US ARMS SALES TO THE SAUDIS INVITE WAR CRIMES CHARGES ONCE AGAIN

US ARMS SALES TO THE SAUDIS INVITE WAR CRIMES CHARGES

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This article first appeared on the Just Security site.

In December, the Obama administration suspended a large weapon sale to Saudi Arabia due to concerns about widespread civilian casualties from Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. The Trump administration is now looking to reverse that decision.

If the White House approves the sale and overcomes expectedcongressional opposition, it could leave bureaucrats in the State Department holding the bag—under pressure to approve sales that put them personally at legal risk.

Policymakers may believe there are overriding U.S. interests favoring U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in its proxy war with Iran in Yemen, but that kind of policy calculation does not resolve the legal risks involved.

Under international criminal law, and perhaps U.S. federal law, individual officials may be personally liable for “aiding and abetting,” or helping to commit, serious breaches of the laws of war.

Donald Trump in the State Dining Room with Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and minister of defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on March 14. (The person on the right is unidentified.) Ryan Goodman writes that if the White House approves the sale for arms to Saudi Arabia and overcomes expected congressional opposition, it could leave bureaucrats in the State Department holding the bag—under pressure to approve sales that put them personally at legal risk.MARK WILSON/GETTY

The Department of Defense’s Law of War Manual may not serve policymakers well in this important respect. The DoD Law of War Manual states that aiding and abetting a war crime requires that an accomplice has “a desire to help the activity succeed.”

Related: Trump gutting the State Department?

If that were the legal rule, U.S. government officials could rest easy knowing that they obviously don’t desire the Saudis to use U.S.-manufactured weapons to target or kill civilians. That’s not, however, what the law actually says.

The key source of authority that the Law of War Manual cites is an Opinion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel—but that Opinion, authored by one of the most highly respected attorneys to ever lead the office, clearly reached the opposite conclusion.

Walter Dellinger wrote the Opinion warning administration officials that they could be found guilty for aiding and abetting by sharing official intelligence with foreign governments that used that information to shoot down civil aircraft. That scenario now sounds hauntingly familiar.

Dellinger explained that having a desire to facilitate an offense is part of the standard elements required for an accomplice to be culpable, but not when the act of the recipient government involves a “particularly grave” or serious criminal act. When it comes to those more serious offenses, the Opinion stated, knowledge that one’s assistance would support the act could alone suffice.

It is difficult to imagine that war crimes would not fit that category. Indeed, under international criminal law, including across different war crimes tribunals that have adjudicated the question, defendants can be found guilty of aiding and abetting even if they had no desire to facilitate the crime.

And down at Guantánamo, the chief prosecutor in the central case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammad has relied on the well-founded theory that for aiding and abetting charges to stick, “the knowledge required is simply a knowing participation that the acts would assist the commission of a crime,” as his legal briefstates. “A conscious desire or willingness to achieve the criminal result is not required.”

It is fair to ask what could have changed since December to convince the administration that the concerns about civilian casualties have lessened. The straw that appeared to break the camel’s back during the Obama administration was a Saudi coalition strike on a funeral home that left well over a hundred people dead and nearly 700 injured. The strike, like some others that resulted in mass civilian casualties, reportedly involved U.S.-manufactured laser-guided munitions.

Senior U.S. officials formally briefed reporters, saying that there was “absolutely no justification for the strike.” In October, the White House announced the launch of a review of the Saudi coalition’s activities, which led to the arms sales suspension in December.

Since then, even more information has come to light indicating wrongdoing and reasons not to rely on assurances by the Saudi-led coalition.

First, in December following revelations by Amnesty International, the Saudi coalition finally admitted to using cluster bombs in Yemen, contradicting a long, long, long pattern of outright denials.

Second, in January a panel of independent experts, acting under a U.N. Security Council mandate, issued a detailed report that was nothing short of a damning indictment of “widespread violations” of the laws of war by all parties to the conflict.

The experts closely examined 10 strikes by the Saudi coalition and concluded that it is “almost certain that the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in attack,” according to the report. “The Panel considers that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.”

Third, former senior U.S. officials have now gone on the recordabout their conclusions concerning the misuse of American arms. One of the most important statements came in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week by Dafna Rand, who served as deputy assistant secretary at the Department of State until earlier this year and is now at the National Defense University.

Rand says that the only observable improvements in Saudi targeting practices came after the administration publicly raised concerns about U.S. assistance in October. Among other things, that trend would indicate the Saudi coalition could, in fact, control the effects of its targeting on civilians. Rand testified in the following terms:

In looking over the two years and charting improvements, because that’s what you’re asking about—is trends over time and where we’ve seen them go up and down. Really, the only two- or three-month period that I saw some progress was after the White House in October of 2016 had to raise publicly their concerns about security assistance.

That deterred them, they were concerned. They heard that message. Although it was critical of an ally and a friend, it deterred, and in a sense some people really watching the practice.

So where does all this leave current administration officials—inside the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairsand its Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers—who have to make the grueling decision to approve specific arms sales?

An added problem for them is that they now inhabit an administration with a significant legitimacy deficit. As I wrotebefore the inauguration, “the lack of public trust in Trump and the President-elect’s disinclination to respect the standard laws of war increase the likelihood of scrutiny by prosecutors, courts, foreign allies, and others.” That likelihood has since increased.

Another risk lies over the long horizon. As a candidate, Trump threatened to prosecute the former secretary of state and perhaps members of her staff, which a large body of Americans supported. In a similar step, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently suggested he might ask for a special prosecutor to review actions of the Justice Department under the Obama administration.

At some point, those kinds of statements begin to erode the idea that successor administrations will be unlikely to take such actions against their predecessors. While senior Trump officials may toy with such ideas even out in the open, they imperil lower-level staff by doing so. That might, according to some viewpoints, be a step forward for accountability.

It is not very comfortable for lower-level officials who could be left holding the bag.

 

H.R. McMaster’s Ties To Soros-Supported Think Tank Raise Questions

National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s past affiliation with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has created fresh concerns after research conducted by Disobedient Media revealed that the British think tank has taken funding from multiple governments in the Middle East and organizations tied to George Soros. McMaster’s former position with the IISS indicates a potential conflict of interest given the think tanks’ financial ties to sponsors who are anti-American and in some cases, states sponsors of terrorism.

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I. The IISS Has Financial Ties To Middle Eastern States And Soros-Connected Organizations

The International Institute for Strategic Studies is a UK-based think tank with strong establishment ties which was credited by former U.S. Ambassador Raymond Leonard Garthoff in his memoirs as being a driving force in creating “intellectual structures for managing the Cold War.” The IISS has famously boasted that it “owes no allegiance to any government, or to any political or other organization” and produces research cited and utilized by a vast number of groups internationally. But on December 6th, 2016, The Guardian reported that documents published by the organization Bahrain Watch showed that the IISS received more than £25 million in funding from the Bahraini royal family. The leaked documents also revealed that the IISS and Bahrain’s rulers specifically agreed to keep the latter’s funding secret, which would be used to pay for an IISS office in the country as well as annual conferences on Middle East politics attended by heads of state and other powerful figures in Bahrain’s capital of Manama. The Middle East Eye also published research indicating that in 2015 this funding accounted for over half the IISS’ total income during that period.

A reference of the IISS’ Sources of Funding Statementpage reveals that the think tank also receives funds from a shocking list of special interest groups, including the Carnegie Corporation New York, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Executive Affairs Authority – Abu Dhabi, The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), the embassies of China, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the High Commission for Pakistan. The IISS also accepted donations from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Ploughshares Fund.

The Ploughshares Fund is financed by the Open Society Foundation. A May 5, 2016 article by the New York Times revealed that the Ploughshares Fund was a major player in efforts to sell the Iranian nuclear deal to the American public. The deal has been generally criticized as a foreign policy failure, resulted in the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars to Iran without any concessions in return and has failed to prevent Iran from continuing to illegally test long range ICBM missiles in violation of both the deal and international sanctions.

George Soros has faced backlash internationally in Eastern Europe, after his organizations were banned from Hungary and placed under audit in Macedonia amid accusations that he was meddling in the countries’ political processes and improperly seeking to influence public opinion. Disobedient Media, The New York Times and The Washington Times have all highlighted Soros’ financial support for anti-democracy movements in the United States who seek to undermine democratic institutions and pursue regime change. The billionaire investor’s financial involvement with the IISS seriously undermines their claims of independence already on shaky ground after the revelations from The Guardian and Bahrain Watch.

II. H.R. McMaster Served As Consulting Senior Fellow At The IISS

H.R. McMaster was appointed to the position of National Security Advisor after the resignation of Michael Flynn in February 2017. McMaster was widely praised by the media after he steered away from Flynn’s hardline stance towards terrorism, statingthat the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was “not helpful.” Although McMaster has extensive counterinsurgency experience from his years in Iraq, his legacy there has been criticized by the Asia Timesas having utilized vast amounts of U.S. funds and resources only to leave behind an Iraqi government that was brittle and at risk of collapse, while failing to quell sectarian tensions that have allowed Iran to leverage interests throughout the Middle East and expand their influence through Hamas and Hezbollah.

From September 2006 to February 2017, H.R. McMaster served at the IISS as a Consulting Senior Fellow. The IISS’ website indicates that McMaster focused on topics relating to conflict and conflict prevention, development and security, civil-military relations and military history. McMaster’s close, longstanding ties to the IISS create concerns about conflicts of interest given the think tank’s financial connections to multiple foreign states across the Middle East and Asia, as well as figures like George Soros who are actively seeking to resist the administration of Donald Trump after the latter’s defeat of Soros-supported candidate Hillary Clintonin the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

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McMaster’s affiliation with an organization that has taken money not only from groups who pushed the harmful and counterproductive Iran nuclear deal, but states who media reports and releases from Wikileakshave shown to be sponsors of terrorism in both the Middle East and the West raise serious questions given the many years McMaster spent with the IISS. The IISS’ connection to such parties will no doubt continue to dog the Lieutenant General going forward given his central role in advising President Donald Trump during the U.S.’s controversial April 6th missile strike in Syria and his belligerent rhetoricdirected at the Russian Federation over their support for Bashar al-Assad.

Source: http://disobedientmedia.com/h-r-mcmasters-ties-to-soros-supported-think-tank-raise-questions/

The American left and the reality of 911: Beyond their wildest dreams

by Graeme MacQueen, from sott.net On November 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Fidel Castro gave a talk on Cuban radio and television.[1] He pulled together, as well as he could in the amount of time available to him, the evidence he had gathered from news media and other sources, and he […]

via The American left and the reality of 911: Beyond their wildest dreams — OffGuardian

http://getrightorgetout.blogspot.com/2017/04/our-dishonest-president-if-china-wont.html

Grant Smith: American Public Opinion About U.S. Aid to Israel and Other Top AIPAC Programs

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs • The Israel Lobby and American Policy • March 24, 2017

Grant Smith: American Public Opinion About U.S. Aid to Israel and Other Top AIPAC Programs

Dale Sprusansky: Grant Smith is the director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy—again, the co-sponsor of today’s event.  He’s the author of the 2016 book Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America, which covers the history, functions, and activities of Israel affinity organizations in America.  Grant has written two unofficial histories of AIPAC, and many other books.

His organization is constantly working on Freedom of Information Act requests and uncovering important documents, especially on Israel’s nuclear program.  I can tell you that few, if any, people work harder on this issue than Grant.  Between his frequent research, appearance in FOIA court, his writing, his polling and his 5:00 a.m. e-mails, Grant is truly a one-man machine.  Today he will be sharing polling data on U.S. aid to Israel conducted by his organization and by other pollsters.


Grant Smith:  Thank you, Dale.  Public opinion polling is very important, obviously, but there isn’t very much done in terms of asking about what the public thinks about core Israel lobby programs.  But that’s going to change today.  The polling that we are about to look at could and should provide input to elected officials, who should then, in turn, act in the public interest.  Polling about the Israel lobby programs that we’re going to look at reveals the growing gap between what the public thinks about particular issues, and the government actions being demanded by the Israel lobby.

Last year, I spoke here about the birth of the Israel lobby in the United States, its growth, its size, its composition and division of labor.  This was all based on my book Big Israel, in which I reveal a $3.7 billion nonprofit ecosystem on track to reach $6.3 billion by 2020.  With 14,000 employees, 350,000 volunteers, but a paying membership of approximately 774,000, it is this nonprofit lobby, along with overlapping campaign-finance infrastructure—whether it is large individual donors, stealth political action committees—that provide Israel with the U.S. support that it would otherwise not have.  All of this will be on a brilliant display when 15,000 AIPAC members assemble this weekend to begin their annual policy conference.  So let’s continue looking at the lobby, and what Americans think of that program.

The following surveys I’m about to show you are Google Consumer Research Surveys, probably the single most accurate polling tool available in America today.  The famous Nate Silver said, “Perhaps it won’t be long before Google and not Gallup is the most trusted name in polling.”

So let’s take a look at what Americans think about Israel’s single most important program, which is obtaining unconditional U.S. foreign aid, including advanced American weaponry, cash for Israel’s export-oriented military industry, packaged into 10-year memorandums of understanding, or MOUs.  These 10-year MOUs we’re going to look at require keeping the entire issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons program off the table.

The U.S. has provided $254 billion in known foreign aid to Israel, more than any other country.  Now there has been a recent attempt by scholars, such as Prof. Hillel Frisch, to try to move the goalpost and claim that Japan, Germany, and South Korea are in fact bigger recipients.  However, this argument is wrong.  Japan, Germany, and South Korea are in a different category—that of treaty-bound allies.  The military alliance expenditures, with contributions by both sides, have mutual obligations which make them not usefully comparable to U.S. aid with Israel, which has no obligations.

When informed of its relative size, 60 percent of Americans believe that U.S. foreign aid to Israel is either much too much or too much.  And this finding is also reflected in polls by Shibley Telhami and some Gallup polls.  This has been consistent over time. Recent years—2014, 2015, 2016—showed similar levels of responses.  Americans responding to this poll have been informed that aid has been around 9 percent of the total foreign aid budget, but this question will have to change in the future, as Dale has mentioned, since the Trump administration proposes cutting the State Department budget, while leaving aid to Israel untouched. So we should ask ourselves when that happens, what will it be—10, 20, 30 percent?  We don’t know yet.

The Sept. 14 Memorandum of Understanding, the U.S. guaranteed in this MOU security assistance over 10 years.  There are no Israeli obligations, and up to 28 percent could be spent on Israel’s own export-oriented industries.  This is the latest in a series of 10-year commitments, and the public has been told that this will guarantee Israel’s qualitative military edge.

When we polled this right after the MOU signing, the public responded—60 percent of them—that they had higher priorities.  When questioned if the $38 billion was a good investment, 60 percent said health care for U.S. veterans, education, and paying down the national debt would be far better expenditures.  Only 17 percent thought it should be spent on Israel.

When Congress passes aid to Israel and presents them to the president in bills to be signed, both rely on a subterfuge that the U.S. does not, and indeed cannot, know whether Israel has nuclear weapons.  However, under the Arms Export Control Act, procedures must be followed whenever the U.S. provides foreign aid to known nuclear powers that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  In 2012, under increasing pressure—including from a journalist who’s here today and Helen Thomas, who’s not with us—the Obama administration passed a gag order that punishes any federal employee or contractor who speaks out about what most people already know, which is that Israel has nuclear weapons.

So in a public opinion survey, first of its kind, most Americans would prefer an honest discussion about Israel’s nuclear weapons. Fifty-two percent said Congress should take nukes under consideration.  Officially Congress has said it does not take a position on this matter.  But under pressure from reporters—a handful—and legal action to block U.S. aid over its nuclear weapons program, and dogged reporting, this could change.

[Start of video clip]

Sam Husseini:  Do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, sir?

Sen. Chuck Schumer:  I’m not—you can go read the newspapers about that.

Sam Husseini:  You can’t acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, sir?

Chuck Schumer:  It is a well-known fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, but the Israeli government doesn’t officially talk about what kinds of weapons and where, et cetera.

Sam Husseini:  Could the U.S. government be forthright?

Chuck Schumer:  Okay.  That’s it.

[End of video clip]

 

Grant Smith:  That was Sam Husseini, who is here with us today.  In 1985 Israel and its lobby were the primary force behind providing preferential U.S. market access to Israeli exporters.  This was later rebranded as America’s first free trade agreement.  Because U.S. industry and labor groups were unanimously opposed to it, an Israeli Embassy operative covertly obtained and passed a 300-page classified report compiled from proprietary industry data from the ITC to help AIPAC overcome opposition.  This was investigated as a counterespionage matter by the FBI.

And, as could probably be expected from such a process, it replaced a balanced trading relationship with a chronic U.S. deficit to [Israel].

In fact, on an inflation- adjusted basis, the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement is the worst bilateral free trade deal ever, with a cumulative deficit of $144 billion.

In this era of popular disapproval of trade deals—whether it’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative or the North American Free Trade Agreements—when informed of the Israel free trade deal, 63 percent of Americans would either renegotiate or cancel it altogether.

Another bad deal that has been a long-term Israel and lobby initiative is moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.  Since 1948, Israel has been attempting to persuade foreign embassies to relocate in Jerusalem, which is, under the original partition agreement, supposed to be international.  But, leveraging Bob Dole’s presidential aspirations, in 1995 the Zionist Organization of America and AIPAC championed a law that was passed that defunds State Department overseas building budgets unless the U.S. Embassy is moved.  U.S. presidents have refused to do it, but there are now many champions of the move in the Trump administration.

Americans are not so excited when told in a survey question, “Israel’s U.S. lobby wants the U.S. Embassy in Israel moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  No other country, in accord with the U.N. resolutions opposing such a move, has done so.” Fifty-six percent of Americans indicate the embassy should not move, while 38 percent say it should.

There is a renewed push to return to a policy of no daylight between the United States and Israel.  This policy, particularly championed by former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, means that the U.S. and Israel can disagree, but not openly, since that would encourage common enemies and renders Israel vulnerable.  Of course, such a policy mainly benefits Israel as a bargaining chip it can put in its pocket and leverage the appearance of U.S. unconditional support in its own relations. So there is an effort underway for that.

Americans, when told and asked, Israel and its U.S. lobby are the only parties making such a demand in a question—“Israel  and its U.S. lobby want a no-daylight policy, the president never criticizing Israeli settlements and giving Israel billions in aid and diplomatic support at the U.N.”—most say, 56 percent say, the majority say, there should not be a no-daylight policy.

We have Maria LaHood with us today who can do a much better job talking about what Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) are—a movement to end international support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians—and the effort by the Israel lobby to pass laws blocking this, making it illegal across the country.

So I’ll only say that Israel lobby direct mail fund-raising campaigns are virtually unequivocally focused on stopping BDS as a fund-raising and major program initiative right now.  It’s highly visible.  It’s the number one priority.

But Americans are ambivalent.  When asked, 60 percent neither oppose nor support such laws, with 21 percent opposing them and only 18 percent supporting them.  So Americans are not behind BDS, are not highly on board with it, and they also don’t support the entire idea of single issue lobbying on behalf of a single foreign country.

I think this is the most important survey question, because it gets to the heart of the entire mechanism by which the Israel lobby has accumulated so much influence—campaign contributions.  So here it is.  That system ranges from seed funding of political candidates to funding through coordinated stealth political action committees, bundled campaign contributions, and pro-Israel mega donors.  Janet McMahon and two former congressmen will be talking about that, I’m sure.

Seventy-one percent of Americans do not support this system.

They are probably not aware, however, why lobbyists for Israel no longer talk about getting guns and diplomacy for Israel.  They talk about maintaining the U.S. special relationship with Israel, and there is a legal reason for that.  Lobbyists for Israel, including the old-timers such as Abraham Feinberg and the founder of AIPAC Isaiah Kenen, in their writings and speeches were far more forthright in the early days.  They honestly stated that their goal was weapons, money, and diplomatic support, because Israel needs it.  There was no talk of because America needs Israel.

AIPAC received, indirectly, foreign startup money to launch itself, and today the tight coordination with the Israeli government continues.  But the PR frame, the public relations frame, has changed.  Now, it’s one of preserving special interests and common values.  By the 1970s, no matter what the lobby did, the Justice Department stopped pursuing questions about whether some of its actors were in fact foreign agents who should be regulated as such.  And since that year, a growing number of espionage investigations of AIPAC, and even the ADL, were opened, but then quietly closed for no justifiable reasons.  1970, in fact, was the last year the Justice Department took an interest in the Israel lobby as a foreign agent.  There were in-depth hearings in 1962 and 1963 pleading with the IRS to look at their tax-exempt status, but nothing happened.

However, Americans appear to support a return to that simpler time when foreign agents were compelled to comply with disclosure laws and didn’t have quite so much power over Congress and elected officials.  Sixty-six percent, in fact, when asked, favor returning to regulating such activities.

Perhaps this is driven by warranted investigative journalism about coordinated Israel lobby and Israeli government officials that are still using every means possible, including covert ones, to win.  That includes an attempt to overturn a very beneficial—the JCPOA—Obama administration deal with Iran which most Americans favor, but which Israel and its lobby do not favor.

So you do have good journalism that came out about surveillance of the negotiations with the Iranians, about the Israeli government offering to do whatever is necessary with individual members of Congress if they would oppose passing this deal which the entire mainstream establishment Israel lobby—AIPAC, the ADL, the AJC—were united in opposing.

So, in conclusion, solid majorities of Americans polled, when using accurate survey technology, believe that U.S. foreign aid to Israel is too much.  They don’t really even approve of the means by which they’re won, and the funds and the U.S. unilateral commitments that are made to execute.  However, this is a passive majority.  None of these opinions and views has recently been, with few exceptions, translated into direct action by their members of Congress.  So only through active opposition, rather than passive opposition, which is clearly out there, will Americans be able to get their government back into the business of representing them.  And only by clearly asking about, and polling, and surveying, and doing serious research about Israel lobby programs and what Americans think about them, will we be able to have a process that takes wing and goes viral, so to speak, in terms of engaging more Americans to get out of this passive mode and become active participants once again with their government.

So with that, I am hoping our wonderful ushers, who are here today earning some community service hours, will circulate—Adrien, and Tabatha, and Sebastian, there we have Sapphire.  If you have any questions, please pass your cards to them.  We’ve got a very tight schedule, so we’re trying to keep our question and answer sessions getting to the most important questions first.  Thank you.  Do we have any questions yet?

Questions & Answers

Dale Sprusansky:  One question off the bat here is, so you used the term Israel lobby in your polling, how can you be certain that Americans understand what exactly you mean by Israel lobby when you mentioned it?

Grant Smith:  Right.  That’s a good question.  We did some preliminary polling, and these slides and a subsequent report will be out soon.  But it turns out that if you ask people what is the Israel lobby in the context of these questions about Congress and international relations, they will actually say it’s not the registration desk of the hotel in Jerusalem, the King David Hotel. They’ll say it’s not a group in the Israeli Knesset which has a similar name.  They know what it is.  So I can assure you that on the basis of having done some preliminary work, we’re not asking about an entity that is completely unknown at this point.

Dale Sprusansky:  There is just one question about how the polling was conducted and the sampling.  Were these respondents simply voluntary or self-selected?  Was there any regional, age, religious or other kind of sampling?

Grant Smith:  That’s great.  So there’s been a lot of junk polling that’s been done.  When I pulled this presentation together, I had a section on junk polling.  There is a piece of polling that was conducted by Kellyanne Conway, many of you have heard about it, a self-selected poll on Muslims which did not have a representative sample.  It had extremely, sort of toxic implications and it’s informing the government right now.  You can when you—and I suggest you download this slide deck.  You can certainly go to all of these hyperlinks at the bottom of this Google survey and see every single response, and look at the representative sampling that was done by Google to get these responses.  This is not a Kellyanne Conway or other type of poll which has an agenda.  Yes, we’re asking about the lobby because it’s important and it can be done.  But this is a legitimate, statistically significant survey.

Dale Sprusansky:  We just have another question kind of, I guess, asking you to draw some conclusions based on these polls.  Do you feel that they represent America’s moving more away from a pro-Israel stance?  Do you think we’re at a tipping point right now?  The person points out that polls show that Democrats and young people are increasingly prone to be siding with Palestine.

Grant Smith:  I’m not sure we’re at a tipping point.  I think there are a lot of people in this room, including some speakers who are coming up very soon, who’ve done an excellent job in bringing a higher public awareness about what the Israel lobby is, what its agenda is.  But the only way we’re going to get a tipping point, I think, is if we manage to spread the word a lot further; if we manage to continue drawing alternative media; if we continue to have brilliant journalism exposing some things.  And I include the Wall Street Journal, which broke an important story.  It’s not just Mondoweiss, which is a great place as well—and I notice that Philip Weiss is here today, so be sure to say hi to him.  There are others, including one of my favorites, Antiwar.com, where I write a lot of articles.  We’re trying to spread the word, because there hasn’t always been a welcoming presence for this type of information in the mainstream media.

Dale Sprusansky:  Great.  So a question here about—not  directly related to polls, but since you are involved in this, what is the latest on your legal actions on Israel’s nuclear arsenal?

Grant Smith:  Right.  So we found that in order to get good information from the government, you have to file a FOIA and then follow it up with a lawsuit.  This afternoon, when we’re sort of wrapping up, I know some of you have been very interested in a lawsuit we filed about Israel’s nuclear program, about the compliance of foreign aid with Symington and Glenn amendments inside the Arms Export Control Act.  There’s talk about that a little bit toward the end.  But I can tell you, that lawsuit is ongoing and we’re learning a great deal about functions of government by pursuing it.  So more to come on that.

Dale Sprusansky:  Great.  Then a question to broaden the conversation about military contractors.  Someone asked, aren’t they behind most of the lobbying for U.S. aid to Israel?

Grant Smith:  Yeah, I get a lot of things in my inbox saying, you know, Grant, this is really about Lockheed Martin, this is really about the large defense contractors.  But if you look at their total revenue compared to the $3 billion a year/$4 billion a year we know about given to Israel, it’s a tiny, tiny fraction.  If you go to the signing ceremonies for MOUs—which  is part of my job, I do that—you don’t see a lot of defense contractors attending those events.

So I would have to say, based on the data, based on the book Big Israel, based on the book Spy Trade, based on a lot of research and a lot of investment into this, I don’t think that they are a major part of the push to pass massive foreign aid packages to Israel.  In fact, a lot of them really don’t like and attempted to get the majority of the last MOU spent on American arms as opposed to being spent on developing Israel’s export-oriented industries.  AIPAC takes the lead on this.  This is their key core function, arms and money in the form of serial foreign aid packages from the United States.  It’s not the military and defense contractors.

Dale Sprusansky:  All right.  Well, perhaps this is a good transition to our next speaker, our keynote speaker.  We have a question about Mearsheimer and Walt’s book.  They claim the Israel lobby is as American as apple pie.  Do you agree with that assessment?  Be careful.

Grant Smith:  He’s not here yet, is he?  I have to say, I wrote an entire book called Spy Trade, about the espionage that was conducted to pass America’s first free trade agreement.  It wasn’t as American as apple pie what happened to U.S. industry.  It just wasn’t.  It wasn’t as American as apple pie when two AIPAC executives managed to obtain information they thought they could use from Col. Lawrence Franklin to gin up an attack on Iran.  I think that there’s far more going on, including coordination to oppose the JCPOA, that’s a mix.  It’s lobbying.  It’s phone banking.  It’s coordinated campaign contributions.  But there is a foreign covert action component to a lot of these things.  And so, to me, it’s not as American as apple pie.  Sorry.

Dale Sprusansky:  Okay.  I think that we should wrap it up.

Grant Smith:  Do we have one more?

Dale Sprusansky:  We have one more quick one.

Grant Smith:  Okay.

Dale Sprusansky:  Why does the IRS continue to grant pro-Israel groups, especially those that fund settlements, tax-exempt status?

Grant Smith:  I think that’s a great question.  Recently, a test case was that the Zionist Organization of America lost its tax exempt status, and so it had to go back and re-apply.  This ancient organization, which was really one of the originals, had to go back and apply to the IRS and make its case for why an organization that was purely about promoting Zionism in the U.S. was tax-exempt.  And we obtained all of the correspondence from the IRS about that.  They asked the question.  Mort Klein and his team of lawyers evaded it, and they were never asked again.  The question has never really been put forth and answered by the IRS.

Senator J. W. Fulbright made an attempt to ask about the status of AIPAC, about the status of the Jewish Agency at that time, and a number of other organizations, to the IRS after a seminal investigation in 1963.  And they strong-armed him and did not answer the question.  So it’s an open question.  The one about settlement financing in particular is the subject of litigation right now.  The problem is always standing.  You should probably ask a real lawyer, like Maria LaHood, that question in the following sessions.

Dale Sprusansky:  Great.  Thank you very much, Grant.

[End of presentation]

[End of transcript]

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SYRIA: Washington’s ‘Greater’ Middle East Project – Hand in Hand with Israel

 

Sarah Abed & Mark Taliano
Global Research

The US-led coalition of war criminals is using elements of Syria’s Kurdish population to achieve the U.S Empire’s goal of destroying the non-belligerent, democratic country of Syria, led by its hugely popular, democratically-elected President, Bashar al-Assad. 

Empire seeks to create sectarianism and ethnic divides in a country that, prior to the Western-launched criminal dirty war, had neither.

President al-Assad is well aware of the imperial forces behind the mercenaries invading his country. In a speech to the newly elected members of the People’s Assembly of Syria (Syria’s Parliament) on 7 June 2016, he elaborated upon the modus operandi of the invaders:

• They seek to attack the constitution by means of a so-called “transition” stage.

• They seek to destroy the two pillars of the government: the army and the diverse, national, pan-Arab and religious identity of Syrians.

• They seek to rebrand the savage terrorists as “moderates” and then to eternally provide them with a cover of legitimacy.

• They seek to create chaos, sectarianism, and ethnic enclaves that turn the people’s commitment from the homeland to conflicting groups that seek help from foreigners against their own people.

• They seek to be branded as “humanitarian” and “protectors” to save the people from (externally engineered) conflict and misery.

plane and liberty

By imposing economic and armed terrorism on Syrians, by waging a phony war against their own terrorist proxies (including ISIS and al Qaeda), by creating sectarian and ethnic tensions, and by destroying Syria’s infrastructure — including water and electrical infrastructure — the Western, Zionist, and GCC agencies of terrorism seek to be perceived as saviours, humanitarians and protectors, who can then introduce the “free market” of international capital, which will be the coup de grâce to effect the final destruction of the host country. And mainstream fake news provides the criminal warmongers with on-going, 24/7 cover to commit their war crimes.

Syrian-American Sarah Abed, was born in Al Qamishly and has lived in both the USA and Syria throughout her life. She makes frequent trips back and forth. Sarah is in direct daily contact with family and friends that reside in different parts of Syria. Sarah conducted and translated an interview with a close family friend, “Samir”, who lives in Syria and is well informed about the conditions on the ground.

Samir’s commentaries are consistent with President Assad’s assessment of the Imperialists’ strategy of “divide and conquer”:

Qamishly2
Picture taken by Samir sent directly to Sarah Abed, for exclusive use in articles. March 2017 showing the streets of Al Qamishly which is where the Kurds are trying to establish their capital.

Question: What was life like in Al Hasaka prior to the launch of the dirty war on Syria?

Answer: Life was great. The diversity was a positive attribute to the area. Al Hasaka is influenced by the Turkish, Syrian, and Kurdish cultures. You would see Turkish soap operas on local TV. , hear Turkish music, along with Merdali, and other types in the streets, blaring from the speakers of cars. I used to go to the music shops and pick up the latest Turkish songs. There were many restaurants, hospitals, hotels, and outdoor parks. Kurds had assimilated into the culture. They were considered Syrian citizens. Many of the Christians had family in Sweden. They would come for the summer.  There were good relations between all of the different ethnicities and religious affiliations. It was hard to distinguish who was who in the streets. There was a bustling social life and people were generally content with their lives.

Question: Did the Kurds have equal opportunities for education, healthcare, and work?

Answer: Since the 19th century when most of the Kurds came into Syria there was a peaceful coexistence. Kurds lived and interacted with Muslim and Christian Syrians. Yes, they had equal rights in every sector. They attended schools with the Syrian government approved Arabic curriculum.  They had access to free education, free healthcare, must like their Syrian counterparts. They were in fact Syrian Kurds and were not treated any differently.

Question: Are the people in Al-Hasaka well educated?  Well informed?

Answer: Yes, they were considered to be among  the most educated people in Syria. They are also very conscious of what is happening in their country as well as abroad. Education was very important and they took pride in it.  Many had completed college.  Kurds represent about 30% of the population in the Al-Hasaka governorate.

us led coalition
“On February 3, the coalition’s aviation destroyed four bridges: two in Raqqa and two in the settlements of El-Calta and El-Abbara. As a result of these actions, the communication between the northern and southern parts of the city, with over 200 thousand inhabitants, has been completely interrupted. On February 18, a bridge in El Megle was completely destroyed in the vicinity of the city of Maadan, 60 kilometers east of Raqqa,” ~ Sputnik

Question:  How does the rest of the population feel about Kurdish aspirations for independence from Syria?

Answer:  Syrians are not entirely surprised by these recent demands by the Kurds for autonomy. They are however upset by it. Syrians feel that the Kurds were allowed to come in and have lived in Syria for centuries and were treated fairly therefore the need to now take a part of the country and claim it as their own federation is quite frankly an insult to the hospitality they were shown. They feel as though the Kurds are being unappreciative and are only looking out for their own interest and not taking into account the Syrians that live in the area. Kurds are the minority yet their demands for autonomy and to take over the areas  that they have alleged are now their property is very unfair to Syrians in the area. Kurds moved into Syria and called it home, but now they are acting like the Syrians in their areas are living in their federation and need to abide by their rules and share their views and follow their commands or else they will be driven out of their homes. This is a very harsh and criminal way to treat others. Lest we forget that  Kurds are ultimately nomads and their alliance lies with Israel.

Question: Do all Kurds in the area want independence from Syria?

Answer: In the beginning of the war the Kurds fought alongside the Syrian army, they were paid, armed, and trained by the SAA. When the USA came in and basically created the SDF Syrian Democratic Forces that’s when the Kurds became more adamant about wanting independence and autonomy.  This is a very important point that needs to be made clear, The USA’s involvement in Syria led to the Kurds demanding autonomy.  Had the US military not given them weapons, training, armed vehicles, and most likely paid them wages as well there is a good chance that the Kurds would not have made these demands. Not all Kurds want independence but those who speak up against it  are silenced and told to not say anything or else they will be sent out of the country. They have received threats that saying anything negative about the Kurdish desires for autonomy will have negative consequences.

Question: Why do they want independence?  Did Assad government not treat them well?  Did the U.S government promise support and democracy and other lies?

Answer: They have always wanted to establish Kurdistan, that has been a life- long desire of theirs stemming from centuries ago. They are originally nomads that moved into countries such as Syria, Iraq, Turkey but their origins are in Iran. It was brought up from time to time but recently it has been discussed more openly and adamantly. It has now become a demand and one they will stop at nothing to achieve. This is quite problematic and many people in the region are waiting to see how this will unfold. It is surely a battle, the end results are unknown. The Kurds were treated well and did not have any issues with the Syrian Government. They had equal rights, free education, free healthcare like the rest of the Syrians.   Many do not have a passport which makes traveling legally an issue but it doesn’t seem to be a big concern for them.

Question: How have the illegal Western sanctions on Syria impacted the Al-Hasaka area?

Answer: The illegal sanctions have had a detrimental affect on the entire country. Due to its location in the North East of the country at times it felt like the Hasaka province was cut off from the rest of Syria. It was not receiving any sort of shipments from the other parts of Syria and had to rely on goods coming in from Iraq that were originally made in Turkey and Iran such as food, oil, rice, sugar, sanitary products, children’s items such as diapers and formula. At some points during the war the only thing they were receiving from inside of the country was Medicine coming from Damascus, even this was cut off during certain periods. Medical concerns and issues have multiplied and caring for illnesses and health conditions has become a big concern. It is both very expensive and also very difficult to find medicine and items such as infant formula. Another concern is that medical equipment has now become outdated and most of the machines do not work. Spare parts to repair them are unavailable. Most people with severe health conditions have had to move out of the area. The price of everything has multiplied. In 2015-2016 people had to rely on whatever products, food, healthcare, medicine, and everyday products that were already in the stores.. nothing else was being brought in. The demand was still there but the supply was dwindling and that of course caused severe economic turmoil and inflation.  Another issue related to the sanctions is that right now there are no exports from Syria, which in turn made the price of the dollar rise which then had a negative effect on everything else. For instance the price of infant formula had reached 5,000 syp which is about 10x what it was worth before.. some people were stating they are willing to pay 10,000 syp for a few days of formula but even that was difficult to locate in the stores. For the past few months they have been receive more medicine.

Question: What do other people in the governorate think about the Mandatory Self-Defence Duty and the prospect of killing Syrian soldiers?

Answer: In Al Qamishly they have had a few conflicts between the SAA and the Kurdish soldiers.  The last one was nine months ago and it lasted for four days. Right now they are not having any issues, but there is tension and it could break out into a fight at any time.  Last time they killed four Syrian soldiers, and at that time there were Arabs who said they would no longer fight against the Syrian army, and they gave up their weapons and left the SDF. They refused to fight against the Syrian soldiers.

When they are taking over new areas they are forcing the people in the new area to fight along with them.  There were a few families in the villages that refused to fight along with them and they kicked them out of the villages and claimed that their homes now belong to the Kurds and they are not to return and claim their properties in the future.

SAA Hasakah
“Tensions erupted between pro-government forces and Kurdish groups in Hasaka on Tuesday, leading to the most significant violence between the sides since several days of fighting in Qamishli in April.” ~ Reuters 18/8/2016 (Photo: Press TV)

Question: What happens if citizens refuse to fight the SAA? Are they threatened?

Answer: See above yes, they were given an ultimatum either fight with us or you will be forced to leave and forfeit their properties. Usually they would then move to other villages or the city where they are not forced to fight alongside the Kurds.  Once you start fighting with them, you are forced to fight whoever they need you to fight against and that includes the Syrian Army. You become trapped and ordered to follow their commands

Question: Do some people have no option?  (ie fight against Syria or starve? Fight or go to jail? )

Answer: As mentioned previously yes, the ultimatum is either fight with us or you will relinquish your property and move out of town. They have already done this numerous times.

Question: Which country is paying the Kurdish soldier wages?  How do they receive payment? Are they paid better than SAA soldiers?

Answer: Initially when they were fighting alongside the SAA it was the Syrian government that was paying their wages. Then the USA got involved and they formed the Syrian Democratic Forces on October 10th 2015.  Right now we are not certain who is paying their wages,  but it is rumoured that the U.S is the one providing them with money since we know that they are providing them with weapons, training and  armoured vehicles.

 Question: Are some of the Kurdish leaders criminals?

Answer: Many of the local leaders didn’t hold any titles or ranks before the war, they didn’t have any army or political experience.  They were not educated or well to do and most of them were in fact troublemakers with prior criminal convictions. These are on the local level. A differentiation needs to be made between the local leaders and their followers and the ones that came from Qandal Moutains in Turkey. On the local level yes they were smugglers and it’s been said that some are in the drug business. They loitered and stole items from the shops and homes in the areas they took control over. They were considered thugs. The ones that are coming from Qandal mountains have political and military experience.

Question: Can you tell us about the SDF?

Answer: First, I want to say that it’s not what the USA is trying to make it out to seem. The USA needed to support a group of people in Syria that did not have direct ties to terrorist groups. They did this after their union with the Free Syrian Army and “moderate rebels” fell through when it became clear that these were nothing less than terrorists and had ties to Al Qaeda and Daesh. The allies of SDF are the USA, France, UK, and a number of other smaller groups. Their headquarters is in AlQamishly. They state that they have about 50,000 fighters but we are unsure of that. They are mostly Kurdish and recently just a few days ago a large number of fighters defected from the SDF. They are led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their goal is to create their own federation in the NE of Syria.  There are US forces embedded with the SDF forces. The Pentagon confirmed the arms, ammunition, rifles, mortars, and ammunition it sent to them. The USA is heavily funding them and recently stated that they would continue to train and equip forces of the Manbij Military council.

Flag_of_Syrian_Democratic_Forces.svg
The SDF flag. “During the SDF’s late summer 2016 Western al-Bab offensive against ISIL, the U.S. Air Force provided close combat support for SDF forces. Late September 2016, the U.S. spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) confirmed that the SDF, including the YPG, is also part of the “vetted forces” in the train and equip program and will be supplied with weapons. ~ Wikipedia

Conclusion:

Sarah’s interview with Samir was a process that extended over a period of time, and she has amplified and clarified some of his commentaries.

What is clear is that the US and its allies, in particular Turkey in this case, are committing crimes of aggression against the sovereign state of Syria beneath the Big Lie of combatting terrorism.  The real plan, which is self-evident in this overview of the Kurdish issue, is to divide, conquer, and destroy Syria through economic and armed terrorism.

When a family chooses to leave, terrorists are quick to occupy the house, and to claim ownership.

***

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

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