Friday, September 21, 2018

Has the State Department Finally Given Up on Its Palestinian Fantasies? - A.J. Caschetta

by A.J. Caschetta

-- the annual assessment of world terrorism released today by the State Department suggests that [the State Department] is finally coming around.

After President Trump’s futile attempts to forge a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, many in the Trump administration now appear to recognize that the PA is not really interested in peace at all. Although the diplomatic corps has been reluctant to walk away from its longstanding investment in the PA, the annual assessment of world terrorism released today by the State Department suggests that it, too, is finally coming around.

The secretary of state is required by law to provide Congress each year, by April 30, “a full and complete report on terrorism” from the previous year. The Country Reports on Terrorism, or CRT, as it is known, provides an annual glimpse into U.S. policy regarding nearly every nation on earth, some of which require only a paragraph or two while others go on for pages.

Israel, forever adjoined to the Palestinians, is described in one of the longer sections, titled “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, And Gaza.” During Barack Obama’s presidency, this section reflected a naïve trust in the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, and a marked departure from the Bush-era’s skepticism about the PA’s ability to make peace.

This year’s CRT, the first of the Trump administration, was produced during a chaotic period, under two different Secretaries of State, following some very public resignations and a hiring freeze, and under the direction of a new boss of the Bureau of Counterterrorism (Nathan A. Sales). The report, released yesterday at noon, suggests a change is underway at the State Department.

Last year’s CRT was the last one of the Obama era. Parts of the Israel section read as though they were written by an advocate of sanctions against Israel. Particularly egregious was the conclusion that “Continued drivers of violence included a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.” When it came out, I wrote that “the only logical explanation for the State Department’s inaccurate and misleading report is that its authors still believe, as Barack Obama put it in a 2013 speech in Jerusalem, that Israel has ‘a true partner in President Abbas.’”

This year’s Israel section is much shorter (2267 words) than last year’s (3799 words), mostly because such uncritical praise for Abbas has been deleted. The 2016 CRT applauded Abbas for “his commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and pursuit of an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means.” It somehow found that the “PA has taken significant steps during President Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence.” It also laughably asserted that “Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it.” 

Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan A. Sales
 Not one of these foolish and false claims appears in the 2017 CRT, except the line about how “Abbas maintained a public commitment to non-violence.” Maybe someone will correct that next year.

Last year’s CRT guilelessly explained that “the PA provided financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in an effort to reintegrate them into society and prevent recruitment by hostile political factions.” Not only has that passage been deleted, but in its place, this year’s CRT acknowledges that “The PA and PLO continued to provide ‘martyr payments’ to the families of Palestinian individuals killed carrying out a terrorist act.”

Unfortunately, the report fails to list important events from the year it analyzes. There is no mention of the “ Days of Rage” protests initiated by the PA in July 2017 after Israel installed cameras and metal detectors at the Temple Mount following the murder of two police officers there. Nor is there mention of the Fatah Central Committee’s call for Days of Rage in December 2017 to protest the U.S. embassy’s move to Jerusalem.

This year’s report also lacks the simple candor of earlier assessments, like the 2005 assertion that the PA’s “counterterrorism efforts fell far short of U.S. expectations” and the 2004 alert that “President Abbas’ public condemnation of terrorist acts was not matched by decisive security operations.”

The movement of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the de-funding of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, and the closing of the PLO mission in Washington, D.C., all demonstrate an awareness that Abbas and his allies are unworthy of the trust they gained through the Oslo Accords. The 2017 Country Reports on Terrorism suggests that the State Department is finally reconsidering its failed investment in the Palestinian Authority.

A.J. Caschetta is a Ginsburg-Ingerman fellow at the Middle East Forum and a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.


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Funding UNRWA: Are European Taxpayers Being Taken for a Ride? - Bassam Tawil

by Bassam Tawil

Arab and Muslim states could start to think of ways to help Palestinians achieve a better life and improve their children's future instead of sitting in refugee camps and waiting for handouts from the UN and other Western countries.

  • Iran's average annual contribution to UNRWA in recent years has been $2,000.
  • Iran does spend billions of dollars a year outside its borders in the Middle East. Iran provides weapons and cash to terrorist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Iran helps these groups because they want to destroy the "Zionist entity." Iran is now devoting huge resources in Syria to help dictator Bashar Assad in his fight against the rebels, as well as substantial sums of money helping Houthi militias in Yemen.
  • Lebanon's laws treat Palestinians as a special group of foreigners, even denying them the same rights granted to other foreigners. Palestinians in Lebanon are not only denied basic rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens and other foreigners, but also denied rights as refugees under international conventions.
  • Arab and Muslim states could start to think of ways to help Palestinians achieve a better life and improve their children's future instead of sitting in refugee camps and waiting for handouts from the UN and other Western countries. Or is continuing to beg non-Arabs and non-Muslims for money the better deal?

Lebanon hosts nearly 500,000 Palestinians, most of whom live in ghettos called refugee camps. They are denied not only basic rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens and other foreigners, but also denied rights as refugees under international conventions. Pictured: The Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)

At a meeting in Cairo this month, Arab and Muslim foreign ministers expressed concern about the fate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) after the US administration decided to cut all US aid to the agency. The ministers "underscored the importance of allowing UNRWA to continue playing a pivotal role in providing humanitarian aid" to Palestinian "refugees." They also warned that "harming" UNRWA will aggravate the crisis in the Middle East.

If these Arab and Muslim countries are so worried about UNRWA and the Palestinian refugees, why don't they step in to fill the vacuum and pay for the loss of the US funds? What is keeping them from pulling out their checkbooks and solving this "refugee crisis"?

The Arabs and Muslims are not as naive as the Europeans, who continue to pay millions of dollars to UNRWA and the Palestinians. European Union leaders and governments are playing their own people for fools by not telling them that even the Arabs and Muslims do not waste their money on a UN agency that has created new generations of fake refugees by allowing second and third generations to inherit UNRWA's status of "refugee."

European and other Western taxpayers are evidently unaware that their money is being spent on millions of these "refugees," thus encouraging them not to move on with their lives or improve their living conditions because they have become entirely dependent on US and EU taxpayer money. It is time for the Europeans to follow the example of the Arab and Muslim countries and stop funding a corrupt and incompetent UN agency such as UNRWA.

The concern of the Arab and Muslim leaders and governments over the defunding of UNRWA stinks of hypocrisy. What have these Arab and Muslim countries done in the past 70 years to alleviate the "suffering" of the Palestinians and help them move on with their lives? Literally nothing.

On the contrary, some of these countries, especially Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, have kept the Palestinians living in horrific conditions in refugee camps, refusing to grant them basic rights and withholding privileges granted to other foreigners, such as education, employment and health care.

Worse, the Arab and Muslim leaders and countries have been lying to the Palestinians by assuring them that one day they will return to the homes of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents in mostly non-existing villages inside Israel as part of a so-called "right of return."

When it comes to expressing solidarity with the Palestinians, the Arabs and Muslims are good at one thing: lip service. That, as we shall shortly see, is the only service they have ever provided to the Palestinians.

Thus, before answering the question of why the Arabs and Muslims do not want to help the Palestinians, it is worth discussing how much the Arab and Islamic countries have contributed to UNRWA. According to statistics released by UNRWA, not much.

Take, for example, the year 2017.

According to the statistics, the US remained the No. 1 contributor to UNRWA, to the tune of more than $364 million. No. 2 was the EU, with $142 million; No. 3 Germany, No. 4 the UK, and No. 5 Sweden.

Saudi Arabia, which came in as No. 6, was the only Arab country at the top of the donor list to UNRWA, with a modest contribution in 2017 of only $53.2 million. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) another oil-rich Arab country, with $12.8 million, came in as No. 15 (after countries such as Denmark, Italy, and the Norway).

Algeria and Tunisia, whose foreign ministers say they are now worried about the US decision to halt US aid to UNRWA, last year contributed no money to the UN agency.

Here is another important piece of information: The Islamic Republic of Iran, whose leaders never miss an opportunity to condemn the US and voice full solidarity with the Palestinians, provided a sum of only $20,000 to UNRWA between 2008 and 2017. This means that Tehran's average annual contribution to UNRWA in recent years has been $2,000.

Here it is worth noting that Iran does spend billions of dollars a year outside its borders in the Middle East. Iran provides weapons and cash to terrorist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Iran helps these groups because they want to destroy the "Zionist entity." Iran is now devoting huge resources in Syria to help dictator Bashar Assad in his fight against the rebels, as well as substantial sums of money helping Houthi militias in Yemen.

When, however, it comes to funding a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the Iranians, like most Arab and Islamic countries, do not seem to care. These countries are and have always been very good at offering soothing words to the Palestinians, while refusing to provide them with badly needed humanitarian aid.

So, the Iranians, who in the past 10 years have given UNRWA about $20,000, are only now condemning the US decision to slash US funds to the UN agency.

The US move to cut the aid to UNRWA is "a clear violation of the UN General Assembly resolution 302 (IV)," said Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani who is also head of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUIC, PUOICM). Larijani described the US decision as "shameful" and urged all parliaments of the OIC member-states to take strong decisions in condemning the US move.

The Arab countries are just as hypocritical when it comes to UNRWA and aid to the Palestinians. Some of these countries that are weeping over the US decision to cut its funding of UNRWA have not only done zero to assist the UN agency; they also have long subjected the Palestinians in their countries to discriminatory and apartheid laws.

Consider, for instance, Lebanon, a country that plays host to nearly 500,000 Palestinians, most of whom live there in ghettos called refugee camps. The Lebanese government and its representatives were among the first Arabs to condemn the US decision to cut aid to UNRWA.

Yet, this is the same Lebanon whose laws treat Palestinians as a special group of foreigners, even denying them the same rights granted to other foreigners. Palestinians in Lebanon are not only denied basic rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens and other foreigners, but also denied rights as refugees under international conventions.

Palestinians in Lebanon are prohibited from legally acquiring, transferring or inheriting property. Palestinians also lack the right to work in the private sector and in 36 specified professions, such as medicine, law and engineering.

In Syria, the conditions of the Palestinians are far worse. Nearly 4,000 Palestinians have been killed and many more have been wounded since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. "Since fighting began, more than 85,000 Palestinians have fled Syria to Europe while tens of thousands more have sought refuge in neighbouring countries," according to The New Arab.

We are again facing Arab and Islamic hypocrisy concerning the Palestinians. Instead of condemning the US administration (which is no longer going to help UNRWA), perhaps the Arabs and Muslims might wish to come up with an alternative plan to end the "suffering" of the refugees and their descendants. The US has given UNRWA many billions of dollars over decades, while Muslim and Arab leaders have been issuing empty statements of support for the Palestinians for just as long. If Muslim and Arab leaders truly cared about the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, they would either replace the US as donors or tell the Palestinians the truth -- that the time has come to end the farce called "right of return." Moreover, Arab and Muslim states could start to think of ways to help Palestinians achieve a better life and improve their children's future instead of sitting in camps and waiting for handouts from the UN and Western countries.

As for Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, these countries could do the Palestinians a favor by ending their policy of treating them as second- and third-class citizens and foreigners. There is no reason why Arab countries should not end official discrimination against their Palestinian residents, grant them citizenship and allow them to pursue employment opportunities.

The issue of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants could be solved in a heartbeat if the Arab countries wanted to do so. The first step is to stop lying to Palestinians and to confront them with the truth -- that the "right of return" is a fantasy that cannot be fulfilled because it would mean turning Israel into a country where Jews become a tiny minority. Step number two: Stop persecuting and murdering Palestinians in Arab countries. Instead, offer them hope for a good life and a better future for their children. Or is continuing to beg non-Arabs and non-Muslims for money the better deal?

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.


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Putin and Xi Are Not Embracing Each Other (Yet) - Brandon J. Weichert

by Brandon J. Weichert

In fact, the Russian Bear is probably begging Trump to make a deal.

The Vostok-2018 war games are underway. Understandably, the world is watching with grave concern. After all, it is the largest military exercise between the Russian and Chinese (and Mongolian) militaries since the Cold War. The exercises themselves involved nearly 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, 80 warships, and 36,000 armored vehicles, according to Bill Gertz of The Washington Times. Many strategists in the West worry that Vostok-2018 is a portent of a new strategic alliance between two of the largest powers in all of Eurasia against the United States.

This would be the nightmare scenario. The landmass known as Eurasia encompasses a majority of the world's natural resources – potable water, oil, natural gas, metals – and is home to most of the world's population. For much of its history, though, Eurasia has been defined more by its regional divisions than its similarities. Many attempts at creating either a regional hegemon or a concert of powers to dominate this rich region have failed.

Changing Times

There are seismic shifts occurring in the global political order. Since the 1990s, foreign policy thinkers such as Joseph S. Nye, Jr. have warned American leaders about the dawn of a multipolar world order. Other thinkers, such as the historian Paul Kennedy, have worried that the United States is a power in relative decline suffering "imperial overstretch." The leaders of Russia, China, and various European states (like Germany and France) have pined for the birth of a multipolar world order where there are many centers of power, as opposed to only Washington, D.C.

Since the Great Recession of 2008, while the United States has recovered economically, long running negative trends in both the economic and military realms have undermined America's once unquestionable global dominance. For the duration of the Obama administration, American elites spoke openly about managing America's relative decline.

Countries like China have worked to build the "new silk road" aimed at linking as much of Eurasia together under Chinese control as possible. It was a policy designed to empower Beijing and weaken American influence in the region. Analysts, such as Michael Pillsbury of the Hudson Institute, have warned of China's plan to become the world's hegemon by 2049 (the hundredth-year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party's victory in the Chinese Civil War), thereby replacing the United States.

The Vostok-2018 military exercises have been followed on by announcements from Beijing that the Chinese are preparing to ask the World Trade Organization to sanction the United States for anti-dumping duties that Washington has imposed on Chinese goods. Moscow reportedly supports Beijing's request to the WTO in order to "protect global trade." For its part, the WTO settlement dispute body is set to take up Beijing's request on September 21, just four days after the Sino-Russo-Mongolian Vostok-2018 exercises conclude.

What's more, both China and Russia have renewed discussions to move away from the U.S. dollar as being the world's reserve currency. Recently, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Turkish counterpart (Turkey is upset over the Trump administration's sanctions imposed that country for its unfair treatment of an American pastor) and announced that Turkey would be joining with Russia, Iran, and China in relying on their own national currencies to conduct international trade (as opposed to using the U.S. dollar). This comes a year after China got Saudi Arabia to allow for a small amount of oil to be traded on China's currency as opposed to the U.S. dollar. The limited trade went gangbusters for investors. There will be greater levels of such trades conducted over the next five years, according to Beijing.

This is not the first time that both China and Russia have attempted to undermine the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency. During the 2008 Great Recession, Moscow attempted to get Beijing to dump their combined shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an attempt to devastate the American economy. China refused only because the economic blowback on China would have been great.

After 2008, Beijing argued that the world's overreliance on the U.S. dollar is what precipitated the Great Recession. Until 2010, both Moscow and Beijing – as well as a litany of European states – wanted to create a new international reserve currency to conduct global trade. All of these agitations for a new world reserve currency went away after the Obama administration made an historic nuclear arms limitation agreement with Moscow. While Obama's New START weakened America's nuclear posture relative to Russia's, it did have the salutary effect of redirecting Moscow's attention away from the West and toward its east (at least until Russian president Vladimir Putin became convinced that Washington was trying to prevent his return to the Kremlin in the highly corrupt Russian presidential election of 2012).

Trump should, therefore, make a deal with Russia.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

There is no doubt that Russia, China, Turkey, France, Germany, and a host of other powerful countries are looking to limit what they view as the damage of the Trump administration's "America First" trade and foreign policies. Plus the advent of the Chinese Belt-and-Road Initiative has prompted many of these countries to begin working closer together than ever before. Yet, for all of the rhetoric about a new Eurasian anti-American alliance, nothing truly substantive has changed geopolitically. And large gaps exist in China's proposed "new silk road."

Most states will realize they need the U.S. for trade more than any other country. China still relies on the United States for a disproportionate level of trade; Russia remains skeptical about Chinese intentions along its eastern border; Germany and France remain concerned about Russian revanchism in Eastern Europe. As secretary of defense James Mattis commented to Bill Gertz about the Vostok-2018 military exercises: there "is little in the long term that aligns Russia and China."

Similarly, financial analyst Charles Wallace has written in Forbes that the ubiquity of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency means that no alternative will be crafted anytime soon. While Putin likes being seen with China's President Xi Jinping, he understands that China's ultimate goal is to cleave the Russian Far East away from Moscow and place it under Chinese control. Both China and Russia are looking for better deals from Washington. President Trump must continue with his efforts to deal with Russia, while standing firm against China on trade.

Trump can win in separating Russia from China. In fact, Russia is begging for a better deal from the United States. In poker terms, Beijing is running a full house off a pair on trade. Or, in the words of Allianz corporations chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian:
One of the upside risks [to the trade war] is that you may end up changing the global landscape in a way that favors the U.S. Because countries will realize, if we slip into a trade war, while everybody suffers, [the] U.S. does better in relative terms. The rest of the world is less solid than the U.S.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the Sino-Russian alliance is not solidified. Moscow and Beijing just want a better deal from Washington.

Brandon J. Weichert


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Redaction Resistance: Alive and Well - Matthew Vadum

by Matthew Vadum

Swamp bureaucrats are already scheming to frustrate Trump’s declassification order.

Washington bureaucrats are already reportedly resisting President Trump’s sweeping good-government transparency order this week directing intelligence agencies to declassify certain documents from the long-running investigation related to the Left’s unproven electoral collusion conspiracy theory involving Trump and Russia.

And they are doing so at the urging of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and other leftists and media figures who wish to precipitate a full-blown constitutional crisis by stripping the president of his unrestricted, constitutionally prescribed power to unliterally [unilaterally?- S.Z] declassify government documents at will. These four Democratic lawmakers are alarmed at the prospect of being exposed as frauds and publicly humiliated, which is why they wrote Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday urging resistance to the presidential order.

These left-wingers still can’t accept that Trump trounced Democrat Hillary Clinton on Election Day in 2016 and they are doing everything they can to reverse the verdict the American people rendered that day. It is a continuation of the Obama-era plot to discredit Trump by falsely claiming he is a puppet of Russia.

It is nothing less than a coup attempt by sore losers.

Left-wingers are even claiming the president’s declassification effort is intended to distract from Trump’s various public relations problems such as the criminal conviction of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort for matters unrelated to the campaign.

It’s tedious stuff.

According to a Bloomberg News report, anonymous sources said the Department of Justice (DoJ), FBI, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) “are going through a methodical review and can’t offer a timeline for finishing.”

“The agencies responsible are expected to propose redactions that would keep some information secret, according to three people familiar with the matter.”

The Bloomberg article continued:
One person described the order to release text messages as unprecedented, and another said additional talks will probably be held with the White House over the matter.
The Justice Department and FBI are expected to submit their documents and proposed redactions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which will assemble all the material into a package and hand it over to the White House, according to the people.
While the agencies want to guard against revealing classified sources and methods about the ongoing Russia investigation, doing so could put them in direct conflict with Trump, who as president has the power to override the agencies and declassify material on his own.
Of course, if the FBI’s track record in this case is taken into account, the concern about “classified sources and methods” seems especially ridiculous.

This is the same FBI that took the “piss-gate” dossier by a DNC-paid spy seriously. The only people being helped by the continued classification of the documents are likely people who ought to be exposed, and if necessary, prosecuted for breaking the law. President Trump is doing a service to the American people by airing the documents in public.

In an interview with Hill.TV this week, the president said he ordered the mass declassification to show the public that the FBI investigation of the electoral collusion conspiracy theory began as a “hoax.” Exposing it could be one of the “crowning achievements” of his presidency, Trump said.

An NBC News article says much the same thing as the Bloomberg article, even evincing an obvious anti-Trump prejudice right from its first paragraph.

The article tries to elicit sympathy for “U.S. intelligence officials,” claiming they have been “blindsided” by the president’s order. The files to be declassified are described as “highly sensitive,” even though there is no way the authors of the article could possibly possess the information needed to form such an opinion. The documents are classified, after all.

These reports appear to indicate that government employees are acting in direct defiance of the president’s explicit no-redaction order regarding text messages sent by various Obama administration officials. The declassification project was announced this past Tuesday (Sept. 17) in a statement issued by the White House. Redactions in the first batch of documents could be accepted by the president, the wording of his directive suggests.

President Trump ordered ODNI and DoJ to immediately declassify “pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of (former Trump campaign aide) Carter W. Page,” “all FBI reports of interviews with [Justice Department official] Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation,” and “all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.”

But no redactions are supposed to be made to documents in the second batch.

Those documents consist of “all text messages relating to the Russia investigation … of [former FBI Director] James Comey, [former Deputy FBI Director] Andrew McCabe, [former FBI official] Peter Strzok, [former FBI official] Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.” (Carter Page and Lisa Page are not related.)

Gregg Jarrett, author of The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump, seems to have foreseen the rise of what could be called the redaction resistance.

Not long after the president made his order public, Jarrett published a column urging the firing of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for “rank insubordination” if they defy the directive by slow-rolling the release of the documents in hopes of the arrival of a Democratic Party-dominated Congress in January.

Rosenstein, who “appointed a special counsel without proper authority,” in particular, “has every reason to suppress the records,” Jarrett writes.
Jarrett continues:
They may incriminate him. He affixed his signature to the final renewal of the FISA warrant application to continue spying on Carter Page. He vouched for the authenticity and veracity of the information contained therein. But if it was largely based on a “dossier” that was unverified and uncorroborated, Rosenstein may have been complicit in misusing his position of power in pursuit of a president who was wrongfully targeted by the FBI and DOJ.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s declassification order is winning praise from Republicans and conservatives.

“The president is, in his genius way, bypassing the media by releasing the documents in a lawful way to the American people as opposed [to] through the illegal leaks where classified information isn’t protected,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said Wednesday on Fox News Channel. “That’s the traditional Washington way.”

“Keeping this information classified is designed to make it harder for President Trump to defend himself against the lawlessness. And the classification of information related to the FISA warrants, text messages, the mere existence of the FISA warrants, all help protect the Deep State from being held accountable from the misconduct during the Obama administration, well into this administration.”

It is “laughable” to claim the declassification project will hurt the nation’s security, according to Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
It’s laughable that they’re saying this is going to somehow endanger national security. This is, really, full transparency for the American people. This will be all the information really that I think that the American people will need to see because for two years we’ve been force-feeding this Russia Kool-Aid to the American people, so much so that you have the media involved in it, the mainstream media. The poor American people. I feel bad for the some of these people who are part of this resistance movement who actually believe the president is under control by the Russians.
The Deep State declassification drama continues.

Matthew Vadum


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Kavanaugh and Doing the Right Thing - Lloyd Billingsley

by Lloyd Billingsley

Kavanaugh’s accuser wants an FBI investigation; here’s what Republicans need to do next.

On Tuesday Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford made it known she would only testify if the FBI investigates first. Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and other Democrats echoed this demand, but former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova wasn’t going for it.

“This is utter nonsense,” diGenova told Tucker Carlson of Fox News. Blasey Ford “really doesn’t want to testify. Because when she does, she is going to look like the loon she is. She may very well believe everything she’s saying, and that is one of the signs of lunacy, believing something that isn’t real.” And her lawyer was “even loonier.”

As the former U.S. Attorney explained, the accusation is a nonfederal matter, an alleged assault unconfirmed even by the witness herself. She failed to report it to anyone and was not sure when it happened or where it happened, or who else was there. So the FBI could not investigate “because there is nothing to investigate.”

On Wednesday, Blasey Ford’s attorney Lisa Banks said there are “multiple witnesses” who should testify and Ford wants a “full non-partisan investigation.” But as law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out Wednesday, “conditioning testimony on a criminal investigation by a federal agency is well beyond the province of any witness.” 

Kavanaugh has endured six FBI background checks and the Bureau was on record that it would do nothing with the 36-year-old accusation. So it was all, as diGenova said, “clearly a desire to delay proceedings.” Carlson wondered why any Republicans would go along with that and asked diGenova how he would advise them.

“Have a vote on Thursday,” he said. “Like you promised you would.” Would this happen, Carlson wondered? “God no,” diGenova said. “They are scared of their own shadow.”

Top Republicans have indicated they would move forward with a vote if Ford chose not to testify. Sen. Bob Corker, no friend of the President, tweeted, “If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote.” Trump critic Sen. Jeff Flake said if the accuser does now show up, “I think we'll have to move to the markup.” That may indicated more support for a vote from Republicans solidly behind the president, but questions remain.

If the accuser declines to testify, it remains unclear whether Republicans such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski would urge a vote. Both have been heavily targeted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which demands that they “publicly oppose Kavanaugh,” a man “hostile to women on all levels.”

Those puzzled by the accusations against Kavanaugh might dial back to 1991 and have a look at the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas. The “Saturday Night Live” sketch, with Kevin Nealon as Sen. Joe Biden and Al Franken as Sen. Paul Simon, is also worth attention. For their part, the current proceedings truly defy satire.

The nation has seen plenty of Brett Kavanaugh but not his accuser. Blasey Ford has conducted no interviews and appears in a single photo wearing sunglasses. So even in the picture, nobody can look her in the eye.

Kavanaugh has testified at length but nobody has heard a word from this accuser. She speaks through attorney Debra Katz, a Democrat activist. When Paula Jones accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, Katz defended Clinton, not the woman.

As Katz brokers the story, Kavanaugh intended to rape Blasey Ford, who feared he might kill her. As with a bad movie, you can see the screenplay and hear the story conference. Not a single fact has been established, and it’s all accusation.

Diane Feinstein failed to bring up Blasey Ford’s letter despite many chances to do so. The California Democrat doesn’t know if everything is true, but still finds Ford to be credible. So does Hillary Clinton, who on Tuesday called for an FBI investigation, and told reporters that Dr. Ford “be given the courtesy of having some facts laid out.” According to Charles Schumer, “an immediate FBI investigation is not only consistent with precedent, it is also quite clearly the right thing to do.” 

For Sen. Mazie Hirono, the problem was not Brett Kavanaugh but “the men in this country.” The Hawaii Democrat told the men to “Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.” Women like Dr. Ford “need to be believed” and “enlightened men” were to decry “the victimization and the smearing of someone like Dr. Ford.” So Ford is being smeared, not Kavanaugh.

Only a certified loon could accept a decades-old unprovable accusation as cause to delay a vote and, in effect, reverse the 2016 election. Only somebody scared of their own shadow would fail to urge a vote at the earliest time.

Kavanaugh deserves swift confirmation but that will not put an end to baseless allegations. Consider this Monday tweet from ABC News chief political analyst Matthew Dowd.

“It was despicable and outrageous what happened to Anita Hill more than 25 years ago, and a sexual predator was given a lifetime seat on the SC. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself in 2018.” With Democrats and their media allies, the high-tech lynching season never ends.

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation, recently updated, and Hollywood Party: Stalinist Adventures in the American Movie IndustryBill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield, is a collection of his journalism.


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The International Criminal Court: A Failed Experiment - Ahmed Charai

by Ahmed Charai

Far better to encourage nations to develop courts that are accountable to the victims and free from charges of selective enforcement or foreign intervention.

  • Ambassador John Bolton was prescient in his 1998 warning, when the formation of body was first being debated in Rome, that it would be ineffective, unaccountable and overly political.
  • The reconciliation commissions of South Africa and Morocco aimed to rehabilitate victims, and pay compensation for state outrages against them. That method would be a better model for Africa than a court funded and run from Europe.
  • The International Criminal Court is a noble ideal but a flawed institution. Far better to encourage nations to develop courts that are accountable to the victims and free from charges of selective enforcement or foreign intervention.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. (Image source: United Nations/Flickr)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is "already dead to us" National Security Adviser John Bolton told the Federalist Society recently. The U.S. will, he said, resist the court "by any means necessary."

Why would the Trump Administration take such a hard line against "the world's court of last resort"? Founded in 2002, in the wake of the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides and mass rapes, the international body was supposed to try evildoers who would otherwise escape justice due to broken legal systems in failed states.

Opposing the court is not a new position for the U.S. or Ambassador Bolton. The Bush Administration refused to sign the court's implementing treaty in 2003, contending that it would lead to trials of U.S. soldiers and spies by a politically turbo-charged body located in Europe. At the time, many European leaders opposed President Bush's war in Iraq and questioned its actions in the war on terror, including rendition and holding prisoners indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay. Ambassador Bolton was even more prescient. He warned, in 1998, when the formation of body was first being debated in Rome, that it would be ineffective, unaccountable and overly political.

Now, U.S. soldiers may face charges for activities in Afghanistan. While the U.S. is not a signatory of the treaty, Afghanistan is, and the court claims jurisdiction over any actions taken there. If the ICC begins prosecuting American "war crimes" abroad, commanders will temper their battle plans, soldiers will become gun-shy and civilians will refuse to serve. America's sovereign right to defend itself will be weakened. Israel is also expected to be another target, as the Palestinian Authority has agreed to the court's jurisdiction and has already requested a probe.

In practice, the International Criminal Court is a failed experiment.

Its trials appear selective and political. While the court has received more than 10,000 written complaints referring to 139 countries, according to the London-based Africa Research Centre, it has focused its prosecutions exclusively on sub-Saharan Africans. Of the 10 investigations in progress, nine relate to African leaders or rebel leaders. (The only non-African case was against Serbian extremists.) This leads to the all-too-easy accusation that the court is racist, neo-colonialist or, in the words of one African writer, "white justice for black Africans." Following a 2013 African Union summit, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn denounced the court as a "racial hunt". While these charges are hyperbolic, the court's selective prosecutions have undermined its credibility among Africans.

The ICC has also not been successful in Africa. The court's first chief prosecutor, Luis Ocampo, pledged to indict and try the leaders of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan terror group linked to slaughter, rape and kidnapping, by the end of 2005. The LRA's leaders have yet to face justice. Almost a decade ago, the court indicted Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. No trial has occurred and Bashir continues to travel freely to Arab and African states that have signed the ICC's implementing treaty. The court has not delivered on its promise to bring justice to people who have none.

As a result, African nations are pulling out. South Africa, Burundi, Gambia have voted to withdraw from the ICC and other African states are joining the stampede for the exit.

The ICC likes to refer to itself as the world's court, but it represents fewer and fewer of world's nations. The U.S., Israel, China and Russia have refused to ratify the court's implementing Treaty of Rome. The African Union itself has openly criticized the ICC and debated leaving the court's jurisdiction en masse.

The court's leaders have, in addition, not held themselves to particularly high standards. Chief prosecutor Ocampo, defended his use of offshore bank accounts by saying that his salary was insufficient. Such a remark hardly inspires confidence.

Even worse for the court's credibility are the allegations brought by David Nyekorach Matsanga, president of the Pan-African Forum, that Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, the ICC's president, allegedly received illegal sums totaling some $17 million between 2004 and 2015. These payments, Matsanga said, were to bribe prosecution witness against Sudan's president. A court spokesman dismissed Matsanga's evidence as a falsified invoice and unverified bank records. (Matsanga is no angel. He was spokesman for the infamous Lord's Resistance Army in the 1990s.) Still, the evidence deserves an impartial review.

The International Criminal Court is a noble ideal but a flawed institution. Far better to encourage nations to develop courts that are accountable to the victims and free from charges of selective enforcement or foreign intervention. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Moroccan's Equity and Reconciliation Commission -- a government body subject to oversight by the people's representatives -- have heard hard cases and delivered judgements respected across the political spectrum. The two institutions aimed to rehabilitate victims, and pay compensation for state outrages against them.

That method would be a better model for Africa than a court funded and run from Europe.
This article was originally published in a slightly different version by NewsMax Media.

Ahmed Charai, a Moroccan publisher, is on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Foreign Policy Research institute and Center the National Interest in Washington.


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UNRWA employees protest job cuts in Gaza City - Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

Demonstrators don orange jumpsuits, conduct mock jailing, hanging to protest job cuts, which trade unionists say will affect 1,000 people

UNRWA employees don orange jumpsuits to protest job cuts 
by the aid agency in Gaza City, Wednesday
Photo: Reuters 

Palestinian employees of the U.N.'s agency for Palestinian refugees protested job cuts, Wednesday.

Those joining Wednesday's protest said they feared job losses among UNRWA's 13,000 employees and cuts to services.

Donning orange jumpsuits, protesters conducted a mock jailing and hanging to dramatize their point.

They marched to the agency's headquarters in Gaza City holding banners that read "employees' rights are not for bargaining."

The United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees said earlier this year it would reduce jobs in Gaza and the West Bank following U.S. budget cuts.

The job losses, which trade unionists say will eventually affect 1,000 people, have prompted protests in Gaza.

UNRWA has said it faces a shortfall of more than $200 million after the United States slashed funding earlier this year, having promised $365 million for the whole year.

Washington said the agency needed to make unspecified reforms and called on the Palestinians to renew peace talks with Israel.

UNRWA, which runs 278 schools in Gaza attended by some 300,000 students, has made an international appeal for funds.

Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff


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Who will succeed aging, ailing PA leader Abbas? - Daniel Siryoti

by Daniel Siryoti

Both Israel and the Palestinian leadership are increasingly nervous at the prospect of an intra-Palestinian bloodbath resulting from PA President Mahmoud Abbas' failure to groom a successor acceptable to all Palestinian factions.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah 
in late August
Photo: Reuters 

Who will succeed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? The leadership in Israel, as well as the Palestinian political system, have been busy with this burning question for some time.

It's not only Jerusalem that is having difficulty guessing who will follow the 82-year-old PA leader, who is not in the best of health. No one in the Palestinian leadership knows who will take over when Abbas is no longer able to fulfill his duties. This is all because the elderly head of the PA, despite requiring frequent medical treatments, isn't making any effort to mentor a successor who will be acceptable to the entire Palestinian political system.

Not only that – one senior PA official has noted that "there is no agreed-upon protocol for the event that the rais [president] becomes unable to fulfill his duties, and a temporary or permanent replacement [for him] is needed."

Both the Palestinians and the Israeli security establishment are worried about a scenario in which Abbas' departure would lead to an internal Palestinian war of succession, which could result in violent clashes and possibly even a civil war between the various Palestinian political camps.

The most alarming scenario for Israel is the threat of Hamas overthrowing the PA leadership and seizing control of the West Bank, just like it did in the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Senior officials in Ramallah aren't hiding their dissatisfaction with the unclear identity of Abbas' successor. The possibility that Hamas might exploit chaos in the West Bank for a putsch also bothers them.

"A situation in which Hamas seizes power in the West Bank will lead to bloodshed that will make the overthrow Hamas carried out in Gaza over a decade ago look like child's play," a Palestinian official told Israel Hayom.

"This is a problem that could affect not only the Palestinians in the West Bank, but also Israel. The entire region could be dragged into violence, and no one knows how it will end," the official said.

There are a number of individuals within the Palestinian leadership who see themselves worthy of succeeding Abbas. Recently, Abbas appointed senior Fatah official Mahmoud al-Aloul as his deputy. Al-Aloul has served in a variety of positions in the Tanzim, Fatah's armed wing, whose operatives are responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks against Israelis. Despite the title, Al-Aloul knows that his appointment was strictly a formality, designed to quash criticism.

There are other Palestinian officials who are eyeing Abbas' chair. These include president of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub and Civil Affairs Minister Hussein a-Sheikh – who has the unreserved support of the Israeli political leadership and defense establishment.

Other potential candidates are current PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah; former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who enjoys considerable international support; and two Abbas associates – his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh and chief Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat. The last two, despite their close ties to Abbas, do not have a significant base of support among the Palestinian people.

Right now, the person who appears to have the greatest chance of succeeding Abbas is former Tanzim head Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences in Israel for his involvement in terrorist attacks that killed dozens of Israelis during the Second Intifada.

In the past, senior Israeli politicians have called for Barghouti's release, hoping that – unlike Abbas – he would be able to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table to work out a peace agreement.

Still, intra-Palestinian power struggles and Abbas' fear of Barghouti's growing strength have caused the latter's support base in Fatah to dry up. In the past, polls have showed Barghouti capturing over 80% of popular support if he runs for the presidency from prison, but for some time now, figures have been showing a grimmer picture. It now appears that if Barghouti runs for PA president, he would scoop only a small percentage of the votes, whether he did so from prison or if he were released.

Former Fatah official Mohammad Dahlan was also once considered a viable successor, but he fled the West Bank before he could be convicted of acts of corruption and treason in the internal Palestinian power struggles. He "bought" power in the Palestinian refugee camps using the money showered upon him by leaders of Arab countries, like Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and the heads of the oil emirates in the Persian Gulf. Nevertheless, Dahlan has still managed to lose most of his support in the Palestinian camps.

Many people are pointing to one person who might be an ideal successor to Abbas and who could transition into power quietly, without violence. This is PA Intelligence Services Chief Gen. Majid Faraj, who is considered one of Abbas' closest associates and is also widely respected by Israel. Arab states and Washington also support him.

Faraj has Abbas' full confidence. Abbas recently sent him on special missions and to high-level meetings in the U.S., Europe and Arab countries. The fact that he competently runs the Palestinian intelligence and security systems makes it more likely that if Abbas can no longer fulfill his role as PA leader, Faraj is the one who will step into his shoes – temporarily at first, until the political system calms down, and then permanently if he is elected president.

Daniel Siryoti


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