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American Resistance To Empire

Saudis Panic Over Trump’s Talk of Discussions w/Iranian President Rouhani

A younger brother of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in Washington this week, with President Donald Trump’s evolving policy toward Iran and Yemen expected to be on the agenda for talks with the administration.

Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman’s visit comes days after Trump signaled new openness to potential talks with Saudi Arabia’s chief regional rival, Iran, and a report that the U.S. is looking to enter talks with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the festering war in Yemen.

The Saudi Press Agency said Prince Khalid “will meet a number of officials to discuss bilateral relations and issues of common concern that support the security and stability of the region,” without providing specifics on meetings planned with administration officials.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will meet with the prince on Wednesday afternoon, according to the State Department.

While the trip may have been planned well in advance, analysts said there’s little doubt about what the agenda will be now.

“Behind closed doors, there will be concern over Trump’s strategy of potentially meeting with Rouhani and the way forward,” said Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa research at the Eurasia Group, referring to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. “There is going to be a lot of questions about where U.S. policy is on that level.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the Group of Seven summit in France on Monday, Trump said he was willing to meet Rouhani under the right conditions, though he gave few details. While Rouhani pushed back, saying he wasn’t interesting in a photo-op with Trump, the American president’s offer was reminiscent of his early diplomacy with North Korea, which has resulted in three meetings with Kim Jong Un.

A Rouhani-Trump meeting would break with more than four decades of U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic, following the country’s 1978 revolution and subsequent U.S. hostage crisis. It would also frustrate key American allies in the Middle East, including both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Citing sources it didn’t identify, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the U.S. administration is also preparing to initiate direct talks with Yemen’s Houthis, who have been targeted by a Saudi-led coalition that has shown signs of fraying. The Saudi intervention, an early move by Prince Mohammed, has pitted the Arab world’s wealthiest nation against its poorest and generated widespread charges of human rights abuses.

“I have no doubt that the Saudis are frustrated” about U.S. signals regarding Mideast policy, Ibrahim Fraihat, a conflict resolution professor with the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, said in response to questions.

While Trump has made Saudi Arabia the centerpiece of his Middle East strategy since taking office in 2017, the kingdom’s reputation in Washington has been battered by the war in Yemen, the detention of female activists and the killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. Congress has condemned the Saudis over the Khashoggi episode and the Yemen military campaign.

“Saudi Arabia is performing a balancing act,” said James Dorsey, senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and its Middle East Institute. “Prince Khalid will no doubt be seeking assurances from the Trump administration that it is not weakening its tough stand towards Iran and will not jeopardize Saudi interests.”

Israeli Inventors of Murder By Drone Hunt Palestinians w/Lethal Force, Trump Thinks Its Cool

Lebanon president: Israel drone attack a declaration of war

President Michel Aoun says Lebanon has the right to defend territorial integrity after drones crash in Beirut.

Lebanon president: Israel drone attack a declaration of war
A suspected Israeli drone crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, while another exploded and crashed nearby [Anwar Amro/AFP]

Lebanon’s president has said an Israeli drone attack on Beirut at the weekend was a “declaration of war” that justified a military response.

“What happened is a declaration of war,” Michel Aoun told Jan Kubis, the United Nations‘ special coordinator for Lebanon, in a meeting on Monday.

“This allows us to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” he added, in a statement released by his office.

Also on Monday, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri said his government wants to avoid an escalation with Israel, but the international community must reject Israel’s “blatant violation” of Lebanese sovereignty.

“The Lebanese government sees it best to avoid any sliding of the situation towards a dangerous escalation but this requires the international community affirming its rejection of this blatant violation,” Hariri told the ambassadors of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, his office said.

Sunday attacks

Alleged Israeli drones crashed in a southern suburb of Beirut on Sunday, prompting a strong reaction from the leader of the Hezbollah movement.

In a speech hours after one of the drones crashed in the Lebanese capital, Hassan Nasrallah said the Israeli drones were on a “suicide mission”.

“Hezbollah will not allow such an aggression,” he said in a televised address on Sunday. “The time when Israeli aircraft come and bombard parts of Lebanon is over.”

Nasrallah also pledged to retaliate to an Israeli air attack inside Syria that took place late on Saturday, which he said killed two Hezbollah members.

Later on Sunday, Iraq’s powerful Hashd al-Shaabi force, or Popular Mobilisation Forces(PMF), blamed Israel for carrying out a deadly drone attack close to the border with Syria.

‘Hostile act’

On Monday, Iraq’s President Barham Salih hosted leading members of the PMF along with the prime minister and the parliament speaker to discuss the instability.

“These attacks are a blatant, hostile act that target Iraq,” the presidency said in a statement, adding: “Iraqi sovereignty and the wellbeing of its people are a red line.”

It stressed the government would take all necessary steps to “deter aggressors and defend Iraq”, but did not threaten a military response.

Later on Monday, the PMF said it spotted another drone flying over one of its bases in the northern province of Nineveh.

“It was immediately dealt with using anti-aircraft weaponry. The drone left the area,” the group said in a statement.

Iraq’s military spokesman Yehya Rasool told AFP news agency on Monday the government had launched a new investigation into Sunday’s attack.

Asked what diplomatic action Iraq could take, the foreign ministry told AFP it would wait for official conclusions before resorting to the UN.

“If it was proven that a foreign entity was involved in these operations, we will take all steps – first among them, going to the Security Council and the United Nations,” spokesman Ahmad Sahhaf said on Monday.

Separate target

Earlier on Monday, Israeli jets attacked a Palestinian base in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported.

Three attacks which came minutes apart struck a base for a Syrian-backed group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), an ally of Hezbollah.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on the attack, which the agency said hit near the Lebanese village of Qusaya in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Air raids by Israel against Palestinian factions in Lebanon, such as this one, have been rare in the past years.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said the attack against the PFLP-GC base took place near the border with Syria, in very “rugged terrain”.

“It’s [the area] believed to be made up of tunnels, linking both countries together,” Khodr said.

Khodr said the attack was a message to Hezbollah more than the PFLP-GC since it came “just hours” after Nasrallah pledged to down any Israeli drone that violates Lebanese airspace.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006. The volatile border between the two countries, which remain technically in a state of war, has been mostly calm since that conflict.

India Claims That Pakistan Is Moving 100 Terrorists From Afghanistan To Kashmir

The Indian security officials have claimed that Pakistan is planning to bring at least 100 terrorists from Afghanistan to Kashmir in the wake of the recent tensions between the two countries.

The officials have further added that Pakistan is attempting to carry out a series of attacks in Kashmir.

The officials have also added that the plan is to demonstrate to the world that the situation in Kashmir is deteriorating following the revocation of Article 370.

An Indian military source has told the Times of India “We have credible intelligence that Pakistan is bringing over 100 hardcore terrorists from Afghanistan and they will be pushed into Kashmir in the next few weeks.”

Meanwhile, the officials have said at least 15 Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists are already waiting at the terror launch-pads in Lipa valley along the Line of Control on the Pakistani side to infiltrate in Kashmir.

More Ammo Against “Opioid” Witch-Hunt…multiplying patient pain DOES NOT decrease death-rate

New Survey Data Confirm That Opioid Deaths Do Not Correlate With Pain Pill Abuse or Addiction Rates

Nonmedical use of prescription analgesics did not become more common, but it did become more dangerous.

New data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provide further evidence to support a counterintuitive conclusion: The dramatic increase in deaths involving prescription analgesics since 2000 cannot be explained by a dramatic increase in misuse or addiction rates, because there was no such increase.

Prior NSDUH data showed that rates of past-month “nonmedical use” and past-year “pain reliever use disorder” barely changed from 2002 (when the survey began in its current form) through 2014, even as deaths involving these drugs rose by 175 percent. The survey questions on these topics changed in 2015, so the more recent numbers are not comparable. But we now have four years of data with the new wording, and they tell a similar story.

According to NSDUH, the rate of “prescription pain reliever misuse” fell in 2016 and 2017, even as deaths involving those drugs continued to rise. The rate fell again in 2018, and that year deaths may also have declined, judging from preliminary CDC data. The rate of “pain reliever use disorder,” meanwhile, fell in 2016 and 2017 but stayed the same in 2018.

The lack of correspondence between deaths involving prescription analgesics and illegal consumption or addiction rates suggests that patterns of use changed in a way that made fatal outcomes more likely. If nonmedical users started taking prescription narcotics more frequently, in higher doses, or in more dangerous combinations with other drugs, those shifts would help explain the increase in deaths.

In 2017, just 30 percent of opioid-related deaths involved prescription analgesics, and the records compiled by the CDC indicate that 68 percent of those cases also involved heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or alcohol. The role of drug mixtures is probably even bigger than those records suggest. In New York City, which has one of the country’s most thorough systems for reporting drug-related deaths, 97 percent of them involve more than one substance.

The evidence does not favor a simple narrative in which more opioid prescriptions led to more abuse and addiction, which in turn led to more deaths. The “opioid crisis,” which seems to be part of a long-term upward trend in drug-related deaths that began in 1979, might more accurately be described as a problem of increasingly reckless polydrug use, a problem that cannot be solved—and may be worsened—by demanding wholesale reductions in pain pill prescriptions.

JACOB SULLUM is a senior editor at Reason.

Syrian Airstrike Hits Turkish Convoy, Alleged To Be Delivering Ordinance To Terrorists In Idlib

[Kurds Invite Syrian Army To Manbij, Between Them and Turkish Army–12/29/2018]

Turkey fuming after Syrian airstrike on convoy in Islamist-held Idlib province

Turkey fuming after Syrian airstrike on convoy in Islamist-held Idlib province

The Turkish Defense Ministry has condemned Syria for attacking its convoy in the Syrian province of Idlib. Damascus said the vehicles were transporting weapons and ammo to “terrorist forces.”

Ankara said three people were killed and 12 others injured on Monday after the Syrian airstrike, which targeted a Turkish military convoy travelling between two observation points in northern Syria. The statement said all victims were civilians, without explaining how they were involved in a military operation.

Ankara said the attack violated the agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran, which paved the way to a relative de-escalation in the protracted war in Syria, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

ALSO ON RT.COMRussian Air Force targets militants in Syria’s Idlib at request of Turkish military

 

Idlib province is the last major part of Syria largely controlled by various armed groups, some of them hardcore jihadists. On request from Russia, the Syrian government agreed not to use force to retake the region to avoid casualties among civilians, who have blood ties with Turkey.

Ankara is supposed to prevent hostilities from reigniting, with a series of observation posts spread along the provincial border to monitor the situation. The plan however never fully worked, with regular flare-ups happening between various armed groups and the Syrian Arab Army.

The nature of the attacked convoy is perceived differently by the Syrian side, however. The Syrian news agency SANA said it was carrying weapons and ammunition to “terrorist forces” in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. It’s located in the southern part of Idlib province on a highway connecting the cities of Aleppo and Hama.

ALSO ON RT.COMSyrian army resumes military operations against rebels in Idlib

 

Lately there has been heavy fighting near Khan Sheikhoun between Damascus forces and the group controlling the city, predominantly the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTC), formerly known as Nusra Front.

 

Gibraltar Ignores US Demands To Re-Seize Iranian Tanker GRACE1, Renamed ADRIAN DARYA1

[GRACE1, renamed ADRIAN DARYA1, sails away from Gibraltar.]

Position Received: 3 minutes ago (2019-08-19 21:45 (UTC)
(5:45 p.m. Eastern Standard)
Vessel’s Local Time: 2019-08-19 22:45 (UTC +1)
Latitude / Longitude: 36.22187° / -2.274448°

MARINETRAFFIC.COM 

Latitude / Longitude: 36.05969° / -3.960223°

Gibraltar rejects US pressure; lets Iranian oil tanker set sail

An Iranian supertanker left Gibraltar late Sunday after the territory rejected a U.S. request to continue holding the ship in a detention on suspicion of attempting to breach global sanctions against Syria.

The tanker set sail late Sunday, according to a marine traffic monitoring site and Gibraltar news outlets. The Gibraltar government, in a statement, cited differences between the sanctions authorized by the United States and those of the European Union.

“The European sanctions regime against Iran, which is applicable in Gibraltar, is much narrower than that applicable in the U.S.,” said the statement from Gibraltar, a British territory.

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, said the ship could depart within hours after the rejection was announced. Tehran said it was ready to dispatch a fleet to escort the tanker if necessary.

“The era of hit and run is over,” said Iran’s navy commander, Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request from USA TODAY for comment.

The ship, containing more than 2 million gallons of Iranian light crude oil, was seized July 4 in a British Royal Navy operation off the coast of Gibraltar. The seizure aggravated fears of a conflict in the Persian Gulf, where Iran claims control of the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments.

After Gibraltar’s detention of the Iranian tanker, then known as Grace 1, Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz. The Islamic Republic is still holding the British vessel, claiming it failed to stop after colliding with an Iranian fishing boat.

Dispute deepens: U.S. issues warrant to seize Iran oil tanker ‘Grace 1’ after Gibraltar judge orders its release

Iran has seized other foreign oil tankers in recent months – and downed a U.S. surveillance drone, raising the ire of President Donald Trump.

Iran denies the Grace 1 was headed to Syria and accused the British of “maritime piracy.” A court in Gibraltar ordered the tanker released Thursday, setting off a flurry of diplomatic and legal efforts to keep the ship from leaving.

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department issued a warrant to seize the tanker for forfeiture, claiming the Iranians illegally used the U.S. banking system to finance the shipment of oil to Syria.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also warned mariners against signing on to ships linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or others under U.S. sanctions.

“The maritime community should be aware that the U.S. government intends to revoke visas held by members of such crews,” Pompeo said.

Tanker seized: Iran seizes another foreign oil tanker, state media says

The Gibraltar government noted that the Revolutionary Guard is not a designated foreign terrorist organization in Gibraltar, the U.K. or in most of the EU generally, unlike in the U.S.

The weeks-long diplomatic dispute between Tehran and Washington comes amid a standoff between the two countries after Trump withdrew from an international nuclear accord with Tehran and reimposed sanctions.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf have been on the rise since. Some European leaders have been unwilling to follow the U.S. lead in attempting to isolate the Persian nation.

Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard and Kristin Lam, USA TODAY; The Associated Press