- Syrian Arab Army establishes control over area east of Palmyra, thwarts attack by Daesh apes in Aleppo countryside, destroys their gatherings in Deir Ezzor, Daraa
- Map Update: Syrian Army tightens the nose around ISIS in east Aleppo
- Syrian Army turns the tables on ISIS in Deir Ezzor
- Russia summons Israeli ambassador following its air raid in Syria
- Syrian Army derails jihadist offensive in east Hama
Saturday, 18 March 2017
March 17, 2017
Voiceover by Harold Hoover
In the province of Aleppo, the Syrian army’s Tiger Forces liberated the villages of Tal Ahmar, Asimiyah, Qarin, Hazazah, Tal Ayyub, Um Zulaylah and Rasm al-Harmel. Government troops also attacked ISIS units at Ahmadiyah and Zubaydah.
Government forces took control of the Al-Mazar Mountaion, the nearby military depots, the Palmyra gas field. Government troops destroyed an ISIS vehicle at the al-Talila crossroad and some 4 ISIS members at the town of Arak.
Over 150 Russian sappers arrived the Syrian city of Palmyra to take part in a mine clearance effort, the Russian Defense Ministry announced. The sappers will use cutting-edge equipment and protective gear, Ruslan Alakhverdiyev, Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ Engineering Troops said at the Russia-24 TV channel.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) mostly consisting of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) captured the Hamad Assaf and al-Kulayb villages, the al-Kulayb Grain Silos and entered entered Judayat Khabur east of the ISIS-held city of Raqqah.
The Free Syrian Army’s Martyr Ahmad al-Abdo Forces have launched an offensive against the ISIS terrorist group in the eastern part of the Qalamoun Mountains in the Rif Dimashq province. Pro-militant sources claim that the Martyr Ahmad al-Abdo Forces seized multiple sites from ISIS. Clashes are ongoing.
Iraqi forces secured the Badush area west of Mosul after a series of clashes with ISIS terrorists in the area and recaptured a large chunk of Mosul’s Old City and three of five Mosul bridges. Up to 20 ISIS members were killed in the recent clashes in the area. According to the Iraqi military, Iraqi forces have achieved control over 60 percent of western Mosul since operations to recapture that area launched in February.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
March 17, 2017
Keep asking the fundamental question: Has the European Union brought the prosperity and security it promised?
Then that will always be a perfectly valid reason for exiting.
Because it hasn’t brought prosperity and security, can the European Union be reformed?
I have said “no” for years, but it’s been a month of historic changes in Europe, with more to come.
After years of rejecting such an idea, Europe’s leaders are expected to unveil a new plan for a “two-speed” European Union – where countries can choose their level of involvement – on March 25th, the 60th anniversary of the EU.
This is a rather shocking about-face, but will it save the Union?
Let’s be honest: The EU is nearly 60 and the bloom is off the rose, especially if she cuts her hair any shorter.
The timing is clear: France’s anti-Euroeverything Marine Le Pen seems assured of making it to the 2ndround presidential vote 8 weeks from now.
Le Pen has promised a Frexit vote this year if elected? Yes, she’s still losing in the 2ndround of all polls, but it has been a year of upsetting the political establishment: Cameron, Renzi, Hollande, Sarkozy, Clinton, etc.
My question is: Why not earlier, Brussels?
Yes, all governments move slowly, but the Brexit vote was last year.
A year ago is also when the uber-neoliberal International Monetary Fund admitted that austerity policies don’t work, which is something proven by the fact that they have never worked anywhere in recorded human history.
If Brussels thinks this can be a game changer in the French election, it may be too late.
That will all depend on if the EU/mainstream media’s preferred candidate – neoliberal globalist Emmanuel Macron – picks up the ball and runs with it or not.
But how can an unprecedented plan to unify a continent work if Brussels is always behind the curve, instead of setting it? The European Union is a revolutionary idea, but it bypassed the formation of a revolutionary leadership class and went straight to a middling, self-protective, corrupt bureaucratic guardianship.
Monday morning quarterbacking aside, 2 historic events just occurred
First, on March 1st European Commission President and Luxembourgeois Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled a White Paper on the future of the EU. He described five different scenarios about what the EU could be like in 2025.
Juncker clearly doesn’t have much faith in the future of the EU because, à la Francois Hollande, he won’t be seeking a 2nd term in 2019. Heck, he may even quit this month.
Hardly an inspiring leader who can unify a bloc, eh? Castro, he ain’t! Juncker’s (non) leadership is only inspiring to Eurosceptics.
The five options were presented to give the impression of democratic choice. Had they presented just one option…well, that would have been straightforward – and a bureaucratic class always rely on obfuscation to maintain power.
Hidden and middling to the maximum – at number 3 – among outgoing president Juncker’s five different plans was a two-speed Europe.
We aren’t going to waste time with the other four, because a two-speed Europe is the only one that really matters.
It is already a fact that it’s the only one that really matters because this week the heads of Germany, France, Italy and Spain met in Paris and said this is what they will push for.
This is a veritable political earthquake, even if people don’t realize it yet. It’s also an overturning of years of explicitly rejecting such changes.
But after Brexit the EU knows they have a problem, and that changes must be made.
Waitaminut: Yer telling me the EU is actually gonna change?
Is there any chance any major changes – such as a two-speed Europe – will be implemented, and quickly?
That depends – do you mean “democratically implemented”?
Firstly, let’s recall that a lack of democratic approval has never stopped the EU before: 8 times since 1992 national referendums have rejected key aspects of the EU, only to be totally and undemocratically ignored or subverted.
Amazing how such facts of history get ignored by the rabidly pro-EU supporters….
What would “democratically implemented” actually look like?
Well, European PMs are up for re-election in 2019. To give any changes the democratic approval they certainly require, EU leaders would need to decide, agree and campaign on the proposed changes well before this next legislative vote. That would give the public the chance to give their say – via vote – on the new changes.
But democratically proposing, debating and voting on structural changes to the EU’s political foundations by 2019?
It’s not impossible, but that’s still a very ambitious goal.
It would be ambitious of any single nation to hold a referendum on radically altering its very political structure.
But we are not talking about a single nation – we are talking about 28 of them. Well, 27 after Brexit.
More importantly, I have repeatedly stated that the EU is structurally incapable of reform because any major change requires the unanimous approval of all 27 members. Getting just 27 people to agree on anything is an arduous process, much less 27 nations.
Case in point: On Friday the EU was stymied in their effort get Poland’s Donald Tusk’s re-elected as president of the European Council. One country voted against him, so the body was nearly brought to a halt.
The dissenting country? Poland.
Noble Poland! Free Poland! Partitioned…Poland.
Why? Because there is both intense Euroscepticism in Poland, and also intense pro-EU sentiment…and this is the same everywhere. It’s complicated and emotional.
Perhaps EU “founders” realized this by installing this principle of unanimity, one which was likely taken from…Poland again!
The “liberum veto” was used during the era of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a dominant and important (if unfairly ignored) European power. The veto was a major democratic advancement against absolute monarchy, and the PLC produced just the 2ndcodified constitution in modern history, after the US.
When all the nobles were truly noble and in agreement, the unanimity principle worked out fine and the union peaked in the early 17th century. But when some aristocrats were bought off by foreign powers…proceedings could easily come to a dead halt and thus stagnation set in.
And then partition. And more partition.
In the case of Tusk, the liberum veto principle was not technically in play, but it had been common precedent for the council president to be elected unanimously.
Furthermore, Poland persuasively argued that the EU had no right to elect Tusk as their president when he was not even backed by his home country, LOL!
No matter – the EU ignored Poland’s claim for sovereignty over their own officials and re-elected Tusk anyway.
Poland expected the unanimity principle to be followed, but it wasn’t technically enshrined in this case, and so the bureaucrats got their way.
A new precedent has also been set: The EU can apparently dragoon anyone they want into power.
However, it is still this liberum veto system which ultimately defines the political structure of the European Union and which will make any change – two, three, 18-speed – seemingly impossible to democratically implement.
News flash: A multi-speed Europe is already legal, so they don’t need democracy
EU rules already permit groups of at least nine member states to pursue “enhanced cooperation”.
Barring a major earthquake that brings the EU to a halt – like a Frexit – the bureaucrats already have all the tools at their disposal to enforce the will of the elites. They don’t need any “referendum” – they’ll say “the rules for a multi-speed Europe have already been democratically approved” (except when they were rejected).
The basis of a multi-speed Europe is already permitted, it’s going to happen with or without a vote, and you can check the Rome Summit on March 25 to find that out for sure.
That’s the reality.
I predict they will use this rationale to create a two-speed Europe, regardless of the democratic preference of over 500 million people. Perhaps they will put it to a vote…in which case March 25th will announce the start of that campaign, and this is all we’ll be talking about for 2 years.
But I am Eurosceptical because the EU, and especially the Eurozone, was never a very democratic project. The EU is, fundamentally, a bureaucrat and lobby-dominated institution, after all – it was never truly revolutionary.
So what is a multi-speed Europe? We do have to move on….
A multi-speed Europe is basically a “coalition of the willing” – countries can join or not join multinational policies on economic growth, border protection, common defense, tax systems and others as they wish.
That’s the positive spin on it.
The negative spin is: This allows Western Europe to integrate at an even more breakneck pace, which is something many Western Europeans already do not want (see, “Brexit”).
Secondly, I hardly doubt the 27 nations of the EU will be democratically consulting their citizens for each and every multinational policy they join. The EU’s policies of economic austerity have been rammed through over the will of their people, so why will the future be any different?
Thirdly, a multi-speed Europe is already deeply opposed by many members in Central/Eastern Europe, who see themselves as being left out. Opposition to this plan was a major reason why Poland refused to vote in favor of native son Tusk.
Is a multi-speed Europe a good idea?
The existential crisis of the EU has always boiled down to this: Should there be “more Europe” or “less Europe”?
Clearly, changes are needed, because countries which have followed EU and Eurozone dictates have gone into a prolonged crisis.
EU economic growth since 2010 is just 1.3%, which is below the 1.5% required to start producing jobs. And this is me being charitable: I’m ignoring the -4.4% growth of 2009.
The best gauge of economic policies is how long and how deep an economic downturn lasts, as capitalism guarantees there will definitely be downturns, after all. For an alternative system, please check the stable long-term growth rates of communist behemoths like China as well as international blockade victims like Cuba.
The need to end the EU’s economic woes is immediate and clear.
Also clear is that there are huge economic divergences between EU countries – standard of living, borrowing rates, economic output, etc.
The EU was supposed to end this divergence. It was going to bring prosperity and stability, remember?
But capitalists never waste a good crisis and the 2009 European Sovereign Debt Crisis will go down in history as the time when the EU stopped working and started dying.
It is now abundantly clear that the economic solidarity which would be required from the richer nations of the EU to make “more Europe” work…simply does not exist.
Germany, France and the Netherlands only had the stomach to economically gut and destroy weaker nations like Greece and Portugal.
The rich nations got what they wanted – ports, airports, water departments, laws favoring their own industries against local industries – and now they want to take their money and leave “more Europe” behind.
Thus we will have “multiple speed” Europe on the table for the first time ever.
A “multiple-speed Europe” could indeed be a great option – it recognizes the fact that the required economic solidarity does not exist amid economically divergent countries.
The best option would be for Germany to leave, as many economists suggest – their economy is too strong and it upsets the entire balance. This is quite logical, if you think about it. You never read about that, though.
Germany can take their stupid, economically-blind, false-morality ideology of “We refuse to recognize that for us to export means someone has to import, and thus imbalances are required to exist, ” and not come back, as far as the rest of Europe is concerned.
Germany wants to stay in because neoliberal plundering is very profitable, after all.
Or countries like Greece could leave and start choosing their own economic policies to benefit their own citizens instead of French and German bankers.
They could drop out of the Euro and re-adopt the drachma, allowing them to set their own exchange rates, pay off their debt (read: interest on debt) and regain economic competitiveness.
But there are no guarantees on what a “multiple speed” Europe will actually look like, however….
Two-speed Europe will be “Rich Eurozone, poor everyone else”
It seems difficult to believe that high finance won’t win the day, as this is Europe and it is capitalist.
Therefore, the dividing line is likely to be set by Eurozone members banding together to form the top speed.
This why I don’t see “multiple speed” Europe being decided in March, or implemented by 2019, because the EU/Eurozone has to punish the hell out of Britain for Brexit.
That is a serious job!
Brexit is expected to be formally trigged this week (March 15), which means it’s not until 2019 that France and Germany can prove to Greece, Portugal and anyone else thinking of existing just how costly it will be to quit the club. If “multiple speed EU” is decided before Britain pays, we should see a rash of Euro exits.
And doesn’t France and Germany want to intimidate anyone from exiting? Doesn’t France and Germany want the neoliberal looting of poor countries to continue ?
Because there’s money still to be had! Smaller native industries to be bankrupted! Key infrastructure to be privatized! What kind of a half-hearted bust-out scheme are they running?!
Did they grow a conscience, maybe?
Well, I don’t think like a capitalist, so maybe I’m not seeing the bigger picture.
However, the Eurozone-speed group will almost certainly put up tariffs against the non-Eurozone speed members, and the latter will lose time after time.
How can they compete economically in a two-speed system when they were already behind during the time of single-EU unity?
The countries which didn’t adopt the Euro will band together, and you’ll basically have Western Europe versus Central Europe, economically. Capitalism is “the biggest corporation wins, not the best”, of course, and Western Europe has many more huge corporations set to dominate.
Also, the EU is currently in a crisis – why would the weaker EU countries even want to renegotiate the structure of the EU right now?
They are worse off than anyone else in the bloc, so they have even less pull than usual, therefore the solution can only entrench the current state of increased inequality.
So, given that it looks so bad for the lower gear of 2-speed Europe, why will Central Europe even stay in the European Union? They won’t, and the EU will ultimately disintegrate.
This is exactly what the Visegrad Group – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – said in a response to Juncker’s proposal.
This is the path I foresee for the EU: Slow, painful, and the current winners will remain winners because that’s capitalism, which lacks the multinational solidarity of communism.
Frankly, Central Europe would do much better to join up with Russia, Iran and China and become the easternmost point of China’s “One Belt, One Road” program, which is going to be the new McDonald’s.
Another option: A zero-speed Europe
Why go through this slow, painful, inevitable process I just described?
There is another option: a zero-speed Europe.
That is what will happen if Marine Le Pen wins (though I prefer Jean-Luc Melenchon, of course), as France has historically been the biggest advocate of a unified Europe – lose France, and Europe goes down.
Why choose an inherently elitist 2-speed solution – how is entrenching inequality any form of progress?
The EU would do better to bring a total halt to the project in order to debate and make totally new changes. A “2nd Federal Republic of Europe” or something like that. It should be communist, of course.
The biggest obstacle is changing the idea that a total halt is equivalent to death.
This is true firstly on the most-simple literal level: pro-EU propagandists say that the death of the European Union means the return of European war.
This type of logic is not logic at all, as it based on the ultimate fear: massive death. We deserve better than that; we should think more of ourselves than that.
So why must a halt to the European Union mean the end of the concept of a united Europe?
Is THIS version of a united Europe the only possible version?
Must it continue because it has lasted 60 years and it must last another 60, or another 160?
A resounding “No” is the only logical answer to all of these. There IS an alternative.
Monetary systems and political unions come and go, and this crazy blue marble keeps on spinning, and mankind keeps advancing in knowledge just the same.
If the system is not working, why not replace it? Why try to patch up a clearly-flawed system?
The world has changed drastically in the last 30 years, the rise of computers and digital finance being two sweeping societal changes – why not start fresh with a new system that confines the vast powers of these two behemoths? That’s just a start.
Must we continue with the new lack of limits on the spying powers of national governments? With the neoliberal ideas that have gutted European industry and its social safety net?
The European Union can be entirely remade – that IS a real alternative.
It would be a true revolution which sweeps away a dead, undemocratic and structurally unworkable version.
Detractors will say that there is not a clear plan, but neither is there a clear plan for this version of the EU’s future!
The difference is: we are actually talking about and working on the latter instead of the former. This is the same rationale intelligently used by environmentalists: “Well of course renewable energies aren’t as good as nuclear, oil or coal yet – we put all of our funding and R&D into those three options!”
The European Union can, should and must be reborn if it is going to start ending economic inequality and start promoting true unity, solidarity and mutually-beneficial cooperation.
A new European Union must reject what has clearly failed and what has been rejected: neoliberalism and capitalism.
A return to socialism is the only logical choice – history’s pendulum can only swing this way for Europe.
People need to grasp – and they don’t, and the mainstream media purposely obscures it – just how far to the right we currently are economically: Neoliberalism, European austerity, Trump’s domestic economic agenda – we cannot get much more unregulated and thus more unequal.
But working within the current structure of the EU is not going to work.
No one knows what a “multi-speed Europe” option will even look like, but for many it seems like: institutionalized 2nd-class citizenry for Central Europe; the cementing of the neo-imperial looting of countries like Greece; the cementing of right-wing roll backs to social rights and living standards in countries like France.
It’s been a historic fortnight. In another fortnight we’ll see what the aristocratic leaders of the European Union actually propose. On March 25th “two-speed Europe” is going to get very real!
More interestingly and more importantly, we’ll see what democratic votes in France and the Netherlands produce. In an intelligent world it would be more communism, but sometimes people just have to hit bottom before they turn themselves around.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
The U.S. Army made it clear that U.S. forces will remain in Syria after freeing Raqqa from Daesh’s control in order to stabilize the region, but Syrian President Assad’s recent remarks that the U.S. troops are “invaders” could lead to even more complications for the embattled nation.
MINNEAPOLIS – As the Syrian conflict has dragged on for the better part of six years, foreign troops have continually played a major role in the fighting and in the conflict’s escalation, causing some to comment that Syria’s so-called civil war is really a proxy war between competing geopolitical interests.
The presence of foreign troops has consistently been a point of controversy for the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as only one foreign nation – Russia – was ever invited to bring troops into the country. In contrast, the forces of other nations – nearly all of which have long been seeking Assad’s removal – have waffled between claiming that their troops are in Syria to fight Daesh or to depose Assad, placing the Syrian president in an undeniably complicated situation.
But despite how the involvement of competing foreign interests has drawn out the conflict, the Syrian government is quickly approaching what could very well be the final major battle for the fate of the nation. After reclaiming Aleppo from moderate rebel forces and the Islamic State, all eyes turned to Raqqa – the last remaining stronghold for the Islamic State and other extremist rebel groups.
Now, a few months later, Syrian forces are quickly closing in on Raqqa and, according to Assad, the Syrian war is set to end in “a few months.” Unless, of course, a foreign military intervenes.
While no official foreign invasion has been announced, there have been recent increases in the amount of foreign troops being deployed in Syria, particularly from the U.S. Beginning with an estimated 50 or so special operations troops sent in 2015, the number of U.S. troops in Syria is set to top 3,000, thanks to a recent deployment of nearly 2,500 soldiers in Kuwait who will soon be deployed to Iraq and Syria at the discretion of U.S. military command. Those deployed in Syria, according to Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, will be sent to Raqqa.
Though Assad has refrained from attacking foreign forces hostile to his regime that are operating within Syria’s borders, this recent escalation has prompted him to step up his rhetoric. In a recent interview with Phoenix TV, Assad stated that “any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish or any other one.”
Though Assad didn’t specifically single out U.S. troops, he did state the following:
“What are they [foreign troops] going to do? To fight ISIS [Islamic State, formerly ISIL]? The Americans lost nearly every war. They lost in Iraq, they had to withdraw at the end. Even in Somalia, let alone Vietnam in the past and Afghanistan.”
Assad then added that the U.S. “didn’t succeed anywhere they sent troops, they only create a mess; they are very good in creating problems and destroying, but they are very bad in finding solutions.”
“The complexity of this war is the foreign intervention. This is the problem,” he continued.
However, foreign intervention is increasingly seeming more likely than not. According to the head of U.S. Central Command Army General Joseph Votel, once Raqqa is liberated from Islamic State elements, U.S. forces will be “required” to stabilize the region as U.S. officials anticipate that “America’s allies,” i.e. anti-Assad rebels, will need assistance from the U.S. military to establish “Syrian-led peacekeeping efforts” in the area.
This is a frank admission that U.S. troops will not be going anywhere even after the Islamic State is removed, despite the fact that the presence of the Islamic State is the only justification the U.S. military has offered for its technically illegal presence within Syria.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
Dear President Trump,
This week you are scheduled to meet with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. As a 9/11 widow who has fought for more than 15 years for truth, justice, accountability and transparency with regard to the murder of my husband, Ron, I have a considerable interest in your upcoming meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince.
First, foremost and for good reason, I fear that the Deputy Crown Prince will not be forthright with you about his Kingdom’s role in the 9/11 attacks and global terrorism.
Indeed, many in the Kingdom refuse to tell the truth about their continued, long-standing, and well-documented clandestine, logistical and financial support of radical Islamist terrorist groups that target and kill innocent Americans.
For example, last summer when the infamous 2002 Joint Inquiry of Congress’ “28 pages” were finally released, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir claimed that the Saudis were exonerated and that the matter surrounding the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks was “now finished.”
In reality, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its role in facilitating the 9/11 attacks is far from over. And, in truth, the “28 pages” – actually 29 pages of the 832-page report – prove to be quite illuminating, devastating and damning towards that end:
On page 415: “While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support and assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government.… [A]t least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”
On page 417: One of the individuals identified in the pages as a financial supporter of two of the 9/11 hijackers, Osama Bassnan, later received a “significant amount of cash” from “a member of the Saudi Royal Family” during a 2002 trip to Houston.
On page 418: “Another Saudi national with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family, [deleted], is the subject of FBI counterterrorism investigations.”
On pages 418 and 419: Detained al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida had in his phone book the unlisted number for the security company that managed the Colorado residence of the then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
On page 421: “a [deleted], dated July 2, 2002, [indicates] ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists inside the Saudi Government.’”
On page 426: Bassnan’s wife was receiving money “from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan,” the wife of the Saudi ambassador. (Her correct name is actually Princess Haifa bin Faisal.)
On page 436: The general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department, David Aufhauser, testified that “offices [of the Saudi charity al-Haramain] have significant contacts with extremists, Islamic extremists.” CIA officials also testified “that they were making progress on their investigations of al-Haramain.… [T]he head of the central office is complicit in supporting terrorism, and it also raised questions about [then-Saudi Interior Minister] Prince Nayef.”
Holding the Saudis Accountable
Fortunately, as you know President Trump, JASTA (Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) was enacted into law — overriding President Obama’s veto — on Sept. 28, 2016 and the 9/11 Families were given the right to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable in a court of law for its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks.
Thanks to discovery and subpoena power, the 9/11 families hope to unearth and reveal a panoply of compelling information surrounding the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks. Suffice it to say, we do not believe the Saudis should be considered an ally of America.
Unsurprisingly, the Saudis continue to wage war against the 9/11 Families and JASTA by paying millions to their 14 powerful, insider Washington DC lobbying firms, like the Podesta Group, to repeal JASTA and rob us of our day in court.
In addition, some of the Saudis’ key legislative supporters who threaten to repeal JASTA are Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Sadly, McCain and Graham choose to protect the Saudis rather than American victims of terrorism.
Quite horrifically, one of the Saudi lobbyists — Qorvis — was recently caught trying to dupe, manipulate, and pit U.S. veterans against the 9/11 families. According to media reports, Qorvis offered vets an all-expense-paid trip to Washington (staying at the Trump Hotel) to lobby against JASTA without telling the vets that it was Saudi money funding their trip. Given that many of these vets had joined the military in the wake of 9/11, the discovery that they were now being duped into “working” for the enemy they enlisted and risked their lives to fight against, was extremely upsetting. Pitting American veterans against American victims is the lowest of the low — yet, there seems to be no lengths that the Saudis will not go.
Which brings me to my last point — the Saudi Aramco IPO on Wall Street. Mr. President, my husband was burnt to death on September 11th. The remains I received included his two arms, a few fingers, and his wedding band.
Thousands of innocent people were brutally slaughtered and turned to ash in broad daylight on that horrific day, now more than 15 years ago. The notion that the Saudis — whom the 9/11 Families are currently trying to hold accountable in a court of law for their role in the murder of our loved ones — want to return to the scene of their own alleged crime to make billions of dollars is immoral and simply untenable.
As my fellow 9/11 widows and I have repeatedly said—not over our husbands’ dead bodies.
President Trump, you have structured your campaign and current policies around being for America First. The 9/11 Families certainly hope that you remain steadfast in your belief that Americans must be protected, supported, and heard, first and foremost above all others—particularly those like the Saudis who fund radical Islamic terrorists that target and kill Americans.
The end of built-Saudi Kingdom on evil and terrorism
Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal would slash the US foreign affairs budget by almost a third. It would also eliminate key programs for low-income communities at home.
The president is asking Congress for just under $26 billion in base funding for the State Department and the US international aid agency, a $10 billion reduction.
According to the blueprint published by the administration on Wednesday, the US would eliminate all funding for international climate change initiatives, and reduce funding for UN agencies and peacekeeping, international educational exchanges and the World Bank.
But one area remains untouched. The president’s proposal “provides $3.1 billion to meet the security assistance commitment to Israel, currently at an all-time high.”
That record-breaking aid is set to soar even higher: last year, the Obama administration signed an agreement to boost US aid to Israel to $3.8 billion annually from 2019 onwards.
As the Congressional Research Service notes, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II.” As of 2016, that aid had totalled $127.4 billion.
It’s a point of pride for Trump and his backers to smash Washington orthodoxies. His proposal does away with a number of longstanding programs, many much smaller than spending on Israel.
While boosting bloated military spending by another $54 billion, Trump’s budget would, as The Washington Post reports, eliminate dozens of federal programs that assist the poor and fund scientific research.
Among those on the chopping block in Trump’s so-called “America First” budget are the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a $3 billion a year fund to help heat homes in the winter, and the Community Development Block Grant, which supports affordable housing and homelessness programs.
It would also eliminate federal funding of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The Environmental Protection Agency would lose 50 programs and thousands of workers.
And, the budget would slash $5.8 billion – or 20 percent – of the funding of the National Institutes of Health, which has been instrumental in finding cures for disease.
In the US system, the president proposes a budget, but it is up to Congress to decide to pass it and there are sure to be fierce fights to protect many of the programs that face such deep cuts.
But given the “bipartisan” consensus, don’t expect much of a battle over the billions of dollars that will continue to flow to Israel’s apartheid regime while vulnerable Americans bear the brunt of Trump’s austerity.
Saudi Arabia’s Blockade Of Yemen’s Largest Port Expected To Worsen Humanitarian Crisis
Despite a warning from the UN to end its existing blockades of Yemeni ports, a Saudi-led coalition is planning another major assault on the nation’s largest port city of Al Hudaydah, a move that threatens to worsen Yemen’s already unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
MINNEAPOLIS – While the Syrian conflict has long dominated international coverage of Middle Eastern crises, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been continually overlooked by the mainstream media. Since March 2015, the nation has been in a state of chaos following the overthrow of former Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was installed by the United States and Saudi governments, by a grassroots political movement led by the Houthis.
Following the Houthi-led coup, Saudi Arabia essentially invaded Yemen, eager to maintain control over the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, a critical area for the region’s oil trade. The Saudis’ efforts to maintain their undue influence in Yemeni politics and maintain hegemony over a key oil route has now manifested as a war effort bordering on genocide — one that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, most of them civilians. In addition, more than a third of Saudi airstrikes in the nation are believed to have destroyed civilian targets.
Despite the severity of the crisis, as well as Saudi Arabia’s apparent penchant for bombing hospitals and civilian infrastructure, the U.S. has remained unusually silent, essentially turning a blind eye in the face of repeated war crimes committed by its ally. The U.S. has involved itself militarily in Yemen to aid in the Saudis’ destruction of their southern neighbor, launching missiles and – more recently – botched raids that claimed the lives of numerous civilians, including an eight-year-old U.S. citizen.
The U.S. has also enabled the Saudis to commit war crimes in Yemen by continuing to sell them millions of dollars in weapons, despite their documented tendency to attack and bomb civilians. While the U.S. has been quick to accuse other nations of similar atrocities in Syria, it has been eerily silent, as well as complicit in, the crimes committed by Saudi Arabia.
The combination of minimal media attention, as well as tacit U.S. support for the Saudi war effort, has Yemen on the verge of collapse. According to the NGO Save the Children, tens of thousands of children in the embattled nation are dying due to the collapse of the country’s health care system. Since Saudi Arabia first invaded, more than 270 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed, many directly by the Saudis.
In addition, more than half of Yemen’s estimated 3,500 health facilities are closed or barely functioning, leaving nearly eight million Yemeni children without access to adequate health care, resulting in the deaths of nearly a thousand children every week, according to estimates.
But the health crisis is only part of the suffering that has become a daily reality for Yemenis. Famine is also taking its toll, with an estimated 19 million people – two-thirds of Yemen’s entire population – in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. More than half of the nation is suffering from a lack of adequate nutrition, according to UN estimates, with more than 370,000 children under the age of five suffering from severe malnutrition.
Much of the famine is preventable, as it has largely manifested as a direct result of the Saudis’ naval blockade of key Yemeni ports. Recent changes to Yemen’s central bank also threaten to rob many Yemenis of their capacity to purchase what little food is still available in the country.
Despite UN pleas to the Saudis to end their blockades, the Saudis and their anti-Houthi coalition have announced plans to assault Al Hudaydah, Yemen’s largest port city. Catherine Shakdam, associate director of the Beirut Center for Middle Eastern Studies and an expert on Yemen, told MintPress that “government officials in Hodeida have already confirmed an increase in attacks in Yemeni waters” as a result of the latest Saudi-led assault. She added that “fishermen have been shot at for trying to feed their families and drones have been spotted doing what is believed to be reconnaissance work.”
Shakdam added that this assault is only the most recent effort by the Saudis to cripple the strategic port city, remarking that the Saudis are “determined to punish civilians in the hope they will rise against the resistance movement and defeat its forces from the inside.”
Russia’s foreign ministry condemned the Saudis’ latest plan to cripple the Houthi movement, saying that the operation “would not only inevitably lead to a mass exodus of the [local] population but would also de facto cut the [Yemeni] capital of Sanaa from… food and humanitarian aid supplies.” The U.S. has yet to comment on the plan, but its silence thus far already speaks volumes