Sunday, June 25, 2017

Trump just ended a long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House

    Sunday, June 25, 2017   No comments
In the early days of December 1805, a handful of prominent politicians received formal invitations to join President Thomas Jefferson for a White House dinner.

Such entreaties were not uncommon: Jefferson frequently hosted lawmakers for political working dinners at the White House, almost always commencing them about 3:30 in the afternoon, shortly after the House or Senate had adjourned for the day.

But this gathering, scheduled for Dec. 9, would be slightly different.

"dinner will be on the table precisely at sun-set - " the invitations read. "The favour of an answer is asked."

The occasion was the presence of a Tunisian envoy to the United States, Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who had arrived in the country just the week before, in the midst of America's ongoing conflict with what were then known as the Barbary States.

And the reason for the dinner's later-than-usual start was Mellimelli's observance of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims in which observers fast between dawn and dusk. Only after sunset do Muslims break their fast with a meal, referred to as an iftar.

...


For the first time in nearly two decades, Ramadan has come and gone without the White House recognizing it with an iftar or Eid celebration, as had taken place each year under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. In recent weeks, several former White House staff members told The Post they would usually begin planning an iftar "months in advance" and didn't anticipate the Trump White House could pull something off before the end of Ramadan.

White House officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Late Saturday afternoon, the White House released a short statement from President Trump and the first lady recognizing the holiday.

"Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity," the statement read. "Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values. Eid Mubarak."

In late May, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly said the State Department would break with recent tradition and not host a Ramadan reception, as it had done nearly annually for two decades. On Saturday morning, Tillerson also released a brief statement sending "best wishes to all Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr."

"This holiday marks the culmination of Ramadan, a month in which many experience meaning and inspiration in acts of fasting, prayer, and charity," Tillerson said in the statement. "This day offers an opportunity to reflect on our shared commitment to building peaceful and prosperous communities. Eid Mubarak."

Tillerson's and Trump's brief remarks were in stark contrast to Obama, who released a lengthy statement for the holiday last year, as well as to ceremonies hosted at the White House for the last 20 years. source

Thursday, June 22, 2017

President Emmanuel Macron Reverses France's Syria Policy: No legitimate successor to Assad

    Thursday, June 22, 2017   No comments
ISR comment: 
For six years, France's policy was one that prioritized the ouster of the Syrian president over all other goals. The French government offered the obscure groups calling themselves "Syrian Opposition" all forms of support, labeling it, the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. After more than 300,000 Syrians died and nearly 5,000,000 were displaced, the French government shifts its Syria policy: the priority is now to fight terrorism and to preserve the institutions of a functioning Syrian government. Too little, too late.
The News:
President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he saw no legitimate successor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and France no longer considered his departure a pre-condition to resolving the six-year-old conflict.

He said Assad was an enemy of the Syrian people, but not of France and that Paris' priority was fighting terrorist groups and ensuring Syria did not become a failed state.

His comments were in stark contrast to those of the previous French administration and echo Moscow's stance that there is no viable alternative to Assad.

"The new perspective that I have had on this subject is that I have not stated that Bashar al-Assad's departure is a pre-condition for everything because nobody has shown me a legitimate successor," Macron said in an interview with eight European newspapers.

"My lines are clear: Firstly, a complete fight against all the terrorist groups. They are our enemies," he said, adding attacks that killed 230 people in France had come from the region. "We need everybody's cooperation, especially Russia, to eradicate them."Source


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Facts and Biases: "Mass shootings are terrorism when perpetrated by Muslims"

    Sunday, June 18, 2017   No comments
...
Legally and morally, we see intent as the best way to distinguish terrorism from mass murder. Federal law defines terrorism as certain violent acts “that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government.”

But because Hodgkinson is dead and did not declare an aim to dethrone the House majority to which his victims belong, we can only speculate about his motives. Like so many other killers in recent years, it’s impossible to know what his specific goals were, because he didn’t tell anyone. We know that these people intended to commit murder, but not why. And if we assume we know — as in the case of Syed Rizwan Farook in San Bernadino or Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson — it’s probably because of our preexisting stereotypes or our partisanship. Mass killings look the most like terrorism when their perpetrators seem the most alien from the Judeo-Christian, white majority. That’s no way to judge a crime. We need a new way to classify these attacks.
...
This discrepancy poses two dangers. First, the assumption that mass shootings are terrorism when perpetrated by Muslims but not by others may lead law enforcement and the public to overlook threats posed by non-Muslims. For instance, civil rights lawyer and former FBI agent Mike German, who infiltrated white supremacist groups, has argued that the domestic threat posed by right-wing extremist groups is as great as, if not greater than, that posed by Arab or Muslim terrorists, and yet has been largely ignored by the FBI. A report by the Government Accountability Office tallied 106 killings perpetrated by right-wing extremists in the United States from Sept. 12, 2001, to the end of 2016, more or less equal to the 119 by Muslim extremists in that time. While the exact number in each category may change slightly depending on how we classify individual attacks, the point is that there’s close to parity in the danger posed by each group.

Second, it’s possible that law enforcement and other decision-makers will acknowledge and respond to this singular focus on Muslims by overcompensating in the opposite manner so as to appear nondiscriminatory. The Fort Hood shooter, for example, had repeatedly drawn complaints from fellow soldiers for appearing to justify terrorist attacks against Americans in the Middle East. The FBI was even aware that Hasan had been in email contact with al-Qaeda provocateur Anwar al-Awlaki. It is one thing to avoid racial or religious stereotyping but another to ignore red flags for fear of being perceived as bigoted, as appears to be the case with Hasan. Yet this tension is inherent in stereotype-based law enforcement.

One first step toward resolving the question of “what is terrorism?” — at least in the colloquial sense — is to stop focusing so much on the perpetrator’s perceived intent and to look more at the effects of the violent act. Today, attackers such as Hodgkinson, Hasan, Rizwan, Malik, Loughner and Roof have one thing clearly in common: Even if it’s not clear why, they want to kill as many people as possible. That should be enough to call them all terrorists.

source
James T. Hodgkinson, the man who shot five people at a Republican baseball practice Wednesday, including a member of Congress, harbored ill will toward President Trump and the GOP. So was Hodgkinson a terrorist?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Erdoğan wants Turkish military bases in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, condemns “Iranian expansionism” in the Middle East

    Saturday, June 17, 2017   No comments
Turkey does not condone “Iranian expansionism” in the Middle East although it does recognize its role and its cooperation in resolving problems in Iraq and Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“Is Syria a theater for Iran’s sectarian expansionism? Yes, it is. Is Iraq a theater also? Yes, it is. I regard this a Persian expansionism rather than a sectarian one. I should specifically say that I do not approve of this Persian expansionism,” Erdoğan said in an interview with Portugal’s RTP channel, according to Anadolu Agency on June 16.

Turkey has long criticized Iran for pursuing a sectarian-based policy in the Middle East although it continues to work with Tehran on a number of regional issues.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Trump cancels Obama’s deal with Cuba

    Friday, June 16, 2017   No comments

ISR Comment: Threatening to cancel the #IranDeal is understandable: Iran has n0 defenders in the U.S. and it is always popular to bash Iran and blame everything, including one's lousy bet the Cavs winning the NBA 2017 championship. But with the announcement today that Trump is cancelling Obama's deal with Cuba, the pattern is established. This president's mission is to ungovern, not govern. More accurately, it seems that Trump intends to spend his four years in the White House undoing what his predecessor has done in the last eight years. It is absolutely clear, too, that doing so is very personal to Trump. A close look at his short record and all his achievements, unaccomplished as they may be, are in fact undoing the accomplishment of Obama: Obamacare, Paris Treaty, U.S.-Saudi relations, environmental regulations, financial regulations... and the list goes on and on... Trump either does not have any original ideas or he has issues with Obama.



___________
President Trump on Friday announced his tough new policy on Cuba — and demanded that the Communist country return the American fugitives it harbors, including cop-killer Joanne Chesimard.

“Return the fugitives from American justice including the return of the cop-killer Joanne Chesimard,” Trump thundered to applause and shouts of “Viva Trump.”
“To the Castro regime, I repeat, the harboring of criminals and fugitives will end. You have no choice. It will end,” he said at an event in Miami’s Little Havana.

Chesimard, a Queens-born black activist who changed her name to Assata Shakur, was a Black Liberation Army member who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1977.

She escaped from prison with the help of other BLA terrorists and in 1984 fled to Cuba, where the Castro regime granted her political asylum.

Under the president’s policy — which reverses some but not all of the changes introduced by the Obama administration when it restored diplomatic ties with the island nation — American citizens will be barred from staying in US-based hotels that operate in Cuba in partnership with the Cuban government. source

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Trump’s Sword Dance Sets Off the War of the Wahhabis

    Thursday, June 15, 2017   No comments
Screenshot of a comment in a related story on DW.
by  Pepe Escobar

US President Donald Trump could not possibly have predicted the game-changing after-effects of his triumphal sword dance in Riyadh.

Or could he?

The fact is the House of Saud went amok, in a flash, going after Qatar and bombing from the inside that glorious Arab NATO project – call it NATOGCC — sworn with pomp over a glowing orb.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump wants to defeat "radical Islamist extremism", he also wants Saudi Arabia, which "is destabilizing the world", to lead

    Wednesday, June 14, 2017   No comments
Just a few months ago, the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, Jakarta, seemed headed for easy re-election despite the fact that he is a Christian in a mostly Muslim country. Suddenly everything went violently wrong. Using the pretext of an offhand remark the governor made about the Koran, masses of enraged Muslims took to the streets to denounce him. In short order he lost the election, was arrested, charged with blasphemy, and sentenced to two years in prison.

UN: 'Staggering' civilian deaths from US-led air strikes in Raqqa

    Wednesday, June 14, 2017   No comments
Intensified coalition air strikes supporting an assault by U.S.-backed forces on Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa in Syria are causing a "staggering loss of civilian life", United Nations war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a U.S.-led coalition, began to attack Raqqa a week ago to take it from the jihadists. The SDF, supported by heavy coalition air strikes, have taken territory to the west, east and north of the city.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Saudi Media publish photos of Erdogan with Hikmatyar from 1985; Is Turkey going to be punished for standing with Qatar?

    Sunday, June 11, 2017   No comments
Saudi media released pictures, from 1985, showing now Turkish president, Erdogan, sitting before Afghani leading figure of the U.S.-sponsored rebels who fought against the USSR supported government in Afghanistan, Gulbiddin Hikmatyar. Alarabiya-English accompanied the image with a comment, suggesting that the image shows the link between Islamists and wars.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Syrian and Iraqi forces reach the Syrian Iraqi Border, near al Tanf for the first time

    Friday, June 09, 2017   No comments
ISR comment:  The U.S. forces attacked Syrian government forces and its allies three times to prevent them from reaching the Iraqi border and clearing the highway that links Baghdad to Damascus. On Friday, the Russian defense ministering claimed that the Syrian army reached the border. This is an important development since US officials say that it is protecting  "moderate" rebels who are fighting ISIS. Now that these rebels have no open front with ISIS, it will be interesting to see what other justification for their continued operation in the region.
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Control map in Syria and Iraq on June 8, 2017
Control map in Syria and Iraq on June 9, 2017
 According to media reports, Russian Ministry of Defense claim pro-Assad forces reached the border of Iraq. The Ministry claims that the air forces of the US-led coalition are working to undermine the anti-terrorist efforts of the Syrian government, Colonel General Sergey Surovikin of the Russian ground forces has said.

“Despite promoting the aim of fighting international terrorism, the coalition is striking the Syrian military, allowing IS militants to leave encircled areas unhindered, thus strengthening the terrorist groupings near Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor,” Surovikin said.

“The coalition air forces and the strongholds of the forces of New Syrian Army [now known as the Revolutionary Commando Army] have blocked the way of the government forces, tasked with defeating IS [Islamic State] groups,” he said at a briefing on Friday.“This is a violation of the sovereign right of Syria to protect it borders,” he said.

The statement comes after US warplanes stuck pro-government forces near At Tanf on Thursday, the third such incident in the space of several weeks. source

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Saudi minister says no evidence that Saudis behind Iran attack

    Wednesday, June 07, 2017   No comments
...

Speaking in Berlin, Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said he condemned terrorist attacks wherever they occur, but said there was no evidence that Saudis were behind the attack in Tehran, adding he did not know who was responsible.

Jubeir also said there was no specific trigger for a decision to cut ties with Qatar, but said there was a long list of grievances.


Source: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/world/2017/06/07/saudi-minister-says-no-evidence-that-saudis-behind-iran-attack/#iQ5yFO9H7FI4TZXf.99






  

Turkish parliament approves bill to deploy troops in Qatar

    Wednesday, June 07, 2017   No comments
Turkey's parliament on June 7 approved a draft bill allowing its troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar.

The move appears to support the Gulf Arab country as it faces diplomatic and trade isolation from some of the biggest Middle Eastern powers.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and closed their airspace to commercial flights on Monday, charging it with financing militant groups.

Qatar vehemently denies the accusations. It is the worst split between powerful Arab states in decades.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized the Arab states' move, saying isolating Qatar and imposing sanctions will not resolve any problems and adding that Ankara will do everything in its power to help end the crisis.
source

At least 12 killed in terrorist attack in Tehran, ISIL claims responsibility

    Wednesday, June 07, 2017   No comments
Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iran's parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday morning, killing at least 12 people in a twin assault at the heart of the Islamic Republic, Iranian officials and media said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament building and one body, apparently dead, on the floor. Source.

The terrorist attack, which was claimed by ISIL, came weeks after one of the Saudi rulers, Mohammed Bin Salman, threatened to take the battle inside Iran: "We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia but we will work so the battle is there in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia." See video:




Dissent is haram in Gulf Nations: Sympathizing with Qatar will cost people living in UAE up to 15 years in prison

    Wednesday, June 07, 2017   No comments
The United Arab Emirates tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf state Qatar on Wednesday, threatening anyone publishing expressions of sympathy towards Doha with up to 15 years in prison and barring entry to Qataris.
...
The UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya reported the crackdown on expressions of sympathy with Qatar.

"Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form," Gulf News quoted UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as saying.

On top of a possible jail term, offenders could also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams ($136,000), the newspaper said, citing a statement to Arabic-language media.

Slogans against and in support of Qatar have dominated Twitter in Arabic. Newspapers and television channels in the region have also been engaged in a war of words.

source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gulf-qatar-idUSKBN18Y0DH

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