Is U.S. Congress empowering Iranian hard-liners?

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Mahmoud Pargoo writes: [In 2013] Hassan Rouhani, who sternly criticized Ahmadinejad’s nuclear policies, won the election and appointed Mohammad Javad Zarif as foreign minister. Consequently, and as a result of the softening of the rhetoric and engagement in talks with the United States, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and six world powers in July. The agreement was seen as evidence that if Iran engages in serious talks with the United States, issues can be gradually solved. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pointed to the likelihood of extending negotiations to other non-nuclear issues if the United States proves to be trustworthy.

This line of thinking, however, is changing with the recent series of US measures — including the recent congressional vote to restrict visa-free travel to the United States for those who have visited Iran in the past five years. Indeed, many in Iran are coming to the conclusion that no matter what rhetoric or action the Islamic Republic may assume, the United States will continue its enmity with Iran. Thus, a new consensus is being formed — but this time, against the United States. People from almost all political orientations have interpreted the new Visa Waiver Program (VWP) changes as running counter to the JCPOA. Ali Larijani, the parliament speaker and a powerful conservative supporter of the nuclear negotiations, has criticized the law, while many Reformist politicians have also condemned it as being against Iranian goodwill in engaging with the United States. Zarif, the foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator, has additionally said that the new law breaches the JCPOA.

When seen in the light of historical parallels, the recent developments could be an alarming sign that certain elements in the US foreign policy establishment are seeking to paralyze any effort to normalize relations with Iran. [Continue reading…]

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NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders also caught private conversations between U.S. lawmakers and Israel lobby

The Wall Street Journal reports: President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs.

But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the list was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time, captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That raised fears — an “Oh-shit moment,” one senior U.S. official said — that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. “We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”

Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations — learned through Israeli spying operations — to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts. [Continue reading…]

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Guantánamo Bay lawyers call bluff on Obama’s promise to close prison

The Guardian reports: Lawyers representing Guantánamo Bay detainees who have been held at the camp in Cuba for up to 14 years without charge or trial have accused President Obama of stalling on his promise to close the military prison.

As the US president enters his final year in office, pressure is mounting on him to stand by his pledge to shut down the detention center by the time he leaves the White House. Numerous defense lawyers working directly with Guantánamo detainees have told the Guardian that they hold Obama and his senior officials personally responsible for the lack of action.

Obama made his vow to close Guantánamo within a year on his second day in the White House in 2009. In recent months, he has stepped up the rhetoric, promising to redouble efforts to close the prison while also heavily criticising the Republican-controlled Congress for blocking moves to transfer prisoners out of the prison to the US mainland. [Continue reading…]

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To defeat ISIS, embrace refugees

Musa al-Gharbi writes: In the aftermath of the series of attacks in Paris, attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), French President François Hollande has declared a three-month state of emergency. This measure enables the military and law enforcement to monitor, arrest, detain and interrogate persons, with little or no due process. These powers will be exercised primarily against France’s besieged Arab, Muslim, immigrant and refugee populations.

Meanwhile, France has closed its borders and is calling for an indefinite suspension of the EU’s open-border (“Schengen”) system. Other EU states are calling for reducing the Schengen zone to exclude those countries most effected by the refugee crisis. Throughout the EU there is growing resistance to admitting or resettling refugees from the greater Middle East.

Across the Atlantic, the U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to halt the already stringent and meager U.S. program to resettle refugees from Iraq and Syria. Thirty-one governors have warned that would-be migrants from the Middle East are not welcome in their states, and a majority of the American public has turned against accepting more refugees. One of the frontrunner candidates for president of the United States, Donald Trump, has even called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” All of these maneuvers are playing into the hands of ISIS.

ISIS has strongly condemned refugees’ seeking asylum in Western nations, repeatedly warned would-be expatriates that Muslims will never be truly accepted in the United States and the EU (hence the importance of an “Islamic State”). In order to render this a self-fulfilling prophecy, ISIS ensured that one of the attackers carried a fraudulent Syrian passport, which was left to be discovered at the scene of the crime before its owner detonated his suicide vest.

ISIS is counting on Western nations to turn would-be refugees back towards their “caliphate,” because this massive outpouring of asylum seekers poses a severe threat to the legitimacy and long-term viability of ISIS. Accordingly, if Western nations were truly committed to undermining ISIS, they should embrace and integrate refugees from ISIS-occupied lands. [Continue reading…]

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Why ISIS isn’t going anywhere

Michael Weiss, in text prepared for his testimony in front of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs on December 2, wrote: Policymakers here and abroad often speak as if ISIS only debuted as a significant insurgency and international terror threat in June 2014, when its soldiers stormed into Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, almost uncontested. The president surely forgot himself when, in conversation with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, he referred to the group that had dispatched mentally disabled girls in Tal Afar as suicide bombers and blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra as the “JV team.” But as you well know, this is a jihadist franchise, which with we have grown intimately acquainted for over a decade. It has long memory and is playing an even longer game.

Has it altered its strategy? No, not really, although it has placed greater tactical emphasis on its foreign operations since its capacity for receiving emigrating jihadists from New Jersey to Peshawar has shrunk, thanks to better policing and the relative closure of the Syrian-Turkish border.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, officially ISIS’s spokesman but in reality the man in charge of its dominion in Syria, defined the “state’s” foreign policy rather plainly in September: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State,” he said, “then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”

But Adnani was only reiterating what has always been ISIS’s global ambition—to export its holy war well beyond its immediate precincts or purview. The domestic pillar of ISIS’s project is what it calls “remaining and expanding”—the pushing of the borders of the caliphate in the Levant and Mesopotamia and the swelling of the ranks of its fighters and supporters there. We may pretend that ISIS is no state, but its ideologues and bureaucrats and petty officials behave as if they fully believe their own propaganda.

The foreign pillar is the opportunistic spreading of chaos, harm and wanton destruction in the West, relying upon agents who come from the West and who may or may not be returning veterans from a regional battlefield but rather everymen, Muslim or non-Muslim, who have been radicalized remotely. These jihadists are encouraged to strike at the kufar, the unbelievers, on the latter’s home turf or wherever they may be found, using methods both clever and crude: “an explosive device, a bullet, a knife, a car, a rock, or even a boot or a fist,” as al-Adnani elsewhere specified.

The two pillars have been in existence since the era of ISIS’s founder and godfather, the Jordanian jailbird Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Lest we forget, Zarqawi personally beheaded the American contractor Nicholas Berg in Iraq in 2004; two years before that, he had a direct hand in the assassination of 60 year-old American citizen and USAID worker Laurence Foley in Amman. [Continue reading…]

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Guns don’t kill people; bullets do

The carnage unleashed by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino, is yet another reminder of how easy it is for anyone to go on the warpath inside a country that remains awash with guns.

Once again the need for more effective gun control has been highlighted. And once again, I guarantee that gun owners are rushing to dealers to expand their home arsenals in anticipation of new laws.

Indeed, the only predictable consequence of another spectacular display of gun violence in America, is that it always boosts gun sales.

As the gun lobby likes to say, guns don’t kill people, and as Daniel Patrick Moynihan more accurately stated: bullets do.

And yet it’s easier to legally buy bullets and stockpile them by the thousand, than it is to legally get a prescription for OxyContin.

The U.S. government deems an array of drugs so dangerous that they are regulated as “controlled substances” — even though none are manufactured in pills containing a lethal dose.

Bullets, on the other hand, while always designed to contain a lethal dose of kinetic force, are as easy to buy as candy.

Guns are indeed relatively harmless — no more dangerous than any other heavy object — absent the fuel supply of violence: ammunition.

While taxation might have some effect, it seems to me that the levers of control would need more precision. Why not set absolute limits on how many bullets an individual can purchase and retain. And why not have those wishing to replenish their stocks be required to return their spent cartridges?

Control the supply and then maybe there’s some chance of stemming the violence.

Four years ago, the New York Times reported: In 1993, a United States senator with one of the great political brains of 20th-century America, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said that we ought to forget gun control as a way to stanch criminal violence. It was hopeless, Senator Moynihan pointed out: even if the sale of new guns was totally forbidden, there were already enough guns in homes and private hands to last the country for 200 years.

“These mostly simple machines last forever,” Mr. Moynihan said.

But he wasn’t through.

“On the other hand, we have only a three-year supply of ammunition.”

His solution: Increase the tax on bullets. He wouldn’t raise the tax on ammunition typically used for target shooting or hunting. But he proposed exorbitant taxes on hollow-tipped bullets designed to penetrate armor and cause devastating damage.

“Ten thousand percent,” Mr. Moynihan said.

That would have made the tax on a 20-cartridge pack of those bullets $1,500. “Guns don’t kill people; bullets do,” said Senator Moynihan, a Democrat who died in 2003.

Another sharp political mind, the comedian Chris Rock, argued that the price of bullets ought to be even higher than what the senator had suggested.

“If a bullet costs $5,000, there’d be no more innocent bystanders,” he said during a routine in the film “Bowling for Columbine.”

In June, the City of New York sold 28,000 pounds of spent shell casings to a an ammunition dealer in Georgia, where they were to be reloaded with bullets. Anyone with $15 can buy a bag of 50, no questions asked, under Georgia law. As The New York Times reported, the city has previously sold shell casings — which are collected at the police target shooting range — to scrap metal dealers, but in this case the highest bidder was the ammunition store.

It was perfectly legal. And jarring, considering that the mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, has made aggressive gun regulation one of his prime causes, at no small risk to any national political ambitions he might harbor. He has arranged sting buys and filed lawsuits against firearms dealers in other states who, in his view, flouted even the easygoing regulatory regimen of recent years.

But surely, it couldn’t make any sense for the city itself to put more bullets into the weapons economy by recycling casing? After all, the city destroys perfectly usable — and sellable — guns that it recovers from criminals. The sale of the casings must have been the product of someone in an unnoticed cubicle in city government, simply following the bidding rules by rote.

You might think that when learning about the sale, the mayor would have said, “Thanks for the tip.”

Instead, City Hall rose in chorus to sing of the constitutional freedom to own guns and the bullets that go in them. Indeed, the city would gladly sell the next batch of shell casings to a high-bidding ammunition dealer, said John Feinblatt, the criminal justice coordinator. (The dealers of super-size soft drinks, now facing mayoral regulation, must be wondering why the founding fathers couldn’t have added “and drink soda” after the right to “bear arms.”)

Asked about the sale on Monday, the mayor said that people could legally own guns and bullets.

Then one of the most experienced and professional of New York television reporters, Mary Murphy of WPIX, asked Mr. Bloomberg if the city was going to change its policy and not sell shell casings to ammunition dealers. Mr. Bloomberg set forth into a minisermon about how it was an act of integrity.

“This is the public’s money that we are stewards of, and deliberately deciding to sell things at lower prices than the marketplace commands makes no sense at all, and if you think about it, would create chaos and corruption like you’ve never seen,” he said.

Ms. Murphy pressed on: “Does it send the wrong message though?”

The mayor scolded her as if she were an errant schoolgirl.

“Miss, Miss,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Either you want to ask a question and I give you an answer, or please come to the next press conference and stand in the back.”

Oh, dear.

Bill Cunningham, a former aide to Senator Moynihan and Mr. Bloomberg, said that the senator would have been delighted to discover that he was aligned on the issue with Chris Rock.

“Pat would have liked that,” Mr. Cunningham said, “although we’d have to answer his query, ‘Who is Mr. Rock?’ ”

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The refugees and the new war

Michael Ignatieff writes: According to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, since September 11 the US has taken in 784,000 refugees and of these only three have been arrested subsequently on terrorism-related charges.

Fear makes for bad strategy. A better policy starts by remembering a better America. In January 1957, none other than Elvis Presley sang a gospel tune called “There Will Be Peace in the Valley” on The Ed Sullivan Show to encourage Americans to welcome and donate to Hungarian refugees. After the 1975 collapse of South Vietnam, President Ford ordered an interagency task force to resettle 130,000 Vietnamese refugees; and later Jimmy Carter found room in America for Vietnamese boat people. In 1999, in a single month, the US processed four thousand Kosovar refugees through Fort Dix, New Jersey.

These examples show what can be done if the president authorizes rapid refugee clearance in US military installations, and if the US were to process and repatriate refugees directly from the frontline states of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. As Gerald Knaus of the European Stability Initiative has been urging since September, direct processing in the camps themselves will cut down on deaths by drowning in the Mediterranean. If Europe and the United States show them a safe way out, refugees won’t take their chances by paying smugglers using rubber dinghies.

The Obama administration should say yes to the UNHCR appeal to settle 65,000 refugees on an expedited basis. Refugee agencies across the United States — as well as religious communities from all faiths — have said they will take the lead in resettlement and integration. If the Liberal government in Canada can take in 25,000 refugees directly from Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, and process their security clearance at Canadian army bases, the US can do the same with 65,000.

Taking 65,000 people will only relieve a small portion of a refugee flow of 4.1 million, but it is an essential political gesture designed to encourage other allies — Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina — and other immigrant countries to do their part. The strategic goal is to relieve the pressure on the three frontline states. Refugee resettlement by the US also acknowledges a fact that the refugees themselves are trying to tell us: even if peace eventually comes to their tormented country, there will be no life for all of them back home.

Once the US stops behaving like a bemused bystander, watching a neighbor trying to put out a fire, it can then put pressure on allies and adversaries to make up the shortfall in funding for refugee programs run by the UNHCR and the World Food Program. One of the drivers of the exodus this summer was a sudden reduction in refugee food aid caused by shortfalls in funding. Even now these agencies remain short of what they need to provide shelter and food to the people flooding out of Syria.

Now that ISIS has brought down a Russian aircraft over Sinai and bombed civilians in Paris, Beirut, and Ankara, the US needs to use its refugee policy to help stabilize its allies in the region. The presumption that it can sit out the refugee crisis makes a hugely unwise bet on the stability of Jordan, where refugees amount to 25 percent of the total population; and Lebanon, where largely Sunni refugees, who have hardly any camps, are already destabilizing the agonizingly fragile multiconfessional order; and Turkey, where the burdens of coping with nearly two million refugees are driving the increasingly authoritarian Erdoğan regime into the arms of Vladimir Putin. [Continue reading…]

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How the U.S. Congress and the GOP became friends of Assad and enemies of the Syrian people

Two years ago, Bashar al-Assad said this:


Some observers — especially those currently promoting fear of Syrian refugees — might think this was a prescient warning, but what Assad’s tweet actually expressed was the consistency with which he has stayed on message in his contrived “war on terrorism” and the fact that the flow of refugees would undermine the future of Syria.

Throughout the war, Assad has insisted that his adversaries are all “terrorists.” He wants the continuation of his rule to be perceived as a way of insuring that the threat of terrorism does not grow. Yet anyone who believes this propaganda is willfully ignoring the reality that far from combating the expansion of ISIS, Assad essentially provided an incubator in which it could grow. ISIS and Assad have a symbiotic relationship.

At the same time, as Syrians fled Assad’s barrel bombs, taking refuge in neighboring countries, the regime was prescient in this sense: once the regime’s own supporters lost faith in Syria’s future, taking advantage of their greater resources they would likely head for Europe with little likelihood of returning. As the New York Times reported in September, “Now those departing include more middle-class or wealthy people, more supporters of the government, and more residents of areas that were initially safe.”

Thus, even before the westward flow had begun, Assad wanted to sow fear in the minds of those who would likely offer refuge to people the regime can ill afford to lose. And what better way of exploiting European xenophobia than by referring to such fleeing Syrians as “illegal immigrants” — evidence, I might suggest, that Assad has his own Western media advisers.

(It shouldn’t need saying but I’ll say it anyway: Refugee status must never be made contingent on political affiliations. Syrians fleeing the war, deserve help — irrespective of their religion, sect, or ethnicity.)

The U.S. Congress and the GOP have now become megaphones of Islamophobic fear, portraying Syrian refugees as potential terrorists rather than what they really are — victims of tyranny and terrorism.

In conjunction with this deranged hysteria which across the U.S. is twisting perceptions of Syria, the argument that Assad is the “lesser evil” goes from strength to strength.

Just as Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the 9/11 attacks, saying they were “very good” because they would unite the U.S. and Israel and “strengthen the bond between our two peoples,” Assad must have taken satisfaction in the slaughter in Paris, knowing that it would buttress his argument that he, his allies and the West face a common enemy.

Likewise, as The Guardian notes, the attacks strengthen Iran’s position in Syria:

Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, said: “President François Hollande, who cannot count on Washington deploying ground forces in Syria, is now reaching out to Iran and Russia to form an alliance in the fight against Daesh [Isis].

“This in turn legitimises Iran’s military engagement in Syria, which Washington considers as one of the root causes of emergence of Daesh in that country. In that sense, the terrorist attacks in Paris came as manna from heaven for Tehran.”

So many commentators have joined in the chorus that warns against the risk of playing into the hands of ISIS, saying that we must avoid rising to provocation and giving the terrorists what they want, and yet at the same time, with barely any protest and plenty of nods of approval, we now move in the direction of giving Assad exactly what he wants.

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The U.S. Holocaust Museum urges lawmakers not to turn their backs on Syrian refugees

Quartz reports: On Monday, Nov. 19, mere hours after legislators voted to pass a bill making it even harder for Syrian refugees to seek refuge in the United States, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum released the following statement:

Acutely aware of the consequences to Jews who were unable to flee Nazism, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum looks with concern upon the current refugee crisis. While recognizing that security concerns must be fully addressed, we should not turn our backs on the thousands of legitimate refugees.

The Museum calls on public figures and citizens to avoid condemning today’s refugees as a group. It is important to remember that many are fleeing because they have been targeted by the Assad regime and ISIS for persecution and in some cases elimination on the basis of their identity.

It’s a statement perhaps reflective of growing sentiments among North America’s Jewish communities; a recollection of policies that kept those fleeing terror and persecution in Nazi-occupied Europe from settling down in the United States. [Continue reading…]

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Classified report on the CIA’s secret prisons is caught in limbo

The New York Times reports: A Senate security officer stepped out of the December chill last year and delivered envelopes marked “Top Secret” to the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the State Department and the Justice Department. Inside each packet was a disc containing a 6,700-page classified report on the C.I.A.’s secret prison program and a letter from Senator Dianne Feinstein, urging officials to read the report to ensure that the lessons were not lost to time.

Today, those discs sit untouched in vaults across Washington, still in their original envelopes. The F.B.I. has not retrieved a copy held for it in the Justice Department’s safe. State Department officials, who locked up their copy and marked it “Congressional Record — Do Not Open, Do Not Access” as soon as it arrived, have not read it either.

Nearly a year after the Senate released a declassified 500-page summary of the report, the fate of the entire document remains in limbo, the subject of battles in the courts and in Congress. Until those disputes are resolved, the Justice Department has prohibited officials from the government agencies that possess it from even opening the report, effectively keeping the people in charge of America’s counterterrorism future from reading about its past. There is also the possibility that the documents could remain locked in a Senate vault for good. [Continue reading…]

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Lawmakers get $83,000 from pipeline company, then rush a bill favoring pipeline construction

David Sirota writes: The fossil fuel industry had already managed to shape a bill moving rapidly through Congress last summer, gaining provisions to ease its ability to export natural gas. But one key objective remained elusive: a measure limiting the authority of local communities to slow the construction of pipelines because of environmental concerns.

Then, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who chaired the House Energy Committee, gave the industry an opportunity to amplify its influence. Joining forces with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who chaired the Senate Energy Committee, he launched a so-called joint fundraising committee, a campaign war chest that would accept donations from a range of contributors, with the proceeds divided between the two lawmakers.

Executives at one of the nation’s largest natural gas pipeline companies soon deposited more than $83,000 into the joint fund’s coffers. The very next day, Upton delivered on the industry’s aspirations: He rushed a bill through his legislative panel that would not only streamline the approval process for new pipelines but also empower federal officials to impose tight deadlines on state and local governments seeking to review their potential environmental impacts. [Continue reading…]

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Organized crime: Pentagon blows $43 million on useless Afghan gas station

USA Today reports: U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for a $42 million natural-gas filling station in Afghanistan, a boondoggle that should have cost $500,000 and has virtually no value to average Afghans, the government watchdog for reconstruction in Afghanistan announced Monday.

A Pentagon task force awarded a $3 million contract to build the station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, but ended up spending $12 million in construction costs and $30 million in “overhead” between 2011 and 2014, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found. Meanwhile, similar gas station was built in neighboring Pakistan cost $500,000.

“It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs 8,000% more than it should, and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement. “Perhaps equally outrageous however, is that the Pentagon has apparently shirked its responsibility to fully account for the taxpayer money that’s been wasted — an unacceptable lack of transparency that I’ll be thoroughly investigating.” [Continue reading…]

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U.S. sends ‘message’ to Abbas with $80 million aid cut

Al-Monitor reports: The Obama administration is cutting aid to the Palestinians by $80 million in what congressional sources describe as a “message” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The State Department notified lawmakers on Sept. 25 of its intention to reduce economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza Strip from $370 million to $290 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Al-Monitor has learned. The news of the 22% cut from the department’s initial request follows mounting criticism from Congress about Palestinian “incitement” in the rash of stabbing attacks that have left at least 10 Israeli civilians dead over the past three weeks.

“We need to dial up pressure on Palestinian officials to repudiate this violence,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. [Continue reading…]

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America’s myopic view of Benghazi

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Could the Saudis be dragging the U.S. into a war crimes scandal?

PRI reports: Thirteen liberal legislators have put President Barack Obama on the spot for his support of Saudi Arabia’s unchecked war in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition has been guided by US intelligence, flying American fighter jets and dropping US-made bombs.

A Human Rights Watch researcher has put the death toll from the incursion at 2,355 civilians since March.

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingel and her colleagues reminded the president in a letter last week that Saudi Arabia, America’s strongest Arab ally and best weapons customer is behaving badly in Yemen, and could be dragging the US into a war crimes scandal. “With this level of active involvement in the campaign,” the letter reads, “we are concerned that some overseas may hold the United States responsible for any civilian casualties resulting from the bombing.”

Many Yemenis already hold America — and the UK — responsible for Saudi actions. [Continue reading…]

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