Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Former Obama Drone Executive Now Teaches Human Rights Law at NYU

Ben Norton reports for Truthout:

Harold Koh NYU‘Harold Koh, as the Legal Adviser of the US Department of State, was the leading legal defender of Obama’s drone program. He helped the Obama administration extrajudicially kill people – including US citizens and civilians – with flying machines that are invisible to the naked eye.

Koh is now a visiting scholar at the New York University (NYU) Law School, where he is teaching international human rights law.

US News and World Report lists NYU as number six in its list of the 10 best lawschools.

On weekly “Terror Tuesdays” meetings in the White House, Obama drafts a list of those who will be extrajudicially assassinated via drone. This is known popularly as the US government’s “Kill List” – euphemistically also referred to as its “disposition matrix.”‘

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Game of Drones: Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War

Jeremy Scahill reports for The Intercept:

Transatlantic cables connect U.S. drone pilots half a world away. (Illustration: Josh Begley)A top-secret U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Intercept confirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program. Ramstein is the site of a satellite relay station that enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries. The top-secret slide deck, dated July 2012, provides the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.

Amid fierce European criticism of America’s targeted killing program, U.S. and German government officials have long downplayed Ramstein’s role in lethal U.S. drone operations and have issued carefully phrased evasions when confronted with direct questions about the base. But the slides show that the facilities at Ramstein perform an essential function in lethal drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa.

The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government’s drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution. According to the source, Ramstein’s importance to the U.S. drone war is difficult to overstate. “Ramstein carries the signal to tell the drone what to do and it returns the display of what the drone sees. Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now,” the source said.’

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America’s Not-So-Ultimate Weapon: Economic Warfare

Paul Pillar writes for The National Interest:

‘The roots and manifestations of American exceptionalist thinking go way back. One of those manifestations is the use of economic measures as a weapon intended to coerce or deny. The specific thinking involved is that such measures employed by the United States, and even the United States alone, should be enough to induce or force change in other countries. The thinking is solipsistic insofar as it centers narrowly on the idea of American will and the exercise of American power and, as too often has been the case, pays insufficient attention either to the other nation’s motivations or to what damage or denial the United States is inflicting on itself.

More than two centuries ago the young American republic made one of its first big attempts at such economic warfare. The Embargo Act of 1807 shut down U.S. overseas trade in an attempt to get the warring European powers Britain and France to respect U.S. neutrality. President Thomas Jefferson’s intentions were honorable in that he genuinely sought neutrality in the European war—unlike so many today who, if they see an armed conflict going on somewhere in the world, believe it necessary for the United States to take sides even if there are bad guys on more than one side. Jefferson also saw the embargo as an alternative to war rather than a prelude to it—unlike many today, who are both sanctions hawks and military hawks.’

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NBC’s Conduct in Engel Kidnapping Story is More Troubling than the Brian Williams Scandal

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] The Brian Williams scandal is basically about an insecure, ego-driven TV star who puffed up his own war credentials by fabricating war stories: it’s about personal foibles. But this Engel story is about what appears to be a reckless eagerness, if not deliberate deception, on the part of NBC officials to disseminate a dubious storyline which, at the time, was very much in line with the story that official Washington was selling (by then, Obama was secretly aiding anti-Assad rebels, and had just announced – literally a week before the Engel kidnapping — “that the United States would formally recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as that country’s legitimate representative”). Much worse, the NBC story was quite likely to fuel the simmering war cries in the West to attack (or at least aggressively intervene against) Assad.

That’s a far more serious and far more consequential journalistic sin than a news reader puffing out his chest and pretending he’s Rambo. Falsely and recklessly blaming the Assad regime for a heinous kidnapping of Western journalists and directly linking it to Iran and Hezbollah, while heralding the rebels as heroic and compassionate — during a brewing “regime change” and intervention debate — is on the level of Iraqi aluminum tubes.’

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Did NBC Cover Up Role of U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army in 2012 Kidnapping of Richard Engel?

‘NBC News is at the center of a new controversy, this time focused on its chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Back in 2012 he and five other members of an NBC News team were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Syria. They were held for five days. Just after his release Engel spoke on NBC News and said this about his captors: “This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. They are Shiite.” Well, earlier this week, a New York Times investigation prompted Engel to revise his story and reveal he was actually captured by Sunni militants affiliated with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army. In an article published on Wednesday, Engel said the kidnappers had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite shabiha militiamen.” According to the Times investigation, NBC knew more than it let on about the kidnappers. We speak to As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He runs the Angry Arab News Service blog. He expressed serious doubts about the circumstances surrounding Engel’s captivity and release when the story first broke in December 2012.’ (Democracy Now!)

The shroud of secrecy around US drone strikes abroad must be lifted

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

dronesIt’s been over two years since President Obama promised new transparency and accountability rules when it comes to drone strikes, yet it’s become increasingly clear virtually no progress has been made. The criteria for who gets added to the unaccountable ‘kill list’ is still shrouded in secrecy – even when the US government is targeting its own citizens.

We know because a Texas-born man named Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh recently captured overseas was arraigned in federal court this week, but he’s actually lucky to be able to have his day in court. It turns out, as the Times reported, that in 2013 “his government debated whether he should be killed by a drone strike in Pakistan.”

The CIA and military – and bizarrely, the House intelligence Committee, which is supposed to be conducting oversight of drone strikes, not cheering them on –were reportedly pushing hard to send drones to kill Al Farekh, but the Justice Department didn’t think there was enough evidence to meet the supposed threshold, that required him to be an “imminent” threat and “senior” member of al-Qaeda. (It’s also worth noting that the definitions of both “imminent” and “senior” have been quite warped beyond recognition in past drone strikes).’

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The Kagans: A Family Business of Perpetual War

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, run a remarkable family business: she has sparked a hot war in Ukraine and helped launch Cold War II with Russia – and he steps in to demand that Congress jack up military spending so America can meet these new security threats.

This extraordinary husband-and-wife duo makes quite a one-two punch for the Military-Industrial Complex, an inside-outside team that creates the need for more military spending, applies political pressure to ensure higher appropriations, and watches as thankful weapons manufacturers lavish grants on like-minded hawkish Washington think tanks.

Not only does the broader community of neoconservatives stand to benefit but so do other members of the Kagan clan, including Robert’s brother Frederick at the American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly, who runs her own shop called the Institute for the Study of War.’

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Report Shows US Invasion, Occupation of Iraq Left 1 Million Dead

Dahr Jamail writes for Truthout:

A recently published report has revealed that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1 million Iraqis, which is 5 percent of the total population of the country. The report also tallies hundreds of thousands of casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Authors of the report, titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of the ‘War on Terror,'” have told Truthout that other casualty reports, like the often-quoted Iraq Body Count (IBC), which has a high-end estimate at the time of this writing of 154,563, are far too low in their estimates, and that the real numbers reach “genocidal dimensions.”

Joachim Guilliard, the author of the Iraq portion of the study, told Truthout that the new study relied heavily on extrapolations from a previous study published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal, which put Iraq’s numbers at 655,000, but the study was published in 2006 and is now dramatically out of date.

“The numbers of Lancet, reaching genocidal dimensions, represent a massive indictment of the US administration,” Guilliard said. “Most Western media are not interested in it. The IBC numbers, however, are [seen as] acceptable. They are in line with the general picture of the war in Iraq according to which the Iraqis themselves are primarily responsible for most violence.”‘

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Afghan Civilian Toll Rising Again, 2015 Could Be Another Deadly Record

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The latest quarterly report out of the UN shows 521 civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2015, including 136 deaths. This is an 8% increase over the same period in 2014, which was itself the deadliest since the UN began keeping track.

UN officials warn that as the spring thaw begins the tolls are likely to start soaring again, setting the stage for another terrible year for civilians trapped 14 years deep into a NATO occupation.’

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Iran Deal: A Possible Crossroads to Peace

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Secretary of State John Kerry and his team of negotiators meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his team in Switzerland on March 26, 2015. (State Department photo)The April 2 framework agreement with Iran represents more than just a diplomatic deal to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. It marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war.

Whether that more peaceful route is followed remains very much in doubt, however, given the adamant opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Sunni Arab allies in Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich sheikdoms. Netanyahu continued his denunciations of the deal — saying it would “threaten the survival of Israel” — and no one should underestimate the Israel Lobby’s power over Congress.

But the choice before the American people is whether they want to join a 1,300-year-old religious war in the Middle East between Sunnis and Shiites – with Israel now having thrown in its lot with the Sunnis despite the fact that Saudi Arabia and its cohorts have been supporting Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists.’

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Netanyahu told cabinet: Our biggest fear is that Iran will honor nuclear deal

Barak Ravid reports for Haaretz:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a recent meeting of the security cabinet that if a comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers is indeed signed by the June 30 deadline, the greatest concern is that Tehran will fully implement it without violations, two senior Israeli officials said.

The meeting of the security cabinet was called on short notice on April 3, a few hours before the Passover seder. The evening before, Iran and the six powers had announced at Lausanne, Switzerland that they had reached a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and that negotiations over a comprehensive agreement would continue until June 30.

The security cabinet meeting was called after a harsh phone call between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama over the agreement with Tehran.’

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Ex-Blackwater guards handed lengthy prison sentences for 2007 Baghdad massacre

Neocons, R2Pers and Hypocrisy

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Sometimes I’m challenged over my linking belligerent neoconservatives with “liberal interventionists” who justify U.S. military invasions under the “humanitarian” banner of “responsibility to protect” – or R2P – meaning to intervene in war-torn countries to stop the killing of civilians, like the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda.

And, most people would agree that there are extraordinary situations in which the timely arrival of an external military force might prevent genocide or other atrocities, which was one of the intended functions of the United Nations. But my overall impression of R2Pers is that many are careerist hypocrites who voice selective outrage that provides cover for the U.S. and its allies to do pretty much whatever they wish.

Though one can’t generalize about an entire group – since some R2Pers act much more consistently than others – many of the most prominent ones operate opportunistically, depending how the dominant narrative is going and where the power interests lie.’

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Is the FBI whitewashing the Saudi connection to 9/11?

SEE ALSO: No Evidence Its Agents Helped in 9/11 Attacks, Says Saudi Arabia

Paul Sperry reports for the New York Post:

How the FBI is whitewashing the Saudi connection to 9/11[…] The investigation into the prominent Saudi family’s ties to the hijackers started on Sept. 19, 2001, and remained active for several years. It was led by the FBI’s Tampa field office but also involved the bureau’s field offices in New York and Washington, and also the Southwest Florida Domestic Security Task Force.

Agents identified persons of interest in the case, establishing their ties to other terrorists, sympathies with Osama bin Laden and anti-American remarks. They looked into their bank accounts, colleges and places of employment. They tracked at least one suspect’s re-entry into the US.

The Saudi-9/11 connection in Florida was no small part of the overall 9/11 investigation. Yet it was never shared with Congress. Nor was it mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report.

Now it’s being whitewashed again, in a newly released report by the 9/11 Review Commission, set up last year by Congress to assess “any evidence now known to the FBI that was not considered by the 9/11 Commission.” Though the FBI acknowledges the Saudi family was investigated, it maintains the probe was a dead end.’

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US counts on arming, training foreign forces despite years of failure

David J. Lynch reports for Bloomberg:

The U.S. is trying to stabilize Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria using a tactic that’s rarely worked: training and equipping foreign forces.

The effort to defeat terrorists and insurgencies without using American troops is failing in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and other Sunni nations have now intervened. It still faces long odds and long wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

For now, President Barack Obama is doubling down on getting other nations to fight by boosting arms sales to the Gulf states, resuming military aid to Egypt and supporting the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen.’

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Saudi-Led Airstrikes Target Yemen’s Infrastructure

‘Saudi Arabia and its allies are pressing ahead with their aggression against Yemen. This residential building in the capital Sana’a has been hit in the latest round of aerial bombardments. A number of people, including women and children, have been killed and injured.’ (Press TV)

Kerry Slams Iran for Urging Yemen Ceasefire

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Secretary of State John Kerry today angrily condemned the Iranian government for pushing for the ceasefire in the Saudi-led war against Yemen, saying the US is determined to stand with its allies in the region, and accused Iran of “destabilizing” the region with its efforts.

Kerry went on to insist that the Iranian government is “obviously” supplying the Houthis in Yemen, citing commercial flights between Iran and Yemen as proof.

Kerry’s claims were made in spite of WikiLeaks documents from the State Department affirming for years that the US is well aware that the Houthi faction in Yemen is a local faction, and has never been shown to have any significant ties to Iran.’

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Al Qaeda Exploiting the Conflict in Yemen, says Pentagon Chief

Priyanka Boghani reports for PBS Frontline:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has moved to seize territory in Yemen, taking advantage of the ongoing conflict there, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Carter said the United States was observing Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate “making direct gains on the ground there as they try to take territory, seize territory in these battle lines, which involve actually several factions.”

[…] Carter’s remarks reflect what analysts have been warning of since the unrest in Yemen began. “This whole situation has thrown Yemen into political uncertainty, accentuating the power vacuum that Yemen has experienced for quite some time,” Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told FRONTLINE in January.

Carter added that the United States was particularly concerned about AQAP “because in addition to having other regional ambitions and ambitions within Yemen, we all know that AQAP has the ambition to strike Western targets, including the United States.”

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The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s just running them at arm’s length

Seamus Milne writes for The Guardian:

Joe Magee Illustration on Saudi-led action in Yemen[…] Since the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and its allies are reluctant to risk boots on the ground. But their military interventions are multiplying. Barack Obama has bombed seven mainly Muslim countries since he became US president. There are now four full-scale wars raging in the Arab world (Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen), and every one of them has involved US and wider western military intervention. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest British arms market; US weapons sales to the Gulf have exceeded those racked up by George Bush, and last week Obama resumed US military aid to Egypt.

What has changed is that, in true imperial fashion, the west’s alliances have become more contradictory, playing off one side against the other. In Yemen, it is supporting the Sunni powers against Iran’s Shia allies. In Iraq, it is the opposite: the US and its friends are giving air support to Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Sunni takfiri group Isis. In Syria, they are bombing one part of the armed opposition while arming and training another.

The nuclear deal with Iran – which the Obama administration pushed through in the teeth of opposition from Israel and the Gulf states – needs to be seen in that context. The US isn’t leaving the Middle East, as some imagine, but looking for a more effective way of controlling it at arm’s length: by rebalancing the region’s powers, as the former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke puts it, in an “equilibrium of antagonisms”.’

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Hackers black out French TV network, hijack websites to back Islamic State

Carol J. William reports for McClatchy:

Hackers acting in support of Islamic State extremists knocked out the global broadcast network of France’s TV5 early Thursday, then hijacked its website and social media to post warnings against French participation in airstrikes against the militants in Iraq and Syria.

The computer system of TV5 Monde, whose Facebook page says it reaches 257 million households in 200 countries and territories, was invaded by malware late Wednesday that took over the network’s transmission server and blocked its satellite signal, network executives told French and international media.

All 11 channels went black for three hours until prerecorded programming was directed to fill viewers’ blank screens, said TV5 Monde Director General Yves Bigot.’

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Former CIA Chief in Pakistan Faces Murder Charges for Drone Killings

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Former CIA station chief for Islamabad Jonathan Bank is to face charges of murder and waging war against Pakistan, according to a ruling by the high court.

The charges are related to a December 2009 drone strike against North Waziristan in which three civilians were killed. Banks is no longer in the country, and will be tried in absentia.

The CIA has launched scores of drone strikes against Pakistan’s tribal areas, killing countless civilians, of course, but the Pakistani government has shown only vague opposition to the strikes and little interest in identifying the slain.’

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The Obama Arms Bazaar: Record Sales, Troubling Results

William D. Hartung, author of Prophets of War, writes for LobeLog:

With the end of the Obama presidency just around the corner, discussions of his administration’s foreign policy legacy are already well under way. But one central element of that policy has received little attention: the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration of U.S. weapons exports.

The numbers are astonishing. In President Obama’s first five years in office, new agreements under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program—the largest channel for U.S. arms exports—totaled over $169 billion. After adjusting for inflation, the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.

The majority of the Obama administration’s arms sales—over 60 percent–have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia topping the list at $46 billion in new agreements. This is particularly troubling given the complex array of conflicts raging throughout the region.’

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Interview with William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and author of “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.” (Democracy Now!)

10 Truly Absurd Features of Contemporary Foreign Affairs

Stephen M. Walt writes for Foreign Policy:

Those of us who work on foreign policy like to think of ourselves as hard-headed, rational people who don’t easily succumb to myths, fables, or delusions. If only that were true! In fact, foreign-policy mavens as just as vulnerable to blindered thinking as any other human beings, and our community has its own set of odd beliefs and practices that are rarely questioned or criticized.

In fact, if one moves outside the bubble of mainstream discourse and takes a hard look at some familiar elements of contemporary world politics, they begin to look rather peculiar, even absurd. What do I mean by that? I mean an unusual, bizarre, risible, and hard-to-justify state of affairs whose dubious nature is no longer questioned, mostly because we’ve grown accustomed to it and no longer notice how weird it really is. These situations are like the discarded oddities of a bygone era — like phrenology, corsets, powdered wigs, binding feet, etc. — or like the bad habits that we sometimes acquire without noticing how strange or damaging they might be.

Some of these absurdities persist because they’ve been around a long time, or because powerful interests defend them vigorously, or because they align with broader social prejudices. Some of them may in fact be defensible, but we should still bring such oddities out into the open air on occasion and ask ourselves if they really make sense.’

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Unworthy victims: Western wars have killed four million Muslims since 1990

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

‘Last month, the Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) released a landmark study concluding that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million.

The 97-page report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning doctors’ group is the first to tally up the total number of civilian casualties from US-led counter-terrorism interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The PSR report is authored by an interdisciplinary team of leading public health experts, including Dr. Robert Gould, director of health professional outreach and education at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, and Professor Tim Takaro of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University.

Yet it has been almost completely blacked out by the English-language media, despite being the first effort by a world-leading public health organisation to produce a scientifically robust calculation of the number of people killed by the US-UK-led “war on terror”.’

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Six Things You Didn’t Know the U.S. and Its Allies Did to Iran

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Six Things You Didn’t Know the U.S. and Its Allies Did to IranIt’s hard for some Americans to understand why the Obama administration is so determined to come to an agreement with Iran on its nuclear capability, given that huge Iranian rallies are constantly chanting “Death to America!” I know the chanting makes me unhappy, since I’m part of America, and I strongly oppose me dying.

But if you know our actual history with Iran, you can kind of see where they’re coming from. They have understandable reasons to be angry at and frightened of us — things we’ve done that if, say, Norway had done them to us, would have us out in the streets shouting “Death to Norway!” Unfortunately, not only have the U.S. and our allies done horrendous things to Iran, we’re not even polite enough to remember it.

Reminding ourselves of this history does not mean endorsing an Iran with nuclear-tipped ICBMs. It does mean realizing how absurd it sounds when critics of the proposed agreement say it suddenly makes the U.S. the weaker party or that we’re getting a bad deal because Iran, as Republican Sen.Lindsey Graham put it, does not fear Obama enough. It’s exactly the opposite: This is the best agreement the U.S. could get because for the first time in 35 years, U.S.-Iranian relations aren’t being driven purely by fear.’

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Arab nations’ donations to Clinton Foundation: Curing world’s ills or currying favor?

Greg Gordon reports for McClatchy:

Four oil-rich Arab nations, all with histories of philanthropy to United Nations and Middle Eastern causes, have donated vastly more money to the Clinton Foundation than they have to most other large private charities involved in the kinds of global work championed by the Clinton family.

Since 2001, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates gave as much as $40 million to the Clinton Foundation. In contrast, six similar non-governmental global charities collected no money from those same four Middle Eastern countries; the International Committee of the Red Cross was given $6.82 million. Since 2001, these global foundations have raised a staggering $40 billion to $50 billion to fund their humanitarian work.

The existence of foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation has been well-documented in the media. What hasn’t been revealed, however, is the disparity in donations by these four nations, all of which have been criticized by the State Department over the years for a spate of issues ranging from the mistreatment of women to stoking ethnic discord in the flammable Middle East.

Moreover, the level of Arab support for the Clinton Foundation, which occurred during the time Hillary Clinton was a U.S. senator, was seeking the Democratic nomination for president against Barack Obama, and was serving as secretary of state, fuels questions about the reasons for the donations. Were they solely to support the foundation’s causes, or were they designed to curry favor with the ex-president and with a potential future president?’

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Judith Miller: ‘No senior official spoon-fed me a line about WMD’

Tom McCarthy reports for The Guardian:

Judith Miller, the correspondent whose mistaken reporting on Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program routinely decorated the front page of the New York Times in the run-up to the Iraq war, has launched a staunch defense of her work in a newspaper essay published Friday and in a forthcoming book.

The essay, published in the Wall Street Journal, describes Miller’s frustration at the “enduring, pernicious accusation that the [George W] Bush administration fabricated WMD intelligence to take the country to war”.

Miller writes that both she and the Bush team acted in good faith out of an honest belief that Hussein had a functioning WMD program based on faulty intelligence and misleading sourcing. US soldiers who began to search the country after the March 2003 invasion of Baghdad discovered that no such program existed.’

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Make No Mistake — the United States Is at War in Yemen

Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy:

Make No Mistake — the United States Is at War in Yemen […] The United States is providing targeting intelligence, as the Wall Street Journal reported: “American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb, U.S. officials said.” These video feeds are being provided via U.S. drones, because American manned aircraft are reportedly not presently flying over Yemeni airspace. (One needs to ask: Did U.S.-supplied video feeds help to direct the airstrikes that have caused civilian casualties?) Either way, the aid is clearly above and beyond “logistics” and “intelligence”: The Saudi Defense Ministry announced a U.S. search-and-rescue mission by a HH-60 helicopter flying from Djibouti of two Saudi pilots who ejected from their F-15SA over the Gulf of Aden. Oh, and the United States is also reportedly providing aerial refueling for Saudi fighter aircraft.

This has become a routine pattern for a president who declared in his 2013 inaugural address, “a decade of war is now ending.” The Obama administration has initiated (in Libya and Syria/Iraq) and extended (in Afghanistan) military operations with virtually no public debate or formal role for Congress — a situation that the American people and their elected representatives have tacitly accepted in repeated interventions and in the war on terrorism more generally.

But even though Code Pink isn’t marching on the Mall against the “enabling” of the Yemen campaign, it’s probably still worth trying to understand and evaluate the logic and objectives of the U.S. military support for the Saudi-led intervention. A military operation that lacks clear courses of action, coherent objectives, or an intended end state is nothing more than the random, purposeless application of force against some enemy.’

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The Pentagon plan to ‘divide and rule’ the Muslim world

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Yemen is on the brink of “total collapse” according to the UN high commissioner for human rights. Saudi Arabia’s terror from the air, backed by Washington, Britain and an unprecedented coalition of Gulf states, has attempted to push back the takeover of Yemen’s capital Sanaa by Shiite Houthi rebels.

As Iran-backed Houthi forces have pressed into Aden, clashing with Yemeni troops loyal to exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, the US has provided live video feeds from US surveillance drones to aid with Saudi targeting. The Pentagon is set to expand military aid to the open-ended operation, supplying more intelligence, bombs and aerial refuelling missions.

Yet growing evidence suggests that the US itself, through its Gulf allies, gave the northern Houthis a green light for their offensive last September.’

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At Least 147 Killed in Al-Shabaab Attack at Kenyan University: Interview with HRW’s Leslie Lefkow

‘In Kenya, officials say at least 147 people, mostly students, were killed when al-Shabab militants stormed a university in Garissa, making it the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy. Al-Shabab militants reportedly went through the university dorms, separating Muslims from Christians, and killing the Christians. The Kenyan government said at least 79 people were wounded in the assault. The siege lasted about 15 hours before security forces killed four militants. Al-Shabab has carried out a series of attacks inside Kenya following Kenya’s 2011 invasion of Somalia. We speak to Leslie Lefkow, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division.’ (Democracy Now!)