TBR News December 30, 2016

Dec 30 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. December 30, 2016: “The serious upheavals in the Middle East are due to a number of factors. The Saudi royal family wants to establish a Sunni religious empire, with themselves at the head of it naturally. Their major oil customer, the United States, has been fully cooperating with the Saudis. The latter founded IS and the US has supplied Special Forces and CIA trainers for this fanatic group. IS got their hands on Syrian oil and was shipping it, by tanker truck, to Turkey where a son of the Turkish president was selling it to the United States. Also, another factor was the anger of Israel at Syria’s Assad for allowing the Russians to ship long range missiles to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon for their use against Israel at a time known only to a few senior Hezbollah leaders. Israel wanted a new government in Syria, one that would be opposed to Russian actions. Also, Syria had leased a port facility to the Russians as a small naval base and the American war hawks found this intolerable. Ergo, we have murderous strife which, if not controlled, can expand into a major war.But Russian intervention has turned the tide in the anti-Partisan campaign and the Saudis are running out of oil and hence no longer of much interest to the United States. Times change and we must change with them.”

 Israel First or America First

December 30, 2016

by Patrick J. Buchanan


Donald Trump has a new best friend.

“President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support of Israel,” gushed Bibi Netanyahu, after he berated John Kerry in a fashion that would once have resulted in a rupture of diplomatic relations.

Netanyahu accused Kerry of “colluding” in and “orchestrating” an anti-Israel, stab-in-the-back resolution in the Security Council, then lying about it. He offered to provide evidence of Kerry’s complicity and mendacity to President Trump.

Bibi then called in the U.S. ambassador and read him the riot act for 40 minutes. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer charged that not only did the U.S. not “stand up to and oppose the gang-up” at the U.N., “the United States was actually behind that gang-up.”

When Ben Rhodes of the National Security Council called the charges false, Dermer dismissed President Obama’s man as a “master of fiction.”

Query: Why is Dermer not on a plane back to Tel Aviv?

Some of us can recall how Eisenhower ordered David Ben-Gurion to get his army out of Sinai in 1957, or face sanctions.

Ben-Gurion did as told. Had he and his ambassador castigated Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, as the Israelis dissed John Kerry, Ike would have called the U.S. ambassador home.

Indeed, Ike’s threat of sanctions against Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s government, which had also invaded Egypt, brought Eden down.

But then Dwight Eisenhower was not Barack Obama, and the America of 1956 was a more self-respecting nation.

Still, this week of rancorous exchanges between two nations that endlessly express their love for each other certainly clears the air.

While Kerry has been denounced for abstaining on the U.N. resolution calling Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem illegal and an impediment to peace, this has been U.S. policy for years.

And Kerry’s warning in his Wednesday speech that at the end of this road of continuous settlement-building lies an Israel that is either a non-Jewish or a non-democratic state is scarcely anti-Semitic.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history, has warned his countrymen, “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-Democratic.”

“If the bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote” added Barak, “this will be an apartheid state.” Of John Kerry’s speech, Barak said, “Powerful, lucid … World & majority in Israel think the same.”

Defense Secretary-designate Gen. James Mattis warned in 2013 that Israeli settlements were leading to an “apartheid” state.

After Joe Biden visited Israel in 2010, to learn that Netanyahu just approved 1,600 new units in East Jerusalem, Gen. David Petraeus warned: “Arab anger on the Palestine question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnership with governments and people in the region.”

Yet facts and reality, however unpleasant, cannot be denied.

The two-state solution is almost surely dead. Netanyahu is not going to remove scores of thousands of Jewish settlers from Judea and Samaria to cede the land to a Palestinian state. After all, Bibi opposed Ariel Sharon’s removal of 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza.

How will all this impact the new Trump administration?

Having tweeted, “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching,” and having named a militant Zionist as his ambassador, Trump is certain to tilt U.S. policy heavily toward Israel.

Politically, this will bring rewards in the U.S. Jewish community.

The Republican Party will become the “pro-Israel” party, while the Democrats can be portrayed as divided and conflicted, with a left wing that is pro-Palestine and sympathetic to sanctions on Israel.

And the problem for Trump in a full embrace of Bibi?

Britain and France, which voted for the resolution where the U.S. abstained, are going to go their separate way on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, as is the world.

Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf Arabs will be pressured by their peoples and by the militant states of the region like Iran, to distance themselves from the Americans or face internal troubles.

And once U.S. pressure ends and settlement building in the West Bank proceeds, Netanyahu, his hawkish Cabinet, the Israeli lobby, the neocons and the congressional Republicans will start beating the drums for Trump to terminate what he himself has called that “horrible Iran deal.”

Calls are already coming for the cancellation of the sale of 80 Boeing jets to Iran. Yet, any U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, or reimposition of sanctions on Iran, will further split us off from our European allies. Not only did Britain and France vote for the Security Council resolution, both are party, as is Germany, to the Iran deal.

Having America publicly reassert herself as Israel’s best friend, with “no daylight” between us, could have us ending up as Israel’s only friend – and Israel as our only friend in the Middle East.

Bibi’s Israel First policy must one day collide with America First.


Christmas Crackers, Moscow-Style

If something went wrong, Putin must have done it.

December 28, 2016

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

My wife is English, so every Christmas we include in our celebration holiday crackers. For those unfamiliar with British traditions, the crackers are cardboard tubes wrapped in decorated paper. When you pull on the ends they pop open with a bang, and inside there is a paper crown to commemorate the visit by the three kings as well as a small gift item. This year my cracker would not pop open, a failure that I chose to attribute to Vladimir Putin.

On Facebook it is possible to find numerous accounts of mishaps where someone eventually comments, “Putin did it.” It is, of course, a joke—but it is a reflection of how the Russian president has been demonized to an absurd degree both in the media and by the American political class. The recent criticism derives largely from the allegation surfaced by a Central Intelligence Agency report suggesting that Russia or its proxies hacked into email accounts relating to the recent U.S. presidential election and then exploited the information.

Initially, the story claimed that the Russians were trying to discredit and damage America’s democratic institutions but the tale soon morphed into an elaborate account of how Moscow was operating covertly to help elect Donald Trump. It is now being claimed in some circles that the Russian intervention, together with public statements by FBI Director James Comey, was decisive in defeating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and it has also been alleged that Vladimir Putin himself ordered the operation. Without a doubt, if all of that is true it is a serious matter, and calls for a thorough investigation of what took place are not misplaced.

Initially, the FBI did not agree with the still-classified CIA report, but eventually it was convinced, and the report’s conclusion has also been publicly embraced by both Hillary Clinton and the White House. Nevertheless, even though it has been nearly three weeks since the Washington Post initially reported the story, no hard evidence has been provided to identify the actual hackers or to link them to the Russian government, much less to President Vladimir Putin.

The allegation that Putin ordered the interference in America’s election is particularly troubling. As a former intelligence officer, I am aware that learning someone’s intentions is the most difficult task for a spy. Only someone in the president’s immediate circle would be privy to information that sensitive in nature, and there has been no indication that either CIA or any other Western intelligence service has that kind of agent in place. More likely, the CIA and now the White House are assuming, without any evidence, that such a high-level hack and influencing operation would have inevitably required Russian presidential approval. This assumption is certainly plausible, but it’s impossible to demonstrate, and lacking corroboration it should be considered as little more than speculation.

The most detailed examination I have seen of the alleged hack appeared at the The Intercept, concluding that the evidence for the Russian connection was “not enough.” More recently, a cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to investigate the hack has concluded that the malware detected is related to malware used by Russian military intelligence units in Ukraine. That explanation is not completely convincing, as malware, once in place, is often picked up and used by other miscreants. Also, it would be unlikely that an actual government intelligence unit would be so reckless as to leave behind its own fingerprints when there are plenty of private-sector hackers available to serve as proxies.

And other quite plausible explanations have been offered. Former British Ambassador Craig Murray claims that he met in Washington with an associate of an American who worked for the DNC who provided the information to him for passage to WikiLeaks. Murray is a collaborator of Julian Assange, who, like Murray, has denied any Russian involvement in obtaining the information that was later posted on WikiLeaks. It is significant that, if the story is true, it was a Snowden-style leak, reportedly by a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter who was outraged by DNC shenanigans to deny his man the nomination, rather than a hack that produced the relevant information. And even if the Russians or their proxies were simultaneously hacking sites connected to the U.S. elections, which might be the case, it would have been incidental to the damage being done by the leaker, which shifts the narrative considerably.

The White House could, of course, order the release of at least some of the evidence for Russian perfidy to end all the confusion, but that does not seem to be in the cards. President Barack Obama may be hesitating because he is protecting intelligence sources and methods, but he should also be aware of the fact that the continuous Russia-bashing will have consequences even if President Donald Trump does succeed in moderating the vitriol toward Moscow once he is in office.

Going after Russia has become a bipartisan sport in Washington, predictably coming from Republican senators including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, but also being pushed by Chuck Schumer and a number of other leading Democrats, if only to explain how they lost an election that appeared to be theirs for the taking. There is no indication that the situation will improve in the New Year, and one might usefully note the predictable lining up of Washington media and think tanks seeking to bait the Russian bear. The neocon Hudson Institute has two feature articles entitled “Putin is no partner on terrorism” and “How President Obama can retaliate against Russia,” while the American Enterprise Institute posts an article by Leon Aron headlined “Don’t Be Putin’s Useful Idiot.”

And the frenzy about Russia is also letting some of the loonies out of the closet. Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, a Hillary Clinton foreign-policy advisor, claimed before the election that Putin had recruited Trump as an “unwitting agent” of the Russian Federation. He also called for covertly killing Russians and Iranians in Syria to send a message, and he is now declaring that the alleged Russian hack is the “political equivalent of 9/11,” demanding a similar robust response. He identifies several ways he might have reacted in Obama’s shoes, including carrying out a major cyberattack, initiating devastating sanctions, and arming Ukrainians and encouraging others hostile to Moscow. In any event, his approach would have “two key pieces to it. One is it’s got to be overt. It needs to be seen. A covert response would significantly limit the deterrence effect. If you can’t see it, it’s not going to deter the Chinese and North Koreans and Iranians and others, so it’s got to be seen. The second, is that it’s got to be significant from Putin’s perspective. He has to feel some pain, he has to pay a price here or again, there will be no deterrence, and it has to be seen by the rest of the world as being significant to Mr. Putin so that it can be a deterrent.”

Morell seems oblivious to the fact that an overt attack on Russia by either cyber or conventional means is the equivalent of war, in this case without any hard evidence being produced that Moscow actually did anything. Unfortunately, Morell is not alone in seeking a vigorous response to Russia heedless of the fact that the one imperative interest that Washington should have in common with Moscow is to avoid crises that might escalate into a nuclear exchange. Those who are fulminating most effusively about Russia should perhaps step back and reflect on the fact that they do not actually know what happened with the DNC computers. And while Vladimir Putin’s Russia might not be to everyone’s taste, dealing realistically and cautiously with a powerful foreign leader who is not completely to one’s liking just might be better than starting World War III.

Russia will not expel anyone in response to U.S. sanctions, Putin says

December 30, 2016

by Polina Devitt and Polina Nikolskaya


MOSCOW-President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would not expel anyone in response to Washington’s decision to throw out 35 suspected Russian spies and sanction intelligence agencies it believes were involved in computer hacking in the 2016 presidential election.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier proposed expelling 35 U.S. diplomats after outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the expulsions and sanctions on Thursday.

But Putin said he would wait for the actions of President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on Jan. 20, before deciding on any further steps in relations with the United States.

“We will not expel anyone,” Putin said in a statement on Friday. “While keeping the right for retaliatory measures, we will not descend to the level of ‘kitchen’, irresponsible diplomacy.”

He even invited the children of U.S. diplomats to a party in the Kremlin.

It was not clear whether Trump, who has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, would seek to roll back the measures which mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested that Trump could reverse them when he takes over the White House.

“Further steps towards the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out,” said Putin.

In a separate message of New Year congratulations to Trump, he said Russia-U.S. relations were an important factor for maintaining global safety and stability.

The U.S. sanctions also closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that the administration said were used by Russian personnel for “intelligence-related purposes”.

However, a former Russian Foreign Ministry employee told Reuters that the facility in Maryland was a dacha used by diplomatic staff and their children.

Lavrov also proposed banning U.S. diplomats from using a dacha in Moscow’s prestigious waterfront park area, Serebryany Bor.

But Putin said Russia would not prohibit U.S. diplomats and their families from their usual vacation spots. “Moreover, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas party in the Kremlin,” he said.

Obama, a Democrat, had promised consequences after U.S. intelligence officials blamed Russia for hacks intended to influence the 2016 election. Officials pointed the finger directly at Putin for personally directing the efforts and primarily targeting Democrats.

Washington put sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies that he said “provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations”.


Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was more outspoken in his criticism. “It is regrettable that the Obama administration, which started out by restoring our ties, is ending its term in an anti-Russia death throes. RIP,” he wrote on his official Facebook page.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration “a group of embittered and dimwitted foreign policy losers”.

Obama said Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions in the U.S. election.

“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” he said in a statement from Hawaii, where he is on vacation.

The sanctions were the strongest response yet by the his administration to Russian cyber activities. However, a senior administration official acknowledged that Trump could reverse them and allow Russian intelligence officials back into the United States once he takes office.

Trump has brushed aside allegations from the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the cyber attacks. He said on Thursday he would meet with intelligence officials soon. “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation,” he said, without mentioning Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the Nov. 8 presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Fox News he did not condone foreign governments hacking U.S. institutions.

“It’s wrong and it’s something we don’t agree with,” Priebus said. “However, it would be nice if we could get to a place where the intelligence community in unison can tell us what it is that has been going on and what the investigation was and what it has led to so that we can respond.”


Obama said the State Department declared as “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives and was closing the two Russian compounds. The 45-acre complex in Maryland includes a Georgian-style brick mansion, swimming pool, tennis courts and cottages for embassy staff.

A senior U.S. official told Reuters the expulsions would come from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco.

The Russians have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday.

The State Department has long complained that Russian security agents and traffic police have harassed U.S. diplomats in Moscow, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the issue with Putin and Lavrov.

The U.S. official declined to name the Russian diplomats who would be affected, although it is understood that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, will not be one of those expelled.

Obama said the actions announced on Thursday were just the beginning.

“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” Obama said.

A report detailing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election as well as cyber attacks in previous election cycles would be delivered to Congress in the coming days, he added.

(Additional reporting by Dustin Volz, Yeganeh Torbati, Eric Beech and Nikolai Pavlov in Washington and Katya Golubkova and Svetlana Reiter in Moscow; Writing by Anna Willard; Editing by David Stamp)

Continued settlement construction will lead to Israel’s demise – Iran Revolutionary Guard

December 30, 2016


As the dust settles on a UN resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlement building in occupied Palestinian territory, Iran has come out with a statement saying that Israel will pay dearly for continuing with the construction.

A spokesman for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said that, by going ahead with settlements, the Israeli regime is risking “complete destruction,” as it will “definitely provoke a reaction,” as quoted by Tasnim news agency.

The rhetoric from Iran comes a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry had criticized Israel’s activities in occupied Palestine, while playing down the United States’ role in facilitating the passage of the UN Security Council’s anti-settlement resolution.

Washington chose to abstain from voting at a Security Council meeting last Friday, when members voted to condemn the illegal construction. The Iranian spokesman hailed the move as a “sign that Washington has come to realize the course of events and continued settlement construction will result in the collapse of the Zionist regime of Israel.”

The resolution was upheld with 14 votes in favor. While the US didn’t vote for the resolution, it didn’t veto it either, which is seen by some as a landmark change, given that Washington has blocked virtually every attempt to criticize Israel at the United Nations for decades.

Israel took control of Palestine in 1967, and has since faced mounting criticism of its occupation, which has included the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Though the UN maintains that the settlements are illegal, construction has only been stepped up over the last year.

Some 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank, with another 200,000 calling occupied East Jerusalem home – a city that the Palestinians also view as their own capital.

In his recent comments, Kerry sharply criticized Tel Aviv, asserting that Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territory have “nothing to do with Israel’s security,” as Israel often claims.

Kerry argued that, without a two-state solution, “Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace.”


Via Harry von Johnston, PhD

[This is a restricted internal development mailinglist for w-i-k-i-l-e-a-k-s-.-o-r-g.

Please do not mention that word directly in these discussions; refer instead to ‘WL’.

This list is housed at riseup.net, an activist collective in Seattle with an established lawyer

and plenty of backbone.]

wikileaks.org, wikileaks.cn, wikileaks.info done

Domain Name:WIKILEAKS.ORG (etc)

Created On:04-Oct-2006 05:54:19 UTC

Last Updated On:04-Oct-2006 06:45:38 UTC

Expiration Date:04-Oct-2007 05:54:19 UTC

Sponsoring Registrar:Dynadot, LLC (R1266-LROR)


Registrant ID:CP-10335

Registrant Name:John Young c/o Dynadot Privacy

Registrant Street1:PO Box 1072

Registrant Street2:

Registrant Street3:

Registrant City:Belmont

Registrant State/Province:CA

Registrant Postal Code:94002

Registrant Country:US

Registrant Phone:+1.6505851961

Registrant Phone Ext.:

Registrant FAX:

Registrant FAX Ext.:

Registrant Email:privacy@dynadot.com

To: Daniel Ellsberg

From: Wikileaks

Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2006 20:42:37 +1100

This is a restricted internal development mailinglist for w-i-k-i-l-e-a-k-s-.-o-r-g. Please do not mention that word directly in these discussions; refer instead to ‘WL’. This list is housed at riseup.net, an activist collective in Seattle with an established lawyer and plenty of backbone.

Dear Mr. Ellsberg.

We have followed with interest and delight your recent statements on document leaking.

We have come to the conclusion that fomenting a world wide movement of mass leaking is the most cost effective political intervention available to us* We believe that injustice is answered by good governance and for there to be good governance there must be open governance.

Governance by stealth is governance by conspiracy and fear. Fear, because without it, secrecy does not last for long. Retired generals and diplomats are vociferous, but those in active service hold their tune.

Lord Action said, “Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity”.

This degeneration comes about because when injustice is concealed, including plans for future injustice, it cannot be addressed. When governance is closed, man’s eyes become cataracts. When governance is open, man can see and so act to move the world towards a more just state; for instance see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reporters_Without_Borders which shows a striking correlation between press freedom and countries known for their quality of life.

Here is a beginning listing of persons that can materially advance our purposes and we now consider to be “for us*: some attributes may have been swapped to protect selected  identities, no particular order.

1) Retired new york architect and notorious intelligence leak   facilitator (John Young- Cryptome)

2) Euro cryptographer/programmer

3) Pacific physicist and illustrator

4) A pacific author and economic policy lecturer

5) UK, Ex-Cambridge mathematician/cryptographer/programmer

6) Swiss businessman and security specialist/activist

7) Author of software than runs 40% of the world’s websites.

8) US pure mathematician with criminal law background

9) An infamous US ex-hacker

10) Asian cryptographer/physicist and activist

11) US/euro cryptographer and activist/programmer

12) Pacific/Asian programmer

13) Pacific/Asian architect / foreign policy wonk

14) Senior level US intelligence SIGINT specialist. COSMIC and GALATIC

New technology and cryptographic ideas permit us to not only encourage document leaking, but to facilitate it directly on a mass scale. We intend to place a new star in the political firmament of man.

We are building an uncensorizable branch of Wikipedia for leaked documents and the civic institutions & social perceptions necessary to defend and promote it. We have received over 1 million documents from 13 countries, despite not having publicly launched yet!

We have approached you now for two reasons.

Firstly, we have crossed over from `prospective’ to `projective’. The basic technology has been prototyped and we have a view as how we must proceed politically and legally. We need to move and inspire people, gain volunteers, funding, further set up the necessary political-legal defenses and deploy. Since you have thought about leaking more than anyone we know, we would like you on board. We’d like your advice and we’d like you to form part of our political armor. The more armor we have, particularly in the form of men and women sanctified by age, history and class, the more we can act like brazen young men and get away with it.

Secondly, we would like to award “The Ellsburg Prize for Courageous Action” and “The Ellsburg Prize for Courageous Action (USA)”, for the two leaks submitted in the past year which most assist humanity. The regionalization of the second prize is to encourage patrons of similar awards in other countries. Although it is premature to go into detail, we have designed a scheme were this can be meaningfully awarded to anonymous leakers. We have been pledged substantial initial funding.

Please tell us your thoughts. If you are happy, we will add you to our internal mailinglist, contacts, etc.



I wonder if that letter to Ellsberg has been routed to somewhere  other than the spam bucket. Can someone step forward to chase down his postal address? Perhaps one of our bay area people?

Any other suggestions? xxxxxx noted that Psyphon [poorly chosen name!],  a sort of poor mans tor/i2p lulled Soros and a bunch of others into  giving them US$3,000,000 for development. As some of you may know we  were recently leaked the entire Davos (World Economic Forum)

attendees contacts list, which has Soros, Sergi-Brin, any many others on it.

Presumably one of the reasons Psyphon was able to get these $ was its  affilication with some Canadian uni — makes donors feel safe. We  have some people with affiliations, but that’s not quite the same thing.

WL has developed and integrated technology to fomen tuntracable, unstoppable mass document leaking and discussion. Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in china, russia and central eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact; this means our technology is fast and usable by non-technical people. We have

received over a million documents of varying quality. We plan to numerically eclipse the content the english wikipedia with leaked documents. We believe that the increasing familiarity with wikipedia.org provides a comfortable transition to those who wish to leak documents and comment on leaked documents.

We feel that per hour spent this provides the greatest positive impact on the world and ourselves that is within our means to achieve.


  1. We can always use additional assistance, any ideas, let us know.

We are also looking for stable and trustworthy document drop-offs in

different countries. There are two types of drop-offs:

1) deniable

2) regular

A deniable drop off will receive a leaked CD/DVD/thumbdrive with encrypted information to which they do not have the key. Their job is to simply upload this to WL. Since at no time do they have access to the information they can not later be held to be knowingly concerned with its contents.

A regular drop off is willing to receive and upload both deniable media, regular digital media and printed documents. In the case of printed documents, they are expected to scan/ocr the documents or if there prove to be too many, forward some on to a regular drop off.

Is riseup interested in being the location of one of the US drop-offs? We have one in NY, one in CA. Seattle and washington would probably make a full US complement.

How will WikiLeaks operate?

To the user, WikiLeaks will look very much like wikipedia. Anybody can post to it, anybody can edit it. No technical knowledge is required. Leakers can post documents anonymously and untraceably. Users can publicly discuss documents and analyze their credibility and veracity. Users can discuss interpretations and context and collaboratively formulate collective publications. Users can read and write explanatory articles on leaks along with background material and context. The political relevance of documents and their verisimilitude will be revealed by a cast of thousands.

WikiLeaks will be the outlet for every government official, every bureaucrat, every corporate worker, who becomes privy to embarrassing information which the institution wants to hide but the public needs to know. What conscience cannot contain, and institutional secrecy unjustly conceals, WikiLeaks can broadcast to the world.

WikiLeaksreduces the risk to potential leakers and improves the analysis and dissemination of leaked documents.

website hosted on a Google server

WikiLeaks provides simple and straightforward means for anonymous and untraceable leaking of documents.

WikiLeaks is an uncensorable version of wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. It combines the protection and anonymity of cutting-edge cryptographic technologies with the transparency and simplicity of a wiki interface.

Wikia was founded by Angela Beesley and Jimmy Wales, originally under  the name “Wikicities”, in October 2004. It celebrated its first birthday on November 2, 2005. Wikicities relaunched as “Wikia” in  March 2006 Administrative Contact:Wales, Jimmy  jasonr@bomis.com

Wikia Inc.

200 2nd Ave. S

Suite 306

St. Petersburg, Florida 33701

United States


‘Ad hoc attempts to salvage work’ – Obama’s final days in office

From expelling diplomats to defying Israel, Barack Obama has made significant policy decisions before the end of his term. But the moves have raised questions about his administration before his successor takes over.

December 30, 2016


Weeks before the end of his second term, US President Barack Obama has made significant policy decisions, including expelling Russian diplomats and allowing a UN resolution criticizing Israeli settlement activities to pass.

Obama’s decisions have raised questions as to whether they are aimed at solidifying his legacy in his final days in office or if they represent an attempt to block President-elect Donald Trump from reversing his policy decisions.

Irwin Collier, director of the John F. Kennedy Institute at the Free University of Berlin, told DW that the Obama administration had effectively operated on the basis that his successor would have been former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and that she would have carried on with policies formulated under his tenure.

“President Obama and his administration doubtless labored up through the presidential election under the presumption – with the benefit of hindsight one might say ‘illusion,’ that Hillary Clinton would become the 45th President of the United States,” Collier told DW.

However, the divisive November election witnessed Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire and real estate mogul, outperform his rival in key battleground states, making him the next US president.

“Now, instead of handing off sets of policy initiatives that would span the administrations, what we are witnessing are ad hoc attempts to salvage work begun and/or completed during Obama’s two terms,” he added.

Not that big of a deal’

The outgoing president announced on Thursday the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closure of two compounds used by Russian intelligence operatives in response to alleged interference in the US presidential elections.

But Steven Fish, politics professor at the University of California, Berkeley told DW that although they appear to be a momentous decision by the administration, “it’s the kind of thing you would expect in this kind of situation.”

“The sanctions aren’t really that serious in terms of the effect they are going to have on Russia,” said Steven Fish. “These are people who the United States have known for some time are spies. Applying sanctions to intelligence agencies in Russia that were involved in this kind of spying, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s rather symbolic.”

“What Obama is trying to do now is basically to protect the United States from Trump, not protect the United States from Putin,” he added.

Collier noted that it also served Trump’s interest by placing him in a better negotiating position when he takes office on January 20.

“With regard to the sanctions for the ‘cybergate’ break-ins of Russia and the ‘electionized’ use of the illegally obtained information by a foreign power, President Obama is actually doing President-elect Trump a favor, namely it allows Trump to play ‘good cop’ to Obama’s ‘bad cop,'” Collier said.

American-Russian relations have soured since Moscow illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 in the wake of pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster.

Abstention for Israel

Another policy decision that raised questions concerning Obama’s final days in office was the US’ abstention on the UN Security Council resolution that strongly criticizes Israeli settlement activity.

While the US views Israel as a key ally in the Middle East, offering more than $3 billion (2.84 billion euros) in military aid in 2015, the Obama administration has faced challenges attempting to revive peace talks, which it says will continue to be blocked by settlement activity.

However, the abstention at the UN Security Council vote last week marked a shift from Washington’s traditional veto of resolutions targeting Israel.

“One can say that the US was put in a position to say something now, rather than hold its tongue for however long the Trump presidency will control US foreign policy,” Collier said.

In a marked policy shift, Trump has vowed to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would undermine any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. East Jerusalem is cited as the future capital of a Palestinian state, according to UN resolutions.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have vowed to reverse any “midnight” decision taken during Obama’s administration in the wake of the presidential election, a moment often labeled the “lame duck” period.

German govt says it has no proof Russia trying to hack upcoming elections

December 30, 2016


German government has officially admitted that it has no solid evidence that Russia is planning to interfere into the Germany’s upcoming federal parliamentary elections in 2017 as it answered a request from an MP amid ongoing anti-Russian hysteria.

All accusations against Russia concerning its potential meddling with the German parliamentary elections, which are due to be held in September 2017, are just “assumptions” based on the claims of the US politicians that Russian hackers interfered into the US elections via DNC email hacks.

The federal government particularly refers to the fact that it was revealed in July 2016 that a successful hacking attack, which resulted in a subsequent data theft, was carried out on the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the central committee of the Democratic Party of the United States,” the German government’s official answer to the request filed by the German MP from the Left Party, Andrej Hunko, says.

At the same time, the answer, prepared by the German Interior Ministry, stresses that the government has no evidence of Russia’s meddling with the results of the Brexit referendum, in which slightly more than a half of the British citizens supported the idea of leaving the EU.

“The federal government has no evidence of the alleged Russian hacking attack aimed at influencing the results of the Brexit vote in the UK,” the statement says.

Hunko filed an official request to the government, asking it to explain “what shaky or solid evidence the government has that allow it to state that ‘Russian intelligence’ is allegedly planning to ‘interfere with’ the federal elections in the coming year ‘through cyberattacks.’”

“The answer of the Interior Ministry about the alleged Russian state-sponsored cyber-attacks shows that such accusations do not stand up to scrutiny,” the MP told RT Deutsch, adding that “no [Russia’s] plans to interfere into the parliamentary elections” are apparently known to the German government.

“The government is unable to prove [its claims concerning] the Russian ‘disinformation’ [campaign],” he added. Later, he said that his request was prompted by an ongoing massive anti-Russian campaign waged by the German politicians and the media.

“There are a lot of articles in the German media claiming that Russia will interfere into the upcoming federal elections next year. I asked the government … if there is any proof [of such allegations]. And the answer is that there is no real evidence [of that],” Hunko told RT.

“They did not get any proof but got only indications concerning the DNC leak. So, now, it is official that they do not have any proofs and this debate could be stopped in Germany,” he added.

Anti-Russian scaremongering campaign

German newspapers indeed repeatedly came out with provocative headlines that fueled anti-Russian sentiments. In December, a number of German media published articles speculating about possible Russian hacking attacks aimed at meddling with the German parliamentary election results.

Neue Osnabrueckener Zeitung posed a rhetoric question whether Russian hackers can manipulate parliamentary elections while Die Zeit daily reported about a German intelligence chief, who warned of sabotage attempts from Russia.

Meanwhile, the FAZ daily claimed that Russia had already hacked secret files from the Bundestag – the lower house of the German parliament – citing unidentified security sources. On Friday, Stuttgarter Zeitung raised the issue of “fear of falsifications” that could be a result of the Russian hackers’ attack on Germany.

In late November, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also implied that Russian hackers could be behind some attacks in Germany. Speaking about the hacking attacks on major German telecommunications group Deutsche Telecom, which hit some 900,000 of the company’s customers, she alluded to a link between the incident and Russia.

“Such cyberattacks, or hybrid conflicts as they are known in Russian doctrine, are now part of daily life and we must learn to cope with them,” she said at that time.

Earlier in November, she said that handling “internet attacks that are of Russian origin or with news which sows false information” has become a “daily task,” adding that “it may be that this could also play a role during the election campaign.”

Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, then claimed that his agency has evidence that Russia may have manipulated the vote during the 2016 US election. “The perpetrators are interested in delegitimizing the democratic process as such, no matter who that subsequently helps,” he claimed, commenting on the issue.

However, even the US security services are still unable to provide a solid evidence of Russia’s hacking attacks on the US as the latest report on “Russian malicious cyber activity” features the actual words “Russia” and “Russian” are mentioned only three times, with just 11 instances of “RIS” – a custom, catch-all acronym standing for “Russian Intelligence Services” without naming any.

It also provides no clear evidence of connection between the hacker groups allegedly involved in cyber-attacks in the US and Russian intelligence services. Instead, the document features a disclaimer saying that “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.”

However, the fact that the evidence of Russia’s involvement in any cyber-attacks on US territory is still rather shaky did not stop the White House and Treasury Department from imposing new sanctions against Russia over the alleged hacking of US elections.

On Thursday, Obama issued sanctions against six Russian nationals and five institutions, including the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). At the same time, the US expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.

In response, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “such actions of the US current administration are a manifestation of an unpredictable and even aggressive foreign policy” and expressed regret over the fact that “the fact that this decision was taken by the US administration and President Obama personally.”

FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report: A Fatally Flawed Effort

December 30, 2016

by Jeffrey Carr


The FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report (JAR) “Grizzly Steppe” was released yesterday as part of the White House’s response to alleged Russian government interference in the 2016 election process. It adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacking the DNC, the DCCC, the email accounts of Democratic party officials, or for delivering the content of those hacks to Wikileaks.

It merely listed every threat group ever reported on by a commercial cybersecurity company that is suspected of being Russian-made and lumped them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection exists.

A common misconception of “threat group” is that refers to a group of people. It doesn’t. Here’s how ESET describes SEDNIT, one of the names for the threat group known as APT28, Fancy Bear, etc. This definition is found on p.12 of part two “En Route with Sednit: Observing the Comings and Goings”:

As security researchers, what we call “the Sednit group” is merely a set of software and the related network infrastructure, which we can hardly correlate with any specific organization.

Unlike Crowdstrike, ESET doesn’t assign APT28/Fancy Bear/Sednit to a Russian Intelligence Service or anyone else for a very simple reason. Once malware is deployed, it is no longer under the control of the hacker who deployed it or the developer who created it. It can be reverse-engineered, copied, modified, shared and redeployed again and again by anyone. In other words — malware deployed is malware enjoyed!

In fact, the source code for X-Agent, which was used in the DNC, Bundestag, and TV5Monde attacks, was obtained by ESET as part of their investigation!

During our investigations, we were able to retrieve the complete Xagent source code for the Linux operating system. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time this Xagent source code has been found and documented by security researchers.

This source code is a fully working C++ project, which was used by Sednit operators to compile a binary in July 2015 (at least).

If ESET could do it, so can others. It is both foolish and baseless to claim, as Crowdstrike does, that X-Agent is used solely by the Russian government when the source code is there for anyone to find and use at will.

Where’s the Evidence?

If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified.

If it’s classified, an independent commission should review it because this entire assignment of blame against the Russian government is looking more and more like a domestic political operation run by the White House that relied heavily on questionable intelligence generated by a for-profit cybersecurity firm with a vested interest in selling “attribution-as-a-service”.

Russia-US row: Trump praises Putin amid hacking expulsions

December 30, 2016

BBC News

US President-elect Donald Trump has praised Vladimir Putin after the Russian president ruled out a tit-for-tat response to the expulsion of diplomats in a row over hacking.

Mr Trump tweeted: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”

Mr Putin had earlier said Russia would not stoop to “irresponsible diplomacy”.

Washington expelled 35 diplomats over hacking related to the US election. Moscow denies any involvement.

Mr Trump emphasised his statement on the row by pinning his tweet to the top of his account.

It was unclear exactly what he was referring to with the term “delay”

He has previously dismissed the hacking claims as “ridiculous” and said that Americans should “get on with our lives” when asked about the possibility of sanctions.

However, speaking before Mr Putin’s decision, Mr Trump did say he would meet US intelligence chiefs next week to be “updated on the facts of this situation”.

His senior aide Kellyanne Conway said on Thursday: “Even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote ‘box in’ President-elect Trump.

“That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”

The contrast between the words of the president and those of the president-elect could not be more stark.

Siding with a foreign adversary instead of the sitting president is a dramatic departure from normal diplomatic practice during this transition phase.

And Donald Trump may find himself alone in his admiration. President Obama has broad bipartisan support for his actions and a full hearing to discuss the hacking allegations has been scheduled in Congress next week.

Stolen emails

Under the US action:

◾Thirty-five diplomats from Russia’s Washington embassy and its consulate in San Francisco were given 72 hours to leave the US with their families

◾ Two properties said to have been used by Russian intelligence services in New York and Maryland were closed

◾Sanctions were announced against nine entities and individuals including two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB

Barack Obama, who will be replaced by Donald Trump on 20 January, had vowed action against Russia amid US accusations that it directed cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Emails stolen from her campaign manager and from the servers of the Democratic National Committee – some containing embarrassing information for Democrats – were released during the election campaign.

In a statement on the Kremlin website (in Russian), Mr Putin said: “We won’t be expelling anyone.

“We won’t be banning their families and children from the places where they usually spend the New Year holidays. Furthermore, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas Tree in the Kremlin.”

The Russian president wished Barack Obama and his family a happy New Year, as well as Mr Trump and “the whole American people”.

Mr Putin’s comments rebuffed his foreign ministry which had reportedly suggested expelling 31 US diplomats from Moscow and four from St Petersburg.

It also suggested banning US diplomats from their dachas (holiday homes) in Serebryany Bor near Moscow and a warehouse on Moscow’s Dorozhnaya Street.

There has been no response yet to Mr Putin’s move from the Obama administration.

However, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, described the Russian hacking as an “act of war”.

“And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.”

He said a lot more needed to be done in response to the hacking, with many sanctions possible.

After helping a fraction of homeowners expected, Obama’s foreclosure prevention program is finally ending

December 30, 2016

by Renae Merle

The Washington Post

When the Obama administration announced a massive effort to help distressed homeowners in 2009,  it set high expectations. The program, government officials said, would keep up to 4 million borrowers out of foreclosure.

“It will give millions of families resigned to financial ruin a chance to rebuild,” President Obama said at an event announcing the effort. “By bringing down the foreclosure rate, it will help shore up housing prices for everyone.”

Six years later, Obama is preparing to leave office and the Home Affordable Modification Program is scheduled to accept its final applications on Friday having helped a small fraction of the homeowners government officials initially expected. About 1.6 million borrowers have seen their mortgage payments lowered through the program so far, but about a third of those people eventually fell behind on their payments again.

“The president set out an ambitious goal that wasn’t met,” said Kevin Stein, deputy director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a housing advocacy group. “It was definitely a step forward and step in the right direction, but it didn’t [reach its goal] and a lot of people ended up falling through the cracks.”

HAMP is one of the last remnants of the $700 billion taxpayer bailout effort, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP, put in place during the financial crisis. Some of that money, about $28 billion, was carved out to help distressed homeowners by paying banks to lower their interest rates and monthly payments.

It was launched in the midst of one of the deepest housing crises in U.S. history. Millions of people had taken out subprime loans that they could no longer afford, sending foreclosure rates to record levels.

The Obama administration set out to save more homeowners from foreclosure, but the effort has been bedeviled by complaints that banks repeatedly lost homeowners’ paperwork or incorrectly told them that they didn’t qualify for help. The Treasury Department didn’t act quickly enough to force banks to abide by the rules of the program, housing advocates have said. Nearly 70 percent of the homeowners who applied for the program were rejected, according to government data.

A 2014 report examined the record of four large mortgage servicers and found that black and Hispanic borrowers were denied entry into the program at a “significantly higher” rate. “Borrowers in substantially minority areas had at least 3 percent higher denial rates than their comparison populations of borrowers in nonsubstantially minority areas,” according to the Government Accountability Office. “Statistical differences in outcomes among population groups might suggest potential fair lending concerns that merit further examination.”

The banking industry has defended its performance, noting that some of the money it receives through HAMP is passed on to investors and borrowers, who receive incentives for paying their mortgages on time. HAMP was a complicated program, industry executives have said, and it took time to develop a protocol for judging when a borrower should qualify and how much help to give them.

Many of the program’s early problems reflect its complexity, said Justin Wiseman, director of loan administration policy at the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry group. “It’s incredibly difficult to design a program in the midst of a crisis,” he said. In the end, HAMP “did help millions of homeowners and created awareness” about the availability of loan modifications.

Even critics of the program note that despite falling short of expectations HAMP forced the banking industry to change its approach toward distressed borrowers. Before the program, banks all had different approaches to helping borrowers who were behind on their mortgage payments. Some simply added a homeowners’ overdue amount to their current payments, increasing rather than lowering their payments. Others refused to discuss helping a borrower until they were 90 days delinquent.

“It was really the wild wild West,” Stein said.

The government program lifted industry standards and set common expectations that banks adopted even when operating outside HAMP, said Alys Cohen, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center. “Many homeowners got similar types of modifications directly through their mortgage company and those were modeled on the HAMP program,” Cohen said.

About 1 million borrowers have HAMP loan modifications, which typically lower their payments about $500 a month. After being extended three times, the program, which was originally scheduled to expire in 2012, will stop taking applications on Friday.

The program “changed how mortgage servicers handled homeowners in distress; not only by developing a template for loan modifications focused on affordability but also by creating and enforcing standards of care that have been widely adopted by the entire industry,” a Treasury Department spokesman said.

The program was expanded over time to include helping lower how much homeowners owed in some cases, in addition to lowering their payments, and to help people who are unemployed, a Treasury Department official noted. Another part of Obama’s foreclosure prevention effort, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, has also been repeatedly extended as it has struggled to reach as many people as initially hoped.

That program allows people who owe more than their home is worth, known as being “underwater,” to refinance into a loan at a lower interest rate. So far, about 3 million homeowners have used that program. The Obama administration initially expected up to 5 million. It is now scheduled to expire in September 2017.

For the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or SIGTARP, the chief watchdog of the financial crisis-era bailouts, the end of the HAMP application process doesn’t diminish its worries. Banks will continue to receive billions in incentive payments for helping borrowers who signed up for HAMP for seven years. Wells Fargo, which has received $1.8 billion through the program, is eligible for up to $1.5 billion in bailout funds over the next seven years, for example. JPMorgan and Bank of America, which have received $1.9 billion and $1.4 billion respectively, could receive about $1 billion each over the next few years.

Many of these banks have repeatedly broken the rules of the program, including kicking homeowners out unfairly or making it too difficult to apply for the help, according to the agency.

“While HAMP did not live up to expectations, the most important thing going forward is to protect from fraud, waste and abuse the nearly one million people with lowered interest rates in the program and the billions of dollars Treasury will continue to pay to mortgage servicers,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, special inspector general for TARP.

Commentary: Aleppo’s fall will change U.S. and Russian roles in Syria

December 21, 2016

by Mohamad Bazzi


On Dec. 19, the United Nations Security Council unanimously called for U.N. officials to observe the stalled evacuation of thousands of residents and fighters from the last rebel-held districts in the city of Aleppo, a process that began four days earlier. With President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its allies regaining full control over Syria’s largest city, the nearly six-year-old Syrian civil war is entering a new phase.

Assad and his allies – including Russia, Iran and various Shi’ite militias from Lebanon and Iraq – had imposed a long siege, including air strikes and intensive shelling, on the rebel-controlled parts of Aleppo. Assad signaled that he would take advantage of his opponents’ weakness, and move against other rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

But Assad’s forces, which are overextended and depleted after years of fighting, have had trouble keeping control of territory in other parts of Syria. On Dec. 11, Islamic State militants recaptured the historic city of Palmyra, nine months after Syrian regime troops drove the jihadists out of the UNESCO World Heritage site, where they had terrorized residents and destroyed ancient monuments.

The fall of Palmyra shows that Islamic State is far from beaten – and it’s poised to take advantage of Syrian, Russian and Iranian military resources stretched thin throughout Syria. It also underscores that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump faces a complex task in trying to keep his campaign pledge to defeat the group, especially in Syria.

After the fall of eastern Aleppo, there are signs of an emerging division of labor in Syria between the incoming Trump administration and that of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia would continue its intensive air strikes and logistical aid to help Assad recapture territory from rebels, while the United States would take the lead in the fight against Islamic State. On Dec. 10, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the Pentagon would send 200 additional Special Forces to Syria – for a total of 500 U.S. troops on the ground – to help train and advise Syrian opposition groups who are fighting Islamic State, especially around the city of Raqqa.

The Syrian civil war has expanded into a regional proxy war involving Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States. Russia and Iran, which are the Syrian’s regime two main backers, have mainly targeted rebel factions opposed to Assad, rather than trying to dislodge Islamic State from its bastions. Soon after the war started in 2011, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States began supporting various rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime. More recently, Washington has intensified air strikes and deployed Special Forces to mobilize Syrian opposition groups, mainly led by Kurdish militias, to oust the jihadists from Raqqa.

The Obama administration has coordinated militarily with Russia to a limited extent, but it criticized Moscow for entering the war to prop up Assad and failing to devote significant resources to fighting Islamic State. Trump, on the other hand, has made clear that he doesn’t see removing Assad as a U.S. priority, and he signaled a greater willingness to work with Russia. Assad is clearly pleased with the new administration, declaring in a recent TV interview: “If Trump can genuinely fight against terrorism, he can be our natural ally.”

But from the Syrian and Russian perspective, that alliance means relying on Washington to lead the fight against Islamic State, which neither Assad nor his backers view as urgent as recapturing rebel-held territory.

Already, Pentagon officials say they would be prepared to strike Islamic State in Palmyra, if Russian and Syrian forces fail to retake the city soon. U.S. officials say they’re concerned that the jihadists acquired powerful weaponry when they captured the city from Syrian troops, including armored vehicles and air defense systems. “If the Russians and the regime don’t strike it [weaponry], we will,” Lt. General Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. military commander in charge of the coalition against Islamic State, said at Dec. 14 news conference.

Pentagon officials cautioned that Syrian and Russian forces were too focused on the offensive against rebels in Aleppo, and they allowed Islamic State to easily recapture Palmyra. “They failed to consolidate their gains and got distracted by other things that they were doing and took their eye off the ball there,” Townsend said.

As soon as he’s inaugurated on Jan. 20, Trump will face a crucial decision: Will he continue the Pentagon’s support and training for the coalition of Syrian rebel groups which is leading a ground offensive to oust Islamic State from its self-declared capital in Raqqa? That campaign began in early November with a mobilization of about 30,000 Syrian rebels to encircle Raqqa, and close off the jihadists’ resupply routes for weapons and fighters from neighboring Iraq. The U.S.-backed rebels are now about 15 miles from the city, but the battle could take months, as it has in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where tens of thousands of troops are trying to dislodge several thousand militants.

The fledgling Trump administration wants to avoid becoming mired in Syria’s complicated war, and has signaled that it wants Russia to continue taking the lead. But other powers might try to drag Washington deeper into the conflict, or use it to project strength, or to distract Trump from other goals, such as his insistence on dismantling the Iran nuclear deal.

Iranian leaders are claiming a large stake of the military victory in Aleppo, and boasting that Assad’s regime would have been unable to retake the city without support from Iran and its allies, especially the Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah. Some Iranian officials are also using the Aleppo triumph to send a message to the Trump administration about Tehran’s influence in the region.

“Aleppo was liberated thanks to a coalition between Iran, Syria, Russia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah,” Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, said in Tehran on Dec. 14. “Iran is on one side of this coalition, which is approaching victory, and this has shown our strength. The new American president should take heed of the powers of Iran.”

In another sign of weakened U.S. influence over events in Syria, Russia reached a deal with Turkey allowing Ankara to exert control along the Turkish-Syrian border through its own troops and allied rebels. In exchange, Turkey did not help the rebels in Aleppo resist the Russian-Syrian offensive. That could become a template for other deals between Russia and Turkey, and it would further isolate the Syrian rebels in their remaining northern strongholds. On Dec. 16, Putin announced that he is working with Turkish leaders to organize a new series of Syrian peace talks without Washington’s involvement.

For his part, Assad will be emboldened by his military success in Aleppo – even one so heavily dependent on Russia, Iran and other foreign forces – to continue taking a hard line and refusing a political compromise with the rebels. And thanks to Russian maneuvering, Assad and his allies can outsource the difficult fight with Islamic State to Washington.





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