Wednesday, 13 December 2017

How America Armed Terrorists in Syria

Another Middle East debacle
This article was first published by GR in June 2017.
Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (credits to the owner of the photo)
Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.
That policy, ostensibly aimed at helping replace the Assad regime with a more democratic alternative, has actually helped build up al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise al Nusra Front into the dominant threat to Assad.
The supporters of this arms-supply policy believe it is necessary as pushback against Iranian influence in Syria. But that argument skirts the real issue raised by the policy’s history. The Obama administration’s Syria policy effectively sold out the U.S. interest that was supposed to be the touchstone of the “Global War on Terrorism”—the eradication of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates. The United States has instead subordinated that U.S. interest in counter-terrorism to the interests of its Sunni allies. In doing so it has helped create a new terrorist threat in the heart of the Middle East.
The policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in September 2011, when President Barack Obamawas pressed by his Sunni allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—to supply heavy weapons to a military opposition to Assad they were determined to establish. Turkey and the Gulf regimes wanted the United States to provide anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, according to a former Obama Administration official involved in Middle East issues.
Obama refused to provide arms to the opposition, but he agreed to provide covert U.S. logistical help in carrying out a campaign of military assistance to arm opposition groups. CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms shipped the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former U.S. military personnel to manage the logistics, as investigative reporter Sy Hersh detailed in 2014. The funding for the program came mainly from the Saudis.
A declassified October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report revealed that the shipment in late August 2012 had included 500 sniper rifles, 100 RPG (rocket propelled grenade launchers) along with 300 RPG rounds and 400 howitzers. Each arms shipment encompassed as many as ten shipping containers, it reported, each of which held about 48,000 pounds of cargo. That suggests a total payload of up to 250 tons of weapons per shipment. Even if the CIA had organized only one shipment per month, the arms shipments would have totaled 2,750 tons of arms bound ultimately for Syria from October 2011 through August 2012. More likely it was a multiple of that figure.
The CIA’s covert arms shipments from Libya came to an abrupt halt in September 2012 when Libyan militants attacked and burned the embassy annex in Benghazi that had been used to support the operation. By then, however, a much larger channel for arming anti-government forces was opening up. The CIA put the Saudis in touch with a senior Croatian official who had offered to sell large quantities of arms left over from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. And the CIA helped them shop for weapons from arms dealers and governments in several other former Soviet bloc countries.
Flush with weapons acquired from both the CIA Libya program and from the Croatians, the Saudis and Qataris dramatically increased the number of flights by military cargo planes to Turkey in December 2012 and continued that intensive pace for the next two and a half months. The New York Times reported a total 160 such flights through mid-March 2013. The most common cargo plane in use in the Gulf, the Ilyushin IL-76, can carry roughly 50 tons of cargo on a flight, which would indicate that as much as 8,000 tons of weapons poured across the Turkish border into Syria just in late 2012 and in 2013.
Image result
M62P8 120mm high explosive mortar projectiles made in the former Yugoslavia, seen in a YouTube video shot in Syria in the possession of the Jabhat Ansar al-Din rebel group. (Source: BalkanInsight)
One U.S. official called the new level of arms deliveries to Syrian rebels a “cataract of weaponry.” And a year-long investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that the Saudis were intent on building up a powerful conventional army in Syria. The “end-use certificate” for weapons purchased from an arms company in Belgrade, Serbia, in May 2013 includes 500 Soviet-designed PG-7VR rocket launchers that can penetrate even heavily-armored tanks, along with two million rounds; 50 Konkurs anti-tank missile launchers and 500 missiles, 50 anti-aircraft guns mounted on armored vehicles, 10,000 fragmentation rounds for OG-7 rocket launchers capable of piercing heavy body armor; four truck-mounted BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launchers, each of which fires 40 rockets at a time with a range of 12 to 19 miles, along with 20,000 GRAD rockets.
The end user document for another Saudi order from the same Serbian company listed 300 tanks, 2,000 RPG launchers, and 16,500 other rocket launchers, one million rounds for ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, and 315 million cartridges for various other guns.
Those two purchases were only a fraction of the totality of the arms obtained by the Saudis over the next few years from eight Balkan nations. Investigators found that the Saudis made their biggest arms deals with former Soviet bloc states in 2015, and that the weapons included many that had just come off factory production lines. Nearly 40 percent of the arms the Saudis purchased from those countries, moreover, still had not been delivered by early 2017. So the Saudis had already contracted for enough weaponry to keep a large-scale conventional war in Syria going for several more years.
By far the most consequential single Saudi arms purchase was not from the Balkans, however, but from the United States. It was the December 2013 U.S. sale of 15,000 TOW anti-tank missiles to the Saudis at a cost of about $1 billion—the result of Obama’s decision earlier that year to reverse his ban on lethal assistance to anti-Assad armed groups. The Saudis had agreed, moreover, that those anti-tank missiles would be doled out to Syrian groups only at U.S. discretion. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the military balance.
This flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters into the country—primarily through Turkey—largely defined the nature of the conflict. These armaments helped make al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra Front (now renamed Tahrir al-Sham or Levant Liberation Organization) and its close allies by far the most powerful anti-Assad forces in Syria—and gave rise to the Islamic State.
By late 2012, it became clear to U.S. officials that the largest share of the arms that began flowing into Syria early in the year were going to the rapidly growing al Qaeda presence in the country. In October 2012, U.S. officials acknowledged off the record for the first time to the New York Times that  “most” of the arms that had been shipped to armed opposition groups in Syria with U.S. logistical assistance during the previous year had gone to “hardline Islamic jihadists”— obviously meaning al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra.
Al Nusra Front and its allies became the main recipients of the weapons because the Saudis, Turks, and Qataris wanted the arms to go to the military units that were most successful in attacking government targets. And by the summer of 2012, al Nusra Front, buttressed by the thousands of foreign jihadists pouring into the country across the Turkish border, was already taking the lead in attacks on the Syrian government in coordination with “Free Syrian Army” brigades.
In November and December 2012, al Nusra Front began establishing formal “joint operations rooms” with those calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” on several battlefronts, as Charles Lister chronicles in his book The Syrian Jihad. One such commander favored by Washington was Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, a former Syrian army officer who headed something called the Aleppo Revolutionary Military Council. Ambassador Robert Ford, who continued to hold that position even after he had been withdrawn from Syria, publicly visited Oqaidi in May 2013 to express U.S. support for him and the FSA.
But Oqaidi and his troops were junior partners in a coalition in Aleppo in which al Nusra was by far the strongest element. That reality is clearly reflected in a video in which Oqaidi describes his good relations with officials of the “Islamic State” and is shown joining the main jihadist commander in the Aleppo region celebrating the capture of the Syrian government’s Menagh Air Base in September 2013.
By early 2013, in fact, the “Free Syrian Army,” which had never actually been a military organization with any troops, had ceased to have any real significance in the Syria conflict. New anti-Assad armed groups had stopped using the name even as a “brand” to identify themselves, as a leading specialist on the conflict observed.
So, when weapons from Turkey arrived at the various battlefronts, it was understood by all the non-jihadist groups that they would be shared with al Nusra Front and its close allies. A report by McClatchy in early 2013, on a town in north central Syria, showed how the military arrangements between al Nusra and those brigades calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” governed the distribution of weapons. One of those units, the Victory Brigade, had participated in a “joint operations room” with al Qaeda’s most important military ally, Ahrar al Sham, in a successful attack on a strategic town a few weeks earlier. A visiting reporter watched that brigade and Ahrar al Sham show off new sophisticated weapons that included Russian-made RPG27 shoulder-fired rocket-propelled anti-tank grenades and RG6 grenade launchers.
When asked if the Victory Brigade had shared its new weapons with Ahrar al Sham, the latter’s spokesman responded,
“Of course they share their weapons with us. We fight together.”
Turkey and Qatar consciously chose al Qaeda and its closest ally, Ahrar al Sham, as the recipients of weapons systems. In late 2013 and early 2014, several truckloads of arms bound for the province of Hatay, just south of the Turkish border, were intercepted by Turkish police. They had Turkish intelligence personnel on board, according to later Turkish police court testimony. The province was controlled by Ahrar al Sham. In fact Turkey soon began to treat Ahrar al Sham as its primary client in Syria, according to Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
A Qatari intelligence operative who had been involved in shipping arms to extremist groups in Libya was a key figure in directing the flow of arms from Turkey into Syria. An Arab intelligence source familiar with the discussions among the external suppliers near the Syrian border in Turkey during those years told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius that when one of the participants warned that the outside powers were building up the jihadists while the non-Islamist groups were withering away, the Qatari operative responded, “I will send weapons to al Qaeda if it will help.”
The Qataris did funnel arms to both al Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham, according to a Middle Eastern diplomatic source. The Obama administration’s National Security Council staff proposed in 2013 that the United States signal U.S. displeasure with Qatar over its arming of extremists in both Syria and Libya by withdrawing a squadron of fighter planes from the U.S. airbase at al-Udeid, Qatar. The Pentagon vetoed that mild form of pressure, however, to protect its access to its base in Qatar.
President Obama himself confronted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his government’s support for the jihadists at a private White House dinner in May 2013, as recounted by Hersh.
“We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria,” he quotes Obama as saying to Erdogan.
The administration addressed Turkey’s cooperation with the al Nusra publicly, however, only fleetingly in late 2014. Shortly after leaving Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2011 through mid-2014, told The Daily Telegraph  of London that Turkey had “worked with groups, frankly, for a period, including al Nusra.”
The closest Washington came to a public reprimand of its allies over the arming of terrorists in Syria was when Vice President Joe Biden criticized their role in October 2014. In impromptu remarks at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Biden complained that “our biggest problem is our allies.” The forces they had supplied with arms, he said, were “al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”
Biden quickly apologized for the remarks, explaining that he didn’t mean that U.S. allies had deliberately helped the jihadists. But Ambassador Ford confirmed his complaint, telling BBC,
“What Biden said about the allies aggravating the problem of extremism is true.”
In June 2013 Obama approved the first direct U.S. lethal military aid to rebel brigades that had been vetted by the CIA. By spring 2014, the U.S.-made BGM-71E anti-tank missiles from the 15,000 transferred to the Saudis began to appear in the hands of selected anti-Assad groups. But the CIA imposed the condition that the group receiving them would not cooperate with the al Nusra Front or its allies.
That condition implied that Washington was supplying military groups that were strong enough to maintain their independence from al Nusra Front. But the groups on the CIA’s list of vetted “relatively moderate” armed groups were all highly vulnerable to takeover by the al Qaeda affiliate. In November 2014, al Nusra Front troops struck the two strongest CIA-supported armed groups, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front on successive days and seized their heavy weapons, including both TOW anti-tank missiles and GRAD rockets.
The 13th Division claims that Al Nusrah attacked its fighters, including the TOW specialist pictured on the left. (Source: 13th Division’s Twitter feed)
In early March 2015, the Harakat Hazm Aleppo branch dissolved itself, and al Nusra Front promptly showed off photos of the TOW missiles and other equipment they had captured from it. And in March 2016, al Nusra Front troops attacked the headquarters of the 13th Division in northwestern Idlib province and seized all of its TOW missiles. Later that month, al Nusra Front released a video of its troops using the TOW missiles it had captured.
But that wasn’t the only way for al Nusra Front to benefit from the CIA’s largesse. Along with its close ally Ahrar al Sham, the terrorist organization began planning for a campaign to take complete control of Idlib province in the winter of 2014-15. Abandoning any pretense of distance from al Qaeda, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar worked with al Nusra on the creation of a new military formation for Idlib called the “Army of Conquest,” consisting of the al Qaeda affiliate and its closest allies. Saudi Arabia and Qatar provided more weapons for the campaign, while Turkey facilitated their passage. On March 28, just four days after launching the campaign, the Army of Conquest successfully gained control of Idlib City.
The non-jihadist armed groups getting advanced weapons from the CIA assistance were not part of the initial assault on Idlib City. After the capture of Idlib the U.S.-led operations room for Syria in southern Turkey signaled to the CIA-supported groups in Idlib that they could now participate in the campaign to consolidate control over the rest of the province. According to Lister, the British researcher on jihadists in Syria who maintains contacts with both jihadist and other armed groups, recipients of CIA weapons, such as the Fursan al haq brigade and Division 13, did join the Idlib campaignalongside al Nusra Front without any move by the CIA to cut them off.
As the Idlib offensive began, the CIA-supported groups were getting TOW missiles in larger numbers, and they now used them with great effectiveness against the Syrian army tanks. That was the beginning of a new phase of the war, in which U.S. policy was to support an alliance between “relatively moderate” groups and the al Nusra Front.
The new alliance was carried over to Aleppo, where jihadist groups close to Nusra Front formed a new command called Fateh Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”) with nine armed groups in Aleppo province which were getting CIA assistance. The CIA-supported groups could claim that they weren’t cooperating with al Nusra Front because the al Qaeda franchise was not officially on the list of participants in the command. But as the report on the new command clearly implied, this was merely a way of allowing the CIA to continue providing weapons to its clients, despite their de facto alliance with al Qaeda.
The significance of all this is clear: by helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into al Nusra hands or strengthen their overall military position, U.S. policy has been largely responsible for having extended al Qaeda’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of America’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, U.S. policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by al Qaeda in Syria, even if the Islamic State is defeated there.
Gareth Porter is an independent journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of numerous books, including   Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (Just World Books, 2014).
Featured image: Freedom House / CC-BY-2.0
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israelGate: The Arrogance of Jewish Power in the United States


By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | December 11, 2017

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | December 11, 2017
The revelation that the Trump transition team colluded with Israel to sabotage a foreign policy initiative by the Obama White House made the news, sort of, when the story broke at the end of November. But it has since died, pushed down by the relentless pressure in the media to “disappear” all things critical of Israel or its behavior.
Thanks to the ongoing investigation of Russiagate by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, we Americans have learned that prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, some of his closest advisers responded to Israeli solicitation to derail a United Nations vote on illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The effort to help Israel was implemented behind the scenes and in opposition to the official U.S. foreign policy.
Possible collusion with a foreign state has produced an avalanche of negative press coverage and congressional baying for blood related to Moscow and its President Vladimir Putin but similar action on the part of Israel has produced little to nothing in terms of a response from the Fourth Estate and political class.
Perhaps not too surprising, the story has actually taken a different turn, producing some opinion pieces, mostly from American Jews, insisting that Jared Kushner, the presidential son-in-law who was behind the effort, did the right thing because it was done “for Israel.” It is a sure sign of the invulnerability of those exercising Jewish power in the United States that something very close to treason involving a foreign country can be applauded with impunity. This is in spite of the fact that successful attempts to bury the story and even to justify what was done inevitably raises the issue of “dual loyalty” on the part of some American Jews who clearly see Israel as something that has to be protected and cherished even when it means doing serious damage to the American people and U.S. national interests.
One of the most illustrative opinion pieces written by an “Israel firster” appeared recently in Forward, America’s leading Jewish news and information website. It was entitled “Jared Kushner Was Right To ‘Collude’ with Russia – because he did it for Israel” before it was changed in the online edition to “Was Kushner doing the right thing?” The author, Daniel Kohn, lives in San Diego California. The article is particularly interesting as it makes a grotesque convoluted effort to not only justify what took place but also to sing the praises of Israel and all its works.
The extent to which the op-ed is characteristic of American-Jewish thinking regarding Israel is, of course, difficult to estimate but I would suspect that most Jews in the U.S., who are generally self-described progressives, would find much of it rather dubious, though many would be reluctant to openly criticize or counter the arguments being made for fear of ostracism by their community.
Kohn constructs a straw man around the fact that previous incoming presidential administrations have communicated with foreign governments during their transition periods. This is certainly true and even sensible. But, at the same time, meeting representatives of other countries cannot be allowed to undercut the policies being pursued by the White House team that is actually still in power. In this case, President Barack Obama had made clear that his opposition to the Israeli settlement expansion would be expressed through U.S. abstention on a United Nations Security Council vote condemning such activity.
In response, the government of Israel asked Jared Kushner to use Trump’s potential leverage to bring about a veto or delay in the resolution. Kushner clearly approached his task with some zeal, instructing incoming National Security Adviser Mike Flynn to contact the U.N. delegations of the countries on the Security Council to do just that, undercutting what Obama was doing. That is how the phone call from Flynn to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak came about.
Kohn also critiques the applicability of the Logan Act, which blocks American citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States by claiming that it “would likely not be a successful litigation path.” He argues that Kushner was “already acting in an official capacity,” which is flat out untrue as he had no official status. If Kushner had in fact been an honest broker he would have gone through the State Department, but he was instead working covertly to subvert a policy being pursued by the legally-in-power President of the United States. There is no other way to look at it.
Finally, Kohn argues that the U.N. Resolution 2334 that was approved in spite of Flynn’s call, gives the Palestinians both “more leverage” and “moral authority” in any future negotiations with the Israelis. He sees this as a bad thing, that Kushner was therefore rightly “pursuing a moral agenda that would help Israel’s security.” This is really the crux of the matter as Kohn sees the Middle East in very simple terms: Israeli dominance is a good thing, enabling Netanyahu to dictate both the pace and consequences arising from the endless peace talks that only continue to sustain land thefts and human rights violations by powerful Jews in dealing with virtually powerless Arabs. That is just the way Kohn and the Israelis want things to be, and, unfortunately President Donald Trump has now made clear that he endorses “that reality.”
There are altogether too many American Jews like Daniel Kohn who reflexively think as he does. Israelis are cheering in Jerusalem over Donald Trump’s surrender to them over the location of their capital, but real Americans should be mourning. The arrogance of Jewish power in the United States, exemplified by Kushner in regards to the United Nations and more recently concerning Jerusalem, means that U.S. citizens will be less secure when they travel, American businesses will have to think twice when seeking overseas markets, and diplomats and soldiers working in foreign Embassies and military bases will become targets. If there is an actual positive American interest concealed somewhere in the packages of concessions to Israel, I certainly cannot find it.
*(Benjamin Netanyahu, Jared Kushner and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. Monday, May 22, 2017. Image credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO/ Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ flickr)
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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

جبران باسيل وزير خارجية العرب

ناصر قنديل

ديسمبر 11, 2017

– «عندما يحمل لبنان رسالة السلام مبنيّاً على العدل، إنّما يقوم بدور طبيعي. وعندما يدافع عن شعب فلسطين، فإنّه يضيف إلى بلاغة الكلام، من طريقة عيشه وتصرّفه، ما هو أبلغ من الكلام. وكما أنّ للحقّ والعدالة منطقاً، فللحكمة منطقها أيضاً.

– فلنستمع إليها تؤكّد أنّ العنف قصير الأجل، عاجز عن تأمين سلمٍ صحيح دائم، عقيم إذا تصدّى لحقوق الشعوب الأساسية، كما هي الحال بالنسبة إلى شعب فلسطين، «أضعف من أن ينال من عزم الفلسطينيين على المقاومة داخل الأراضي المحتلّة أو من تصميم على مواصلة الضغط من الخارج من أجل التحرّر. تلك هي سنّة التاريخ في حركات المقاومة والتحرير».

– من كلمة الرئيس الراحل سليمان فرنجية أمام الجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة 14/11/1974.

– تصحّ هذه الكلمات التي استعملها الرئيس اللبناني الراحل سليمان فرنجية قبل نصف قرن تقريباً من منبر الأمم المتحدة لتوصيف موقع لبنان ودوره من القضية الفلسطينية وموقع هذه القضية في صناعة الاستقرار في العالم، للتعليق على الكلمة التي ألقاها وزير خارجية لبنان جبران باسيل في اجتماع وزراء الخارجية العرب المخصّص لمناقشة القرار الأميركي باعتماد القدس عاصمة لـ «إسرائيل».

– أضاف باسيل لشرعة المقاومة التي بشّر بها الرئيس فرنجية تجربة المقاومة التي شيّد لبنان بنيانها ورفعها إلى مستوى لاهوت التحرير وقانون الردع، وخاطب الوزراء العرب بما افترض الرئيس فرنجية أنه يخاطب العالم به نيابة عن العرب كلّهم، ليجد باسيل أنه يتلو مزامير داود على من بهم صممٌ، مكتفياً بالتحدث للتاريخ الذي ترك له الرئيس فرنجية الحكم الأخير، لينالا معاً شرف التحدث بالنيابة عن الحق وبلسان الشعوب التي لا تكلّ ولا تملّ من المقاومة عندما يتخاذل الحكام، كما في لبنان، كما في فلسطين، كما في كلّ مكان، والعنف والجبروت والعنجهية، تعبيرات عن قصر نظر عندما يتصل الأمر بقضايا الشعوب وحقوقها الأساسية، «حيث العنف قصير الأجل وأضعف من أن ينال من عزم الشعوب على المقاومة».

– «نحن هنا، لأنّ عروبتنا لا تتنازل عن القدس، ونحن في لبنان لا نتهرّب من قدرنا في المواجهة والمقاومة حتى الشهادة»، قال لهم باسيل، وأضاف «نحن من هوية القدس، كرامتنا لا تُمَسّ وهويتنا لا تُخطَف، بل تعود لتتحرّر فتنطلق من لبنانيتها إلى مشرقيتها إلى عروبتها. نحن هنا لنستعيد عروبتنا الضالة ما بين سنة وشيعة، والمهدورة بين شرق وغرب، والمتلهية بصراع عربي – فارسي، والمدفوعة وهماً الى تخويف إسلامي – مسيحي متبادل». وختم قائلاً، «لم نأت الى هنا لرفع اليدين لبيان رفع العتب، فتعالوا ننتفض لعزتنا ونتجنّب لعنة التاريخ وأسئلة أحفادنا عن تخاذلنا، لأنّ الانتفاضة وحدها تحفظ ماء وجهنا وتُعيد حقوقنا، فإما أن نتحرّك الآن، وإلا على القدس السلام… ولا سلام».

– استحقّ باسيل بجدارة أن يكون وزير خارجية العرب الذين لا وزراء خارجية لهم، وصرختُه لم تذهب هباء، ولا تبدّدت في الهواء، فقد وصلت إلى حيث يجب أن تصل، سمعها شعبُ فلسطين، وسائر العرب، وسمعها المحتلُّ الغاصب ومَنْ منحه تفويض التقويض والتهويد في القدس، فمن يجب أن يُصيبهم الذعر من القرار الأميركي لا زالت قلوبهم نابضة بالحرية وأصواتهم تنبض بالرجولة، ومَنْ يجب أن ينجحوا بالتعمية والتغطية والتورية فضحهم صدق الكلمات النابعة من الحق، وكما في العلاقة بين النور والظلمة، يكفي بعض النور لتبديد كلّ الظلمة ولا تكفي الظلمة كلّها للتعمية على نور شمعة منفردة، فكانت كلمة باسيل هي المؤتمر وكان هو الوزير، ولا حاجة لوزراء وكلمات، فما يجب أن يُقال قد قيل، ومَنْ يجب أن يسمع فقد سمع.

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Frightening thought, there may be as many as 95,000,000 “Christian” Zionist voters in the USA

The U.S. evangelical community is in raptures over Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, believing it moves the world closer to Armageddon

ed note–doubtless what we are about to say here will result in the typical reflexive, autonomic, reactionary, and ill-considered campaign of screeching from all the usual corners, but we’ll do it anyway.

By declaring Jerusalem to be the ‘capital’ of Israel, Trump has just touched the J-Spot–that religious erogenous zone existing only with Jews and with their Christian Zionist lickspittle lackeys–of as many as 95,000,000 voters in America.

Let me spell that out for you again–95 MILLION VOTERS.

For purposes related to Trump’s domestic agenda, these people represent a veritable army of activists who can now be counted on to march in exactly the manner as needed by their CiC who–in their eyes–is a foreshadowing of the return of the Messiah. That means if he needs them to engage in the kind of hive-activities that we see take place on a regular basis with Judea Inc, where busy little bees are activated into flooding comments sections of websites and blogs, calling representatives and chewing them a you-know-what for whatever position they maintain (such as the witch hunt presently against the President taking place) or even–drum role please–organizing boycotts of certain products in the interests of hitting Hollywood and the JMSM where it hurts, they have now had their batteries charged, their guns locked and loaded and are ready to go.

I/we understand the ‘rage on the street’ within the Muslim community, and–lest we forget–the Christian community as well. We are not endorsing what Trump has done, merely giving a perspective to it that rises a wee bit higher than the typical noise coming out of ‘duh muuvmnt’ at any given moment that goes no further than ‘TRUMP DID THIS ‘CUZ HE IS OWNED BY DUH JOOZ’.

If only politics were as simple as some people imagine them being, where EVERYTHING can be explained with that one sentence comprising 10 words, well, just as that old song sung by Louis Armstrong went, ‘what a wonderful world…’

Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz

Anyone wondering what the true impetus was behind U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital needed only to view the image of the president when he made the formal announcement.

Glittering Christmas decorations festooned across the White House hallway enveloped Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence deliberately – if a bit awkwardly – placed directly behind the president’s shoulder, ensuring that no camera angle could leave him out of the picture.

It all felt carefully staged to send a strong message to Christian evangelical voters and their leaders that this is their victory and Trump is their man.

Trump showed he is behind the evangelical agenda not only when it comes to enacting domestic agenda – like opposing abortion, appointing conservative judges or saying “Merry Christmas” – but on foreign policy issues close to their heart as well.

It was surely no coincidence that the dramatic declaration took place in the final days of a crucial Senate special election campaign, taking place in Alabama next Tuesday, in which embattled Republican Roy Moore is fighting with the backing of former Trump adviser and Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon. Getting religious, right-wing voters to the polls, despite the swirling controversy regarding Moore’s alleged past relationships with young girls, is viewed as crucial to a GOP victory.

The announcement also took place just before Pence is set to visit Israel for three days, from December 17-19. This guarantees enhanced media coverage for the Pence trip, where he will certainly be greeted as a conquering hero – pleasing evangelicals even more.

While much has been made of the influence of Jewish megadonor Sheldon Adelson in Trump’s move, and his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner’s words of support – flouting the conventional wisdom that he would be dismayed that it would derail his 11-month attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – the approbation from Israel and pro-Trump American Jews seems to be a happy bonus to the main objective.

Trump is showing love to Israel because evangelical voters form the crucial linchpin in his relatively small but solid support base. Evangelical voters threw their support behind Trump in 2016 at a higher rate than any previous presidential candidate – giving him 81 percent of their vote, even more than they gave to fellow evangelical George W. Bush.

It was these Christian evangelicals – and Pence, an evangelical himself and a prominent touchstone of their influence in the Trump administration – that were clearly the driving force behind the Jerusalem declaration.

Furthermore, the fact the evangelical community’s desire to see Jerusalem being irrevocably in Israeli hands is based on religious beliefs rather than practical political concerns means that any fear of the anticipated violent reaction from Palestinians and the Arab world was easily dismissed as irrelevant by Trump and the decision-makers around him.

This early Christmas gift to evangelicals was consistent with the Trump administration, which has been the most evangelical-friendly White House in U.S. history, with an unprecedented number of card-carrying members of the religious right filling cabinet positions. Indeed, a weekly Bible studies meeting is held, with Pence reportedly among those in attendance.

Also close to Trump: Jay Sekulow – one of the attorneys defending him in the Russia probe – a messianic Jew with a high profile in the Christian evangelical community.

And Johnnie Moore, considered the de facto leader of Trump’s evangelical advisers, told CNN that the status of Jerusalem has been a top priority for the community, and that the issue was “second only to concerns about the judiciary among the president’s core evangelical supporters.”

By making this move, Trump had “demonstrated to his evangelical supporters that he will do what he says he will do,” Moore added.

On Wednesday, the far-right Christian evangelical website Charisma News was overflowing with praise from evangelical leaders for the Jerusalem announcement.

“Evangelicals are ecstatic, for Israel is to us a sacred place and the Jewish people are our dearest friends,” Pastor Paula White told Charisma. “The Jewish people have dedicated themselves to Jerusalem over millennia, taken pride in it, defended it with blood and treasure, and today we rejoice with them.”

White delivered the invocation at Trump’s inauguration last January and participated in a high-profile “laying on of hands” during Trump’s presidential campaign, in which 40 evangelical leaders and televangelists prayed for his success.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical leader (and father of Trump’s White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders) has for years prominently lobbied for the U.S. Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. He also hailed the move on Trump’s favorite television network, and dismissed concerns that it could spark violence.

Theological dog-whistle

‘In order to truly understand the centrality of this theological dog-whistle to Trump’s evangelical base, you must take their religious beliefs seriously,’ argued progressive Christian commentator and pundit Diana Butler Bass, in a widely circulated thread on Twitter. Bass said the Jerusalem issue was so important to evangelicals because it is necessary to regain Judeo-Christian control of the Temple Mount.

This is vital, she explained, because rebuilding the Temple would initiate the “end-time” laid out in the Book of Revelations. End-time is a fundamentalist Christian belief in a prophecy that the living and the resurrected will one day be delivered from the Earth by God, their bodies transformed and protected in heaven, as he pours out his wrath on the sinners left behind.

Butler Bass asserted that ‘of all the possible theological dog-whistles to his evangelical base, the Jerusalem declaration is the biggest.’ Trump is reminding them that he is carrying out God’s will to these Last Days. ‘They’ve been waiting for this, praying for this,’ she wrote. ‘They want war in the Middle East. The Battle of Armageddon, at which time Jesus Christ will return to the Earth and vanquish all God’s enemies. For certain evangelicals, this is the climax of history. And Trump is taking them there. To the promised judgment, to their sure victory. The righteous will be ushered to heaven; the reprobate will be banished to hellfire.’

To these true believers, she added, the Jerusalem announcement is ‘the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Donald Trump is not only acting on a campaign promise, but enacting a theological one. They believe that Donald Trump is God’s instrument to move us closer to the Rapture, the Judgment, and the End. Because to them that’s actually the beginning – the beginning of their reward and heavenly bliss.’

As a result, she explained, the issue of whether the Jerusalem move is a provocation that could harm the cause of peace is meaningless, since ‘peace in this world doesn’t matter.’

To nonbelievers, including mainstream Christians for whom this sounds far-fetched, she argued that it is actively preached in churches nationwide and that ‘millions of American Christians believe this and have based their faith and identity on it.’

In fact, evangelical cleric John Hagee’s reaction to the Jerusalem announcement bore out Butler Bass’s argument.

Speaking on CBN News’ “Faith Nation” show, Hagee said that ‘Christians should care about Israel because the entirety of the Bible beginning at Genesis all the way to the end is God’s position paper on the Jewish people.’

‘Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, recorded in the book of Genesis, that He was going to give them a strip of real estate in the Middle East, and that piece of real estate would be theirs forever. Forever means today, tomorrow and forever,’ he said.

He added a direct allusion to end-time, noting, ‘I believe at this point in time, Israel is God’s stopwatch for everything that happens to every nation, including America, from now until the Rapture of the church and beyond.’

The ‘Rapture of the church’ describes an event that fundamentalist Christians believe will happen in end-time, referring to the “snatching away” of the righteous to heaven.

Given the wall-to-wall support for the Jerusalem declaration in the evangelical community, it is interesting to note that a recent survey of 2,000 American evangelical Christians found that older evangelicals offered far more unconditional support to Israel than millennials.

The survey, commissioned by the Chosen People Ministries, found that 80 percent of those over 65 believe the Jewish people have a right to the Land of Israel, compared with 61 percent of those under 35. It was issued with a dire warning that “overall support of evangelicals for Israel will drop significantly in the next decade if the younger generation is not educated now about its biblical importance.”

Maybe, but if the events of the past few days are an indication, evangelical Christian support of Jewish sovereignty in Israel is strong: Strong enough to move the hand of the president it helped put into office and whom the president needs to keep him there.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Oh no, they must be distraught. CIA ‘mistakenly’ destroys copy of 6,700-page US torture report

CIA ‘mistakenly’ destroys copy of 6,700-page US torture report
Source: crunchs mag
The CIA inspector general’s office has said it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a comprehensive Senate torture report, despite lawyers for the Justice Department assuring a federal judge that copies of the documents were being preserved.
The erasure of the document by the spy agency’s internal watchdog was deemed an “inadvertent” foul-up by the inspector general, according to Yahoo News.
One intelligence community source told Yahoo News, which first reported the development, that last summer CIA inspector general officials deleted an uploaded computer file with the report and then accidentally destroyed a disk that also contained the document.

Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee. (Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)
The 6,700-page report contains thousands of secret files about the CIA’s use of “enhanced” interrogation methods, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other aggressive interrogation techniques at “black site” prisons overseas.
The full version of the report remains classified, but a 500-page executive summary was released to the public in 2014.
Christoper R. Sharpley, the CIA’s acting inspector general (CIA IG), alerted the Senate intelligence panel that his office’s copy of the report had vanished in August.
And Senator Dianne Feinstein, the driving force behind the 2014 report, sent letters to the CIA and Justice Department confirming the spy agency’s inspector general “has misplaced and/or accidentally destroyed” its copy of the report.
Douglas Cox, a City University of New York School of Law professor who specialises in tracking the preservation of federal records told Yahoo News: “It’s breathtaking that this could have happened, especially in the inspector general’s office – they’re the ones that are supposed to be providing accountability within the agency itself.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (Getty Images)
“It makes you wonder what was going on over there?”
Another copy of the report exists elsewhere within the CIA, which is waiting for the conclusion of a years-long legal battle over the document.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr opposed the publication of the report in 2014. Since taking power he has attempted to recover copies of the report that were distributed throughout the Obama administration.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!