Kurds Have Been Preparing for Trump’s Syria Betrayal—With a Vengeance   

Cache   

Kurds Have Been Preparing for Trump’s Syria Betrayal—With a VengeanceDelil Souleiman/GettyLate Sunday night in Washington, the White House announced it was pulling U.S. troops out of northeast Syria to clear the way for a Turkish invasion. The Kurds there who led the fight on the ground that defeated the so-called Islamic State had seen President Donald Trump’s betrayal coming. But still they hoped it could be avoided. “Don’t let the Turks disrupt my wedding,” our translator texted in September prior to our arrival in the region. For more than a year, we have been visiting almost monthly to interview captured ISIS cadres held by the Kurdish and Arab troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as part of a project for the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS ComebackIn September, we saw the Turkish threat to invade at any moment was held off by tense U.S. negotiations in which the SDF made considerable concessions, allowing Turkey to patrol jointly a large swath of territory while agreeing to remove checkpoints and military positions farther back from the Turkish border.“They should put their patrols inside Turkish territory, and not enter Syria,” SDF leaders told us at the time, as they reluctantly acquiesced to U.S. demands.* * *BITTER FRIENDS* * *Many current and former White House advisors counseled against the kind of announcement made Sunday night. Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned last year over Trump’s threat to remove the few thousand U.S. troops in Syria, who not only served as advisors in the fight against ISIS, but as deterrence against Turkish operations east of the Euphrates River. In a particularly bitter post on Twitter, Bret McGurk, who served as the special U.S. presidential envoy for the fight against ISIS from 2015 to 2018, wrote, “Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”The U.S. military learned about the withdrawal plan only after Trump decided on it following his Sunday phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It has pulled out of two small observation posts in the security-mechanism zone near the Syria-Turkey border so far. But no further withdrawals are imminent, according to a knowledgeable source. The military, remembering Trump’s December order out of Syria and subsequent reversal, is waiting to learn if Trump will follow through with withdrawal this time.A recently departed senior Pentagon official considered the pullout a “blatant betrayal” of the U.S.’ Kurdish partners that gives “carte blanche to Erdogan” for a widely forecast bloodletting. “It’s going to be a massacre, that’s clear,” the ex-official told The Daily Beast. “It’s fundamentally wrong. They destroyed the Caliphate.”But the Kurds are not entirely defenseless. Military leaders of the dominant group, known as the YPG or People’s Protection Units (and their female YPJ partners), already were in overdrive in September, preparing for what they had long anticipated—a possible betrayal by their closest ally, the United States.* * *DIGGING IN* * *Alongside every major highway and criss-crossing the entire Northern Syria area, in fields, cities and towns, we saw digging for an extensive system of tunnels. “We’re ready either way,” the Kurdish leaders told us when we asked if they trusted the Americans to keep the Turks at bay.Kurds don’t have much, but their spirit of freedom and their desire to protect their hard-won territory and what they see as their incipient democracy was evident everywhere in September as the YPG troops prepared for battle with a much better equipped foe—the Turkish armed forces, the second biggest military in NATO. But nobody who fought ISIS in Syria in one vicious battle after another has forgotten that the huge Turkish army stood by and did nothing against the Islamic State as its killers carried out genocidal campaigns against Yazidis and Shiites, while abducting, torturing, ransoming or beheading Americans, Europeans, and Japanese, among others. Through all that, NATO ally Turkey was not interested in intervention. Far from it.That was until the White House statement Sunday night, up to which the U.S. military denied Turkey the ability to operate in airspace over SDF controlled territory, effectively making it more difficult to enter Northern Syria to conduct the “terrorist cleansing operation” that Turks insist upon. They already carried out one such operation in Afrin, west of the Euphrates, in January 2018, displacing Kurds and effectively taking over the area, using what Kurds claim are former ISIS cadres to fight for them.Turks view the Northern Syria area of Rojava, and the YPG dominated SDF, as controlled by Kurdish PKK terrorists operating under another name—wolves in sheep’s clothing. Indeed, in times past—until 1998—PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, lived freely in Syria and the father of the current Assad allowed him to train and equip his highly disciplined terrorist group for attacks into Turkey. It’s also true that over time, the various governing parties of Syria, Iraq and Iran have made use of PKK assaults on Turks as a way to exert pressure on Turkish politics. Turkey has suffered greatly from PKK terrorist attacks both inside Turkey and globally, and the PKK is clearly designated on the U.S. and EU’s list of terrorist organizations. In recent concessions to Turkey’s alarm over the SDF, a group they view as being in the hands of the PKK, the U.S. recently added additional individuals involved in the PKK to the U.S. State Department’s specially designated terrorist list. Turkey has also developed drones that fly over the Qandil mountains, in northern Iraq, making it easier to spot PKK movements and routinely send fighter jets to bomb them.  In the case of northern Syria however, until President Trump’s announcement late Sunday night Washington time, the U.S. policy was to deny the Turks military incursions into territory where U.S. troops patrol and the U.S. military controls the airspace and claims by Turkey that the SDF is PKK have also been hotly disputed.While Turkey sees the SDF as dominated and led by a terrorist organization, the U.S. has a completely different perspective, viewing the YPG and SDF as valued allies in the fight against ISIS. Indeed, YPG and YPJ (Women’s People’s Protection Units) fighters lost over 1,000 lives fighting ISIS and it is common to see Kurdish men and women in Rojava on crutches, in wheelchairs and otherwise suffering from serious and lifelong injuries sustained in the battle to retake ISIS dominated areas, including Raqqa. While the rest of the world was silent, the YPG and YPJ can also take credit for going to the rescue of the Yazidis on Sinjar mountain in 2014, fighting to stop ISIS from carrying out a massive genocidal campaign in which ISIS cadres captured and enslaved countless Yazidi women, boys, and girls. The men were killed by ISIS, the boys killed or indoctrinated. The women and girls subsequently were raped and treated as chattel. But thousands were able to escape with YPG help.* * *THE PRISONERS* * *At present the SDF houses thousands of captured ISIS prisoners, holding the men in repurposed schools and prisons overflowing with former fighters and in camps similarly run at overcapacity for ISIS women and children. According to a March 2019 UN report, a total of 8,000 Islamic State fighters currently are held in SDF custody. In our recent visits to north and east Syria from May through August, relying on our primary intelligence sources, we were told that approximately 2,000 of these Islamic State prisoners were considered “foreign terrorist fighters” from North Africa, Europe, and the Americas.The same data was also corroborated in an August 2019 press release by the Office of the Spokesperson, Special Envoy of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Ambassador James Jeffrey. Just under a 1,000 of the prisoners are believed to be Europeans. ICSVE has interviewed approximately five percent of those detained. Most appear to have become totally disillusioned, are exhausted from battle and prison and say they want to lay down arms. While there is no specific deradicalization or rehabilitation program applied to them at present and we have been requested by the SDF and also agreed to build one, it’s safe to say the majority are spontaneously deradicalizing and simply want to return home to their former lives after facing a judicial process.The SDF prisons are overcrowded and the SDF leadership repeatedly has expressed a need to ICSVE researchers for technical assistance in dealing with terrorist prisoners and for financial assistance to build at least five prisons. Riots and attempted jail breaks have occurred in SDF prisons holding foreign fighters. Likewise, recent news reporting shows over-capacity has prisoners sleeping next to each other on their sides to be able to fit into small and overcrowded rooms. Three detention centers holding ISIS women and children also are administered by the SDF: Camps Hol, Ain Issa and Roj. According to a UN Report as of April 2019 an estimated 75,000 women and children were being held. Our data suggests that at least 60,000 are Syrians and Iraqis. At least 8,000 children and 4,000 wives of foreign fighters remain in the camp.Women and children live in tents in these camps which are hot in the summer, freezing cold during winter, and leak cold rainwater as well.  Dust blows around the camps causing breathing difficulties for some. Women and children have died of typhus, tent fires, and other dangers in the camps. Recently vaccinations have been offered, but many mothers don’t trust the program and refrain from having their children vaccinated. The women cook for themselves and complain that the food provided them lacks nutritious fruits and vegetables. Schools are lacking as well.All of the camps housing women have suffered from ISIS enforcers still dedicated to the group who require the other women to continue to cover themselves and punish those who speak out against them. These women have attacked other women, set their tents on fire, stolen their possessions, attacked, bitten, beaten and stabbed guards and have murdered other women creating a sense of chaos, constant danger and oppression in the camps. Recently a gun fight broke out in Camp Hol, with one woman killed and seven wounded.Foreign fighters from about 60 countries remain in SDF custody. We have interviewed foreign fighters who are nationals of the United States, Canada, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Dagestan, Turkey, Denmark, Russia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, Switzerland, Egypt, and Germany. * * *A TRIBUNAL?* * *While the SDF has struggled to contain the overflow of captured ISIS fighters, they have been frustrated by Turkish politics and threats to their very existence. In recent years with the Syrian uprising and rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Turks saw it to be to their advantage to fund, train and equip Islamist rebels that they believed could keep the Kurdish independence movements in Syria in a weakened state or altogether destroyed. The Kurds, meanwhile, fought back in 2015 when ISIS invaded the city of Kobani on the Turkish border and rose up as a valiant on-the-ground force to repel the terrorists. The U.S. led coalition began arming and supplying the YPG and YPJ, and providing air cover, infusing the Kurds with a powerful sense of valor and military might that ultimately led to the complete territorial defeat of an Islamic State “Caliphate” that had taken as its motto “remain and expand.”ISIS is hardly a defeated foe however, with weekly sleeper cell attacks occurring in both Syria and Iraq and the likes of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi still making video and audio appeals to supporters around the world to reinstate the Caliphate, starting with breaking the ISIS prisoners out of captivity.The subject of ISIS captives is one of great importance to President Trump who repeatedly has threatened to release the roughly 12,000 ISIS foreign men, women and children prisoners held by the SDF in prisons and camps.  Trump’s view is that each country has to take its citizens back, even countries like Sweden that lack a terrorism law under which to prosecute returnees, and countries like France, which already has a serious militant jihadi prison problem and fears any more potential ISIS cadres inside its penitentiaries. These countries have continued to tell the SDF that an international tribunal can be established in its territory to try ISIS prisoners in place. But the UN Counter Terrorism Directorate and U.S. State Department strongly disagree with this proposal and President Trump continues to tweet that he is simply going to release the prisoners to European countries refusing to repatriate them—even though it is the SDF, not Washington, that has them in custody.In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump claimed erroneously that most of the ISIS prisoners are foreigner terrorist fighters and seemed to ignore that ISIS, even when based far away in Syria, is a very real threat to U.S. citizens and interests. It is “time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to … figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their “neighborhood.” They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”While arguments of who should be responsible to prosecute and hold ISIS prisoners can be made on both sides, in many ways Europe, Jordan and many other countries effectively did “flush the toilet” of their militant jihadi problem by allowing them to freely exit their countries to go fight in Syria, most of them ultimately joining ISIS. The U.S. at present repatriates all of its ISIS fighters bringing them to swift and sound justice at home.* * *ISIS AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY* * *Turkey also has a responsibility in the rise of ISIS, having allowed over 40,000 foreign fighters to cross over its border into Syria, many unabashedly on their way to join the Islamic State. Many prisoners tell us of Turkish complicity with their journey into ISIS-land and being wished well by border guards who winked as they crossed into Syria.Abu Mansour, a 36-year-old Moroccan ISIS emir interviewed by ICSVE in February 2019 in Iraqi prison, told us that he basically functioned as the ISIS ambassador to Turkey, negotiating border issues, the transfer of ISIS wounded into Turkey for treatment, the flow of foreign fighters across the Turkish border into ISIS territory, and other logistics. “The subject of Turkey is a very big one,” he said, “and the mutual interests include the obvious and the hidden.”“Their benefit was that it was a border area and we have a border strip with them,” Abu Mansour continued. “Security is one of them, and they wanted to control north of Syria.”  The Turks wanted to control the entire border region in Syria and even into Iraq as far as Mosul, according to Abu Mansour, but they wanted to do it through a proxy force. “So, they wanted to find organizations that would do this favor for them, including terminating the presence of the Kurdish Workers Party [the PKK], without a direct interference from Turkey. At the same time, especially since they were part of NATO, they don’t want to anger NATO, because they need NATO.”By the same token, Turkish President Erdogan’s background as a committed Islamist created a certain sympathy, as did his ambition to revive in modern form the old Ottoman empire, Abu Mansour claimed. “The pretext of [controlling the] Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] is a strong pretext for Turkey, but they have ambitions, as they have entered regions that don’t have PKK in them.” Abu Mansour explained the Turkish and ISIS relationship through his own experiences. In 2013, he said, he was assigned to receive the ISIS volunteers arriving in Turkey, but later, “I supervised the country entry operations, registration as a whole.”  Then in 2015, he said, “I worked on external relations, relations with the Turkish intelligence. It started when I was at the borders.” First there was an agreement about passing the wounded from Syria into Turkey, about the border crossing and security arrangements. “Ambulances, especially in critical and serious situations, could go straight to the [border] gate,” said Abu Mansour. “Then a Turkish ambulance takes the case to the Turkish hospitals, and it is followed up inside Turkey. There was a hotline with intelligence who are located at the borders. Most places were available, [including] hospitals in Turkey [and] there was a technical staff of doctors who follow up the case in Turkey. The [Turkish] state was paying for certain operations performed in private hospitals, but most cases referred by the public hospitals were for free.”Abu Mansour said he had “face-to-face meetings with Turkish delegations. Sometimes they represented the intelligence services, sometimes the Turkish army, depending on the issue. “Most meetings were in Turkey on the border strip, but there were also meetings in Ankara and Gaziantep, depending on the issue,” said Abu Mansour. He would travel with a delegation of two or three ISIS people.”Referencing the easy relationship, as he saw it, between ISIS and the Turkish intelligence and military, Abu Mansour claimed, an ISIS emir could “go to Ankara without a problem.  They always sent a car, or a bodyguard. At one point, we met weekly, depending on the issue and its importance to Turkey and to us, according to the demand.”The situation described by Abu Mansour raises a question: did the ultimate defeat of ISIS in fact deprive the Turks of the proxy buffer zone they wanted—which they are now invading Syria to establish?Abu Mansour recalled, “Turkey asked on many occasions for a safe zone.” This would be a demilitarized zone where it would provide ISIS with whatever it wanted, but only inside Syrian territories. According to Abu Mansour, , ISIS refused to grant it, and relations started to fall apart. Eventually, Turkey grew sick of the back and forth, and there was also a split in ISIS leadership, with one faction deciding it would take the terror war into Turkey with a 2016 bombing at Istanbul airport. At the time, Abu Mansour was in Gaziantep, Turkey, and the Turkish authorities told him they thought this was an orchestrated act to pressure Ankara. But he says that was not the case. The external security services of ISIS had started setting their own agenda, “carrying out operations everywhere,” Abu Mansour told us. “We reached a state in which they couldn’t care less about politics, and they worked like gangs, [and would] strike anywhere.”While Turkey continues to claim that the SDF, our strongest ally in fighting ISIS, is a terrorist dominated group, many questions remain about Turkey’s own complicity with ISIS. Given that during a bitterly fought war with ISIS, in which many Kurdish lives were lost, that the SDF managed to take control of the area, institute a functioning political system that included granting an impressive array of minority rights and rights to women, the SDF deserves our respect and protection.But U.S. President Donald Trump has put a price on all this. “The Kurds fought with us,” he tweeted, “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.” That they saved countless lives in the process, including American lives, does not seem to have been a factor.Spencer Ackerman also contributed reporting to this article.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



          

Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion   

Cache   

Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed a Turkish incursion into Syria, a senior administration official said, deepening confusion around his policy after an uproar from Republicans that he planned to abandon U.S. Kurdish allies.The official said Trump has cautioned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will bear responsibility for Islamic State prisoners in the region, as well as a resurgence of violence if the militants are freed and any harm to civilians in areas Turkey occupies.The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.Trump later suggested his move to clear the way for a Turkish invasion was intended in part to pressure European countries including France and Germany that, he said, have refused to accept the return of citizens who joined Islamic State.Trump said at a meeting with military leaders that he had urged U.S. allies to reclaim their citizens, but they had refused.“We’re not going to move the fighters to Guantanamo Bay and take care of them for many, many years into the future, that’s not for us,” he said. “Now it’s time for Germany and France and all of the nations where they came from to take them back and they chose no. Maybe they’re going to change their tune now, I don’t know.”Trump has come under criticism from allies including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and his former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, for his announcement late Sunday that the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way of the Turkish incursion.The White House statement was read around the world as Trump abandoning U.S. policy that Kurdish allies would be protected from Turkish aggression in exchange for their help in defeating Islamic State.Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is among the top Democratic contenders to challenge Trump’s re-election in 2020, said in a statement that “once again, an impulsive and erratic president has abandoned friends of the United States with a late-night tweet.”American officials didn’t immediately explain the president’s change in position on Syria. Trump’s order to remove about 50 U.S. troops from a Syria border region Turkey intends to invade doesn’t represent a green light for the incursion, the U.S. official said. The official added that Trump had discussed the decision with officials at the State Department and Pentagon before the White House announcement, and that the agencies should not have been surprised.The U.S. had successfully dissuaded Turkey from an invasion for two years, but if Erdogan orders an operation, the U.S. doesn’t want its soldiers endangered or caught in the crossfire, the official said.I’ve told President Erdogan, I hope he’s going to treat everybody with great respect,” Trump said at the meeting with military leaders. Earlier, he told reporters at the White House: “I have consulted with everybody.”“I fully understand both sides of it but I campaigned on the fact I was going to bring our soldiers home,” he said.The administration official did not say that any U.S. soldiers would be brought home as a result of the withdrawal. The troops moved from the border region, mostly special forces soldiers, would be re-positioned at different U.S. bases in Syria, the official said.(Updates with more Trump remarks, beginning in fourth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.net;Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

North Koreans Think Trump Admin Talks Are ‘Sickening.’ So Should You.   

Cache   

North Koreans Think Trump Admin Talks Are ‘Sickening.’ So Should You.Alex Wong/GettyIf President Donald Trump is thinking a deal with his friend Kim Jong Un might distract from his troubles at home, he'd better think again. The abrupt end of “working-level” negotiations between U.S. and North Korean officials in Stockholm over the weekend proves yet again that talking isn’t working. “Kim thought he could sucker us because of the president's statements and because our alliances are in trouble and because he believed Trump wanted a foreign policy success,” said David Maxwell, retired special forces colonel and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “We have to keep pushing Kim to really conduct negotiations, but the minute we give in to giving him concessions, he has won and we have lost.”While Trump Shrugs, North Korea’s Building Better MissilesIf the firing of the hawkish John Bolton as Trump’s national security adviser “helped Kim think he could get what he wants,” said Maxwell, the North Koreans at Stockholm yet again confirmed that Kim is not about to give up his precious nukes. The nuclear program was initiated by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, perpetuated by his father, Kim Jong Il, and is now the centerpiece of Kim’s defense policy.North Korea’s foreign ministry left no doubt about the failure of the talks. “We have no intention to hold such sickening negotiations as what happened this time,” said the statement, throwing cold water over the session in Stockholm, which had lasted eight hours and thirty minutes. The U.S. negotiator, Stephen Biegun, had tried in vain to present ideas that the Americans should have known would be unacceptable. A North Korean official identified only as a spokesperson, possibly First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who is a key figure in talks with the U.S., sarcastically mimicked Washington’s demand for “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.” The U.S., said the spokesperson, must take “a substantial step to make complete and irreversible withdrawal of the hostile policy toward the DPRK," i.e., the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.The statement wound up with a threat intended to catch the attention of Trump as he contemplates maybe a third summit with Kim–his fourth if you count their impromptu meeting on the North-South line at Panmunjom at the end of June.Better watch out, was the message. If the U.S. “again fingers [points] at the old scenario,” said the spokesperson, “the dealings between the DPRK and the U.S. may immediately come to an end.” Indeed, the statement concluded, “the fate of the future DPRK-U.S. dialogue depends on the U.S. attitude, and the end of this year is its deadline.”The Americans for their part seemed to think another round of talks would be just the thing to head off that looming deadline lest Kim inspire a crisis similar to that of two years ago when tests of nuclear warheads and long-range missiles were the norm. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. was accepting Sweden’s invitation to meet again in two weeks, but North Korea was having none of it.“The U.S. is spreading a completely ungrounded story that both sides are open to meet after two weeks,” said the North Korean spokesperson, but “it is not likely at all that it can produce a proposal commensurate to the expectations of the DPRK and to the concerns of the world in just fortnight [sic].”The statement decried the U.S. failure to come up with what the North Koreans call “a new calculation method,” dismissing out of hand the litany of proposals that Biegun had put on the table.The exact nature of that “calculation method” was not clear, but presumably it calls for prolonging the moratorium on testing nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles in exchange for relief from sanctions. The North might even suspend its aging nuclear complex at Yongbyon while fabricating warheads elsewhere in a step-by-step process immune from serious inspections and would surely press for an “end-of-war” declaration under which the U.S. would have to withdraw most of its 28,500 troops from South Korea.“The fundamental problem with Trump’s North Korea efforts—they can’t be called an actual policy—is that North Korea has not even considered giving up its nuclear weapons,” said David Straub, retired senior U.S. diplomat in Seoul and Washington. “As long as that’s the case, no amount of Trump sucking up to Kim will make a real difference, and Trump backed off maximum pressure long ago.”To veteran U.S. diplomats, Trump’s grasp on reality is far from clear. “As with many of his other policies, Trump is engaged in fantasy,” said Straub, “but because he engages in fantasy, who can predict how he will now respond?”  Straub asks if Trump “is mad at Pompeo and his negotiating team and will order even more gifts and concessions?”Evans Revere, who once headed the North Korean desk at the State Department and was number two U.S. diplomat in Seoul, sees the outcome at Stockholm as “a very predictable collapse.” The North Korean strategy, said Revere,  “appears to have been to take advantage of the U.S. fixation on working-level talks, use the testing of increasingly capable ballistic missiles to pressure Washington, and to issue threats about an end-of-year deadline to ensure the United States team came to the table with a more generous, flexible, and creative offer than the one Trump made in Hanoi.”Trump, Revere believes, “backed off maximum pressure long ago.”Under the circumstances, the U.S. was in no mood to articulate publicly its proposals at Stockholm. “The U.S. brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its DPRK counterparts,” said Ortagus at the State Department, citing but not explaining “a number of new initiatives that would allow us to make progress.”Clearly the North Koreans saw all that stuff as diplo-speak for an elaborate ruse to get them to give up their nukes while the North has flaunted its military prowess in short-range missile tests.Trump has said such tests are not in violation of any understanding reached with Kim at their first summit in Singapore last year, but North Korea most recently has aroused concerns by test-firing a short-range missile from an under-water platform. North Korea’s party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, called the prototype for a submarine-launched ballistic missile a “time bomb” and “most fearful dagger” pointed at its enemies. In theory, a submarine might be able to launch such a missile, tipped with a nuclear warhead, while submerged undetected off the U.S. west coast.In fact, the North Koreans in Stockholm seemed to have gained a measure of revenge for the humiliation of the second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi at the end of February when Trump walked out without reaching so much as a meaningless statement with Kim similar to the one that ended the Singapore summit.Donald Trump Enters the Eccentric Dictator Phase of His PresidencyThat denouement, which the North Koreans blamed on Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, resulted in the dismissal of the top North Korean advisers surrounding Kim, notably Kim Yong Chol, the North’s former intelligence chief, whom Pompeo had seen in Pyongyang, New York, and Washington. Trump, after his 45-minute closed-door meeting with Kim on the North-South line at Panmunjom on June 30, said Kim had agreed on working-level talks to bring about a real deal on the basis of their summit in Singapore. “The Kim regime may misperceive from Singapore that it can throw negotiators under the bus, rush into another summit, and extract greater concessions from Trump,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international relations at Ewha University in Seoul, “but a lesson from Hanoi is that if the North Koreans want sanctions relief, they’re going to have to do the work at the working level.” This time, however, the new North Korean negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, a veteran diplomat who had negotiated with Americans in talks in the '90s and then as ambassador to the United Nations, was taking no chances. The meeting, he said, had “not fulfilled our expectations and broke down.” Presumably, on orders from Pyongyang, he was not going to concede anything in return for whatever concessions the Americans might offer. Instead, he staged a walkout of his own.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



          

US withdrawal from Syria leaves fate of Isis fighters and families in detention uncertain   

Cache   

US withdrawal from Syria leaves fate of Isis fighters and families in detention uncertainTrump’s latest move has officials scrambling to understand the implications as Turkish forces gather near the Syrian borderTurkish fighters gather near the north-east Syrian border in preparation of a widely-anticipated invasion. Photograph: Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP via Getty ImagesKurdish forces in Syria have said the fate of tens of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters and their families is uncertain, after US forces began a sudden withdrawal from the country, abandoning their former ally on the eve of a widely-anticipated Turkish invasion.The effects of the shock retreat continued to reverberate through the region on Monday as Turkish forces massed near the border with the Kurdish stronghold of north-eastern Syria.The looming offensive– which was green-lighted by Donald Trump in a phone call to Recep Tayyip Erdogan late on Sunday – came as a surprise to US officials and allies, who were scrambling to understand the implications. There was a furious backlash in Congress, including from some of Trump’s closest allies, who accused the president of betraying the Kurds.The decision represents the latest in a series of erratic moves by Trump, who is fighting impeachment at home, apparently taken without consultation with, or knowledge of, US diplomats dealing with Syria, or the UK and France, the US’s main international partners in the country.A White House statement on Sunday night after his conversation with his Turkish counterpart said that: “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria”, adding that US forces were being removed from the area.The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday its US partners had already begun withdrawing troops from areas along Turkey’s border. Footage aired on Kurdish news agency Hawar purportedly showed US armoured vehicles evacuating key positions in the border region.The SDF spokesman, Mustafa Bali, accused the US of leaving the area to “turn into a war zone”, adding that the SDF would “defend north-east Syria at all costs”.But on Monday the Pentagon, which has been cooperating with Turkey along the Syrian border, issued a statement saying: “The department of defence made clear to Turkey – as did the president – that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in northern Syria. The US armed forces will not support or be involved in any such operation.”State department officials also sought to minimize the announcement, telling reporters that only about two dozen American troops would be removed from the Turkey-Syria border, and suggesting that Turkey might not go through with a large-scale invasion.In the face of fierce criticism from both political rivals and allies in Congress, Trump took to Twitter to try to defend the move and threaten Turkey.“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he said.“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” he said.It was unclear however, what was “off limits”.In earlier tweets, Trump had appeared unsentimental about the Kurds, noting that they had been paid “massive amounts of money and equipment” in the four year campaign, when they were used as the main US proxy to fight Isis in Syria.But the issue of Isis foreign fighters, most of them European, has clearly preoccupied the US president.Both Trump and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have repeatedly called on European states to repatriate around 20,000 foreign nationals currently held in north-east Syria for trial and rehabilitation at home.Trump argued it was up to Turkey and Europe and others, “to watch over the captured Isis fighters and families”.An SDF spokesman, Amjed Osman, said on Monday it was not clear what would happen to the prisoners. “We repeatedly called for foreign states to take responsibility for their Isis nationals. But there was no response,” he said in a statement. It is far from clear if Turkey has the capacity – or desire – to take custody of the detainees being held in crowded Kurdish jails and displacement camps, stretching the SDF to its limits and prompting warnings that militants are using the prisons to regroup.Some 74,000 women and children of the caliphate are held at the infamous Hawl camp, where they are guarded by just 400 SDF soldiers. But the camp, a hotbed of violence and extremist ideology, falls outside the parameters of the 32km-deep safe zone on the Turkish-Syrian border that Erdogan has said his forces would establish.Aid agencies warned that an offensive could displace hundreds of thousands of people, and create a new humanitarian disaster.Save the Children said that more than 9,000 children from 40 countries were being held in camps and depended on humanitarian aid to survive.“Reports of imminent military operations and troops already sent to the border are deeply troubling. The international community, including the UK, should take urgent steps to do what’s best for these children and bring them to their home countries before access becomes even more unpredictable,” the group said.The Guardian understands that the SAS and French special forces present in Rojava would be tasked with securing the camp perimeters if the Kurds withdrew. However, with only several hundred troops between them, their numbers would need to be quickly boosted by regular soldiers to avoid a catastrophic collapse in security.In Washington, the move was condemned by allies and opponents of the president. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said the move “poses a dire threat to regional security and stability, and sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia, as well as our allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner”.Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said: “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump loyalist on most issues, said he would call for Turkey’s suspension from NATO and introduce sanctions against Ankara if the Turks attack Kurdish forces.“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys,” Graham wrote in a tweet.During the campaign against Isis, the SDF did the bulk of the ground fighting to defeat Isis in Syria, losing 11,000 troops in the grinding battle. The senior ranks of the organisation are dominated by members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a four-decade guerilla war against the Turkish government.Ankara has long complained that, while fighting Isis, PKK forces were also waging war in Turkey.



          

Real Estate Department Assistant (m/f) - (Faro)    

Cache   
Sou uma empresa: Monte da Quinta Resort
Monte da Quinta Resort, unidade hoteleira de 5 estrelas, localizada na Quinta do Lago – Algarve, encontra-se a recrutar Real Estate Department Assistant, para apoiar a gestão do dia-a-dia da área imobiliária e desempenho de funções de ligação entre a gestão do hotel e esta área.
Requisitos : O profissional que procuramos deverá preencher os seguintes requisitos: - Formação e experiência na área hoteleira e imobiliária (4-5 anos); - Fortes conhecimentos da área comercial e marketing; - Fluência em inglês (conhecimentos de outras línguas serão valorizadas); - Excelentes capacidades de planeamento, organização e comunicação; - Excelente espírito de iniciativa e proatividade; - Forte orientação para o atingir de objetivos.
          

62 More Hepatatis A Cases in Florida, for Total of 2,738   

Cache   

Florida had 62 newly reported cases of hepatitis A last week, bringing the total number of cases for the year to 2,738 as of Saturday, a state Department of Health report shows. Pasco, Pinellas and Volusia counties continued to lead the state with 397, 369 and 244 cases, respectively.

The post 62 More Hepatatis A Cases in Florida, for Total of 2,738 appeared first on FlaglerLive.


          

Profit, not politics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal   

Cache   

KYIV, Ukraine – As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

On Friday, according to the news site Axios, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” regarding Biden. Axios cited a source saying Trump said Perry had asked Trump to make the call to discuss “something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.”

While it’s unclear whether Trump’s remark Friday referred specifically to the behind-the-scenes maneuvers this spring involving the multibillion-dollar state gas company, The Associated Press has interviewed four people with direct knowledge of the attempts to influence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Perry playing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The fourth is an American businessman with close ties to the Ukrainian energy sector.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Energy Department said Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, was not advancing anyone’s personal interests. She said his conversations with Ukrainian officials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country’s energy sector and create an environment in which Western companies can do business.

Perry was asked about the AP’s reporting on Monday while in Lithuania, where he was meeting with officials from Ukraine and other eastern European countries to discuss energy security and cooperation. He said any suggestion that he tried to force a management change at Naftogaz was a “totally dreamed up story.”

“We get asked for our recommendations about people who are experts in areas, various areas,” Perry said. “Folks who have expertise in particular areas. Obviously having been the governor of the state of Texas, I know a lot of people in the energy industry.”

The Trump and Giuliani allies driving the attempt to change the senior management at Naftogaz, however, appear to have had inside knowledge of the U.S. government’s plans in Ukraine. For example, they told people that Trump would replace the U.S. ambassador there months before she was actually recalled to Washington, according to three of the individuals interviewed by the AP. One of the individuals said he was so concerned by the whole affair that he reported it to a U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine months ago.

THE BUSINESSMEN

Ukraine, a resource-rich nation that sits on the geographic and symbolic border between Russia and the West, has long been plagued by corruption and government dysfunction, making it a magnet for foreign profiteers.

At the center of the Naftogaz plan, according to three individuals familiar with the details, were three such businessmen: two Soviet-born Florida real estate entrepreneurs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and an oil magnate from Boca Raton, Florida, named Harry Sargeant III.

Parnas and Fruman have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to Republicans, including $325,000 to a Trump-allied political action committee in 2018. This helped the relatively unknown entrepreneurs gain access to top levels of the Republican Party – including meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.

The two have also faced lawsuits from disgruntled investors over unpaid debts. During the same period they were pursuing the Naftogaz deal, the two were coordinating with Giuliani to set up meetings with Ukrainian government officials and push for an investigation of the Bidens.

Sargeant, his wife and corporate entities tied to the family have donated at least $1.2 million to Republican campaigns and PACs over the last 20 years, including $100,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund, according to federal and state campaign finance records. He has also served as finance chair of the Florida state GOP, and gave nearly $14,000 to Giuliani’s failed 2008 presidential campaign.

In early March, Fruman, Parnas and Sargeant were touting a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with another senior executive at the company, Andrew Favorov, according to two individuals who spoke to the AP as well as a memorandum about the meeting that was later submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, formerly known as Kiev.

Going back to the Obama administration, the U.S. Energy Department and the State Department have long supported efforts to import American natural gas into Ukraine to reduce the country’s dependence on Russia.

The three approached Favorov with the idea while the Ukrainian executive was attending an energy industry conference in Texas. Parnas and Fruman told him they had flown in from Florida on a private jet to recruit him to be their partner in a new venture to export up to 100 tanker shipments a year of U.S. liquefied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest distributor, according to two people briefed on the details.

Sargeant told Favorov that he regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full support, according to the two people who said Favorov recounted the discussion to them.

These conversations were recounted to AP by Dale W. Perry, an American who is a former business partner of Favorov. He told AP in an interview that Favorov described the meeting to him soon after it happened and that Favorov perceived it to be a shakedown. Perry, who is no relation to the energy secretary, is the managing partner of Energy Resources of Ukraine, which currently has business agreements to import natural gas and electricity to Ukraine.

A second person who spoke on condition of anonymity also confirmed to the AP that Favorov had recounted details of the Houston meeting to him.

According to Dale Perry and the other person, Favorov said Parnas told him Trump planned to remove U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and replace her with someone more open to aiding their business interests.

Dale Perry told the AP he was so concerned about the efforts to change the management at Naftogaz and to get rid of Yovanovitch that he reported what he had heard to Suriya Jayanti, a State Department foreign service officer stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv who focuses on the energy industry.

He also wrote a detailed memo about Favorov’s account, dated April 12, which was shared with another current State Department official. Perry recently provided a copy of the April memo to AP.

Jayanti declined to provide comment. Favorov also declined to comment.

On March 24, Giuliani and Parnas gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington with Healy E. Baumgardner, a former Trump campaign adviser who once served as deputy communications director for Giuliani’s presidential campaign and as a communications official during the George W. Bush administration.

She is now listed as the CEO of 45 Energy Group, a Houston-based energy company whose website describes it as a “government relations, public affairs and business development practice group.” The company’s name is an apparent nod to Trump, the 45th president.

This was a couple of weeks after the Houston meeting with Favorov, the Naftogaz executive. Giuliani, Parnas and Baumgardner were there to make a business pitch involving gas deals in the former Soviet bloc to a potential investor.

This time, according to Giuliani, the deals that were discussed involved Uzbekistan, not Ukraine.

“I have not pursued a deal in the Ukraine. I don’t know about a deal in the Ukraine. I would not do a deal in the Ukraine now, obviously,” said Giuliani, reached while attending a playoff baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins. “There is absolutely no proof that I did it, because I didn’t do it.”

During this meeting, Parnas again repeated that Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, would soon be replaced, according to a person with direct knowledge of the gathering. She was removed two months later.

Giuliani, who serves as Trump’s personal lawyer and has no official role in government, acknowledged Friday that he was among those pushing the president to replace the ambassador, a career diplomat with a history of fighting corruption.

“The ambassador to Ukraine was replaced,” he said. “I did play a role in that.”

But Giuliani refused to discuss the details of his business dealings, or whether he helped his associates in their push to forge gas sales contracts with the Ukrainian company. He did describe Sergeant as a friend and referred to Parnas and Fruman as his clients in a tweet in May.

As part of their impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have subpoenaed Giuliani for documents and communications related to dozens of people, including Favorov, Parnas, Fruman and Baumgardner’s 45 Energy Group.

Baumgardner issued a written statement, saying: “While I won’t comment on business discussions, I will say this: this political assault on private business by the Democrats in Congress is complete harassment and an invasion of privacy that should scare the hell out of every American business owner.”

Baumgardner later denied that she had any business dealings in Ukraine but refused to say whether the replacement of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed.

Sargeant did not respond to a voice message left at a number listed for him at an address in Boca Raton.

John Dowd, a former Trump attorney who now represents Parnas and Fruman, said it was actually the Naftogaz executives who approached his clients about making a deal. Dowd says the group then approached Rick Perry to get the Energy Department on board.

“The people from the company solicited my clients because Igor is in the gas business, and they asked them, and they flew to Washington and they solicited,” Dowd said. “They sat down and talked about it. And then it was presented to Secretary Perry to see if they could get it together.

“It wasn’t a shakedown; it was an attempt to do legitimate business that didn’t work out.”

THE ENERGY SECRETARY

In May, Rick Perry traveled to Kyiv to serve as the senior U.S. government representative at the inauguration of the county’s new president.

In a private meeting with Zelenskiy, Perry pressed the Ukrainian president to fire members of the Naftogaz advisory board. Attendees left the meeting with the impression that Perry wanted to replace the American representative, Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy representative who served in the Obama administration, with someone “reputable in Republican circles,” according to someone who was in the room.

Perry’s push for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to change its supervisory board was first reported by Politico.

A second meeting during the trip, at a Kyiv hotel, included Ukrainian officials and energy sector people. There, Perry made clear that the Trump administration wanted to see the entire Naftogaz supervisory board replaced, according to a person who attended both meetings. Perry again referenced the list of advisers that he had given Zelenskiy, and it was widely interpreted that he wanted Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas, to join the newly formed board, the person said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, another Texan who frequently works in Ukraine, the Energy Department confirmed.

Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, according to photographs reviewed by AP. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said he was floored by the American requests because the person had always viewed the U.S. government “as having a higher ethical standard.”

The Naftogaz supervisory board is supposed to be selected by the Ukrainian president’s Cabinet in consultation with international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union. It must be approved by the Ukrainian Cabinet. Ukrainian officials perceived Perry’s push to swap out the board as circumventing that established process, according to the person in the room.

U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said Perry had consistently called for the modernization of Ukraine’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business there. She said Perry delivered that same message in the May meeting with Zelenskiy.

“What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” Hynes said Saturday. “That is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist.”

Hynes said the Ukrainian government had requested U.S. recommendations to advise the country on energy matters, and Perry provided those recommendations. She confirmed Bleyzer was on the list.

Bleyzer, whose company is based in Houston, did not respond on Saturday to a voicemail seeking comment. Bensh also did not respond to a phone message.

Perry has close ties to the Texas oil and gas industry. He appointed Bleyzer to a two-year term on a state technologies fund board in 2009. The following year, records show Bleyzer donated $20,000 to Perry’s reelection campaign.

Zelenskiy’s office declined to comment on Saturday.

In an interview Friday with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Perry said that “as God as my witness” he never discussed Biden or his son in meetings with Ukrainian or U.S. officials, including Trump or Giuliani. He did confirm he had had a conversation with Giuliani by phone, but a spokeswoman for the energy secretary declined to say when that call was or whether the two had discussed Naftogaz.

In Lithuania on Monday, Perry said he could not recall whether Bleyzer’s name was on the list provided to Zelenskiy. But Perry confirmed he had known Bleyzer for years and called him “a really brilliant, capable businessman.”

“I would recommend him for a host of different things in Kyiv because he knows the country,” Perry said of Bleyzer. “He’s from there. So, why not? I mean I would be stunned if someone said that would you eliminate Michael Bleyzer from a recommendation of people you ought to talk to about how to do business in the country, whether they’re knowledgeable. It’d be remarkable if I didn’t say, `Talk to Michael.“’


          

Whistleblower’s attorney says team now representing ‘multiple’ officials   

Cache   

WASHINGTON – An attorney for the whistleblower who sounded the alarm about President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine said Sunday that “multiple” whistleblowers have come forward, deepening a political quagmire that has engulfed the president as well as several of his Cabinet members.

The news comes as House Democrats are accelerating their impeachment inquiry and subpoenaing documents related to Trump’s efforts to push foreign countries to investigate one of his political opponents, former vice president Joe Biden.

“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” the whistleblower’s attorney, Andrew Bakaj, said in a tweet. “No further comment at this time.”

Mark Zaid, who also is a member of the original whistleblower’s legal team, confirmed to the Washington Post that the team is now representing a second whistleblower, someone who works in the intelligence community. The second individual has spoken to the inspector general of the intelligence community and has not filed a complaint.

“Doesn’t need to,” Zaid said in a text message, adding that the person has “first hand knowledge that supported the first whistleblower.”

News that the original whistleblower’s team is representing a second person was first reported Sunday by ABC News.

Trump seized on the latest development in a Sunday night tweet.

“Democrat lawyer is same for both Whistleblowers? All support Obama and Crooked Hillary. Witch Hunt!” he said.

The crisis, which began last month with media reports revealing the original whistleblower’s complaint, has quickly metastasized across the Trump administration, ensnaring senior officials such as Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who came under further scrutiny over the weekend.

Trump largely stayed out of public view, spending Saturday at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, and Sunday at the White House. In tweets, he attacked Democrats and some Republican detractors, including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, whose ouster he demanded Saturday after Romney criticized him.

He also appeared to directly link the 2020 presidential race to his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate Biden, contrary to a tweet on Friday declaring that “this has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens.”

“And by the way, I would LOVE running against 1% Joe Biden – I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” Trump tweeted Sunday, arguing that Biden and his family were “PAID OFF, pure and simple!”

“Sleepy Joe won’t get to the starting gate, & based on all of the money he & his family probably ‘extorted,’ Joe should hang it up,” Trump added. “I wouldn’t want him dealing with China & [Ukraine]!”

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates responded by calling it “puzzling” that Trump would claim to love the prospect of a matchup against Biden, “seeing as how he just sent his administration into a tailspin by trying to bully a foreign country into spreading a comprehensively debunked conspiracy theory about the vice president.”

Biden’s son Hunter served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment. Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation.

As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom Biden and other Western officials, including Republicans, accused of not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. At the time, the investigation into Burisma was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.

On Saturday, Perry’s discussions with Ukrainian officials came to attention amid reports that Trump told Republicans on Friday that he made the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president at the request of Perry.

Asked about Trump’s comments, which were first reported by Axios, Energy Department spokeswoman Shylyn Hynes said in an email that Perry encouraged Trump to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to discuss energy security.

Pompeo, who was scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday, is facing growing pressure from Democrats seeking Ukraine-related documents.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Pompeo, who had spent much of the past week in Europe, missed a Friday deadline to comply with a subpoena for information about the State Department’s dealings with Ukraine. Pompeo asserts that a letter sent to the committee constitutes the department’s initial response.

The whistleblower complaint accused Trump of asking the Ukrainian government to help him with his reelection bid by launching an investigation into Biden. Democrats are also probing whether Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military assistance from Ukraine was linked to his push for the government there to pursue political investigations that could bolster the president’s reelection bid.

Text messages between State Department officials, revealed by House Democrats last week, show that there was at least some concern that Trump was pursuing an improper quid pro quo.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” diplomat William Taylor wrote on Sept. 9 to Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

Sondland, who has denied that Trump sought a quid pro quo, has agreed to meet privately on Tuesday with the three House panels – Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight – spearheading the probe, according to a committee aide.

On Friday, those three committees subpoenaed the White House for documents and wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence demanding that he turn over documents related to his talks with Zelensky.

Speaking at a Republican event in Louisiana on Saturday, Pence criticized Democrats but gave no indication about whether he would comply with their document request.

“Do-Nothing Democrats launched a partisan impeachment inquiry in a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the American people in the last election,” he said.

On Sunday, Trump’s campaign announced that the president would be traveling to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to hold a rally on Friday. The president will also have a rally on Wednesday in Minneapolis.

No White House officials made appearances on the Sunday morning news shows, leaving it up to congressional Republicans and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to defend the president in heated interviews during which they offered at-times-contradictory explanations for the president’s actions.

In a combative exchange on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd urged Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to explain why he told the Wall Street Journal about his concern in the summer that Trump had sought to link Ukrainian military aid to an investigation of the Bidens.

Johnson repeatedly declined to answer, instead raising a conspiracy theory and criticizing the media before finally stating that Trump had “adamantly denied” any quid pro quo.

Johnson also at one point said he does not trust U.S. intelligence agencies. “Something pretty fishy happened during the 2016 campaign and in the transition, the early part of the Trump presidency, and we still don’t know,” he said.

“We do know the answer,” an exasperated Todd responded, adding: “You’re making a choice not to believe the investigations that have taken place.”

Giuliani issued a defiant defense of Trump in an interview on Fox News Channel’s “MediaBuzz” in which he argued that the president “has every right to ask countries to help us in a criminal investigation that should be undertaken.”

Giuliani was named in the whistleblower’s complaint and in a rough transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky as being a key intermediary in back-channel efforts to pursue the allegations against Biden.

But other Republicans sought to play down Trump’s comments, including his exchange with reporters outside the White House on Thursday in which he urged China to investigate Biden.

In an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, echoed a suggestion on Friday by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that Trump’s China statement was not “a real request.”

“George, you really think he was serious about thinking that China’s going to investigate the Biden family? … I think he’s getting the press all spun up about this,” Jordan told host George Stephanopoulos.

During the interview, Stephanopoulos repeatedly sought an answer from Jordan on whether he thinks it is appropriate for Trump to ask China and Ukraine to investigate Biden. Jordan dodged the question more than a dozen times.

Democrats on Sunday defended their party’s efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of the Intelligence Committee, supported Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s view that no vote by the full House is necessary for an impeachment inquiry to move forward.

She added that she thinks the House “will have to take a serious look at articles of impeachment” based on the evidence that has emerged.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, N.Y., a key member of House Democratic leadership, said on “This Week” that “the evidence of wrongdoing by Donald Trump is hiding in plain sight.”

“The administration, without justification, withheld $391 million in military aid from a vulnerable Ukraine,” he said. “The president then pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 elections and target an American citizen for political gain. That is textbook abuse of power.”


          

Colin Powell’s Trump Problem   

Cache   

When the compromised speak of judgment, the voice of credibility vanishes.  In its place, a certain niggling sense of hypocrisy and weakness prevails.  Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell is one of those of those compromised voices.  He presided over a redundant State Department before the pressures of the Pentagon and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, keen to initiate[Read More...]

The post Colin Powell’s Trump Problem appeared first on Countercurrents.


          

Demoralized State Department personnel question Pompeo’s role in Ukraine crisis   

Cache   
Defenders of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say he is caught between the demands of the president and his role as steward of U.S. foreign policy.
          

Former Envoy Gives New Details on Giuliani’s Role in Ukraine Policy   

Cache   
Former Envoy Gives New Details on Giuliani’s Role in Ukraine PolicyWASHINGTON — The former State Department special envoy for Ukraine told congressional investigators that Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, demanded that Ukraine specifically commit to investigate involvement in the 2016 election and a firm tied to former Vice President Joe Biden.
          

Two U.S. State Department Officials To Be Deposed As Impeachment Probe Rolls On   

Cache   
Three U.S. congressional committees will continue to hear from witnesses on October 8 as part of their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
          

Volker steps down from McCain Institute post as impeachment cloud causes 'distraction'   

Cache   
The former State Department official is one of the key players in the impeachment investigation into President Trump.
          

DC INSIDER: Second Trump Whistleblower Is the Source for First Whistleblower – It’s a CIA “Feedback Loop” (VIDEO)   

Cache   

Peter Van Buren is a former State Department official and a whistleblower. On Monday he spoke with Tucker Carlson on the current Democrat-Deep State coordinated attack to remove President Trump in a political coup. Peter described the current accusations of the left as a “three way pitch-and-toss” between the Democrat Party, the liberal media and […]

The post DC INSIDER: Second Trump Whistleblower Is the Source for First Whistleblower – It’s a CIA “Feedback Loop” (VIDEO) appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.


          

Wife Of U.S. Diplomat Flees U.K. After Fatal Car Crash, Avoiding Police Investigation   

Cache   
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he hopes the woman will return to face justice. The State Department says the immunity given to diplomats and their family members overseas "is rarely waived."
          

10/05 Links: Bari Weiss' revolutionary anti-antisemitism action plan; Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to headline J Street conference; Phyllis Chesler: Gilead Resembles an Islamic Theocracy, not Trump’s America   

Cache   
From Ian:

Bari Weiss' revolutionary anti-antisemitism action plan
I am intellectually curious about Weiss’s thoughts on the fourth pillar of antisemitism that contaminates Western Europe: Guilt-defensiveness antisemitism.

The Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex famously remarked, with biting sarcasm, that “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”

Based on my nearly 20 years of writing and analyzing contemporary antisemitism in Continental Europe, I posit that Rex’s formulation about German society punishing Jews because of the memory of the Shoah, which infuses pathological guilt into many Germans, needs to be updated.

In a modernized version of Rex, one might say that Western Europeans will never forgive Israel for the Holocaust. In short, that Western European countries such as France, Sweden, Austrian, Italy and others that were complicit in the Shoah are intensely focused on imposing discipline and punishment on Israel because of their guilt associated with Holocaust. What other plausible explanation exists for Western Europe’s relentless attacks on Israel and its singling out of Israel, only Israel, for a punitive demarcation of its products from the disputed territories in the West Bank and the Golan?

There has been progress recently in Germany in the fight against contemporary antisemitism, Weiss notes, for example the Bundestag decision to classify the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign targeting Israel as anti-Semitic.

However, there is still the problem that John le Carré described so forcefully in his novel The Little Drummer Girl (1983), when the Palestinain terrorist Khalil says, “We have many friends in Germany. But not because they love Palestinians. Only because they hate Jews.”

A 2017 German government study revealed that nearly 33 million Germans, out of a total population of 82 million, are infected with contemporary antisemitism–that is hatred of the Jewish state.

The report said, in a section titled “Agreement with Israel-related antisemitism,” that 40% of Germans who were polled approved of the following statement: “Based on Israel’s policies, I can understand people having something against the Jews.”
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to headline J Street conference
The two most powerful Democratic politicians in America, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, will headline the annual conference of J Street, the liberal Israel lobby.

The conference, which drew 3,000 people last year, is among the most prominent liberal Jewish gatherings of the year. It will take place in late October, and Pelosi and Schumer will speak on the night of Oct. 28. Pelosi recently launched an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Schumer’s presence at the conference is especially notable because he has established a reputation as a traditional pro-Israel voice in the Senate. He is a perennial speaker at the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which is to the right of J Street. He also voted against President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement in 2015, a deal that J Street strongly supported.

J Street advocates for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and has been a frequent Trump critic. Its affiliated political action committee, JStreetPac, raised $5 million for more than 100 Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.

“At a time when many of our core values are under threat both in Israel and here at home, J Street is proud to stand with so many allies who are defending democracy and working towards a better future,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.

Swastikas in NJ Schools Symptom of Deeper Challenge of Antisemitism, Bigotry, Democratic Congressman Says
New Jersey is experiencing a “huge increase” in antisemitic activity and “every tool” needs to be used to combat the trend, the congressman representing the state’s 5th electoral district declared on Friday.

Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer was speaking on a conference call arranged to address a spate of swastika daubings and other antisemitic offenses in New Jersey public schools in recent weeks.

Highlighting the growing threat posed by white supremacist groups across the state, Gottheimer emphasized that his office was actively assisting security enhancement at religious institutions.

“We’re working together with our communities and our religious institutions by providing them with non-profit security grants,” Gottheimer said.

Grants of over $1 million this year have assisted synagogues, mosques, temples and other religious buildings with extra lighting, better locks and other safety measures.




Phyllis Chesler: Gilead Resembles an Islamic Theocracy, not Trump’s America
Misogynist thinking and actions exist in America today but not only among right-wing conservatives. It is also flourishing among our media and academic elites. Such thinking is flying high under the banner of “free speech,” “multi-cultural relativism,” “anti-racism,” and “political correctness.” Dare to question this elite’s right to silence and shame those who challenge their views—i.e., that the West is always to blame, that jihadists are freedom-fighters, that the Islamic face veil is a free choice or a religious commandment, that polygamy encourages sisterhood, that Islam is a race, not a religious and political ideology—and, as I’ve noted many times, one is attacked as a racist, an Islamophobe, and a conservative, and swiftly demonized and de-platformed.

While MGM/Hulu’s TV series is dramatically compelling, part soap opera, part horror movie, part Warrior Queen fantasy, the series is radically different from Atwood’s 1985 novel. For example, Atwood’s narrator, Ofglen, is not an increasingly daring, crazed, female assassin, as Elizabeth Moss brilliantly plays her. She is hardly heroic at all; under totalitarianism, heroism, collective or individual, is quickly ferreted out and destroyed. It exists but is rare.

Contemporary viewers are hungry for multi-racial characters, interracial and same-sex couples, “badass” women. Hulu gives them to us. Hulu’s Canada is a multi-racial, politically correct refuge for Gilead’s escapees; same-sex couples and feminists are government leaders. This is not true in the novel. On the contrary, in her 1985 Epilogue, Atwood has Canada rounding up and returning all Gilead escapees.

Atwood the divine novelist is absolutely entitled to depict whatever she wishes. But the current crop of reviewers as well as the filmmakers are playing partisan politics with her original vision and are refusing to see other and larger global dangers contained in her work.

Women’s freedom and women’s lives worldwide are under the most profound siege. To focus solely on the United States or on the Caucasian, Judeo-Christian West is diversionary. It scapegoats one country, one culture, for the far greater crimes of other countries and cultures.
Most Wars Don't Get Named Until Years After the Fighting Is Done. Others, Like the Yom Kippur War, Are Different.
The confidence of 1967 had turned out to be arrogant pride in 1973; its optimism, the folly of wishful thinking. Although there had been ample indications of the impending Egyptian and Syrian attack, Israel’s leadership had refused to believe it would happen and had not taken the necessary precautions. Menachem Begin, then the leader of the opposition, was speaking for all Israelis when, shortly after the war’s end, he declared in the Knesset:
Grief over the terrible mistake [of not calling up the reserves in advance and/or undertaking a preventive strike] . . . will never cease to haunt us. All would have been different, militarily and politically, were it not for the New Moon to the Tenth’s blindness.

Begin, a master rhetorician, had chosen his words carefully. “The New Moon to the Tenth,” beyn keseh l’asor, is a traditional rabbinic phrase for the ten “days of awe” from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur; the literal meaning of keseh (based on Psalms 81:4) is “covering up,” that is, the disappearance of the old moon at the month’s end before the new moon is sighted. Furthermore, the literary term used by Begin for “blindness,” likuy m’orot, which in Hebrew signifies more a judgmental or moral loss of vision than a physical one, also means “eclipse.” The intended parallelism was painfully apparent: as the light of the moon is eclipsed at the beginning of the ten days preceding Yom Kippur, so was the judgment of Israel’s leaders.

Ever since 1973, Yom Kippur has had a significance in Israel that it does not have in the rest of the Jewish world. Besides being a day of judgment for the sins of the individual, it has been seared into Israeli consciousness as a day of judgment for the nation—one on which a whole country was found guilty of the sin of hubris and made to pay a terrible price for it.

In colloquial Israeli speech, the words yom kippur have come to denote any shocking comeuppance, so that saying that something was someone’s “Yom Kippur” is like saying in English “It was his Waterloo.” There will never again be a Yom Kippur in Israel without this double sense of it, and the day’s heavy somberness is felt even by those who do not relate to it religiously. It will indeed always continue to haunt.
The War of Attrition: The “War Between The Wars”
Israel is the only country in the world that lives in a status called “the war between the wars.” Since it is surrounded by enemies who seek its destruction, even when not in official wartime, it is constantly dealing with small scale attacks from those enemies. The greatest example of this status is the three-year period from 1967 to 1970, a period which is now referred to as the “War of Attrition.”

One would have thought that Israel’s resounding victory over all the neighboring Arab countries in the June 1967 Six Day War would have given the Jewish state a few years of peace and quiet.

But this wasn’t the case.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was determined to do whatever possible to win back the Sinai Peninsula which Israel captured during the war that ended on June 9, 1967. While the Six Day War was over, it wasn’t long until the War of Attrition began.

As early as July 1, Egyptian commandos moved to within 10 miles of the Israeli position on the eastern side of the Suez Canal. Israel, working under a plan to prevent Egyptian forces gathering in the area, attacked the commandos and lost one soldier with 13 wounded. The next day, the Israeli air force bombed the Egyptian artillery that was providing cover for its commandos. That led to an Egyptian air force strike against Israeli forces in the Sinai and, for all intents and purposes, the June 9 ceasefire was no longer relevant. Skirmishes between the two sides continued throughout July with numerous Egyptian fighter jets shot down by Israel and Israel sinking two Egyptian torpedo boats.

There was relative quiet during August, September and most of October but then on October 21, 1967, the Egyptian Navy sunk the Eilat, an Israeli naval destroyer, in international waters off the coast of Port Said, killing 47 Israeli sailors. Israel retaliated with extensive bombing of Egyptian oil refineries and depots in the region, resulting in significant artillery battles between the two sides, with the Egyptians suffering civilian casualties.
Iranian hackers reportedly targeted Trump 2020 presidential campaign
Microsoft said Friday that it believed that hackers linked to the Iranian government have recently targeted a US presidential campaign, as well as government officials, media targets and prominent expatriate Iranians.

Overall, the hackers attempted to penetrate 241 accounts — four successfully — though none of those penetrated was associated with presidential campaigns or current or past US officials, Microsoft said. A company spokeswoman declined to identify those targeted, citing customer privacy.

Reuters and The New York Times reported that the attacks targeted US President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, but this could not be independently confirmed.

A review of publicly available internet records by AP showed that the Trump campaign’s official website is linked to Microsoft’s email service.

The campaign website is the only major candidate’s site connected to Microsoft’s cloud email service, and his campaign has spent tens of thousands of dollars on the company’s products, Reuters said.

The New York Times report saying Trump was targeted cited two people with knowledge of the attacks who were not allowed to discuss them publicly, and said it wasn’t clear if the campaign had been compromised in any way.
Israel and Gulf states said working on ‘non-aggression pact’ as they face Iran
Israel is reportedly negotiating with several Gulf states on a “non-aggression pact” between them as they face off against an increasingly emboldened Iran. The deal, which Channel 12 news described as potentially “historic,” aims to put an end to the state of conflict between these states and Israel.

Advancing the Israeli initiative, Foreign Minister Israel Katz met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month with several foreign ministers from Arab Gulf states, Channel 12 news reported Saturday night.

There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Ministry, but Katz himself on September 23 tweeted that he had held talks with an unnamed counterpart from an Arab country with which Israel does not have formal relations, and said they discussed “ways to deal with the Iranian threat” and a process for boosting “civilian cooperation.”

Katz, who is leading the effort with the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed with his Gulf Arab interlocutors to set up working teams to take the non-aggression pact forward, the TV report said.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)

Katz presented his Gulf counterparts with a draft text of the intended pact, which was drawn up by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the TV report said. It reportedly highlights the opportunity to advance common interests in the context of the threat posed by Iran, and is drafted in accordance with principles of international law. Among other elements, the TV report said, the draft text specifies cooperation in the fields of war, the fight against terror, and economic interests.
Saudis said moving toward detente with Iran amid US reluctance to act militarily
Sensing US reluctance to respond forcefully to Iranian aggression in the region, and following the devastating September attack on its oil facilities blamed on Tehran, Saudi Arabia is quietly moving toward possible rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, according to multiple media reports.

The New York Times reported Friday that the Trump administration’s failure to react militarily to the September 14 missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, which jolted global oil prices and temporarily knocked out nearly 6 percent of the world’s daily crude production, had led Riyadh to recalculate.

“The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the US to support them and find out they won’t,” Philip Gordon, a former White House Middle East coordinator told the Times. “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.”

The strikes were claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen, but Saudi Arabia, the US and other Western powers have said the attack was sponsored by Tehran. In its aftermath, US President Donald Trump was presented with a range of military options, including potential airstrikes on targets inside Iran. But he was also warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to US officials familiar with the discussions.

Trump during a White House meeting last Friday put off, at least for now, any immediate military strike on Iran, but approved a broader effort to beef up security in Saudi Arabia and the region. He told reporters that showing restraint “shows far more strength” than launching retaliatory strikes now.
2 rockets fired from Gaza set off sirens, fall short of border fence, IDF says
Two projectiles fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Friday fell short of the border fence, landing inside the Hamas-held territory, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The launches triggered incoming rocket sirens in the Gaza border community of Kissufim in southern Israel shortly before midnight.

The incident came hours after a Palestinian man was killed during riots along the Gaza-Israel border fence on Friday, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, as thousands took part in weekly protests.

Alaa Hamdan, 28, was shot in the chest by IDF soldiers in a clash near Jabalia in northern Gaza, the ministry’s spokesman said. The IDF had no immediate comment on the death.

Israel’s Channel 12 said the death may have been caused by a Palestinian grenade.

Five other demonstrators were wounded by gunfire, the Hamas-run ministry said.

Around 6,000 Palestinians took part in the day’s protests with some rioters throwing rocks and explosives at the security fence and troops along the border.
Ramallah Youths’ Discovery of IDF Camouflaged Surveillance Camera May Hurt Microsoft Startup
Youths from the village of Kober, northwest of Ramallah, posted a video and photos showing a camouflaged video camera that was hidden inside a concrete block by Israeli security forces in the village cemetery, Ma’an reported Friday.

According to Arab social network sites, the young men who found the spy device set it on fire after confirming it was a broadcast camera that transmits their movements.

In a video posted on the website of the journalist Tamer Barghouti from Kober, the young men appear to dismantle the device, which included a camera, a transmitter, and a battery, and celebrate their discovery with great joy.

On Tuesday, the IDF arrested three young men from Kober, out of whom it released two brothers and kept suspect Nassim Barghouti in detention.

According to Ma’an, the surveillance device was made by the Holon-based Israeli company AnyVision (“We build the future, Pixel by Pixel”), which specializes in facial recognition technology.

In June, Microsoft’s M12 venture fund announced its investment in AnyVision, just as soon as it is determined whether its products adhered to Microsoft’s tough AI ethics standards. Eventually, AnyVision reported that all its investors, including Microsoft, were satisfied it was a “tool for good.” But by mid-July, Haaretz reported that the IDF is using AnyVision’s face recognition technology at Judea and Samaria checkpoints as well as inside Arab communities, leading to a wave of criticism of Microsoft’s investment in AnyVision.
PA agrees to accept tax funds from Israel, ending stand-off over terror salaries
The Palestinian Authority has agreed to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues collected by Israel, after months of declining them in protest over Jerusalem withholding money over payments to terrorists, Palestinian officials said Friday.

The transfers amount to some 600 million Israeli shekels (about $170 million) a month and are a key source of financing for the PA.

The PA had refused to accept the funds because Israel was withholding an amount equal to what the Palestinians pay to terrorists and their families, but the cash-strapped PA appears to be retreating in the face of an economic crisis.

Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund rewards and encourages violence, while the Palestinians say it is a way to provide for needy families affected by the decades-old conflict.

Hussein al-Sheikh, an aide to Abbas, tweeted Friday that he had met with Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon the day before to discuss “all outstanding issues” and that committees would continue the negotiations on Sunday.

“The agreement was also on transferring a payment from the #PA’s financial dues. The dispute (remains) over the salaries of the families of #prisoners and #martyrs. We are determined to pay their dues at all costs.”
Egypt parliament speaker praises Hitler to defend government spending
The speaker of Egypt’s parliament on Wednesday clarified his praise of Adolf Hitler a day earlier to justify spending on government construction projects.

At the opening session of parliament Tuesday, Ali Abdel Aal implored lawmakers to back Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi amid anti-government protests. According to the Middle East Eye news site, Aal asked lawmakers to observe a minute of silence as a sign of support for Sissi’s “project to build the modern Egyptian state.”

“Hitler had his mistakes, but what allowed him to expand eastward and westward was that he created a strong infrastructure for the German state that remains the source of its leading position in the First World,” Aal was quoted saying.

After the remarks were reported on, Aal said Wednesday that Hitler “has committed a lot of crimes” and that his praise was of German civilization and development, not the Nazi leader.

“Everybody is aware of what Adolf Hitler has done to humanity; hence no one with the minimum level of knowledge can praise him for his actions,” Aal said during a parliamentary session, Egypt Today reported.
MEMRI: Warm Encounter Between Arab League Secretary-General, Syrian Regime Representatives On Margins Of UNGA Reignites Speculation About Syria's Reinstatement In Arab League
Unexpectedly, on the margins of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Arab League secretary-general Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit approached the Syrian delegation, greeted Syrian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem and called him "brother," shook his hand and the hand of his deputy Faisal Al-Miqdad, kissed them both, and said he was happy to see them.

Apparently, this friendliness towards the Syrian leadership on the part of the secretary-general of the Arab League – which suspended Syria's membership on November 12, 2011 because of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's harsh repression of the Arab Spring protests in the country[1] – is further evidence of an uptick in Syria's status in the Arab world and of the erosion of Arab opposition to the Syrian regime.[2]

For some three years, a number of Arab states – including Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Lebanon, Algeria, and the Palestinian Authority – have been calling to allow Syria back in to the Arab League.[3] UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash even stated, in a June 7, 2018 interview, that "expelling Syria from the Arab League was a mistake."[4] In addition, the Arab Youth and Environment Union, which belongs to the Arab League, announced on October 2 that it would reinstate Syria as a member in the next few days.[5]
Seth J. Frantzman: Why did Iraqi forces shoot protesters?
A variety of videos coming out of Baghdad show security forces shooting at protesters. Over the last twenty-four hours, as Friday turned to Saturday, the number of reports of snipers gunning down activists has grown. The elephant in the room cannot be ignored: Someone in Iraq’s government told a section of the security forces to use live-fire to kill protesters. It wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t because police were outnumbered, and it wasn’t isolated incidents.

Why would Iraqi forces shoot the protesters from the same cities and southern provinces that many of the security forces or Popular Mobilization Units are drawn from? The question may is worth asking because there have been various rumors and claims about the protests in Iraq that have posited that those doing the killing and using the most heavy-handed measures are Iranian-linked groups. This creates an easy narrative of “Iran suppressing protests in Iraq,” as part of the larger Iranian goal to control Iraq for its own purposes.

To support the narrative of Iran’s role there have been stories about “Farsi speakers among the security forces” and “units changing uniforms” before attacking protesters. There are stories about plain-clothes officers among the security forces which leads to claims those in plain clothes are outsiders. In this narrative, spread in Arabic on social media, an “Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brigade” was permitted to enter Iraq by Fatah Alliance leader Hadi al-Amiri. Evidence? Some people tweeting about it.

The claim of foreign interference goes both ways. Others have pointed out that a concerted social media effort has been made to fuel protests and some of the accounts are located abroad. Lastly voices in pro-Iranian media have portrayed the protests as directed by foreign powers.

None of these stories present a full picture of what happened. Like the proverbial elephant, they all only capture one part of what happened. From the first moments of the protest the security forces that were sent used heavy-handed tactics. Video showed men in camouflage uniforms, heavily armed, involved in clashes, as well as other police-style units in darker uniforms.
Iraqi protesters claim Iranian forces firing on demonstrations
Farsi-speaking Iranians, not Iraqi forces, have been firing on protests in Iraq in which 65 people have died, said one protester interviewed by Reuters, according to Al Arabiya.

"There is no work, you come to protest, they fire at you. Live gunfire,"said the unnamed protester."They are all Iranian-speaking in Farsi. You want to speak to them, they answer in Farsi. The Iraqis would not fire at you."

The Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) milita in Iraq is backed by Iran.

Witnesses at the protests in Baghdad said that pro-Iranian security forces opened fire on protesters.

Protests broke out throughout Iraq against the deterioration of living conditions and health services, government corruption, unemployment and Iranian interference in the country.

The protests have no clear leader and seem to consist of gatherings of angry protesters.
In apparent swap, Iran frees Australian travel bloggers charged with spying
In a possible swap, an Australian-British blogger and her fiancé returned home Saturday after being freed from a three-month detention in Iran.

The couple, Jolie King and Mark Firkin, returned to Australia after all charges against them were dropped.

At the same time, Iran’s state TV reported that an Iranian scientist, Reza Dehbashi, who was detained for 13 months in Australia over purchasing a defense system for his country from the United States, had returned home.

“We are extremely happy and relieved to be safely back in Australia with those we love,” the Australian couple said in a statement. “While the past few months have been very difficult, we know it has also been tough for those back home who have been worried for us.”

They thanked the Australian government for helping secure their release.

There was no immediate acknowledgment Saturday by Iranian officials or in the country’s state media of the couple’s release. However, that has happened in previous cases.

Iranian TV said that the Australian judiciary had planned to send Dehbashi to the US but that he was released through Tehran’s diplomatic efforts.
Man crying ‘Allahu Akbar’ tries to run into Berlin synagogue with knife
A man armed with a knife attempted to run into a synagogue in central Berlin Friday evening, German media reported Saturday.

The man, apparently a Syrian refugee, was tackled by security personnel at the entrance to the Neue Synagogue. According to the Bild website, he was heard calling out “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great” in Arabic) and “F##k Israel.”

German police said the man, identified as Murad M., was hit with pepper spray by guards and then subdued and disarmed.

Officials said he carried documentation identifying him as 23 years old, originating from Damascus and with a residency permit, which ends in December 2020.

The incident occurred at around 5:30 p.m. according to Bild, likely shortly before the start of Friday’s evening prayer service.

Police said the assailant had no prior record and was not known to authorities.

The investigation was ongoing, but German media said that the man was released from police custody on Saturday morning.
John Mann warns against risk of understating problem of antisemitism
The Government’s new antisemitism adviser has warned that between overstatement and understatement of antisemitism, “the biggest danger is that we will understate the problem.”

Speaking after his first public engagement in his new job, John Mann MP, who has resigned from the Labour Party and will become a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, explained that he accepted his new advisory role to prevent “good people, young people” from deciding to emigrate from the UK because of rising antisemitism.

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer has shown that 40% of British Jews have considered leaving the country due to antisemitism.

If action were not taken against antisemitism, he warned, “the reality will be that good people will leave. Not necessarily quickly — but good people will not see their future on the continent of Europe or on the UK because they are Jewish, and they wish for their identity to be proudly held at all times. We are not going to accept – and government is not going to accept — that impingement on civil liberties in this country.”

Observing the rise of antisemitism on university campuses, Mr Mann noted too the “pernicious, silent, isolating disdain” shown towards Jewish students “from hostile elements in their universities,” adding that he would be pushing for the adoption and application of the International Definition of Antisemitism by “our major institutions, football clubs, universities — this is achievable.”
CAA condemns University of Nottingham for inviting suspended MP Chris Williamson to speak
The University of Nottingham has defended a decision to invite Chris Williamson MP to speak on its campus.

Mr Williamson was suspended from Labour and then readmitted, only to be resuspended following a public outcry after claiming that Labour has been “too apologetic” over antisemitism.

The disgraced MP is scheduled to speak on 11th October as part of a series on “British Politics in Crisis” at the Centre for British Politics.

Jewish students at the university have reportedly called for the invitation to be withdrawn, citing Mr Williamson’s “history of Jew baiting.”

Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “It is a damning reflection on the University of Nottingham that it chooses to invite a politician suspended from the Labour Party over his attempts to minimise the Party’s antisemitism crisis and who has a record of praising antisemites to give a lecture. If the university wishes to teach its students why British politics is in crisis, it might start by exploring why leading institutions are so ready to legitimise Labour antisemitism by inviting one of its chief defenders to speak.”

On 28th May, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
Labour MP Emma Dent Coad likes Facebook comment claiming Israel “disgraces all of us Jews worldwide”, then apologises
Emma Dent Coad, who was elected as a Labour MP in 2017 for Kensington, ‘liked’ a comment on Facebook by another user that read: “I’ve always been a Bevanite — my ultimate political hero…and as a Jew, the current Israeli apartheid regime disgraces all of us Jews worldwide.”

The comment was posted in response to a post by another user that criticised “Blairite” MPs and “members of the Netanyahu fan club”.

Following media attention, Ms Dent Coad apologised and ‘unliked’ the comment.

On 28th May, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.

In recent months, twelve MPs and three peers have resigned from the Labour Party over antisemitism, along with a large number of MEPs, councillors and members.

Over 55,000 people have now signed our petition denouncing Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite and declaring him “unfit to hold any public office.”
Conservative MP Crispin Blunt suggests British Jews “demand special status” and reportedly says grants for Jewish security are a waste of money
The Conservative MP Crispin Blunt made a reference to “the demand for special status” on the part of British Jews in an interview on the sidelines of the Conservative Party Conference this week.

Mr Blunt made the comment following a fringe event at the Party Conference in his capacity as patron of the Conservative Humanists group. At the event, which was held in conjunction with Humanists UK, the chair of Conservative Humanists protested previous comments by the Chief Rabbi, who had apparently suggested that some humanists were becoming intolerant of religion.

Asked for his reaction to the chair’s comments, Mr Blunt suggested: “I think what he was saying was regarding the demand for special status…what’s required is for everyone to have tolerance of other people’s position and not to impose unfair views.”

The notion, however casually expressed, that Jews demand or receive special status in British society is baseless and offensive. Any dispensations that Jews do receive, for example in the workplace, are also shared by other faith groups and protected classes.
Alison Chabloz and the Criminalization of Holocaust Denial
Late last month, a musician named Alison Chabloz was sent to prison in the United Kingdom for violating the terms of an earlier court decision prohibiting her from using social media — a decision stemming from her dissemination of videos featuring songs she wrote that mocked the Holocaust. In the UK, this story made many of the major papers, but it has hardly registered at all in the United States.

But here’s why it should:
This case was a watershed decision in the battle against antisemitism. The UK has laws expressly forbidding hate speech that tries to incite hatred of other groups or is grossly offensive in nature. As such, and in light of her social-media malfeasance, Chabloz — who has posted content on her website alisonchabloz.com with headlines such as “In Defence of a Myth–‘Holocaust’ lobby shifts into top gear” and “Hear the Jew cry out in pain as the White lady sings” was incarcerated for a couple of days before being released pending her appeal hearing. That is scheduled for late October.

Chabloz, who has remained unrepentant despite her losing cause, has become something of a symbol of resistance to anti-hate speech legislation. Her supporters argue that Chabloz shouldn’t have been put in jail just for singing songs. They claim that regardless of the fact that Chabloz perpetuated an utterly repellent ideology through her music, the idea of instituting such a harsh punishment for posting content on social media is extreme in light of a person’s right to self-expression.
Why did UK’s Holocaust memorial events remove references to Jews?
The University College Union in the United Kingdom sent an email to branches that excluded mention of Jews among the groups persecuted during the Holocaust. According to The Jewish Chronicle, the UCU has since apologized. However, in a review of several websites connected to upcoming commemorations of Holocaust Memorial Day 2020, which will be held on January 27, references to Jews appear to be too often missing.

In the case of the UCU, a long list of those persecuted were mentioned, just not Jews. This included members of “trade unions” and “Roma” and “black people,” as well as gays and lesbians and “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” In addition, “non-Jewish Poles,” were mentioned – but not Jews. The UK’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, Eric Pickles, said the incident sends a “chilling message.”

But the problem is much larger than just the UCU. Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 is already being wrapped into the easier to pronounce acronym “HMD 2020,” which in itself removes the word “Holocaust.” On some websites, such as the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s page devoted to “75 memorial flames,” it is clearly noted that the Holocaust was “the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews of Europe.” However, a press release from April about the “HMD 2020” theme, called “Standing Together,” doesn’t mention the word Jew. The press release, also at the Trust’s website, notes that “HMD 2020 will also include marking the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia.” It is interesting that while Bosnia is mentioned, the place that the Shoah began in Germany is conveniently left out, lest anyone recall it was Germany that began the Holocaust and was largely responsible for it.

The April press release of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust notes that it is “calling people to Stand Together in memory of the millions of people affected by the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.” The UCU seems to have used similar language as part of the Stand Together campaign.
Antisemitism in Victorian schools is a monumental and hidden crisis
I well up with emotion when I hear of Jewish kids being subjected to physical assaults, bigoted stereotypes and insults, exclusion, degrading text messages and social media lynching. The day is not too far off when young people will have to hide their Jewish faith so as not to be singled out and vilified by their classmates. The victims are traumatised, filled with feelings of despair and abandonment, convinced that the system has failed them. And they are right.

Not infrequently, distraught parents are concerned that the anti-Semitic abuse will escalate if they notify the school since their child will become an even-bigger target. Some remain silent believing that the school leadership will not be sympathetic to their complaint. In fact, some administrators trivialise the attacks as a childish aberrations, as "kids being kids", or blame the victims ("it's your child's fault since they provocatively choose to exhibit their Judaism" or "we are a non-Jewish school so if you don't like it, leave"), are very slow to respond, and do not impose the appropriate punishment. In effect, they are enabling the wrongdoers by sending a crystal-clear message that Jewish pupils are fair game.

The elephant in the room is that very few of our elected representatives are actually speaking out about the darkening clouds that are gathering. And so, this cancer of intolerance, which is spreading like wildfire, must end. All of it. Because we literally have no choice and because that is not who we are as a nation. Good intentions and words are not enough. We now need bold action by the state and federal governments that matches the scale of the runaway problem we face, and which effectively tackles this menace at every single step. One solution is to institute mandatory reporting so schools are obliged to notify the Education Department when such incidents occur. Such reporting will then necessitate the investigation of each individual case and if warranted, appropriate penalties for the perpetrators.

Countering religious bigotry in the long run also hinges on making anti-bias and Holocaust education compulsory in every class. One example is the Anti-Defamation Commission's Click Against Hate program, a free, groundbreaking educational program, which equips students with the skills to respond to the hate they encounter in schools, urging them to action when it happens to them or when they see it happening to others. Further training for teachers and headmasters is also urgently needed so they understand that antisemitism is a threat to our way of life and that inaction is not an option. It's time for the adults in the room to stand up and protect the defenceless and vulnerable - our children.
Minister orders review into schools at centre of anti-Semitic bullying
Victoria’s Education Minister James Merlino has ordered an immediate review into the way two Melbourne schools dealt with separate "appalling and shocking" cases of sustained anti-Semitic bullying earlier this year.

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg also weighed into the "completely unacceptable" incidents, calling for lessons on the Holocaust, in which about 6 million Jews were killed in Europe, to be included in the Australian curriculum.

Mr Merlino said he would also meet with the parents of the two Jewish boys; a 12-year-old year 7 student who was at Cheltenham Secondary College, and a prep student at Hawthorn West Primary School. The meetings are scheduled to take place on Monday.
James Merlino has ordered a review into how two schools handled separate cases of anti-Semitic bullying.

James Merlino has ordered a review into how two schools handled separate cases of anti-Semitic bullying. Credit:AAP

Both boys have since left the schools where they were bullied, after their parents lost confidence in the schools' handling of the matter.

The year 7 boy was made to kneel and kiss the shoes of a Muslim boy in a public park, under threat of being bashed by several other boys who were watching on.

The humiliating act was filmed and published on social media.

The boys who were watching on were not Muslim, the victim’s mother said. She sought out the offender’s parents, who were horrified.


Israeli hospital donates equipment and knowhow to Nepal
Five physicians from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center recently brought medical equipment to Kathmandu and shared their expertise on women’s and children’s health with the medical staffs of two local hospitals.

Sponsored by the Embassy of Israel in Nepal, the Israeli team led a week of workshops and continuing medical education courses in neonatology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. They taught the Nepali medical professionals how to use the new lifesaving technologies they donated.

Senior gynecologist Dr. Ronit Almog said this was the fifth such foreign delegation sent out by Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in the past year.

“Our aim is to reduce fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality in developing nations,” she said. “We met warm and welcoming medical teams and had a great cooperation. We saw a very good health level and system in Nepal and look forward to future mutual cooperation.”

Dr. Shyam Sundar Dhaubhadel, founder and president of Siddhi Memorial Foundation – which provides accessible healthcare services for women and children through Siddhi Memorial Hospital– compared the two nations to siblings. “Nepal is a toddler; Israel is a grown-up sister that has to share her expertise.”
Eric Pleskow, Holocaust refugee and producer of Oscar-winning films, dies
Eric Pleskow, who escaped the Nazis to become a film executive whose movies won the Academy Award for best picture seven times, has died. He was 95.

Pleskow was the president of the United Artists studio when it took home the best picture Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky” and “Annie Hall” in 1975, 1976 and 1977, respectively — an unprecedented three-peat for a movie studio.

Later, as the co-founder of Orion Pictures, he oversaw four more winners for top film: “Amadeus” (1984), “Platoon” (1986), “Dances With Wolves” (1990) and “Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

Pleskow was born Erich Pleskoff in Vienna in 1924. He escaped the city with his family in 1939 after the SS had seized their home, which was blocks away from Sigmund Freud’s office, according to The Washington Post.

After arriving in New York City, he briefly worked at a film company, and was later drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was tasked after the war with reviving a film studio in Bavaria. From there he was hired as an executive at United Artists’ foreign department.

Pleskow rose to become president of the studio in 1973, and raised its profile by working with directors such as Woody Allen and Jonathan Demme. He broke off to co-found Orion in 1978.
Demi Lovato's mom defends trip to Israel: 'I will undoubtedly, unapologetically go again'
While Demi Lovato apologized for her trip to Israel — after receiving backlash — her mother won’t be following suit.

Dianna De La Garza, who accompanied Lovato on the free trip this week, said their visit was one of “only love” and that she will “unapologetically go again.”

Along with a photo of their two hands touching the Western Wall, De La Garza wrote that stop in the Old City of Jerusalem “was the highlight of my trip.” She said she will “never forget that day... or that trip as we celebrated life and Christianity as we learned about the Jewish faith while listening to the Muslim call to prayer. There was no fighting, no judgement, no cruel words...only love.”

De La Garza made it clear that there will be no apology coming from her, adding, “And I will undoubtedly, unapologetically go again one day.”

On Wednesday, Lovato found herself apologizing for the free trip — during which she was baptized in the Jordan River and had a spiritual awakening — amid criticism that she was taking a side in the country’s longstanding conflict with Palestine. Lovato apologized to those she offended in a message on social media, saying the trip was not mean to be “a political statement.”
What it was like growing up as a hidden Jew in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
When Ceen Gabbai argued with her first-grade teacher about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, she didn’t realize how big of a risk she was taking.

The year was 2000 and students across the world held strong opinions about the Second Intifada, an outbreak of violence that claimed thousands of lives and began in September of that year. But Gabbai’s situation was different: She was one of the few Jewish students in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Standing up for Israel in a Baghdad elementary school was not an advisable move.

“Saddam was all crazy about Palestine,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I go to school and they’re talking about what a horrible thing that is and how Israel was horrible. And I go and I’m like, ‘I think that’s a lie.’”

Gabbai was called to the school office, took a letter home to her mother and her parents had a meeting with the principal. Soon after they moved homes and she switched schools. Following the episode, her parents did not talk with her about Israel or Judaism.

Gabbai has had a dangerous life. Born a Jew under an Iraqi dictatorship, she endured constant anti-Semitism from a young age, then survived the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the years of war that followed.

In 2015, Gabbai received asylum in the United States. She is now living in an Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn, raising a child, teaching elementary school and writing children’s literature. She does not look back fondly on the hardships she endured, but feels they taught her to persevere no matter the situation.
Tombs, palaces, poverty and plague: Follow Montefiore’s early Holy Land travels
You may have heard that Sir Moses (Moshe) Montefiore was the force behind Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish neighborhood outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls. But were you aware that the wealthy English knight visited pre-state Israel seven times, most often with his wife, Lady Judith?

Dr. Louis Loewe, a linguist and author who was not only intimately acquainted with the couple but had even accompanied them on journeys around the world, greatly admired Sir Moses and Lady Judith. In a book, the “Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore,” which he published in 1890, he depicts them as a compassionate, caring, and observant Jewish couple that lived life to the full. They were also quite the wine connoisseurs. In fact, wine is mentioned in the diaries 24 different times.

One of their most interesting trips to the Holy Land, described in detail in Loewe’s book, took place in 1839. The volume abounds with descriptions of their overnights in tents, palaces and elegant homes. They rode horses atop mountains, along easy roads and atop barely discernible paths. The Plague was rampant that year, and they were careful to stay away from infected towns and villages.

Wherever the Montefiores went they distributed money and gifts, all the while taking the time to find out what their fellow Jews needed in order to improve what was very often a miserable existence. Quite possibly it was this trip that planted the seed for the eventual establishment of Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860.

That pioneering neighborhood came equipped with a windmill produced in Canterbury, a copy of one that stood near the Montefiore estate. With its help, the residents were meant to grind wheat into flour and become self- sufficient. In 1892, more buildings were added and the new neighborhood was called Yemin Moshe.



We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.
          

10/03 Links Pt1: Rina Shnerb's alleged murderer linked to European-funded BDS affiliates; The Arab World Can’t Blame All of Its Problems on the West; IDF indicts 5 Palestinians in murder of soldier Dvir Sorek    

Cache   
From Ian:

Rina Shnerb's alleged murderer linked to European-funded BDS affiliates
Samer Arbid, the alleged leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist cell responsible for murdering 17-year-old Rina Shnerb near Dolev in August, worked for a European-funded NGO linked to BDS, NGO Monitor reported on Wednesday.

Arbid, 44, considered one of the PFLP’s top officials in Ramallah, was previously arrested for preparing PFLP explosive devices during the Second Intifada.

IDF and Border Police forces arrested him on Sunday for allegedly preparing and detonating the improvised explosive device that killed Shnerb and wounded her father Eitan and brother Dvir.

On Monday, Haaretz reported that the Justice Ministry opened an investigation into “potential wrongdoing” by officers of the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) after Arbid was in critical condition in at Hadassah-University Medical Center on Mount Scopus following his interrogation, which involved torture. It was subsequently reported that the agents were authorized to conduct a “violent interrogation” but went “too far.”

Media sources reported on Tuesday that the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and several Joint List MKs sent a letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit demanding a criminal investigation be opened regarding Arbid’s interrogation.

According to the NGO Monitor, Arbid was listed as an accountant for Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian NGO that provides legal representation to Palestinians detained in Israel. The Ramallah-based organization’s mandate includes “ending torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners” and “guaranteeing fair, impartial and public trials.” The organization was listed as a PFLP-affiliated institution on Fatah’s website in September 2015.
NGO Monitor: Samer Arbid’s Alleged Terror Activities, Arrests, and NGO Affiliations
According to Israeli security officials, on August 23, 2019, Samer Arbid commanded a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror cell that carried out a bombing against Israeli civilians, murdering 17-year old Rina Shnerb, and injuring her father and brother. According to the Israel Security Agency (Shabak), Arbid prepared and detonated the explosive device.

Ties to PFLP-linked NGOs
Arbid worked for Addameer – a Palestinian NGO closely linked to the PFLP, 1 which listed him as the organization’s accountant for several years.

In addition to his work for Addameer, Arbid appears to have worked for another NGO with ties to the PFLP, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). According to Samidoun, yet another PFLP-linked NGO, Arbid was the “financial director of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in the West Bank” in 2016.
Prior Arrests
- In an Addameer-produced video from April 2013, Arbid describes his numerous arrests. He states that he was arrested at the beginning of 2003 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison, and served an additional year in administrative detention.
- According to Samidoun, Arbid was placed in administrative detention from March 2007 to August 2008.
- Similarly, Samidoun reported that Arbid was arrested on September 23, 2013 and placed in administrative detention.
- According to Samidoun, Arbid “was ordered to an additional three months’ administrative detention” on March 12, 2016.

Israel reportedly arrests another Palestinian behind the deadly Dolev Spring attack
A senior member of the terror cell suspected of being responsible for the West Bank bombing that killed teenager Rina Shnerb in August was arrested by Israeli security forces early on Thursday, Palestinian media reported.

According to the reports, security forces arrested Walid Muhammed Hanatsheh at his home in the village of al-Tireh outside of Ramallah during overnight arrest raids across the West Bank, which saw 13 Palestinians arrested by IDF troops and Border Police officers.

Wafa News reported that the raids took place in several villages in the Ramallah area including Kobar, Deir Abu Mashaal, Jifna and al-Tireh. During Hanatsheh’s arrest, a Palestinian TV cameraman was injured after troops fired a rubber bullet toward rioters.

Hanatsheh, who acts as finance and administration manager for the health work committees (HWC), has been a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine since the Second Intifada, and has been arrested by Israel several times for his membership in the terrorist group.
BBC-promoted NGO’s terror links surface again
The terror cell leader, Samer Arbid, was employed (despite his past history of involvement in terror activity) as an accountant by the Palestinian NGO ‘Addameer’ which is known for its links to the PFLP – a designated terror organisation in the US, the EU, Canada and Israel.

Five days after Rina Shnerb was murdered the BBC News website published a video report which included an interview with the director of ‘Addameer’, Sahar Francis.

Partisan report on detained Palestinian ‘children’ from BBC’s Gender and Identity correspondent

That heavily promoted report was made available on the BBC News website for fourteen consecutive days.

In other words the producers of that report, along with additional BBC journalists, apparently saw nothing at all problematic in the amplification of the unchallenged narrative of a political NGO that is linked to a terrorist organisation that the BBC knows has murdered Israeli civilians in the past and which, we now learn, employed the leader of the PFLP terror cell apparently responsible for the brutal murder of a seventeen-year-old out hiking with her family.



How the Myth of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict’s Supreme Importance Distorted 70 Years of American Middle East Policy
After failing in 1948 to stop the U.S. from supporting the creation of a Jewish state, writes Samuel Tadros, the Middle East experts of the State Department put forth the theory that America could not achieve its strategic goals in the region without first solving the Arab-Israeli conflict. This soon became “dogma” in Foggy Bottom, at think tanks, and in academia. Even President Trump, for all his unorthodoxies, is not immune to the allure peacemaking.

In reality, no one [in the Middle East] actually cared about the Palestinians, at least not the region’s rulers. [Their] priorities were everywhere besides Palestine: toppling the monarchs for some, searching for hegemony for others, or, for most, simply protecting their rule from revolutionary upheaval. The Palestinians, if they were considered at all, served simply as a bargaining chip; a cause to rally supporters and attack opponents.

Despite this, Washington’s Middle East experts were not deterred. The centrality of the issue was never to be questioned, but the method to solve it changed.

[Today], stepping back from the details and daily changes on the ground, [it is necessary to confront] an inconvenient proposition: maybe there is no solution to the conflict. After all, it is uniquely American to think that every problem must have a solution. Maybe the reality is that there are two peoples who claim the same piece of land and that no amount of effort or innovative solutions can solve this simple fact.
The Arab World Can’t Blame All of Its Problems on the West
For the past several weeks, the death of Israa Ghrayeb, a twenty-one-year-old Palestinian woman, has garnered much attention on Arabic-language social media and also in the Arab press. Ghrayeb was apparently beaten to death by family members for appearing in public—at a café—with her fiancé. To Hussain Abdul-Hussain, her death is a stark reminder of the ways in which Arab intellectuals have used the ideas of the Egyptian-American literature professor Edward Said, along with the those of the many postcolonial theorists who followed in his footsteps, to avoid critical examination of honor killings and other social ills:

“Orientalism” [was the term Said gave to] the collection of stereotypes through which the West is purported to understand the Middle East. For anti-colonialists . . . those stereotypes are proof that the colonial powers failed to understand the people they colonized. Honor killing is one of the stereotypes unjustly attributed to Muslims and Arabs, so the argument goes. But it is no stereotype. . . . It is a reality.

Though women are the main victims, honor killing falls under the Islamist concept of “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.” For many Arabs and Muslims, this involves the restoration of some long-ago, supposedly perfect society that exists only in their imagination. But [this mythic ideal] is used to justify killing adulterers (of both sexes) or homosexuals or men who are perceived as effeminate, such as the Iraqi teenager whose murder by stabbing was recorded by his killer. . . . In Lebanon, a non-Druze man who married a Druze woman had his penis cut off by relatives of the bride.

Honor killing . . . is a flaw in Muslim society and it can be rectified only if that society is prepared to look inward at itself rather than blaming outsiders. . . . [B]ashing colonialism and Orientalism won’t solve the [Arab world’s] problems. On the contrary, it will only conceal them. . . . [T]o eradicate an abomination such as honor killing, Arabs and Muslims must first acknowledge its existence and take ownership of it.
PMW: Palestinian women's lives endangered by PA religious leaders' ruling
Top PA religious figures prohibit Palestinian women from submitting complaints over spouses to Israeli police

PA Ministry of Justice is working on improving legislation on family matters, including "ensuring punishment of those who commit crimes from a motive of honor"

The Israeli Arab party The Joint List has announced that it will boycott today's swearing-in ceremony of the Israeli Parliament in protest of what it calls the government's failure to address the rising levels of violence in Arab towns. Yet while Israeli Arab politicians are complaining that not enough is being done to tackle the growing problem of violence in Israeli Arab communities, the PA is telling Palestinian women not to go to the Israeli police with complaints over their husbands
"Anti-Normalization" With Israel: The True Goal
An anti-Israel group called the Association for Supporting Resistance and Confronting Normalization claimed that Jordanians who work in Eilat and other Israeli cities are often recruited as informants by the Israeli security services. The group accused the Jordanian government of "complying with all the demands of the Zionists on the pretext of cooperation for the sake of peace." The claim that Jordanians who go to work in Israel or help clean the beach are recruited as spies is aimed at painting them as traitors, a charge that is likely to put their lives at risk.

Instead of thanking Israel for allowing Jordanians to come and work in Eilat, the "anti-normalization" activists are inciting the workers to boycott Israel. These activists, of course, are not offering the Jordanian workers jobs and salaries.

In March 2019, Israel agreed to increase by 33% the number of Jordanian day laborers employed at hotels in Eilat from 1,500 to 2,000. The permits for the Jordanians are designed to allow them to work in the hotel industry of Eilat, close to the border with Jordan. The move is part of an agreement signed between Israel and Jordan to advance ties between the two countries through economic and social cooperation initiatives.

As far as the "anti-normalization" activists are concerned, inciting their people against Israel and the Jordanian workers is more important than any economic and social initiatives. These activists hate Israel to a point where they prefer to see 2,000 workers lose their jobs than continue working and earning good salaries in Eilat.

If greeting a Jew on his or her holiday, cleaning the beach with an Israeli, or working in Israel are considered by many Arabs a "crime," what will be the fate of any Arab who makes peace with Israel?

Those who are calling for boycotts of Israel -- and are threatening and inciting their people against any Arab who dares to host a Jew or send him or her greetings -- are also emphatically opposed to peace with Israel. For them, making peace with the "Zionist entity" is considered an act of treason. They are worried that an Arab who greets a Jew may one day make peace with Israel. They are worried that an Arab state that hosts Israeli athletes may one day make peace with Israel. They are worried that Arabs who go to work in Israel may fall in love with Israelis and stop thinking of ways to kill them or destroy Israel.
US gives cold shoulder to major Palestinian donor parley
The United States gave a cold shoulder last week to the major bi-annual meeting for donor aid to the Palestinian Authority, known as the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), which has operated for the last 25 years.

“We limited our participation to working-level observers only,” US special envoy Jason Greenblatt told The Jerusalem Post this week as he described the downgrade.

It is the latest Trump administration action against traditional venues that help provide financial assistance to Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.

As part of its peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century,” the administration plans to create new funding venues for the Palestinians, the blueprint for which was unveiled at a Bahrain conference in June. But action on the plan is dependent on success with the political part of the peace process, which has yet to be published.

The US was previously one of the largest donors to the Palestinians and the PA, providing upward of half-a-billion dollars a year through the United Nations and other venues, but it has slowly halted that funding over the last two years.

The high-level 15 member AHLC meeting, held in the spring in Brussels and in the fall in New York, is one of the bedrock pillars of international funding for the Palestinians. It has remained a neutral venue where Israelis, Palestinians and the United States interact, even when all other communication is frozen.

In the past, the meetings chaired by Norway have been attended by high-level officials such as Greenblatt, or secretaries of state such as John Kerry. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini often attends, and was one of the dignitaries who gathered in New York for the meeting on September 26.
Rivlin: Israel is in crisis, needs government now
Israeli democracy is in a state of emergency, and a government must be formed as soon as possible, President Reuven Rivlin said at the 22nd Knesset’s inaugural meeting, which was overshadowed by the political uncertainty on Thursday.

Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addressed the long period of political uncertainty, which saw the 21st Knesset be inaugurated and dissolved in a period of less than two months, less than six months ago. They both said the solution is a unity government.

“We are facing a time of crisis for the House of Jacob, an emergency for Israel’s security and for Israeli society, an emergency for Israeli democracy,” Rivlin said. “Forming a government is not only the wish of the people. More than ever, in times like these, it is an economic and security need the likes of which we have not known for many years.”

Rivlin said a broad governing coalition would allow Israelis “to put the disagreements between us to one side and work on finding areas of agreement...to give us all an opportunity to breathe a little, to heal.”

The President listed a number of “real life” areas that the government must address, from combatting the Iranian threat to making day-care cheaper to tacking rising crime in Arab communities.
Lapid forgoing rotation as prime minister
Blue and White’s co-candidate for prime minister in last month’s election, MK Yair Lapid, announced on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for prime minister in the next government.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused him of being the obstacle to the formation of a national unity government. Netanyahu said Lapid was trying to stop Gantz from joining a coalition government that he is currently trying to form because he would not give up his goal of rotating in the Prime Minister’s Office with Gantz.

“For the sake of a unity government, I’m forgoing the rotation,” Lapid told the Blue and White Party. “There won’t be a rotation with three people. That’s not serious. Running a country is a serious matter. It’s far more important to me that there’s unity in the country. That there won’t be another election. That this country begins a healing process. Mends the wounds. Changes the national priorities.”

Lapid warned that Netanyahu is trying everything to drag Israel to its third election within a year.

“One man with three indictments stands between us and a national unity government,” he said. “That’s what the country needs.

This country needs a national unity government led by Blue and White, with Likud, with Liberman, with Labor. That’s what we said throughout the campaign. In that government there will be a rotation. Gantz will be prime minister for the first two years. There’s no other option.”

Lapid ruled out a coalition in which Gantz rotates as prime minister with Netanyahu but did not rule out a rotation with another Likud leader.
Benjamin Netanyahu invites Avigdor Liberman to join coalition
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman to join the government he is forming, in a meeting Thursday morning at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu told his former aide and ally and current political nemesis that he should join as soon as possible in order to contribute to the formation of a unity government.

But Netanyahu’s spokesman said there did not end up being a breakthrough in the meeting.

Liberman released a statement after the meeting saying that he urged Netanyahu to have Likud, Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu meet to decide the next government's guidelines on policy and only then deal with distributing portfolios and who should go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister's Office.

"I am making a major effort to form a broad unity government," Netanyahu told the Likud faction. "This is what the voters decided, and this is what is right. This should be taken for granted."

Following the meeting with Liberman, Netanyahu went to update the heads of the right-wing and religious parties in his political bloc.
IDF indicts 5 Palestinians in murder of soldier Dvir Sorek
The IDF Prosecution filed an indictment in the Judea Military Court on Thursday against five Palestinians in connection with the murder of IDF Corporal Dvir Sorek on August 8.

The five Palestinians, all of who are affiliated with Hamas according to the indictment, are: Qasem al-atzafra, Nazir al-atzafra, Ahmad al-atzafra, Yusef Zahur and Mahmoud Atuna.

Previously, the IDF announced that it sent messages to the defendants' families announcing its intention to demolish their houses.
Some of the defendants have already objected and the High Court of Justice will hear the issue on October 31.

The stabbing attack occurred against Sorek near Migdal Oz on August 8.
Greenblatt: PA Must End "Pay to Slay"
U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt told Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview: "I can't imagine a world in which a peace agreement is signed where issues like the Palestinian Authority's 'Pay to Slay' program remains - a program that rewards terrorists who murder or attack Israelis. It's a basic concept that you cannot encourage people to kill and expect a peace deal that works."

"I can't imagine the Israeli government ever signing such an agreement. It would make no sense and it's completely antithetical to the concept of peace. To deal with that abhorrent program, the USA has cut all funding to the PA and we continuously raise awareness of this issue to other donor countries. I cannot understand how donor countries continue to donate funds knowing that some of their taxpayers' money is used to fund terrorism and the murder of Israelis."
PA claims 24 'incursions' on Temple Mount
The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Religious Endowments and Religious Affairs published a report on the holy sites, which included 24 Jewish 'incursions' of the al-Aqsa mosque and 52 cases of denial of prayer for prayer at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Patriarchs Cave.

The Ministry of Endowments accused Israel of continuing the 'siege' and intervention at the Ibrahimi Mosque (the Cave of the Patriarchs) and closed it completely to Muslim worshipers during Rosh Hashanah.

According to the report, the Israeli authorities were not only content with preventing Muslims from entering the place, but they allowed settlers to get on the roof of the Cave of the Patriarchs and IDF soldiers attacked and humiliated Muslim workers.

It was also alleged that the "occupation forces" demolished the Al-Uma Mosque in Jabal Jawhar Hevron, which was in final stages of construction, and the level of incitement at the Al-Aqsa Mosque increased as Jewish holidays and the calls of the Temple Mount trustees came closer.
Hamas Takes Action in Nepotism Case following Public Pressure
Every year, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj and Umra hosts for free 1,000 people from the families of Palestinian martyrs to perform the hajj in Mecca.

After Anas Radwan, son of Hamas leader Ismail Radwan, went on the pilgrimage, activists argued on social media that he did not have the right to do so.

To calm public anger, Hamas formed a committee to investigate the incident, which concluded that Anas was not supposed to join the pilgrims. He was fined 5,000 dinars ($7,000), to be distributed among those who were denied travel to Mecca.

The Palestinian street is not accustomed to Hamas disclosing the details of any punitive measures against its leaders and members.


Israel-Egypt gas deal gets a boost as shares soar
Gas giant Delek Group Ltd.’s announcement that it had updated an agreement for the export of liquefied natural gas from the Leviathan and Tamar offshore reservoirs to Egypt sent share prices soaring on Wednesday.

In February 2018, Delek Drilling and Texas-based Noble Energy – partners in the Leviathan and Tamar LNG projects – signed a $15b. decade-long deal to supply 64 billion cu.m. of natural gas to Egypt’s Dolphinus Holdings Ltd.

The new agreement provides for a 35% increase in the total gas supply that will now reach 85 billion cu. m.

“The agreement is a further proof of the important economic cooperation between the two countries and the tremendous positive impact that these relations have on the Egyptian economy and the Israeli economy, as well as the great potential for additional cooperation in the mutual interest of the parties,” Yossi Abu, CEO of Delek Drilling, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The deal with Egypt followed a September 2016 agreement worth $10b. between Jordan’s National Electric Power Company Ltd. and the Leviathan project partners to supply a gross quantity of 45 billion cu.m. of natural gas to Israel’s eastern neighbor over 15 years.
Death Toll Climbs as Iraqi Protests Escalate for Third Day
Police and gunmen exchanged fire in a southern Iraqi city on Thursday killing one person, after 11 others were killed overnight as nationwide anti-government protests escalated into one of the worst security challenges in years.

At least 19 people have been killed since the protests erupted three days ago, seemingly independent of any organized political party and taking the security forces by surprise.

Police said protesters carrying guns had fired at them in the town of Rifae on Thursday morning, near the southern city of Nassiriya where seven people died overnight. Fifty people were wounded in Rifae, including five policemen, they said, adding to hundreds already injured across the country.

Clashes in another southern city, Amara, killed four people overnight.

A curfew, lifted early in the morning in southern cities, was reimposed immediately in Nassiriya and later in Amara.

In Baghdad, the authorities attempted to head off protests by imposing a curfew from 5 a.m. Troops patrolled main roads and public spaces, but by morning sporadic demonstrations had begun, and troops opened fire with live rounds to disperse them.

“Despite the curfew we are going out to protest to call for our rights. We want to change the regime. They have arrested our people. They have done things to our people they did not even do to Islamic State,” a youth told Reuters TV after gunshots could be heard nearby.

“They have beat them up and humiliated them while firing live gunfire. What did we do? Are we suicide bombers? We are here to call for our rights and all these people.”
Report: Iranian Entrenchment in Syria (PDF)
Iran's deployment of its own forces and proxy militias recruited from other countries has been decisive in the Assad regime's reversal of territorial losses to the Syrian opposition.

As a result, Iran now has wide latitude to pursue its own geopolitical agenda on Syrian territory, including the introduction of sophisticated weapons systems that will enable Iran to open a new front against Israel and threaten freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Syria Study Group believes the U.S. can still influence the outcome of the Syrian war in a manner that protects U.S. interests.

The U.S. has meaningful tools of leverage to prevent the reemergence of ISIS and counter other terrorist groups, stop Iran from turning Syria into a forward operating base, provide relief to displaced Syrians and Syria's hard-pressed neighbors, and advance a political outcome that stops Syrian territory from serving as a net exporter of terrorism and instability.

The key near-term goal should be to prevent further entrenchment of Iran and its partners and proxies while raising the cost to Iran for its actions in Syria.

To this end, the U.S. should continue its support of Israeli air strikes; enforce sanctions aimed at undermining Iran's ability to fund its proxies and partners in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; and maintain the U.S. military presence at the al-Tanf military base.

The U.S. should insist that any political settlement require the withdrawal of Iranian forces and proxies from Syria.
France: President Macron Must Stop Appeasing Iran's Mullahs
Has French President Emmanuel Macron forgotten that he is helping and appeasing a state leading in human rights violations? In 2018, according to Javaid Rehman, the UN expert on human rights in Iran, at least 273 people were executed in Iran, and 6,000 over ten years, according to Iran Human Rights.

In addition, the use of cruel and inhuman punishment is also on the rise in Iran; according to Amnesty International, the use of various forms of torture such as amputation and flogging has been increasing at an alarming rate.

Macron also fails to recognize that the nuclear deal never contained or adequately addressed Iran's multifaceted threats, which include but are not limited to: The arming and financing of terror and militia groups in the region; intervening in the internal affairs of regional countries; pursing a sectarian agenda by pitting Shiites and Sunnis against each other; carrying out cyber attacks against other nations; and committing human rights violations inside Iran and abroad through its proxies.
IRGC Commander Confirms Missile-Cities Hidden under Iran's Mountains
We have been digging tunnels since 1984 when we first began making missiles.” These were the words of Revolutionary Guards general Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force. He was interviewed by the Iranian regime’s Documentary TV a few hours after the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)- US representative office, revealed the existence of numerous tunnel formations across Iran that were used to stock long-range missiles.

Hajizadeh had played a vital role in the September 14, 2019 drone and cruise-missile attack against Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO facilities deep inside Saudi territory, according to information revealed on September 30 by the NCRI’s US representative office in Washington DC.

Even though Hajizadeh is not a member of the regime’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), according to the NCRI’s information, provided by the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK), he was present in the SNSC’s session on July 31, 2019, when the decision to prepare an attack on Saudi oilfields was made.

After the decision was approved by the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Hajizadeh was instructed to begin the implementation of the plan.

More than ten points of construction/stockpiling of missiles with ranges of up to 2000 km were revealed for the first time by the NCRI’s US representative office. Satellite photos of all the locations were made available to the public.

“We have to protect our arsenal in an adequate way. The idea goes back to 1984, just when we began thinking of missiles. Before the first such material was imported into the country, we had already begun digging the tunnels to hide them,” Hajizadeh affirmed in his interview, broadcast a few hours after the revelations made by the Iranian Resistance.


PreOccupiedTerritory: Pakistan Wondering How Much Longer It Can Keep Citizen Anger Focused On Faraway Israel (satire)
A proven political strategy to divert popular resentment from the corrupt, repressive government and toward an outside foe might not remain effective forever, a new report by this Islamic country’s ministry of the interior warns.

Israel remains a potent rhetorical magnet for focusing Pakistanis’ anger despite its physical distance and negligible measurable impact on Pakistani lives, acknowledged the report, but the authors caution that overplaying the Israel card may carry unwanted consequences during a time of increased access to alternative sources of information that can both attenuate the desired anti-Israel and anti-Jewish effect of the rhetoric and reflect some of the anger back at Pakistan’s own leadership. The risk of this development has reached a likelihood unknown thirty years ago, according to the report, and appears to increase with each passing year, such that by the middle of this century, it estimates, Pakistan may be forced to forgo anti-Zionism as a primary domestic pacification strategy.

“Whereas during the latter half of the previous century the very mention of Israel, Zionists, or Palestine served as a reliable lightning rod for popular anger, it no longer riles the populace as it once did,” the report warned. “An outright majority of Pakistanis still view an assertive Jewish presence on historically Muslim-ruled land as a source of existential shame, but indications have emerged that they no longer rank that shame at the top of their troubles, a development that points to an emerging challenge for the leadership in deflecting attention from its cronyism, nepotism, incompetence, corruption, support for terrorists, warped domestic priorities, and other issues best left shrouded in distraction.”



We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.
          

Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria   

Cache   
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.

Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice. It was the latest example of Trump’s approach to foreign policy that critics condemn as impulsive, that he sometimes reverses and that frequently is untethered to the advice of his national security aides.

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump said he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. He said he could also name supporters, but he didn’t.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion. U.S. officials said they had seen no indication that Turkey had begun a military operation by late Monday.

Trump, in late afternoon remarks to reporters, appeared largely unconcerned at the prospect of Turkish forces attacking the Kurds, who include a faction he described as “natural enemies” of the Turks.

“But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane ... they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” Trump said.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion and would “lead to ISIS reemergence.”

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump’s presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

“I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible,” he said.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill prompted Trump to recast as well as restate his decision, but with renewed bombast and self-flattery.

He promised to destroy the Turkish economy “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

Sunday night the White House had said the U.S. would get its troops out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described that White House announcement as a botched effort appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful.

That official, like others interviewed, was not authorized to speak on the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday.

But damage done to relations with the Kurds could be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies. It entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump defended his latest decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

In his later remarks, Trump asserted that American troops in Syria are not performing useful work. They are, he said, “not fighting.” They are “just there,” he said.

Among the first to move were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there was no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia’s position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will “look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., another strong Trump supporter, said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” that he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed concern.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. ... Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

___

With contributions from Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul; Zeina Karam and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut; and Lori Hinnant in Paris.


          

Profit, not politics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal   

Cache   
KYIV, Ukraine – As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump's main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine's massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine's new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry's past political donors.

It's unclear if Perry's attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it's unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president's personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

On Friday, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for a "favor" regarding Biden, according to a person familiar with Trump's remarks.

The person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe a closed conversation among GOP officials, recounted that Trump said it was Perry who asked him to make the July call to discuss "something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant." Trump's remarks were first reported Saturday by the news site Axios.

While it's unclear whether Trump's remark Friday referred specifically to the behind-the-scenes maneuvers this spring involving the multibillion-dollar state gas company, The Associated Press has interviewed four people with direct knowledge of the attempts to influence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Perry playing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The fourth is an American businessman with close ties to the Ukrainian energy sector.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Energy Department said Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, was not advancing anyone's personal interests. She said his conversations with Ukrainian officials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country's energy sector and create an environment in which Western companies can do business.

Perry was asked about the AP's reporting on Monday while in Lithuania, where he was meeting with officials from Ukraine and other eastern European countries to discuss energy security and cooperation. He said any suggestion that he tried to force a management change at Naftogaz was a "totally dreamed up story."

"We get asked for our recommendations about people who are experts in areas, various areas," Perry said. "Folks who have expertise in particular areas. Obviously having been the governor of the state of Texas, I know a lot of people in the energy industry."

Perry also confirmed he had urged Trump to call Zelenskiy, but said the subject was the potential growth of Ukraine's energy sector.

"Absolutely, I asked the president multiple times, 'Mr. President, we think it is in the United States' and in Ukraine's best interest that you and the president of Ukraine have conversations, that you discuss the options that are there,'" Perry said, recounting his conversations with Trump.

The Trump and Giuliani allies driving the attempt to change the senior management at Naftogaz, however, appear to have had inside knowledge of the U.S. government's plans in Ukraine. For example, they told people that Trump would replace the U.S. ambassador there months before she was actually recalled to Washington, according to three of the individuals interviewed by the AP. One of the individuals said he was so concerned by the whole affair that he reported it to a U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine months ago.

___

THE BUSINESSMEN

Ukraine, a resource-rich nation that sits on the geographic and symbolic border between Russia and the West, has long been plagued by corruption and government dysfunction, making it a magnet for foreign profiteers.

At the center of the Naftogaz plan, according to three individuals familiar with the details, were three such businessmen: two Soviet-born Florida real estate entrepreneurs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and an oil magnate from Boca Raton, Florida, named Harry Sargeant III.

Parnas and Fruman have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to Republicans, including $325,000 to a Trump-allied political action committee in 2018. This helped the relatively unknown entrepreneurs gain access to top levels of the Republican Party – including meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.

The two have also faced lawsuits from disgruntled investors over unpaid debts. During the same period they were pursuing the Naftogaz deal, the two were coordinating with Giuliani to set up meetings with Ukrainian government officials and push for an investigation of the Bidens.

Sargeant, his wife and corporate entities tied to the family have donated at least $1.2 million to Republican campaigns and PACs over the last 20 years, including $100,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund, according to federal and state campaign finance records. He has also served as finance chair of the Florida state GOP, and gave nearly $14,000 to Giuliani's failed 2008 presidential campaign.

In early March, Fruman, Parnas and Sargeant were touting a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with another senior executive at the company, Andrew Favorov, according to two individuals who spoke to the AP as well as a memorandum about the meeting that was later submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, formerly known as Kiev.

Going back to the Obama administration, the U.S. Energy Department and the State Department have long supported efforts to import American natural gas into Ukraine to reduce the country's dependence on Russia.

The three approached Favorov with the idea while the Ukrainian executive was attending an energy industry conference in Texas. Parnas and Fruman told him they had flown in from Florida on a private jet to recruit him to be their partner in a new venture to export up to 100 tanker shipments a year of U.S. liquefied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest distributor, according to two people briefed on the details.

Sargeant told Favorov that he regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president's full support, according to the two people who said Favorov recounted the discussion to them.

These conversations were recounted to AP by Dale W. Perry, an American who is a former business partner of Favorov. He told AP in an interview that Favorov described the meeting to him soon after it happened and that Favorov perceived it to be a shakedown. Perry, who is no relation to the energy secretary, is the managing partner of Energy Resources of Ukraine, which currently has business agreements to import natural gas and electricity to Ukraine.

A second person who spoke on condition of anonymity also confirmed to the AP that Favorov had recounted details of the Houston meeting to him.

According to Dale Perry and the other person, Favorov said Parnas told him Trump planned to remove U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and replace her with someone more open to aiding their business interests.

Dale Perry told the AP he was so concerned about the efforts to change the management at Naftogaz and to get rid of Yovanovitch that he reported what he had heard to Suriya Jayanti, a State Department foreign service officer stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv who focuses on the energy industry.

He also wrote a detailed memo about Favorov's account, dated April 12, which was shared with another current State Department official. Perry recently provided a copy of the April memo to AP.

Jayanti declined to provide comment. Favorov also declined to comment.

A Florida lawyer representing Sargeant, Christopher Kise, issued a statement Monday confirming that his client was at the Houston dinner with Parnas, Fruman and Favorov, but insisted he was there only to offer "broad industry guidance and his expert view on the challenges presented by operating in foreign markets."

"Attending a single, informal dinner in Houston does not place Mr. Sargeant at the center of any Naftogaz or Ukrainian business plan," Kise said. "Mr. Sargeant never discussed any role or participation in any Ukraine venture, nor any specifics regarding the potential business ventures of the other dinner participants."

The statement did not address whether Yovanovitch's fate was discussed at the dinner. Kise also said Sargeant has not met at Mar-a-Lago with Trump since he became president.

On March 24, Giuliani and Parnas gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington with Healy E. Baumgardner, a former Trump campaign adviser who once served as deputy communications director for Giuliani's presidential campaign and as a communications official during the George W. Bush administration.

She is now listed as the CEO of 45 Energy Group, a Houston-based energy company whose website describes it as a "government relations, public affairs and business development practice group." The company's name is an apparent nod to Trump, the 45th president.

This was a couple of weeks after the Houston meeting with Favorov, the Naftogaz executive. Giuliani, Parnas and Baumgardner were there to make a business pitch involving gas deals in the former Soviet bloc to a potential investor.

This time, according to Giuliani, the deals that were discussed involved Uzbekistan, not Ukraine.

"I have not pursued a deal in the Ukraine. I don't know about a deal in the Ukraine. I would not do a deal in the Ukraine now, obviously," said Giuliani, reached while attending a playoff baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins. "There is absolutely no proof that I did it, because I didn't do it."

During this meeting, Parnas again repeated that Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, would soon be replaced, according to a person with direct knowledge of the gathering. She was removed two months later.

Giuliani, who serves as Trump's personal lawyer and has no official role in government, acknowledged Friday that he was among those pushing the president to replace the ambassador, a career diplomat with a history of fighting corruption.

"The ambassador to Ukraine was replaced," he said. "I did play a role in that."

But Giuliani refused to discuss the details of his business dealings, or whether he helped his associates in their push to forge gas sales contracts with the Ukrainian company. He did describe Sergeant as a friend and referred to Parnas and Fruman as his clients in a tweet in May.

As part of their impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have subpoenaed Giuliani for documents and communications related to dozens of people, including Favorov, Parnas, Fruman and Baumgardner's 45 Energy Group.

The House Intelligence Committee also issued sweeping document requests to Parnas and Fruman, due Monday, and scheduled depositions for later in the week.

John Dowd, a former Trump attorney who now represents Parnas and Fruman, said he and his clients have not yet decided whether to comply. Democrats on Monday threatened to issue subpoenas if they don't show.

Baumgardner issued a written statement, saying: "While I won't comment on business discussions, I will say this: this political assault on private business by the Democrats in Congress is complete harassment and an invasion of privacy that should scare the hell out of every American business owner."

Baumgardner later denied that she had any business dealings in Ukraine but refused to say whether the replacement of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed.

Dowd said it was actually the Naftogaz executives who approached his clients about making a deal. Dowd says the group then approached Rick Perry to get the Energy Department on board.

"The people from the company solicited my clients because Igor is in the gas business, and they asked them, and they flew to Washington and they solicited," Dowd said. "They sat down and talked about it. And then it was presented to Secretary Perry to see if they could get it together.

"It wasn't a shakedown; it was an attempt to do legitimate business that didn't work out."

___

THE ENERGY SECRETARY

In May, Rick Perry traveled to Kyiv to serve as the senior U.S. government representative at the inauguration of the county's new president.

In a private meeting with Zelenskiy, Perry pressed the Ukrainian president to fire members of the Naftogaz advisory board. Attendees left the meeting with the impression that Perry wanted to replace the American representative, Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy representative who served in the Obama administration, with someone "reputable in Republican circles," according to someone who was in the room.

Perry's push for Ukraine's state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to change its supervisory board was first reported by Politico.

A second meeting during the trip, at a Kyiv hotel, included Ukrainian officials and energy sector people. There, Perry made clear that the Trump administration wanted to see the entire Naftogaz supervisory board replaced, according to a person who attended both meetings. Perry again referenced the list of advisers that he had given Zelenskiy, and it was widely interpreted that he wanted Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas, to join the newly formed board, the person said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, another Texan who frequently works in Ukraine, the Energy Department confirmed.

Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department's special envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, according to photographs reviewed by AP. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said he was floored by the American requests because the person had always viewed the U.S. government "as having a higher ethical standard."

The Naftogaz supervisory board is supposed to be selected by the Ukrainian president's Cabinet in consultation with international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union. It must be approved by the Ukrainian Cabinet. Ukrainian officials perceived Perry's push to swap out the board as circumventing that established process, according to the person in the room.

U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said Perry had consistently called for the modernization of Ukraine's business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business there. She said Perry delivered that same message in the May meeting with Zelenskiy.

"What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company," Hynes said Saturday. "That is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist."

Hynes said the Ukrainian government had requested U.S. recommendations to advise the country on energy matters, and Perry provided those recommendations. She confirmed Bleyzer was on the list.

Bleyzer, whose company is based in Houston, did not respond on Saturday to a voicemail seeking comment. Bensh also did not respond to a phone message.

Perry has close ties to the Texas oil and gas industry. He appointed Bleyzer to a two-year term on a state technologies fund board in 2009. The following year, records show Bleyzer donated $20,000 to Perry's reelection campaign.

Zelenskiy's office declined to comment on Saturday.

In an interview Friday with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Perry said that "as God as my witness" he never discussed Biden or his son in meetings with Ukrainian or U.S. officials, including Trump or Giuliani. He did confirm he had had a conversation with Giuliani by phone, but a spokeswoman for the energy secretary declined to say when that call was or whether the two had discussed Naftogaz.

In Lithuania on Monday, Perry said he could not recall whether Bleyzer's name was on the list provided to Zelenskiy. But Perry confirmed he had known Bleyzer for years and called him "a really brilliant, capable businessman."

"I would recommend him for a host of different things in Kyiv because he knows the country," Perry said of Bleyzer. "He's from there. So, why not? I mean I would be stunned if someone said that would you eliminate Michael Bleyzer from a recommendation of people you ought to talk to about how to do business in the country, whether they're knowledgeable. It'd be remarkable if I didn't say, 'Talk to Michael.'"

___

Biesecker and Lardner reported from Washington. Associated Press reporter Alan Fram contributed.

___

Key findings from this story are summarized at the AP News website.

___

Follow AP investigative reporters Desmond Butler at http://twitter.com/desmondbutler, Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck and Richard Lardner at http://twitter.com/rplardner

___

Contact AP's global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.

___

This story has been corrected to show Bleyzer's first name is Michael, not Robert.


          

Penna. Attorney General Investigating PA-DEP over Marcellus Fracking Regulation   

Cache   
PA-DEP “lawyers-up” as grand jury investigation into shale gas moves forward From an Article by Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 2, 2019 The Pennsylvania state Department of Environmental Protection has hired outside legal counsel to deal with the state attorney general’s criminal investigations of “environmental crimes” involving the shale gas industry in southwestern Pennsylvania. [...]
          

Kurt Volker, former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine, testifies of turmoil in State Department over Trump’s push to investigate Biden   

Cache   

The former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine testified Thursday of turmoil within the State Department over President Donald Trump's push to investigate Joe Biden and his family, placing Rudy Giuliani at the center of the effort.

Kurt Volker, a central figure in the House’s impeachment inquiry, appeared...


          

Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria   

Cache   

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.

Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice.

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump said he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. He said he could also name supporters, but he didn’t.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion. U.S. officials said they had seen no indication that Turkey had begun a military operation by late Monday.

Trump, in late afternoon remarks to reporters, appeared largely unconcerned at the prospect of Turkish forces attacking the Kurds, who include a faction he described as “natural enemies” of the Turks.

“But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane … they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” Trump said.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion and would “lead to ISIS reemergence.”

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump’s presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

“I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible,” he said.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill prompted Trump to recast as well as restate his decision, but with renewed bombast and self-flattery.

He promised to destroy the Turkish economy “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

Sunday night the White House had said the U.S. would get its troops out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described that White House announcement as a botched effort appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful.

That official, like others interviewed, was not authorized to speak on the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday. But damage done to relations with the Kurds could be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies. It entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump defended his latest decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

In his later remarks, Trump asserted that American troops in Syria are not performing useful work. They are, he said, “not fighting.” They are “just there,” he said.

Among the first to move were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there was no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia’s position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will “look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., another strong Trump supporter, said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” that he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed concern.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. … Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.


          

Lawyer Claims Congress Is ‘Harassing’ Rudy Giuliani’s Allies—by Asking Them for Ukraine Documents   

Cache   

Lawyer Claims Congress Is ‘Harassing’ Rudy Giuliani’s Allies—by Asking Them for Ukraine DocumentsREUTERSTwo of Rudy Giuliani’s associates will not meet a congressional committee’s deadline to produce documents related to their work in Ukraine, according to their lawyer. That attorney, who previously represented President Donald Trump, accused congressional investigators of trying to harass and intimidate the two men in a letter that The Daily Beast obtained. The men—Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman—had tried to help Giuliani investigate Hunter Biden, a project at the core of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees had set an October 7 deadline for Parnas and Fruman to voluntarily turn over records related to their activities with Giuiliani. “Your request for documents and communications is overly broad and unduly burdensome,” wrote their attorney, John Dowd. “The subject matter of your requests is well beyond the scope of your inquiry. This, in combination with requiring immediate responses, leads me to the inescapable conclusion that the Democratic Committee members’ intent is to harass, intimidate and embarrass my clients.”Dowd said “The ‘Committees’”—in scare quotes—violated their standard procedures by asking the two men to turn over documents within seven days and testify within 15. “Considering the important factual questions and legal issues attendant to the alleged whistleblower, your investigation, your authority and requests for information, your charter should be amended to exhibit some semblance of due process, fairness, justice and common decency,” Dowd’s letter concluded. Parnas and Fruman, two Soviet-born Floridians, have connected Giuliani to various Ukrainian officials, including the ex-prosecutor who Trump and Giuliani claim was fired at Biden’s behest to protect his son, Hunter Biden.According to the Associated Press, Parnas and Fruman also worked to orchestrate political changes in Ukraine that might help their nascent natural gas company, Global Energy Producers LLC. With Giuliani’s assistance, the two men successfully pressed for the ouster of America’s ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, and, the AP reported on Sunday, advanced efforts to overhaul leadership at Ukraine’s national oil and gas company, Naftogaz.House Dems Preparing Investigation of Rudy Giuliani for Ukraine ShenanigansCongressional Democrats asked Parnass and Fruman for documents on Sept. 30. They also subpoenaed Giuliani that same day for documents. Giuliani told The Daily Beast he has not decided whether or not to comply. “I have a real question about whether I should recognize their legitimacy,” he said. “I think they are totally illegitimate... I’m going to go in front of a committee with a chairman who is a liar.”Going on offense against congressional investigators is a central part of the strategy that Trump’s allies are using to defend him. Chairman Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee has become their top foe. And the president himself has also lambasted the California Democrat, calling him “Shifty Schiff.” “I haven't made up my mind,” Giuliani continued, “but one of the issues is, do you acknowledge an illicit committee?”Administration officials have already stiff-armed the Hill. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo missed a deadline to turn over documents that Congress had subpoenaed. But members of Congress will still get face time with him soon; on October 15, he’s scheduled to meet behind closed doors with members and staff of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to discuss refugee caps. State Department officials have told Congress that Pompeo plans to be at the meeting, according to two sources familiar with the communications. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



          

Trump Impeachment Liveblog: State Department Blocks Sondland Deposition   

Cache   
Welcome back to impeachment watch. Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, is no longer appearing in his deposition before Congress today after a last-minute directive by the State Department. Sondland emerged as a key witness in the Ukraine scandal last week after text messages revealed his role in advancing President Donald Trump’s […]
          

Texts Detail Top U.S. Diplomat's Concerns About Possible Trump-Ukraine Quid Pro Quo   

Cache   
Updated at 10:01 a.m. ET Senior U.S. diplomats debated the propriety of a White House strategy aimed at pressuring Ukraine for political investigations in exchange for assistance and engagement with President Trump, new documents show. The Democratic chairmen of three House committees investigating President Trump released dozens of text messages late Thursday from top State Department officials handling European and Ukrainian affairs. The messages depict a plan to to tie aid to Ukraine and engagement with Trump to promises by Kyiv to launch investigations that might benefit Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. Reps. Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel released text messages provided by Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine who spent more than nine hours on Thursday testifying behind closed doors as the House impeachment inquiry's first official witness. I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. - Text message from
Next Page: 25

© Googlier LLC, 2019