Thursday, October 26, 2017

Underground in Raqqa - Patrick Cockburn

by Patrick Cockburn

Hat tip: Dr. Jean-Charles Bensoussan

To escape the aerial bombardment, IS decided to disappear underground, digging immense tunnel complexes underneath its two biggest urban centres, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria

Shortly before the siege of Raqqa began in June, Islamic State officials arrested Hammad al-Sajer for skipping afternoon prayers. Hammad, who is 29, made a living from his motorbike: he carried people and packages, charging less than the local taxis. IS had arrested him a number of times before – mostly for smoking cigarettes, which were banned under IS rule – but he had always been released after paying a fine or being lashed. Attendance at prayers was compulsory and he had missed the Asr, the afternoon prayer, because a passenger had made him wait while he went into his house to get money for his fare after a trip to Raqqa’s old city. Hammad expected to be fined or lashed, but this time he was sentenced to a month in prison. Except it turned out not to be prison. On his first morning, ‘militants blindfolded us and took us in a vehicle to a place that seemed to be inside the city because it took no more than ten minutes to get there.’

Hammad and the other prisoners, all of them local men, were taken to an empty house. In one of the rooms there was a hole in the floor. Rough steps led down about sixty feet before the tunnel flattened out into a corridor, which was connected to a labyrinth of other tunnels. A fellow prisoner, Adnan, told Hammad that IS had started work on what was effectively a subterranean network a year and a half earlier. In other words, construction began in 2015, after IS’s spectacular run of victories ended and it started its long retreat in the face of Kurdish offensives backed by coalition firepower. To escape the aerial bombardment, IS decided to disappear underground, digging immense tunnel complexes underneath its two biggest urban centres, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, to help it defend itself when the final assaults came.

Few people in Raqqa knew the extent of the excavations going on beneath their feet – not even Hammad, who rode his motorbike around the city every day. The entrances were always in districts from which local inhabitants had fled or been evicted. ‘When we got into the tunnels we were amazed,’ Hammad remembers. ‘It was as if an entire city had been built underground.’ IS must have needed an army of workers to build it – but then there were large numbers of prisoners and jobless labourers to draw on. The prisoners were told as little as possible about what they were doing: anyone who asked a lot of questions was punished. Hammad saw rooms with reinforced concrete walls and ceilings, and what looked like boxes of ammunition piled up on the floor. When he asked about the boxes, he says, one of the guards ‘hit me on my back with a piece of cable and said: “Don’t poke your nose into things. This is not your business. Do your job and keep quiet.”’ The foreign fighters on duty were silent and unapproachable, but some of the guards were locals and occasionally talked to the diggers during the ten-hour working day. ‘Sometimes they joked with us because they were bored and tired,’ he says. One day he asked one of them what all this hard work was for. ‘This great construction will help the lions of the caliphate to escape,’ he said (the ‘lions’ were the IS emirs and commanders). ‘They have a message to deliver to people and they should not die too soon.’

IS officials used prisoners to work on the tunnels when they could, but they also hired labourers. One of these was Khalaf Ali. When IS seized the city in 2014, he was selling cigarettes in the street. ‘I was picked up by some militants who took me to a commander,’ he says. ‘They did not take me to prison, but they confiscated my boxes of cigarettes and said that if I sold cigarettes again, they would put me in prison and I would get thirty lashes.’ He started spending his days in a local square with other unemployed men; they would wait for a car or truck to stop and offer them odd jobs – moving furniture, mending broken doors or windows. In April 2016, Khalaf was sitting in the square with the others when an IS security man said he wanted to talk to them. At first they were nervous, but the official said they could have work if they registered their names at an IS office. When they showed up at 7 a.m. the following day, they were told they had to agree to certain conditions: ‘We must not talk about what we were doing in public as it was one of the caliphate’s secrets and, if we violated this condition, they would kill us as traitors.’ They were blindfolded and driven a short distance to an empty house, where the blindfolds were removed. It wasn’t the house Hammad had first been taken to: here, there were no stairs, just a sloping tunnel about 150 feet long, which took them around sixty feet underground.

‘We entered an area that looked like a residential complex,’ Khalaf remembers. ‘There were many rooms: some under construction, others finished, with concrete walls.’ The labourers used trolleys to move the excavated soil to a certain point in the tunnel, where other men, whom he didn’t know, took charge of moving it up to the surface to be dispersed. The various teams of workers were forbidden to talk to one another. Khalaf’s team was responsible for moving furniture, including sofas and beds, to completed rooms. ‘There was electricity, though not in every room, and the corridor had lights.’ As the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced towards Raqqa and the American bombardment intensified, IS doubled wages from $4 to $8 a day, though money was deducted if the IS officials were dissatisfied with the quality of the work. Once Khalaf asked an IS militant who had first had the idea of building these underground complexes. He was told that it was ‘our brothers in faith’: ‘in Afghanistan,’ the militant said, ‘many attacks were repelled and failed because of the tunnels.’

Hammad and Khalaf, who didn’t know each other, escaped separately from Raqqa during the first weeks of the siege. Hammad fled in the early morning with a group of men, moving from house to house whenever there was a break in the fighting. They took advantage of a tactical retreat by IS fighters to run towards the Kurdish-led forces, stopping every ten minutes to hide behind walls and the wreckage of houses until they reached safety. The SDF questioned them to make sure that they weren’t IS infiltrators, and then took them to a camp for displaced people at Ain al-Issa, north of Raqqa. Khalaf’s journey out of Raqqa was even riskier: after a number of people in his neighbourhood were killed, he and thirty others decided to try to escape from the city guided by SDF radio broadcasts. Even so, Khalaf says, they were sometimes trapped inside a house by the fighting for several days. ‘Finally we fled, but we lost some of our friends,’ he says. ‘We saw their bodies lying there as we ran, but everybody was afraid of snipers so we couldn’t go back for them.’

The siege of Raqqa, a small city on the Euphrates with a population before the war of less than 300,000, has now been going on for four months. IS fanaticism is one reason it hasn’t fallen sooner, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to stop the SDF, with the might of American airpower behind it. The network of tunnels connecting up bunkers, hideouts and hidden escape routes is the key to the resistance. IS fighters are able to move swiftly underground, shifting positions before they can be detected and eliminated by bombing or shellfire. As in Mosul, the only way for the attackers to advance without sustaining heavy losses has been to call in coalition airstrikes so intense that much of the city has already been destroyed. The Kurdish general commanding the SDF, Mazlum Kobane, was quoted on 26 September as saying that his forces now hold 75 per cent of Raqqa, but there are still some 700 IS fighters and 1500 pro-IS militiamen in the city centre. They can probably hold out for weeks or even months, using the same skills in urban warfare that IS demonstrated during the siege of Mosul. A combination of snipers, suicide bombers, mortar teams, mines and booby traps slow down and inflict damage on the enemy. For IS, eventual defeat is inevitable, but they remain dangerous: last month a group of IS fighters in SDF uniforms killed 28 SDF men in a surprise attack.

Still, tactical agility won’t be enough to save the caliphate, which is now being overwhelmed on multiple fronts. Islamic State’s great strength came from the way it combined religious cult and war machine; its weakness was that it saw the whole world as its enemy, which meant that it would always be outnumbered and outgunned. Without allies and dealing only in violence, it led an unlikely alliance of states normally hostile to one another to find common cause against it, and engage in a degree of reluctant co-operation. As IS comes close to losing its power, old rivalries and divisions are beginning to re-emerge – but in a political landscape significantly reshaped by the war with IS.

A decision IS took three years ago – after its columns had won speedy victories over the Iraqi and Syrian armies and captured much of eastern Syria and western Iraq – helped to set the stage for the next phase of the conflict: instead of keeping up the pressure on the demoralised forces of the central governments in Baghdad and Damascus, IS diverted its forces to make war on the Kurds in both Iraq and Syria. In August 2014, it launched a surprise attack on the Iraqi Kurds which almost reached their capital, Erbil, and in September it started a prolonged assault on the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani. Quite why IS did this remains a mystery: it’s possible that it was acting with the encouragement of Turkey, which was alarmed by the growing strength of the once marginalised Syrian Kurds. Whatever the explanation, the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq unexpectedly found themselves, much to their political benefit, in the front line of an international campaign against IS. The Peshmerga in Iraq and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria were suddenly awarded support from the most powerful air force in the world. Turkey had been prepared to see Kobani fall to IS, but the city was saved by intense US airstrikes, though 70 per cent of its buildings were left in ruins. The US had been desperately seeking reliable ground troops in Syria and found them in the YPG, which took control of much of the southern side of the Syrian-Turkish border. In Iraq, the Kurds used the defeat of the Iraqi army in northern Iraq at the time of the fall of Mosul to seize the ‘disputed territories’ outside the boundaries of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), thereby expanding the Kurdish-controlled area by 40 per cent.
Kurdish leaders in Syria and Iraq have long wondered, mostly in private, whether they would be able to retain their political and military gains once IS was on the road to defeat. Early last year, Muhammad Haji Mahmud, a senior Peshmerga commander, told me that the war with IS had brought great benefits to the Iraqi Kurds: ‘We have become a regular army, rather than a guerrilla force; are supported by US and European air power; can buy weapons openly; and are praised internationally for fighting terrorism.’ His big fear was that the Kurds wouldn’t ‘have the same value internationally’ once Mosul was liberated and IS defeated. Nor did he think they would have the strength to hold onto the disputed territories without international support. In Syria, too, Kurdish leaders worry that they are over-extended and too reliant on the Americans, who may stop supporting them diplomatically and militarily once Raqqa and the last IS strongholds have fallen. Turkish intervention is one threat; another is the Syrian army, which – with Russian air cover – has surrounded IS at Deir Ezzor and will now want to advance to take the oilfields further east. Developments in Iraq and Syria often mirror each other: the Syrian army captured East Aleppo in December 2016 and the Iraqi army took Mosul seven months later. The trend in both Iraq and Syria has been for the military power of the central government to bounce back – which poses a mounting threat to Kurdish separatism.

Now that the outcome of the war with IS is no longer really an issue, the conflict in the region is turning towards confrontation over the powers, and even the existence, of the two Kurdish quasi-states: the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, and what the Syrian Kurds call Rojava, in the north-east corner of Syria. In 2012, following the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the Syrian army withdrew from Kurdish cities and towns in the area, and what to all intents and purposes is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, which had been fighting a guerrilla war in Turkey since 1984, took over. As a US military ally against IS from 2014, the Syrian Kurds field an army about 50,000 strong. Their fighters are now moving into eastern Syria, where they will confront advancing troops of the Syrian army. A collision is probable and its outcome uncertain, but for the Kurds it is fraught with danger, since they can’t know what American policy towards them will be under Trump.

However, the first real post-IS crisis for the Kurds has come not in Syria but Iraq. The non-binding referendum on independence for the Iraqi Kurds held on 25 September was opposed by the UN, US, UK, France and Germany as well as by regional powers including Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The last three promised retaliation against the KRG if the vote was held, a threat that its president, Masoud Barzani, interpreted as a bluff. It turned out to be a very real threat and within days of the referendum, Baghdad had closed Iraqi airspace to international flights out of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah. The Iraqi government held joint military manoeuvres with Turkey and Iran and is threatening to take control of the KRG’s borders. The Kurds’ overwhelming vote for their own independent state has had the effect of highlighting the scale of the obstacles to their self-determination. Iran, Turkey and the Iraqi government are now united as never before and in a position to enforce a blockade on the KRG; there is a limit to what the Kurds can do by way of retaliation.

‘The Kurdish leadership in Iraq doesn’t really have any military or diplomatic options,’ says Omar Sheikhmous, a veteran Kurdish leader who believes the KRG has badly overplayed its hand. Barzani’s decision to hold a referendum – driven primarily by intra-Kurdish political divisions – may come to seem a serious miscalculation. Before the poll, Barzani rejected compromise proposals from the US and its European allies while Kurdish leaders underestimated the likelihood of Turkey and Iran following through on threats that had proved hollow in the past. Sheikhmous had warned me before the vote that the Kurdish leadership in Iraq could be about to ‘throw away all they had won over the previous twenty or thirty years’. He compared the referendum with other classic blunders in Iraqi history, such as Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when he entirely misjudged how other powers would respond. KRG leaders wrongly believed that Turkey and Iran wouldn’t want to jeopardise their sizeable economic interests in Iraqi Kurdistan by objecting to the vote. But neither Turkey nor Iran can countenance the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurds since it would inflame their own Kurdish minorities. Turkey’s reaction was especially hostile: the Kurds, Erdoğan said, ‘are not forming an independent state, they are opening a wound in the region to twist a knife in’. Barzani had cultivated good relations with Erdoğan, who now says that the relationship is finished: the KRG, ‘to which we provided all support, took steps against us, it will pay the price’. In future, he says, Turkey will deal only with the Iraqi government. Iraqi Kurds are hoping the US will once again come to their rescue by mediating between them and their opponents: they say the roads into Kurdistan are still open and that nothing has yet changed on the ground. The KRG may survive its present isolation but the risk is growing that the Kurdish quasi-states will go the same way as the caliphate.

Patrick Cockburn


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House approves sanctions on Hezbollah - Elad Benari

by Elad Benari

House of Representatives backs sanctions on Hezbollah as part of effort to take tough line against its chief backer, Iran.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday backed new sanctions on the Hezbollah terrorist group, Reuters reported.

The sanctions are part of an effort to take a tough line against Iran, which is Hezbollah's chief backer, without immediately moving to undermine the nuclear agreement signed between the West and the Islamic Republic in 2015.

Three Hezbollah-related measures passed by voice vote, without opposition, according to Reuters. The House will vote on Thursday on another bill, to impose additional sanctions on Iran related to its ballistic missiles program.

The move comes nearly two weeks after President Donald Trump said he would not certify Iran is complying with an international agreement on its nuclear program.

Trump’s action opened a 60-day window for Congress to act to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program that were lifted under the agreement, but there has been no move to do so in the House or Senate.

Aides told Reuters that, for now, House lawmakers are focusing on clamping down on Iran in other ways such as the Hezbollah and missile-related sanctions.

The first of the Hezbollah-related measures passed on Wednesday would impose new sanctions on any entities found to support the group, such as by providing weapons to Hezbollah. The second imposes sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields.

The third was a resolution urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. In 2013, the European Union blacklisted Hezbollah's “military wing” as a terrorist organization, while failing to blacklist the group’s political arm as well.

The U.S. named Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. Earlier this month, Washington offered multimillion-dollar rewards for two of its officials as the Trump administration developed its strategy for countering Iran’s growing regional influence.

“These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hezbollah’s financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction,” said Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to Reuters.

Washington has in the past imposed sanctions on Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and two other members of the organization, for their alleged role in aiding the Syrian government in its crackdown on opposition forces.

Elad Benari


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Russian under investigation for bribery by FBI given visa by Obama administration - Rick Moran

by Rick Moran

The coverup continues---

An interesting sidelight to the Russian Uranium One caper was reported by The Hill yesterday, involving a Russian TENEX executive whom the FBI was investigating for bribery and extortion who was granted a visa to enter the U.S. by the Obama administration.

TENEX is an American subsidiary of Rosatom, the company involved in buying an interest in Uranium One.
The records show TENEX executive Vadim Mikerin was engaged in illegal conduct as early as the fall of 2009, yet he was allowed to enter the country by the Obama administration with a L1 temporary work visa when he arrived in December 2011.
Milkerin's visa was renewed in August 2014, just months before he was arrested and charged with extortion, the records show. He and his company applied for the visa in summer 2011, records show.
The lengthy delay is now being investigated by multiple GOP-led congressional committees, one of which sent a letter Tuesday to the State Department and Homeland Security Department demanding answers.
"It is concerning that a suspected criminal was able to apply for and renew a work visa while being under FBI investigation," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in the letter.
Officials for the FBI, State and Homeland did not return calls and emails seeking an explanation why Mikerin was granted a visa after the FBI already had evidence he was engaged in wrongdoing.
Officials familiar with law enforcement issues involving visas said it was possible the FBI evidence on Mikerin was not flagged in databases checked by State and Homeland before Mikerin was granted entry.
They added another possibility was that the FBI asked the agencies to allow Mikerin to enter the country so they could monitor his activities as part of a larger counterintelligence operation and detect other possible conspirators.
The latter explanation makes sense. The FBI may have wanted to cast a wider net and believed Mikerin could lead to other co-conspirators. 

But as Andrew McCarthy points out, there was a curious delay between the time the FBI knew that Mikerin was conducting criminal activity in this country and his indictment in 2014.
Even though the FBI had an informant collecting damning information, and had a prosecutable case against Mikerin by early 2010, the extortion racket against American energy companies was permitted to continue into the summer of 2014. It was only then that, finally, Mikerin and his confederates were arrested.
Why then? This is not rocket science. In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea. Putin also began massing forces on the Ukrainian border, coordinating and conducting attacks, ultimately taking control of territory. Clearly, the pie-in-the-sky Obama reset was dead. Furthermore, the prosecution of Mikerin's racketeering scheme had been so delayed that the Justice Department risked losing the ability to charge the 2009 felonies because of the five-year statute of limitations on most federal crimes.
Still, a lid needed to be kept on the case. It would have made for an epic Obama administration scandal, and a body blow to Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes, if in the midst of Russia's 2014 aggression, public attention had been drawn to the failure, four years earlier, to prosecute a national-security case in order to protect Russia's takeover of U.S. nuclear assets.
The Obama administration needed to make this case go away – without a public trial if at all possible.
Think about this: The investigation of Russian racketeering in the American energy sector was the kind of spectacular success over which the FBI and Justice Department typically do a bells-n-whistles victory lap – the big self-congratulatory press conference followed by the media-intensive prosecutions...and, of course, more press conferences.
The cover-up continues today. With Democrats like Hillary Clinton claiming that the entire episode has been "debunked" or that it's a nothingburger, getting to the bottom of this scandal is going to be difficult.

It really is an extraordinary story. A nexus of Russian criminal enterprises, U.S. energy companies, and officials in the Obama administration all conspired to enrich each other by selling off 20% of U.S. uranium access. 

Sounds like a great plot for a movie – except it really happened, and the cover-up continues.

Rick Moran


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Rutgers professor calls Judaism the 'most racist religion' - Garry Willig

by Garry Willig

Professor posts conspiracy theories blaming Israel for 9/11, Jews for Armenian Genocide, and claims the Talmud is a racist text.

Rutgers University announced that it is reviewing the "matter" of a professor who posted a series of anti-Semitic posts on social media.

Michael Chikindas, a microbiology professor at Rutgers’ department of food science and director of the university’s Center for Digestive Health, posted dozens of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming Jews and Israel for many of the world's ills, and even attacked Judaism as "the most racist religion" in the world.

Chikindas' anti-Semitic posts were first reported by the pro-Israel Israellycool blog.

In one post, Chikindas claimed that "Israel is the terrorist country aimed at genocidal extermination of the land’s native population, Palestinians.”

His ire was not limited to Zionists, whom he lumped together with Orthodox Jews as “the best of two forms of racism.” He also blamed Jews for human rights catastrophes, egregiously including the 1915 Armenian Genocide. "We must not forget that the Armenian Genocide was orchestrated by the Turkish Jews who pretended to be the Turks.” 

Chikindas shared numerous anti-Semitic wild conspiracy theories, including theories claiming that Israel was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks, as well as claims that Jews control the Federal Reserve, Hollywood, the “cancer industry,” “pornography,” “sex-trafficking,” and others.

Chikindas denied that he was anti-Semitic in an interview with the Algemeiner Tuesday, arguing that he was one quarter Jewish himself and had a Jewish ex-wife and child.

He further claimed that none of his posts were anti-Semitic and false, and that the Talmud was full of racist statements against non-Jews. In fact, the statements are against idolators or those who persecute the Jews.

Rutgers has announced that it is investigating the matter. University spokesperson Neal Buccino told the Algemeiner: “Professor Michael Chikindas’ comments and posts on social media are antithetical to our university’s principles and values of respect for people of all backgrounds, including, among other groups, our large and vibrant Jewish community. Such comments do not represent the position of the University.”

“The university is reviewing this matter to determine if actions taken in the context of his role as a faculty member at Rutgers may have violated that policy,” he said.

Garry Willig


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Obama's felony: 'Sitting' on the ROSATOM nuclear crimes - Mark Langfan

by Mark Langfan

Obama’s “Sitting” on the ROSATOM’s nuclear crimes was an “Obstruction of Congress” felony. In effect, Putin bribed Secretary of State Clinton.

The Preface:

While Federal investigations may have trouble finding specific quid-pro-quos in Russia’s bribing Hillary Clinton, it is now clear that all the key high level Obama administration officials(especially Clinton) knew, as early as 2009, that the Russian government entity ROSATOM’s subsidiaries were actively committing a vast criminal “nuclear kickback” conspiracy in the United States.

New reports have raised legitimate questions about the clear failure of the Obama Administration to inform the CFIUS Federal governmental board, the body that approved the 2010 UraniumOne sale to a Russian controlled corporation, of the Russian “nuclear kickback” case.  However, the more dramatic failure of the Obama Administration was its purposeful neglect in informing Congress of the ROSATOM’s “nuclear kickback” crimes during the ratification hearings for the 2010-11 Russian-American New START nuclear arms treaty.  

In effect, Putin bribed Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in a 2-for-1 corruption scandal.  He bought the UraniumOne approval and the New START Treaty ratification with the same Clinton Foundation bribe.  The problem for the all former high level national security Obama Administration officials is that under 18 U.S.C. 1505 it is a federal felony to obstruct or impede either a Congressional “inquiry or investigation” or a “pending proceeding” before a “federal department” due to corruption. Therefore, the Obama Administration’s 2009 failure to properly and fully inform the Senate, and the CFIUS board of ROSATOM’s criminal enterprise in the United States is a big, severe felony crime.

The Factual Background:

There is currently ample open-source evidence to conclude that all the key National Security officials in the Obama Administration (especially Sec of State Clinton) knew as early as 2009 that Vadm Mikerin, a Russian national, and his “higher officials” Moscow backers, were engaged in a vast criminal conspiracy relating to “nuclear kickbacks” and felony violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices act.  Mikerin was a big-wig in ROSATOM.  In 2015, Mikerin pled guilty to the “criminal money laundering conspiracy involving violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” and was sent to Federal Prison for 4 years.  

According to its website, ROSATOM is the Russian  “State Atomic Energy Corporation.”   The ROSATOM webite continues to state, “ROSATOM is a proponent of the uniform national policy and best management practices in nuclear power utilization, the nuclear weapons industry, and nuclear safety.”  

Did you get that?  ROSATOM a “proponent of the uniform national policy” of the Russian “nuclear weapons industry.”  In the United States, Mikerin set up and ran Tenam which was a subsidiary of Tenex ROSATOM’s foreign trade arm.  So, in 2009 and 2010, Sec. of State Clinton and the entire Obama national security team intentionally and knowingly withheld time-sensitive national security information about the Russian key nuclear-arms corporation while the UraniumOne and New Start treaty were being evaluated by the United States Senate and CFIUS board.
The “Obstruction of Congress” Statute:

18 U.S. Code § 1505 - Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

Let’s analyze the statute:

I. Whoever

II. A. corruptly, or B. by threats or C. force, or D. by any threatening letter or communication 
III. A. influences, B. obstructs, or  C. impedes or D. endeavors to  1. influence, 2. obstruct, or 3. impede 
IV. A.1. the due and proper administration of the law under which  2. any pending proceeding is being had  3. before any department or agency of the United States, or 
B. 1. the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by  a.  either House, orb. any committee of either House orc. any joint committee of the Congress

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years (not more than 8 years if the offense involves domestic or international terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

Additionally, for the definition of “corrupt” we need to look at the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 201(b), which criminalizes the corrupt promise or transfer of any thing of value to influence an official act of a federal official, a fraud on the United States, or the commission or omission of any act in violation of the official's duty.

Brief Legal Analysis:

First, the CFIUS board evaluating the UraniumOne sale to the ROSATOM subsidiary was clearly “a pending proceeding” “being had before a department or agency of the United States.”  

And, the US Senate’s and even the House of Representatives’ evaluation of the UraniumOne sale and especially of the ratification of the New Start Treaty were clearly a “due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry” “being had” by “either House, or any committee of either House.”  

Secondly, the withholding of the information of  ROSATOM’s “nuclear kickback” conspiracy from both the CFIUS board and the Congress clearly “impeded,” and “obstructed” the “inquiry or investigation” of both the CFIUS board and Congress with respect to UraniumOne and the Congress with respect to the New START Treaty.

Thirdly, the Obama administration officials clearly “corruptly” engaged in these actions because , at a minimum, the intentional failure of the Obama national security officials to inform CFIUS and the Congress was, under 18 U.S.C. § 201(b) “corrupt” because they were clearly actions where the “commission or omission of” the acts were “in violation of the official’s duty.”

Their “Defense” will only sink them further:

A likely defense by the Obama national security officials will be “we withheld the information because if we had divulged the information, CFIUS and Congress would never have let the UraniumOne sale or the New START Treaty pass.”  All they will have proven with this crazy defense is how relevant and vital the information was, and how critical it was to timely inform the FIUS and Congressional Committee’s of the information in the first place.

In short, and in conclusion, the Obama national security team should lawyer-up because they are looking at massive criminal claims coming their way.

Mark Langfan is Chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) and specializes in security issues, has created an original educational 3d Topographic Map System of Israel to facilitate clear understanding of the dangers facing Israel and its water supply. It has been studied by US lawmakers and can be seen at


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Israeli Justice minister: High Court won't decide future of settlement enterprise - Yair Altman and Israel Hayom Staff

by Yair Altman and Israel Hayom Staff

The Justice Ministry "won't allow left-wing organizations to set facts on the ground by dragging the court into the political sphere," Ayelet Shaked says

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked  
Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon

"The High Court of Justice won't decide the future of the Judea and Samaria settlement enterprise," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Tuesday, adding her officer "will not allow left-wing organizations to set facts on the ground by dragging the court into the political sphere."

Speaking at a Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, Shaked said that "the Left can't win the election so they [left-wing groups] file hundreds of nuisance petitions with the court every year, effectively waging lawfare against the Israeli government. We won’t be a party to it."

She stressed that the "government aims to bolster the settlement enterprise," adding that when it comes to petitions concerning this issue,

"The State Attorney's Office represents the state – not the personal opinion of an individual attorney, certainly not on an issue that is part of the government's core operations."

The government, Shaked said, "is stable, and it will make it to 2019," when the next general elections are scheduled to take place.

Construction Minister Yoav Gallant, who also addressed the Kohelet forum on Tuesday, slammed the judiciary for trying to "undermine the government."

"The ongoing judicialization [of politics] weakens the political echelon while empowering the bureaucratic echelon, which could eventually undercut democracy," he said.

"Under the current situation, the biggest criminal has the right to voice his position, but the government and its ministers don't have that right. What tools allow judges to know better than military officials?

"The Supreme Court is not free of populism. It's inconceivable that the Supreme Court knows more about security, energy, and housing than the executive branch. The government wants to hit the gas, but the judiciary keeps hitting the brakes," he said.

Yair Altman and Israel Hayom Staff


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Jordan reportedly furious over Palestinian reconciliation deal - Daniel Siryoti

by Daniel Siryoti

Abbas accuses Abdullah of abandoning Palestinian issue in favor of Trump's plan in region • Jordan denies Hamas leader's request to reopen terrorist group's office in Amman.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with 
Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman, Monday  
Photo: AFP  
Jordan's King Abdullah has reportedly expressed significant disapproval over the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal during a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman several days ago, Palestinian and Jordanian sources told Israel Hayom on Tuesday.

In the meeting, Abdullah said he was apprehensive at Hamas' prospective integration in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the possibility the former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal will vie in the next Palestinian presidential elections, and Hamas' rule in the West Bank. These constitute a threat to Jordan, as they will likely destabilize the internal security of the kingdom, the king told Abbas.

Jordan also reportedly rejected a request by Mashaal to reopen Hamas' offices in Amman.
The move would help Mashaal integrate Hamas into the PLO and succeed Abbas.

Abdullah briefed Abbas on the decision to deny Hamas' request, saying that renewing the terrorist organization's activities in Jordan would strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' parent movement, in Jordan.

Jordanian and Palestinian officials said the king stressed that the Jordanians were enraged that the Palestinians did not update them on the contents of the reconciliation agreement before it was inked. The deal was formulated under the auspices of Egypt, and as such, it does not consider Jordan's security interests regarding Hamas' activity in the West Bank, the Islamist terrorist group's participation in a Palestinian unity government and Hamas' integration into PLO institutes.

Abbas, for his part, accused Jordan of "abandoning" the Palestinian issue in favor of U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to reach a Middle East peace agreement.

Middle East expert Pinhas Inbari, from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs said Tuesday that the reconciliation deal was intended from the start to promote Trump's regional peace plan. The reconciliation would give in to Saudi and Egyptian demands for internal Palestinian unity, Inbari claimed, by disconnecting Hamas from the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, with which Hamas recently thawed relations.

Daniel Siryoti


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In France, a Deadly Mix of Antisemitism, Islamism, and Family Violence - Michael Gurfinkiel

by Michael Gurfinkiel

"Burning hatred against France and against Jews, and an orgy of domestic violence."

Originally published under the title "A Tale of Racism and Family Violence."

Abdelkader Merah and his sister Souad are on trial in France for inspiring their younger brother Mohamed (top) to go on a 2012 killing spree.

"Burning hatred against France and against Jews, and an orgy of domestic violence."

That was how Anne Chenevat, a major witness, described the Merah family – a divorced mother, three sons and two daughters – to the Special Criminal Court of Paris last Tuesday.

Mohamed Merah, the youngest of the family's sons, killed seven people – including three Jewish children shot at point-blank range – and maimed six others in the southern French towns of Montauban and Toulouse between March 11 and March 19, 2012. He was himself killed by security forces three days later.

The main defendants in the present trial, which started three weeks ago, are his older brother Abdelkader Merah and his older sister Souad. The siblings are accused of inspiring the killing spree. Abdelkader was arrested in 2012; Souad fled to Algeria.

Anne Chenevat, a former partner of the eldest Merah brother, Abdelghani, testified about the toxic influence of the family's Algerian-born mother, Zuleikha Aziri. "I was routinely abused and spat upon by Zuleikha for being 'a dirty French woman' and a 'dirty Jewess'."

Anne Chenevat's importance as a witness stems from the fact that she was for six years the partner of Abdelghani Merah, the eldest Merah brother. According to her, Zuleikha Aziri, the Algerian-born mother, would use electric wire to beat her children. Violence between the brothers was rampant: on one occasion, Abdelkader inflicted seven stab wounds on Abdelghani.

Hatred for the non-Muslim French and antisemitism were held as self-evident in the family." As a result, I was routinely abused and spat upon by Zuleikha for being 'a dirty French woman' and a 'dirty Jewess'," Chenevat said. A Catholic by birth, she once admitted to the Merahs that she had a Jewish grandfather.

She left Abdelghani because of his addiction to alcohol and drugs and raised their son Theodore alone. Also called also as a witness to the trial, Abdelghani concurred with his former companion about the Merahs' ethnic and religious prejudices: "We all grew up hating France and the Jews, it is a fact."

Abdelghani Merah: "We all grew up hating France and the Jews, it is a fact."

According to him, Abdelkader turned to radical Islam in 2006 along with Souad and frequently visited salafist mosques and madrasas in Egypt, and was the main nefarious influence on Mohamed.

Theodore Chenevat, the son of Anne Chenevat and Abdelghani Merah – now a 21-year-old business and economics student – chillingly told the Court that in order to indoctrinate him into jihad, his uncle Abdelkader shared with him videos of "Islamic beheading" and attempted to have him visit mortuaries.

When the counsel of Mohamed Merah's Jewish victims, Elie Korchia, asked him whether Abdelkader and Mohamed should be seen as two heads of a single terrorist beast, he answered that the fugitive older sister Souad should be counted as a third and equally dangerous head.

The trial, which is expected to last until early November, continues.

Michael Gurfinkiel, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum, is the founder and president of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think tank in France.


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Stand up to agricultural terrorism - Boaz Haetzni

by Boaz Haetzni

The wholesale theft that 70 residents of the village Beit Awwa committed in the fields of Moshav Shekef in the Lachish region illustrates the extent of the problem.

The first time I met Yoel Zilberman was in 2008 in Mitzpe Sando in the Galilee. My wife and I had come to the farm, a little place on a hilltop, and we saw the silo that was black as coal, two days after it was deliberately set on fire, along with the hay bales and tractor. It was a sight typical of the 1930s, the lawless days that predated the founding of the state.

Zilberman, an officer in the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit, had taken unpaid leave from the army to save his father's Galilee farm, which was vulnerable to theft and destruction perpetrated by the local Arabs. Zionism's fight for its life in the Galilee and the Negev doesn't play out in murders, but rather in "minor," daily acts of economic and agricultural terrorism. Fences are destroyed, herds and crops are subject to constant theft, irrigation systems are wrecked, and protection money is demanded – a combination of crimes that ultimately serve nationalist goals of keeping Israeli farmers down, making the profession unprofitable, and in the end ousting them from the land so it can be taken over.

Zilberman's success in saving his family's farm through presence and guard duty led him to found the group Hashomer Hachadash, out of the understanding that agricultural crime is a widespread national problem rather than a localized spat between neighbors. The group attracted civilians from all sectors and of all political orientations who were ready to donate their time and spend days and nights guarding fields and herds. My wife and I volunteer for guard duty and are pleased with the thanks from the farmers and the smile of relief on their faces at the knowledge that they'll be able to get a night's sleep, for a change.

"We're finally able to sleep at night"; "the farm has finally stopped losing money"; "I was about to get rid of the herd and then Hashomer Hachadash showed up" – these are some of the reactions I heard from the farmers whose livelihood was saved by the volunteers whose shirts read, "My brother's keeper," a kind of reference to Cain, who killed his brother Abel and played innocent, asking, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

We volunteers came to give and wound up the recipients. We don't get a dime, not even gas money, but a smile of thanks from those who felt abandoned and then a brother appeared and helped save his livelihood so he could continue to hold onto the nation's land and our future in this country. We volunteers are thankful for the opportunity to contribute, both to the farmers and to the wonderful grassroots organization that came from the people, not the government, and now coordinates fully with the Israel Police and the Border Police.

The wholesale theft that 70 residents of the village Beit Awwa committed in the fields of Moshav Shekef in the Lachish region illustrates the extent of the problem. A gang of thieves that will stop at nothing, vs. a weak police and indifferent courts, have made agricultural theft and sabotage into an easy, risk-free sport. Indeed, after some of the thieves were caught, the police released the minors. Why?

The incident at Moshav Shekef reflects what happens when there is no security, not to mention that an incursion for the purpose of theft could wind up leading to murder. On the other hand, dozens of farms that have been assigned security by the Hashomer Hachadash volunteers are already breathing more easily. Anyone who thinks that mutual aid, volunteerism and contributing to society without expecting anything in return are old-fashioned values that have vanished, is wrong. The old, good Israel is alive and kicking, right now.

Boaz Haetzni is a publicist and a member of Hashomer Hachadash agricultural organization.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Russia-Iran Axis: An Existential Threat To Israel – Part II: The Nuclear Dimension - Yigal Carmon

by Yigal Carmon

Russia's sabotage of the implementation of sections of the JCPOA, and its claim that Iran's 8.5-ton inventory of enriched uranium has gone missing, contribute directly to Iran's unhindered ability to develop nuclear weapons capacity.


Part I of our analysis of the Russian-Iranian existential threat to Israel, published October 23, 2017, focused on the conventional military dimension of the threat posed by Russia's facilitation of Iran's expansion in Syria, up to Israel's borders with both Lebanon and Syria.

Part II, below, focuses on the nuclear dimension of this threat.

Adding The Nuclear Dimension To The Threat

Russia is making it possible for Iran to evade inspection of its nuclear program, to which it is subject under the JCPOA. In this way, it adds a nuclear element to the existential threat to Israel, as follows:

A. Iran's inventory of 8.5 tons of enriched uranium, shipped out of Iran to Russia in December 2015 in accordance with the JCPOA, has gone missing in Russia. This was attested to by the Obama administration's State Department lead coordinator on Iran, Stephen Mull, at a February 11, 2016 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, where he said: "It has not yet been decided where exactly Russia will put this information [sic]." But under questioning, Mull acknowledged that Washington had not verified the Iranian shipment.[1]

B. The most egregious example of Russia's facilitation of Tehran's development of nuclear weapons capability is its support of Iran's refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspections in accordance with Section T of the JCPOA, which prohibits Iran from "designing, developing, fabricating, acquiring, or using multi-point explosive detonation systems suitable for a nuclear explosive device" and also from "designing, developing, fabricating, acquiring, or using explosive diagnostic systems (streak cameras, framing cameras and flash x-ray cameras)" – unless these activities are "approved by the Joint Commission for non-nuclear purposes" and "subject to monitoring." Iran refuses to allow such monitoring, and Russia supports it in its refusal. Russia claims, in a preposterous argument, that the IAEA is not authorized to deal with this part of the JCPOA. Its stance was illustrated in October 20, 2017 remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference: "It is impossible to strengthen what does not exist. The IAEA has no mandate to verify Section T."[2]
Thus, Russia's sabotage of the implementation of sections of the JCPOA, and its claim that Iran's 8.5-ton inventory of enriched uranium has gone missing, contribute directly to Iran's unhindered ability to develop nuclear weapons capacity.

[1], February 16, 2016.
[2], October 20, 2017. See also Reuters, September 26, 2017.

Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI and served as advisor to two Israeli prime ministers for countering terrorism.


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Hillary, DNC Bankrolled Anti-Trump ‘Piss-Gate’ Dossier - Matthew Vadum

by Matthew Vadum

Congressional investigators are also zeroing in on the suspicious Uranium One deal.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee bankrolled the explosive, far-fetched dossier that attempted to smear President Trump by falsely linking him to Russia, according to new reports.

The news came days after President Trump suggested Democrats, Russia, or the FBI may have helped fund research that Democrat communications firm Fusion GPS used to compile the infamous dossier.

“Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th[,]” the president tweeted Oct. 19. “Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?” In Oct. 21, he followed up, tweeting “Justice Department and/or FBI should immediately release who paid for it.”

News of the dossier funding came as two congressional committees announced plans Tuesday to jointly investigate the 2010 sale of a U.S. uranium concern to a Russian company. As U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton approved the transaction as millions of dollars poured in to her corrupt family foundation from Russian sources.

There are “very, very real concerns about why we would allow a Russian-owned company to get access to 20 percent of America’s uranium supply,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said Monday. “It’s important we find out why that deal went through.”

The character-assassination dossier is the unvetted, salacious, 35-page report written by British former spy Christopher Steele and published by cat-video and gossip website BuzzFeed. The dubious package of documents dubbed the “piss-gate dossier” claimed, among other things, that Donald Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on a hotel room bed in Moscow in front of him.

The dossier put together by Democrat-aligned Fusion GPS was just one of many dirty tricks Hillary Clinton’s campaign used in an effort to undermine her opponent’s campaign during the 2016 election cycle. Clinton also personally authorized the illicit efforts of felon Bob Creamer and organizer Scott Foval who fomented violence at Trump campaign rallies, as James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas group revealed in undercover videos.

Although it was previously known that Democrat monies had flowed to Fusion GPS, the Washington Post provided more specific evidence Tuesday, reporting that Clinton campaign and DNC lawyer Marc Elias hired Fusion GPS in April 2016 to conduct opposition research against Trump. Funded at the time by a still-unidentified Republican donor, the firm had already begun investigating Trump’s background when Hillary began picking up the research tab.

“The Clinton campaign and the DNC funded the firm's efforts through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day,” The Hill newspaper reports.

Employees of Fusion GPS have refused through their lawyers to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. "We cannot in good conscience do anything but advise our clients to stand on their constitutional privileges, the attorney work product doctrine and contractual obligations," Fusion GPS attorney Josh Levy wrote earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media’s efforts to cover for the Clintons is about to get harder.
That’s because the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Oversight and Government Reform will carry out a joint investigation of the 2010 sale of a U.S. company controlling one-fifth of the nation’s uranium supply to a Russian company.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) says a confidential informant has come forward and that the two committees are trying to get the Department of Justice (DoJ) to release the person from a nondisclosure agreement, The Hill reports. House GOP leadership is fully committed to the Uranium One probe, DeSantis said Tuesday, of the investigation that is viewed as separate and distinct from broader investigations into election meddling by Russians.

The Hill reported last week that “the FBI had gathered solid evidence that Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks as part of an effort to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.”

The FBI also reportedly has documentary evidence showing Russian nuclear officials funneling “millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow[.]”

The Uranium One deal was approved by the Department of State acting as one of nine institutional members of an inter-agency review board called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Clinton’s people claim Hillary wasn’t personally involved in the decision but chances are they’re lying.

As part of her book tour to promote her What Happened memoir, Hillary has been spewing lies about what she did and did not do, and hurting her party in the process by keeping her almost innumerable misdeeds front and center.

Mrs. Clinton told C-SPAN this week that probes into the shady uranium deal she rubber-stamped after her husband was paid $500,000 for a single speech in Russia and more than $100 million was “donated” by individuals associated with Uranium One to the cash-for-future-presidential-favors trading platform known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, were “baloney.” The various allegations have been “debunked repeatedly,” she opined indignantly.

All of this is only happening because Republicans are becoming nervous about the federal investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election, Clinton said.

This is, of course, coming from a woman the great William Safire described as a “congenital liar.” Clinton created a homebrew email system to conceal her illicit activities while secretary of state, not to keep her discussions of yoga and grandchildren from prying eyes.

Poor Hillary, as usual, claims to be the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy aimed at shutting down her family’s ongoing grifting operations.

But in reality, evidence increasingly suggests that it is the Clintons and Democrats – not President Trump and Republicans – who are the ones with real, lasting ties to Russia, and before that, to the Communist operatives of the defunct Soviet Union.

These left-wingers accused their adversaries of their own sins as a political tactic.


Matthew Vadum, senior vice president at the investigative think tank Capital Research Center, is an award-winning investigative reporter and author of the book, "Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers."


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