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America wants to kill two birds with one stone Saudi Arabia in the Grip of the ‘Frenemy’

Holiday Report

Over 40 countries joined the Islamic Military Alliance, the creation of which was announced with fanfare by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. This military alliance will become a ‘strong signal’ to terror organisations, which in recent years maintained activity on the territory of ‘our countries’, as the prince assured in Riyadh at the first meeting of defence ministers and experts on security of the alliance countries.
According to the prince’s opinion, the most threat that is posed by the terrorists, is not only the death of innocent people, however damaging the reputation of the Islamic religion as well.
41 member countries of the newly created alliance are planning to unite their ‘military, political and financial’ efforts for the joint counter-stand to international terrorism. They are mainly Sunni Muslim countries which surround Saudi Arabia, and they will be part of the anti-terror coalition. There are some notable absentees, as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Qatar did not become part of the alliance.
We should remember that this is not the first attempt of Riyadh to knock a military bloc together out of several countries that would execute orders of the King of Saudi Arabia in full obedience. In the early 2010s, Saudi Arabia, with the active support of Washington, tried to unite the armies of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). The Americans called the combined military units of the Arab states as ‘Arab NATO’. The armies of other countries, such as Jordan and North Africa countries were to join this alliance of ‘regional security’ pushing back against Iran. The military source in Tehran reported at the time that they set about entering this plan since the military intervention in Libya, where several countries of the said region were in the war, notably Qatar. The crisis in Bahrain increased the anxiety, which threatened the existence of ‘American Salafism’ in the Gulf region.
Washington believed that a window of opportunity emerged to kill two birds with one stone, with the larger command in the GCC armies; firstly, their military demands would increase, and the USA would be able to sell them even more of their expensive armaments. Secondly, an army against Iran would be created, which would instigate a war between the Shias and the Sunnis and at the same time would dispense the military units of the Western countries of the necessity to deal with Iran directly. Thirdly, the Americans were intending, simultaneously with the withdrawal of troops from Iran and Afghanistan, to create new forms of their presence in the region. The fourth reason, the problem of ‘Arab Spring’ influence spreading to Arab countries in the Gulf which have strategical importance for the USA, would be solved. However, the plan of creation of ‘Arab NATO’ failed as fast as it appeared. Not everything is that good as in Europe and might not fit the turbulent Middle East.
However, in Riyadh, they continued to behave like a child with a new toy. In December 2015, it was announced about the creation of the so-called Arab Coalition when Saudi Arabia began the combatting of the rebels-Houthis in Yemen, and at the time 31 countries joined, including Qatar. However, this notorious coalition came to ought, as most of the countries knew on their participation in the coalition only when the list of its participants was published. The participation of Qatar Air Force and United Arab Emirates Air Force was negligible. That is where it all stopped.
And now, one can see the third attempt of creating this military alliance, this time combatting the international terrorism. One should note that this topic, started in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, when the American elite blew up the three buildings in New York in the attempt to justify their plans in the achievement of world supremacy, is quite tempting and topical. It is most appealing exactly for Saudi Arabia, at the time when the ISIS bandits and terrorists battered by the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria are faced with an urgent issue; where will they flee from Syria and where to lay another stepping stone? In the world press, there were reports that the American special forces soldiers, who were illegally deployed on the Syrian territory, have already saved and evacuated part of the ISIS leadership.
Now the terrorists are confronted with two short paths. The first one is through the desert region at the Iraq-Syria border to get across to Iraq and remain in the south, where one can easily get lost and where there is very scarce population, mainly Bedouins. The other option is to continue and move along the corridor of sandy terrains in the north of Saudi Arabia, when they can regroup, recuperate and with the aid of the USA, who repeatedly allegedly dropped the armaments for the terrorists from the war-craft, to replenish their supplies.
In Iraq, where the Shia are in power headed by Haider al-Abadi and the Iranian armed forces, terrorists are unlikely to feel secure. Neither the government of Iraq, nor Iran will tolerate the presence of the Sunnis from ISIS in the country. It is more realistic that the terrorists might leave for the deserts of Saudi Arabia, which is ultimately critical for Riyadh and quite attractive for Washington. Firstly, ‘The Merchant’, – the American President Donald Trump, will sell a vast amount of special armaments for the military engagement in the desert. Secondly, he will be able to press down the Crown Prince, who is constantly evading the American trap, and is trying to arrange friendly relations and contacts with the bitter enemy of the USA, namely Russia. At present, the Washington elite is screwing a face into a smile upon remembering the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia into Moscow and the agreements reached there. Thirdly, the Americans have not given up their plans yet to develop the production of light tight oil, in the way of which are included in the agreements between Mohammed bin Salman, whilst presiding in OPEC and Russia.
One can wonder whether the prince of Saudi Arabia will stay lucky for the third time in the creation of and most importantly in the functioning of the new coalition. As of now, he was out of luck on several occasions and is being characterised by failures, this can be specifically seen at the example of the Yemen crisis unleashed by the Prince himself. The representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in the Middle East and North Africa region, Gert Kappeler announced that about 11 million children in Yemen “are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance” and “one child, every 10 minutes in Yemen dies from diseases that can be prevented”. According to Kappeler, “since the beginning of operation, led by Saudi Arabia, of the international coalition against the Yemeni rebels, the Houthis, about 5 thousand children have been killed or seriously injured”.
And even the widely advertised campaign on the bribery control, during which from 200 princes and officials, approximately 100 billion dollars were wheedled out, did not lend éclat to them. In the society of Saudi Arabia, despondency and fear prevails – who will be arrested next? We should not forget that Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country, where bribery, nepotism and the principle “you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours” exist for centuries. It would be enough to say that any foreign country, operating in the kingdom, is to give 50% of its equity capital to a Saudi Arabian, who, then, without working, will make quite a good money ‘harvest’. Is this a bribe as well? In this case, up to 60% of the adult population of the country are to be arrested.
By the way, as the world mass media report, the money ‘wheedled’ out of certain Saudi Arabians are unlikely to be diverted to the modernisation of the kingdom, and will rather be spent, by recruiting foreign troops, to provide the security of the country. Hence is the ambition of the Saudi Prince, who will any day now become the King, to form the new coalition and saturate it with the received ‘gratuitous’ money.

Comment

Holiday Report

Over 40 countries joined the Islamic Military Alliance, the creation of which was announced with fanfare by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. This military alliance will become a ‘strong signal’ to terror organisations, which in recent years maintained activity on the territory of ‘our countries’, as the prince assured in Riyadh at the first meeting of defence ministers and experts on security of the alliance countries.
According to the prince’s opinion, the most threat that is posed by the terrorists, is not only the death of innocent people, however damaging the reputation of the Islamic religion as well.
41 member countries of the newly created alliance are planning to unite their ‘military, political and financial’ efforts for the joint counter-stand to international terrorism. They are mainly Sunni Muslim countries which surround Saudi Arabia, and they will be part of the anti-terror coalition. There are some notable absentees, as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Qatar did not become part of the alliance.
We should remember that this is not the first attempt of Riyadh to knock a military bloc together out of several countries that would execute orders of the King of Saudi Arabia in full obedience. In the early 2010s, Saudi Arabia, with the active support of Washington, tried to unite the armies of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). The Americans called the combined military units of the Arab states as ‘Arab NATO’. The armies of other countries, such as Jordan and North Africa countries were to join this alliance of ‘regional security’ pushing back against Iran. The military source in Tehran reported at the time that they set about entering this plan since the military intervention in Libya, where several countries of the said region were in the war, notably Qatar. The crisis in Bahrain increased the anxiety, which threatened the existence of ‘American Salafism’ in the Gulf region.
Washington believed that a window of opportunity emerged to kill two birds with one stone, with the larger command in the GCC armies; firstly, their military demands would increase, and the USA would be able to sell them even more of their expensive armaments. Secondly, an army against Iran would be created, which would instigate a war between the Shias and the Sunnis and at the same time would dispense the military units of the Western countries of the necessity to deal with Iran directly. Thirdly, the Americans were intending, simultaneously with the withdrawal of troops from Iran and Afghanistan, to create new forms of their presence in the region. The fourth reason, the problem of ‘Arab Spring’ influence spreading to Arab countries in the Gulf which have strategical importance for the USA, would be solved. However, the plan of creation of ‘Arab NATO’ failed as fast as it appeared. Not everything is that good as in Europe and might not fit the turbulent Middle East.
However, in Riyadh, they continued to behave like a child with a new toy. In December 2015, it was announced about the creation of the so-called Arab Coalition when Saudi Arabia began the combatting of the rebels-Houthis in Yemen, and at the time 31 countries joined, including Qatar. However, this notorious coalition came to ought, as most of the countries knew on their participation in the coalition only when the list of its participants was published. The participation of Qatar Air Force and United Arab Emirates Air Force was negligible. That is where it all stopped.
And now, one can see the third attempt of creating this military alliance, this time combatting the international terrorism. One should note that this topic, started in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, when the American elite blew up the three buildings in New York in the attempt to justify their plans in the achievement of world supremacy, is quite tempting and topical. It is most appealing exactly for Saudi Arabia, at the time when the ISIS bandits and terrorists battered by the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria are faced with an urgent issue; where will they flee from Syria and where to lay another stepping stone? In the world press, there were reports that the American special forces soldiers, who were illegally deployed on the Syrian territory, have already saved and evacuated part of the ISIS leadership.
Now the terrorists are confronted with two short paths. The first one is through the desert region at the Iraq-Syria border to get across to Iraq and remain in the south, where one can easily get lost and where there is very scarce population, mainly Bedouins. The other option is to continue and move along the corridor of sandy terrains in the north of Saudi Arabia, when they can regroup, recuperate and with the aid of the USA, who repeatedly allegedly dropped the armaments for the terrorists from the war-craft, to replenish their supplies.
In Iraq, where the Shia are in power headed by Haider al-Abadi and the Iranian armed forces, terrorists are unlikely to feel secure. Neither the government of Iraq, nor Iran will tolerate the presence of the Sunnis from ISIS in the country. It is more realistic that the terrorists might leave for the deserts of Saudi Arabia, which is ultimately critical for Riyadh and quite attractive for Washington. Firstly, ‘The Merchant’, – the American President Donald Trump, will sell a vast amount of special armaments for the military engagement in the desert. Secondly, he will be able to press down the Crown Prince, who is constantly evading the American trap, and is trying to arrange friendly relations and contacts with the bitter enemy of the USA, namely Russia. At present, the Washington elite is screwing a face into a smile upon remembering the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia into Moscow and the agreements reached there. Thirdly, the Americans have not given up their plans yet to develop the production of light tight oil, in the way of which are included in the agreements between Mohammed bin Salman, whilst presiding in OPEC and Russia.
One can wonder whether the prince of Saudi Arabia will stay lucky for the third time in the creation of and most importantly in the functioning of the new coalition. As of now, he was out of luck on several occasions and is being characterised by failures, this can be specifically seen at the example of the Yemen crisis unleashed by the Prince himself. The representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in the Middle East and North Africa region, Gert Kappeler announced that about 11 million children in Yemen “are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance” and “one child, every 10 minutes in Yemen dies from diseases that can be prevented”. According to Kappeler, “since the beginning of operation, led by Saudi Arabia, of the international coalition against the Yemeni rebels, the Houthis, about 5 thousand children have been killed or seriously injured”.
And even the widely advertised campaign on the bribery control, during which from 200 princes and officials, approximately 100 billion dollars were wheedled out, did not lend éclat to them. In the society of Saudi Arabia, despondency and fear prevails – who will be arrested next? We should not forget that Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country, where bribery, nepotism and the principle “you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours” exist for centuries. It would be enough to say that any foreign country, operating in the kingdom, is to give 50% of its equity capital to a Saudi Arabian, who, then, without working, will make quite a good money ‘harvest’. Is this a bribe as well? In this case, up to 60% of the adult population of the country are to be arrested.
By the way, as the world mass media report, the money ‘wheedled’ out of certain Saudi Arabians are unlikely to be diverted to the modernisation of the kingdom, and will rather be spent, by recruiting foreign troops, to provide the security of the country. Hence is the ambition of the Saudi Prince, who will any day now become the King, to form the new coalition and saturate it with the received ‘gratuitous’ money.


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Trump’s decision on Jerusalem threatens to cost lives

Mehdi Hasan

Did the Trump campaign collude with Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 election? Maybe. We await Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s next move to learn more about that. But in the meantime, why aren’t more members of Congress or the media discussing the Trump transition team’s pretty brazen collusion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undermine both U.S. government policy and international law? Shouldn’t that be treated as a major scandal?
Thanks to Mueller’s ongoing investigation, we now know that prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, members of his inner circle went to bat on behalf of Israel, and specifically on behalf of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, behind the scenes and in opposition to official U.S. foreign policy. That’s the kind of collusion with a foreign state that has gotten a lot of attention with respect to the Kremlin – but colluding with Israel seems to be of far less interest, strangely.
Here’s what we learned last week when Mueller’s team unveiled its plea deal with Trump’s former national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn. In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council was debating a draft resolution that condemned Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied territories as a “flagrant violation under international law” that was “dangerously imperiling the viability” of an independent Palestinian state.
The Obama administration had made it clear that the U.S. was planning to abstain on the resolution, while noting that “the settlements have no legal validity” and observing how “the settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the … two-state solution.” (Rhetorically, at least, U.S. opposition to Israeli settlements has been a long-standing and bipartisan position for decades: Ronald Reagan called for “a real settlement freeze” in 1982 while George H.W. Bush tried to curb Israeli settlement-building plans by briefly cutting off U.S. loan guarantees to the Jewish state in 1991.)
So what did members of the Trump team do, as they listened to loud objections to the U.N. resolution from the Netanyahu government while counting down the days till Trump’s inauguration in January 2017?
“On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution,” reads the statement of offense against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. “On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn contacted the Russian Ambassador about the pending vote. Flynn informed the Russian Ambassador about the incoming administration’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution.”
Who was the “very senior member” of the transition team who “directed” Flynn to do all this? Multiple news outlets have confirmed that it was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and main point man on the Middle East peace process. “Jared called Flynn and told him you need to get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote,” a Trump transition official revealed to BuzzFeed News on Friday, adding that Kushner told Flynn “this was a top priority for the president.”
According to BuzzFeed, “After hanging up, Flynn told the entire room [at the Trump transition team HQ] that they’d have to start pushing to lobby against the U.N. vote, saying ‘the president wants this done ASAP.’” Flynn’s guilty plea, BuzzFeed continued, revealed “for the first time how Trump transition officials solicited Russia’s help to head off the UN vote and undermine the Obama administration’s policy on Middle East peace before ever setting foot in the White House.”
None of this has been contested. In fact, on Sunday, Kushner made a rare public appearance at the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Trump administration’s plans for the Middle East and was welcomed by the forum’s sponsor, the Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, who said he “personally wanted to thank” Kushner for “taking steps to try and get the United Nations Security Council to not go along with what ended up being an abstention by the U.S.” Kushner’s response? The first son-in-law smiled, nodded, and mouthed “thank you” to Saban.
Meanwhile, the Israelis have been pretty forthcoming about their own role in all of this, too. On Monday, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and a close friend and ally of Netanyahu, told Politico’s Susan Glasser that, in December 2016, “obviously we reached out to [the Trump transition team] in the hope that they would help us,” and “we were hopeful that they would speak” to other governments “in order to prevent this vote from happening.”
Got that? The Trump transition team — in the form of key Trump advisers Kushner and Flynn — reached out to the Russian government in order to undermine the U.S. government because the Israeli government asked them to.
Where’s the outrage? How is the sheer “scope and audacity” of the Trump-Netanyahu backchannels — to quote one U.S. official who spoke to me on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on this issue — not a bigger story? For a start, as University of Chicago law professors Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner argued in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, the much-mocked Logan Act of 1799 remains “a serious criminal statute that bars citizens from undermining the foreign policy actions of the sitting president.” These two legal scholars point out that “if Mr. Flynn violated the Logan Act, then so did the ‘very senior’ official who directed his actions. If that official is Mr. Kushner, then Mr. Kushner could go to jail.”
Then there is the issue of Middle East policy itself. It wasn’t outsourced to the Israelis by Trump and Co. only during the transition or only over settlements. The outsourcing has continued in office. Tomorrow, Trump is expected to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — another key Israeli demand that every single previous president, Republican and Democrat, has resisted. The decision on Jerusalem is so contentious that it both undermines any chance of reviving the peace process and threatens to cost lives — not just those of Israelis and Palestinians, but of Americans too.
What was it that James Mattis, secretary of defense and former head of U.S. Central Command, said back in 2013 at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado? He pointed out that the chances of a two-state solution were “starting to ebb because of the settlements,” before adding: “I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.”
Until Mueller issues his final report, we can all agree to disagree on whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. For now, however, what we do know for sure and what seems beyond doubt is that Flynn and Kushner colluded with Netanyahu and Dermer, on behalf of Trump, to make America not great again, but much less secure.
Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Trump’s own defense secretary.

Comment

Mehdi Hasan

Did the Trump campaign collude with Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 election? Maybe. We await Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s next move to learn more about that. But in the meantime, why aren’t more members of Congress or the media discussing the Trump transition team’s pretty brazen collusion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undermine both U.S. government policy and international law? Shouldn’t that be treated as a major scandal?
Thanks to Mueller’s ongoing investigation, we now know that prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, members of his inner circle went to bat on behalf of Israel, and specifically on behalf of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, behind the scenes and in opposition to official U.S. foreign policy. That’s the kind of collusion with a foreign state that has gotten a lot of attention with respect to the Kremlin – but colluding with Israel seems to be of far less interest, strangely.
Here’s what we learned last week when Mueller’s team unveiled its plea deal with Trump’s former national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn. In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council was debating a draft resolution that condemned Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied territories as a “flagrant violation under international law” that was “dangerously imperiling the viability” of an independent Palestinian state.
The Obama administration had made it clear that the U.S. was planning to abstain on the resolution, while noting that “the settlements have no legal validity” and observing how “the settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the … two-state solution.” (Rhetorically, at least, U.S. opposition to Israeli settlements has been a long-standing and bipartisan position for decades: Ronald Reagan called for “a real settlement freeze” in 1982 while George H.W. Bush tried to curb Israeli settlement-building plans by briefly cutting off U.S. loan guarantees to the Jewish state in 1991.)
So what did members of the Trump team do, as they listened to loud objections to the U.N. resolution from the Netanyahu government while counting down the days till Trump’s inauguration in January 2017?
“On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution,” reads the statement of offense against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. “On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn contacted the Russian Ambassador about the pending vote. Flynn informed the Russian Ambassador about the incoming administration’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution.”
Who was the “very senior member” of the transition team who “directed” Flynn to do all this? Multiple news outlets have confirmed that it was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and main point man on the Middle East peace process. “Jared called Flynn and told him you need to get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote,” a Trump transition official revealed to BuzzFeed News on Friday, adding that Kushner told Flynn “this was a top priority for the president.”
According to BuzzFeed, “After hanging up, Flynn told the entire room [at the Trump transition team HQ] that they’d have to start pushing to lobby against the U.N. vote, saying ‘the president wants this done ASAP.’” Flynn’s guilty plea, BuzzFeed continued, revealed “for the first time how Trump transition officials solicited Russia’s help to head off the UN vote and undermine the Obama administration’s policy on Middle East peace before ever setting foot in the White House.”
None of this has been contested. In fact, on Sunday, Kushner made a rare public appearance at the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Trump administration’s plans for the Middle East and was welcomed by the forum’s sponsor, the Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, who said he “personally wanted to thank” Kushner for “taking steps to try and get the United Nations Security Council to not go along with what ended up being an abstention by the U.S.” Kushner’s response? The first son-in-law smiled, nodded, and mouthed “thank you” to Saban.
Meanwhile, the Israelis have been pretty forthcoming about their own role in all of this, too. On Monday, Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and a close friend and ally of Netanyahu, told Politico’s Susan Glasser that, in December 2016, “obviously we reached out to [the Trump transition team] in the hope that they would help us,” and “we were hopeful that they would speak” to other governments “in order to prevent this vote from happening.”
Got that? The Trump transition team — in the form of key Trump advisers Kushner and Flynn — reached out to the Russian government in order to undermine the U.S. government because the Israeli government asked them to.
Where’s the outrage? How is the sheer “scope and audacity” of the Trump-Netanyahu backchannels — to quote one U.S. official who spoke to me on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on this issue — not a bigger story? For a start, as University of Chicago law professors Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner argued in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, the much-mocked Logan Act of 1799 remains “a serious criminal statute that bars citizens from undermining the foreign policy actions of the sitting president.” These two legal scholars point out that “if Mr. Flynn violated the Logan Act, then so did the ‘very senior’ official who directed his actions. If that official is Mr. Kushner, then Mr. Kushner could go to jail.”
Then there is the issue of Middle East policy itself. It wasn’t outsourced to the Israelis by Trump and Co. only during the transition or only over settlements. The outsourcing has continued in office. Tomorrow, Trump is expected to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — another key Israeli demand that every single previous president, Republican and Democrat, has resisted. The decision on Jerusalem is so contentious that it both undermines any chance of reviving the peace process and threatens to cost lives — not just those of Israelis and Palestinians, but of Americans too.
What was it that James Mattis, secretary of defense and former head of U.S. Central Command, said back in 2013 at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado? He pointed out that the chances of a two-state solution were “starting to ebb because of the settlements,” before adding: “I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.”
Until Mueller issues his final report, we can all agree to disagree on whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. For now, however, what we do know for sure and what seems beyond doubt is that Flynn and Kushner colluded with Netanyahu and Dermer, on behalf of Trump, to make America not great again, but much less secure.
Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Trump’s own defense secretary.


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Assam forum slams Ulfa (I) for killings

Nava Thakuria

Guwahati: Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) condemned the United Liberation Front Asom (Independent) for killing common people terming them as spies to the security forces. The forum argued that it was an old trick of the militant outfit to murder someone first and then brand him/her as a secret agent to the government agency.  It may be noted that the Ulfa (Independent), led by Abhijit Asom and Paresh Asom, owned up the responsibility for the killing of Anteswar Mahanta (46), a local in Tinsukia district of eastern Assam with his son Karun (25), a former student leader.
The armed rebels belonged to the Ulfa(I) went to  Mahanta’s residence at Simaluguri village on Monday evening and attacked him with indiscriminate firings, which also injured his son. Both were taken to a nearby hospital, but they succumbed to injuries. By then the militants fled taking advantage of the darkness.  Mahanta, a village defence party head, was reportedly instrumental in anti-terroriem campaigns, whereas his son was a former local leader of All Assam Students Union (AASU), who recently got married. But  an emailed statement issued by Ulfa (I) publicity secretary Arunodoy Asom claimed that both of them ‘were operating as spies for the Assam police & Indian Army’.
“The Ulfa leaders are habituated with lying since long back. When the same group killed journalist Kamala Saikia in 1991 at a Sivsagar village, also termed him as a spy to justify their crime. Who can forget the brutal murders of Rashmi Bora, Sanjoy Ghosh, Girish Dev Choudhury etc by the same outfit also terming them as spies,” said a statement issued by the PPFA.
Endorsed by Nirode K. Barua, Rupam Barua, Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Pramod Kalita, Kishor Giri, Anup Sarma, Jahnabi Goswami, Namrata Dutta, Smriti Divya Barua, Ujjal Saikia, Indranil Kalita, Ravishankar Ravi, Rajib Chowdhury etc, the statement also added, “The people of Assam must not forget the misdeeds of the militants including those of Ulfa.”
The forum, while urging the State chief minister (also in charge of home portfolio) Sarbananda Sonowal to take a serious note of the killings, appeals to the people to raise voices against all kinds of violence. It has also fervently requested the mainstream media not to glamorize the killings in the name of ‘revolutionary journalism’.

Comment

Nava Thakuria

Guwahati: Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) condemned the United Liberation Front Asom (Independent) for killing common people terming them as spies to the security forces. The forum argued that it was an old trick of the militant outfit to murder someone first and then brand him/her as a secret agent to the government agency.  It may be noted that the Ulfa (Independent), led by Abhijit Asom and Paresh Asom, owned up the responsibility for the killing of Anteswar Mahanta (46), a local in Tinsukia district of eastern Assam with his son Karun (25), a former student leader.
The armed rebels belonged to the Ulfa(I) went to  Mahanta’s residence at Simaluguri village on Monday evening and attacked him with indiscriminate firings, which also injured his son. Both were taken to a nearby hospital, but they succumbed to injuries. By then the militants fled taking advantage of the darkness.  Mahanta, a village defence party head, was reportedly instrumental in anti-terroriem campaigns, whereas his son was a former local leader of All Assam Students Union (AASU), who recently got married. But  an emailed statement issued by Ulfa (I) publicity secretary Arunodoy Asom claimed that both of them ‘were operating as spies for the Assam police & Indian Army’.
“The Ulfa leaders are habituated with lying since long back. When the same group killed journalist Kamala Saikia in 1991 at a Sivsagar village, also termed him as a spy to justify their crime. Who can forget the brutal murders of Rashmi Bora, Sanjoy Ghosh, Girish Dev Choudhury etc by the same outfit also terming them as spies,” said a statement issued by the PPFA.
Endorsed by Nirode K. Barua, Rupam Barua, Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Pramod Kalita, Kishor Giri, Anup Sarma, Jahnabi Goswami, Namrata Dutta, Smriti Divya Barua, Ujjal Saikia, Indranil Kalita, Ravishankar Ravi, Rajib Chowdhury etc, the statement also added, “The people of Assam must not forget the misdeeds of the militants including those of Ulfa.”
The forum, while urging the State chief minister (also in charge of home portfolio) Sarbananda Sonowal to take a serious note of the killings, appeals to the people to raise voices against all kinds of violence. It has also fervently requested the mainstream media not to glamorize the killings in the name of ‘revolutionary journalism’.


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Fear and savings in India

Ipsita Chakravarty

“This tsunami will wipe out your money lying in the banks,” warned a message that went viral on WhatsApp recently, spreading panic among depositors. It was referring to the new Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017, lying with a joint parliamentary committee at present and expected to be tabled during the winter session. Among the more alarming features reported about the bill was a “bail in” clause that would apparently empower banks and regulators to dip into public deposits to rescue floundering financial institutions. The government has now gone into damage control mode, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarifying that the bill would not compromise the rights of depositors, that it would in fact mean additional protections. But the panic comes at a time when public trust in institutions and financial systems is eroding.
Indian financial institutions are currently groaning under the massive weight of non–performing assets, created when banks lend to clients who default on payment. According to estimates put out in the Financial Stability Report of 2017, India has the second highest ratio of non-performing assets among the major economies of the world. The FRDI Bill is among the many measures planned by government to prop up failing banks. It proposes to set up a Resolution Corporation, which would monitor firms, calculate stress and take the appropriate “corrective action”. This body ensures that government would have a larger say in functions previously performed by the Reserve Bank of India and other financial regulators, which could signal another instalment in the turf war between the central bank and the Centre. It also proposes to do away with the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India created in 1971, which insures all kinds of bank deposits up to a limit of Rs 1 lakh.
The contentious “bail-in” clause, which involves the use of depositors’ funds to prop up flailing financial institutions, is in contrast to a bail out, where tax payers’ fund are injected into the system. It emerged as an alternative to the bail out after the financial crisis of 2008, when banks across the world went bust. This bill specifies that it would not apply to insured deposits and several other categories, which implies that the risk profile for ordinary depositors has not changed substantially. But the new bill, as it does away with the Rs 1 lakh limit, does not specify the quantum of deposits that would now be insured. It also formalises the risks associated with depositing money in banks.
While demonetisation had the public scrambling to the banks to ensure that the money they held in currency notes was not wiped out overnight, this bill makes depositors nervous about those very bank accounts. Demonetisation, argued economist Amartya Sen, “undermines bank accounts, it undermines notes, it undermines the entire economy of trust”. It also undermined the credibility of the Reserve Bank of India, which appeared to have toed a political line. That steady erosion of trust has not abated with subsequent financial decisions taken by government. Earlier this year, the implementation of the goods and services tax involved the imposition of a punitive tax regime that raised prices and squeezed small businesses. Later, a skittish government scaled down the tax rates on over 200 items. Given the shocks of the past year, the new bill looks like another piece of caprice from a government which cares little for the ordinary depositor. It has its work cut out in convincing the public otherwise.  [Scroll.In]

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Ipsita Chakravarty

“This tsunami will wipe out your money lying in the banks,” warned a message that went viral on WhatsApp recently, spreading panic among depositors. It was referring to the new Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017, lying with a joint parliamentary committee at present and expected to be tabled during the winter session. Among the more alarming features reported about the bill was a “bail in” clause that would apparently empower banks and regulators to dip into public deposits to rescue floundering financial institutions. The government has now gone into damage control mode, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarifying that the bill would not compromise the rights of depositors, that it would in fact mean additional protections. But the panic comes at a time when public trust in institutions and financial systems is eroding.
Indian financial institutions are currently groaning under the massive weight of non–performing assets, created when banks lend to clients who default on payment. According to estimates put out in the Financial Stability Report of 2017, India has the second highest ratio of non-performing assets among the major economies of the world. The FRDI Bill is among the many measures planned by government to prop up failing banks. It proposes to set up a Resolution Corporation, which would monitor firms, calculate stress and take the appropriate “corrective action”. This body ensures that government would have a larger say in functions previously performed by the Reserve Bank of India and other financial regulators, which could signal another instalment in the turf war between the central bank and the Centre. It also proposes to do away with the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of India created in 1971, which insures all kinds of bank deposits up to a limit of Rs 1 lakh.
The contentious “bail-in” clause, which involves the use of depositors’ funds to prop up flailing financial institutions, is in contrast to a bail out, where tax payers’ fund are injected into the system. It emerged as an alternative to the bail out after the financial crisis of 2008, when banks across the world went bust. This bill specifies that it would not apply to insured deposits and several other categories, which implies that the risk profile for ordinary depositors has not changed substantially. But the new bill, as it does away with the Rs 1 lakh limit, does not specify the quantum of deposits that would now be insured. It also formalises the risks associated with depositing money in banks.
While demonetisation had the public scrambling to the banks to ensure that the money they held in currency notes was not wiped out overnight, this bill makes depositors nervous about those very bank accounts. Demonetisation, argued economist Amartya Sen, “undermines bank accounts, it undermines notes, it undermines the entire economy of trust”. It also undermined the credibility of the Reserve Bank of India, which appeared to have toed a political line. That steady erosion of trust has not abated with subsequent financial decisions taken by government. Earlier this year, the implementation of the goods and services tax involved the imposition of a punitive tax regime that raised prices and squeezed small businesses. Later, a skittish government scaled down the tax rates on over 200 items. Given the shocks of the past year, the new bill looks like another piece of caprice from a government which cares little for the ordinary depositor. It has its work cut out in convincing the public otherwise.  [Scroll.In]


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