNBC no longer belongs to GE, and the new CEO is trying furiously to keep the whole charade form spiraling totally out of control hoping to be able to dodge the question: “When fill GE file for bankruptcy?”

Below are some of the things that GE is doing to avoid that fate.

By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles for WOLF STREET:

General Electric — at one time the world’s most formidable manufacturing company and now one of the world’s most mismanaged conglomerates — suffered more financial indignities this week: Its bond ratings got hit with back-to-back two-notch downgrades: Today by Fitch Ratings, from A to BBB+ due to the “deterioration at GE Power”; and earlier this week by Moody’s, from A2 to BAA1. This follows a similar move by Standard & Poor’s earlier in October.

The rating agencies also downgraded the company’s commercial paper (CP) program, a form of short-term borrowing. Moody’s cut GE’s CP ratings from P-1 to P-2. The new, lower CP ratings effectively prevents GE from further issuance of CP. However, GE still retains access to other, higher cost bank financed short term funding vehicles. But still, not a good look.

Also this week, GE virtually eliminated its quarterly dividend, slashing it from 12 cents to a penny. A belated Halloween themed headline could read, “Boston Slasher Strikes Again.” A year earlier GE’s board voted to cut its dividend from 24 cents to 12 cents.

In our view the previous dividend reduction was better anticipated than the most recent one. Why the hurried need for a cut last week? Probably for cash conservation reasons. GE badly needs the $3.9 billion in cash saved per year to meet financial needs such as $5 billion required for an underfunded pension fund and $3 billion to shore up the capitalization of GE’s finance arm (or what remains of it).

GE also requires considerable cash to retire existing debt. One of GE’s stated financial goals is to improve ratios of debt-to-EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) to 2.5 times by 2020. In the present climate, we might refer to this as virtue signaling. Except here GE’s principal goal is to keep its respectable, investment-grade bond ratings.

The debt burden that GE’s management is presently struggling with stems from a strategy of borrowing heavily for M&A over the past decade. The biggest (and probably worst) was its purchase of French electrical equipment manufacturer Alstom in 2015 in which GE outbid arch rival Siemens. GE paid top dollar just as the market for electrical equipment began a sharp slide. This acquisition was recently written down by $22 billion reflecting the rather subdued prospects for the global power generation. Talk about a winner’s curse.

In order to raise cash and simplify its business, GE has arranged the sale of GE Transportation (locomotives, electric motors and propulsions systems for mining equipment, etc.), plans to dispose of its Baker Hughes oil services business, and intends to spin off (while retaining control) its profitable health services division.

The power division will be split into two businesses: gas turbines and everything else. This last strategic endeavor is probably the one that rankles the most insofar as it’s about two decades too late. A true house that Edison built would have pitted the fossil vs renewables organizations and let the markets sort it out.

How did GE get into the present mess and how did it manage to miss the turning point in a business it used to dominate? Despite recent disparaging comments regarding Harvard’s case studies, we believe this is something business school professors might want to examine. But it is history. For those in the power business, buyers and users of the equipment, what is the message?

First, the manufacture of gas turbines for electric power generation has become an oligopoly. Three suppliers dominate the market: Mitsubishi Hitachi (in clear lead), Siemens, and lastly GE.  Oligopolists almost by definition tend to abide one another, meaning that they do not engage in anything resembling robust competition. But with an uncertain business outlook, they may be reluctant to invest more money into their businesses. One almost immediate effect is a reduction in spending on research and development which creates a sort of feedback loop which eventually weakens product positioning against new technology.

The manufacturers may argue that the business will bottom out, that a turnaround will take place. And that revenues from servicing existing equipment will provide a steady stream of business anyway. We do not disagree with these prognostications. Renewables will not provide every new kilowatt of capacity, and gas turbines will be needed anyway to back up renewables.

But we also need to be aware that longer term the competition for gas turbines will come not from renewables but from storage devices such as batteries. In terms of capital allocation, we would wager that there is far more money chasing power storage technologies than there is chasing investment in gas turbine technology.

GE, under its new management and new CEO, Lawrence Culp, may resurrect itself as a well-run manufacturing conglomerate after paying down debt obligations and shoring up its pension obligations. The aviation and health groups (even after disposition of some shares) are large and profitable. And Baker-Hughes, despite its indefinite status, might still surprise to the upside depending on global energy prices.

However, Power, despite its worldwide decline, is still GE’s largest business. New management may succeed in growing the gas turbine business (or maybe better managing its slow decline). But to us the dividend cut symbolizes GE’s fading role in a business that it literally created. By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tillesf or WOLF STREET

The financial Crisis was a decade ago. But its consequences still haunt us. Read… I Was Asked: “How & When Will the Next Financial Crisis Happen?”  

Jewish Civil War Between New York and Tel Aviv Clearly Dominates US Political System, Intensifying Republican/Democrat Divide

[SEE:  Zionism versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People
Winston Churchill]
A woman walks past a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Congregation October 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. - US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania will visit Pittsburgh on October 30, 2018 to show support after a gunman killed 11 people in a massacre at the synagogue on October 27, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)A woman walks past a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life Congregation on Oct. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Penn.Photo: Brendan Smialowksi/AFP/Getty Images

After Pittsburgh Massacre, Netanyahu Faces Backlash for Endorsing Trump and Smearing Soros

AS HE MOURNED for the 11 American Jews killed on Saturday by a gunman who believed a racist conspiracy theory promoted by the president of the United States, the writer David Simon read on Twitter that a senior member of Israel’s far-right government was on his way to Pittsburgh for a memorial service.

“Go home,” Simon wrote in a caustic message to Naftali Bennett, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who serves as Israel’s minister for the diaspora. “Netanyahu’s interventions in US politics aided in the election of Donald Trump and his raw and relentless validation of white nationalism and fascism,” Simon wrote. “The American Jewish community is now bleeding at the hands of the Israeli prime minister. And many of us know it.”

Simon was not alone in his criticism of Bennett’s visit. “NO THANK YOU,” Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace in New York, replied to Bennett’s tweet about his visit. “Your racist worldview has more in common with the perpetrator of this attack,” she told Bennett, who supports Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli occupied West Bank and the expulsion of African asylum seekers from Israel.

“Naftali Bennett has eagerly normalized Trump in exchange for the codification of apartheid in Israel,” the political cartoonist Eli Valley wrote. “He shares Trump’s bigotry, he has boasted about murdering Arabs, and he should not be welcomed anywhere in the American Jewish community.”

The Pittsburgh chapter of If Not Now, a group of young American Jews opposed to their community’s support for the Netanyahu government’s nationalist policies — including the building of a wall along Israel’s southern border to block African asylum-seekers — protested Bennett’s visit at a vigil on Sunday near the Tree of Life synagogue, where the shooting took place. “The inspiration for this attack,” If Not Now member Ren Finkel said, “is the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Trump and other Republican leaders.”

When Trump visited the Pittsburgh synagogue on Tuesday, he was met by thousands of protesters, who could be heard shouting “Words have meaning!” and “Trump, go home!” by reporters with the president.

Colin Deppen

@colin_deppen

The crowd at Beechwood and Forbes in Squirrel Hill ahead of a planned protest against today’s visit by President Trump: https://www.facebook.com/events/695075860885647/ @theinclinepgh

ABC News

@ABC

“Words have meaning!”

Protesters await the arrival of Pres. Trump and the first family near the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the wake of Saturday’s mass shooting. http://abcn.ws/2J0gebC 

julia reinstein 🚡

@juliareinstein

Large group gathered for @IfNotNowPGH protest as Trump prepares to arrive in Squirrel Hill.

“He’s fostered an administration of white supremacy and he is not welcome here in our time of mourning,” says one of the organizers, Arielle Cohen.

Christopher Mathias

@letsgomathias

Trump is now at the synagogue in . Cops keeping thousands of protesters about a block away.

Watching the president arrive at the synagogue to be met by Ron Dermer, a former Republican operative from Miami who is now Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, struck the political commentator Josh Marshall as “offensive and bizarre.”

Josh Marshall

@joshtpm

This is a touchy subject. Many will disagree with me. But I find it offensive and bizarre that this was choreographed so that the Israeli Ambassador is the one who greeted the President first at the Tree of Life synagogue. The Prez is not visiting Israel.

“The important context is that the Ambassador is himself a former GOP political operative in the US,” Marshall added. “He represents a government that has allied itself strongly with President Trump, notwithstanding the fact that the American Jewish community is overwhelmingly opposed to the President and the President is himself spending a lot of time whipping up xenophobia and a climate of anti-Semitism which is contributing to these attacks.”

Pressed by supporters of Israel on Twitter to explain his denunciation of Netanyhau, David Simon pointed out that the Israeli prime minister’s backing of Trump had come despite the clear anti-Semitic undertones of the American president’s rhetoric against “globalists,” with its “implications of Jewish financial cabals.”

As the journalist Gregg Carlstrom noted at the time, the villains in Trump’s final 2016 campaign ad — which used footage of Syrian asylum-seekers marching through Hungary to paint a false picture of the U.S. border with Mexico — were all prominent Jews: Janet Yellen, then the Federal Reserve chairwoman, Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, and George Soros, whose image appeared as Trump railed against, “those who control the levers of power in Washington.”

Gregg Carlstrom@glcarlstrom

Trump’s final pitch to voters is a dramatic reading of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vST61W4bGm8 

After Trump’s election, Netanyahu also refused to condemn the president’s repeated incitement against Soros, Simon noted, even as the president and his Republican allies fed their followers “a steady stream of conspiratorist horseshit so acutely racist and anti-Semitic that the name of a Holocaust survivor can now be invoked as a fixed dog-whistle for Jewish conspiracies against white nationalist America.”

The Pittsburgh gunman cited as justification for his massacre of Jews a baseless conspiracy theory about Soros, which has been promoted byTrump’s favorite cable news network, Fox News, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican endorsed by Trump — the false claim that, as Simon put it, “a Jewish financier is paying brown-skinned people to journey to our southern border and menace our nation.”

“This specific, vicious and batshit-crazy notion found favor throughout the president’s base and has even been repeated by elected officials in his party,” Simon wrote. “It is the precise preamble to a gunman walking into a synagogue and declaring that all Jews must die and killing people where they worshipped.”

“Netanyahu, and by extension his government,” Simon argued, “stands among those who are now complicit in serving to bring about this experiment in American fascism.”

Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer who has called Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem “a disaster,” asked if Netanyahu — whose son Yair thrilled white supremacists by sharing an anti-Semitic meme about Soros — was finally willing “to condemn the systematic, vulgar anti-Semitic assaults on George Soros which you yourself have validated?”

Daniel Seidemann@DanielSeidemann

Are you heartbroken and appalled enough to condemn the systematic, vulgar anti-Semitic assaults on George Soros which you yourself have validated?

Are you willing to criticize your own mini-me Yair, who used blatantly anti-Semitic imagery regarding Soros?

No. I didn’t think so.

Benjamin Netanyahu

@netanyahu

I was heartbroken and appalled by the murderous attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue today:

As Mairav Zonszein explained last year in The New York Times, Soros, as a supporter of Israeli rights groups like B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, has become a hate figure to ultranationalist Israelis, including Netanyahu, who have recently bonded with racist European nationalists around a shared hatred of Muslims.

“In his remarks at the weekly Sunday cabinet meeting in the Knesset, Netanyahu referenced ‘new anti-Semitism’ in Europe and ‘radical Islam’ but never mentioned the actual ideologies behind this attack: white supremacism,” Zonszein reported on Tuesday in The Washington Post. “Also conspicuously absent from Netanyahu’s rhetoric has been any mention of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the organization that Robert Bowers, the accused Pittsburgh shooter, had attacked on social media for aiding refugees, which many people have been donating to as a show of support. Netanyahu’s Likud party even reportedly distributed talking points to activists describing HIAS as ‘a left-wing Jewish group that promotes immigration to the U.S. and works against Trump.’”

Earlier this year, when Netanyahu angrily demanded an investigation of the New Israel Fund, a U.S. group that supports civil society projects in Israel, he said it “receives funding from foreign governments and figures hostile to Israel, such as the funds of George Soros.” The specific cause of Netanyahu’s wrath in that case was the New Israel Fund’s opposition to his effort to deport thousands of African asylum-seekers who had managed to make it past his border wall.

By steadfastly refusing to admit that the conspiracy theories about Soros aired by Trump and his allies are anti-Semitic, and seeking to absolve the president of blame for inciting the terrorist attack, Netanyahu and his spokesmen in the United States, the Israeli Ambassador, Ron Dermer, and New York Consul General Dani Dayan, have made it safe for such wild notions to circulate online and across the airwaves.

Nowhere has that been more clear than in Hungary, where the ultranationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has repeatedly blanketed the nation with billboards and public service announcements falsely portraying Soros as a shadowy puppet-masterscheming to flood the country with Muslim immigrants.

Last year, Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, Yossi Amrani, called on Orbán to stop using historical anti-Semitic tropes to demonize Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew who survived the rule of Hungary’s wartime leader, Miklós Horthy — an anti-Semite, recently praised by Orbán, whose government aided in the deportation of 437,402 Hungarian Jews to Nazi death camps in just two months in 1944.

Just one day later, however, the Israeli foreign ministry run directly by Netanyahu formally retracted the compliant, and issued a statement voicing explicit support for “criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”

As Talya Wintman, a junior at Barnard College currently studying at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, noted in Haaretz, Netanyahu’s defense of Orbán had culminated in July, when “the Hungarian Prime Minister, who fueled his own campaign on accusations of Soros destroying Christian Hungary, was invited on an official visit to Israel and as a guest of honor to Yad Vashem, helping to elide his anti-Semitic ties. This is 21st century anti-Semitism legitimized by the leader of the Jewish state.”

What Netanyahu’s embrace of Orbán helps to obscure, however, is that attacks on Soros for sponsoring democracy and human rights in his native country have long been characterized by explicit anti-Semitism. As my colleague Peter Maass reported from Budapest in 1992, during Hungary’s post-Communist transition, even as Soros offered educational grants to former dissidents like a young Viktor Orbán and founded the Central European University, he was denounced by the vice president of the ruling party, Istvan Csurka, of secretly acting as an instrument of “official policy in Jerusalem.”

Another member of Hungary’s ruling party, Gyula Zacsek, attacked the philanthropist the same year in an article for the party weekly headlined, “Termites Are Devouring Our Nation — Reflections on the Soros Regime, the Soros Empire.” The end of the Communist system, Zacsek claimed, “began as a consciously planned, well-thought-out course of action — a self-engineered coup by cosmopolitans.” In the Soviet era Hungary had just emerged from, the term “rootless cosmopolitans,” citizens of the globe, was shorthand for Jews. “The Soros Foundation,” Zacsek asserted, “was a vital tool and resource in laying the groundwork for this transition.”

“Leading members of your party have accused me of nothing less than taking part in an international anti-Hungarian conspiracy whose origins can be traced to Israel and whose goal is to extinguish the Hungarian people’s national spirit, and succeed thereby in subjecting them to foreign domination,” Soros wrote to Hungary’s prime minister in 1992. “My foundations seek to promote open societies while they, under the guise of nationalism, are interested in creating closed societies,” he added. “In order for them to succeed, they need first and foremost an enemy against which they can then mobilize an entire nation, and if there isn’t an enemy about, they must invent one.”

In the decades since, Soros has been transformed into an invented enemy by anti-Semites around the globe, and conspiracy theories about his supposedly nefarious promotion of democracy and human rights have become a staple of state-financed propaganda broadcasts in countries like Russia and Iran. During the Trump administration, however, a broadcaster sponsored by the United States government appears to have indulged for the first time in the same thinly veiled anti-Semitism to attack the liberal philanthropist.

Last week, days after a pipe bomb was mailed to Soros by a Trump supporter in Florida, Mother Jones reported that Radio Televisión Martí, a Spanish-language network that broadcasts news and propaganda to Cuba on behalf of the American government, aired a report that described Soros as “a non-believing Jew of flexible morals,” and “the architect of the financial collapse of 2008,” who uses “his lethal influence to destroy democracies.”

“A TV Marti program that was introduced with the phrase, ‘George Soros, a multimillionaire Jew,’ was paid for by the American taxpayer, and broadcast to Latin America last summer, in our name,” Sen. Jeff Flake commented on Twitter. “This is taxpayer-funded anti-semitism.”

Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 30, 6:46 p.m. EDT
This report was updated with images of protests in Pittsburgh against President Donald Trump’s visit to the synagogue where a white supremacist, inspired by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories the president promoted, massacred 11 worshippers.

Is It “Anti-Semitic” To Criticize “Jewish” Goldman-Sachs Bankers For Their Proven Market Manipulations?

 

The Great American Bubble Machine

From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression — and they’re about to do it again

The Goldman Sachs Guide To Manipulating Commodities

How big Wall Street banks are gaming commodities markets.

SEC Charges Goldman Sachs With Fraud in Structuring and Marketing of CDO Tied to Subprime Mortgages

 

Goldman Sachs is once again the villain

Goldman sachs malaysian scandal

The Goldman you love to hate is back.

A decade ago, when the financial crisis swamped the world, Goldman Sachs was the undisputed villain of Wall Street.

While other banks were perceived as greedy or incompetent (and often both), Goldman had an unsurpassed aura of sinister venality. Whether it was engineering a massive short at the expense of its clients, or manipulating global aluminum markets, only Goldman could be called, in the now-immortal words of Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

For the past 10 years, Goldman has tried to sanitize that reputation and promote what can only be called the softer side of investment banking. When Lloyd Blankfein retired as CEO and handed the reins to David Solomon in July, it seems that the worst of its publicity challenges had been laid to rest.

Two senior Goldman executives are accused by US prosecutors of conspiring to steal billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund in what the Wall Street Journal (paywall) calls “one of the biggest financial frauds in history.”

Timothy Leissner, a former Goldman partner who used to head the bank’s southeast Asian business, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and violating anti-bribery laws. Roger Ng, a Goldman managing director, was indicted on the same charges, along with Malaysian financier Jho Low.

Low is the alleged mastermind of the plot, in which essentially he convinced the Malaysian government to sell billions of dollars in bonds to establish the 1MDB fund, then bribed those officials with some of that money so he could steal the rest. Goldman underwrote $6.5 billion in bond sales, and pocketed $600 million in fees.

Who at Goldman knew what and when is still unclear. At least one other high-ranking Goldman executive, identified by the Wall Street Journal as Andrea Vella, is alleged to have helped Leissner evade Goldman’s internal controls. He was not indicted, but was stripped of his responsibilities as co-head of Asian banking and placed on leave, according to the journal.

In an emailed statement, a Goldman spokesman said, “The firm continues to cooperate with all authorities investigating this matter.”

Whether the scandal is remembered as Blankfein’s last, or as Solomon’s first, it’s a reminder that while much may have changed in the world of finance since 2008, maybe some things haven’t.

“Father of Taliban” Stabbed To Death In Rawalpindi Before Islamist Blasphemy Protest

[Dismissal of Blasphemy Conviction For Pak. Christian Asia Bibi Ignites Islamic Explosion Across the Country]

Maulana Samiul Haq assassinated at Rawalpindi residence

A file photo of JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq.
A file photo of JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq.

Influential religious scholar and former senator Maulana Samiul Haq has been assassinated at his residence in Rawalpindi, his son has confirmed.

Maulana Hamidul Haq said his octogenarian father was stabbed to death while he was resting in his room.

“His driver Haqqani had gone out. On his return, he saw that Maulana Sami was lying in his bed in a pool of blood,” Hamid said while talking to Geo News.

The news of his death comes at a sensitive time, with religio-political parties out on the streets protesting the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, in a blasphemy case.

“He was stabbed multiple times,” Maulana Hamid said. Maulana Sami’s driver/gunman had left the house, located in Bahria Town, for approximately 15 minutes when he was stabbed.

Yousaf Shah, the maulana’s spokesman, said the attacker’s identity and their motive were not immediately known.

Police have started an investigation into the killing.

Maulana Sami, said to be around 82 years old, was the head of the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Akora Khattak.

He was a member of the Senate of Pakistan from 1985 to 1991 and again from 1991 to 1997.

He had been aligned with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf for the July 25, 2018 election.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party had sought to work closely with him to implement various reforms and mainstream madrassah education.

Maulana Sami was an influential figure among members of the Taliban on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Last month, a high-level delegation from Afghanistan had called on Sami, known as the “Father of the Taliban”, at Darul Uloom Haqqania and urged him to play a role in resolving the Afghan issue.

The delegation had appealed to the JUI-S chief to play the role of a mediator between different groups of Taliban as they considered him [Maulana Sami] their elder. The delegation members assured him that they would accept his decision for reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Maulana Sami had told them that the Afghan issue was very complicated and its resolution was not an easy task for him. However, he had said he wished to see a logical end to the Afghan issue and an end to bloodshed in the country.

Profile: Maulana Sami

The Senate website describes him as: “A qualified religious scholar, an educationist, a research scholar and a lieutenant of his father, late Maulana Abdul Haq.”

According to his Senate profile, Maulana Sami came from the spiritual family of Akora Khattak, where he was born in 1936.

A holder of Sanad-e-Fazilat-o-Faraghat and Sanad Daura Tafseer-e-Quran from Darul Uloom Haqqania, and Shaikh-ul-Hadith (honorary) from Darul Uloom Deoband, Maulana Sami imparted religious education at his alma mater to the students and held important positions in the academic and administrative staff of the seminary.

Dismissal of Blasphemy Conviction For Pak. Christian Asia Bibi Ignites Islamic Explosion Across the Country

Asia Bibi case: Imran Khan’s climbdown after warning to protesters shows tackling extremism remains tough in ‘Naya Pakistan’

This is only getting more and more serious. First, the prime minister of Pakistan chose to address the nation against the extremist antics of a far-right group that was till recently on the fringe of politics. Second, when he opens his speech with a full justification of not only the Islamic basis of Pakistan’s creation, but also his own Islamic credentials, then it is time to worry. Third, and worse was the praise heaped on him in the social and print media, applauding his courage. This underlines the public perception that it takes rare courage for the head of a state that commands the 13th most powerful force among 133 countries, made up of some 919,000 total men, to quell a group of right-wingers whose core is probably less than a hundred. Clearly, things are far more serious than anyone imagined.

First, one needs to examine why the prime minister felt impelled to address the nation on the sole issue of the actions of the actions of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA). This is the group responsible for protests across the country against the Supreme Court’s judgment setting aside the death penalty for Asia Bibi, a fifty-plus Christian woman and mother of four, accused of blasphemy in what appeared to be a clear case of personal spite. The protests continue as of the time of writing, and are certainly widespread covering all major cities, including Peshawar and its outskirts. This could still have been viewed as a serious though straightforward law and order issue, were it not for the statements of the TLYRP leadership, including Khadim Hussain Rizvi. During a rally against the Supreme Court ruling, he and other leaders chose to not only designate the Chief Justice and the three judges as “wajibul qatal” (liable to be killed) but also provided a plan, asking drivers, cooks and guards to kill such judges. Worse, he called out the Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa and others as Ahmadis and anti-national, and called for rebellion against them. To most Pakistanis, this would have seemed to be sheer madness. But the conclusion of the State seemed to be that the Barelvi group had a clear and dangerous method to its madness. Thus, the prime minister made an address, and later, an offer of talks was made to the group.

File image of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. Reuters

File image of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. Reuters

Clearly, the threats held out by the prime minister in his speech warning of action against protesters meant little. In the end, prudence prevailed over valour.

The second issue that is worrying is why the prime minister felt it necessary to justify his governments Islamic credentials in his address to the nation. Khan referred repeatedly to the “unprecedented” actions by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry whereby it was able to cancel a planned competition announced by a Dutch parliamentarian inviting people to submit cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. He also hailed ‘first time’ actions by the Pakistan Human Rights Ministry that apparently prevailed upon the European Court of Human Rights to prohibit insulting the Prophet on the grounds of freedom of speech. Clearly, whoever wrote the speech felt it necessary to establish the Prime Minister as truly Islamic in deed and speech. That’s equally worrying. Surely a head of state has to simply ensure order, without first explaining himself to a bunch of men bent on mischief? Much like Khan’s statement, the judgment on the Asia Bibi case was also heavily laced with religious justifications, including an agreement that blasphemy could not be allowed to go unpunished

This fear can only be explained with a very brief history of the TLYRA. Its leader Khadim Rizvi was once a lowly Auqaf official fired for his patently undisciplined and venomous behaviour. His rise began in January 2011, when Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, a staunch opponent of blasphemy laws and the Asia Bibi case in particular, was assassinated by Mumtaz Qadri, a policeman within his own guard. That set off Rizvi and he began the rounds of the country pleading for the assassin’s release. Several sit-ins and protests in 2016 were handled fairly firmly by the Sharif government and the group remained on the margins of political activity. By 2017, it had announced its decision to contest by-elections in Lahore, on the seat vacated by the now dismissed Nawaz Sharif. In that by-election, the TYLRA candidate won more votes than established parties like the Jamaat and the Pakistan Peoples Party. The same story was apparent in another by-election in Peshawar. In November 2017 came the crowning glory. A sit-in was was launched in Islamabad, which inexplicably turned violent as hordes of supporters suddenly emerged even as the Islamabad and Punjab police launched an operation to evict the protestors. Even more mysteriously, the army chief stepped into the now suddenly tense situation, asking “both sides” to show restraint. Worse, a Major General, Faiz Hamid, was not only involved in negotiating an end to the protests, but was also seen distributing money to the protestors, apparently with the utmost amicability. As per the protestors’ demands, the law minister Zahid Hamid was sacked, and thereafter, the script was predictable. In subsequent general elections, Rizvi’s party acted as a spoiler in the heartland of Punjab, splitting the religious vote and causing the PML(N) to lose its bastion, and eventually sit in the opposition. It appeared to be an operation conducted successfully and then ended, at least for those intelligence agencies who were on a mission to get Sharif out. Not so for the TYLRA. For them, this was just the beginning.

In subsequent months, the group showed its mettle in several cases. It launched protests again on the issue of the Dutch parliamentarian’s cartoon challenge, and more seriously, seemed to be involved in an incident in which the Pakistan Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was shot at and wounded. The international links of the group were apparent when a rally was addressed via telephone by Tanveer Qadri , jailed in the United Kingdom for murdering an Ahmadiya two years ago. Reports indicated that the rallies were well attended and funded by persons across the political divide, which included Sheikh Rashid of the present government, and Sheikh Hameed of the PPP among others. By March however, the army’s Inter-Services Intelligence was reporting to the Supreme Court that Khadim Rizvi was a “corrupt individual”. Clearly, the party had ended.

Clearly, the prime minister needs to ask a few uncomfortable questions as to who let the TLYRA cat out of the bag in the first place and with what expected consequences. At present, it seems that Khadim Rizvi and his ilk are not shy of biting the hand that fed them in their reach for a wider political base. This is a lesson that the Pakistan army’s agencies should surely have learnt by now, given that it has battled the Tehreek-e-Taliban and sundry others groups that turned from friend to foe when it suited them. If the Pakistan army can learn that lesson, then it will be one giant step towards ‘Naya Pakistan’. If not, the Khadim Rizvi saga will be just another sorry tale of a fate foretold.