Archive | December 12th, 2017

How Jerusalem issue plays into Iranian, Turkish (and Russian) hands

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By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times 

Iran has, predictably enough, taken a hard line on the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There were public demonstrations in several Iranian cities following Friday prayers and statements by President Hassan Rouhani and other senior politicians. Notably, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, warned: “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will be the place where the Zionist regime will be buried.”

It was Turkey’s reaction that set the mind thinking that the ground beneath our feet is shifting, however. President Recep Erdogan used exceptional language in his response, calling Israel a “terrorist” state. His stance is important for a variety of reasons. Turkey is currently chairing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has called for an emergency summit in Istanbul on Wednesday. This puts Erdogan in the driving seat.

The OIC has traditionally kowtowed to Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi regime finds itself on the defensive at the moment. The unsavory talk in the bazaar is that King Salman and the Crown Prince have played footsie with Trump and Jared Kushner. Erdogan hears bazaar gossip, for sure. Will the OIC recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine? This is a possibility.

Both Iran and Turkey repudiate the notion of Jerusalem being Israel’s capital. Iran has brought into play the politics of “resistance,” whereas Erdogan stresses “We will continue our struggle decisively within the law and democracy.” The distinction must be noted – but then, so must the degree of convergence.

Iran and Turkey have both long wished for an end to Saudi Arabia calling the shots in the Muslim Middle East. Now that the issue of Jerusalem has come to the fore, the Saudi regime must be wary of being seen to coordinate with Israel, or dancing to Trump’s tune.

The Saudi regime is also grappling with the quagmire in Yemen, where it is shedding “Muslim blood.” Pressure will now increase to end the war in there. Rouhani put forth on Sunday two preconditions to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia – stop “bowing” to Israel and, secondly, end the war in Yemen.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Iran, TurkeyComments Off on How Jerusalem issue plays into Iranian, Turkish (and Russian) hands

Nazi security interests dominate EU diplomacy

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Israeli security interests dominate EU diplomacy

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO 

The EU Foreign Policy Chief has told Benjamin Netanyahu that there will be no mass relocation of embassies to Jerusalem. Federica Mogherini insisted that this will be the case in response to the Israeli Prime Minister’s comment that most European countries would follow Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.

However, there was no recognition from the EU regarding the shift in political dynamics, particularly with regard to the negotiations and the two-state paradigm. On the contrary, Mogherini exposed the EU’s intent to persist in diplomatic engagement within the obsolete framework, for the sake of Israel’s security interest.

As quoted in the Times of Israel, Mogherini stated: “We believe it is in Israel’s interest, especially its security interest, to find a sustainable and comprehensible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is why the European Union will increase its work… to relaunch the peace process, even if it seems [that these are] difficult times.”

In keeping with its usual stances, Wafa news agency also reported that the EU is seeking compensation of €30,000 from Israel for the confiscation and destruction of structures funded by Brussels. The news would have been a diversion, even at a less drastic moment, given that the EU is apparently willing to go on paying for Israel’s penchant for demolition. However, in the current circumstances, the EU’s demand is more of an assertion that the cycle of abuse and plunder is set to continue as usual, with demands unmet by Israel and the further depletion of Palestinian rights.

Despite refuting Netanyahu’s statement, which speaks about a hypothetical future and within the context of a majority of countries prioritising relations with Israel above ending its colonisation of Palestine, Mogherini’s reasons do not frame the response as any kind of solidarity with the Palestinians. The EU has embarked upon the most convenient narrative and the easiest one to articulate. If it can promote the two-state compromise as the best option to protect Israeli interests, the essence behind such reasoning does not oppose Trump’s action. In different ways, the US and the EU have promoted a distorted concept of peace which complements each other’s and, particularly, Netanyahu’s aims of using the euphemism as a veneer for Israel’s ongoing violence.

The EU might be less willing to overtly affirm agreement. Its reticence, however, should not be misconstrued as support. Eliminating the possibility of considering — let along affirming — decolonisation as the necessary process for peace, turns every decision taken by the EU into an advantage for Israel. There is no need for other diplomatic belligerence to affirm support for the Zionist state’s colonial project; the reiteration of Israeli security interests dissociated from the circumstances created by the colonial entity itself is enough.

A current rejection of Netanyahu’s hypothesis is a weak response to the threat unleashed by Trump. If the EU is to take a stance of unequivocal rejection, it has to match its rhetoric with a complete change of policy which would construct peace according to Palestinian demands based upon international law. Relaunching the peace process as the means to protect Israeli security interests makes a mockery of the losses suffered by Palestinians since the initial colonial process started more than 100 years ago and conveys flagrant contempt for the legitimate rights of the indigenous population of occupied Palestine.

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UN experts do not confirm Iran link to Yemen missiles

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UN experts, who examined the debris from missiles fired from Yemen at Saudi Arabia earlier in the year, have not confirmed that the projectiles were “Iranian-made” as claimed by the Riyadh regime and the US.

The missiles were fired by Yemeni Houthi fighters at the Saudi capital on July 22 and November 4 in retaliation for Riyadh’s deadly raids against the country.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a confidential report obtained by AFP on Monday that the world body’s team, which visited Riyadh last month to scrutinize the alleged evidence, had not yet established a link between them and the Islamic Republic.

Saudi Arabia, which accuses Iran of arming Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement against the kingdom, claims the missiles, which it says were fired at its capital city, had been supplied to Yemeni forces by Iran.

Following the first missile launch, Riyadh also angered the international community and human rights groups by tightening the already crippling siege against Yemen.

Tehran has invariably dismissed having ever armed the movement and any accusation of regional interference for that matter.

On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, “Whatever happens inside Yemen concerns the Yemeni people and resistance and does not concern the Islamic Republic.”

The Houthis have been defending Yemen against a Saudi-led military offensive, which seeks to restore the former Riyadh-allied government. The war has killed some 12,000 people and reduced the country’s infrastructure to smithereens since its start in early 2015.

Guterres wrote that UN officials were “still analyzing the information collected and will report back to the [UN] Security Council.”

The investigators also examined two drones allegedly recovered in Yemen, but did not confirm a Saudi claim that one of them was “Iranian-made.”

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DARPA Genetic Extinction Research a Mistake – Human Rights Watchdog

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The US advanced military research body – DARPA – announced that it will invest tens of millions of dollars into genetic extinction research. While the official aim of this research is said to be fighting harmful insects, there are significantly darker speculations about the possible use of such a tool.

​Radio Sputnik discussed the possible dangers of this kind of research with Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of the ETC Group, an international organization dedicated to “the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights.”

“When it is developed under an umbrella of a military research, you get a clear notion that there can be a dual purpose of this research,” Ribeiro told Sputnik.

Speaking about the official purpose of the so-called extinction technologies research — fighting malaria-bearing mosquitoes — she noted that even if one species of mosquito is eradicated, it will not influence the bacteria that causes malaria.

“[The malaria bacteria] will find another vector,” she stated.

So-called gene drive technologies allow for the artificial modification of the genes of a particular species, replacing unwanted genes with those that are seen to be beneficial, and the modified gene is then transferred to future generations.

According to Ribeiro, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has been discussing the ethics of whether such a tool should be developed.

Specialists speculate that if gene drive technology is to be developed it must be done in ultra high-security Biosafety level-4 facilities with the most stringent level of precautions, possibly a laboratory on an island, as the threat such a tool poses — one which would inexorably spread throughout the world — has no comparable antecedent.

The Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD) explicitly forbids the hostile, military use of tools that modify the environment or the ecology of a so-called enemy country. The US, Russia and China are parties to this convention. What DARPA wants to develop falls into the category, according to Ribiero, as eradicating any species influences an ecology in ways that cannot be predicted.

The problem with the UN and the conventions it adopts is that they do not provide for sufficient monitoring or prevention of such weapons.

“The whole UN is about diplomacy,” Ribeiro said. “The military goes under their radar.”

According to watchdog head, the only reason the world knows about this research is because human rights groups like ETC make requests using the Freedom of Information Act, requesting information from public universities related to the development of the gene technology.

Due to its poor track record on reigning in abusers of technology, a moratorium or ban by the UN would not prevent the US military from developing any gene tool they chose, she asserted.

Earlier in October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that US specialists are harvesting biological material in Russia, “purposefully and professionally.”

With the development of genetic extinction technologies, fears of creating an “ethnic weapon” that could target those with specific racial characteristics based on genetic sequences rise to the surface.

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The Deep State’s Christmas Present to America: Surveillance That Never Ends

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By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute 

“He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows when you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!”
—“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”

Just in time for Christmas, the Deep State wants to give America the gift that keeps on giving: never-ending mass surveillance.

I’m not referring to the kind of surveillance carried out by that all-knowing and all-seeing Jolly Old St. Nick and his informant the Elf on the Shelf (although, to be fair, they have helped to acclimate us to a world in which we’re always being watched and judged by higher authorities).

No, this particular bit of Yuletide gift-giving comes courtesy of the Deep State (a.k.a. the Surveillance State, Police State, Shadow Government and black-ops spy agencies).

If this power-hungry cabal gets its way, the government’s power to spy on its citizens will soon be all-encompassing and permanent.

As it now stands, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—the legal basis for two of the National Security Agency’s largest mass surveillance programs, “PRISM” and “Upstream”—is set to expire at the end of 2017.

“PRISM” lets the NSA access emails, video chats, instant messages, and other content sent via Facebook, Google, Apple and others. “Upstream” lets the NSA worm its way into the internet backbone—the cables and switches owned by private corporations like AT&T that make the internet into a global network—and scan traffic for the communications of tens of thousands of individuals labeled “targets.”

Just as the USA Patriot Act was perverted from its original intent to fight terrorism abroad and was used instead to covertly crack down on the American people (allowing government agencies to secretly track Americans’ financial activities, monitor their communications, and carry out wide-ranging surveillance on them), Section 702 has been used as an end-run around the Constitution to allow the government to collect the actual content of Americans’ emails, phone calls, text messages and other electronic communication without a warrant.

Under Section 702, the government collects and analyzes over 250 million internet communications every year. There are estimates that at least half of these contain information about U.S. residents, many of whom have done nothing wrong. This information is then shared with law enforcement and “routinely used for purposes unrelated to national security.”

Mind you, this is about far more than the metadata collection that Edward Snowden warned us about, which was bad enough. Section 702 gives the government access to the very content of your conversations (phone calls, text messages, video chats), your photographs, your emails. As Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., warned, “This is not just who you send it to, but what’s in it.”

Unfortunately, Big Brother doesn’t relinquish power easily.

The Police State doesn’t like restrictions.

And the Surveillance State certainly doesn’t look favorably on anything that might weaken its control. Even after Congress limited the NSA’s ability to collect bulk phone records, the agency continued to do so, vacuuming up more than 151 million records of Americans’ phone calls last year alone.

A government that doesn’t heed its constituents, doesn’t abide by the law, and kowtows to its police and military forces? That’s a dictatorship anywhere else.

Here in America, you can call it “technotyranny,” a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties.

Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing. Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.

For all intents and purposes, we now have a fourth branch of government.

This fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

The government’s “technotyranny” surveillance apparatus has become so entrenched and entangled with its police state apparatus that it’s hard to know anymore where law enforcement ends and surveillance begins.

The short answer: they have become one and the same entity.

The police state has passed the baton to the surveillance state.

Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation’s soldier cops into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

This is the new face of policing in America.

Enter big data policing which gives the nation’s 17,000 police agencies access to a growing “investigative” database that maps criminal associates and gangs, as well as their social and familial connections.

As Slate reports, “These social network systems, which target ‘chronic offenders,’ also include information about innocent associates, family members, and friends, creating extensive human maps of connections and patterns of contacts.” Those individuals then get assigned a threat score to determine their risk of being a perpetrator or victim of a future crime.

In Chicago, for example, “individuals with the highest scores on the Chicago Police Department ‘heat list’ get extra attention in the form of home visits or increased community surveillance.”

In Baltimore, police are using Cessna planes equipped with surveillance systems to film entire segments of the city, then combining that footage with police reports in order to “map the comings and goings of everyone—criminals and innocents alike.”

In this way, big data policing not only expands Big Brother’s reach down to the local level, but it also provides local police—most of whom know little about the Constitution and even less about the Fourth Amendment—with a new technological weapon to deploy against an unsuspecting public.

The end result is pre-crime, packaged in the guise of national security but no less sinister.

All of those individuals who claim to be unconcerned about government surveillance because they have nothing to hide, take note: pre-crime policing—given a futuristic treatment in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report—aims to treat you like a criminal before you’ve ever even committed a crime.

This hasn’t fazed President Trump who, much like his predecessors, has thus far marched in lockstep with the dictates of the police state.

For months, the Trump Administration has been actively lobbying Congress to reauthorize Section 702 in its entirety. Now, according to The Intercept, Trump is actively considering a proposal to establish his own global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies and answer directly to the White House.

If approved, this would be yet another secret government agency carrying out secret surveillance and counterintelligence, funded by a secret black ops budget that by its very nature does away with transparency, bypasses accountability and completely eludes any form of constitutionality.

According to The Washington Post, there are more than a dozen “black budget” national intelligence agencies already receiving more than $52.6 billion in secret government funding. Among the top five black ops agencies currently are the CIA, the NSA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Program, and the General Defense Intelligence Program.

A significant chunk of that black ops money has been flowing to Silicon Valley since before there was an internet, itself a creation of the military/security industrial complex.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it would be storing classified information for U.S. spy agencies in its digital cloud, part of a $600 million contract with the nation’s intelligence agencies.

Two decades earlier, America’s spy agencies tapped Silicon Valley to spearhead research into ways of tracking individuals and groups online. That research, as documented by Jeff Nesbit, the former director of legislative and public affairs at the National Science Foundation, culminated in the creation of a massive public-private surveillance state that hinged on a partnership between the NSA, the CIA and Google.

“The research arms of the CIA and NSA hoped that the best computer-science minds in academia could identify what they called ‘birds of a feather,’” writes Nesbit. He continues:

Their research aim was to track digital fingerprints inside the rapidly expanding global information network, which was then known as the World Wide Web… By working with emerging commercial-data companies, their intent was to track like-minded groups of people across the internet and identify them from the digital fingerprints they left behind, much like forensic scientists use fingerprint smudges to identify criminals. Just as “birds of a feather flock together,” they predicted that potential terrorists would communicate with each other in this new global, connected world—and they could find them by identifying patterns in this massive amount of new information. Once these groups were identified, they could then follow their digital trails everywhere.

The problem, of course, is that the government always sets its sights higher.

It wasn’t long before the government’s search for criminal “birds of a feather”—made much easier with the passage of the USA Patriot Act—lumped everyone together and treated all of the birds (i.e., the public) as criminals to be identified, tracked, monitored and subjected to warrantless, suspicionless surveillance.

Fast forward to the present moment when, on any given day, the average American is now monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Every second of every day, the American people are being spied on by the U.S. government’s vast network of digital Peeping Toms, electronic eavesdroppers and robotic snoops.

Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency is listening in and tracking you. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. These corporate trackers monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere and share the data with the government.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to collect data and spy on the American people. Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power.

These government snoops are constantly combing through and harvesting vast quantities of our communications, then storing it in massive databases for years. Once this information—collected illegally and without any probable cause—is ingested into NSA servers, other government agencies can often search through the databases to make criminal cases against Americans that have nothing to do with terrorism or anything national security-related. One Justice Department lawyer called the database the “FBI’s ‘Google.’”

In other words, the NSA, an unaccountable institution filled with unelected bureaucrats, operates a massive database that contains the intimate and personal communications of countless Americans and makes it available to other unelected bureaucrats.

Talk about a system rife for abuse.

Ask the government why it’s carrying out this warrantless surveillance on American citizens, and you’ll get the same Orwellian answer the government has been trotting out since 9/11 to justify its assaults on our civil liberties: to keep America safe.

Yet warrantless mass surveillance by the government and its corporate cohorts hasn’t made America any safer. And it certainly isn’t helping to preserve our freedoms. Frankly, America will never be safe as long as the U.S. government is allowed to shred the Constitution.

Now the government wants us to believe that we have nothing to fear from its mass spying program because they’re only looking to get the “bad” guys who are overseas.

Don’t believe it.

The government’s definition of a “bad” guy is extraordinarily broad, and it results in the warrantless surveillance of innocent, law-abiding Americans on a staggering scale. They are conducting this mass surveillance without a warrant, thus violating the core principles of the Fourth Amendment which protects the privacy of all Americans.

Warrantless mass surveillance of American citizens is wrong, un-American, and unconstitutional.

Clearly, the outlook for reforming the government’s unconstitutional surveillance programs does not look good.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, whenever the rights of the American people are pitted against the interests of the military/corporate/security complex, “we the people” lose. Unless Congress develops a conscience—or suddenly remembers that they owe their allegiance to the citizenry and not the corporate state—we’re about to lose big.

It’s time to let Section 702 expire or reform the law to ensure that millions and millions of Americans are not being victimized by a government that no longer respects its constitutional limits.

Mark my words: if Congress votes to make the NSA’s vast spying powers permanent, it will be yet another brick in the wall imprisoning us within an electronic concentration camp from which there is no escape.

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Ex-Spy Chief Admits Role In ‘Deep State’ Intelligence War On Trump

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By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge 

An ex-spy chief who spoke out publicly against Trump while inspiring other career intelligence figures to follow suit has admitted his leading role in the intelligence community waging political war against the presidentdescribing his actions as something he didn’t “fully think through”. In a surprisingly frank interview, the CIA’s Michael Morell – who was longtime Deputy Director and former Acting Director of the nation’s most powerful intelligence agency – said that it wasn’t a great idea to leak against and bash a new president.

Morell had the dubious distinction of being George W. Bush’s personal daily briefer for the agency before and after 9/11, and also served under Obama until his retirement. In the summer of 2016 he took the unusual step (for a former intelligence chief) of openly endorsing Hillary Clinton in a New York Times op-ed entitled, I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton, after which he continued to be both an outspoken critic of Trump and an early CIA voice promoting the Russian collusion and election meddling narrative.


Acting director of the CIA Michael Morell with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
in 2013. Image source: Wiki Commons, DoD

As Politico’s Susan Glasser put in a newly published interview, Morell “has emerged out of the shadows of the deep state” to become one of Trump’s foremost critics speaking within the intel community. However, Politico summarizes the interview as follows:

But in a revealingly self-critical and at times surprising interview for this week’s Global POLITICO, Morell acknowledges that he and other spy-world critics of the president failed to fully “think through” the negative backlash generated by their going political. “There was a significant downside,” Morell said in the interview.

Not only had Morell during his previous NYT op-ed stated that he was committed to doing “everything I can to ensure that she is elected as our 45th president” but he went so far as to call then candidate Trump “a threat to our national security” – while making the extraordinary claim that “in the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

Curiously, Morell in his latest Politico interview indicates when asked about his “public profile” and activism so soon after leaving the agency (something that was relatively unusual prior to Trump taking office) that his post-retirement media appearances have been approved and/or received some level of oversight by the CIA. In the interview Morell states, “I did a 60 Minutes interview about my life inside CIA, and it’s something the agency thought that was a good thing to do, and I taped most of it before I left the agency.”

While such CIA review of former employees’ publications and media interaction is nothing new, in Morell’s case was an unprecedented example of a very high profile intelligence figure explicitly campaigning for a presidential candidate and against another while specifically invoking his role at the CIA (he began his NYT column with, “During a 33-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, I served presidents of both parties — three Republicans and three Democrats…” followed by a litany of key national security events he was central to).

The other important confirmation to come out of the discussion is the clear guiding assumption of the interview – that the intelligence “deep state” did in fact go to war with Trump – which has now been confirmed by Morell himself, which is essentially to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

The key exchange in the Politico interview begins as follows:

Glasser: Okay, so, flash-forward a year. Was that a mistake?

Morell: So, I don’t think it was a mistake. I think there were downsides to it that I didn’t think about at the time. I was concerned about what is the impact it would have on the agency, right? Very concerned about that, thought that through. But I don’t think I fully thought through the implications.

And one of the ways I’ve thought about that, Susan, is—okay, how did Donald Trump see this? Right? And from—it’s very important—one of the things we do as intelligence analysts is make sure that our guy—the president—understands the other guy. Right?

So, let’s put ourselves here in Donald Trump’s shoes. So, what does he see? Right? He sees a former director of CIA and a former director of NSA, Mike Hayden, who I have the greatest respect for, criticizing him and his policies. Right? And he could rightfully have said, “Huh, what’s going on with these intelligence guys?” Right?

Morell here seems to confirm Trump’s narrative of events concerning Russiagate “fake news” and willful intelligence leaks intended to damage the president, despite his opening obfuscation of “I don’t think it was a mistake” (so he’s essentially admitting the negative consequences but with no regrets).

Surprisingly, Morell even implicates himself with the words, “And then he sees a former acting director and deputy director of CIA criticizing him and endorsing his opponent.” The interview continues:

Glasser: It embroiders his narrative.

Morell: Exactly. And then he sees a former acting director and deputy director of CIA criticizing him and endorsing his opponent. And then he gets his first intelligence briefing, after becoming the Republican nominee, and within 24 to 48 hours, there are leaks out of that that are critical of him and his then-national security advisor, Mike Flynn.

And so, this stuff starts to build, right? And he must have said to himself, “What is it with these intelligence guys? Are they political?” The current director at the time, John Brennan, during the campaign occasionally would push back on things that Donald Trump had said.

So, when Trump talked about the Iran nuclear deal being the worst deal in the history of American diplomacy, and he was going to tear it up on the first day—John Brennan came out publicly and said, “That would be an act of folly.” So, he sees current sitting director pushing back on him. Right?

Then he becomes president, and he’s supposed to be getting a daily brief from the moment he becomes the president-elect. Right? And he doesn’t. And within a few days, there’s leaks about how he’s not taking his briefing. So, he must have thought—right?—that, “Who are these guys? Are these guys out to get me? Is this a political organization? Can I think about them as a political organization when I become president?”

So, I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political in that moment. So, if I could have thought of that, would I have ended up in a different place? I don’t know. But it’s something I didn’t think about.

Despite Morell’s attempts to mitigate his own significant contributions toward creating a climate of distrust between the White House and the intelligence bureaucracy, it seems clear to the interviewee that Morell’s admissions lend credence to Trump’s side.

Indeed, Susan Glasser reasons, based on Morell’s unexpected confessions, that “you or others who spoke out and have continued to speak out actually tend to underscore his feeling that there’s a political divide.”

Glasser: Well, it’s very interesting, because of course, there are so many things you don’t know at that moment in time, including, of course, I’m sure you assumed, along with everybody else, that Hillary Clinton was likely to be elected, and you saw this as contributing to that in some way. But it’s certainly relevant in the context of the situation we find ourselves in a year later. And, if it tends to embolden Trump in his critique of your former colleagues who are still serving in the intelligence agencies, and not only has this been a theme that he has struck repeatedly to criticize—but also to politicize this.

And inadvertently, perhaps, you or others who spoke out and have continued to speak out actually tend to underscore his feeling that there’s a political divide, and now you and others are on one side of it, and potentially all your former colleagues, and then he’s on the other side of it…

Morell: Yeah, and you can’t pick and choose like that. And when people in the intelligence community—particularly people in CIA, because for every other part of the intelligence community except CIA, you’re working for a cabinet member. At CIA, you are working for the president of the United States. That is your customer. Right? 00:08:03 So, when you see your customer questioning what it is that you are providing to him or her, and that person seems to be cherry-picking what they accept and what they don’t accept, it’s demoralizing.And when it’s demoralizing, people take actions, right? So, I live pretty close to the agency, and there’s a coffee shop between me and the agency, and I’ve met a number of agency officers in that coffee shop who have said to me, “I’m thinking about leaving.”

Yet Morell in a round about way previously admitted that he is personally one of the chief authors of precisely this “demoralizing” scenario in which the president doesn’t fully trust his intelligence briefers.

But we should all remember that this is a man who on the one hand described “Russia’s hacking is the political equivalent of 9/11” and constantly hyped “Russian propaganda”, while on the other he went on a lengthy RT News segment in order to promote his newly published book.

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Tunisians declare boycott of U.S. ships after Trump’s Jerusalem move

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Palestine Information Center 

TUNIS – A Tunisian labor union on Sunday evening announced its decision to boycott U.S. ships docking at a seaport in the country’s southern region of Sfax following Trump’s recognition, on Wednesday, of Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Spokesman of the Popular Conference for the Palestinians Abroad, Ziad al-Aloul, said on Facebook that the regional executive office of Tunisia’s Trade Unions decided to boycott all American ships docking at Sfax commercial harbor.

As part of the boycott move, workers at the seaport will not empty the shipments onboard boats tied up at Sfax seaport after they had set sail from the U.S.

Prior to the boycott, mass rallies had swept Tunisia with thousands of protesters holding up Palestinian flags and banners. Protesters also burned the U.S. flag and others stepped on images of Israeli flags.

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Qatar finalizes $8bn weapons deal with UK

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Qatar has signed a major weapons deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom amid a political stand-off with former Arab allies of the Persian Gulf region.

Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, signed the deal on Sunday in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The agreement, worth USD 8 billion (6.8 billion euros), is the latest to come from Doha amid a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The four cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar six months ago over allegations of its support for terrorism. They have even warned of further action if Doha does not mend its regional policies.

Qatar has showed no sign that it is ready to bow to the pressures while maintaining that it would remain independent in its foreign policy. It has also rejected key conditions put forward by the four countries for normalization, including a downgrade in ties with regional power Iran and expulsion of Turkish troops from the Qatari soil.

The deal signed Sunday is Qatar’s second major military agreement this week. An agreement to buy 12 French Dassault Aviation warplanes worth of billions of dollars came on December 7.

Williamson, British defense chief, hailed the Sunday agreement with Qatar and said it was the biggest order for Typhoons in a decade. He said the fighter jets will support “stability in the region and delivering security at home”.

Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region are major customers for weapons made in the West. Spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, the countries have signed deals worth of tens of billions of US dollars with major western arm producers over the past years.

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Khader Adnan seized by Nazi occupation forces, launches immediate hunger strike

NOVANEWS

Prominent Palestinian leader, organizer and former prisoner and hunger-striker Khader Adnan was seized on Monday morning, 11 December, by Nazi occupation forces at his home in Arraba, Jenin. He immediately launched an open hunger strike to demand his release.

Randa Moussa, his wife, told Palestine Today that he had announced an immediate strike on food, drink and speech after his arrest. She said that four patrols, an armored troop carrier and a jeep surrounded their home at 2:30 am and invaded the home violently, trying to break down the door of the home, and that they hit Adnan on the back and hand, throwing him on the ground before handcuffing him. He was then interrogated in a closed room of the house before being taken away to an undisclosed location.

Adnan, prominent political activist from the town of Arraba near Jenin, has been arrested 10 times and spent six years in Nazi camp, all in administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial. In 2012 and 2015, he carried out 66-day and 56-day hunger strikes, respectively, winning his liberation from arbitrary Israeli imprisonment.

The Islamic Jihad movement said in a statement that “the arrest of leaders and popular and national symbols will not weaken our people or break their will…. this is a desperate attempt to suppress the uprising of Jerusalem,” as Palestinians inside and outside Palestine have risen up against US President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the “capital of Israel” in the eyes of the US.

Khader Adnan is a Palestinian and international symbol of steadfastness within the prisons who has inspired widespread international solidarity. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network demands the immediate release of Khader Adnan and will announce further actions as we receive more news and information from Palestine on Adnan’s detention. The struggle for the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners is at the forefront of the struggle to defend Jerusalem and liberate Palestine.

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The Delusions of Washington-Riyadh Ruling Elite and the Journalists Who Feed Them

NOVANEWS
By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam 

NYT’ pro-Israel talking heads: David Makovsky and Aaron David Miller

In the aftermath of Trump’s disastrous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the spin from Washington and Riyadh–and the journalists and think tank analysts only too eager be spun–has been outrageous. The level of sheer delusion is stupendous. This post will offer an anatomy of delusion and why it means only more suffering and bloodshed for both Arabs and Israelis.

The Times Shills for the Two-State Delusion

The NY Times, ever the newspaper of record for the élite and their paid emissaries, purports to debate whether the two-state solution remains viable in light of Trump’s seeming endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Who does Mark Landler quote as sources? Why, think tank talking heads who earn their keep from the Israel Lobby and its donors. Landler quotes no less than four sources affiliated with Lobby, all of whom endorse a two-state solution. And none of whom have ever offered any serious analysis or balanced discussion of the one-state solution: Martin Indyk, David Makovsky, Scott Anderson, and Daniel Levy.

How many Palestinian or Arab sources does he quote? One, Saeb Erekat.  And he doesn’t quote anything original from Erekat. He merely quotes statements the Palestinian made to other media outlets. He begins with Erekat saying:

… Erekat… a steadfast advocate for a Palestinian state, said in an interview on Thursday that Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “have managed to destroy that hope.” He embraced a radical shift in the P.L.O.’s goals — to a single state, but with Palestinians enjoying the same civil rights as Israelis, including the vote.

“They’ve left us with no option,” he said. “This is the reality. We live here. Our struggle should focus on one thing: equal rights.”

Once Landler lays this out, he must debunk it immediately. And he does:

Mr. Erekat’s change of heart is unlikely to change Palestinian policy. The dream of a Palestinian state is too deeply ingrained in a generation of its leaders for the Palestinian Authority to abandon it now. Israel would be unlikely to accede to equal rights, because granting a vote to millions of Palestinians would eventually lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Who is a NY Times reporter who knows little about what Palestinians believe, to say that a two-state solution is “too deeply ingrained” to be abandoned? And note who he points to as the arbiters of what Palestinians accept or believe? “Leaders,” by whom he means the doddering old kleptocratic octogenarians who have sold out the Palestinian cause for decades. Landler makes no attempt to reach out to Palestinian activists or academics or indigenous NGOs who know much better what the Palestinian street is thinking. Does Landler think that only leaders matter? Does he think leaders this corrupt and out of touch can merely wave a magic wand and four million Palestinians will follow them like the Pied Piper of Hamelin?

Further, why would Israel’s objections to “equal rights” and a one-state solution be a reason this doesn’t become the eventual resolution of the issue? Why do we assume that Israel will always be calling the shots? Did Serbia call the shots regarding Kosovo or Bosnia after NATO intervened? Why does the resistance of a nation which threatens to take the entire region to the brink of Armageddon become an immovable obstacle? The sheer chutzpah of such an assumption is enormous.

Later, the article offers the administration’s rebuttal of the Palestinian perspective on Trump’s proclamation:

Administration officials strenuously reject the argument that Mr. Trump has foreclosed a two-state solution… He studiously avoided taking a position on the eventual borders or sovereignty of Jerusalem.

That is either an ignorant or disingenuous statement.  When you recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem (not over “west Jerusalem,” as Trump could have said) and you omit any reference to Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem, then you’ve taken a crystal clear position on borders and sovereignty. You’ve said Israel has sovereignty and the Palestinians don’t.  If you believe otherwise, you’re a fool or a villain (or both).

Then Landler chimes in with an affirmation of Trump’s claims of even-handedness:

Beyond the president’s words, there were other signs he is serious about his intentions. On the same day that he signed his name with a John Hancock-like flourish to a proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, he quietly signed another document that will delay the move of the American Embassy to the city for at least six months — and probably much longer.

How does Trump’s recognition that he can’t immediately move the embassy for a thousand logistical reasons equate to Trump being “serious in his intentions” to be fair and balanced in weighing the claims of Palestinians? Should Palestinians view the delay in moving the embassy as a gift to them? Something that has any real benefit or meaning to them?

At this point, Landler gives voice to his first pro-Israel talking head, Martin Indyk, who makes this blindingly astute observation:

“Avoiding a move of the embassy is a way of avoiding geographic definition,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel. “Avoiding any geographic definition of their recognition of Jerusalem looks like their effort to keep the peace process alive.”

It’s hardly much of an affirmation by Indyk of Trump’s peace process. But he does seem to believe that by not moving the embassy, the U.S. believes it’s offered the Palestinians something. When of course, it’s nothing and will have no value to any Palestinian.

Landler’s coup de grâce in terms of marshalling pro-Israel analysts is David Makovsky. And his comments have to be read to be believed:

… Some longtime Middle East observers said Mr. Erekat’s talk of a one-state solution reflected anger rather than a watershed change in the Palestinian position. Given Israel’s probable rejection of equal rights, American and Israeli supporters of a two-state solution said that option, for all intents and purposes, remained the only game in town.

“I don’t want to minimize the hurt the Palestinians feel,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “But there was a duality to Trump’s message that has gotten lost.”

Mr. Trump, he said, was not closing the door to negotiations on borders and sovereignty. “Both parts should be heard,” he said. While he questioned the timing of the move, he said the Palestinians could return to the table when tempers cool.

“Right now their anger is such that they probably can’t hear this,” Mr. Makovsky said. “But if he presents a plan in the first quarter, are you not going to want to hear what it is? The Palestinians still think Trump’s enough of a bulldozer that if he gave something to the Israelis on a Wednesday, he’s capable of giving something to the Palestinians on a Thursday.”

It’s quite amazing that a pro-Israel shill like Makovsky who knows the two-state solution is dead and knows that no one in power in Israel or the U.S. believes in it, can still sell a journalist like Landler a bill of goods.  And note that Landler only quotes analysts who support a two-state solution and a PLO official who also has supported it till now. There are no sources here offering an alternative point of view.  None.  Which means this article is journalism in bad faith, whether the reporters who compiled it were aware of this bias or not.

Note that the strongest adjective Makovsky can muster to describe Palestinians emotions is “hurt.” No, hurt is when you skin your knee or sprain your pinkie. What Trump did to Palestinians is more like a shot to the gut; a paralyzing blow that deprives them of any hope and drives them into the arms of radical extremists.

I also like Makovsky’s assurance that Palestinians will return to talks once their hot-headed tempers cool down. Those pesky Palestinians always let their tribal emotions get the better of them. If they could only realize they have no choice. That what Trump offers is as good as they’re going to get. Then they’d get down to business.

The sheer ignorance of Makovsky assuming that the Palestinians will have natural curiosity about Trump’s offer and want to come back to the table to hear it is amazing. Why would Palestinians care what Trump offered them? Why would they attribute any value to it given his current and past statements? And just what does Makovsky believe Trump is going to give the Palestinians on that proverbial Thursday?

Finally, Landler ends his piece quoting the “liberal” pundit of the bunch, the guy the reporter probably feels covers his bases on the left, Daniel Levy. The only problem is that Levy isn’t “on the left.” He’s a liberal Zionist, neither progressive or leftist. And Levy too supports a two state solution. So where is the diversity of opinion this subject demands?

“It’s hard to see how you can go down that route without at some stage divesting yourself of a semblance of a self-governing authority,” said Daniel Levy, the London-based president of the U.S./Middle East Project. “You’ve got to call time on the Palestinian Authority, which never became a state.”

Instead, Mr. Levy said he believed that the peace process, and the Palestinians, were in a “transitional period,” in which the two-state solution had failed for now. But he added, “what people have done can be undone.”

Got that? Two states are dead “for now.” But not forever. That should give Palestinians hope that at some point in the vague future we men of good faith can revive it; or rather pull it out of the dustheap of failed Middle East plans, dust it off, and pretend it’s as good as new.

And what does Levy mean “what’s done can be undone?” How do you undo the death of thousands? How do you undo fierce rage against a sociopathic American president and his narcissistic Saudi and Israeli buddies who believe they can put the Palestinians on ice and ignore their legitimate claims to land, rights and nation?

The Saudi Delusion

Speaking of the Saudis, this Reuters story conveys the views of the ruling Crown Prince on these matters. If anything, they’re even more delusional than Trump or Netanyahu’s views. Before I offer a sampling, it’s worth hearing about the plan Trump is offering (and which the Saudis are endorsing):

As told to Abbas, the proposal included establishing “a Palestinian entity” in Gaza as well as the West Bank administrative areas A and B and 10 percent of area C, which contains Jewish settlements, a third Palestinian official said.

Jewish settlements in the West Bank would stay, there would be no right of return, and Israel would remain responsible for the borders, he said.

The proposal appears to differ little from existing arrangements in the West Bank, widening Palestinian control but falling far short of their minimum national demands.

A Palestinian entity. Not even a state. And even if someone wanted to call it a state, it wouldn’t be. It would be a bantustan of Palestinian villages surrounded by massive Israeli settlements. If the proposal essentially ratifies a rotten status quo, why would any Palestinian be willing to accept it?

Here is the real zinger, displaying the absolute cluelessness of the Saudis involved with this charade:

A Saudi source said he believed an understanding on Israeli-Palestinian peace would nonetheless begin to emerge in the coming weeks.

“Do not underestimate the businessman in (Trump). He has always called it the ultimate deal,” the source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

“I don’t think our government is going to accept that unless it has something sweetened in the pipeline which (King Salman and the crown prince) could sell to the Arab world – that the Palestinians would have their own state.”

In other words, because Trump offers some blather about an ultimate deal, but refuses to offer the Palestinians any details other than assure them it would be “something they would like,” then we’re to assume that it would be “sweet” enough for MbS to sell (the Saudi’s apt words, not mine) to the Palestinians. I don’t know who’s worse, Trump or MbS. It’s worse than the blind leading the blind. It’s the deaf, dumb, and blind leading the deaf, dumb and blind.

The Reuters article too suffers from a surfeit of sources who cynically ratify the status quo and the consensus as defined by the Middle East and Beltway elites:

Most Arab states are unlikely to object to Trump’s announcement because they find themselves more aligned with Israel than ever, particularly on countering Iran, said Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at Brookings Institution in Washington,

“If Saudi officials, including the crown prince himself, were particularly concerned with Jerusalem’s status, they would presumably have used their privileged status as a top Trump ally and lobbied the administration to hold off on such a needlessly toxic move,” he wrote in an article published in The Atlantic.

“It’s unlikely Trump would have followed through if the Saudis had drawn something resembling a red line.”

Even if this is true (and it very possibly is), why doesn’t anyone bother to say the obvious: that if the Saudis wish to betray the Palestinians and abandon their role as guardians of the region’s Muslim holy places (including Jerusalem), they themselves will be abandoned by the Arab and Muslim world. Why do the eminences grise think that the Saudis can act in any way they choose without paying any consequences in terms of regional influence?

In truth, the Saudis will make themselves irrelevant if they force this deal down the Palestinians throat. They will force those Palestinians who reject it to turn to Iran and its Shiite allies like Hezbollah. They will turn Hamas into leaders of the Palestinian resistance after the PA has abandoned its responsibility to defend Palestinian rights. Even those Sunni states like Jordan or Egypt who might feel compelled to go along with the Saudi plan, will do so with tepid enthusiasm. And at the first sign of failure, they will bolt from the stables like horses staring at a forest fire. Leaving MbS alone with his buddies, Trump and Netanyahu (who by then may be long gone as prime minister–perhaps even behind bars).

Posted in USA, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on The Delusions of Washington-Riyadh Ruling Elite and the Journalists Who Feed Them


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