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TBR News August 23, 2018

Aug 23 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. August 23, 2018:” Both the State of Israel and the United States view Syria as a potentially dangerous enemy. Joint intelligence indicates that Syria is a strong supporter of the Hezbollah Shiite paramilitary group.

Israel had planned a punitive military operation into Lebanon both to clip Hezbollah’s wings and send a strong message to Syria to cease and desist supplying arms and money to the anti-Israel group. Because of its involvement in Iraq, the United States indicated it would be unable to supply any ground troops but would certainly supply any kind of weapon, to include bombs, cluster bombs and ammunition for this projected operation.

A casus belli was created by the Israeli Mossad’s assassination of Rafik Haarri, a popular Lebanese politician and subsequent disinformation promulgated and instigated by both Israel and the United States blamed Syria for the killing.

The IDF was being supplied faulty and misleading intelligence information, apparently originating from Russian sources, that gave misinformation about Hezbollah positions and strengths and therefore the initial planning was badly flawed.

In full concert with the American president, the IDF launched its brutal and murderous attack on July 12, 2006 and continued unabated until the Hexbollah inflicted so many serious casualties on the Israeli forces and also on the civilian population of Israel, that their government frantically demanded that the White House force a cease fire through the United Nations. This was done for Israel on August 14, 2007 and the last act of this murderous and unprovoked assault was when Israel removed their naval blockade of Lebanese ports.

The contrived incident that launched the Israeli attack was an alleged attack by Hezbollah into Israeli territory where they were alleged to have ‘kidnapped’ two Israeli soldiers and subsequently launched a rocket attack to cover their retreat.

The conflict killed over six thousand people, most of whom were Lebanese, severely damaged Lebanese infrastructure, displaced 700,000-915,000 Lebanese, and 300,000-500,000 Israelis, and disrupted normal life across all of Lebanon and northern Israel. Even after the ceasefire, much of Southern Lebanon remained uninhabitable due to unexploded cluster bombs.

During the campaign Israel’s Air Force flew more than 12,000 combat missions, its Navy fired 2,500 shells, and its Army fired over 100,000 shells. Large parts of the Lebanese civilian infrastructure were destroyed, including 400 miles of roads, 73 bridges, and 31 other targets such as Beirut International Airport, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities, 25 fuel stations, 900 commercial structures, up to 350 schools and two hospitals, and 15,000 homes. Some 130,000 more homes were damaged.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered commanders to prepare civil defense plans. One million Israelis had to stay near or in bomb shelters or security rooms, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating the north and relocating to other areas of the country.

On 26 July 2006 Israeli forces attacked and destroyed an UN observer post. Described as a nondeliberate attack by Israel, the post was shelled for hours before being bombed. UN forces made repeated calls to alert Israeli forces of the danger to the UN observers, all four of whom were killed. Rescuers were shelled as they attempted to reach the post. According to an e-mail sent earlier by one of the UN observers killed in the attack, there had been numerous occasions on a daily basis where the post had come under fire from both Israeli artillery and bombing.

  • On 27 July 2006 Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli forces in Bint Jbeil and killed eighteen soldiers. Israel claimed, after this event, that it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.
  • On 28 July 2006 Israeli paratroopers killed 5 of Hezbollah’s commando elite in Bint Jbeil. In total, the IDF claimed that 80 fighters were killed in the battles at Bint Jbeil. Hezbollah sources, coupled with International Red Cross figures place the Hezbollah total at 7 dead and 129 non-combatant Lebanese civilian deaths.
  • On 30 July 2006 Israeli air strikes hit an apartment building in Qana, killing at least 65 civilians, of which 28 were children, with 25 more missing. The air strike was widely condemned.
  • On 31 July 2006 the Israeli military and Hezbollah forces engaged Hezbollah in the Battle of Ayta ash-Shab.
  • On 1 August 2006 Israeli commandos launched Operation Sharp and Smooth and landed in Baalbek and captured five civilians including one bearing the same name as Hezbollah’s leader, “Hassan Nasrallah”. All of the civilians were released after the ceasefire. Troops landed near Dar al-Himkeh hospital west of Baalbeck as part of a widescale operation in the area.
  • On 4 August 2006 the IAF attacked a building in the area of al-Qaa around 10 kilometers (six miles) from Hermel in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Sixty two farm workers, mostly Syrian and Lebanese Kurds, were killed during the airstrike.
  • On 5 August 2006 Israeli commandos carried out a nighttime raid in Tyre, blowing up a water treatment plant, a small clinic and killing 187 civilians before withdrawing.
  • On 7 August 2006 the IAF attacked the Shiyyah suburb in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, destroying three apartment buildings in the suburb, killing at least 120 people.
  • On 11 August 2006 the IAF attacked a convoy of approximately 750 vehicles containing Lebanese police, army, civilians, and one Associated Press journalist, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 39.
  • On 12 August 2006 the IDF established its hold in South Lebanon. Over the weekend Israeli forces in southern Lebanon nearly tripled in size. and were ordered to advance towards the Litani River.
  • On 14 August 2006 the Israeli Air Force reported that they had killed the head of Hezbollah?s Special Forces, whom they identified as Sajed Dewayer,but this claim was never proven.. 80 minutes before the cessation of hostilities, the IDF targeted a Palestinian faction in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, killing a UNRWA staff member. Sixty two refugees had been killed in an attack on this camp six days prior to the incident.

During the campaign Hezbollah fired between 3,970 and 4,228 rockets. About 95% of these were 122 mm (4.8 in) Katyusha artillery rockets, which carried warheads up to 30 kg (66 lb) and had a range of up to 30 km (19 mi). An estimated 23% of these rockets hit built-up areas, primarily civilian in nature.

Cities hit included Haifa, Hadera, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, Afula, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an, Karmiel, and Maalot, and dozens of Kibbutzim, Moshavim, and Druze and Arab villages, as well as the northern West Bank. Hezbollah also engaged in guerrilla warfare with the IDF, attacking from well-fortified positions. These attacks by small, well-armed units caused serious problems for the IDF, especially through the use hundreds of sophisticated Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Hezbollah destroyed 38 Israeli Merkava main battle tanks and damaged 82. Fifteen  tanks were destroyed by anti-tank mines. Hezbollah caused  an additional 65 casualties using ATGMs to collapse buildings onto Israeli troops sheltering inside.

After the initial Israeli response, Hezbollah declared an all-out military alert. Hezbollah was estimated to have 13,000 missiles at the beginning of the conflict. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described Hezbollah as a trained, skilled, well-organized, and highly motivated infantry that was equipped with the cream of modern weaponry from the arsenals of Syria, Iran, Russia, and China. Lebanese satellite TV station Al-Manar reported that the attacks had included a Fajr-3 and a Ra’ad 1, both liquid-fuel missiles developed by Iran.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defended the attacks, saying that Hezbollah had “started to act calmly, we focused on Israel[i] military bases and we didn’t attack any settlement, however, since the first day, the enemy attacked Lebanese towns and murdered civilians  Hezbollah militants had destroyed military bases, while the Israelis killed civilians and targeted Lebanon’s infrastructure.” Hezbollah apologized for shedding Muslim blood, and called on the Arabs of the Israeli city of Haifa to flee.

  • On 13 July 2006 in response to Israel’s retaliatory attacks in which 43  civilians were killed, Hezbollah launched rockets at Haifa for the first time, hitting a cable car station along with a few other buildings
  • On 14 July 2006 Hezbollah attacked the INS Hanit, an Israeli Sa’ar 5-class missile boat enforcing the naval blockade, with  what was believed to be a radar guided C-802 anti-ship missile. 24 sailors were killed and the warship was severely damaged and towed back to port.
  • On 17 July 2006 Hezbollah hit a railroad repair depot, killing twenty-two workers. Hezbollah claimed that this attack was aimed at a large Israeli fuel storage plant adjacent to the railway facility. Haifa is home to many strategically valuable facilities such as shipyards and oil refineries.
  • On 18 July 2006 Hezbollah hit a hospital in Safed in northern Galilee, wounding twenty three.
  • On 27 July 2006 Hezbollah ambushed the Israeli forces in Bint Jbeil and killed forty one soldiers, and destroyed 12 IDF vehicles and destroyed three armored vehicles and seriously damaged eight more. Israel claimed it also inflicted heavy losses on Hezbollah.
  • On 3 August 2006 Nasrallah warned Israel against hitting Beirut and promised retaliation against Tel Aviv in this case. He also stated that Hezbollah would stop its rocket campaign if Israel ceased aerial and artillery strikes of Lebanese towns and villages.
  • On 4 August 2006 Israel targeted the southern outskirts of Beirut, and later in the day, Hezbollah launched rockets at the Hadera region.
  • On 9 August 2006 twenty three Israeli soldiers were killed when the building they were taking cover in was struck by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile and collapsed.
  • On 12 August 2006 24 Israeli soldiers were killed; the worst Israeli loss in a single day. Out of those 24, five soldiers were killed when Hezbollah shot down an Israeli helicopter, a first for the militia. Hezbollah claimed the helicopter had been attacked with a Wa’ad missile.

One of the most controversial aspects of the conflict has been the high number of civilian deaths. The actual proportion of civilian deaths and the responsibility of it is hotly disputed.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch blamed Israel for systematically failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, which may constitute a war crime, and accused Hezbollah of committing war crimes by the deliberate and indiscriminate killing of civilians by firing rockets into populated areas

  • On 24 July 2006, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said Israel’s response violated international humanitarian law, but also criticized Hezbollah for knowingly putting civilians in harm’s way by “cowardly blending…among women and children”.

During the war, Israeli jets distributed leaflets calling on civilian residents to evacuate or move north.

In response to some of this criticism, Israel has stated that it did, wherever possible, attempt to distinguish between protected persons and combatants, but that due to Hezbollah militants being in civilian clothing

Direct attacks on civilian objects are prohibited under international humanitarian law. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) initially estimated about 35,000 homes and businesses in Lebanon were destroyed by Israel in the conflict, while a quarter of the country’s road bridges or overpasses were damaged. Jean Fabre, a UNDP spokesman, estimated that overall economic losses for Lebanon from the month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah totaled “at least $15 billion, if not more.”] Before and throughout the war, Hezbollah launched over 4000 unguided rockets against Israeli population centers, seeking to terrorize the Israeli population. This was in direct response to Israel’s attack on residential sections and the deliberate targeting of civilians

Amnesty International published a report stating that “the deliberate widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population,” and called for an international investigation of violations of international humanitarian law by both sides in the conflict.

Israel defended itself from such allegations on the grounds that Hezbollah’s use of roads and bridges for military purposes made them legitimate targets. However, Amnesty International stated that “the military advantage anticipated from destroying [civilian infrastructure] must be measured against the likely effect on civilians.”

Human Rights Watch strongly criticized Israel for using cluster bombs too close to civilians because of their inaccuracy and unreliability, suggesting that they may have gone as far as deliberately targeting civilian areas with such munitions. Hezbollah was also criticized by Human Rights Watch for filling its rockets with ball bearings, which “suggests a desire to maximize harm to civilians”; the U.N has criticized Israel for its use of cluster munitions and disproportionate attacks.

Amnesty International stated that the IDF used white phosphorus shells in Lebanon. Israel later admitted to the use of white phosphorus, but stated that it only used the incendiary against militants. However, several foreign media outlets reported observing and photographing a large number of Lebanese civilians with burns characteristic of white phosphorus attacks during the conflict.

Hezbollah casualty figures are difficult to ascertain, with claims and estimates by different groups and individuals ranging from 43 to 1,000. Hezbollah’s leadership claims that 43 of their fighters were killed in the conflict, while Israel estimated that its forces had killed 600 Hezbollah fighters. In addition, Israel claimed to have the names of 532 dead Hezbollah fighters but when challenged by Hezbollah to release the list, the Israelis dropped the issue. A UN official estimated that 50 Hezbollah fighters had been killed, and Lebanese government officials estimated that up to 49 had been killed.

The Lebanese civilian death toll is difficult to pinpoint as most published figures do not distinguish between civilians and militants, including those released by the Lebanese government. In addition, Hezbollah fighters could be difficult to identify as many did not wear military uniforms. However, it has been widely reported that the majority of the Lebanese killed were civilians, and UNICEF estimated that 30% of those killed were children under the age of 13

The death toll estimates do not include Lebanese killed since the end of fighting by land mines or unexploded US/Israeli cluster bombs. According to the National Demining Office, 297 people were killed and 867 wounded in such blasts.

Official Israeli figures for the Israel Defense Forces troops killed range from 116 to 120. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives two different figures 117 and 119 the latter of which contains two IDF fatalities that occurred after the ceasefire went into effect. In September 2006, two local Israeli newspapers released insider information ensuring that the Israeli military death toll might climbed to around 540 soldiers. Israel refused any outside agency access to its lists of the dead and wounded but an examination of all the accurate information available as of January 1, 2007 indicates that Israeli Defense Forces lost a total of 2300 killed with 600 of these dying in militatary hospital facilities subsequent to the conclusion of the fighting and an additional 700 very seriously wounded.

Hezbollah rockets killed 43 Israeli civilians during the conflict, including four who died of heart attacks during rocket attacks. In addition, 4,262 civilians were injured, 33 seriously, 68 moderately, 1,388 lightly, and 2,773 were treated for shock and anxiety

In March, 2007, the Israeli comptroller had planned to release an interim report that was expected to accuse the army and Olmert of leaving Israeli civilians virtually defenseless during last summer’s Lebanon war, in which Hezbollah guerrillas fired a barrage of rockets and missiles at northern   Israel.”

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 6
  • Donald Trump’s reckoning has arrived
  • Is Donald Trump Above the Law?
  • Midterm lawfare? Federal prosecutors derail re-election bids of two prominent Trump supporters
  • The New Cold War Flops
  • The Attack on Iran: Israel’s Plans for a US Action
  • Air Marshals Secretly Followed an Artsy Virginia Mom on Flights to Make Sure She Wasn’t Going to Destroy America

 

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 6

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

 

  • Feb 24, 2018

“Now you know they’re not going to have their best people in the lottery, ’cause they’re not going to put their best people in the lottery. They don’t want to have their good people leave.”

Source: Phone call to Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, Justice

in fact: This is, as always, an inaccurate description of Diversity Visa Lottery program. Contrary to Trump’s regular claim, foreign governments do not put the names of their problem citizens into the lottery to try to dump them on the United States. Would-be immigrants sign up on their own, as individuals, of their own free will; they are not “given” to the United States by nefarious foreign leaders.

Trump has repeated this claim 21 times

 

“We actually have lottery systems — where you go to countries and they do lotteries for who comes into the United States.”

Source: Phone call to Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, Justice

in fact: The diversity visa lottery, in which people receive “green cards” for permanent residency, is conducted by the U.S. State Department, not by foreign countries.

“I’m the one that’s pushing DACA. And the Democrats are nowhere to be found.”

Source: Phone call to Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, Justice

in fact: This is transparently inaccurate. Trump, a Republican, cancelled the Democrat-created DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program that gives young unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, the “DREAMers,” work permits and protection from deportation. Democrats are now urging him to simply re-protect DACA enrollees without conditions. Conversely, Trump and other Republicans are demanding steep concessions — billions of dollars for a border wall, a reduction of one third or more in legal immigration — in exchange for protecting DACA enrollees, and some conservative Republicans continue to deride any permanent protection for enrollees as “amnesty.” Democrats have consented to billions in wall funding, but Trump has rejected even this deal on the grounds that he also wants the cuts to legal immigration. In short: Trump is free to argue, as some DREAMers are, that Democrats are not fighting hard enough for DACA enrollees, but there is no reasonable argument that they are “nowhere to be found” on the subject or that Trump is the one “pushing DACA.”

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

 

“He got scammed by somebody pretending to be a Russian…if you look at Adam Schiff, last week, two weeks ago, he got scammed by somebody…he spoke to this person, thought he was a Russian, but it didn’t work out that way, he wasn’t a Russian.”

Source: Phone call to Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, Justice

in fact: Trump had both the “when” and the “who” wrong in this story. The “when”: Schiff was tricked by a phone prankster in April, 10 months prior, not last week or two weeks ago. (Trump might have been confused because news outlets wrote stories on the call two weeks prior to this phone call to Pirro.) The “who”: Schiff believed he was speaking to Ukrainian politician Andriy Parubiy, the chairman of that country’s parliament, not a Russian; he was, in fact, speaking to Russians, two Russian pranksters.

 

“That document (Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff’s memo) really verifies the Nunes memo. And that’s why they didn’t push hard to have it — if you notice, they did not push it hard, because they understood this was going to happen.”

Source: Phone call to Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, Justice

in fact: There is no reasonable argument that the Democrats “didn’t push hard” for the release of the Schiff memo. They pleaded with Trump to release it. When he refused, they denounced him. (“What’s really going on here is that the president doesn’t want the public to see the underlying facts,” Schiff said on CBS’s Face the Nation.) The memo was only released after extensive redactions by the FBI.

 

“‘Congressman Schiff omitted and distorted key facts’ @FoxNews So, what else is new. He is a total phony!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This is an egregious distortion of what the Fox News host actually said. The real quote: “Congressman Schiff, he argues the Republican memo ‘omitted and distorted key facts.'” Trump, in other words, left out the words “he argues the Republican memo” in order to make it seem as if Fox was criticizing Schiff rather than simply reporting on Schiff’s own views.

 

“‘Russians had no compromising information on Donald Trump’ @FoxNews Of course not, because there is none, and never was.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent for CNN, checked the Fox footage and reported that the alleged Fox quote Trump tweeted here was never actually uttered on television. Stelter wrote on Twitter: “He’s completely misquoting Fox here. Fox hosts pointed out that there’s nothing *in the Dem memo* about the Russians having compromising info about Trump. But what he quoted was never said on Fox. Maybe he misunderstood the TV coverage?”

 

“Dems are no longer talking DACA! ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ they say. DACA beneficiaries should not be happy. Nancy Pelosi truly doesn’t care about them.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This is transparently inaccurate. Trump, a Republican, cancelled the Democrat-created DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program that gives young unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, the “DREAMers,” work permits and protection from deportation. Democrats are now urging him to simply re-protect DACA enrollees without conditions. Conversely, Trump and other Republicans are demanding steep concessions — billions of dollars for a border wall, a reduction of one third or more in legal immigration — in exchange for protecting DACA enrollees, and some conservative Republicans continue to deride any permanent protection for enrollees as “amnesty.” Democrats have consented to billions in wall funding, but Trump has rejected even this deal on the grounds that he also wants the cuts to legal immigration. In short: Trump is free to argue, as some DREAMers are, that Democrats are not fighting hard enough for DACA enrollees, but there is no reasonable argument that they are no longer talking about DACA. Pelosi, further, has been one of the most vocal Democrats on the issue. In early February, she set a House of Representatives record by giving an eight-hour speech in support of DACA recipients.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

 

“…lowest black unemployment in history!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This used to be true, but it was false at the time Trump tweeted. The Black unemployment rate did hit an all-time low (for the period since the government began tracking Black unemployment separately in the early 1970s), 6.8 per cent, for December. But then, in January, it spiked to 7.7 per cent, a non-record. The government report showing the spike to 7.7 per cent had been out for three weeks when Trump posted this tweet.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

 

  • Feb 25, 2018

“Your GDP numbers, as you know, the first quarter — or the last quarter for the previous administration — was not good. And if you look at them now, we’re hitting 3s routinely, and we had a 3.2. ”

Source: Speech at the Governors’ Ball

in fact: It is an exaggeration to say the U.S. is now hitting 3 per cent GDP growth “routinely.” Trump has been president for three full quarters. In the first two (the second and third quarter of 2017), GDP growth did indeed hit 3: 3.1 per cent and 3.2 per cent. But in the third quarter (the fourth quarter of 2017), the most recent, growth was 2.6 per cent.

 

Donald Trump’s reckoning has arrived

After Michael Cohen’s day in court, the president is in very real legal jeopardy. It’s now conceivable he could be forced to resign

August 21, 2018

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

To lose one of your inner circle to criminal charges may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two on the same day looks like carelessness.

Donald Trump is nothing if not careless. His type inevitably gets like that as their escapades grow ever more preposterous. Sooner or later, their delusional sense of power and smarts ends in the kind of concrete solitude now being contemplated by Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. The laws do not apply to them until, suddenly, they do.

Of the two legal calamities befalling Trump, the plea bargain of his personal fixer is even more disastrous than the guilty verdicts slapped down on his campaign chairman. Although let’s be honest: the scale of both disasters makes it a close call.

Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women who were allegedly the mistresses of one Donald Trump. All this in the middle of the 2016 election, “at the direction of the candidate”, as Cohen told the court.

Never mind the facepalming deceit and hypocrisy of the candidate who claimed he was running against Crooked Hillary.

For now we need to stay focused on the very real legal jeopardy facing Crooked Donald. Campaign finance crimes of this kind are not trivial matters: under federal guidelines updated at the end of last year by Trump’s own justice department, a campaign finance crime committed knowingly and willfully amounting to more than $25,000 is what they call a five-year felony.

Just one of Cohen’s payments, made at Trump’s direction, amounted to $130,000.

Of course any normal politician would have died of embarrassment at arranging secret payments to any porn star, never mind one called Stormy Daniels. Any normal politician would have found his career and reputation shredded to the point where he would be too ashamed to stay in public life or, for that matter, any public space.

But as we all know by now, Crooked Donald is entirely abnormal, with no reputation to save, and no sense of shame.

Just seven years ago, a federal grand jury indicted former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards on six counts of breaking campaign finance laws for the exact same scenario as this sitting president: paying hush money to cover up an extramarital affair. Edwards escaped conviction after a jury was deadlocked on most of the charges, and the Justice Department did not seek a retrial. Edwards disappeared from public view, and his political career came to a definitive end.

It’s hard to imagine Trump making the same choice. He can no more disappear from public view than you can forget your first projectile vomiting. John Edwards was vilified for betraying his inspirational, cancer-stricken wife. Yet even he had more decency and dignity than Donald Trump.

Until this point, most of the nation’s nattering nabobs have conjured up scenarios about impeachment.

No doubt the pressure for impeachment will only build from here – even without a full-blown conspiracy with a hostile foreign nation to manipulate the election. The current campaign finance crimes on display are more than enough to meet the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors. But impeachment in a Democratic-controlled House – if this year’s elections proceed as forecast – will ultimately be followed by failure in a Senate trial, where Republicans would need to vote to kick Trump out of office. There is no plausible scenario where this Republican Party would do so, even with White House tapes of Trump discussing a Russian conspiracy.

Cohen’s plea bargain suggests we may have sought out the wrong historical figure in the Nixon White House. Nixon was forced to resign by his party and his sense of shame: two factors that are absent today.

Instead we should be looking at Nixon’s first vice-president, Spiro Agnew, who was forced out of office by something much more familiar: criminal investigations into conspiracy, tax fraud and bribery, among other things. Agnew had been a corrupt public official since his days as Maryland governor, and the corruption continued into his vice-presidency. A year after his re-election, Agnew accepted a guilty plea bargain on tax evasion and resigned from office.

Until his resignation, Agnew claimed the US attorney’s investigations were all lies. His lawyers claimed that a sitting vice-president couldn’t be indicted. Both of those arguments collapsed. As one of Agnew’s lawyers recently wrote, there are no constitutional protections against indictment for either a president or a vice-president.

Would Trump resist a plea bargain more than anyone else in his inner-circle? Does he have the spinal fortitude to risk a five-year jail term and a good chunk of his personal fortune for the chance of saving his political career and the undying love of his political base?

He may decide that his base will always love him. He may decide that his freedom is as much about avoiding four more years in the White House as it is about avoiding five years in the Big House. If shame won’t make him quit, perhaps a plea bargain will.

There was a time when we all covered political sex scandals because, as Matt Bai explained so well about Gary Hart, they told us something about character. Those were the old days. Now we know all about Donald Trump’s character, but we still don’t know all about the conspiracies to manipulate the 2016 election.

If only Trump had not run for president, his minions could have continued laundering Russian money, evading taxes and paying hush money until he tweeted off this mortal coil.

Instead, he attracted the attention of every self-respecting law enforcement and intelligence officer in the nation’s capital and beyond. The downfall of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel began when he ran for office in Colombia, and the same might just prove to be true about the far smaller Trump enterprise.

Donald Trump has lost so much in court, he must be tired of losing. As a candidate he suggested his supporters would suffer some kind of headache from all of his endless winning. He imagined them saying “Please don’t win so much. This is getting terrible.” How right he was.

Richard Wolffe is a Guardian US columnist

 

Is Donald Trump Above the Law?

August 22 2018

by James Risen

The Intercept

Ever since the federal investigations of President Donald Trump and his lackeys began, most outside observers have argued it was highly unlikely that Trump himself would face criminal prosecution.

The conventional wisdom has been that federal prosecutors would bow to long-standing tradition and decades-old Justice Department legal opinions and not seek an indictment of a sitting president. Trump might face impeachment in Congress, which is a political process, but it seemed far-fetched that prosecutors would try to send him directly from the White House to prison.

But that line of thinking was upended Tuesday, when Trump became the unnamed “Individual-1” in a federal criminal case. Tuesday was the day that the chances that Trump will face indictment and criminal prosecution surged higher than ever before.

In fact, August 21, 2018, seems certain to be a watershed day in Trump’s manic presidency.

In a Virginia federal court on Tuesday, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair, was found guilty on eight counts of tax and bank fraud in a case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been investigating whether Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.

Meanwhile, in a New York federal court on Tuesday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer, pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and, most critically for Trump, campaign finance violations.

Both of Tuesday’s cases were really bad news for Trump, but the Cohen plea deal presented a more immediate threat to the president. As part of his plea, Cohen directly implicated the president, asserting that he worked with Trump during the campaign to pay off two women to keep their stories of alleged affairs with Trump out of the press before the 2016 election. Given the way the payments were made, as well as their intent, that effort was a violation of federal campaign finance laws. Cohen asserted in federal court that Trump had committed a felony.

Now, federal prosecutors are faced with a dilemma. They have just triumphed in a high-profile white-collar criminal case in which they successfully nailed the personal lawyer to the president. They squeezed Cohen so hard that he admitted the president was his co-conspirator in a crime. And not just any crime — a crime designed to help Trump win the presidency.

Can prosecutors now ignore the logic of their own case? Don’t they have to go after Trump himself?

Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, asked that question publicly on Tuesday. In a tweet after Cohen’s plea, Davis wrote that his client “stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

The Cohen and Manafort cases were brought by different teams of prosecutors, and that may make a difference in how each is pursued from here. The Cohen prosecution was conducted by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, while the Manafort case was brought by Mueller and his team from the special counsel’s office.

As special counsel, Mueller has great latitude in how he pursues the Trump-Russia case. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation because of questions about his own connections to Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. Mueller has taken great advantage of his independent status to conduct a highly aggressive investigation of Trump and those around him. Manafort was only the latest in a long line of people from the Trump circle to discover just how seriously Mueller is pursuing his inquiry. Mueller was clearly prosecuting Manafort to pressure him to flip and tell all that he knows about Trump and Russian collusion.

But the prosecutors in New York who have handled the Cohen case don’t enjoy the same level of independence that Mueller does. Any effort by Southern District prosecutors to pursue their case and investigate “Individual-1” in the White House will almost certainly have to be approved by Sessions. It seems unlikely that he would believe that his recusal on the Trump-Russia probe would apply in the Cohen investigation, even though Cohen is widely believed to have information about the Trump-Russia case. And, after being repeatedly and publicly attacked and humiliated by Trump for his recusal in the Mueller inquiry, Sessions may be eager to prove his loyalty to Trump and block any further investigation in the Cohen case. (Although it’s also possible that, after silently enduring months of Trump’s abuse, Sessions might keenly enjoy approving a legal assault on the president.)

While the U.S. Constitution seems rather vague on the whether a president can be indicted while in office, Justice Department lawyers have consistently argued that constitutional law forbids it. In 1973, during the Nixon administration, the Justice Department “concluded that the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unduly interfere with the ability of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned duties, and would thus violate the constitutional separation of powers,” according to a DOJ memo written in 2000, at the end of the Clinton administration. Almost three decades after Watergate, the 2000 memo reaffirmed the department’s earlier decision: “No court has addressed this question directly, but the judicial precedents that bear on the continuing validity of our constitutional analysis are consistent with both the analytic approach taken and the conclusions reached. Our view remains that a sitting President is constitutionally immune from indictment and criminal prosecution.”

If Sessions and the Justice Department block New York prosecutors from pursuing Trump, what happens next? Will the information be referred to Congress as part of impeachment proceedings? If Democrats retake the House in the midterm elections this fall, will they be willing to pursue impeachment, knowing they will almost certainly lack the votes in the Senate to win a conviction?

What we know for sure is that the path to the criminal prosecution and imprisonment of the president of the United States is now clear. How it is handled will be a major test for the American system of government.

 

Midterm lawfare? Federal prosecutors derail re-election bids of two prominent Trump supporters

August 22, 2018

RT

In at least two congressional districts at opposite ends of the US, federal indictments of Trump-supporting lawmakers may play a key role in handing over their solid Republican constituencies to Democrat challengers.

Congressman Duncan Hunter, representing California’s 50th district, and his wife Margaret were charged on Tuesday with 60 counts of misusing about $250,000 in campaign funds for personal purchases, and with filing false reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

California has a “jungle primary” system, in which the top two candidates proceed to the general election regardless of their party affiliation. As the primaries took place on June 5, there is no mechanism to replace Hunter on the ballot, which means his Democrat challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar, will basically run uncontested despite winning less than 18 percent of the primary vote.

This is modern politics and modern media mixed in with law enforcement that has a political agenda,” Hunter told San Diego’s KGTV on Wednesday. “This is the Democrats’ arm-of-law enforcement,” he added. “I think they’ve used every dirty trick in the book.”

Hunter’s attorney, Gregory Vega, brought up the ballot problem in an August 6 letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Vega also sought the recusal of two key prosecutors in the case, Assistant US attorneys Alana Robinson and Emily Allen, citing their presence at an August 2015 fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in La Jolla, California.

“The only way these two Assistant US Attorneys were able to attend was by use of their official positions as Department of Justice employees,” Vega wrote. Meanwhile, Hunter was “the first sitting member of Congress to endorse President Trump in February 2016, and he has been an outspoken supporter of the President ever since.”

US Attorney Adam Braverman and the DOJ “reviewed and rejected Mr. Hunter’s complaints,” Southern District spokeswoman Kelly Thornton told the San Diego Union-Tribune. Thornton said the two justice officials attended the Clinton fundraiser at the US Secret Service’s invitation, calling it standard practice. “The Secret Service requested the prosecutors’ attendance and routinely asks prosecutors to attend events involving their protectees.”

Hunter has been on the federal authorities’ radar since April 2016, when the FEC began looking at some questionable campaign expense reports. Vega accused the Southern District prosecutors of a “sudden, inexplicable rush to indict my client before the general election without affording him sufficient due process.”

On Wednesday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) echoed the claims that the timing of Hunter’s indictment was suspicious, going so far as to accuse Braverman and his subordinates of “political misconduct.”

“I don’t know how you make any kind of sense other than he sat on it for most of three years and certainly the last year,” Issa told CBS, referring to US Attorney Adam Braverman. “As far as I know, we’ve got no legal way for Duncan to get off the ballot and somebody else to get on.”

Hunter was first elected in 2008, after serving three combat tours in the US Marine Corps. The seat was previously held by his father for 14 terms.

Another prominent Trump supporter, Rep.Chris Collins of New York’s 27th congressional district, was arrested on August 8 and charged with insider trading. Though he initially said he would remain in the race despite the charges, Collins dropped his re-election bid just three days later. The GOP is now looking to replace him on the ballot.

Though Hunter has not yet dropped out of the race, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has already removed him from all congressional committees. Ryan, a frequent critic of Trump, is not seeking re-election in November.

 

The New Cold War Flops

Poll shows anti-Russia campaign had little effect

August 23, 2018

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

Has there ever been a country so vilified as Russia, a leader so demonized as Vladimir Putin?

It makes me dizzy just to think of all the crimes that have been laid at that particular doorstep. I could spend the rest of this column simply listing them, from the deaths of numerous Russian journalists to the extinction of Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions – that and so much more! The omnipotent Russian President has apparently poisoned so many Russian expatriates in Britain that the streets are awash in polonium, novichok, and god knows what else. Why, it only took a few thousand bucks spent on some Facebook ads that practically no one saw to steal the presidential election from the rightful winner. Vlad the Bad is the all-powerful villain at the center of so many sinister conspiracies that it’s hard to keep track of them.

The anti-Russian campaign that the media has been hyping ever since Trump took office isn’t anything new. Those of us born during the cold war years – the first cold war, that is – remember all too well the atmosphere of hysteria and unreason that prevailed in those days. The fear of Communist agents under every bed was exploited by the War Party to no end – no good end, that is – and one would’ve thought that the collapse of communism and the end of the cold war would put a stop to it.

No such luck. It started in 2003, when the neocons declared war on Russia for Putin’s refusal to sign on to the Iraq war. Richard Perle led the charge, demanding Russia’s expulsion from the G-8.

The hate-on-Russia campaign has been ongoing ever since that time, only increasing in intensity and changing as to the details over the years. The main instrument of this effort has been the “mainstream” media, which, like the “intelligence community,” has now begun openly acting in a coordinated manner, an activist component of the anti-Trump popular front. The Russia-gate hoax is the central narrative of the NeverTrumpers, and hatred of Russia is therefore central to the emerging ideology of #TheResistance – a trend that does not bode well for the future of what was once known as American liberalism.

What does bode well for the country, however, is the fact that the American people aren’t buying the new cold war. After all those years of frenetic propaganda, a new Gallup poll shows that nearly 60% of the American people prefer diplomacy over confrontation with Russia:

“In an era of increasingly tense U.S.-Russian relations marked by allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, Americans believe it is more important to try to continue efforts to improve relations between the countries (58%), rather than taking strong diplomatic and economic steps against Russia (36%).”

Every fifty years or so the War Party migrates to the other side of the political spectrum, and this poll shows that the switching of partisan polarities is well underway. The majority of Democrats – 51% — say it’s more important to impose sanctions and take other hostile actions against Russia than to engage in diplomacy, while a whopping 74% of Republicans take the opposite view of diplomacy over confrontation. The Trumpification of the GOP means a less interventionist Republican electorate, as I’ve been saying for many months. This poll confirms it: the Republicans (in general!) are the party of peace.

The good news doesn’t end there. The really great news is that the Democrats are badly split, with a significant minority choosing diplomacy over sanctions. The clincher is that the independents are with the peaceniks in the GOP: diplomacy, they say, is better than conflict.

The Great American Peace Consensus has spoken! If the Democrats run with this Russia-gate nonsense in 2020 they will lose, bigtime. There’s no way they’re going to sell the American people on a cheap remake of “Red Dawn.”

Oh yes, the good news just keeps coming:

“Just 9% of Republicans agree that Russians interfered and changed the outcome of the election. Rather, the majority of Republicans, 58%, believe Russia interfered but it did not change the outcome. Nearly one in three Republicans reject the idea that Russia interfered.”

On the other hand, the Democrats swallow the Russia-gate myth whole: 78% believe it, despite the lack of publicly available evidence.

What this means is that most Democrats are not only epistemologically challenged but they are also more likely to believe authority figures unquestioningly, whereas Republicans are more prone to freethinking – although there are still a few deadheads among them.

We haven’t heard much about this particular poll, and the reason ought to be clear enough: it illustrates the waning power of the “mainstream” media, underscoring their pathetic weakness even when they act in concert. And if you think their coordinated editorials against Trump the other day was the first instance of their consolidation into a political bloc then you haven’t been paying attention. They’ve been peddling this anti-Russian conspiracy narrative for years – and now to see that it has had almost no effect on the majority of ordinary Americans must be so humiliating. All that effort – for nothing! The American people have far more sense than the political class that purports to rule over them, and that includes the media.

Our journalists are extra sensitive these days, responsive to every slight, both real and imagined, precisely because they sense their own impending irrelevance. Do you wonder why it’s the journalists who scream the loudest in favor of censoring alternative voices like Alex Jones? They hate the competition and would love to stamp it out: Jones’s kookiness gives them the perfect foil and pretext.

Trump called them the “enemy of the people,” but that’s letting them off easy. Our media is the enemy of reality, and the servitor of entrenched Power. They’ve inverted their job description: instead of reporting the facts they are intent on hiding them. That’s why alternative media are growing by leaps and bounds, while the legacy media is on its last legs.

 

The Attack on Iran: Israel’s Plans for a US Action

August 23, 2018

by Christian Jürs

1.The problem under consideration here is that Iran has, or will have, a nuclear weapon.. If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, Israelis are afraid Iran will use it on them.

2.Israel would have logistical problems attacking Iran. Any attack would have to be an aerial attack, using fighter-bombers to pin-point known Iranian nuclear facilities.

The current opinion in some circles, mostly in the United States, is that at some point in the near future, the growing threat or re-imposition of devastating economic sanctions on Iran will convince its radical religious leaders to terminate their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Also, there is the growing hope that the CIA’s funded Iran’s Green Movement will overthrow, a la the Ukrainian Orange Revolution and replace the Muslim fundamentalist regime, or at the very least find the means to modify and secularize the regime’s ideological extremism. It is also possible that disrupting operations  now being implemented by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through physical sabotage and, upon occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have derailed Iran’s progress towards achieving the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.

It is now planned in Tel Aviv that senior Israeli officials, representing both their political and military establishments, will come to Washington for conferences both with their American counterparts and, eventually, with President Trmup. These conversations, which have been carefully planned and scripted, will have the Israelis advising their American counterparts that they are planning an attack, nuclear or non-nuclear as the situation develops, on Iran because a nuclear Iran poses the ‘gravest threat since Hitler’ to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe that  by launching a preemptive strike at all possible Iranian sites suspected of participation in their nuclear program they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years,. Further, talking-point secret Israeli memos state: Israel will inform their American counterparts that Israel has no other choice than to launch this attack. They will not ask for permission for this attack, because it will soon be too late to ask for permission.

Insofar as President Trump is concerned, the Israelis are considering the most important point of these interviews would be to discover as to what would be the circumstances under which President Trump would move to halt the Iranian projects. The primary point, then, is to convince the Americans that only military force, i.e., heavy bombing raids, would be able to “totally obliterate Iran’s attempts to get a nuclear weapon and, further, to prevent them from rebuilding their infrastructure in the foreseeable future.” From the Israeli point of view, all of their future actions, which also include the use of their own nuclear weapons on Tehran depends entirely upon the answers, primarily of the President but also of the American military leadership..

Also, in the possible event that the American President were to agree fully with Israeli wishes, i.e., to use American aircraft to obliterate the perceived Iranian threat by bombing specific, and even general, Iranian targets, could an Israeli-sponsored domestic American propaganda campaign to encourage sections of the American public, outside of the fully-cooperative Jewish community, to support such an American attack.

At the present time, it is well-established that Israeli agents, Mossad and others, have inserted themselves into all the instruments of power and propaganda in the United States where they have sent any pertinent information to Israel and kept up a steady offensive against the minds, and wills, of the American people. Also, many of the more prominent American newspapers, such as the New York Times is entirely Jewish-owned, this is stated to be the most receptive to the needs of both Washington and Tel Aviv.

Israel is fully prepared to take a chance on permanently alienating American affection in order to make a high-risk attempt at stopping Iran. If Iran retaliates against American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, the consequences for Israel’s relationship with America’s military leadership could be catastrophic.

It has been seriously discussed in Tel Aviv and in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, that probably the best way to compel the American public and through them, the President, to unilateral action, would not be to launch an attack on Tehran but instead, attack America through a false-flag operation. This would consist of a believable attack, or attempted attack, on a major American target a la the 9/11 Saudi-supported attacks.

The most current plan would be for a known militant Arab anti-Israel group, Hezbollah, to actually deliver an atomic device to the city of New York, or, alternatively, to Washington.

The American Central Intelligence Agency, now seeking to reshape its negative image, would report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the exact details of the arrival and placement of the bomb.

The actual bomb would be genuine but would have a part that was malfunctioning, thus rendering the weapon impossible to detonate. The Arabs involved in this delivery would have in their number, a Yemeni Jew, such as the ones that instigated the 9/11 Saudi attacks, and this sleeper would carry numerous forged documents “proving” that Tehran was directly behind this planned attack.

Revelation of these documents by the fully-supportive New York Times and Washington Post would immediately swing a significant bulk of the American public behind an immediate attack on Tehran with the purpose of neutralizing its atomic weapons capacity.

This program is now on the table and undercover Israeli agents, posing as top-level Iranian operatives, have located a small group of Hizbollah in Lebanon who would be willing to deliver and prepare this device in New York or, as an alternative, Washington itself. Israeli intelligence feels that the use of Hizbollah personnel would entirely justify their obliterating Hizbollah-controlled territory in southern Lebanon that now house many thousands of long-range surface to surface missiles that could easily reach Tel Aviv and other vital Israeli targets.

This action, which has already been planned in detail, would be conducted by Israel alone and would compliment the projected American attack on Tehran. Israel stresses the fact that both attacks must be simultaneous lest a forewarned Hezbollah launch rocket attacks on Israel upon hearing of the American attack. Timing here is considered to be absolutely vital.

Both Israel and Hezbollah have accused UNIFIL of bias. Israel again accused them of failing to prevent, and even collaborating with, Hezbollah in its replenishment of military power. Hezbollah, in turn, said “certain contingents” of UNIFIL are spying for, if not assisting, Israel.

Israel has long been a serious planning for a future invasion of Lebanon and such an assault would continue attacking until both Hezbollah’s membership and their system of tunnels and bunkers was completely destroyed, because Israel will never tolerate a “zone of invulnerability” occupied by a sworn enemy, or a double threat posed by Hezbollah’s rockets.

In the event that Israeli military aircraft attack Tehran, there is the vital necessity that these Israeli military aircraft would be under great pressure to return to base at once because Israeli intelligence believes that Iran would immediately order Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli cities, and Israeli air-force resources would be needed to hunt Hezbollah rocket teams.

Israel’s Northern Command, at its headquarters near the Lebanese border, is ordered that in the event of a unilateral Israeli or American strike on Iran, their mission would be to attack and completely destroy any and all identified Hezbollah rocket forces, by any and all means necessary, to include small nuclear devices that could destroy a number of square miles of what is called ‘terrorist territory’ and render it useless as any future base of attack against Israel. At the present time the Iranians are keeping their Hezbollah firm ally in reserve until Iran can cross the nuclear threshold.

During  the years since the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon Hezbollah has greatly increased its surface-to-surface missile capability, and an American/Israeli strike on Iran, would immediately provoke all-out retaliation by Iran’s Lebanese subsidiary, Hezbollah, which now possesses, by most Israeli/American intelligence estimates, as many as 45,000 surface-to-surface rockets—at least three times as many as it had in the summer of 2006, during the last round of fighting between the group and Israel. It is further known that Russia has sent large numbers of longer range surface-to-surface missiles to Syria which has, in turn, shipped them to Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. These missiles have the capacity to easily reach Tel Aviv and Israelis are very concerned that a massive rocket barrage deep into Israel could not only do serious damage to their infrastructure but could easily provoke a mass immigration of Israelis to other areas, thus depriving Israel of both civilian and military personnel it would certainly need in the event of increased Arab military actions against Israel.

Even if Israel’s Northern Command successfully combated Hezbollah rocket attacks in the wake of an Israeli strike, which American experts have deemed to be “nearly impossible” political limitations would not allow Israel to make repeated sorties over Iran. “America, too, would look complicit in an Israeli attack, even if it had not been forewarned. The assumption—that Israel acts only with the full approval of the United States is a feature of life in the Middle East, and it is one the Israelis are taking into account. A serious danger here to Israeli attack plans would be if the United States got wind of the imminence of such an attack and demanded that Israel cease and desist in its actions. Would Israel then stop? Though highly unlikely, this is an unpleasant and unacceptable

At this time, the Israelis have drawn up specific plans to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and the Bushehr reactor, along with four other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program that have been identified by joint past and present Israeli-American aerial surveillance.

If Israeli aircraft succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, all well and good but even if  they fail to damage or destroy these targets ,such an attack is feared by American and other nations as risking a devastating change in the Middle East. Such an attack could initiate immediate reprisals such as a massed rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon as well as other actions from neighboring Muslim states.

This could become a major diplomatic crisis for President Trump that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the international price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of seriously endangering Jewish groups around the world, and especially in the United States by making them the targets of Muslim-originated terror attacks and most certainly accelerating the growing immigration of many Israelis to what they felt might be much safer areas.

An Israeli political and military consensus has now emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by December of 2010. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Trump administration. The Netanyahu government is already intensifying its analytic efforts not just on Iran, but on a subject many Israelis have difficulty understanding: President Trump.

The Israelis argue that Iran demands the urgent attention of the entire international community, and in particular the United States, with its unparalleled ability to project military force. This is the position of many moderate Arab leaders as well that if America allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, the small Arab countries of the Gulf would have no choice but to leave the American orbit and ally themselves with Iran, out of self-protection. Several Arab leaders have suggested that America’s standing in the Middle East depends on its willingness to confront Iran. They argue, self-interestedly, that an aerial attack on a handful of Iranian facilities would not be as complicated or as messy as, say, invading Iraq. The basic question then is why the Jewish state should trust the non-Jewish president of the United States to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold.

For more than a year, these White House officials have parried the charge that their president is unwilling to face the potential consequences of a nuclear Iran, and they are frustrated by what they believe to be a caricature of his position. It is undeniably true, however, that the administration has appeared on occasion less than stalwart on the issue.

One question no administration official seems eager to answer is this: what will the United States do if sanctions fail?

In Israel, of course, officials expend enormous amounts of energy to understand President Trump, despite the assurances they have received from others. Delegations from Netanyahu’s bureau, from the defense and foreign ministries, and from the Israeli intelligence community have been arriving in Washington lately with great regularity. As an alternative to cooperation by Trump, Israel, through her supporters and lobbyists in the United States are preparing to offer extensive financial and other incentives to political opponents of Trump, mostly the right-wing Republicans and American Christian groups and cults. Both of these groups are being cultivated currently with the idea that if Trump will not cooperate, the Republicans will in the future as they always have before. Also to consider is the current antipathy of American Jews for Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and these American Jews, who are, like the president they voted for in overwhelming numbers, generally supportive of a two-state solution, and dubious about Jewish settlement of the West Bank.

Both Israeli and American intelligence agencies are of the firm belief that Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability, which is the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device.. The Iranian regime, by its own statements and actions, has made itself Israel’s most zealous foe; and the most crucial component of Israeli national-security doctrine, a tenet that dates back to the 1960s, when Israel developed its own nuclear capability as a response to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, is that no regional adversary should be allowed to achieve nuclear parity with the reborn and still-besieged Jewish state, the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons and the regime’s theologically motivated desire to see the Jewish state purged from the Middle East

Patriotism in Israel runs very high, according to numerous polls, and it seemed unlikely that mere fear of Iran could drive Israel’s Jews to seek shelter elsewhere. But one leading proponent of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, If Iran crossed the nuclear threshold, the very idea of Israel as a Zionist entity would be endangered. “These people are good citizens, and brave citizens, but the dynamics of life are such that if someone has a scholarship for two years at an American university and the university offers him a third year, the parents will say, ‘Go ahead, remain there,’ If someone finishes a Ph.D. and they are offered a job in America, they might stay there. It will not be that people are running to the airport, but slowly, slowly, the decision-making on the family level will be in favor of staying abroad. The bottom line is that we would have an accelerated brain drain. And an Israel that is not based on entrepreneurship that is not based on excellence will not be the Israel of today.”

Most critically if a Zionist Israel is no longer seen by its 6 million Jewish inhabitants and also by the approximately 7 millions of Jews resident outside of Israel that because of continuing threats from outside the country as no longer a natural safe haven for Jews then the entire concept of a Zionist haven/state is destroyed

To understand why Israelis of different political dispositions see Iran as quite possibly the most crucial challenge they have faced in their 62-year history, one must keep in mind the near-sanctity, in the public’s mind, of Israel’s nuclear monopoly. The Israeli national narrative, in shorthand, begins with shoah, which is Hebrew for “calamity,” and ends with tkumah, “rebirth.” Israel’s nuclear arsenal symbolizes national rebirth, and something else as well: that Jews emerged from World War II having learned at least one lesson, about the price of powerlessness.

If Israel is unable to change Trump’s mind, they will continue to threaten to take unilateral action against Iran by sending approximately one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—by crossing Saudi Arabia, and along the border between Syria and Turkey, and, without consulting the Americans or in any way announcing their missions by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)

The first belief by Israeli military planners is that Israel would get only one try. Israeli planes would fly low over Saudi Arabia, bomb their targets in Iran, and return to Israel by flying again over Saudi territory, possibly even landing in the Saudi desert for refueling—perhaps, if speculation rife in intelligence circles is to be believed, with secret Saudi cooperation.

Israel has been working through the United States to procure Saudi cooperation with an Israeli air strike against Tehran and other targets inside Iran.. The Saudis are treating this subject with great caution lest other Arab states learn of their putative cooperation in an Iranian attack with over flights of Saudi territory by Israeli military aircraft.

The current American/Israeli military plans are for the Saudis to turn off their radar after they have been noticed by the American embassy that an Israeli attack is imminent and also to permit the Israeli aircraft to land in their country for refueling The Israelis are not concerned with any kind of Iranian aircraft resistance because their airfields have been pinpointed by American satellites and one of the attacking groups would use low-yield atomic rocketry on all the identified Iranian bases. It is obvious that when, not if, the Saudis part in this becomes public, it will create immense ill-will in neighboring Muslim states, an impression the Saudi government is most anxious not to deal with.

Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.

The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: At the present moment, Israel possesses 135 nuclear weapons, most of them  mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine (two of which are currently positioned in the Persian Gulf). Netanyahu is worried about an entire complex of problems, not only that Iran, or one of its proxies, would, in all probability, destroy or severely damage Tel Aviv; like most Israeli leaders, he believes that if Iran gains possession of a nuclear weapon, it will use its new leverage to buttress its terrorist proxies in their attempts to make life difficult and dangerous; and that Israel’s status as a haven for Jews would be forever undermined, and with it, the entire raison d’être of the 100-year-old Zionist experiment.

Another question Israeli planners struggle with: how will they know if their attacks have actually destroyed a significant number of centrifuges and other hard-to-replace parts of the clandestine Iranian program? Two strategists told me that Israel will have to dispatch commandos to finish the job, if necessary, and bring back proof of the destruction. The commandos—who, according to intelligence sources, may be launched from the autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Iraq—would be facing a treacherous challenge, but one military planner I spoke with said the army would have no choice but to send them.

Netanyahu’s obvious course is to convince the United States that Iran is not Israel’s problem alone; it is the world’s problem, and the world, led by the United States, is obligated to grapple with it, not Israel alone. It is well-known that Israel by itself could not hope to deal with a retaliation against it by Iran and other Arab states but that a confederation of other nations, led, of course, by the United States could defend Israel against her enemies. The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, does not place and credence in the current sanctions against Iran, even the ones initiated by the United States at Israel’s urgent request. Is it known that Netanayahu is not happy with President Trumps’s reluctance to support an Israeli attack on Iran and has brought a great deal of political pressure to bear on the President by American Jewish political and business groups.

Netanyahu understands, however, that President Trump, with whom he has had a warm and friendly relationship, believes that stringent sanctions, combined with various enticements to engage with the West, might still provide Iran with a face-saving method of standing down.

Israel’s current period of forbearance, in which Israel’s leadership waits to see if the West’s nonmilitary methods can stop Iran, will come to an end this December.  The American defense secretary, said at a meeting of NATO defense ministers that most intelligence estimates predict that Iran is one to three years away from building a nuclear weapon. “

One of the consistent aims of Israel is to pressure President Trump, who has said on a number of occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” into executing a military strike against Iran’s known main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.

Donald Trump is steadfastly opposed to initiating new wars in the Middle East and an attack by U.S. forces on Iran is not a foreign-policy goal for him or his administration. The Israeli goal is to compel him by public, and private, pressure to order the American military into action against Iran

President Trump has said any number of times that he would find a nuclear Iran “unacceptable.” His most stalwart comments on the subject have been discounted by some Israeli officials

If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Trump will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack

 

Air Marshals Secretly Followed an Artsy Virginia Mom on Flights to Make Sure She Wasn’t Going to Destroy America

More details emerge on TSA’s secret, suspicionless surveillance of certain American travelers.

August 20, 2018

by Scott Shackford

reason.com

Visit Turkey recently? If you have, air marshals may be snooping on you during your domestic travels.

Among the travelers followed under a secret Transportation Security Administration (TSA) program recently exposed by the Boston Globe were a professional basketball player and a social media manager for an arts and crafts company.

Neither of these women was actually suspected of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity. Nor, apparently, were thousands of others surveilled and trailed under the TSA’s Quiet Skies program, which launched in 2012 and expanded significantly this year. But Courtney Vandersloot, the basketball player, and Taylor Usry, the social media manager, were tracked by air marshals and were subjected to heightened security screening, all because they had gone to Turkey.

The Boston Globe tracked down Usry in Williamsburg, Virginia. She wasn’t spied on during her trip to Turkey, where she took some arts-and-crafts courses. It was when she returned that the surveillance began. In July she flew to Florida for work. Plainclothed air marshals followed her, kept track of everything she did, kept records of her behavior, and even rode on the flight with her down to Tampa to keep tabs on her.

That’s creepy enough, but she was also subjected to very extensive hands-on screening and security pat-downs—intrusive enough that they made her cry, she tells the Boston Globe. She also had an encounter in line with a chatty, friendly man who asked her all sorts of questions that she now sees in a new light. (Her husband thought the man was flirting with her.) She was also selected for one last “random” bag check at the gate.

Vandersloot went to Turkey to play professional basketball there. She has a work visa to do so, and she says the U.S. government knows full well what her business in the country was. She even qualified in 2016 for a program that expedites travel clearances for people who are considered low risk. Nonetheless, she tells the Globe that she was singled out for extensive searches during her domestic trips.

Civil rights and privacy groups are up in arms. The secretive surveillance appears completely unattached to anything resembling risk or threat assessment: Essentially the program calls for suspicionless surveillance of Americans for the purpose of finding out whether they’re a potential threat. Some air marshals themselves have criticized the program, not being enthusiastic about spending their time spying on people who are not under investigation for any actual wrongdoing.

But the TSA has defended the snooping and says it will continue, despite its intrusiveness, its ineffectiveness, and the fact that many of the people carrying it out think it’s a waste of time.

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