position:secretary of state

  • Exclusive: Overruling his experts, Pompeo keeps Saudis off U.S. child soldiers list - Reuters
    https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-saudi-childsoldiers-exclusive-idUKKCN1TJ25Y

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blocked the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a U.S. list of countries that recruit child soldiers, dismissing his experts’ findings that a Saudi-led coalition has been using under-age fighters in Yemen’s civil war, according to four people familiar with the matter.

    #Arabie_saoudite #enfants_soldats #états-unis

  • Venezuela : maintenir l’opposition unie, c’est Mission Impossible,…
    (Mike Pompeo, …)

    Secretary of State Pompeo says uniting Venezuelan opposition ‘devilishly difficult’ - The Washington Post
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/exclusive-pompeo-opens-up-about-venezuelas-opposition-says-keeping-it-united-has-proven-devilishly-difficult/2019/06/05/85385a33-8eae-4ba5-a9ac-6b7b8c3d5762_story.html


    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accompanied by Colombian Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez, visits a center for displaced Venezuelans in Cúcuta, Colombia, on April 14, 2019.
    (Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters)

    Exclusive: In secret recording, Pompeo opens up about Venezuelan opposition, says keeping it united ‘has proven devilishly difficult’

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a candid assessment of Venezuela’s opposition during a closed-door meeting in New York last week, saying that the opponents of President Nicolás Maduro are highly fractious and that U.S. efforts to keep them together have been more difficult than is publicly known.

    “Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult,” Pompeo said in an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post. “The moment Maduro leaves, everybody’s going to raise their hands and [say], ‘Take me, I’m the next president of Venezuela.’ It would be forty-plus people who believe they’re the rightful heir to Maduro.”

    The remarks provide a rare window into the challenges the Trump administration faces as the momentum to oust Maduro stalls and some of the countries that initially backed the opposition explore alternative diplomatic paths to resolve the crisis.

  • First-ever private border wall built in #New_Mexico

    A private group announced Monday that it has constructed a half-mile wall along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico, in what it said was a first in the border debate.

    The 18-foot steel bollard wall is similar to the designs used by the Border Patrol, sealing off a part of the border that had been a striking gap in existing fencing, according to We Build the Wall, the group behind the new section.

    The section was also built faster and, organizers say, likely more cheaply than the government has been able to manage in recent years.

    Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state in Kansas and an informal immigration adviser to President Trump, says the New Mexico project has the president’s blessing, and says local Border Patrol agents are eager to have the assistance.

    “We’re closing a gap that’s been a big headache for them,” said Mr. Kobach, who is general counsel for We Build the Wall.


    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/27/first-ever-private-border-wall-built-new-mexico
    #privatisation #murs #barrières_frontalières #USA #Mexique #frontières #business #complexe_militaro-industriel
    ping @albertocampiphoto @daphne

    • The #GoFundMe Border Wall Is the Quintessential Trump-Era Grift

      In 2012, historian Rick Perlstein wrote a piece of essential reading for understanding modern conservatism, titled “The Long Con” and published by the Baffler. It ties the right’s penchant for absurd and obvious grifts to the conservative mind’s particular vulnerability to fear and lies:

      The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

      Lying, Perlstein said, is “what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound.” The lies—about abortion factories, ACORN, immigrants, etc.—fund the grifts, and the grifts prey on the psychology that makes the lies so successful.

      Perlstein’s piece is all I could think of when I saw last night’s CNN story about the border wall GoFundMe, which seemingly has actually produced Wall. According to CNN, the group We Build the Wall says it has produced a half-mile of border wall in New Mexico. CNN was invited to watch the construction, where Kris Kobach, who is general counsel for the group, spoke “over the clanking and beeping of construction equipment.”

      #Steve_Bannon, who is naturally involved with the group, told CNN that the wall connects existing fencing and had “tough terrain” that means it was left “off the government list.” The half-mile stretch of wall cost an “estimated $6 million to $8 million to build,” CNN reported.

      CNN also quoted #Jeff_Allen, who owns the property on which the fence was built, as saying: “I have fought illegals on this property for six years. I love my country and this is a step in protecting my country.” According to MSN, Allen partnered with United Constitutional Patriots to build the wall with We Build the Wall’s funding. UCP is the same militia that was seen on video detaining immigrants and misrepresenting themselves as Border Patrol; the Phoenix New Times reported on the “apparent ties” between the UCP and We Build the Wall earlier this month.

      This story is bursting at the seams with an all-star lineup of right-wing scammers. The GoFundMe itself, of course, has been rocked by scandal: After the effort raised $20 million, just $980 million short of the billion-dollar goal, GoFundMe said in January that the funds would be returned, since creator Brian Kolfage had originally pledged that “If for ANY reason we don’t reach our goal we will refund your donation.” But Kolfage quickly figured out how to keep the gravy train going, urging those who had donated to allow their donations to be redirected to a non-profit. Ultimately, $14 million of that $20 million figure was indeed rerouted by the idiots who donated it.

      That non-profit became #We_Build_The_Wall, and like all good conservative con jobs, it has the celebs of the fever swamp attached to it. Not only #Kris_Kobach, a tenacious liar who failed at proving voter fraud is a widespread problem—but also slightly washed-up figures like Bannon, Sheriff David Clarke, Curt Schilling, and Tom Tancredo. All the stars are here!

      How much sleazier could it get? Try this: the main contractor working at the site of New Wall, according to CNN, is Tommy Fisher. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump had “personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” to give the contract for the border wall to the company owned by Fisher, a “GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News,” despite the fact that the Corps of Engineers previously said Fisher’s proposals didn’t meet their requirements.

      Of course, like all good schemes, the need for more money never ceases: On the Facebook page for the group, the announcement that Wall had been completed was accompanied with a plea for fans to “DONATE NOW to fund more walls! We have many more projects lined up!”

      So, what we have is: A tax-exempt non-profit raised $20 million by claiming it would be able to make the federal government build Wall by just giving it the money for it and then, when that didn’t happen, getting most of its donors to reroute that money; then it built a half-mile of wall on private land for as much as $8 million, which went to a firm of a Fox News star whom President Trump adores.

      Perlstein wrote in the aforementioned piece that it’s hard to “specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins,” since “the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself.” The con job was sold through fear: “Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.”

      The Trump era is the inartful, gaudy, brazen peak of this phenomenon. This time, instead of selling fake stem cell cures using the language of Invading Liberals, the grifters are just straight-up selling—for real American dollars—the promise of building a big wall to keep the monsters out.

      https://splinternews.com/the-gofundme-border-wall-is-the-quintessential-trump-er-1835062340

    • Company touted by Trump to build the wall has history of fines, violations

      President Donald Trump appears to have set his sights on a North Dakota construction firm with a checkered legal record to build portions of his signature border wall.
      The family-owned company, #Fisher_Sand_&_Gravel, claims it can build the wall cheaper and faster than competitors. It was among a handful of construction firms chosen to build prototypes of the President’s border wall in 2017 and is currently constructing portions of barrier on private land along the border in New Mexico using private donations.
      It also, however, has a history of red flags including more than $1 million in fines for environmental and tax violations. A decade ago, a former co-owner of the company pleaded guilty to tax fraud, and was sentenced to prison. The company also admitted to defrauding the federal government by impeding the IRS. The former executive, who’s a brother of the current company owner, is no longer associated with it.
      More than two years into his presidency, Trump is still fighting to build and pay for his border wall, a key campaign issue. After failing to get his requests for wall funding passed by a Republican-held Congress during his first two years in office, Trump has met resistance this year from a Democratic-controlled House. His attempt to circumvent Congress through a national emergency declaration has been challenged in the courts.
      On May 24, a federal district judge blocked the administration from using Defense Department funds to construct parts of the wall. The Trump administration has since appealed the block to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and in the interim, asked the district court to allow building to continue pending appeal. The district court denied the administration’s request.
      Despite the uncertainty, construction firms have been competing to win multimillion-dollar contracts to build portions of wall, including Fisher Sand & Gravel.

      Asked by CNN to comment on the company’s history of environmental violations and legal issues, the company said in a statement: “The questions you are asking have nothing to do with the excellent product and work that Fisher is proposing with regard to protecting America’s southern border. The issues and situations in your email were resolved years ago. None of those matters are outstanding today.”
      Catching the President’s attention
      The company was founded in North Dakota in 1952 and operates in several states across the US. It’s enjoyed public support from North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, who as a congressman invited the company’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, to Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018. Cramer has received campaign contributions from Fisher and his wife. A photo of the event shared by Fisher in a company newsletter shows Tommy Fisher shaking Trump’s hand.
      The Washington Post first reported the President’s interest in Fisher. According to the Post, the President has “aggressively” pushed for the Army Corps of Engineers to award a wall contract to Fisher.
      The President “immediately brought up Fisher” during a May 23 meeting in the Oval Office to discuss details of the border wall with various government officials, including that he wants it to be painted black and include French-style doors, according to the Post and confirmed by CNN.
      “The Army Corps of Engineers says about 450 miles of wall will be completed by the end of next year, and the only thing President Trump is pushing, is for the wall to be finished quickly so the American people have the safety and security they deserve,” said Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary.
      A US government official familiar with the meeting tells CNN that the President has repeatedly mentioned the company in discussions he’s had about the wall with the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.
      Fisher has recently made efforts to raise its public profile, both by upping its lobbying efforts and through repeated appearances on conservative media by its CEO, Tommy Fisher.

      In the past two years, for example, the company’s congressional lobbying expenditures jumped significantly — from $5,000 in 2017 to $75,000 in 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit that tracks lobbying expenditures.

      When asked about Fisher Sand & Gravel’s lobbying, Don Larson, one of Fisher’s registered lobbyists, said: “I am working to help decision makers in Washington become familiar with the company and its outstanding capabilities.”
      Media Blitz
      As part of a media blitz on outlets including Fox News, SiriusXM Patriot and Breitbart News, Tommy Fisher has discussed his support for the border wall and pitched his company as the one to build it. In a March 5 appearance on Fox & Friends, Fisher said that his company could build 234 miles of border wall for $4.3 billion, compared to the $5.7 billion that the Trump administration has requested from Congress.
      Fisher claimed that his firm can work five-to-10 times faster than competitors as a result of its construction process.
      The President has also touted Fisher on Fox News. In an April interview in which he was asked about Fisher by Sean Hannity, Trump said the company was “recommended strongly by a great new senator, as you know, Kevin Cramer. And they’re real. But they have been bidding and so far they haven’t been meeting the bids. I thought they would.”
      Despite the President’s interest, the company has thus far been unsuccessful in obtaining a contract to build the border wall, beyond that of a prototype.

      Earlier this year, Fisher put its name in the running for border wall contracts worth nearly $1 billion. When it lost the bid to Barnard Construction Co. and SLSCO Ltd., Fisher protested the awards over claims that the process was biased. In response, the Army Corps canceled the award. But after a review of the process, the Army Corps combined the projects and granted it to a subsidiary of Barnard Construction, according to an agency spokesperson.
      It’s unclear whether the project will proceed, given the recent decision by a federal judge to block the use of Defense Department funds to build parts of the border wall and the administration’s appeal.
      Fisher, which has a pending lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims over the solicitation process, is listed by the Defense Department as being among firms eligible to compete for future border contracts.

      It has moved forward with a private group, We Build the Wall, that is building sections of barrier on private land in New Mexico using private money raised as part of a GoFundMe campaign. Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State who is now general counsel for the group, said a half-mile stretch is nearly complete, at an estimated cost of $6 million to $8 million.

      In a statement, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Fisher Industries has told them that the company has begun construction on private property along the border “in the approximate area of a USBP border barrier requirement that was not prioritized under current funding.”
      The spokesperson added: “It is not uncommon for vendors” to demonstrate their capabilities using “their own resources,” but the agency goes on to “encourage all interested vendors” to compete for border contracts “through established mechanisms to ensure any construction is carried out under relevant federal authorities and meets USBP operational requirements for border barrier.”
      In responses provided to CNN through Scott Sleight, an attorney working on behalf of the company, Fisher maintained that it’s “committed to working with all appropriate federal government officials and agencies to provide its expertise and experience to help secure America’s southern border.”
      The company says it has “developed a patent-pending bollard fence hanging system that [it] believes allows border fencing to be constructed faster than any contractor using common construction methods.” It also added: “Fisher has been concerned about the procurement procedures and evaluations done by the USACE to date, and hopes these issues can be remedied.”
      Relationship with Sen. Cramer
      A month after attending the 2018 State of the Union address with Cramer, Fisher and his wife, Candice each contributed the $5,400 maximum donation to Cramer’s campaign for the US Senate, Federal Election Commission records show.
      Fisher also donated to several Arizona Republicans in the 2018 election cycle, including giving the $5,400-maximum donation to Martha McSally’s campaign, records show.
      A recent video produced by Fisher Sand & Gravel demonstrating its ability to construct the wall includes a clip of Cramer at the controls of a track-hoe lifting sections of barrier wall into place, saying “this is just like XBOX, baby.” Cramer was joined at the demonstration by a handful of other Republican lawmakers from across the country.

      Cramer has been publicly critical of how the Army Corps has handled its border wall construction work, arguing that it has moved too slowly and expressing frustration over how it has dealt with Fisher. In an interview with a North Dakota TV station, Cramer said that he believes the corps “made a miscalculation in who they chose over Fisher” and that the company had been “skunked so to speak.” Cramer added that Fisher “remains a pre-qualified, high level, competitor.”

      In an interview with CNN, Cramer said that the company has come up in conversations he has had with administration officials, including the President and the head of the Army Corps, but while the senator said that he would “love if they got every inch of the project,” he added that he has “never advocated specifically for them.”
      "Every time someone comes to meet with me, whether it’s (Acting Defense Secretary) Shanahan, General Semonite, even with Donald Trump, they bring up Fisher Industries because they assume that’s my thing," Cramer said.
      “One of the things I’ve never done is said it should be Fisher,” Cramer said. “Now, I love Fisher. I’d love if they got every inch of the project. They’re my constituents, I don’t apologize for that. But my interest really is more in the bureaucratic process.”
      According to an administration official familiar with the situation, Cramer sent information about Fisher to the President’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who then passed it along to the Army Corps of Engineers for their consideration. The source tells CNN that Kushner was not familiar with the company prior to getting information about them from Cramer.
      Cramer said he does recall passing along information about the company to Kushner, but that he did not know what Kushner did with the information.
      On May 24, Cramer told a North Dakota radio station that the President has asked him to examine the process of how federal border wall projects are awarded.
      “We’re going to do an entire audit,” Cramer said. “I’ve asked for the entire bid process, and all of the bid numbers.” Cramer told CNN the President said he wanted the wall built for the “lowest, best price, and it’s also quality, and that’s what any builder should want.”
      Asked about aspects of the company’s checkered legal record, Cramer said “that level of scrutiny is important, but I would hope the same scrutiny would be put on the Corps of Engineers.”
      Environmental violations
      Though its corporate headquarters are in North Dakota, Fisher has a sizable footprint in Arizona, where it operates an asphalt company as well as a drilling and blasting company. It’s there that the company has compiled an extensive track record of environmental violations.
      From 2007 to 2017, Fisher Sand & Gravel compiled more than 1,300 air-quality violations in Maricopa County, culminating in the third highest settlement ever received by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, according to Bob Huhn, a department spokesperson. That’s a record number of violations for any air-quality settlement in the county, Huhn said. The settlement totaled more than $1 million, though the department received slightly less than that following negotiations, Huhn said.
      Most of the violations came from an asphalt plant that the company was running in south Phoenix that has since closed. While the plant was still running, the City of Phoenix filed 469 criminal charges against the company from August to October of 2009, according to a city spokesperson.
      According to a 2010 article in the Arizona Republic, Fisher reached an agreement with Phoenix officials to close the plant in 2010. As part of the deal, fines were reduced from $1.1 million to an estimated $243,000 and all criminal charges were reduced to civil charges.
      Mary Rose Wilcox was a member of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors at the time the city and county were fighting Fisher over the asphalt plant, which was located in her district. “They tried to persuade us they were good guys since they were a family-owned company. But they were spreading noxious fumes into a residential area,” Wilcox said. “We tried to work with them, but their violations were just so blatant.”
      Michael Pops, a community activist who lived in the area around the plant, remembers fighting with Fisher for six years before the plant finally shut down. “The impact they had on this community was devastating,” Pops said, adding many low-income residents living near the asphalt plant were sickened from the fumes the plant emitted.
      The company has also racked up more than 120 violations with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2004 until as recently as last summer, according to the department.
      In 2011, Fisher agreed to a Consent Judgement with ADEQ over numerous air quality violations the company had committed. As part of that settlement, Fisher agreed to pay $125,000 in civil penalties, and that it would remain in compliance with state air quality standards. Within two years Fisher was found to be in violation of that agreement and was forced to pay an additional $500,000 in fines, according to the state’s attorney general’s office.
      Legal trouble
      Internally, the company has also confronted issues.
      In 2011, Fisher Sand & Gravel agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a sexual discrimination and retaliation suit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit charged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it “subjected two women workers to egregious verbal sexual harassment by a supervisor and then fired one of them after she repeatedly asked the supervisor to stop harassing her and complained to a job superintendent.”
      The settlement required Fisher to provide anti-discrimination training to its employees in New Mexico and review its policies on sexual harassment.
      Micheal Fisher, a former co-owner of Fisher and Tommy’s brother, was sentenced to prison in 2009 for tax fraud, according to the Justice Department. Fisher pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding the [Internal Revenue Service], four counts of aiding in the filing of false federal tax returns for FSG and four counts of filing false individual tax returns,” according to a Justice Department release.
      The company also admitted responsibility for defrauding the US by impeding the IRS, according to the DOJ. Citing a long standing policy of not commenting on the contracting process, the Army Corps declined to comment on whether Fisher’s history factored into its decision not to award Fisher a contract.

      https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/31/politics/fisher-sand-and-gravel-legal-history-border-wall/index.html

    • Private US-Mexico border wall ordered open by gov’t, fights back and is now closed again

      The privately funded portion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall is now fully secure and closed again after one of its gates had been ordered to remain open until disputes about waterway access could be resolved.

      “Our border wall & gate are secure again and we still have not had a single breach. I want to thank the IBWC for acting swiftly and we look forward to working with you on our future projects,” triple amputee Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage posted to Twitter on Tuesday night.

      Kolfage created We Build The Wall Inc., a nonprofit that is now backed by former Trump Administration Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The group crowd-funded more than $22 million in order to privately build a border wall and then sell it to the U.S. government for $1.

      A portion of that wall has been constructed in Texas for between $6 and $8 million. The 1-mile-long wall is located on private property near El Paso, Texas, and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

      However, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) had ordered a 33-foot gate within the private border wall to remain open – not locked and closed – over a waterway access issue, according to BuzzFeed News. The IBCW addresses waterway issues between the U.S. and Mexico.

      “This is normally done well in advance of a construction project,” IBWC spokesperson Lori Kuczmanski said. “They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that’s not how it works.”

      BuzzFeed reported that the IBWC said the gate “had blocked officials from accessing a levee and dam, and cut off public access to a historic monument known as Monument One, the first in a series of obelisks that mark the U.S.–Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana.”

      By Tuesday night, the IBWC said the gate would remain locked at night and issued a statement.

      “The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) will lock the privately-owned gate on federal property at night effective immediately due to security concerns,” it said.

      The statement continues:

      The USIBWC is continuing to work with We Build the Wall regarding its permit request. Until this decision, the private gate was in a locked open position. We Build the Wall, a private organization, built a gate on federal land in Sunland Park, N.M., near El Paso, Texas, without authority, and then locked the gate closed on June 6, 2019. The private gate blocks a levee road owned by the U.S. Government. After repeated requests to unlock and open the private gate, the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), accompanied by two uniformed law enforcement officers from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, removed the private lock, opened the gate, and locked the gate open pending further discussions with We Build the Wall. The gate was also opened so that USIBWC employees can conduct maintenance and operations at American Dam.

      The USIBWC did not authorize the construction of the private gate on federal property as announced on We Build the Wall’s Twitter page. The USIBWC is not charged with securing other fences or gates as reported by We Build the Wall. The international border fences are not on USIBWC property. The USIBWC did not open any other gates in the El Paso area as erroneously reported. Other gates and the border fence are controlled by other federal agencies.

      When the proper documentation is received for the permit, USIBWC will continue to process the permit application.

      Before the statement had been released, Kolfage posted to Twitter.
      https://a

      mericanmilitarynews.com/2019/06/private-us-mexico-border-wall-ordered-open-by-intl-group-later-closed-locked-after-security-concerns/

  • U.S. sinks Arctic accord due to climate change differences - diplomats - Reuters
    https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKCN1SD13W


    Front row from left, Foreign Ministers of Norway, Ine Eriksen Soreide, Russia, Sergey Lavrov, Sweden, Margot Wallstrom, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Finland’s Timo Soini, Canada’s Chrystia Freeland, Denmark’s Anders Samuelsen and Iceland’s Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson pose for a picture during the Arctic Council summit at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7, 2019.
    Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS

    The United States has refused to sign an agreement on challenges in the Arctic due to discrepancies over climate change wording, diplomats said on Tuesday, jeopardising cooperation in the polar region at the sharp edge of global warming.

    With Arctic temperatures rising at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, the melting ice is creating potential new shipping lanes and has opened much of the world’s last untapped reserves of oil and gas to commercial exploitation .

    A meeting of eight nations bordering the Arctic in Rovaniemi in Finland on Tuesday was supposed to frame a two-year agenda to balance the challenge of global warming with sustainable development of mineral wealth.

    But sources with knowledge of the discussions said the United States balked at signing a final declaration as it disagreed with wording that climate change was a serious threat to the Arctic.

    It was the first time a declaration had been cancelled since the Arctic Council was formed in 1996.

    • Trump’s Golan Heights Diplomatic Bombshell Was Bound to Drop. But Why Now?
      Anshel Pfeffer | Mar 21, 2019 9:18 PM
      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/.premium-trump-s-golan-heights-diplomatic-bombshell-was-bound-to-drop-but-w?

      Trump couldn’t wait until Netanyahu joined him in Washington on Monday, and his calculated move right before the election could cause Israel damage

      Since no one is any longer even trying to pretend that Donald Trump isn’t intervening in Israel’s elections on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s behalf, the only question left to ask following the U.S. president’s announcement on Twitter that “it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” is on the timing.

      Why now? Since Netanyahu is flying to Washington next week anyway, surely it would have made more sense for Trump to make the announcement standing by his side in the White House.

      You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to speculate, that given the extremely intimate level of coordination between Trump and Netanyahu’s teams, the timing is no coincidence. For a possible reason why Trump didn’t wait for Netanyahu to arrive in Washington before lobbing his diplomatic bombshell, check out Netanyahu’s pale and worried features at the press conference on Wednesday where he stated that Iran has obtained embarrassing material from Benny Gantz’s phone.

      Netanyahu is petrified that the new revelations on his trading in shares in his cousin’s company, which netted him $4.3 million and may have a connection with the company’s dealings with the German shipyard from which Israel purchases it submarines, could dominate the last stage of the election campaign. That’s why he so blatantly abused his position as the minister in charge of Israel’s intelligence services, to claim he knew what Iran had on Gantz. He desperately needs to grab back the news agenda.

      But the Gantz phone-hacking story, which leaked to the media last Thursday evening, has proven a damp squib. There is no credible evidence, except for the word of a panicking prime minister, that whoever hacked his phone, even assuming it was the Iranians, have anything to blackmail Gantz with. So the next best thing is to get a friend with 59 million followers on Twitter to create a distraction. Conveniently, this happened just before the agenda-setting primetime news shows on Israeli television.

      And how useful that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently in Israel anyway and has just visited the Western Wall, accompanied by Netanyahu – another diplomatic first as previously senior U.S. officials, including Trump during his visit in 2017, refrained from doing so together with Israeli politicians, to avoid the impression that they were prejudging the final status of eastern Jerusalem.

      A recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan is also the perfect political gesture as far as Netanyahu is concerned. The Golan isn’t the West Bank, and certainly not Gaza. There is near-complete consensus among Israelis today that under no circumstances should Israel relinquish its control over the strategic Heights. Certainly not following eight years of war within Syria, during which Iran and Hezbollah have entrenched their presence on Israel’s northern border. Netanyahu’s political rivals have absolutely no choice but to praise Trump for helping the Likud campaign, anything else would be unpatriotic.

      They can’t even point out the basic fact that Trump’s gesture is empty. Just as his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was. It won’t change the status of the Golan in international law and with the exception of a few client-states in Latin America, no other country is going to follow suit. It could actually cause Israel diplomatic damage by focusing international attention on the Golan, when there was absolutely no pressure on Israel to end its 51-year presence there anyway. Trump’s tweet does no obligate the next president and a reversal by a future U.S. administration would do more damage to Israel than the good that would come from Trump’s recognition.

      But none of that matters when all Netanyahu is fighting for is his political survival and possibly his very freedom, and he will use every possible advantage he can muster.

      In 1981, Israel passed the Golan Law, unilaterally extending its sovereignty over the Golan. A furious President Ronald Reagan responded by suspending the strategic alliance memorandum that had just been signed between the U.S. and Israel. The no less furious Prime Minister Menachem Begin hit back, shouting at the U.S. Ambassador Sam Lewis, “are we a vassal state? Are we a banana republic? Are we fourteen-year-old boys that have to have our knuckles slapped if we misbehave?”

      In 2019, the U.S. is treating Israel as a vassal state and a banana republic by flagrantly interfering in its election. This time the Israeli prime minister won’t be complaining.

    • Israël demande la reconnaissance de l’annexion du Golan suite à la découverte de pétrole | Jonathan…
      https://seenthis.net/messages/430645

      Israel steps up oil drilling in Golan | The Electronic Intifada
      https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/charlotte-silver/israel-steps-oil-drilling-golan

      The members of the strategic advisory board of Afek’s parent company include Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and Larry Summers, the former secretary of the US treasury.

    • Plateau du Golan-Damas condamne les propos « irresponsables » de Trump
      22 mars 2019 Par Agence Reuters
      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/220319/plateau-du-golan-damas-condamne-les-propos-irresponsables-de-trump
      Le gouvernement syrien a condamné vendredi les propos du président américain Donald Trump, lequel a déclaré que l’heure était venue pour les Etats-Unis de reconnaître la souveraineté d’Israël sur le plateau du Golan.

      BEYROUTH (Reuters) - Le gouvernement syrien a condamné vendredi les propos du président américain Donald Trump, lequel a déclaré que l’heure était venue pour les Etats-Unis de reconnaître la souveraineté d’Israël sur le plateau du Golan.

      Dans un communiqué publié par l’agence de presse officielle Sana, une source au ministère syrien des Affaires étrangères estime que la déclaration de Trump illustre le « soutien aveugle des Etats-Unis » à Israël et ajoute que Damas est déterminé à récupérer le plateau du Golan par « tous les moyens possibles ».

      Les déclarations de Donald Trump ne changent rien à « la réalité que le Golan est et restera syrien », ajoute cette source, estimant qu’elles reflètent une violation flagrante de résolutions du Conseil de sécurité de l’Onu.

      A Moscou, également, la porte-parole du ministère russe des Affaires étrangères, citée par l’agence de presse RIA, a déclaré que tout changement de statut du Golan représenterait une violation flagrante des décisions des Nations unies sur cette question.

    • Point de presse du 22 mars 2019
      https://basedoc.diplomatie.gouv.fr/vues/Kiosque/FranceDiplomatie/kiosque.php?type=ppfr
      1. Golan
      Q - Sur le Golan, le président américain Donald Trump vient d’annoncer que le temps est venu de reconnaître la souveraineté israélienne sur les Hauteurs du Golan, « qui est d’une importance stratégique et sécuritaire décisive pour l’Etat d’Israël et pour la stabilité régionale ». Cette analyse a-t-elle un sens, et une telle reconnaissance, venant après la négation américaine d’une paix négociée concernant le statut de Jérusalem, va-t-elle déclencher une réaction diplomatique française au nom de la seule France, de la France à l’UE, et de la France à l’ONU ?

      R - Le Golan est un territoire occupé par Israël depuis 1967. La France ne reconnaît pas l’annexion israélienne de 1981. Cette situation a été reconnue comme nulle et non avenue par plusieurs résolutions du Conseil de sécurité, en particulier la résolution 497 du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies.

      La reconnaissance de la souveraineté israélienne sur le Golan, territoire occupé, serait contraire au droit international, en particulier l’obligation pour les Etats de ne pas reconnaître une situation illégale.

  • U.S. Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump – Foreign Policy
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/03/07/u-s-cancels-journalists-award-over-her-criticism-of-trump-internation

    Jessikka Aro was to receive a “#Women_of_Courage” prize. Then officials read her Twitter feed.

    Jessikka Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist, has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine long before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. In January, the U.S. State Department took notice, telling Aro she would be honored with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award, to be presented in Washington by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    Weeks later, the State Department rescinded the award offer. A State Department spokesperson said it was due to a “regrettable error,” but Aro and U.S. officials familiar with the internal deliberations tell a different story. They say the department revoked her award after U.S. officials went through Aro’s social media posts and found she had also frequently criticized President Donald Trump.

  • Exclusive: OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Exploring Bankruptcy - Sources | Investing News | US News
    https://money.usnews.com/investing/news/articles/2019-03-04/exclusive-oxycontin-maker-purdue-pharma-exploring-bankruptcy-sources

    By Mike Spector, Jessica DiNapoli and Nate Raymond

    (Reuters) - OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP is exploring filing for bankruptcy to address potentially significant liabilities from roughly 2,000 lawsuits alleging the drugmaker contributed to the deadly opioid crisis sweeping the United States, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

    The potential move shows how Purdue and its wealthy owners, the Sackler family, are under pressure to respond to mounting litigation accusing the company of misleading doctors and patients about risks associated with prolonged use of its prescription opioids.

    Purdue denies the allegations, arguing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved labels for its opioids carried warnings about the risk of abuse and misuse associated with the pain treatments.

    Filing for Chapter 11 protection would halt the lawsuits and allow Purdue to negotiate legal claims with plaintiffs under the supervision of a U.S. bankruptcy judge, the sources said.

    Shares of Endo International Plc and Insys Therapeutics Inc, two companies that like Purdue have been named in lawsuits related to the U.S. opioid epidemic, closed down 17 percent and more than 2 percent, respectively, on Monday.

    More than 1,600 lawsuits accusing Purdue and other opioid manufacturers of using deceptive practices to push addictive drugs that led to fatal overdoses are consolidated in an Ohio federal court. Purdue has held discussions to resolve the litigation with plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have often compared the cases to widespread lawsuits against the tobacco industry that resulted in a $246 billion settlement in 1998.

    “We will oppose any attempt to avoid our claims, and will continue to vigorously and aggressively pursue our claims against Purdue and the Sackler family,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said. Connecticut has a case against Purdue and the Sacklers.

    BANKRUPTCY FILING NOT CERTAIN

    A Purdue bankruptcy filing is not certain, the sources said. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company has not made any final decisions and could instead continue fighting the lawsuits, they said.

    “As a privately-held company, it has been Purdue Pharma’s longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy,” Purdue said in a statement.

    “We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners.”

    Purdue faces a May trial in a case brought by Oklahoma’s attorney general that, like others, accuses the company of contributing to a wave of fatal overdoses by flooding the market with highly addictive opioids while falsely claiming the drugs were safe.

    Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump also said he would like to sue drug companies over the nation’s opioid crisis.

    Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, a sixfold increase from 1999, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Purdue hired law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for restructuring advice, Reuters reported in August, fueling concerns among litigants, including Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, that the company might seek bankruptcy protection before the trial.

    Companies facing widespread lawsuits sometimes seek bankruptcy protection to address liabilities in one court even when their financial condition is not dire. California utility PG&E Corp filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after deadly wildfires raised the prospect of large legal bills even though its stock remained worth billions of dollars.

    DECEPTIVE MARKETING

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in June became the first attorney general to sue not just Purdue but Sackler family members. Records in her case, which Purdue has asked a judge to dismiss, accused Sackler family members of directing deceptive marketing of opioids for years while enriching themselves to the tune of $4.2 billion.

    Some other states have since also sued the Sacklers. The Sacklers are currently discussing creating a nonprofit backed by family financial contributions to combat addiction and drug abuse, a person familiar with their deliberations said.

    The drugmaker downplayed the possibility of a bankruptcy filing in a Feb. 22 court filing in the Oklahoma case. “Purdue is still here - ready, willing and eager to prove in this Court that the State’s claims are baseless,” the company said in court papers.

    Sales of OxyContin and other opioids have fallen amid public concern about their addictive nature, and as restrictions on opioid prescribing have been enacted. OxyContin generated $1.74 billion in sales in 2017, down from $2.6 billion five years earlier, according to the most recent data compiled by Symphony Health Solutions.

    Purdue Chief Executive Officer Craig Landau has cut hundreds of jobs, stopped marketing opioids to physicians and moved the company toward developing medications for sleep disorders and cancer since taking the helm in 2017.

    In July, Purdue appointed a new board chairman, Steve Miller, a restructuring veteran who previously held leadership positions at troubled companies including auto-parts giant Delphi and the once-teetering insurer American International Group Inc.

    Mortimer D.A. Sackler no longer sits on Purdue’s board, according to a filing the company made with the Connecticut secretary of state late Monday.

    The Oklahoma case and other lawsuits seek damages from Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies accused of fueling the opioid crisis. In addition to lawsuits consolidated in an Ohio federal court, more than 300 cases are pending in state courts, and dozens of state attorneys general have sued manufacturers, including Purdue.

    Settlement discussions have not yet resulted in a deal.

    Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, according to court records.

    (Reporting by Mike Spector and Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

    Copyright 2019 Thomson Reuters.

    #Opioides #Sackler #Bankruptcy

  • The Coup Has Failed & Now the U.S. Is Looking to Wage War: Venezuelan Foreign Minister Speaks Out | Democracy Now!
    https://www.democracynow.org/2019/2/25/the_coup_has_failed_now_the

    The United Nations, the Red Cross and other relief organizations have refused to work with the U.S. on delivering aid to #Venezuela, which they say is politically motivated. Venezuela has allowed aid to be flown in from Russia and from some international organizations, but it has refused to allow in aid from the United States, describing it as a Trojan horse for an eventual U.S. invasion. On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro’s days in office are numbered. We speak with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who has recently held secret talks with Trump’s special envoy Elliott Abrams.

    #etats-unis #humanitaire

  • The US threatens to stop sharing intelligence with allies if they use Huawei - MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/613002/the-us-threatens-to-stop-sharing-intelligence-with-allies-if-they-

    Qui a dit la « guerre commerciale » est une continuation de la guerre sous d’autres formes ?

    The US will stop sharing intelligence with countries that use Huawei hardware in their core communication systems, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

    The threat: “If a country adopts this [Huawei equipment] and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them, we won’t be able to work alongside them,” Pompeo said during an interview with Fox Business on Thursday. “In some cases there’s risk – we won’t even be able to co-locate American resources, an American embassy, an American military outpost,” he added.

    Defiance: Britain, New Zealand, and Germany have all signaled this week that they may be willing to continue using Huawei gear as they prepare their infrastructure for the arrival of 5G. Pompeo’s remarks are a major escalation in tensions between the US and its allies over the role of Huawei.

    American concerns: It’s got a lot to do with the role of 5G and whether China could use security backdoors to exert undue control over a nation’s digital infrastructure via Huawei’s equipment. Confusingly, on the same day as Pompeo’s comments, President Donald Trump tweeted he wanted the US to win in 5G development “through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies.”

    Denials: In an interview with the BBC this week, Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei said it has never installed backdoors into its technology, and never would do so, even if required to by Chinese law.

    La backdoor de la NSA est certainement plus appropriée pour la défense de nos libertés, n’est-ce pas ?

    #Huawei #5G

  • Elliott Abrams Isn’t Going to Bring “Democracy” to Venezuela
    https://theintercept.com/2019/01/30/elliott-abrams-venezuela-coup

    On December 11, 1981 in El Salvador, a Salvadoran military unit created and trained by the U.S. Army began slaughtering everyone they could find in a remote village called El Mozote. Before murdering the women and girls, the soldiers raped them repeatedly, including some as young as 10 years old, and joked that their favorites were the 12-year-olds. One witness described a soldier tossing a 3-year-old child into the air and impaling him with his bayonet. The final death toll was over 800 people.

    The next day, December 12, was the first day on the job for Elliott Abrams as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration. Abrams snapped into action, helping to lead a cover-up of the massacre. News reports of what had happened, Abrams told the Senate, were “not credible,” and the whole thing was being “significantly misused” as propaganda by anti-government guerillas.

    This past Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Abrams as America’s special envoy for Venezuela. According to Pompeo, Abrams “will have responsibility for all things related to our efforts to restore democracy” in the oil-rich nation.

    The choice of Abrams sends a clear message to Venezuela and the world: The Trump administration intends to brutalize Venezuela, while producing a stream of unctuous rhetoric about America’s love for democracy and human rights. Combining these two factors — the brutality and the unctuousness — is Abrams’s core competency.

  • Venezuela Wants $1.2 Billion in Gold Back From Bank of England
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-25/u-k-said-to-deny-maduro-s-bid-to-pull-1-2-billion-of-gold

    Nicolas Maduro’s embattled Venezuelan regime, desperate to hold onto the dwindling cash pile it has abroad, was stymied in its bid to pull $1.2 billion worth of gold out of the Bank of England, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The Bank of England’s decision to deny Maduro officials’ withdrawal request comes after top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied their U.K. counterparts to help cut off the regime from its overseas assets, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified.

  • Le shithole country se surpasse : Pompeo nomme Elliott Abrams envoyé spécial pour le Vénézuéla
    http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2019/01/25/97001-20190125FILWWW00365-venezuela-pompeo-nomme-un-nouvel-emissaire.php

    Le chef de la diplomatie américaine Mike Pompeo a nommé aujourd’hui un émissaire, Elliott Abrams, pour contribuer à « restaurer la démocratie » au Venezuela, où les Etats-Unis ont reconnu Juan Guaido comme « président par intérim » en lieu et place de Nicolas Maduro.

    Elliott Abrams, dont les grandes œuvres humanitaires sont ‘par exemple documentées ainsi sur Kikipédia :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliott_Abrams

    They accused him of covering up atrocities committed by the military forces of U.S.-backed governments, such as those in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and the rebel Contras in Nicaragua.

    El Salvador

    In early 1982, when reports of the El Mozote massacre of hundreds of civilians by the military in El Salvador began appearing in U.S. media, Abrams told a Senate committee that the reports of hundreds of deaths at El Mozote “were not credible,” and that “it appears to be an incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.”[13] The massacre had come at a time when the Reagan administration was attempting to bolster the human rights image of the Salvadoran military. Abrams implied that reports of a massacre were simply FMLN propaganda and denounced U.S. investigative reports of the massacre as misleading. In March 1993, the Salvadoran Truth Commission reported that over 500 civilians were “deliberately and systematically” executed in El Mozote in December 1981 by forces affiliated with the Salvadoran government.[14]

    Also in 1993, documentation emerged suggesting that some Reagan administration officials could have known about El Mozote and other human rights violations from the beginning.[15] However, in July 1993, an investigation commissioned by Clinton secretary of state Warren Christopher into the State department’s “activities and conduct” with regard to human rights in El Salvador during the Reagan years found that, despite U.S. funding of the Salvadoran government that committed the massacre at El Mozote, individual U.S. personnel “performed creditably and occasionally with personal bravery in advancing human rights in El Salvador.”[16] Unrepentant Reaganite Abrams claimed that Washington’s policy in El Salvador was a “fabulous achievement.”[17]

    Nicaragua

    When Congress shut down funding for the Contras’ efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government with the 1982 Boland Amendment, members of the Reagan administration began looking for other avenues for funding the group.[18] Congress opened a couple of such avenues when it modified the Boland Amendment for fiscal year 1986 by approving $27 million in direct aid to the Contras and allowing the administration to legally solicit funds for the Contras from foreign governments.[19] Neither the direct aid, nor any foreign contributions, could be used to purchase weapons.[19]

    Guided by the new provisions of the modified Boland Amendment, Abrams flew to London in August 1986 and met secretly with Bruneian defense minister General Ibnu to solicit a $10-million contribution from the Sultan of Brunei.[20][21] Ultimately, the Contras never received this money because a clerical error in Oliver North’s office (a mistyped account number) sent the Bruneian money to the wrong Swiss bank account.[20]

    Iran-Contra affair and convictions

    During investigation of the Iran-Contra Affair, Lawrence Walsh, the Independent Counsel tasked with investigating the case, prepared multiple felony counts against Abrams but never indicted him.[20] Instead, Abrams cooperated with Walsh and entered into a plea agreement wherein he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress.[22] He was sentenced to a $50 fine, probation for two years, and 100 hours of community service.

  • How Voting-Machine Lobbyists Undermine the Democratic Process | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/how-voting-machine-lobbyists-undermine-the-democratic-process

    Earlier this month, Georgia’s Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections Commission voted to recommend that the state replace its touch-screen voting machines with newer, similarly vulnerable machines, which will be produced by E.S. & S. at an estimated cost of a hundred million dollars. In doing so, the panel rejected the advice of computer scientists and election-integrity advocates, who consider hand-marked ballots to be the “most reliable record of voter intent,” and also the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which recommended that all states adopt paper ballots and conduct post-election audits. The practice of democracy begins with casting votes; its integrity depends on the inclusivity of the franchise and the accurate recording of its will. Georgia turns out to be a prime example of how voting-system venders, in partnership with elected officials, can jeopardize the democratic process by influencing municipalities to buy proprietary, inscrutable voting devices that are infinitely less secure than paper-ballot systems that cost three times less.

    The influence-peddling that has beset Georgia’s voting-system procurement began years earlier, in 2002, when the legislature eliminated a requirement that the state’s voting machines produce an independent audit trail of each vote cast. That same year, the secretary of state, Cathy Cox, signed a fifty-four-million-dollar contract with the election-machine vender Diebold. The lobbyist for Diebold, the former Georgia secretary of state Lewis Massey, then joined the lobbying firm of Bruce Bowers. The revolving door between the Georgia state government and the election venders was just beginning to spin.

    Something similar happened last fall in Delaware, where the Voting Equipment Selection Task Force also voted to replace its aging touch-screen machines with a variant of the ExpressVote system. When Jennifer Hill, at Common Cause Delaware, a government-accountability group, obtained all the bids from a public-records request, she found that “the Department of Elections had pretty much tailored the request for proposal in a way that eliminated venders whose primary business was to sell paper-ballot systems.” Hill also noted that a lobbyist for E.S. & S., who was “well-connected in the state,” helped “to shepherd this whole thing through.” Elaine Manlove, the Delaware elections director, told me that the twelve members of the election task force each independently concluded that ExpressVote was the best system for the state. “It’s not a big change for Delaware voters,” she said. “They’re voting on the screen, just like they do now.” (A representative from E.S. & S. told me that the the company “follows all state and federal guidelines for procurement of government contracts.”)

    The ExpressVote machines use what are known as ballot-marking devices. Once a vote is cast on the touch screen, the machine prints out a card that summarizes the voter’s choice, in both plain English and in the form of a bar code. After the voter reviews the card, it is returned to the machine, which records the information symbolized by the bar code. It’s a paper trail, but one that a voter can’t actually verify, because the bar codes can’t be read. “If you’re tallying based on bar codes, you could conceivably have software that [flips] the voter’s choices,” Buell said. “If you’re in a target state using these devices and the computer security isn’t very good, this becomes more likely.” This is less of a concern in states that require manual post-election audits. But neither Georgia nor Delaware do.

    #Voting_machine #Elections #Démocratie

  • Palestinian Authority tells U.S. it will stop taking aid to avoid multi-million dollar lawsuits - U.S. News - Haaretz.com

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-pa-informs-u-s-it-will-stop-receiving-aid-to-avoid-multi-million-d

    WASHINGTON – The Palestinian Authority informed the Trump administration that it will stop taking any form of government assistance from the United States at the end of the month, as a result of legislation passed last year by Congress.

    The law that led the PA to make this decision is the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act”, known as ATCA, which makes it possible for U.S. citizens to sue foreign entities that receive U.S. assistance for past acts of terrorism.

    The Palestinian decision could lead to the end of the U.S. support for the PA’s security forces. These forces work regularly with the Israeli military to thwart terror attacks. In his last appearance before the Israeli government last week, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said that the security coordination between Israel and the PA’s forces helps save lives and maintain stability in the region.

    >> Trump’s ’Arab NATO’ push against Iran comes to a head, and he’s the biggest obstacle | Analysis

    During 2018, the Trump administration cut all forms of U.S. civil assistance to the Palestinians, but it did not touch the security assistance, stating that the security coordination between the PA and Israel serves American foreign policy interests. Now, however, U.S. support for the PA security forces could end at the end of January, putting at risk the continuation of efficient security coordination.

    The ATCA bill, which the PA blamed for its decision, was promoted last year in Congress in response to rulings by U.S. courts that rejected multi-million dollar lawsuits against the PA. These lawsuits were filed by American citizens who were injured or lost loved ones in terror attacks committed by Palestinians, mostly during the Second Intifada. The Supreme Court in Washington affirmed a ruling by a lower court that the American legal system does not have jurisdiction to deal with such lawsuits.

    This led members of Congress to promote the ATCA bill, which states that U.S. courts will have jurisdiction to hear terrorism-related lawsuits against any foreign entity reviving U.S. government assistance. This means that if the PA will receive even one dollar of U.S. funding, it could face lawsuits asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. The law has also created concern in other countries in the Middle East that rely on U.S. assistance. It would not apply to Israel, however, because of the specific sources of funding through which Israel receives U.S. security assistance.
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    Only after the bill passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump, senior administration officials became aware of its possible impact on security coordination. In recent months, the administration tried to negotiate a “fix” to the law together with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As reported in Haaretz two weeks ago, these efforts have stalled because of the ongoing government shutdown.

    The PA’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which was first reported over the weekend by NPR, could create a sense of urgency in Washington to solve the security assistance question.

    Two sources who are involved in the negotiations on the subject told Haaretz that a possible solution could emerge with the involvement of the CIA or the Pentagon, but its exact mechanism hasn’t yet been drawn in full. “Everyone wants a fix, but it’s still not clear how we can get it,” explained one of the sources, who asked not to be named in order to discuss politicallly-sensitive negotiations.

  • On a mission from God : Pompeo messages evangelicals from the Middle East - Asia Times
    http://www.atimes.com/article/on-a-mission-from-god-pompeo-messages-evangelicals-from-the-middle-east

    Commentaire ironique d’Elijah Magnier sur Twitter (https://twitter.com/ejmalrai/status/1085258903045238784) : Al-Baghdadi a également une « mission divine » et Dieu doit vraiment s’intéresser au Moyen-Orient pour y envoyer autant d’envoyés !

    “This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian, coming so soon after the Coptic Church’s Christmas celebrations. This is an important time. We’re all children of Abraham: Christians, Muslims, Jews. In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth.”

    He added that he was in Cairo to herald another truth, that America was a “force for good” in the Middle East.

    Pompeo then proceeded to rip into former president Barack Obama, who some fringe evangelists have accused of being a secret Muslim and even the Antichrist. The secretary of state used his speech to air domestic grievances, blaming Obama for the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) and the empowerment of Iran.

    “Remember: It was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East.

    “The results of these misjudgments have been dire,” Pompeo told an assembled group of blank-faced students, eliciting little palpable reaction.

    “We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism, a debauched strain of the faith that seeks to upend every other form of worship or governance. ISIS drove to the outskirts of Baghdad as America hesitated. They raped and pillaged and murdered tens of thousands of innocents. They birthed a caliphate across Syria and Iraq and launched terror attacks that killed all across continents,” he said.

  • EXCLUSIVE : Pompeo announces international summit on Iran | Fox News
    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/exclusive-pompeo-announces-international-summit-on-iran

    Discussions avec le régime syrien pour l’avenir du pays contre lâchage de l’Iran (en prélude à une attaque) : la carotte et le bâton as usual.

    The United States will host an international summit next month to promote stability and freedom in the Middle East, focusing on Iran’s regional influence, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an exclusive Fox News interview, while traveling in the Middle East.

    "We’ll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” said Pompeo, announcing the February 13-14 event in Poland. “Countries will all come together to focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

    (...)

    The secretary is in the middle of a nine-country trip through the Middle East, as the Trump administration is confronted with questions over when and how it plans to remove American forces from Syria.

    Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, said in October 2017, that Syrian President Bashar al Assad had no role in Syria’s political future, but when asked whether that is still the U.S. position, Pompeo today said the Assad regime will be part of those conversations.

    “We want to make sure all the options are open as that political discourse begins,” he said. “We are very hopeful that we will get the bad actors in the region, the Russians and the Iranians, to come to the table, along with the regime and all the other stakeholders in there to come to the table and have conversations about what a post-civil-war political structure might look like in Syria.”

    #syrie #iran #grand_jeu

  • Iran says it will send 2 satellites to orbit amid US concern
    https://apnews.com/4f432f1f5c61456baf37de1fa784ab4b

    Iran’s president said Thursday the Islamic Republic soon will send two new satellites into orbit using Iran-made rockets, despite U.S. concern the launch could help further develop its ballistic missiles.

    President Hassan Rouhani’s comments, during a commemoration for the late President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, confirmed the rocket launches would take place.

    Iran typically displays achievements in its space program in February, during the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution, which saw the Persian monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi replaced by the Islamic Republic overseen by a Shiite cleric.

    “Soon, in the coming weeks, we will send two satellites into space using our domestically-made rockets,” Rouhani said, without elaborating.

    Previously, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit over the past decade, and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The U.S. and its allies worry the same satellite-launching technology could be used to develop long-range missiles.

    Raison de plus pour certains de penser qu’il est vraiment temps de s’occuper rapidement de ces enturbannés... #iran

  • Tracking China’s Muslim Gulag
    https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/muslims-camps-china

    China is accused of incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Muslims in detention camps that are rising from the desert sands in Xinjiang. A forensic analysis of satellite images of 39 of these facilities shows they are expanding at a rapid rate.

    #chine #camps_de_travail #musulman #Ouïghours #détention

    • Très belle illustration visuelle !

      La légende des différentes étapes :

      Here are the footprints of all 39 camps. Prior to April 2017, these facilities had a total of 539 buildings covering 379,000 square meters.

      By August this year, the number of buildings at these facilities had more than doubled to 1,129. The area they covered had almost tripled to more than 1 million square meters - roughly the size of 140 soccer fields.

      And the expansion continues. A further 67 buildings, covering an area of 210,000 square meters, are now under construction in these compounds, according to the most recent satellite imagery that was analyzed.

      Infographie vraiment remarquable.

      #merci @odilon

    • Opinion: The Strange Silence Over China’s Muslim Crackdown

      President Trump says trade talks between the United States and China have been, “going very well.” The United States put $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods last year, to counter what it considers unfair trade practices and theft of U.S. technology.

      But there are no indications the United States, the United Nations, or any government is prepared to use any economic or diplomatic leverage to oppose China locking up between 800,000 and 2 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Chinese Muslims into internment camps in the western Xinjiang region.

      The camps are in remote locations — closed to the world — and ringed with barbed wire. But they have been photographed by satellite. The Chinese government calls them “re-education centers,” a phrase that carries a sinister history from the murderous purges of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.

      The people in the camps are forced to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the Communist Party. According to multiple reports, a number of people in the camps have also been tortured.

      As Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told The Independent, “If any other government in the world was locking up a million Muslims I think we can reasonably expect to have seen demands for a debate at the U.N. Security Council or an international investigation. That’s generally unlikely to happen with China.”

      There were calls in the U.S. Congress last fall for the Trump administration to consider sanctions against China for what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced as “awful abuses.”

      But China is America’s largest creditor: it holds more than a trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury securities. Look down at whatever you’re wearing, carrying, riding in or working on right now. American businesses get rich relying on Chinese workers who earn low wages to produce our clothing, mobile phones, building materials, and dazzling new tech devices.

      The Trump administration imposed tariffs on China over unfair trade practices. But it has offered no more than a few rhetorical flourishes over human rights crimes. Neither did the Obama administration, or the European Union.

      And Muslim countries — including Saudi Arabia and Iran — have been similarly, conspicuously, silent. China invests heavily, and strategically in their nations too.

      Sometimes, the price of human rights just cannot compete.

      https://www.npr.org/2019/01/12/684687441/opinion-the-strange-silence-over-chinas-muslim-crackdown
      #disparitions

  • Pays-Bas : la loi interdit à la police d’intervenir dans un lieu de culte lorsqu’un culte est en cours. Alors depuis 1 mois des centaines de pasteurs se relaient pour empêcher l’expulsion d’une famille arménienne cachée dans leur eglise.

    « Aux Pays-Bas, une loi interdit à l’État d’intervenir dans un lieu de culte lorsqu’un culte (les offices ici par exemple, ndlr) est en cours. Alors nous avons décidé d’officier en continu, jour et nuit, nous a expliqué Derk Stegeman. Les pasteurs se relaient nuit et jour pour les offices ».

    Et ce ne sont pas seulement les pasteurs de l’église Bethel qui participent à cette initiative : « au début on était un petit cercle, mais l’Église nationale a eu vent de l’histoire et a décidé de nous soutenir. Désormais il y a plus de 400 pasteurs venus de tous les pays qui viennent nous aider pour cet office continu », assure le coordinateur.

    A Dutch church is holding non-stop services for a refugee family — Quartz
    https://qz.com/1470153/a-dutch-church-is-holding-non-stop-services-for-a-refugee-family

    For the past 27 days, a small Protestant church in The Hague has been conducting round-the-clock religious services to protect an Armenian refugee family from deportation.

    By law, police officers in The Netherlands are not allowed to enter places of worship during religious services. So, reverends from around the country have taken turns holding services at Bethel Church to prevent officials from arresting the Tamrazyan family, who have been in The Netherlands for nine years. “By giving hospitality to this family, we could give them time and place to [demonstrate] to the secretary of state the … urgency of their situation,” Theo Hettema, chairman of the General Council of Protestant Ministers says.

    Sasun and Anousche Tamrazyan and their three children, Hayarpi, Warduhi, and Seyran, fled their native Armenia and sought asylum in The Netherlands after Sasun’s political activism earned them death threats. After several years of court procedures, the family was granted asylum by a judge, but the government launched legal proceedings and succeeded in overturning that ruling. (While Hettema does not know why the government sought to reverse the Tamrazyans’ asylum status, he believes appealing asylum approvals may be part of the government’s strategy to limit immigration.)

  • Nancy Pelosi and Israel: Just how hawkish is the likely next speaker of the house? - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    Plus pro-israélien, on ne peut pas imaginer ! la probable future présidente de la chambre des représentants

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/nancy-pelosi-and-israel-why-the-house-s-pro-israel-stance-is-unlikely-to-ch

    Pelosi has also held staunchly pro-Israel views that have at times even out flanked the GOP from the right.
    In 2005, while addressing AIPAC, Pelosi had waxed poetic about her personal experiences in Israel and how they shaped her views: “This spring, I was in Israel as part of a congressional trip that also took us to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. One of the most powerful experiences was taking a helicopter toward Gaza, over the path of the security fence. We set down in a field that belonged to a local kibbutz. It was a cool but sunny day, and the field was starting to bloom with mustard. Mustard is a crop that grows in California, and it felt at that moment as if I were home.”
    Pelosi, who was the 52nd Speaker of the House, previously served from 2007 to 2011 in the position which coincided with the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza war known as Operation Cast Lead. In 2009, Pelosi sponsored a resolution that passed the House by a 390-5 majority blaming the Palestinian side for the violence and reaffirming U.S. support for Israel and a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    The resolution quoted then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said in 2008, “We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence there.”
    Stephen Zunes, author and professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, pointed out at the time that the language in the House decision was even to the right of the Bush administration, which supported the UN Security Council resolution condemning “all acts of violence and terror directed against civilians” - the congressional resolution only condemns the violence and terror of Hamas.
    Pelosi’s resolution also called for “the immediate release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been illegally held in Gaza since June 2006.”
    The Shalit kidnapping was a personal issue for Pelosi, who in 2008, while meeting with then Israeli Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, held up dog tags of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped in 2006. Two of them belonged to Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, whose bodies were repatriated to Israel earlier that year. The third belonged to Gilad Shalit, who at the time was still believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. Shalit was famously freed in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal.
    Pelosi said she kept them as a “symbol of the sacrifices made, sacrifices far too great by the people of the state of Israel.”
    However, she hasn’t always been been on the right side of the pro-Israel divide. In 2014 Pelosi was criticized for suggesting Hamas is a humanitarian organization. On CNN she said, “And we have to confer with the Qataris, who have told me over and over again that Hamas is a humanitarian organization.” The host of the segment Candy Crowley then interrupted her to ask, “The U.S. thinks they’re a terrorist organization though, correct? Do you?” Pelosi responded with, “Mmm hmm.”
    After receiving a lashing from the likes of Megyn Kelly on Fox News and The Republican Jewish Coalition Matthew Brook, Pelosi’s office released a statement, “As Leader Pelosi reiterated in her CNN interview, Hamas is a terrorist organization.”
    Pelosi was also a vocal critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress denouncing then-President Obama’s nuclear deal, which she supported.
    After the speech she released a very harshly worded condemnation saying, “That is why, as one who values the U.S. – Israel relationship, and loves Israel, I was near tears throughout the prime minister’s speech – saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.”
    Pelosi, who was endorsed this week by J Street in her bid for speaker, addressed the 2017 AIPAC Policy Conference by reading a J Street-backed letter, which was signed by 191 members of Congress, mostly Democrats, urging U.S. President Donald Trump to support a two-state solution.
    “As strong supporters of Israel, we write to urge you to reaffirm the United States’ long-standing, bipartisan commitment to supporting a just and lasting two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Pelosi said.
    “It is our belief that a one-state outcome risks destroying Israel’s Jewish and democratic character, denies the Palestinians fulfillment of their legitimate aspirations, and would leave both Israelis and Palestinians embroiled in an endless and intractable conflict for generations to come,” she continued.
    Pelosi, at 78, represents the Democratic establishment’s traditional position on Israel, coupling unwavering support for Israeli defense and the two-state solution for peace between Israel and Palestinians, a bipartisan position that courts both AIPAC and J Street and doesn’t diverge too far from that of centrist Republicans. Unlike some new members of her caucus who criticize Israel for “occupying” the West Bank or for human rights abuses, Pelosi reservers her criticism only for Israeli leaders or policies she disagrees with, most prominently Netanyahu.

  • Iran Was Closer to a Nuclear Bomb Than Intelligence Agencies Thought – Foreign Policy
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/13/iran-was-closer-to-a-nuclear-bomb-than-intelligence-agencies-thought

    ecret Iranian archive seized by Israeli agents earlier this year indicates that Tehran’s nuclear program was more advanced than Western intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency had thought, according to a prominent nuclear expert who examined the documents.

    That conclusion in turn suggests that if Iran pulls out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal that U.S. President Donald Trump has already abandoned, it has the know-how to build a bomb fairly swiftly, perhaps in a matter of months, said David Albright, a physicist who runs the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C.

    Iran would still need to produce weapons-grade uranium. If it restarts its centrifuges, it could have enough in about seven to 12 months, added Albright, who is preparing reports on the archive.

    Before the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal mainly negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, that would have taken only two months, but under the accord Iran was required to ship about 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country and dismantle most its centrifuges.
    […]
    The archive, which is well over 100,000 pages long, covers the period from 1999 to 2003, a decade before negotiations on a nuclear deal began. But the trove of documents demonstrates that Washington and the IAEA were constantly underestimating how close Tehran was to a bomb.
    […]
    Mossad agents seized the archive in a daring nighttime raid on a warehouse in Tehran at the end of January. In late April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed some of the content in a speech that was panned as a melodramatic attempt to prod Trump into leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal. “These files conclusively prove that Iran is brazenly lying when it said it never had a nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said.

  • Saudi Arabia Delivers $100 Million Pledged to U.S. as Pompeo Lands in Riyadh :: WRAL.com
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-money-syria.html

    This summer, Saudi Arabia promised the Trump administration $100 million for U.S. efforts to stabilize areas in Syria liberated from the Islamic State.

    That money landed in U.S. accounts Tuesday, the same day that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for discussions with the kingdom’s leaders about the fate of a missing Saudi dissident.

    A mon avis, il manque un zéro...

    #kashoggi

  • C.I.A. Drone Mission, Curtailed by Obama, Is Expanded in Africa Under Trump

    The C.I.A. is poised to conduct secret drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State insurgents from a newly expanded air base deep in the Sahara, making aggressive use of powers that were scaled back during the Obama administration and restored by President Trump.

    Late in his presidency, Barack Obama sought to put the military in charge of drone attacks after a backlash arose over a series of highly visible strikes, some of which killed civilians. The move was intended, in part, to bring greater transparency to attacks that the United States often refused to acknowledge its role in.

    But now the C.I.A. is broadening its drone operations, moving aircraft to northeastern Niger to hunt Islamist militants in southern Libya. The expansion adds to the agency’s limited covert missions in eastern Afghanistan for strikes in Pakistan, and in southern Saudi Arabia for attacks in Yemen.

    Nigerien and American officials said the C.I.A. had been flying drones on surveillance missions for several months from a corner of a small commercial airport in Dirkou. Satellite imagery shows that the airport has grown significantly since February to include a new taxiway, walls and security posts.

    One American official said the drones had not yet been used in lethal missions, but would almost certainly be in the near future, given the growing threat in southern Libya. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secretive operations.

    A C.I.A. spokesman, Timothy Barrett, declined to comment. A Defense Department spokeswoman, Maj. Sheryll Klinkel, said the military had maintained a base at the Dirkou airfield for several months but did not fly drone missions from there.

    The drones take off from Dirkou at night — typically between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. — buzzing in the clear, starlit desert sky. A New York Times reporter saw the gray aircraft — about the size of Predator drones, which are 27 feet long — flying at least three times over six days in early August. Unlike small passenger planes that land occasionally at the airport, the drones have no blinking lights signaling their presence.

    “All I know is they’re American,” Niger’s interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, said in an interview. He offered few other details about the drones.

    Dirkou’s mayor, Boubakar Jerome, said the drones had helped improve the town’s security. “It’s always good. If people see things like that, they’ll be scared,” Mr. Jerome said.

    Mr. Obama had curtailed the C.I.A.’s lethal role by limiting its drone flights, notably in Yemen. Some strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere that accidentally killed civilians, stirring outrage among foreign diplomats and military officials, were shielded because of the C.I.A.’s secrecy.

    As part of the shift, the Pentagon was given the unambiguous lead for such operations. The move sought, in part, to end an often awkward charade in which the United States would not concede its responsibility for strikes that were abundantly covered by news organizations and tallied by watchdog groups. However, the C.I.A. program was not fully shut down worldwide, as the agency and its supporters in Congress balked.

    The drone policy was changed last year, after Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director at the time, made a forceful case to President Trump that the agency’s broader counterterrorism efforts were being needlessly constrained. The Dirkou base was already up and running by the time Mr. Pompeo stepped down as head of the C.I.A. in April to become Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.

    The Pentagon’s Africa Command has carried out five drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State militants in Libya this year, including one two weeks ago. The military launches its MQ-9 Reaper drones from bases in Sicily and in Niamey, Niger’s capital, 800 miles southwest of Dirkou.

    But the C.I.A. base is hundreds of miles closer to southwestern Libya, a notorious haven for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups that also operate in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad, Mali and Algeria. It is also closer to southern Libya than a new $110 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, 350 miles west of Dirkou, where the Pentagon plans to operate armed Reaper drone missions by early next year.

    Another American official said the C.I.A. began setting up the base in January to improve surveillance of the region, partly in response to an ambush last fall in another part of Niger that killed four American troops. The Dirkou airfield was labeled a United States Air Force base as a cover, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential operational matters.

    The C.I.A. operation in Dirkou is burdened by few, if any, of the political sensitivities that the United States military confronts at its locations, said one former American official involved with the project.

    Even so, security analysts said, it is not clear why the United States needs both military and C.I.A. drone operations in the same general vicinity to combat insurgents in Libya. France also flies Reaper drones from Niamey, but only on unarmed reconnaissance missions.

    “I would be surprised that the C.I.A. would open its own base,” said Bill Roggio, editor of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, which tracks military strikes against militant groups.

    Despite American denials, a Nigerien security official said he had concluded that the C.I.A. launched an armed drone from the Dirkou base to strike a target in Ubari, in southern Libya, on July 25. The Nigerien security official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

    A spokesman for the Africa Command, Maj. Karl Wiest, said the military did not carry out the Ubari strike.

    #Ubari is in the same region where the American military in March launched its first-ever drone attack against Qaeda militants in southern Libya. It is at the intersection of the powerful criminal and jihadist currents that have washed across Libya in recent years. Roughly equidistant from Libya’s borders with Niger, Chad and Algeria, the area’s seminomadic residents are heavily involved in the smuggling of weapons, drugs and migrants through the lawless deserts of southern Libya.

    Some of the residents have allied with Islamist militias, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates across Algeria, Mali, Niger and Libya.

    Dirkou, in northeast Niger, is an oasis town of a few thousand people in the open desert, bordered by a small mountain range. For centuries, it has been a key transit point for travelers crossing the Sahara. It helped facilitate the rise of Islam in West Africa in the 9th century, and welcomed salt caravans from the neighboring town of Bilma.

    The town has a handful of narrow, sandy roads. Small trees dot the horizon. Date and neem trees line the streets, providing shelter for people escaping the oppressive midday heat. There is a small market, where goods for sale include spaghetti imported from Libya. Gasoline is also imported from Libya and is cheaper than elsewhere in the country.

    The drones based in Dirkou are loud, and their humming and buzzing drowns out the bleats of goats and crows of roosters.

    “It stops me from sleeping,” said Ajimi Koddo, 45, a former migrant smuggler. “They need to go. They go in our village, and it annoys us too much.”

    Satellite imagery shows that construction started in February on a new compound at the Dirkou airstrip. Since then, the facility has been extended to include a larger paved taxiway and a clamshell tent connected to the airstrip — all features that are consistent with the deployment of small aircraft, possibly drones.

    Five defensive positions were set up around the airport, and there appear to be new security gates and checkpoints both to the compound and the broader airport.

    It’s not the first time that Washington has eyed with interest Dirkou’s tiny base. In the late 1980s, the United States spent $3.2 million renovating the airstrip in an effort to bolster Niger’s government against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, then the leader of Libya.

    Compared with other parts of Africa, the C.I.A.’s presence in the continent’s northwest is relatively light, according to a former State Department official who served in the region. In this part of Niger, the C.I.A. is also providing training and sharing intelligence, according to a Nigerien military intelligence document reviewed by The Times.

    The Nigerien security official said about a dozen American Green Berets were stationed earlier this year in #Dirkou — in a base separate from the C.I.A.’s — to train a special counterterrorism battalion of local forces. Those trainers left about three months ago, the official said.

    It is unlikely that they will return anytime soon. The Pentagon is considering withdrawing nearly all American commandos from Niger in the wake of the deadly October ambush that killed four United States soldiers.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/09/world/africa/cia-drones-africa-military.html
    #CIA #drones #Niger #Sahel #USA #Etats-Unis #EI #ISIS #Etat_islamique #sécurité #terrorisme #base_militaire

    • Le Sahel est-il une zone de #non-droit ?

      La CIA a posé ses valises dans la bande sahélo-saharienne. Le New-York Times l’a annoncé, le 9 septembre dernier. Le quotidien US, a révélé l’existence d’une #base_de_drones secrète non loin de la commune de Dirkou, dans le nord-est du Niger. Cette localité, enclavée, la première grande ville la plus proche est Agadez située à 570 km, est le terrain de tir parfait. Elle est éloignée de tous les regards, y compris des autres forces armées étrangères : France, Allemagne, Italie, présentes sur le sol nigérien. Selon un responsable américain anonyme interrogé par ce journal, les drones déployés à Dirkou n’avaient « pas encore été utilisés dans des missions meurtrières, mais qu’ils le seraient certainement dans un proche avenir, compte tenu de la menace croissante qui pèse sur le sud de la Libye. » Or, d’après les renseignements recueillis par l’IVERIS, ces assertions sont fausses, la CIA a déjà mené des opérations à partir de cette base. Ces informations apportent un nouvel éclairage et expliquent le refus catégorique et systématique de l’administration américaine de placer la force conjointe du G5 Sahel (Tchad, Mauritanie, Burkina-Faso, Niger, Mali) sous le chapitre VII de la charte des Nations Unies.
      L’installation d’une base de drones n’est pas une bonne nouvelle pour les peuples du Sahel, et plus largement de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, qui pourraient connaître les mêmes malheurs que les Afghans et les Pakistanais confrontés à la guerre des drones avec sa cohorte de victimes civiles, appelées pudiquement « dégâts collatéraux ».

      D’après le journaliste du NYT, qui s’est rendu sur place, les drones présents à Dirkou ressembleraient à des Predator, des aéronefs d’ancienne génération qui ont un rayon d’action de 1250 km. Il serait assez étonnant que l’agence de Langley soit équipée de vieux modèles alors que l’US Air Force dispose à Niamey et bientôt à Agadez des derniers modèles MQ-9 Reaper, qui, eux, volent sur une distance de 1850 km. A partir de cette base, la CIA dispose donc d’un terrain de tir étendu qui va de la Libye, au sud de l’Algérie, en passant par le Tchad, jusqu’au centre du Mali, au Nord du Burkina et du Nigéria…

      Selon deux sources militaires de pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest, ces drones ont déjà réalisé des frappes à partir de la base de Dirkou. Ces bombardements ont eu lieu en Libye. Il paraît important de préciser que le chaos existant dans ce pays depuis la guerre de 2011, ne rend pas ces frappes plus légales. Par ailleurs, ces mêmes sources suspectent la CIA d’utiliser Dirkou comme une prison secrète « si des drones peuvent se poser des avions aussi. Rien ne les empêche de transporter des terroristes de Libye exfiltrés. Dirkou un Guantanamo bis ? »

      En outre, il n’est pas impossible que ces drones tueurs aient été en action dans d’autres Etats limitrophes. Qui peut le savoir ? « Cette base est irrégulière, illégale, la CIA peut faire absolument tout ce qu’elle veut là-bas » rapporte un officier. De plus, comment faire la différence entre un MQ-9 Reaper de la CIA ou encore un de l’US Air Force, qui, elle, a obtenu l’autorisation d’armer ses drones (1). Encore que…

      En novembre 2017, le président Mahamadou Issoufou a autorisé les drones de l’US Air Force basés à Niamey, à frapper leurs cibles sur le territoire nigérien (2). Mais pour que cet agrément soit légal, il aurait fallu qu’il soit présenté devant le parlement, ce qui n’a pas été le cas. Même s’il l’avait été, d’une part, il le serait seulement pour l’armée US et pas pour la CIA, d’autre part, il ne serait valable que sur le sol nigérien et pas sur les territoires des pays voisins…

      Pour rappel, cette autorisation a été accordée à peine un mois après les événements de Tongo Tongo, où neuf militaires avaient été tués, cinq soldats nigériens et quatre américains. Cette autorisation est souvent présentée comme la conséquence de cette attaque. Or, les pourparlers ont eu lieu bien avant. En effet, l’AFRICOM a planifié la construction de la base de drone d’Agadez, la seconde la plus importante de l’US Air Force en Afrique après Djibouti, dès 2016, sous le mandat de Barack Obama. Une nouvelle preuve que la politique africaine du Pentagone n’a pas changée avec l’arrivée de Donald Trump (3-4-5).

      Les USA seuls maîtres à bord dans le Sahel

      Dès lors, le véto catégorique des Etats-Unis de placer la force G5 Sahel sous chapitre VII se comprend mieux. Il s’agit de mener une guerre non-officielle sans mandat international des Nations-Unies et sans se soucier du droit international. Ce n’était donc pas utile qu’Emmanuel Macron, fer de lance du G5, force qui aurait permis à l’opération Barkhane de sortir du bourbier dans lequel elle se trouve, plaide à de nombreuses reprises cette cause auprès de Donald Trump. Tous les présidents du G5 Sahel s’y sont essayés également, en vain. Ils ont fini par comprendre, quatre chefs d’Etats ont boudé la dernière Assemblée générale des Nations Unies. Seul, le Président malien, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, est monté à la tribune pour réitérer la demande de mise sous chapitre VII, unique solution pour que cette force obtienne un financement pérenne. Alors qu’en décembre 2017, Emmanuel Macron y croyait encore dur comme fer et exigeait des victoires au premier semestre 2018, faute de budget, le G5 Sahel n’est toujours pas opérationnel ! (6-7) Néanmoins, la Chine a promis de le soutenir financièrement. Magnanime, le secrétaire d’Etat à la défense, Jim Mattis a lui assuré à son homologue, Florence Parly, que les Etats-Unis apporteraient à la force conjointe une aide très significativement augmentée. Mais toujours pas de chapitre VII en vue... Ainsi, l’administration Trump joue coup double. Non seulement elle ne s’embarrasse pas avec le Conseil de Sécurité et le droit international mais sous couvert de lutte antiterroriste, elle incruste ses bottes dans ce qui est, (ce qui fut ?), la zone d’influence française.

      Far West

      Cerise sur le gâteau, en août dernier le patron de l’AFRICOM, le général Thomas D. Waldhauser, a annoncé une réduction drastique de ses troupes en Afrique (9). Les sociétés militaires privées, dont celle d’Erik Prince, anciennement Blackwater, ont bien compris le message et sont dans les starting-blocks prêtes à s’installer au Sahel (10).


      https://www.iveris.eu/list/notes_danalyse/371-le_sahel_estil_une_zone_de_nondroit__

  • Exclusive: Mesa to include nine countries while prioritising Iran threat - The National

    https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/exclusive-mesa-to-include-nine-countries-while-prioritising-iran-threat-

    S Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arabian Gulf Affairs Tim Lenderking has spent the last three weeks in shuttle regional diplomacy across the Gulf to lay the groundwork for a US-hosted summit in January that would launch the Middle East Strategic Alliance (Mesa), a concept similar to an Arab Nato.

    In an interview with The National on Wednesday, Mr Lenderking divulged details about the structure of Mesa and its long term prospects. He said besides the Gulf Cooperation Council members – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman – the US and both Egypt and Jordan would be members of such an alliance.

    Mr Lenderking said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be hosting a GCC + 2 meeting on the margins of United Nations General Assembly on Friday to prepare for the January summit.

    “This stems from the Riyadh summit in 2017 where everyone agreed that the US and the GCC would meet on an annual basis...we added on top of that the keen interest on both sides in building Mesa,” Mr Lenderking explained. The alliance would be based on a security, economic and political agreement that would bind together the GCC countries, along with the US, Egypt and Jordan.

    Notwithstanding the different policy priorities within the GCC itself, Mr Lenderking said the idea of Mesa is “it builds a good strong shield against threats in the Gulf,” naming Iran, cyber concerns, attacks on infrastructure, and coordinating conflict management from Syria to Yemen as part of its agenda.

    “The more we have coordinated efforts, the more effective in enhancing stability,” he said, adding that Iran was the “number one threat” on the Mesa list.

    The senior US official confirmed that the US would be part of the alliance and “we [US] would like to agree on the concept of Mesa by the January summit.”

    He cautioned, however, that these conversations are still in their early stages and “if we find we need to change dates we need to be flexible on that”.

  • Study questions Iran-al Qaeda ties, despite U.S. allegations | Reuters

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-alqaeda/study-questions-iran-al-qaeda-ties-despite-u-s-allegations-idUSKCN1LN2LE

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is no evidence that Iran and al Qaeda cooperated in carrying out terrorist attacks, according to a study published on Friday that casts doubt on Trump administration statements about close ties between the two.

    FILE PHOTO: Iran’s national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl
    The conclusions of the study, by the New America think tank, were based on detailed analysis of documents seized in Osama bin Laden’s hideout after U.S. forces killed the al Qaeda leader in 2011.

    The findings clash with recent statements by U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggesting Iran has collaborated with al Qaeda, which carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

    Debate has swirled over the relationship between Iran, a majority Shi’ite Muslim state, and radical Sunni group al Qaeda since late 2001, when some al Qaeda members fled to Iran after the United States toppled the Taliban government that had sheltered them in Afghanistan.

    The bin Laden files, including a 19-page document not released until last November, show that Iran was uncomfortable with the militants’ presence on its soil, said Nelly Lahoud, the study’s author and an expert on al Qaeda.