Saturday, February 18, 2017



سلطة عباس وحل الدولتين

سلطة عباس وحل الدولتين

Syria regime executes paediatrician for treating Aleppo children


Syrian regime forces have executed the Syrian paediatrician Mahmoud Satu after he was indicted for treating and feeding the children of Aleppo when its eastern districts were controlled by the opposition, the Jordanian Assabeel newspaper reported yesterday.
Citing the London-based news website Al-Araby Al-JadeedAssabeel said that local sources in Aleppo said that Satu and another Syrian resident called Ahmed Assad were executed two months after they were arrested.
According to the sources, the two men were executed in the main square of the Al-Sukarri neighbourhood in Aleppo, the area where he and his family had lived.
Sources close to Satu told a Syrian news site El-Dorar that he was arrested on 11 December 2016, when the regime raided the Al-Salihin neighbourhood in Aleppo. The Syrian news site also said that the paediatrician and his family were captured when they were trying to leave Aleppo with the other residents.
Satu worked in the city of Aleppo in field hospitals. He was reported as having refused to leave Aleppo along with his family, but they were arrested and the doctor was executed over “treating and feeding the children of terrorists.”
According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Satu wrote on his Facebook page before he was arrested: “What is going on in Aleppo is heart-breaking and a savage and barbaric act which is not being done except by a dog dealing with pigs. He [Al-Assad] forgets that God is watching.”
The Syrian regime and its Iran-backed Shia jihadist allies, backed by Russian airpower, gained control of Aleppo after three months of fierce ground attacks and airstrikes. Hundreds of civilians were killed and wounded as homes, schools and hospitals were targeted.

The rise and fall of a US-backed rebel commander in Syria

Once a ‘fixer’ for the CIA, Syrian rebel comes to terms with failed US policy

The Financial Times


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There was a time when “Abu Ahmad”, a bulky man with a heavy limp, held court in the smoke-filled cafés of southern Turkey. Fellow Syrian opposition leaders looked to him for help; foreign intelligence officers sought his opinion. When he crossed into Syria, he brought bags filled with hundred-dollar bills to hand out to rebel fighters. His comrades received US-approved anti-tank missiles, discreetly delivered at the border.

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Some rebels called him the CIA’s man in Syria. Now, he struggles to get his calls returned. “We used to joke, ‘If you want something from Barack Obama, call Abu Ahmad,’” another CIA-backed rebel commander recalls. “If someone in the opposition wanted to meet the Americans, they went to him. Now, guys like us, we’re headed to the rubbish bin of history.”  After two years as the CIA’s “fixer”, distributing arms and planning military operations in Syria, Abu Ahmad was thrown into prison. On his release, he was temporarily forced into hiding, then fell into ignominy in the eyes of fellow rebels. For security reasons, he asked for his name and those of several others who discussed his story to be changed, and their exact location withheld. The story of his rise and fall offers a rare insight into how the CIA operated within the confines of President Obama’s halfhearted Syria policy. It reveals how the rivalries between US bureaucracies — and, even more importantly, the growing divergence between Washington and its Nato ally Turkey — exacerbated Syria’s mayhem. ***

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Over the past six years, the Syrian conflict has escalated from street protests against President Bashar al-Assad to a civil war that has transformed the region and the world. Four out of five UN Security Council permanent members have bombed Syrian territory. Regional powerhouses Iran and Saudi Arabia have poured billions of dollars into what has become a proxy war. The jihadi group Isis has exploited the chaos to export violence around the world, and the Syrian refugees who have flooded Europe have energised the rightwing populism surging across the continent and the US. President Donald Trump, who rode into Washington on the wave of such populist sentiments, inherits the Syrian quagmire. He portrays the Syrian conflict as a dichotomy between Isis and Assad.  The reality is far more complex but if there is more truth to that vision today, it may partly be due to choices made by the Obama administration.  A determination not to be dragged into Syria’s war, alongside a recognition of its regional significance, left Washington with one foot in and one foot out — a situation that may prove as problematic in the long run as full-fledged intervention. Syrians such as Abu Ahmad embody the consequences of this dilemma. In 2013 he joined a covert CIA programme established to channel arms and cash to moderate rebels. He — along with several other commanders — bet that hitching himself to the US would eventually yield the kind of support that helped Libyan rebels topple Muammer Gaddafi in 2011. He lost the gamble badly.

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These days, Abu Ahmad wakes up at 7am, still devoted to the routine drilled into him long ago as an army officer. He drives a borrowed battered sedan to the industrial district of the southern Turkish city where he lives, just across the border from Syria. He waves to Syrian refugee boys hosing down vans and checks with garage owners if they have any repair work for him. Then he heads downtown, where he does accounting for a few local businesses — anything to make ends meet.  “I used to think America was the ruler of the universe. If you ask me whether I was wrong? Yes, I was wrong,” he tells me over raucous Turkish pop music and gurgling water pipes at a café near his home.  “What I cared about was having a good relationship with the Americans. They gave me weapons, I brought them to Syria. The fact that Turkey didn’t like the Americans or the Americans didn’t like the Turks — none of that mattered to me. I didn’t have anything to do with it. Unfortunately, things don’t work like that.” There are few good options left for Washington in Syria, as demonstrated by the fall of the opposition’s last urban stronghold in Aleppo near the end of 2016. The victory for Assad and his patron Russia was not only a human tragedy for the civilians bombarded and expelled from their homes, it was a potent symbol of waning US influence in the region. Diplomatic efforts to end the war led by Moscow and Ankara have sidelined Washington.  Arms belonging to the Free Syrian Army, Aleppo © Panos Pictures Obama and his aides defended their Middle East stance as a break with America’s costly legacy of bungled interventions — particularly George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But Abu Ahmad’s story shows that even limited interventions can be bungled too — with local allies often paying the highest price.  Former US officials who were interviewed for this story privately described a sense of frustration that they were always playing catch-up on Syria, as they watched different departments squabble over vaguely defined goals. For years, some say, they were unable to articulate Obama’s policy at all.  Rebels and regional diplomats alike share that irritation. “People have this perception the Americans weren’t very involved [in Syria]. But that’s not true — they were, and to a minuscule level of detail for a while in places like Aleppo when [the CIA programme] started,” a regional diplomat says. “The problem with American policy in Syria was in some ways the same as it always was: all tactics, no strategy . . . It was a mess.” *** Despite a cheery air and a hearty laugh, the circles ringing Abu Ahmad’s eyes are as dark as the shrapnel scars on his legs. During our meetings, he wore the same T-shirt two days in a row and popped about 1600mg of Ibuprofen to keep himself going each day.  It’s easy to see why American officials were once drawn to him. In contrast to the increasing religiosity of some dispirited rebels and their deep-rooted wariness of US interventions, Abu Ahmad relishes banter with his “foreign friends”. He portrays himself as a straight shooter, intolerant of corruption and suspicious of Islamists — or, as he puts it, “anything with a beard”. Other rebels interviewed to corroborate his story jokingly call him a “secular extremist”.  “If you had a question about a battle rebels wanted to do, Abu Ahmad would immediately say this is how many bullets you’d need, how many fighters are actually there, which way they should approach it,” the diplomat says. “The Americans ate it up.”  An anti-government protest in Hama, Syria, July 2011 © Getty When Syrian protesters took to the streets in 2011 to demonstrate against four decades of Assad family rule, Abu Ahmad had a comfortable job as an army officer in central Syria. Then security forces started firing on the demonstrators. Farmers, army defectors and local merchants banded themselves into armed units to fight back, and a full-tilt insurgency erupted.  Abu Ahmad defected to rebel territory in northern Syria with a handgun. “I was clueless,” he says. “I barely knew how to fire a gun. Weapons training never interested me at all.” But he honed a different skill that would later attract American partners: a quartermaster’s sense for tactics and logistics. “I could tell how many fighters were actually on the ground, how much ammunition they could use — and, most importantly, how many men were really going to fight,” he says.  While other commanders hoarded weaponry, Abu Ahmad says he calibrated his usage based on assessments of his men and the Assad forces’ likely avenue of attack. “It was like playing chess for me. I love chess,” he says, holding up his phone, on which he was playing the game during our interview. In 2012, Abu Ahmad was wounded in an air strike and knocked unconscious for 10 days. He woke up in hospital with a metal rod in his leg. His wife, Um Ahmad, a slender woman with perfectly applied make-up, remembers sitting with him day and night, struggling to get him to sit up, eat or speak. “Then, when some of the fighters came to visit him he sat right up, talked and laughed,” she says. “That’s when I realised that from now on, there would be three of us in this relationship: me, him and the revolution.” *** Abu Ahmad returned a few months later to a drastically changed battleground. The motley crew of the Free Syrian Army had failed to become anything like the force their name aspired to. Corruption had infected many groups. Islamist groups had risen to the fore with the backing of US allies such as Qatar and Turkey, who saw them as more organised and trustworthy clients than their less ideologically driven counterparts. President Obama briefs reporters on US policy in Syria, April 30 2013 © Getty That climate, along with Turkey’s loose border policy, fostered a rise in jihadis bolstered by foreign fighters. Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and a splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), leveraged superior military capacity and a developed ideological programme to rise to dominance. (Nusra has since rebranded itself twice, most recently as the Sham Liberation Front, and says it has cut ties with al-Qaeda, although few see the move as genuine.) “We were so dumb. I was so dumb,” Abu Ahmad says, shaking his head. “What was I thinking? I thought the regime would fall, and we’d go back to where we started. When I came back, I found Jabhat al-Nusra and Isis spreading, and they had all these plans. That’s when I knew we’d eventually need to have a counter-operation against these guys too.” Some Islamist leaders began questioning Abu Ahmad over rumours he didn’t pray. Fellow rebel commanders, worried about his safety, sent him across the border to help the effort from Turkey. In this newly bustling border region, where once-sleepy towns such as Gaziantep, Kilis and Antakya brimmed with humanitarian workers, refugees and activists, Abu Ahmad met a Saudi intelligence officer looking to co-ordinate a rebel pushback against Isis.  By late 2013, the jihadi group was menacing opposition-held territories in Syria and steadily expanding in neighbouring Iraq. Abu Ahmad co-ordinated between the Saudis and rebels, who managed to push Isis out of the northwestern Idlib province in early 2014. It was then that he got a call from members of a covert CIA programme based in the Turkish coastal city of Adana. Three men met him at a restaurant. “They were really nice,” he recalls. “They knew everything about me already.”  The CIA declined to comment on Abu Ahmad’s story, but a Washington-based source in the intelligence community confirmed Abu Ahmad had worked with the agency. But he downplayed the significance, saying he was “just a Syrian fixer”. Other elements of Abu Ahmad’s story and details of his relationship with the CIA were corroborated by rebels, activists and diplomats — all of whom declined to be named. The Americans invited Abu Ahmad to join a covert operations room they were forming with allies including Britain, France, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to support moderate rebels. Known as the Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi (MOM), it was modelled on a joint operations centre set up in Jordan a year earlier.  The CIA knew about the corruption, of course, everyone in the programme did. It was the price of doing business Opposition figure From the beginning, the operation faced major obstacles. Turkey’s 800km border with Syria was difficult to control. Furthermore, by 2014, the role of jihadis and the relationships between foreign backers and local clients were deeply entrenched, making it almost impossible to manage the flow of weapons.  “Throughout this [programme] there have been major disagreements between countries and even within governments,” says Noah Bonsey, of the International Crisis Group, an NGO. “Have the rebels failed tremendously? Absolutely. Have the supporting states been just as factious as the rebels? Absolutely.”  Many rebels considered MOM little more than a foreign intelligence foothold within the opposition. But some, like Abu Ahmad, hoped it could at least solidify the rebel hold on northern Syria and ensure a stronger position in peace negotiations. The operation was based in a nondescript villa in southern Turkey, where rebel commanders met intelligence officers around a long, oval table to propose battle plans and lobby for weapons.  Rebels approved as ideological “moderates” received a monthly salary of about $150 for a fighter and $300 for a commander. “They never told us where we were going,” Abu Ahmad recalls. “ They would put us in a car with the blinds closed. It was like a spy movie, but it was a bit of joke, because we learnt the route over time.” *** At first the atmosphere was convivial. The Turks let the commanders sleep at the building, which had a kitchen and a cook, so they could finish late-night sessions poring over maps and plans. Soon, however, MOM bureaucracy became a problem for the rebels: battles could turn in hours while it sometimes took weeks for foreign representatives to agree on plans and get approval to deliver supplies such as ammunition, medicine and boots. Rebels turned to the media with tales of MOM’s stinginess.  Some opposition figures and diplomats, however, argue the problem was just the opposite. “MOM became a vehicle for corrupting the Free Syrian Army, not because they gave them too little but because they gave them too much,” says an opposition figure close to MOM-backed commanders.  He says commanders regularly inflated their forces’ numbers to pocket extra salaries, and some jacked up weapons requests to hoard or sell on the black market. Inevitably, much of that ended up in Isis hands. Other groups cut in Jabhat al-Nusra on deals to keep it from attacking them. “The CIA knew about this, of course, everyone in MOM did. It was the price of doing business.” Forces that rose to prominence in Syria include (from top) Kurdish militia YPG, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) © Getty Abu Ahmad openly accused fellow commanders of such activities, which he says impressed the Americans. “I would say, ‘That guy claims he has 300 fighters, but he has 50. And this guy was doing that’ . . . I would embarrass everyone,” he recalls. “The Syrians were frustrated and saying, ‘He’s a US agent, an informant — how is he talking about us like that?’ But my thinking was that they were stealing from our revolution.” It’s hard to verify whether Abu Ahmad was as clean as he claims, but his current status is in contrast to that of many rebel commanders, who have large apartments in Turkey, drive new cars and own the latest iPhones.  Abu Ahmad, his wife and their two children share a small flat with his parents and his brother’s family. He sometimes indulges in a bitter fantasy about how his life would be if he’d conspired with other commanders to get a cut for himself. “I wouldn’t have been a ‘traitor’. The people would have held up my picture. I would have had the best cars,” he says. “I could have done it that way, but I didn’t. Instead, I was humiliated.” But perhaps more damaging than the corruption were the growing rivalries between MOM’s foreign backers. As divides opened, each power moved to bolster its favoured commanders.  “A toddler could enter the MOM room and be able to tell which guy the US was pushing for, who the Turks wanted, or who the Saudis were pushing,” says Abu Omar, a friend of Abu Ahmad and a fellow US-backed rebel commander (not his real name). “MOM became the legal face to cover all the extra support they were giving these groups behind each other’s backs.” The worst split was between the US and Turkey. Tensions rose after Isis seized Iraq’s second city, Mosul, in June 2014 and blitzed across Iraq and Syria. Washington began a Pentagon-led air campaign against Isis but support for ground forces went to a Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG, rather than the rebels.  The Pentagon found the YPG attractive partners because they didn’t have to worry about Islamist infiltration — and, unlike the rebels, they were not fighting Assad. But Ankara was infuriated: it has fought a four-decade war with the YPG’s parent organisation, the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), over Kurdish ambitions for self-rule in south-eastern Turkey, and saw their growing enclave across the border as a threat. ‘America was pressuring us with its control of aid, Turkey with its control of border access. They’re not allies, they’re liars’  Anonymous rebel leader “I’ve been struck by how sincere US and Turkish officials seem in their misunderstanding of each other. Sometimes US officials seem to genuinely not understand why YPG backing is such a big deal to Turkey,” says Bonsey, of the International Crisis Group.  “By the same token, Turkish officials didn’t seem to understand how upset US officials were with their lack of an effort to weaken the facilities of jihadi groups using their border. They were talking past each other.” US-backed rebels felt caught in the middle, suddenly seen as traitors by their Turkish hosts and the Islamist groups they supported. Abu Ahmad started to hate visiting MOM. “I was stuck between squabbling parents,” he jokes.  He recalls a meeting where a Turkish official pointedly asked him, in front of his US counterparts, why the US strikes were helping the Kurds but not rebels like him. The CIA officials sat quietly before jumping in to say the strikes were conducted by the Pentagon, a separate entity.  The vagaries of US policy became harder to explain to outraged fighters, already growing more sympathetic to the Islamists, says Abu Omar, especially after US-backed YPG forces seized several rebel-held towns near his base in north-western Syria in the winter of 2016.  “I had 57 fighters who died on the frontline, and twice as many who lost their limbs,” he says. “How can I explain to them that the YPG means Pentagon support? And that MOM means CIA support? These are Syrian country boys — they don’t understand this stuff.”  CIA-linked commanders such as Abu Ahmad and Abu Omar also found it harder to work in Turkey. Abu Omar struggled to get his residency permit renewed and was informed he had been put on a security watch list. When he asked the Americans to raise the issue with Turkish officials, they told him the matter was out of their control.  *** Abu Ahmad’s dilemmas bordered on farcical. In MOM’s early days, he says, Turkish officials escorted him over the border for meetings. Then, after the spat with the Americans, they said they could no longer help. He started paying smugglers to get to Turkey for the international meetings.  He recalls arriving one day at the border in time to see one of Turkey’s favoured commanders jump into a car bound for a meeting. “He waved at me and said, ‘Bye!’ I just stood there staring,” Abu Ahmad says. When he complained to the Americans, they laughed but again said they could do nothing. It was at this time that rebels, seeking to organise their factious forces, formed a new alliance called Jabha Shamiya. They hoped it would lessen the tug of war between Washington and Ankara. Instead it grew worse, and the alliance was forced out of the covert programme.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Barack Obama at the G20 summit in Turkey, November 15 2015. The Nato allies remain divided on Syria © Getty “America was pressuring us with its control of MOM aid. Turkey was trying to pressure us with its control over border access,” says another rebel leader from Aleppo, who asked not to be named. “They’re not allies, they’re liars. When you have allies like Syrians have, you don’t need enemies.” Abu Ahmad resigned rather than join Jabha Shamiya but soon the Americans asked him to be their consultant, handing him about $1,000 a month. He became known among Syrians as someone who could arrange meetings. His critics insisted he was helping the CIA plot failed assassination attempts on Nusra leaders and undermine Turkish-backed groups. Abu Ahmad denies any plots, but admits he worked to lure groups back into MOM. In the summer of 2015, the US launched the Pentagon’s “Train and Equip” programme for select rebel fighters. It cost $500m, and went horribly wrong. “I was shocked,” Abu Ahmad says. “The Pentagon came and started to meet with people in Gaziantep, and picked people both the CIA and MOM saw as failures.”  After the first group of T & E fighters was kidnapped by Nusra, he suspected the American departments were not sharing information. Then a second group, under a newly dispatched commander, surrendered to Nusra. “This is when I realised the Americans were working in two different directions,” he says. He started asking western diplomats to explain the US political system. They told him about Congress, the White House and different intelligence and military branches. “If Obama is going this way, and people in Congress that way, and the people working on the ground are saying, ‘No, this works, that doesn’t’, is a decision actually made?” he laughs. “Maybe this is a case of too much democracy.” ‘I used to think America was the ruler of the universe. If you ask me whether I was wrong? Yes, I was wrong’  Abu Ahmad Meanwhile, the US-Turkey dispute was deepening as they debated a potential no-fly zone in northern Syria. One of the failed plan’s many points of contention was over who in Syria should be their point person. The CIA wanted Abu Ahmad, according to several commanders. The Turks wanted someone closer to them. A day before a contentious MOM meeting to discuss the issue, Abu Ahmad says a Turkish police car pulled up outside his home. Alarmed, he stuffed all his cash in his pockets as the officers knocked on his door.  With that, a Nato ally had arrested one of Washington’s local allies. Abu Ahmad was shuttled between different security headquarters for hours. “They asked me to tell them what I was arrested for,” he says. “I told them, ‘I don’t know either. You’re the ones who brought me here, you’re supposed to tell me the charge.’” *** Eventually he was thrown into a nearby prison, where he waited for days while his wife and friends made frantic calls to US officials. The CIA was unable to secure his release. “They did try to help him get freed,” says the Washington-based intelligence source, “but it is unlikely it went up very high, given that he was helping with a supposedly secret CIA operation.” Abu Ahmad soon realised the only way to get out was to agree to be deported to Syria — essentially a death sentence, given how much Islamists despised him. But he signed the paperwork and was dropped at the border. “I used the money I had and paid a smuggler to sneak right back in to Turkey.” He hid in a house on the border for more than a month. Eventually, the Turks promised to leave him alone, as long as he stopped working with the Americans and the rebels. He was heartbroken but accepted the terms, and has since lived on the margins of Syrian society in Turkey, relying on friends such as Abu Omar to lend him money.  One summer evening, Abu Ahmad drove us to Abu Omar’s home on the Turkish coast for “some good reminiscing about the revolution”. Abu Omar looked trim, with short hair, a polo shirt and a brand new iPhone. He took us out for a platter of fish and immediately launched into lamentations. His group has lost territory and popularity to Nusra, he says, and no one seems to care any more about working with the Americans. “The Turks treat me as though I’m an American. Jabhat al-Nusra treats me like I’m a traitor. No one treats me like I sit with the Americans because I’m a Syrian who wants to do the best he can for his cause,” he says. “I wonder how the Americans see me. Do they see me as a patriot? Do they see me as a mercenary?” The Turkish-American relationship has remained fraught, despite President Trump’s renewed discussion of a no-fly zone and Washington’s tacit approval of Turkey’s intervention in northern Syria to clear Isis and the YPG from along its border. “There’s been a 1,000 per cent increase in the improvement of relations — and it’s still terrible,” says analyst Aaron Stein, at the Atlantic Council in Washington.  For Abu Ahmad, the psychological strain has become physical. His wife calls on the drive home, fretting. Over the past few months, she says, he has pulled the car over three times, worried he was having a heart attack. “Nothing is ever wrong,” she says. “The doctors say it was a panic attack.” On some days, Abu Ahmad thinks of leaving the region behind altogether. But that isn’t easy. Germany rejected him over his past ties to a rebel group that has since been accused of war crimes.  Last year, he says, he asked some American officials to help him move to the US. They told him to register first with the UN as a refugee. He never heard back, and Trump’s recent executive order makes it increasingly unlikely that he would now be accepted into the US.  He called up his old CIA contacts to see who could help. “They told me, ‘We’re sorry, that is a State Department issue,’” he says. “‘These are separate departments.’”  Erika Solomon is the FT’s Middle East correspondent Photographs: Ivor Prickett / Panos Pictures; AFP/Getty; Tristan Vickers / Panos Pictures; Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty  Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web. 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New Gallup Poll: Trump Job Approval Ratings Down to 38 Percent


One day after a Pew Research Center poll put President Donald Trump’s job approval rating below 40 percent, another major survey delivered some tepid numbers for the Commander-in-Chief.
According to Friday’s edition of the daily Gallup tracking poll, Trump’s approval rating stands at 38 percent. That’s down from the 39 percent level where Pew had Trump a day earlier.
By comparison, former President Barack Obama was consistently tracking above 60 percent during his first six months in office. At no point in his presidency did Obama’s Gallup approval rating dip below 40 percent.
Never in the history of the Gallup tracking poll, which dates back to 1945, has a President had an approval rating below 40 percent (or even 50 percent) in his first month.

Friday, February 17, 2017

فوق السلطة - أرانب الحوثي وإخوان أوباما

DNA - 17/02/2017 نصرالله..إيراني اكثر من روحاني


وطن قومي للناصريين في صحراء النقب

Bring On the Special Prosecutor

N Y Times

In light of the stunning events of the past week, the question is not whether the Trump administration’s ties to the Russian government need to be investigated immediately and fully — clearly they do. It’s who will be in charge of that investigation?
The Republicans in Congress can’t decide whether they would rather act like a responsible, independent branch or just the friendly legislative arm of the White House. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee, would sooner investigate a cartoon character named Sid the Science Kid than any allegations relating to President Trump.
The prize for partisan candor goes to Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who said on Tuesday, “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.”
James Comey, the embattled F.B.I. director, can’t be trusted to be a neutral investigator, either — not after his one-sided interference in the 2016 election compromised the bureau’s integrity and damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign in its final days. Anyway, Mr. Comey reports directly to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was not only Mr. Trump’s first and most ardent supporter in the Senate, but the chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee.
Despite his closeness to Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions has said he sees no reason to recuse himself from any inquiry into the relationship between the president’s top aides and Russia. Mr. Trump’s unexplained allegiance to that country and its thug of a president, Vladimir Putin, has been a major concern from the start of his candidacy. But the scope of a potential investigation expanded sharply in the last four days, with the firing of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for lying to the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, and the news that members of the Trump campaign’s inner circle were in repeated contact with Russian intelligence agents last year, at the same time that Russia was actively attempting to swing the election to Mr. Trump.
Continue reading the main story
There is, in fact, only one person who could conduct such a high-profile, politically sensitive investigation fairly and completely — a special prosecutor.
Some Republican senators have recognized the need for an investigation, and it would be right for the Senate to move ahead in its role as a check on the executive.
But the need for an independent actor who can both investigate and prosecute criminal wrongdoing in the executive branch is clear, because the attorney general and the Justice Department cannot be reliably impartial about their own bosses. Of course, what’s simple in theory has been politically fraught in practice. In scandals from Watergate to Iran-contra to Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky, special prosecutors have butted heads with presidents and their staffs, sometimes with calamitous results.
A 1978 law, the Independent Counsel Act, created a mechanism for appointing special prosecutors who were empowered to investigate broadly and protected from presidential meddling. But the law expired in 1999 amid partisan dispute; today only the attorney general has the power to appoint a special prosecutor.
In this case, the need couldn’t be more obvious. For starters, did Mr. Trump order Mr. Flynn, directly or indirectly, to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador? If not, why did he not fire Mr. Flynn weeks earlier, when he apparently first learned of his lies? Were Mr. Trump’s aides colluding with Russian agents during the campaign? Perhaps most important are Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which could tell us whether he is beholden to, and thus compromised by, the Russians? House Republicans, assuming their standard supine stance toward Mr. Trump, voted on Tuesday against requesting the returns from the Internal Revenue Service; a special prosecutor would not feel so politically constrained.
It’s never easy to conduct robust, independent investigations of the most powerful people in the world, but it is one of the foundations of a functioning democracy. The concern is particularly great in the case of the Trump administration, which seems uninterested in telling the truth in matters large and small.

Mr. Sessions must appoint a special prosecutor, and he knows why. As an article published on Fox News’s website days before the election said, “The appropriate response when the subject matter is public and it arises in a highly charged political atmosphere is for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel of great public stature and indisputable independence to assure the public the matter will be handled without partisanship.”
The article, which called for an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and pay-to-play allegations surrounding the Clinton Foundation, argued that Loretta Lynch, then the attorney general, could not serve as a neutral arbiter, given her impromptu meeting with Bill Clinton on her airplane earlier in the year. One of the article’s co-authors was Jeff Sessions.

RUSSIA GATE, by Khalil Bendib

ATTILA THE TRUMP, by Khalil Bendib

صفقة كبرى بين العرب وإسرائيل


خليل العناني
خليل العناني

"إدارة ترامب منخرطة في محادثات مع حلفائها العرب، من أجل إقامة تحالف عسكري مع إسرائيل، وتبادل المعلومات الاستخباراتية، لمواجهة الخطر المشترك بينهما، وهو إيران"، وذلك بحسب شهادة مسؤولين في المنطقة. يشمل هذا التحالف المحتمل السعودية والإمارات، اللتين كانتا أعداء لإسرائيل، ومصر والأردن اللتين ترتبطان بمعاهدة سلام معها، وذلك بحسب شهادة خمسة مسؤولين عرب، منخرطين في هذه المحادثات. وثمّة احتمال بأن تنضم دول عربية لهذا التحالف الذي يجري تدشينه الآن. وترى الدول العربية المنخرطة في الأمر أن تحالفاً كهذا يمكن أن يكون شبيها لحلف شمال الأطلسي (الناتو) الذي يعتبر أن أي اعتداءٍ على دولة في الحلف هو اعتداء علي بقية الدول... وسوف تقدّم الولايات المتحدة الدعم العسكري والاستخباراتي لتحالفٍ كهذا، وذلك أكثر من الدعم المحدود الذي تقدمه الآن للحلف الذي تقوده السعودية في اليمن. ولكن إسرائيل وأميركا لن يكونا طرفاً في هذا التحالف... وحسب مسؤول عربي، فإن إسرائيل لن تشارك بقواتٍ على الأرض، أو تدريب لقوات الحلف، وإنما سوف تتشارك المعلومات الاستخباراتية وتحديد الأهداف، وهو ما تبرع فيه إسرائيل، بحسب ما قاله هذا المسؤول... 

وعلى الرغم من عدم تعليق المسؤولين الأميركيين والإسرائيليين على هذا الأمر، إلا أن رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي، بنيامين نتانياهو، أشار، في مؤتمر صحافي عقده في البيت الأبيض مع الرئيس الأميركي، دونالد ترامب، قبل يومين، إلى أن هناك فرصة كبيرة للسلام الآن في المنطقة، من خلال اقتراب إقليمي يشمل دولاً عربية. وهو ما عقب عليه ترامب بالقول إن هذا أمر غير مسبوق، وإننا على أعتاب صفقة هي أكبر من اتفاق، وستشمل دولاً كثيرة، وسوف تغطي مساحة إقليمية كبيرة... بالنسبة للسعودية والإمارات، تتمثل مكاسبهما من الصفقة في تغيير القانون، الذي أقره الكونغرس قبل شهور قليلة (قانون جاستا)، الذي يسمح لأهالي ضحايا أحداث "11 سبتمبر" بمقاضاتهما. وقد أخبرت إدارة ترامب كلا البلدين بأنها سوف تضغط علي الكونغرس من أجل تعديل هذا القانون. وحسب دبلوماسيين عرب في واشنطن، فإن مسألة إقامة التحالف سوف تتم مناقشتها في أثناء زيارة وزير الدفاع الأميركي الجديد، الجنرال جيم ماتيس، المنطقة في فبراير/ شباط الجاري... وبالنسبة لمصر، يفيد مسؤول عربي بأن مكسبها يتمثل في إعلان إدارة ترامب جماعة الإخوان المسلمين إرهابية، وذلك من أجل إغرائها (مصر) للالتحاق بهذا التحالف. وقد طلبت إدارة ترامب من مصر أن تستضيف القوة المشتركة في حالة قيام هذا التحالف، في وقتٍ تحاول فيه السعودية أن تكون هي البلد المضيف لهذه القوة. وخلال الأسابيع القليلة الماضية، أبدى مسؤولون سعوديون وإماراتيون إعجابهما بالقدرات الأمنية والاستخباراتية الإسرائيلية، مشيرين إلى عدم اعتراضهما التكتيكي على إمكانية تبادل المعلومات الاستخباراتية مع إسرائيل، في حال قيام مثل هذا التحالف. وقد ذكر دبلوماسيون عرب في واشنطن أنهم سوف يسعون من أجل إقامة تعاون علني بين إسرائيل وبلدانهم، في حال تجميد الأولى الاستيطان في الضفة الغربية والقدس الشرقية، وهو ما ترفضه إسرائيل. وأوضح الدبلوماسيين أن الأمر يتوقف أيضا على عدم نقل إدارة ترامب السفارة الأميركية من تل أبيب إلى القدس الشرقية... في حين يشير مسؤولون عرب إلى أن السعودية وإسرائيل يتشاركان بالفعل معلومات استخباراتية حول إيران ووكلائها في المنطقة مثل حزب الله..."

ما سبق هو ترجمة لتقرير مهم نشرته صحيفة وول ستريت جورنال قبل يومين، وهو ما يكشف عن حجم التحولات التي يبدو أن المنطقة مقبلة عليها، والتي، إذا ما صحّ التقرير، سوف تنسف الثوابت السياسية والاستراتيجية التي عاشتها المنطقة عقودا.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DNA - 15/02/2017 بيئة المقاومة تعتدي على "الجديد"


Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.
When we look back at Watergate, we remember the end of the Nixon Presidency. It came with an avalanche, but for most of the time my fellow reporters and I were chasing down the story as it rumbled along with a low-grade intensity. We never were quite sure how much we would find out about what really happened. In the end, the truth emerged into the light, and President Nixon descended into infamy.
This Russia story started out with an avalanche and where we go from here no one really knows. Each piece of news demands new questions. We are still less than a month into the Trump Presidency, and many are asking that question made famous by Tennessee Senator Howard Baker those many years ago: "What did the President know, and when did he know it?" New reporting suggests that Mr. Trump knew for weeks. We can all remember the General Michael Flynn's speech from the Republican National Convention - "Lock her up!" in regards to Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton had done one tenth of what Mr. Flynn had done, she likely would be in jail. And it isn't just Mr. Flynn, how far does this go?
The White House has no credibility on this issue. Their spigot of lies - can't we finally all agree to call them lies - long ago lost them any semblance of credibility. I would also extend that to the Republican Congress, who has excused away the Trump Administration's assertions for far too long.
We need an independent investigation. Damn the lies, full throttle forward on the truth. If a scriptwriter had approached Hollywood with what we are witnessing, he or she would probably have been told it was way too far-fetched for even a summer blockbuster. But this is not fiction. It is real and it is serious. Deadly serious. We deserve answers and those who are complicit in this scandal need to feel the full force of justice.

Netanyahu 'seeking Palestinian state in Sinai with Sisi's help'


A famously open Israeli minister broke ranks on Tuesday, reporting that Israel and Egypt are considering reviving an old plan to create a Palestinian state in the Sinai.
Israel and Egypt are reportedly plotting to create a new Palestinian state in the Sinai peninsula, using Egyptian donated land, an Israeli cabinet minister has announced.
The alleged plan will draw on President Sisi's abandoned plans to create a new Palestinian state connected to the Gaza strip - away from the West Bank, said Minister Ayoub Kara.
"Trump and Netanyahu will adopt the plan of Egypt's Sisi. A Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai, instead of Judea and Samaria," the Likud MK tweeted on Monday evening, using the Israeli preffered name for the West Bank.
"This is how we will pave a path to peace, including with the Sunni coalition."
The plan has been tabled a number of times in the recent past, but was rejected outright due to its extreme lack of popularity among other Arab nations.
The minister's comments that the plan has been revived appear to be in line with current US and Israeli policy.
An unnamed United States official signalled on Tuesday that the Trump administration may be looking to abandon the two-state solution to the on-going occupation of Palestinian territories.
"A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not our goal that anybody wants to achieve," a senior White House official said.
Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that he did not support the creation of a Palestinian State - but rather a "state-minus", which diplomats struggled to define at the time.
Netanyahu is currently in the US to hold talks with President Trump and his advisor, Jared Kushner, over the future of the Middle East.
There have been a large number of closed-door meetings between Egypt and various Palestinian leaders in recent months.
Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, reported that his organisation had "opened a new page" with Egypt, following his visit to Cairo for talks in January.
Mohammed Dahlan, the Fatah exile and long-term rival to Palestinian president Mohammad Abbas, is also currently chairing a second conference on the future of the Fatah party in Cairo.
Dahlan's previous conference in October, which hosted Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, also discussed the future of the Palestinian issue.
Ayoub Kara made a number of high-profile policy leaks in the past.
In November, the minister revealed important details about a security issue that was under a gag order, before subsequently taking it down.

Kara was also the first Israeli MK to openly break ranks in 2010 and publicly blame a spate of bush fires across the country on alleged Palestinian arson attacks.

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon: The Death of the Two-State Solution

نتنياهو في البيت الابيض

Damning reports emerge of Trump campaign's frequent talks with Russian intelligence

Campaign aides said to have been in regular contact, despite repeated insistence there had been no pre-election talks between Trump team and Russia

 in Washington

The Guardian


The Russian influence scandal engulfing the White House deepened dramatically on Tuesday night with reports that some of Donald Trump’s campaign aides had frequent contact with Russian intelligence officials over the course of last year.
A report in the New York Times came nearly 24 hours after the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign over conversations with the Russian ambassador to Washington and misleading statements about them to the press and vice-president Mike Pence.
The New York Times report cites four current and former US intelligence officials who are unnamed and who conceded they had “so far” seen no evidence in the intercepted phone communications that Trump campaign officials had cooperated with Russian intelligence in Moscow’s efforts to skew the election in Trump’s favour. The officials do not explain what, in that case, the contacts were about.
A CNN report said “high-level advisers close to then-presidential nominee Donald Trump were in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence”.
Despite the uncertainties, the reports are threatening to the Trump administration on a number of levels.
  • They flatly contradict White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, who on Tuesday repeated his earlier assertions that there had been no pre-election contacts between the Trump team and Russian officials. Last month, Trump himself also denied any such contacts.
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 No pre-election contacts between the Trump team and Russian officials, says Sean Spicer
  • They pile further pressure on the Republican congressional leadership to launch committee hearings on Russian election interference that were promised, but have so far failed to materialise.
  • They are a further sign that intelligence officials are willing to leak extensively against the Trump administration, making it extremely risky for the White House to try to shut down investigations into collusion with Moscow that are reportedly being carried out by several intelligence agencies.
  • They add circumstantial weight to the reports on the Trump campaign’s Kremlin links compiled last year and passed to the FBI by a former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele. His reports alleged active, sustained and covert collusion to subvert the election which, if confirmed, could constitute treason.
Trump fired off an angry series of tweets on Wednesday morning, claiming: “This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”
He attacked the intelligence community for what he saw as “unAmerican” leaks to newspapers that have written anonymously sourced stories about his and his advisers’ alleged links to Russia in recent days. “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?),” he wrote. “Just like Russia.” That was the “real scandal”, he said.
Trump also complained that the “fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred”, echoing the language of the Kremlin reaction to the latest reports.
The only Trump associate named in the New York Times report as having participated in the contacts was Paul Manafort, who was the Trump campaign manager for several months last summer. He had previously worked as an adviser to the former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Moscow, and pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs.
Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway and former campaign manager Paul Manafort at a roundtable discussion on security at Trump Tower.
 Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway and former campaign manager Paul Manafort at a roundtable discussion on security at Trump Tower. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Manafort has repeatedly denied any contacts with Russian officials. He told the New York Times on Tuesday: “I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”
“It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer,’” he added.
Manafort did not immediately respond to a Guardian request for comment.
Manafort left the Trump campaign in August, after allegations about his activities in Ukraine first surfaced. At about the same time the campaign also distanced itself from a US businessman, Carter Page, who Trump had previously described as an adviser, after Page was reported to have had contacts with Vladimir Putin’s top lieutenants. Page called the reports “complete garbage”.
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 Revisiting Michael Flynn’s fiery RNC speech: ‘Lock her up is right’
The new reports of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Moscow rekindled bitterness among former campaign aides to Hillary Clinton, over a pre-election announcement by FBI director, James Comey, that new material was being studied in an investigation of her use of a private internet server for her emails.
That investigation came to nothing, but Clinton officials were convinced the bad publicity, just 11 days before the election, cost her crucial votes. By contrast, they point out, the Republican Comey said nothing about investigations underway at the same time into Trump’s Russian links.
“I’d like the FBI to explain why they sent a letter about Clinton but not this,” Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, said in a tweet on Tuesday night.
Her former spokesman, Brian Fallon, tweeted: “Everything we suspected during the campaign is proving true. This is a colossal scandal.