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Each week (Sat. 12-2am) I stave off the evil and stale with the fresh and the weird on Mutiny Radio! (www.pcrcollective.org); the oddest topics, the most multifarious (that's multifaceted + nefarious) tunes, and newly-lacquered commentary on The Stranger in a Strange Land! Stay tuned for more adjectives! Follow The Stranger on Mixcloud

ICE Officers Told to Take Action Against All Undocumented Immigrants Encountered While on Duty

from July 7, 2017 at 07:34AM http://bit.ly/2sDhTrK

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in San Diego, California (David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit in charge of deportations has directed his officers to take action against all undocumented immigrants they may cross paths with, regardless of criminal histories. The guidance appears to go beyond the Trump administration’s publicly stated aims, and some advocates say may explain a marked increase in immigration arrests.

In a February memo, Matthew Albence, a career official who heads the Enforcement and Removal Operations division of ICE, informed his 5,700 deportation officers that, “effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.”

The Trump administration, including Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, has been clear in promising to ramp up immigration enforcement, but has so far emphasized that its priority was deporting immigrants who posed a public safety threat. Indeed, Kelly, to whom Albence ultimately reports, had seemed to suggest a degree of discretion when he told the agencies under his command earlier this year that immigration officers “may” initiate enforcement actions against any undocumented person they encountered. That guidance was issued just a day before Albence sent the memo to his staff.

A spokesman with ICE said Albence’s directive did not represent a break with Kelly’s stated aims, and was consistent with current agency policies.

“The memo directly supports the directions handed down in the executive orders and mirrors the language ICE consistently uses to describe its enforcement posture,” the spokeswoman, Sarah Rodriguez, said in a statement. “As Secretary Kelly and Acting Director [of ICE] Homan have stated repeatedly, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats; however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal.”

However, Sarah Saldaña, who retired in January as head of ICE for the Obama administration, said the wording in the memo would have real consequences for undocumented immigrants.

“When you use the word ‘will’ instead of ‘may’ you are taking it a step further,” said Saldaña. “This is an important directive and people at ERO are bound by this directive unless someone above Matt Albence comes back and says, ‘You went too far.’ I don’t think you are going to find that person in this administration.”

David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the fallout from the memo has been evident for months. “The memo explains what we have actually been seeing on the ground,” Bier said, asserting that immigrants without criminal backgrounds were routinely being arrested and ordered deported.

Since 2008, Congress had traditionally used its annual spending bill to instruct the secretary of homeland security to prioritize the deportation of convicted immigrants based on the severity of their crimes, but that language was left out of this year’s bill, helping to pave the way for broader enforcement.

In recent months, the number of undocumented immigrants arrested who are considered to be non-criminals has risen. (Under the law, merely being here illegally is not a crime. Rather, it’s a civil violation.) Between February and May, the Trump administration arrested, on average, 108 undocumented immigrants a day with no criminal record, an uptick of some 150 percent from the same time period a year ago.

For example, an Ecuadorean high schooler was detained by ICE agents who showed up at his home in upstate New York hours before his senior prom in June. Three restaurant workers targeted for immigration violations were arrested in May in Michigan after ICE agents ate breakfast where they worked. A Salvadoran man is facing deportation in Houston after voluntarily showing up to an ICE office for a routine check-in.

The ICE memo acknowledges that space in detention facilities limits the number of undocumented immigrants who can be detained upon apprehension. Still, it says ICE officials are mandated to begin deportation proceedings against all undocumented immigrants with whom they cross paths — even if those apprehended remain free as they face an immigration judge, a process that can take years.

Others may be swiftly deported if they are found to already have final deportation orders signed by an immigration judge. As of May 2016, there were 930,000 undocumented immigrants who had been ordered deported but remained freely in the country, according to ICE statistics.

“My concern is that what you end up doing is siphoning away resources that should go to the public safety threats,” said John Sandweg, who preceded Saldaña as acting ICE director.

The case of Oscar Millan shows ICE’s renewed focus on strict immigration enforcement. Under the Obama administration, agents had discretion in cases of immigrants with gravely sick children. Read the story.

Under Obama-era guidelines, undocumented immigrants with no criminal record — but perhaps with a pending deportation order — could only be arrested if an agent’s supervisor determined their deportation “would serve an important federal interest.”

Homan has appeared to acknowledge the impact of the agency’s more aggressive approach even if he did not mention Albence’s explicit direction.

“There has been a significant increase in non-criminal arrests because we weren’t allowed to arrest them in the past administration,” Homan told a House committee. “You see more of an uptick in non-criminals because we’re going from zero to 100 under a new administration.”

Both Homan and Albence are career employees who have worked for decades helping the government enforce immigration laws. Before Homan was promoted to lead ICE, he led ERO, with Albence as his assistant director.

“I expect that the agency believes that there is no one in the White House or DHS that is going to tell them ‘No. Don’t do this,’” Bier said. “And without an effective check in the administration we are going to see arrests being made without any regard to prioritization.”

Trump has yet to nominate a political director to lead ICE. In fact, all three immigration agencies under Homeland Security — ICE, Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — are currently implementing Trump’s agenda while being led by career staff.

Homan has so far served as a vocal supporter of Trump’s ramped up immigration enforcement. Last week, he even made an appearance at a White House press briefing.

“Why do you think we got 11 million to 12 million people in this country [illegally] now?” Homan asked White House reporters. “Because there has been this notion that if you get by the Border Patrol, if you get in the United States, if you have a U.S. citizen kid, then no one is looking for you. But those days are over.”

Read more at: ProPublica: Articles and Investigations http://bit.ly/1lISYtS

Trump’s “Voter Fraud Panel” Runs into Legal Problems

from July 6, 2017 at 05:01AM http://bit.ly/2tDix9K

By Britain Eakin and Jon Parton, Courthouse News Service


(CN) – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach faces increasing heat in the week since he sent letters to all 50 states asking for extensive information of registered voters, in the form of a lawsuit fighting his request and claims by a lawyers’ group that he violated a federal campaigning law.


Filed on July 3 by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, the lawsuit (pdf) comes just days after all secretaries of state received a June 28 letter from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, asking them to submit publicly available state voter data.


All the letters are signed by Kobach, whom Trump appointed as vice chair of the commission he established in May by executive order. They ask for full names, addresses, dates of birth, political party affiliation, partial Social Security numbers, elections voted in since 2006, voter status, felony convictions, military status, overseas information and multistate voter registration.


Kobach also wants the states to produce any evidence and information related to documented cases of voter fraud since the November 2000 federal election.


He has indicated that all of the data collected would be made publicly available, but EPIC claims that the commission failed to conduct a privacy assessment first.


“More than 50 experts in voting technology and twenty privacy organizations wrote to state election officials to warn that ‘[t]here is no indication how the information will be used, who will have access to it, or what safeguards will be established,’” the complaint states.


EPIC notes that the E-Government Act of 2002 requires any agency that initiates new information collection using information technology to assess what information will be collected and why, who it will be shared with, what notice will be provided to individuals whose data is shared, and how the information will be secured.


On the latter point, the lawsuit calls into question the security of one of two methods by which the letters ask state election officials to submit the information.


“The ‘SAFE’ URL, recommended by the commission for the submission of voter data, leads election officials to a non-secure site,” the complaint states.


As of press time Wednesday, this URL brings up a warning that “attackers might be trying to steal your information.”


To date, 44 states have refused to comply with the request, with some secretaries of state, including Alex Padilla of California, saying that compliance would only pay lip service to Trump’s already debunked claims of large-scale voter fraud.


As noted in the lawsuit, Padilla said he would “not provide sensitive voter information to a committee that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.”


Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who likewise refused to provide the data, echoed the sentiments of the NAACP that the commission would “attempt to legitimize voter-suppression efforts across the country.”


The NAACP has called the commission’s letters illegal and a threat to democracy. We “believe that this request represents only the first salvo in a move to implement the widespread suppression of American voters, the possible purging of the rolls and a rollback of our constitutionally guaranteed voting rights,” the group said in a statement.


Trump made his first claim of voter fraud on Nov. 27, tweeting that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because millions of people voted illegally.


Numerous studies have disproved allegations of massive voter fraud. One conducted by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law reported that an American is more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate someone else while voting.


The Brennan Center says Kobach has long supported voter-suppression efforts and that the commission is not authorized to compel voter information from states.


In an 8-page assessment (pdf) of the legal risks associated with the requests, it cautioned that states could violate provisions of state or federal laws if they choose to comply.


That includes laws that require notice of disclosure, that limit the use of voter information and that impose confidentiality restrictions.


While stating its general support of state efforts to share public information as part of research, it called the requests “unusual” for the risk imposed on sensitive voter information.


“Accordingly, chief election officers, and their legal counsel, should carefully consider state and federal law, and the implications of the Commission’s request before responding,” the assessment states.


The Electronic Privacy Information Center did not respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit. In addition to a temporary restraining order, EPIC wants the commission to securely delete any voter information it collects and conduct a privacy assessment.


Though the White House also has not responded to an email seeking comment, Trump questioned the commission’s opponents on Twitter.


“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL,” he tweeted on July 1. “What are they trying to hide?”


When asked for comment, Kobach’s spokeswoman Samantha Poetter said inquiries would be handled by the White House.


The government’s response to the lawsuit is due Wednesday by 4 p.m.


U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is presiding over the case.


EPIC said it expects a ruling on the temporary restraining order by the end of the week.


The lawsuit names as defendants the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity; Secretary Kobach; the Executive Office of the U.S. president; Vice President Michael Pence, who chairs the commission; the U.S. Vice President’s Office; and the General Services Administration.


Also Monday, a lawyers’ group asked the federal Office of Special Counsel to investigate whether Kobach violated federal law by promoting his commission work in his Kansas gubernatorial bid.


The nonprofit civil rights group Lawyers’ Committee Civil Rights Under Law claims Kobach violated the Hatch Act (pdf), a 1939 law that prohibits executive-branch employees from using their influence to interfere with an election.


“Kris Kobach appears to be using his official role as head of the so-called ‘Election Integrity Commission’ to promote his candidacy for governor of Kansas,” Kristin Clarke, president and executive director of the group, said in a statement. “The Hatch Act’s central purpose is to prevent federal employees from using their official position for electoral purposes.”


Poetter said the claim has no merit.


“We are certain that no Hatch Act violations have occurred,” Poetter said in an email to the Kansas City Star. “This is nothing but a bunch of liberal lawyers trying to create a story.”


The civil rights group cited Kobach’s appearances – in his capacity as vice chair of Trump’s commission – on Fox News and MSNBC, which were then posted on his campaign website.


Kobach’s campaign website also makes written references to his role on Trump’s commission.


The group asks the Office of Special Counsel to investigate Kobach’s actions and also to make a determination as to whether the “apparent violations” were willful.


“Mr. Kobach explains on his own campaign website that he served as a senior attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice for several years, and therefore he surely is aware of the legal requirements under the Hatch Act,” the group wrote. “Given that awareness, and the sheer number of apparent violations in this case, there are serious questions whether Mr. Kobach knowingly disregarded the law, and the appropriate disciplinary measures if he did. In Mr. Kobach’s own words, ‘respect for rule of law is essential to our country.’”


To Learn More:

Top Kansas Official under Fire for Errors in Kansas Spanish-Language Voter Guides (by David Lee, Courthouse News Service)

Kansas Officials Fight to Hide Voting Machine Records (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Voter Impersonation: 31 Possible Cases out of 1 Billion Ballots Cast (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

International Observers to Monitor U.S. Election for Voter Suppression (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Investigation Turns Up Only 10 Cases of Voter Impersonation Nationwide…in 10 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Court Rules Republican National Committee Must Still be Monitored for Voter Fraud (David Wallechinsky and Matt Bewig) 

Read more at: News – AllGov http://bit.ly/SBRNmn

Senior Israeli Rabbi Calls for the Mass Execution of Palestinians

from June 25, 2017 at 04:18AM http://bit.ly/2t11bll

Photo Credit: david156/Shutterstock

Senior Israeli Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu believes the Israeli army should stop arresting Palestinians and execute them instead.

“It must execute them and leave no one alive,” Eliyahu wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday, according to Defend Democracy Press.

Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of the city of Safed, has a record of making racist remarks about Arabs and Muslims. He once said Israel should take “revenge” against Arabs, and that Palestinians, whom he once labeled enemies of Israel, must be “destroyed and crushed in order to end violence.”

“If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1,000,” Eliyahu told the Jerusalem Post in 2007. “And if they do not stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million.”

In a previous Facebook post, Eliyahu argued Palestinians who are arrested should not be kept alive.

“If you leave him alive, there is a fear that he will be released and kill other people,” he wrote. “We must eradicate this evil from within our midst.”

In 2012, Eliyahu was accused of making racist remarks after calling Arab culture “cruel” and saying Arabs have “violent norms” that have “turned into ideology.” The charges were later dropped by the Israeli Justice Ministry amidst speculation that journalists had misrepresented his words.

On a separate occasion, Eliyahu claimed that Arabs steal Jewish farm equipment in an attempt to blackmail Palestinian farmers. 

“The minute you make room for Arabs among Jews, it takes five minutes before they start to do whatever they want,” he said.

Tensions have been heightened recently in occupied Palestinian territory as a result of the restrictions placed on Palestinian worshippers entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015. As many as 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October 2015.

Celisa Calacal is a junior writing fellow for AlterNet. She is a senior journalism major and legal studies minor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Previously she worked at ThinkProgress and served as an editor for Ithaca College’s student newspaper. Follow her at @celisa_mia.

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/1nDoAlo

Buzzkill: Trump’s deputy Attorney general is coming for your legal marijuana

from June 25, 2017 at 03:02AM http://bit.ly/2tv4eFT

This post originally appeared on The Fresh Toast.

Although Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein previously said that the Justice Department was not preparing to renew the War on Drugs, he admitted to the Senate Appropriations committee earlier this week that the United States would likely see some changes in the way the federal government deals with areas of legal marijuana.

During the hearing, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska grilled Rosenstein over the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws. Ultimately, the senator, a Republican, was trying to get Jeff Sessions’ second in command to elaborate on whether the Justice Department plans to crackdown on legal weed or allow it to continue as it has for the past several years.

“Where are we headed with marijuana?” Murkowski asked.

“We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states,” Rosenstein replied. “It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids… I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science. And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I. And therefore we have this conflict.”

The Cole Memo

The Deputy Attorney General then went on to explain that the Cole Memo, which was issued by former President Obama’s Justice Department back in 2013, giving states the freedom to experiment with the legalization of marijuana, might be on borrowed time.

“Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum and at the moment that memorandum is still in effect,” he said. “Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we’re still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana.



“I can assure you that is going to be a high priority for me as the U.S. Attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, whether it be for recreational or medical use,” he added.

It wasn’t long until Rosenstein was asked about whether the Justice Department was working on an update to the Cole Memo or if it was going to eliminate the guidelines altogether.

“Does the Department plan to update or rescind the memo?” Representative Derek Kilmer of Washington state asked.

“I do not have an update,” Rosenstein replied. “I can tell you, it’s a very complicated issue for us. Under federal law as passed by the Congress, and given the science concerning marijuana, it’s a Schedule I controlled substance. That’s a decision I’ve talked with (DEA) Administrator Rosenberg about. Some states have taken a different approach and legalized or decriminalized marijuana for medical use and in some cases recreational use.”

“The question of whether it’s legal under federal law is resolved because Congress has passed a law — it’s illegal,” he continued. “Scientists have found that there’s no accepted medical use for it. Cole made an effort to examine the issue and find a way forward for the department where we could continue with our obligation to enforce federal law and minimize the intrusion on states that were attempting to follow a different path.”

What’s Next?

On Monday, it was revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been trying to persuade Congress to abandon the temporary medical marijuana protections known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. This rider, which has been tucked inside a federal spending bill for the past three years, is the only provision stopping Sessions and his goons over at the DEA from launching a savage crackdown on the cannabis industry.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

Although Rosenstein concluded his testimony by saying, “For the moment the Cole memo remains our policy…I’m not aware of any proposal to change it,” marijuana advocates believe there is cause for concern.

“Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is implying that the DOJ under Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration is pursuing a path to undermine legal state medical marijuana programs,” Justin Strekal, Political Director for NORML, told The Fresh Toast in a statement.

“With 30 states choosing to put patients first by allowing those suffering to make their healthcare decisions under the supervision of their doctors, it is absurd that this administration would make such veiled threats,” he added. “Last time I checked, neither Rosenstein, Sessions, nor President Trump are doctors and their zeal to threaten those who are sick is disturbing.”



Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

The Pentagon plans to send nearly 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan

from June 18, 2017 at 03:03PM http://bit.ly/2t4Mphc

In a war that has now seen its third president, the Pentagon plans to send nearly 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post.

The news comes as President Donald Trump recently gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to establish troop levels and as concerns have come from “the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan that he doesn’t have enough forces to help Afghanistan’s army against a resurgent Taliban insurgency,” according to the Post. Trump has not spoken to or met with Iraq or Afghanistan commander once.

Most of the troops will help train or advise Afghan forces, while a smaller number of troops will be dedicated to “counterterror operations against the Taliban and IS,” according to the Post.

The Post reported:

Although Trump has delegated authority for U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan, the responsibility for America’s wars and the men and women who fight in them rests on his shoulders. Trump has inherited America’s longest conflict with no clear endpoint or a defined strategy for American success, though U.S. troop levels are far lower than they were under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. In 2009, Obama authorized a surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, bringing the total there to more than 100,000, before drawing down over the rest of his presidency.

The resurgence of the Taliban has been forceful as they now control or contest more than 40 percent of territory in Afghanistan which means they now hold “more ground than at any point since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001,” according to the Los Angeles Times. A graphic from Vice also shows their territorial dominance.

In two separate incidents last week U.S. service members in Afghanistan have been shot at by men dressed in Afghan army uniforms who were actually working for the Taliban. One of the incidents left three U.S. soldiers dead. “Mattis has repeatedly stressed that increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would take place within a broader, long-term strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan,” the Post reported. While answering questions from Congress in a hearing last week it wasn’t clear if Mattis would ask for more troops in the future.

“All wars come to an end,” Mattis told the House Appropriations panel on Thursday, according to the Post. “Our job is to end it as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.”

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

Israel Makes an Audacious Request to U.S. to Dismantle Life Support System for 5 Million Palestinians

from June 18, 2017 at 02:48AM http://bit.ly/2sOYJ32

Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to dismantle U.N. regulations with the help of the Trump administration.


Israeli and US officials are in the process of jointly pre-empting Donald Trump’s supposed “ultimate deal” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They hope to demote the Palestinian issue to a footnote in international diplomacy.

The conspiracy – a real one – was much in evidence last week during a visit to the region by Nikki Haley, Washington’s envoy to the United Nations. Her escort was Danny Danon, her Israeli counterpart and a fervent opponent of Palestinian statehood.

Danon makes Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu look moderate. He has backed Israel annexing the West Bank and ruling over Palestinians apatheid-style. Haley appears unperturbed. During a meeting with Netanyahu, she told him that the UN was “a bully to Israel”. She has warned the powerful Security Council to focus on Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah, instead of Israel.

To protect its tiny ally, Washington is threatening to cut billions in US funding to the world body, plunging it into crisis and jeopardising peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

On the way to Israel, Haley stopped at the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, demanding it end its “pathological” opposition to Israel’s decades of occupation and human rights violations – or the US would pull out of the agency.

Washington has long pampered Israel, giving it millions of dollars each year to buy weapons to oppress Palestinians, and using its veto to block UN resolutions enforcing international law. Expert UN reports such as a recent one on Israel’s apartheid rule over Palestinians have been buried.

But worse is to come. Now the framework of international laws and institutions established after the Second World War is at risk of being dismembered.

That danger was highlighted on Sunday, when it emerged that Netanyahu had urged Haley to dismantle another UN agency much loathed by Israel. UNRWA cares for more than five million Palestinian refugees across the region.

Since the 1948 war, Israel has refused to allow these refugees to return to their lands, now in Israel, forcing them to live in miserable and overcrowded camps awaiting a peace deal that never arrives. These dispossessed Palestinians still depend on UNRWA for education, health care and social services.

UNRWA, Netanyahu says, “perpetuates” rather than solves their problems. He prefers that they become the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which looks after all other refugee populations.

His demand is a monumental U-turn, 70 years in the making. In fact, it was Israel that in 1948 insisted on a separate UN refugee agency for the Palestinians.

UNRWA was created to prevent the Palestinians falling under the charge of UNHCR’s forerunner, the International Refugee Organisation. Israel was afraid that the IRO, formed in the immediate wake of the Second World War, would give Palestinian refugees the same prominence as European Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities.

Israel did not want the two cases compared, especially as they were so intimately connected. It was the rise of Nazism that bolstered the Zionist case for a Jewish state in Palestine and Jewish refugees who were settled on lands from which Palestinians had just been expelled by Israel.

Also, Israel was concerned that the IRO’s commitment to the principle of repatriation might force it to accept back the Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s hope then was precisely that UNRWA would not solve the Palestinian refugee problem; rather, it would resolve itself. The idea was encapsulated in a Zionist adage: “The old will die and the young forget.”

But millions of Palestinian descendants still clamour for a right of return. If they cannot forget, Netanyahu prefers that the world forget them.

As bloody wars grip the Middle East, the best way to achieve that aim is to submerge the Palestinians among the world’s 65 million other refugees. Why worry about the Palestinian case when there are millions of Syrians newly displaced by war?

But UNRWA poses a challenge, because it is so deeply entrenched in the region and insists on a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA’s huge staff includes 32,000 Palestinian administrators, teachers and doctors, many living in camps in the West Bank – Palestinian territory Netanyahu and Danon hunger for. The UN’s presence there is an impediment to annexation.

On Monday Netanyahu announced his determination to block Europe from funding Israeli human rights organisations, the main watchdogs in the West Bank and a key data source for UN agencies. He now refuses to meet any world leader who talks to these rights groups.

With Trump in the White House, a crisis-plagued Europe ever-more toothless and the Arab world in disarray, Netanyahu wants to seize this chance to clear the UN out of the way too.

Global institutions such as the UN and the international law it upholds were created after the Second World War to protect the weakest and prevent a recurrence of the Holocaust’s horrors.

Today, Netanyahu is prepared to risk it all, tearing down the post-war international order, if this act of colossal vandalism will finally rid him of the Palestinians.

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/1nDoAlo

More Damning Evidence That the U.S. Is Directly Backing Al Qaeda-Linked Groups

from June 17, 2017 at 02:13AM http://bit.ly/2s54s7t

Qatar’s former prime minister admits the U.S. and its Gulf allies backed Salafi jihadists in Syria.

Qatar’s former prime minister admitted in an interview that the United States and its Gulf allies supported Islamist extremists in Syria.

In CIA-run training sites located in Jordan and Turkey, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani explained, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar, “all of us, we [were] supporting the same groups,” he said. Among them were extremists, al-Thani noted.

This testimony adds to the growing body of evidence that the U.S. government and its proxies backed hard-line Salafi-jihadists in order to weaken the Syrian government and its allies Iran and Hezbollah.

Qatar has recently come under fire by the U.S. and Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have condemned the country for its support of Islamist groups.

U.S. officials have internally acknowledged that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar aided ISIS and al-Qaeda, but in a diplomatic fracas, Qatar has become a scapegoat for the spread of violent extremism. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have suspended political and economic ties with Qatar and imposed a de facto blockade on the tiny country.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, who served as Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister until 2013, sat down for a June 12 interview with Charlie Rose to discuss the crisis. 

"What is the reason for this coming now?" Rose asked. “Questions have been raised about how much funding Qatar has done to some of the Islamic groups in Syria.” (The exchange begins at 7:30 in the video, which is embedded below.)

“In Syria, everybody did mistakes, including your country,” al-Thani replied.

When the war began in Syria, he went on, “all of us worked through two operation rooms: one in Jordan and one in Turkey.”

In Jordan, al-Thani continued, “There was countries, some of the GCC countries, among them the Saudis, the Emiratis, Qatar, United States, and other allies. And they [were] working from there. And all of us, we [were] supporting the same groups. In Turkey we did the same.” 

The former Qatari prime minister was referring to the U.S. government’s Operation Timber Sycamore, a covert CIA program in which thousands of militants were trained to fight to try to topple the Syrian government.

At its peak, the CIA was spending $1 billion per year training and arming what it claimed were “moderate” Syrian rebels — $1 of every $15 in its entire budget, according to documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Eventually, al-Thani said in the interview, it became clear that some of the armed groups “have other agenda, and we always eliminate them one by one.”

The U.S. also "supported the wrong groups sometimes," he emphasized to Rose. "It doesn’t mean that we did not do something wrong there.”

In one such example, Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former “moderate” rebel group vetted by the CIA and armed with U.S. anti-tank weapons, joined a rebranded Syrian al-Qaeda-led coalition.

Growing Body of Evidence

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani’s comments are further substantiated by large amounts of evidence.

A 2014 email from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, citing U.S. government intelligence, states that American allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar supported ISIS in Syria.

In a speech at Harvard University in 2014, former Vice President Joe Biden also admitted that close U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey had intentionally supported Islamist extremists in Syria.

“They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do?" he asked. “They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world."

Turkey played a double game with ISIS, allowing thousands of Salafi-jihadists from around the world to cross its border into Syria to join the genocidal militant group. Biden added that his “old friend” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told him, “You were right; we let too many people through. Now we are trying to seal the border.”

In 2013, former CIA director Mike Morell admitted that Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the extremist group Ahrar al-Sham were "the two most effective organizations on the battlefield," and "moderate members of the opposition joined forces with them to fight the Syrians.” Yet weapons and support continued flowing in from the U.S. and its allies.

Moreover, a declassified 2012 document from the Defense Intelligence Agency shows that just over one year into the conflict, the U.S. government knew "Salafi[s], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” The DIA report added that these rebel groups were likely to create a "Salafist principality in eastern Syria,” in the area ISIS eventually took over, “and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime."

Despite this clear understanding, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey poured billions of dollars into the Syrian opposition, empowering these Salafi-jihadist groups.

The Qatar Controversy

The U.S. government’s acknowledgement that Qatar has supported Islamist extremist groups has not stopped the arms deals from continuing — suggesting that the longtime U.S. policy of using Salafi-jihadist groups to destabilize its enemies will continue.

On June 14, just days after Donald Trump castigated Qatar over its funding of extremist groups, the U.S. president signed a $12 billion deal to transfer F-15QA fighter jets to the country. This was part of a larger $21 billion U.S. arms package with Qatar.

The primary point of dispute in the conflict in the Gulf is over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt strongly oppose the Muslim Brotherhood and consider it a terrorist organization.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which see Iran as their mortal enemy, have also accused Qatar of being too close to Iran, but Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani strongly rejected this claim.

"Qatar supporting Iran is a big joke," the former prime minister said in the interview with Charlie Rose. If Qatar and Iran were supposedly close allies, he added, “we would not fight with them in Syria.”

With Iran, Qatar has “a normal relation,” al-Thani stressed. He noted that other Middle Eastern countries have even larger economic ties with Iran than Qatar does.

Qatar is technically a constitutional monarchy, although there are few checks and balances on the absolute authority of the royal family.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani is often referred to with the abbreviation HBJ. He was made foreign minister in 1992, and prime minister in 2007. A billionaire notorious for spending large amounts of money on luxury items like a $100 million New York City penthouse, he was one of the scores of politicians mentioned in the Panama Papers.

Though tiny, Qatar has enormous oil reserves, which have made it the richest country in the world, per capita. As al-Thani explained, it has used its vast wealth to punch above its weight on the international stage, including by backing some of the Middle East’s more unsavory actors.


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Trump Slashes Grant For Group Combatting White Extremism

from June 24, 2017 at 09:24AM http://bit.ly/2sEoWTp

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The Trump administration on Friday slashed $400,000 in federal funding for one of the few U.S. groups that combat white extremism but denied it is now focusing only on fighting radical Islamists.

A grant announcement by the Department of Homeland Security eliminated funding for the Chicago-based Life After Hate, which was initially awarded the money in January during the closing days of the Obama administration.

Life After Hate, run by a former skinhead, is among a handful of domestic programs dedicated to helping people leave white power groups including neo-Nazi organizations and the Ku Klux Klan, and it was the only one of the original grant recipients dedicated solely to combatting white extremism.

The co-founder of Life After Hate, Christian Picciolini, said in an emailed statement, “While it’s disappointing that DHS broke its promise to us by changing the rules to the grant after we’d already won it, it is more alarming that the current administration is refusing to acknowledge that white nationalist extremists are a major domestic terrorist threat.”

Picciolini has publicly criticized the Trump administration for ties to white extremists. He pledged to continue serving those in need.

In all, Homeland Security awarded $10 million to 26 police and community organizations, none of which has a specific mission to counter groups in the so-called “alt-right,” a hodge-podge of white supremacists, white populists and white nationalists, many of whom supported Trump for president.

The agency said the grants, awarded under the Combatting Violent Extremism program, will target “all forms of violent extremism, including the rising threat from Islamist terrorism.” Spokesman David Lapan this week denied the program is now concentrating only on Islamic extremism.

Grant applications were re-evaluated based on factors including whether an organization had a track record of combatting violent extremism, the department said, and groups that didn’t were eliminated.

Ten other Obama-approved grants also were cut, including $867,000 for the University of North Carolina to produce anti-jihadist videos and $393,800 for the Muslim Public Affairs Council Foundation, which was critical of the move to cut funding for Life After Hate.

“The Trump administration’s mishandling of the grant process underscores two fundamental flaws in its (Combatting Violent Extremism) policy: It focuses on criminal investigations in a non-criminal space, and it turns a blind eye to white supremacist violence,” the group said in a statement.

The Claremont School of Theology in Los Angeles, which has a division for Islamic studies that had been awarded $800,000 by the Obama administration, opted out of the program under Trump.

Jihad Turk, president of the Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School, said questions existed about the government’s approach under Obama, and they got worse under Trump.

“When Trump took over we waited to see which way he would go,” Turk said in a telephone interview. “Everyone sees the direction he is going, and the rhetoric has only escalated.”

New grant recipients include the Tennessee-based Nashville International Center for Empowerment, which works with refugees and immigrants and received $445,110; four police agencies; and the National Governor’s Association, which received $500,000.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the agency is “stepping up efforts to counter terrorist recruitment and radicalization,” and he sought a thorough review of the grant program after taking office. That review led to the new list.

“We will closely monitor these efforts to identify and amplify promising approaches to prevent terrorism,” Kelly said in a statement.


Caldwell reported from Washington.

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Report: Election hackers stole private voter data, altered voter information

from June 22, 2017 at 03:04PM http://bit.ly/2t90R8J

Election 2016 Hacking The Vote

FILE – In this Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 file photo, Brian Varner, a principal researcher at Symantec, inserts an identifying chip card into an electronic voting machine as he demonstrates how to hack an electronic voting machine at a Symantec office in New York. The U.S. voting system, a loosely regulated, locally managed patchwork of more than 3,000 jurisdictions overseen by the states, employs more than two dozen types of machinery from 15 manufacturers. Elections officials across the nation say they take great care to secure their machines from tampering. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File) (Credit: AP)

The hacking of voter databases prior to November’s presidential election was more broad than previously understood — and in addition to stealing personal information, hackers altered voter data in at least one county’s voter database, according to current and former government officials who spoke to Time magazine.

Hackers were able to steal “thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers,” Time reported. And investigators found in one case, that voter data in a county database had been manipulated — though that data was corrected prior to the election.

While much of the voter database hacking has been linked to Russia, the instance of county-level voter-roll data manipulation has not been linked to any specific actor.

In another case, 90,000 voters’ records were stolen from Illinois — allegedly by Russian state actors. More than 90 percent of those records included driver’s license numbers, and 25 percent of these records “contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers,” according to Ken Menzel, the general counsel of the State Board of Elections, who was quoted in the Time report.

Congressional investigators are looking into whether any of this information made its way to President Donald Trump’s campaign but have yet to see evidence that would suggest it did. “If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, ‘How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?’” said Michael Bahar, the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, according to Time.

Time also reported:

The House Intelligence Committee plans to seek testimony this summer from Brad Parscale, the digital director of the Trump campaign, CNN reported last week. Hill investigators in February asked the White House and law enforcement agencies to ensure that all materials relating to contacts between the Trump administration, transition team and campaign had with the Russians had been preserved. Parscale did not return messages requesting comment for this story. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, referred questions regarding the investigations to Trump’s legal team, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Both [the House and Senate] intelligence committees are looking at whether and how the intrusions could have furthered Russia’s larger strategic goals of undermining U.S. democracy, hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump. During the run up to the vote, Obama Administration cyber-security officials took steps to prepare for widespread voter registration manipulation, fearing Russia might seek to cause chaos at polling places to undermine the credibility of the election.

The House and Senate committees held hearings on Thursday in order to understand further vulnerabilities in U.S. voting systems. “I’m deeply concerned,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told Time. Burr is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is worried that the hacking problem may worsen in the future.

Cybersecurity officials under the Obama administration feared Russia planned to undermine the election, and prepared for contingencies. Yet on Thursday, Trump bashed his predecessor for not doing anything about it.


Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

New Report Exposes Direct Israeli Support for Al Qaeda-Allied Forces in Syria

from June 23, 2017 at 02:08AM http://bit.ly/2t8HpJ4

Beirut-based journalist Nour Samaha has uncovered extensive Israeli government support of anti-Assad forces in southern Syria.

AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. Of all the foreign countries involved in the Syrian proxy war, one that does not get much attention is Israel. We’ve known for years Israel has provided at least some support to anti-Assad Sunni fighters. This includes offering medical treatment to wounded Al-Qaeda fighters. Well, now a new report reveals a whole lot more. According to Syria Deeply, Israel has carried out an extensive operation backing militant groups near the border with northern Israel. This includes the provision of supplies and even direct financial aid. The report is called Israel’s Quiet Campaign to Gain a Foothold in Southern Syria. It’s by Nour Samaha, a freelance journalist based in Beirut. I spoke to her earlier today. Nour, welcome.

NOUR SAMAHA: Thank you.

AARON MATÉ: We’ve known about Israel’s cooperation with or tacit support for Al-Nusra rebels in southern Syria for quite some time. Most of the focus has been on basically Israel treating wounded fighters in its hospitals. Your piece though goes into detail that I don’t think we’ve heard before. At least for a western audience. Can you explain what you found?

NOUR SAMAHA: Well, first off, it needs to be highlighted that it’s not just Nusra rebels, Nusra fighters that they’re treating, but, obviously, a variety of opposition rebels that are based in opposition-controlled Quneitra, which is along the border or along the technical fence with Israel. What the Israelis have been doing, and they’ve been doing it for several years now, is reaching out beyond humanitarian aid or medical support for fighters, but also distributing aid and educational equipment inside opposition-controlled Quneitra, as well as more recently, funding and arming their own opposition group. That opposition group is called The Golan Knights, or Liwa Forsan al Joulan in Arabic. They’re still relatively small, but they have admitted to accepting aid and arms from the Israelis. This is the first time that this sort of information has come out publicly. I think essentially what it is showing is that the Israelis, although they’re working quite quietly and they still maintain this policy of non-involvement inside Syria, are actually working very, very actively inside southern Syria in order to create an Israeli-friendly zone of influence.

I think it’s, again, important to point out that not only is this reminiscent of what they did in Lebanon during the civil war, but they’re very keen on ensuring that there’s a buffer zone or a safe zone between them and the Syrian forces, and the Syrian government and its allies. In order to do that, they need to be able to make sure that the population, the local population in that area can help them out and is not hostile towards them.

AARON MATÉ: Can you explain further in terms of wanting to create that friendly buffer zone inside Syria? Because it’s very significant. Especially bringing up the comparison to southern Lebanon, where Israeli support for militant forces there has had deadly consequences.

NOUR SAMAHA: Well, in southern Lebanon basically what they did at the beginning of the war was they created, it’s called The Good Fence Policy. The idea was that they set up a liaison unit on the Israeli side of the border and they basically had an open door policy for Lebanese to come into Israel to receive free medical care to help them out in terms of employment.

Eventually what it did was it opened up the possibility for the Israelis to actually be present inside Lebanon, and they then created their own militia, which was the Free Lebanon Army. Then they changed it to the South Lebanon Army. This militia basically controlled southern Lebanon under Israeli guidance. The South Lebanon Army and the Israelis were working side by side in southern Lebanon in order to ensure that it was an area that was productive and helpful for the Israelis.

Now, what we’re seeing in Syria is something very, very similar to what they did in southern Lebanon. They want to create this Israel-friendly zone. I think the mistake that they … I think they’ve learned from their mistakes in Lebanon. I do not think that the Israelis are keen on putting boots on the ground inside Syria. What they would rather have are people that do their bidding for them. What we’re seeing are buses going in and out on a daily basis. Bringing in injured, and wounded, and sick from opposition-held southern Syria into Israel. You have civilians and fighters that can stay up to a year and a half inside Israel hospitals. They’re creating this relationship with the population, like I said, in order to have this Israel-friendly environment, Israel-friendly society.

AARON MATÉ: Part of that, I imagine for Israel too, is establishing a buffer zone that would help it consolidate its annexation of the Golan Heights, which it occupied 50 years ago in 1967.

NOUR SAMAHA: 100%. It’s an absolute … It’s a great plan for the Israelis if you will because, like you said, they’ve occupied the Golan Heights. They considered it to be annexed and part of Israel. The international community has not recognized that. They do consider it to be occupied, and that it is originally Syria territory and should be returned back to Syria. What the Israelis are trying to do with this buffer zone or with this Israel-friendly zone is, again, create distance between the Syrian government and where they’re based and where the Israelis are.

In any future negotiations, this will only go further to cement Israel’s claim over the Golan Heights. Even now they’re using the argument of, ‘Syria’s unstable. It’s very unclear the direction that it’s going to go in. The Golan Heights that’s with us is stable. We’re investing. We’re helping the people. Why would after 50 years or even longer would we return it back to Syria? It should stay with us and it belongs to us.’ Having this zone or this area, again, puts distance between the Israelis and the Syrian government and its forces on the ground, which again helps serve their argument.

AARON MATÉ: I want to play a few of comment of Efraim Halevy. He’s the former head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad. He was interviewed by Al Jazeera and asked about Israel treating wounded Al-Nusra or Al-Qaeda fighters in Israeli hospitals. This is what he said.

Mehdi Hasan: Do those reports worry you that Israel’s helping wounded Al-Qaeda aligned fighters?

Efraim Halevy: As I said before in a different context, it’s always useful also to deal with your enemies in a humane way.

Mehdi Hasan: You know better than me the phrase blowback. You don’t think there’s going to be blowback against Israel if you get into bed with a group like Nusra Front?

Efraim Halevy: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s going to be blowback.

Mehdi Hasan: Why?

Efraim Halevy: Because I think that, unfortunately, the rules of the game in Syria are such that you can do anything that is not possible to be done anywhere else.

Mehdi Hasan: I think people said that in Afghanistan too. Would you also treat Hezbollah fighters?

Efraim Halevy: No.

AARON MATÉ: That’s Efraim Halevy, former head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad. He was speaking Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan. Nour, interesting there that he dismisses the potential for blowback from Al-Nusra and also says that despite extolling the principal of treating your enemies, he wouldn’t treat Hezbollah. Just Al-Qaeda.

NOUR SAMAHA: It’s an Israeli policy, and also Al-Nusra and the opposition in southern Syria have done absolutely nothing to indicate that they would be any threat whatsoever to the Israelis. The Israelis have worked very closely and very diligently to make sure that these people would not have any sort of impact on Israel. I think we’ve seen that very clearly on the ground. There have been no attacks at all from the opposition onto Israel. Again, from the sources that I have from both the opposition and from the government side, it’s not in their interest to enter into a war with the Israelis.

As far as the Israelis are concerned, the opposition is not a threat. Nusra is not a threat for them. Nothing that’s Nusra’s ever released would ever indicate that Israel is an enemy for them. Hezbollah, on the other hand, is a completely different story. At least with regards to the Israelis. Hezbollah, as far as the Israelis are concerned, is the biggest threat for them. I think this year in their annual report regarding their security situation, they said that Hezbollah is an existential threat for them. As far as they’re concerned … Again, this adds to the issue of the buffer zone.

The reason why they’re so keen on establishing this is because Hezbollah, alongside the Syrian government and pro-Iranian forces, is a huge threat for the Israelis. They want to do anything in order to prevent them from having any sort of access or come closer to their borders. If that means working with the opposition then that’s fine. On the other side, for the opposition, I think the way that they see it … There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be working with the Israelis.

The Israelis have been conducting airstrikes in Syria that have aided the opposition. Again, from government sources, as far as they’re concerned when you monitor the battles that happen in southern Syria, any way the government starts making advances or launches offensives that push the opposition back there’ll suddenly be an Israeli airstrike. As far as the government is concerned, the Israelis are doing whatever it is that they can to help out the opposition. I think it works both their favors. Both the opposition and the Israelis to have this relationship in which they’re both fighting the same enemy.

AARON MATÉ: Nour, on that point, a few days after your piece came out, the Wall Street Journal put out a report basically piggybacking on a lot of the reporting you did in your piece and reporting essentially the same things. They spoke to a spokesperson for the rebel group, Knights of the Golan, who said, "Israel stood by our side in a heroic way. We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance."

NOUR SAMAHA: Yeah, I think that pretty much says it all. I think it’s interesting that there’s a group that can come out and say something like that when just literally a few meters away from where he’s standing the Israelis are still occupying his land. Apparently, they don’t have an issue with receiving money and weapons from the Israelis, so I think the entire situation is incredibly fascinating and somewhat bizarre because apparently occupation of land is okay in one area as long as the funding and the arms can keep coming to them.

AARON MATÉ: Nour, it’s said of Israel by some of its critics that it wants a regime change inside Syria, but a piece like yours, to me, indicates that actually, it’s pursuing a policy of just perpetual stalemates stoking fighting from the two sides. It’s been pointed out that if Israel really wanted to push regime change in Syria it could do more. It could, for example, send its forces to Syria’s southern border forcing Assad to divert his forces there and then away from the fight against rebels.

On this point, I want to read you a quote from an Israeli intelligence officer who was interviewed in Politico recently talking about the situation in Syria and what the Israeli strategy is. This officer referenced what former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin said about the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Asked whether Israel supports Iraq or Iran in that conflict. The officer quotes Begin as saying, "I wish luck to both parties. They can go at it killing each other." The officer goes on to say, "The same thing here. You have ISIS killing Al-Qaeda by the thousands. Al-Qaeda killing ISIS by the thousands, and they are both killing Hezbollah and Assad."

NOUR SAMAHA: I don’t think that the Israelis are interested in a regime change. I think that there’s enough information coming from domestic think tanks inside Israel that indicate the same thing. They don’t want a vacuum in Damascus. It would incredibly problematic for them because, again, they would be dealing with a government or a state that they have no idea about. I think the opposition is fractured enough that it’s very unclear as to who could lead Syria in a post-conflict state. At the same time, they don’t want a strong Assad either, so it definitely serves their interest to have all of their enemies fighting each other on a playing field that they don’t even have to get involved in.

Having ISIS and having Al-Qaeda, and having Hezbollah, and having the Syrian army, and having the Iranian forces all involved on the same battlefield and the Israelis aren’t there, I think they’re very happy sitting on the sidelines in that sense. I think, again, they don’t want to see … Like you said, they haven’t done enough inside Syria in order to really push for a regime change because it really isn’t in their interest. They’re okay with Assad staying in power, but as long as he’s weak. If he’s weak and if he’s answerable to people like the Russians or even the international community then that means there would be much more control over Hezbollah and the Iranians. This is something that the Israelis want. Like I said, they’re not looking for a vacuum there. They’re not looking for a vacuum. They’re looking for a very weak state.

AARON MATÉ: Nour, finally, your piece adds a new layer of detail to the understanding we have of the various foreign players who are involved in Syria. You’ve laid out for us a very detailed picture of what not Israel is doing inside Syria, along with many other countries, including the US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Gulf states, and so forth. Your thoughts as we wrap up on what it means for the Syrian conflict if all this foreign interference keeps going unimpeded?

NOUR SAMAHA: I think it spells out a very, very sad and bleak future of Syria. As we said, every single foreign force, if you want, is involved in some way in Syria. What we’re seeing now is we’re seeing an area of Syria in northern Syria that’s practically a province of Turkey now. We’re seeing another part of northern Syria that has US bases and US troops inside it. We have Iranian forces inside Syria. We have Iraqi forces inside Syria. We have Russian forces inside Syria. We have Lebanese forces inside Syria. Having all of this inside Syria already and this is just six years in.

I think we’re looking at a very long and protracted war, and I think it will be very difficult even five years from now for Syria to be able to crawl back to the level of sovereignty that they had before 2011. I think this is something that a lot of people need to be aware of as they continue to push to have more intervention inside Syria. It’s going to turn out very, very, very ugly and a lot uglier than what we’ve seen right now.

AARON MATÉ: Nour Samaha, freelance journalist based in Beirut. Her latest piece for Syria Deeply is Israel’s Quiet Campaign to Gain a Foothold in Southern Syria. Nour, thank you.

NOUR SAMAHA: Thank you very much.

AARON MATÉ: Thank you for joining us on The Real News.


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