TBR News June 16, 2017

Jun 16 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 16, 2017:”Although there is no doubt that the planet is undergoing climate changes, there are many citizens to either do not believe it or believe in a host of nonsensical causes. The icecaps at both poles are rapidly melting and the sea levels are rising but again, there are many who deny this and claim the land is sinking and the ice caps are rapidly building. And there are those who believe the earth is flat and that Jesus will return soon to take them to a better place than Dallas, Texas. The Internet is a treasure house of priceless information but this is all mixed in with the nonsense of a legion of airheaded bloggers, government propagandists and congenital idiotic babblings. We had the entertaining frenzies of the imminent appearance of the invented ‘Planet X’ which was bearing down on a defenseless Cleveland at two miles an hour and even more entertaining fiction about the 9/11 attack but both of these subjects faded away only to be replaced with more comic inventions. The government found these frenzied fictions to be of use because they distracted public attention away from unwelcome subjects, like increasing unemployment or the mortgage scandal, and provided interesting attention in other directions.”

Table of Contents

  • Turkish Guards Will Be Charged in Embassy Protest, Officials Say
  • Russia’s military says may have killed IS leader Baghdadi
  • Forget the Russian ‘Threat’: Mexico Is Our Real Problem
  • The ‘Global Order’ Myth
  • Solving the Mystery of the Arctic’s Clouds
  • Revealed: Facebook exposed identities of moderators to suspected terrorists
  • Russia’s Putin says bridge to Crimea is on schedule
  • The Israeli Invasion of Lebanon, 2006: Fact and Fiction


Turkish Guards Will Be Charged in Embassy Protest, Officials Say

June 14, 2017

by Nicholas Fandos

New York Times

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement officials plan to announce charges Thursday against a dozen members of the Turkish president’s security detail for their involvement in a brutal attack on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here last month, two American officials said on Wednesday.

The authorities have already charged several others, including two Americans and two Canadians, with taking part in the violent skirmish.

The Washington police have been investigating the May 16 attack along with the State Department and the Secret Service. The police planned to announce the charges at a news conference on Thursday morning, according to the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the charges before they were made public.

Washington police officials confirmed that the two Americans are Sinan Narin, of Virginia, and Eyup Yildirim, of New Jersey. Mr. Narin was charged with felony and misdemeanor assault. Mr. Yildirim, who can be seen on video repeatedly kicking a protester, was charged with two felony counts and one misdemeanor assault count. The two did not immediately return calls on Wednesday requesting comment.

The police declined to comment on others facing charges, but were expected to release details on Thursday.

Coming almost a month after the episode, the charges are the most significant retaliatory step taken to date by American authorities, who have fumed privately and publicly over what they see as a highly offensive attack on free speech — not to mention American law enforcement.

Lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill, as well as a smattering of advocacy groups, have clamored that those responsible for the assault be prosecuted. Last week, the House unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attack and calling for charges against the security forces.

One of those lawmakers, Representative Edward R. Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed news of the charges, urging the State Department on Wednesday to “double down” on its efforts to “bring these individuals to justice.”

In calibrating its response, though, the Trump administration has had to tread carefully, navigating a web of diplomatic and military concerns with a key NATO ally. The episode appears to have already stalled a proposed $1.2 million small-arms sale to Turkish security forces that was moving toward approval by the State Department last month.

And then there was the added wrinkle that the entire security detail for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had left the country with him just hours after the attack. Members of the security team face several felony and misdemeanor counts, the American officials said.

It is highly unlikely that Turkey would extradite the men to the United States to face the charges, but they do face the possibility of arrest should they ever try to re-enter the country.

The State Department said in a statement on Wednesday that it would weigh additional action against those who have been charged, “as appropriate under relevant laws and regulations.”

“Any further steps will be responsive and proportional to the charges,” the department said.

The Turkish Embassy here did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement in the days after the attack, the embassy said that anti-Erdogan protesters had caused the violence by “aggressively provoking” Turkish-American citizens who had gathered to greet the president and who responded in self-defense. The statement did not mention the security forces.

The run-in was not the first time Mr. Erdogan’s bodyguards have become violent while visiting the United States. In 2011, they took part in a fight at the United Nations that sent at least one security officer to the hospital. And last year, the police and members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team clashed with demonstrators outside the Brookings Institution in Washington.

But the latest case, which played out in broad daylight along Washington’s genteel Embassy Row, has brought a much higher level of attention. Videos that were streamed live from the scene (and later spread across social media) showed armed guards storming a small group of peaceful, anti-Erdogan protesters in plain sight of federal and local law enforcement officers.

A chaotic and bloody scene followed in which the guards, the protesters, pro-Erdogan civilians and American law enforcement tangled on the street and in a nearby park. Nine people were hospitalized, some with serious injuries.

The New York Times, after analyzing videos and photos from the scene, identified at least 24 men, including armed Turkish security forces, who had attacked protesters. Another video shows Mr. Erdogan watching the attack play out from a Mercedes-Benz sedan parked a few yards away. His role in the clash, if any, is unclear.

Diplomatic security officers protecting the delegation also temporarily detained two members of the Turkish forces who had assaulted them, before it was determined that the guards had diplomatic status and were freed.

Russia’s military says may have killed IS leader Baghdadi

June 16, 2017

by Dmitry Solovyov


MOSCOW-Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday it was checking information that a Russian air strike near the Syrian city of Raqqa may have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late May.

The air strike was launched after the Russian forces in Syria received intelligence that a meeting of Islamic State leaders was being planned, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

“On May 28, after drones were used to confirm the information on the place and time of the meeting of IS leaders, between 00:35 and 00:45, Russian air forces launched a strike on the command point where the leaders were located,” the statement said.

“According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike,” the ministry said.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State said it could not confirm the Russian report that Baghdadi may have been killed.

The strike is believed to have killed several other senior leaders of the group, as well as around 30 field commanders and up to 300 of their personal guards, the Russian defense ministry statement said.

The IS leaders had gathered at the command center, in a southern suburb of Raqqa, to discuss possible routes for the militants’ retreat from the city, the statement said.

The United States was informed in advance about the place and time of the strike, the Russian military said.

Islamic State fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group’s territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Russian forces support the Syrian government which is fighting against Islamic State mainly from the west, while a U.S.-led coalition supports Iraqi government forces fighting against Islamic State from the east.

The last public video footage of Baghdadi shows him dressed in black clerical robes declaring his caliphate from the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque back in 2014.

Born Ibrahim al-Samarrai, Baghdadi is a 46-year-old Iraqi who broke away from al Qaeda in 2013, two years after the capture and killing of the group’s leader Osama bin Laden.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, cast doubt on the report Baghdadi may have been killed. He said that according to his information, Baghdadi was located in another part of Syria at the end of May.

“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” he said by phone.

Questioning what Baghdadi would have been doing in that location, he said: “Is it reasonable that Baghdadi would put himself between a rock and a hard place of the (U.S.-led) coalition and Russia?”

(Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in MOSCOW and Tom Perry in BEIRUT; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov and Christian Lowe)

 Forget the Russian ‘Threat’: Mexico Is Our Real Problem

The cartels control our southern neighbor

June 16, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


We often hear the Russia-haters accuse Vladimir Putin of murdering journalists: when Oliver Stone recently challenged the veracity of that unproved charge, he was booed by Stephen Colbert’s audience of trained seals hand-raisers. Yet we hear almost nothing about the one country where journalists who report on official corruption are routinely killed, and in such numbers that the death toll makes Russia look like a utopian paradise – Mexico, where more than one-hundred reporters have been slaughtered by the drug cartels and their collaborators inside the Mexican government. The killers are rarely found, let alone punished:  as of 2012, 98% of homicides in Mexico went unsolved. I doubt the impunity rate has improved much since then.

On May 15, Javier Valdez was sitting in his car on a crowded street in Culiacan, capitol of Sinaloa province, in broad daylight, when suddenly at least two gunmen appeared, forced him out of his car, and pumped at least thirteen bullets into him.  Valdez was an award-winning journalist whose reporting on the intersection of the drug cartels and the Mexican government had won him the Committee to Protect Journalists’s International Press Freedom Award. He was a national correspondent for La Jornada, a major paper out of Mexico City. He was also the founder of Riodice, a weekly newspaper out of Mexico’s drug-ridden Sinaloa province, the home of “El Chapo,” and the epicenter of the violent war between rival cartels that is threatening the stability of the Mexican state.

The import of this latest assassination was underscored by Marcela Turati, a journalist and friend of the deceased, who told The Intercept:

“We thought Javier was untouchable. He was one of the most internationally recognized journalist in the country. How do we protect ourselves if they are able to kill the most visible with impunity?”

But who is doing the killing – is it just the narcos? Valdez didn’t think so. Time and again he pointed to the politicians who use the cartels as their bankers and hit squads. As Valdez told Al Jazeera’s John Gibler:

“That’s why it is ‘organized crime,’ because they have people inside the Mexican state – people inside the governmental apparatus – working for them, because the police form a part of the criminal structure, because they have an army of hired killers, because they have financial operatives and business people – whom no one bothers, by the way – also involved.”

The essence of the problem besetting our neighbor to the south was succinctly summarized by Valdez in an interview with a Mexican reporter:

“I fear the government more than I fear the narco. There’s drug trafficking because there is no government … the principal problem with practicing journalism is la autoridad [translated as “the government”]. The political class is the child of drug trafficking. Intolerant, dangerous, powerful, colluding with organized crime, every type of criminal.”

Mexico is suffering under the reign of what the paleoconservative writer Sam Francis dubbed “anarcho-tyranny.” As he put it:

“What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny – the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent through exorbitant taxation, bureaucratic regulation, the invasion of privacy, and the engineering of social institutions.”

Under anarcho-tyranny, ordinary citizens are victimized by both criminals and their enablers in the political class. Francis was writing about the US, but his analysis exactly describes the current agony of the Mexican people. I’ve written about that agony in this space repeatedly over the years, making the point that the emerging crisis requires at least some acknowledgment – to no avail. The Mexican mess is studiously ignored, both by our own politicians and Mexico’s elites, and, as bad as things are getting, luckily for them there’s a convenient diversion readily available to take the focus away from the corruption and channel the anger of the Mexican people toward an external enemy: Donald J. Trump.

While Mexicans are preyed on by the narcos, journalists are routinely tortured and killed, and the grinding poverty of the nation’s working classes drives them northward in search of sustenance, Trump is the major issue in Mexican politics today. The leading candidate in Mexico’s presidential election, the “progressive” Andres Manuel Obrador, has just written a book, Oye Trump, detailing his recent anti-Trump tour of the United States: he attacks Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto – whose poll numbers are in the dumps – for not “standing up to Trump.” Rather than confront Mexico’s actual problems, which have been driving its citizens to flee the country, it’s much easier for Obrador to whip up Mexican nationalism and posture as the defender of the nation’s ‘dignity.”

The US sends $3.6 billion to Mexico annually, ostensibly to help them fight the “war on drugs.” But this money is going into the pockets of 1) the corrupt Mexican political class, which makes the reign of the narcos possible, and 2) our own corrupt political class, i.e. the numerous contractors who, as The Intercept points out,

“[R]eap enormous profits from contracts on everything from Black Hawk helicopters to armed vehicles, intelligence equipment, computer software, night-vision goggles, surveillance aircrafts, satellites systems, and more. Additionally, weapons companies benefit from direct sales of arms and other equipment, which net another billion each year for the weapons contractors.”

This is the swamp that Trump vowed to drain, and yet still it bubbles and floods the land, spilling over the Rio Grande while its denizens feed and multiply on both sides of the border.

So what’s the solution?

Libertarians would say: legalize drugs! Except it isn’t that simple. For this would legalize the drug cartels themselves – born in criminality, and bathed in blood – and legitimize the criminal networks they have established. While I am in favor of legalizing drugs, I’ve got to admit that it is very far from a panacea. The issue is separate from the question of the cartels: after all, the Mafia in America didn’t disappear because alcohol prohibition was lifted. Aside from that, the political reality is that drugs aren’t going to be legalized – either here or in Mexico – any time soon.

Some problems don’t have solutions, and this may be one of them. The accumulated stupidity and venality of the Mexican and US authorities over past decades has created such a toxic brew of social decomposition and political dysfunction that we can only await the coming explosion with a mixture of fear and hope – hope that our leaders will force their gaze away from the far horizons of the Middle East and focus on the rising crisis right here on our own southern border.

So you think Russia is a threat? You’re worried that the borders of Afghanistan are insecure? All this pales before the real threat that is growing south of the Rio Grande, a gathering storm that will inevitably spill over the border and impact life right here in the United States.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The ‘Global Order’ Myth

Teary-eyed nostalgia as cover for U.S. hegemony

June 15, 2017

by Andrew J. Bacevich

The American Conservative

During the Age of Trump, Year One, a single word has emerged to capture the essence of the prevailing cultural mood: resistance. Words matter, and the prominence of this particular term illuminates the moment in which we find ourselves.

All presidents, regardless of party or program, face criticism and opposition. Citizens disinclined to support that program protest. Marching, chanting, waving placards, and generally raising a ruckus in front of any available camera, they express dissent. In normal times, such activism testifies to the health of democracy.

Yet these are not normal times. In the eyes of Trump’s opponents, his elevation to the pinnacle of American politics constitutes a frontal assault on values that until quite recently appeared fixed and unassailable. In such distressing circumstances, mere criticism, opposition, protest, and dissent will not suffice. By their own lights, anti-Trump forces are fending off the apocalypse. As in November 1860 so too in November 2016, the outcome of a presidential election has placed at risk a way of life.

The very word resistance conjures up memories of the brave souls who during World War II opposed the Nazi occupation of their homelands, with the French maquis the best known example. It carries with it an unmistakable whiff of gunpowder. After resistance comes revolution.

Simply put, Trump’s most ardent opponents see him as an existential threat, with the clock ticking. Thus the stakes could hardly be higher. Richard Parker of Harvard has conjured what he calls Resistance School, which in three months has signed up some 30,000 anti-Trump resistors from 49 states and 33 countries. “It is our attempt to begin the long slow process of recovering and rebuilding our democracy,” says Parker. Another group styling itself the DJT Resistance declares that Trump represents “Hatred, Bigotry, Xenophobia, Sexism, Racism, and Greed.”

This is not language suggesting the possibility of dialogue or compromise. Indeed, in such quarters references to incipient fascism have become commonplace. Comparisons between Trump and Hitler abound. “It takes willful blindness,” writes Paul Krugman in the New York Times, “not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.” And time is running short. Journalist Chris Hedges says “a last chance for resistance” is already at hand.

In the meantime, in foreign-policy circles at least, a second, less explosive term vies with resistance for Trump-era signature status. This development deserves more attention than it has attracted, especially among those who believe that alongside the question that riles up the resistance—namely, what values define us?—sits another question of comparable importance: “What principles define America’s role in the world?”

That second term, now creeping into the vocabulary of foreign-policy specialists, is liberal, often used interchangeably with the phrase rules-based and accompanied by additional modifiers such as open, international, and normative. All of these serve as synonyms for enlightened and good.

So Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, describing what he refers to as the “twilight of the liberal world order,” worries about the passing of “the open international economic system the United States created and helped sustain.” Donald Trump’s misguided emphasis on “America First,” Kagan writes, suggests that he has no interest in “attempting to uphold liberal norms in the international system” or in “preserving an open economic order.”

Commenting on Trump’s Inaugural Address, Nicole Gaouette, CNN national-security reporter, expresses her dismay that it contained “no reference to America’s traditional role as a global leader and shaper of international norms.” Similarly, a report in the Financial Times bemoans what it sees as “a clear signal about Mr. Trump’s disregard for many of the international norms that have governed America as the pillar of the liberal economic order.” The historian Jeremi Suri, barely a week into Trump’s presidency, charges Trump with “launching a direct attack on the liberal international order that really made America great after the depths of the Great Depression.” At the Council on Foreign Relations, Stewart Patrick concurs: Trump’s election, he writes, “imperils the liberal international order that America has championed since World War II.” Thomas Wright, another Brookings scholar, piles on: Trump “wants to undo the liberal international order the United States built and replace it with a 19th-century model of nationalism and mercantilism.”

In Foreign Policy, Colin Kahl and Hal Brands embellish the point: Trump’s strategic vision “diverges significantly from—and intentionally subverts—the bipartisan consensus underpinning U.S. foreign policy since World War II.” Failing to “subscribe to the long-held belief that ‘American exceptionalism’ and U.S. leadership are intertwined,” Trump is hostile to the “open, rule-based international economy” that his predecessors nurtured and sustained.

Need more? Let Gen. David Petraeus have the last word: “To keep the peace,” the soldier-turned-investment-banker writes in an essay entitled “America Must Stand Tall,” the United States has established “a system of global alliances and security commitments,” thereby nurturing “an open, free and rules-based international economic order.” To discard this legacy, he suggests, would be catastrophic.

You get the drift. Liberalism, along with norms, rules, openness, and internationalism: these ostensibly define the postwar and post-Cold War tradition of American statecraft. Allow Trump to scrap that tradition and you can say farewell to what Stewart Patrick refers to as “the global community under the rule of law” that the United States has upheld for decades.

But what does this heartwarming perspective exclude? We can answer that question with a single word: history.

Or, somewhat more expansively, among the items failing to qualify for mention in the liberal internationalist, rules-based version of past U.S. policy are the following: meddling in foreign elections; coups and assassination plots in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Cuba, South Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, and elsewhere; indiscriminate aerial bombing campaigns in North Korea and throughout Southeast Asia; a nuclear arms race bringing the world to the brink of Armageddon; support for corrupt, authoritarian regimes in Iran, Turkey, Greece, South Korea, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Egypt, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and elsewhere—many of them abandoned when deemed inconvenient; the shielding of illegal activities through the use of the Security Council veto; unlawful wars launched under false pretenses; “extraordinary rendition,” torture, and the indefinite imprisonment of persons without any semblance of due process.

Granted, for each of these, there was a rationale, rooted in a set of identifiable assumptions, ambitions, and fears. The CIA did not conspire with Britain’s MI6 in 1953 to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected president just for the hell of it. It did so because shelving Mohammad Mosaddegh seemingly offered the prospect of eliminating an annoying problem. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson did not commit U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam because he was keen to fight a major ground war in Asia but because the consequences of simply allowing events to take their course looked to be even worse. After 9/11, when George W. Bush and his associates authorized the “enhanced interrogation” of those held in secret prisons, panic rather than sadism prompted their actions. Even for the most egregious folly, in other words, there is always some explanation, however inadequate.

Yet collectively, the actions and episodes enumerated above do not suggest a nation committed to liberalism, openness, or the rule of law. What they reveal instead is a pattern of behavior common to all great powers in just about any era: following the rules when it serves their interest to do so; disregarding the rules whenever they become an impediment. Some regimes are nastier than others, but all are law-abiding when the law works to their benefit and not one day longer. Even Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s USSR punctiliously observed the terms of their non-aggression pact as long as it suited both parties to do so.

My point is not to charge à la Noam Chomsky that every action undertaken by the United States government is inherently nefarious. Rather, I am suggesting that to depict postwar U.S. policy in terms employed by the pundits quoted above is to whitewash the past. Whether their motive is to deceive or merely to evade discomfiting facts is beside the point. What they are peddling belongs to the universe of alt facts. To characterize American statecraft as “liberal internationalism” is akin to describing the business of Hollywood as “artistic excellence.”

“Invocations of the ‘rules-based international order,’” Politico’s Susan Glasser rightly observes, “had never before caused such teary-eyed nostalgia.” Whence comes this sudden nostalgia for something that never actually existed? The answer is self-evident: it’s a response to Donald Trump.

Prior to Trump’s arrival on the scene, few members of the foreign-policy elite, now apparently smitten with norms, fancied that the United States was engaged in creating any such order. America’s purpose was not to promulgate rules but to police an informal empire that during the Cold War encompassed the “Free World” and became more expansive still once the Cold War ended. The pre-Trump Kagan, writing in 2012, neatly summarizes that view:

The existence of the American hegemon has forced all other powers to exercise unusual restraint, curb normal ambitions, and avoid actions that might lead to the formation of a U.S.-led coalition of the kind that defeated Germany twice, Japan once, and the Soviet Union, more peacefully, in the Cold War.

Leave aside the dubious assertions and half-truths contained within that sentence and focus on its central claim: the United States as a hegemon that forces other nations to bend to its will. Strip away the blather about rules and norms and here you come to the essence of what troubles Kagan and others who purport to worry about the passing of “liberal internationalism.” Their concern is not that Trump won’t show adequate respect for rules and norms. What has them all in a lather is that he appears disinclined to perpetuate American hegemony.

More fundamentally, Trump’s conception of a usable past differs radically from that favored in establishment quarters. Put simply, the 45th president does not subscribe to the imperative of sustaining American hegemony because he does not subscribe to the establishment’s narrative of 20th-century history. According to that canonical narrative, exertions by the United States in a sequence of conflicts dating from 1914 and ending in 1989 enabled good to triumph over evil. Absent these American efforts, evil would have prevailed. Contained within that parable-like story, members of the establishment believe, are the lessons that should guide U.S. policy in the 21st century.

Trump doesn’t see it that way, as his appropriation of the historically loaded phrase “America First” attests. In his view, what might have occurred had the United States not waged war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and had it not subsequently confronted the Soviet Union matters less than what did occur when the assertion of hegemonic prerogatives found the United States invading Iraq in 2003 with disastrous results.

In effect, Trump dismisses the lessons of the 20th century as irrelevant to the 21st. Crucially, he goes a step further by questioning the moral basis for past U.S. actions. Thus, his extraordinary response to a TV host’s charge that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a killer. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump retorted. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” In offering this one brief remark, Trump thereby committed the ultimate heresy. Of course, no serious person believes that the United States is literally innocent. What members of the foreign-policy establishment—including past commanders-in-chief—have insisted is that the United States act as if it were innocent, with prior sins expunged and America’s slate wiped clean. This describes the ultimate U.S. perquisite and explains why, in the eyes of Robert Kagan et al., Russian actions in Crimea, Ukraine, or Syria count for so much while American actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya count for so little.

The desperate exercise in historical revisionism that now credits the United States with having sought all along to create a global community under the rule of law represents that establishment’s response to the heresies Trump has been spouting (and tweeting) since his famous ride down the escalator at Trump Tower.

Yet in reclassifying yesterday’s hegemon as today’s promulgator and respecter of norms, members of that establishment perpetrate a fraud. Whether Americans, notably gullible when it comes to history, will fall for this charade remains to be seen. Thus far at least, Trump himself, who probably knows a thing or two about snake-oil salesmen, shows little inclination to take the bait.

Say this for the anti-Trump resistance: while the fascism-just-around-the-corner rhetoric may be overheated and a touch overwrought, it qualifies as forthright and heartfelt. While not sharing the view that Trump will rob Americans of their freedoms, I neither question the sincerity nor doubt the passion of those who believe otherwise. Indeed, I am grateful to them for acting so forcefully on their convictions. They are inspiring.

Not so with those who now wring their hands about the passing of the fictive liberal international order credited to enlightened American statecraft. They are engaged in a great scam, working assiduously to sustain the pretense that the world of 2017 remains essentially what it was in 1937 or 1947 or 1957 when it is not.

Today’s Russia is not a reincarnation of the Soviet Union; the People’s Republic of China is not Imperial Japan; and the Islamic State in no way compares to Nazi Germany. Most of all, United States in the era of Donald Trump is not the nation that elected Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, not least of all in the greatly reduced willingness of Americans to serve as instruments of state power, as the failed post-9/11 assertions of hegemony have demonstrated.

The world has changed in fundamental ways. So too has the United States. Those changes require that the principles guiding U.S. policy also change accordingly.

However ill-suited by intellect, temperament, and character for the office he holds, Trump has seemingly intuited the need for such change. In this regard, if in none other, I’m with the Donald

But note the irony. Trump may come closer to full-fledged historical illiteracy than any president since Warren G. Harding. Small wonder then that his rejection of the mythic past long employed to preempt serious debate regarding U.S. policy gives fits to the perpetrators of those myths.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 46

June 16, 2017


The Department of State yesterday released a long-suppressed volume of historical records documenting the role of the United States in the 1953 coup against the Iran

“This retrospective volume focuses on the evolution of U.S. thinking on Iran as well as the U.S. Government covert operation that resulted in Mosadeq’s overthrow on August 19, 1953,” the Preface says. See Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1952-1954, Iran, 1951-1954.

“This volume includes National Security Council and Presidential materials that document the U.S. decision to proceed with the operation against Mosadeq, and the operational files within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that document the implementation of the operation, codenamed TPAJAX.”

Some of the relevant records were destroyed long ago.

“The original CIA cables relating to the implementation of the covert action TPAJAX no longer exist. The original TPAJAX operational cables appear to have been destroyed as part of an office purge undertaken in 1961 or 1962, in anticipation of Near East (NE) Division’s move to the Central Intelligence Agency’s new headquarters.”

However, “Department of State historians obtained hand-typed transcriptions of microfilmed copies of these cables” and “twenty-one are published in this volume and an additional seven are referenced in footnotes.”

A small portion of the 1,000-page collection remains classified.

“The declassification review of this volume, which began in 2004 and was completed in 2014, resulted in the decision to withhold 10 documents in full, excise a paragraph or more in 38 documents, and make minor excisions of less than a paragraph in 82 documents,” the editors wrote. Without knowing for certain, some of the withheld information may pertain to discussion of British involvement in the operation, as well as technical details such as cryptonyms.

Rectifying a “Fraud”

The release of the Iran history volume is the culmination — and apparently the resolution — of decades of controversy that began in 1989 after the Department published a FRUS volume on US-Iran relations between 1951 and 1954 that neglected to mention any covert operation against the Iran government. That earlier volume was widely denounced by US historians and others.

“The omissions combine to make the Iran volume in the period of 1952–54 a fraud,” wrote historian Bruce R. Kuniholm in 1990.

“This is ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince of Denmark — or the ghost,” the New York Times editorialized back then.

Over time, the State Department itself came to agree with that critical assessment.

“The Department’s self-censorship exemplified, but also obscured, the restrictive impulses toward historical transparency that prevailed throughout the U.S. Government” at the time, according to a candid and thoughtful State Department history of the Foreign Relations series. “FRUS historians could have been more assertive in their efforts to promote greater openness in the 1980s. They should have recognized that the [1989] Iran volume was too incomplete to be published without damaging the series’s reputation.”

On the plus side, “Academic criticism of the [1989] ‘Iran Volume’ and the restrictions placed on [advisory committee] access to classified material raised public and congressional awareness of the erosion of transparency in the 1980s.” This in turn led to enactment in 1991 of a new statutory requirement that the FRUS series must provide “a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy.”

But at the end of the Obama Administration, and as recently as April of this year, release of the Iran retrospective volume seemed to be indefinitely blocked.

In 2016, “the Department of State did not permit publication of the long-delayed Iran Retrospective volume because it judged the political environment too sensitive,” the Department’s Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) wrote in its latest annual report. “The HAC was unsuccessful in its efforts to meet with [then-]Secretary Kerry to discuss the volume, and now there is no timetable for its release.”

And then yesterday, all of a sudden and with minimal notice, it was posted online. The publication was welcomed by the chair of the Historical Advisory Committee, Temple University historian Richard H. Immerman.

“As it expressed in last year’s annual report, the HAC was repeatedly frustrated–and disappointed–by Secretary Kerry’s refusal to allow the volume’s publication,” Prof. Immerman said yesterday. “In this regard the change in State’s perspective from the Obama to Trump administration is dramatic.”

There is no known evidence that Secretary of State Tillerson participated in the decision to permit publication. But, an official said, “there is no question that receiving approval to publish the volume was much less difficult with the change of administrations. Indeed, it encountered remarkably little resistance.”

Evidently wishing to downplay its significance, however, the State Department buried an announcement of the new volume at the bottom of a June 15 press release. After listing 16 other publications, it briefly mentioned that the Iran retrospective volume had “also” been released, making no mention of the decades-long controversy leading up to its publication.

Needless to say, the sky has not fallen due to the disclosure, and is not expected to. US relations with Iran will remain as fraught in the near future as they have been in the recent past. (The Senate voted yesterday 98-2 in favor of sanctions on Iran in connection with that country’s “ballistic missile program, support for acts of international terrorism, and violations of human rights.”)

But a pointless and misleading omission in the historical record has now been rectified.

“The public and scholarly community owes a great debt to not only the remarkable effort and perseverance of literally generations of State Department historians and the [History] Office’s leadership, but also their collective commitment to historical accuracy and transparency,” said Prof. Immerman.

Solving the Mystery of the Arctic’s Clouds

Climate change has been causing dramatic, accelerated changes in the Arctic. Now, a team of researchers has deployed two planes and a ship, along with advanced new technology, to take a closer look at one of its least understood causes: clouds.

June 14, 2017

by Marco Evers


Spitzbergen is a rugged Arctic island kingdom of rock and ice located 1,300 kilometers from the North Pole. Longyearbyen, the northernmost town on the planet, is just beyond the 78th parallel, a permanent home to about 2,150 souls. They have almost everything they need: an airport, streets, a coal-fired power plant, a hospital, a kindergarten, a university, high-speed internet and even a brewery.

There are also restaurants, hotels, a supermarket, two newspapers and, at the moment, 24 hours of daylight every day.

Only one thing is missing: a cemetery. The permafrost makes the ground too hard to dig graves.

But that’s changing. The annual average air temperature in Longyearbyen is now minus 0.4 degrees Celsius (32.7 degrees Fahrenheit). It won’t be long before it is warm enough to dig holes in the ground – and for the stilts supporting the houses to sink into the mud.

Global warming may seem abstract in other places far, far away from here. But Spitzbergen is ground zero for climate change. It is advancing here faster than elsewhere, offering an early taste of what global warming might mean. “Since November 2010, every single month has been unusually warm,” says Kim Holmén, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute. “We see changes everywhere we look.”

The fjord at Longyearbyen no longer freezes completely, for example, and salmon and even mackerel have moved in. Narwhals, meanwhile, have migrated further north.

The glaciers are melting with unexpected speed, especially in the west of Spitzbergen. Whereas some of them calved into the ocean for centuries, they now come to a stop before they reach the sea. And every year, the thaw is longer. “On average, the winters are 10 degrees Celsius warmer than they were 20 years ago,” says Holmén. This region should be dry like a desert, but the amount of regular precipitation has now increased several-fold. Suddenly Longyearbyean’s steep slopes have become a mortal danger because the increased snowfall can’t stick to their icy surfaces.

In late 2015, a two-year-old and her father died when an avalanche carried away their house. In early 2017, another wall of snow and rocks thundered into the valley. Since then, authorities have declared dozens of houses uninhabitable with some residents now slated to move closer to the fjord. “Lots of people here are afraid,” says Hilde Røsvik, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper, Svalbardposten.

Dangerous Cycle

Strange things are happening in the far north. The Artic is warming two to three times as fast as the rest of the planet, a phenomenon that no expert understands in detail, but which already has a name: “Artic amplification.” Polar sea ice — the Northern Hemisphere’s icebox — has proven particularly perplexing. For the past several years, it has been disappearing faster than predicted by climate models. Compared to 1979, when satellite monitoring began, the annual amount of September sea ice cover has almost halved.

Researchers still only have a partial understanding of Arctic amplification. As soon as the ice melts, it apparently sets off a self-reinforcing cascade of events that lead to more melting and more warmth.

Ice’s bright surface reflects almost all incoming solar energy back into space while the dark ocean absorbs energy and becomes warmer, hindering the formation of new ice. Higher water temperatures lead to evaporation and therefore more water vapor in the atmosphere, which then works like a powerful greenhouse gas, spurring rainfall and the melting of yet more ice.

Researchers have long been trying to incorporate this cycle into climate models — but thus far without success: They are still unable to predict what is really happening to the sea ice.

“There are mechanisms at work here that we don’t understand,” says Holmén. “We have to be humbled by that.”

Researchers are now hoping to get to the bottom of the mystery. Scientists from Leipzig, Bremerhaven, Cologne and elsewhere have joined one of the largest German polar expeditions of the past decades. The research ship Polarstern along with research planes Polar 5 and Polar 6 and dozens of scientists and engineers have been in the Arctic since late May with highly complex instruments to look into the warming.

The researchers are especially interested in clouds, because they suspect that they play a larger role in climate events than previously suspected. Several terabytes of data will be collected by the end of June. Analyzing it will take years, but the scientists are planning to return to the Arctic in 2018 and 2019 to take even more measurements.

A Closer Look at Clouds

The initiator of the large project, which is supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), is 54-year-old Leipzig meteorologist Manfred Wendisch, who is currently living with his team in housing previously used by mine workers. For him there is no doubt: “In the next few years, it will continually become warmer in the Arctic.”

Twice a day, at 8:30 a.m. and at 3:30 p.m., he uses a satellite phone to call the Polarstern, which is one-and-a-half hours away by plane, to discuss the plan for the day. There is no other form of communication.

The Polarstern has attached itself to an ice floe (position: 82° 00′ N, 10° 30′ O). The ocean there has a temperature of minus 1.8 degrees Celsius and the air is noticeably colder. The ice breaker is drifting slowly southwards along with the floe. Every afternoon, researchers on the Polarstern take samples from the surface water, part of an effort to determine how specific particles from the water rise into the air and facilitate the formation of clouds.

One of the most important aspects of the mission is the ability of the planes and the ship to simultaneously examine the same cloud with their instruments. The Polarstern takes measurements from below while one of the planes does the same from above, at an altitude of 3,300 meters. The second plane records conditions in the middle of the cloud.

Periodically, a weather satellite joins in. And an anchored balloon mounted with measurement devices is sometimes sent into the cloud as well. A helicopter measures how strongly the cloud reflects light.

The team is hoping to learn how thick and permeable the clouds are in addition to how many ice crystals, water droplets and other particles they contain. They suspect that the microstructure of clouds is decisive for its contribution to global warming.

To make the necessary measurements, they rely on an astounding array of instruments. Martin Schnaiter, from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, for example, spent 15 years developing PHIPS, a small bomb-shaped machine mounted under the research plane’s wing to trap ice crystals. While still airborne, it examines the crystals microscopically from two different angles and simultaneously determines how much incoming light they reflect back into space – and how much light is allowed to permeate the cloud and reach the earth’s surface.

Nothing in this expedition has been left to chance. If a plane needs to make an emergency landing on the ice, there are sleeping bags, food and warm clothing in a net behind the cockpit. And there is a high-calibre hunting rifle in a crate in the tail. If a polar bear attacks, the scientists are ready: Most of them took a two-day bear-killing course. “It was lots of fun,” reports one of the scientists.

In the Arctic, Wendisch says, clouds have two effects – a cooling one and a warming one, though the latter seems to play a larger role. But a cloud isn’t always just a cloud. Indeed, he considers current models for the Artic to be “pure fantasy,” given that they ignore several of the most important characteristics of clouds, such as the size of the droplets they contain and their ice content.

Wendisch is hoping to achieve a detailed understanding of the extremely complicated interactions in the Arctic, translate them into computer language and embed them into climate models. He will only be satisfied when that which takes place in nature matches up with his computer’s predictions. That, though, says Wendisch, is still a long way off.

Hard Work for Researchers

When they are not up in the air with their instruments, the researchers spend their day in front of their computers. Their work space is located in Longyearbyen’s airplane hangar, and there isn’t much talking. Some are working out flight plans that will allow for an optimal investigation into the cloud cover, while others are diving into the data that has already been collected.

The mood is a concentrated one. Many of them are Ph.D. students or young researchers with temporary positions and the pressure to avoid any kind of mistakes is significant. Most of them come from Germany, some from Spain, Finland, France or Ukraine. The mood only relaxes in the evening over a beer.

The pilots are very different: three sturdy Canadians in jeans and lumberjack shirts along with a relaxed Australian in a baseball cap that he apparently never removes. Will Dyer became famous after appearing on a Canadian reality show called “Ice Pilots NWT.” The show follows him as he untiringly works his way up to become the copilot of an aging cargo plane in the Canadian north. Now, at the age of 29, he is the captain of Polar 5.

The two red-white-and-blue research planes belong to the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and are run by a Canadian airline. They are the venture’s most charismatic piece of equipment: Both are highly modernized versions of the Douglas DC-3, a model that transported troops and weapons during World War II and were then used in postwar Germany to break the Berlin Blockade.

The plane now flown by Dyer was built almost a half-century before his birth, heavily damaged during fighting in 1944 and then repaired. Since 2007, the plane, which has been outfitted with modern technology, has been in the service of AWI and regularly commutes between the Arctic and Antarctic.

The researchers aren’t particularly enthusiastic about its on-board comforts, but science demands sacrifices. The say it is too warm in the front and too cold in the back. The engines, they complain, are so loud that communication is only possible by headset, and important instruments frequently go down and the on-board engineer can’t always immediately repair them.

And then the worst part: On the flights above and in the clouds, which can last up to six hours, there is no toilet on board. Men use plastic bottles if needed. “For the women, it is much more difficult,” one man says in admiration.

Emma Järvinen, a young Finn, says she happily puts up with all of the hardship because as long as her instruments are working and she feels like the situation is under control, her brain releases enough endorphins that she hardly realizes she is sitting in a plane.

If everything goes as Wendisch hopes, his large project could still get considerably larger. There is no shortage of unresolved questions about climate change in the far north — and if the DFG approves his follow-up applications, he would have work to do in the Arctic until retirement.


Revealed: Facebook exposed identities of moderators to suspected terrorists

A security lapse that affected more than 1,000 workers forced one moderator into hiding – and he still lives in constant fear for his safety

June 16, 2017

by Olivia Solon

The Guardian

San Francisco-Facebook put the safety of its content moderators at risk after inadvertently exposing their personal details to suspected terrorist users of the social network, the Guardian has learned.

The security lapse affected more than 1,000 workers across 22 departments at Facebook who used the company’s moderation software to review and remove inappropriate content from the platform, including sexual material, hate speech and terrorist propaganda.

A bug in the software, discovered late last year, resulted in the personal profiles of content moderators automatically appearing as notifications in the activity log of the Facebook groups whose administrators were removed from the platform for breaching the terms of service. The personal details of Facebook moderators were then viewable to the remaining admins of the group.

Of the 1,000 affected workers, around 40 worked in a counter-terrorism unit based at Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Six of those were assessed to be “high priority” victims of the mistake after Facebook concluded their personal profiles were likely viewed by potential terrorists.

The Guardian spoke to one of the six, who did not wish to be named out of concern for his and his family’s safety. The Iraqi-born Irish citizen, who is in his early twenties, fled Ireland and went into hiding after discovering that seven individuals associated with a suspected terrorist group he banned from Facebook – an Egypt-based group that backed Hamas and, he said, had members who were Islamic State sympathizers – had viewed his personal profile.

Facebook confirmed the security breach in a statement and said it had made technical changes to “better detect and prevent these types of issues from occurring”.

“We care deeply about keeping everyone who works for Facebook safe,” a spokesman said. “As soon as we learned about the issue, we fixed it and began a thorough investigation to learn as much as possible about what happened.”

The moderator who went into hiding was among hundreds of “community operations analysts” contracted by global outsourcing company Cpl Recruitment. Community operations analysts are typically low-paid contractors tasked with policing Facebook for content that breaches its community standards.

Overwhelmed with fear that he could face retaliation, the moderator, who first came to Ireland as an asylum seeker when he was a child, quit his job and moved to eastern Europe for five months.

“It was getting too dangerous to stay in Dublin,” he said, explaining that his family had already experienced the horrifying impact of terrorism: his father had been kidnapped and beaten and his uncle executed in Iraq.

“The only reason we’re in Ireland was to escape terrorism and threats,” he said.

The moderator said that others within the high-risk six had their personal profiles viewed by accounts with ties to Isis, Hezbollah and the Kurdistan Workers Party. Facebook complies with the US state department’s designation of terrorist groups.

“When you come from a war zone and you have people like that knowing your family name you know that people get butchered for that,” he said. “The punishment from Isis for working in counter-terrorism is beheading. All they’d need to do is tell someone who is radical here.”

Facebook moderators like him first suspected there was a problem when they started receiving friend requests from people affiliated with the terrorist organizations they were scrutinizing.

An urgent investigation by Facebook’s security team established that personal profiles belonging to content moderators had been exposed. As soon as the leak was identified in November 2016, Facebook convened a “task force of data scientists, community operations and security investigators”, according to internal emails seen by the Guardian, and warned all the employees and contracted staff it believed were affected. The company also set-up an email address, nameleak@fb.com, to field queries from those affected.

Facebook then discovered that the personal Facebook profiles of its moderators had been automatically appearing in the activity logs of the groups they were shutting down.

Craig D’Souza, Facebook’s head of global investigations, liaised directly with some of the affected contractors, talking to the six individuals considered to be at the highest risk over video conference, email and Facebook Messenger.

In one exchange, before the Facebook investigation was complete, D’Souza sought to reassure the moderators that there was “a good chance” any suspected terrorists notified about their identity would fail to connect the dots.

“Keep in mind that when the person sees your name on the list, it was in their activity log, which contains a lot of information,” D’Souza wrote, “there is a good chance that they associate you with another admin of the group or a hacker …”

“I understand Craig,” replied the moderator who ended up fleeing Ireland, “but this is taking chances. I’m not waiting for a pipe bomb to be mailed to my address until Facebook does something about it.”

The bug in the software was not fixed for another two weeks, on 16 November 2016. By that point the glitch had been active for a month. However, the bug was also retroactively exposing the personal profiles of moderators who had censored accounts as far back as August 2016.

Facebook offered to install a home alarm monitoring system and provide transport to and from work to those in the high risk group. The company also offered counseling through Facebook’s employee assistance program, over and above counseling offered by the contractor, Cpl.

The moderator who fled Ireland was unsatisfied with the security assurances received from Facebook. In an email to D’Souza, he wrote that the high-risk six had spent weeks “in a state of panic and emergency” and that Facebook needed to do more to “address our pressing concerns for our safety and our families”.

He told the Guardian that the five months he spent in eastern Europe felt like “exile”. He kept a low profile, relying on savings to support himself. He spent his time keeping fit and liaising with his lawyer and the Dublin police, who checked up on his family while he was away. He returned to Ireland last month after running out of money, although he still lives in fear.

“I don’t have a job, I have anxiety and I’m on antidepressants,” he said. “I can’t walk anywhere without looking back.”

This month he filed a legal claim against Facebook and Cpl with the Injuries Board in Dublin. He is seeking compensation for the psychological damage caused by the leak.

Cpl did not respond to a request to comment. The statement provided by Facebook said its investigation sought to determine “exactly which names were possibly viewed and by whom, as well as an assessment of the risk to the affected person”.

The social media giant played down the threat posed to the affected moderators, but said that it contacted each of them individually “to offer support, answer their questions, and take meaningful steps to ensure their safety”.

“Our investigation found that only a small fraction of the names were likely viewed, and we never had evidence of any threat to the people impacted or their families as a result of this matter,” the spokesman said.

Details of Facebook’s security blunder will once again put a spotlight on the grueling and controversial work carried out by an army of thousands of low-paid staff, including in countries like the Philippines and India.

The Guardian recently revealed the secret rules and guidelines Facebook uses to train moderators to police its vast network of almost two billion users, including 100 internal training manuals, spreadsheets and flowcharts.

The moderator who fled Ireland worked for a 40-strong specialist team tasked with investigating reports of terrorist activity on Facebook. He was hired because he spoke Arabic, he said.

He felt that contracted staff were not treated as equals to Facebook employees but “second-class citizens”. He was paid just €13 ($15) per hour for a role that required him to develop specialist knowledge of global terror networks and scour through often highly-disturbing material.

“You come in every morning and just look at beheadings, people getting butchered, stoned, executed,” he said.

Facebook’s policies allow users to post extremely violent images provided they don’t promote or celebrate terrorism. This means moderators may be repeatedly exposed to the same haunting pictures to determine whether the people sharing them were condemning or celebrating the depicted acts.

The moderator said that when he started, he was given just two weeks training and was required to use his personal Facebook account to log into the social media giant’s moderation system.

“They should have let us use fake profiles,” he said, adding: “They never warned us that something like this could happen.”

Facebook told the Guardian that as a result of the leak it is testing the use of administrative accounts that are not linked to personal profiles.

Moderation teams were continually scored for the accuracy and speed of their decisions, he said, as well as other factors such as their ability to stay updated training materials. If a moderator’s score dropped below 90% they would receive a formal warning.

In an attempt to boost morale among agency staff, Facebook launched a monthly award ceremony to celebrate the top quality performers. The prize was a Facebook-branded mug. “The mug that all Facebook employees get,” he noted.


Russia’s Putin says bridge to Crimea is on schedule

June 15, 2017


Construction of a bridge to connect mainland Russia with Crimea is on schedule, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

“The Crimea bridge is being built on schedule and even slightly ahead of it,” Putin said during an annual question and answer session with Russians.

The construction of the 19-kilometre (12-mile) road-and-rail bridge across the Kerch Strait is being overseen by Stroygazmontazh, a company controlled by Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo sparring partner.

Construction of a bridge to connect mainland Russia with Crimea is on schedule, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

“The Crimea bridge is being built on schedule and even slightly ahead of it,” Putin said during an annual question and answer session with Russians.

The construction of the 19-kilometre (12-mile) road-and-rail bridge across the Kerch Strait is being overseen by Stroygazmontazh, a company controlled by Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo sparring partner.

The road segment is meant to be operational by the end of next year.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

(Reporting by Moscow newsroom; Writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)


The Israeli Invasion of Lebanon, 2006: Fact and Fiction

June 16, 2017

by Brian Harring

Both the State of Israel and the United States viewed Syria as a potentially dangerous enemy. Joint intelligence indicated that Syria was 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. As of 1 December 2006, an estimated 200,000 Lebanese remained internally displaced or refugees

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 non-deliberate 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. The UN observer reportedly wrote that previous Israeli bombing near the post had not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to “tactical necessity,” military jargon which retired Canadian Major General Lewis MacKenzie later interpreted as indicating that Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets extremely close to the post.

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 Hexbollah total at 7 dead and 129 non-combatant Lebanese civilian deaths.

On 30 July 2006 Israeli airstrikes hit an apartment building in Qana, killing at least 65 civilians, of which 28 were children, with 25 more missing. The airstrike 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 (thus committing the war crime of perfidy this was not always possible.

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 can be difficult to identify as many do 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 have been 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 refuses 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 military 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



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