Iran Protests


Melanie Phillips and others on British Jews, left and right.

Via Melanie Phillips: BBC4's Jo Coburn interviews
The Rt. Hon. Edwina Currie, former Conservative minister; Lord Levy, Middle East envoy for Tony Blair when prime minister; The Rt. Hon. Sir Oliver Letwin, M.P., senior adviser to David Cameron; Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum, the grass-roots movement that supports Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader; Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Reform Synagogue; Melanie Phillips, columnist on "The Times" and Ruth Smeeth, Labour M.P. for Stoke-on-Trent, North
on changing allegiances for Jews in the UK.


USA / Israel: President Trump recognizes Jerusalem as capital, pledges embassy move.

Arutz Sheva:
US President Donald Trump announced that the US government officially recognized the city of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and announced that the US embassy in Israel would be relocated to Jerusalem in a speech at the White House Wednesday.

"After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result," Trump said.

"Therefore, i have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ...

World Today: 2017-12-06 Wed

Saudi Arabia: Stratfor's Jay Ogilvy on Mohammed bin Salman. Stratfor:
His ambitious plan for the kingdom's future, Saudi Vision 2030 — worked out with help from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. — envisages a whole panoply of reforms. The measures range from health care and education initiatives to a $500 billion project to build a new city to proposals for treating the Saudi economy's "addiction to oil." Along with reform, MbS is taking on his country's cultural and political taboos. He wants to break the taboo against selling off any part of the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., better known as Saudi Aramco, by floating an initial public offering for less than 5 percent of the huge company. Proceeds from the sale would go toward creating the world's largest sovereign investment fund, which, as MbS described in his first interview on Al-Arabiya television, would "take control over more than (10) percent of the investment capacity of the globe" and "own more than (3) percent of the assets on Earth." MbS is also breaking the long-standing taboo that forbids women from driving.

And perhaps most significant, he wants to break the hold of the hard-line Wahhabi clerics who came to power in 1979, when militants occupied Mecca's Grand Mosque at the time of the Islamic revolution in Iran. ...

Gulf States: Stratfor on Gulf Cooperation, or lack thereof. Stratfor:
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has stopped cooperating. In fact, the bloc may be fragmenting. Kuwait hosted the 38th GCC Summit on Tuesday, but only one member — Qatar — sent its head of state to the gathering. Moreover, the GCC members decided to cancel the second day of the planned two-day summit. Yet perhaps most concerning for the GCC's future was the United Arab Emirates' announcement that it and Saudi Arabia were planning their own cooperation council for security and economic affairs. Things have been tense in the bloc since Saudi Arabia and some GCC peers' started a campaign to isolate Qatar over differences in regional policies. Of course, the GCC has been beset by squabbles among its six members — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — since its inception. But the Emirati announcement shows that the Qatar crisis is leading to a rebalancing in the bloc, one that's emblematic of the larger geopolitical forces pulling the GCC apart.

The recent strife within the GCC is driven in no small part by prevailing concerns that the United States will no longer guarantee the security of states in the Middle East. ...

Afghanistan: US, Afghan forces target Taliban operatives. Long War Journal: 'Resolute Support confirmed that one of the al Qaeda operatives targeted was Omar Khetab (a.k.a. Omar Mansour), “a senior al Qaeda leader” who served as the “second senior leader” in Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). This means that Khetab was a deputy to AQIS emir Asim Umar, the leader of AQIS since its inception in 2014.'

USA / Israel: President Trump expected to announce Jerusalem recognition. Arutz Sheva:
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was "long overdue."

"Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn't do it,
whether it's courage or they changed their mind, I can't tell you," Trump said.

Later in the evening, Trump will officially announce American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

The president is also expected to announce preparations for the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the crossing is not expected to take place in the coming months. ...


Andy Ngo: Racism disguised as anti-racism.

Andy Ngo at Quillette:
When I started my graduate education at Portland State in 2015 after a long hiatus from academe, I attended an event titled, “Students of Color Speak Out.” The university president encouraged all students, staff and faculty to attend the event, organized in reaction to alleged racial tensions on campus. As a student of color and the gay son of refugee immigrants, the event’s premise interested me.

As I sat in the front, I listened to students detail their daily trauma of existing on a campus that was majority white. Students representing many ethnicities repeatedly shared feeling unsafe. I was confounded because their anecdotes spoke of an experience that sounded similar to those who lived in apartheid-era South Africa or Jim Crow Mississippi — not something I remotely recognized in ultra-progressive Portland. Still, I was sympathetic and recognized that my personal experiences may not be shared by others.

My optimism was challenged once I began to pick up on the theme connecting the speeches. ...
Read the rest at the link.

World Today: 2017-12-05 Tuesday

Stratfor on USA / Pakistan: India concerns likely to outweigh USA overtures. Stratfor:
...Pakistan wants to maintain its relationship with the United States, but it's willing to suffer the cost of deteriorating ties. From Islamabad's perspective, supporting the Taliban follows a rational calculation to ensure post-conflict Afghanistan is friendly to Pakistani interests. Support for Taliban leaders is aimed at denying Pakistan's rival, India, a foothold in Afghanistan. Because of this, Mattis' visit probably won't convince Pakistan to change its behavior, especially considering the Trump administration's calls for India to play a greater economic role in Afghanistan.

Israel / Syria: Reported IDF strike on Syrian forces near Damascus. Times of Israel: 'According to the reports out of Syria, the strike targeted the Jamarya military facility and research center, northwest of the Syrian capital. ... The same site was reportedly targeted by Israeli jets in January 2013 targeting a convoy of Russian-made SA-17 missiles being transferred to the Hezbollah terror group, according to Western sources.' Debka:
Lebanese sources say Israel fired six missiles, three of which were intercepted by Syria’s air defense system. This would be the second Israeli air raid in three days of a military target in the Damascus area. Last Saturday, Israeli aircraft attacked a secret conference of pro-Iranian Shiite militia chiefs outside Al-Kiswah, 14km southwest of Damascus and 50km from Israel’s Golan border. Some Iranian and Hizballah officers were killed in that attack as well.
Full article with map graphic at the link.

Saudi Arabia / Qatar: Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the growing conflict.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali at NYT:
The recently promoted heir to the Saudi throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as M.B.S., has pledged to modernize the country. His agenda includes diversifying the Saudi economy beyond oil, expanding trade, bolstering employment and loosening restrictions on entertainment. But at least two domestic factors complicate his ambitions, and we may see them play out on the world stage in 2018.

The first is the possibility of a challenge to M.B.S.’s ascendancy. Deposing his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef (M.B.N.), as crown prince and placing him under house arrest, then freezing his personal bank accounts in November, were daring moves, even by the standards of Arab dynastic politics. As the former head of the Saudi secret intelligence service, M.B.N. could prove to be a dangerous enemy.

Second, M.B.S.’s grand strategic reform plan — known as Vision 2030 — is a direct threat to the prestige and power of the established (and reactionary) Wahhabi clergy in Saudi Arabia. ...


USA / Fusion GPS: Suspicion of pay-to-publish scheme.

Lee Smith at The Federalist:
Court filings released last month by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence suggest growing evidence of a pay-to-publish scandal that may shake large parts of the Washington press corps.

At the center of the controversy is the Washington DC-based communications shop Fusion GPS, which assembled and distributed the so-called “Steele dossier.” It’s named after former British spy Christopher Steele, who is believed to have authored the document alleging that Donald Trump and members of his campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. Steele acknowledges that some of the dossier’s information is sourced to Russian officials, including a “top-level intelligence officer.”

... Now the court filing from the U.S. district court for DC shows that Fusion GPS paid several journalists, including three who reported on “Russia issues relevant to [the committee’s] investigation,” the House Intelligence Committee said in a court filing. ...

USA / FBI: Agent Peter Strzok removed from Russia investigation for anti-Trump messages.

Breiatbart/AP, 2017-12-02:
A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election meddling after the discovery of an exchange of text messages seen as potentially anti-President Donald Trump, a person familiar with the matter said Saturday.

The removal of the agent, who also had worked on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, occurred this summer. The person who discussed the matter with The Associated Press was not authorized to speak about it publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. ...

CIA to Pakistan: Destroy Taliban bases or we will.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo has warned Pakistan that if it does not eliminate the alleged safe havens inside its territory, the United States will do “everything we can” to destroy them.

As Defence Secretary Jim Mattis arrives in Islamabad on Monday to persuade Pakistan to support the new US strategy for Afghanistan, the Trump administration is sending mixed signals to its estranged ally. The new strategy seeks Pakistan’s support to defeat the Taliban in the battlefield as Washington believes that only a defeat will force them to reconcile with the Afghan government. ...
(Via Zalmay Khalilzad at Twitter.)

Economic Times:
Since 2004, the CIA has conducted drone strikes in Fata and recent media reports have suggested that the Trump administration may expand those strikes to cover other areas inside Pakistan.

See previous post at CL: World Today 2017-11-30.

Yemen: Former President Saleh reported killed.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted from power in 2011, was killed by his former allies, the Houthi rebels, who helped Yemeni military units loyal to Saleh overrun the capital Sanaa in 2014; alliance with Houthis frayed amid suspicions Saleh was leaning towards coalition backing rival Hadi.

A video circulating online purported to show Saleh's body, his eyes open but glassy, motionless with a gaping head wound, as he was being carried in a blanket by rebel fighters chanting "God is great" who then dump him into a pickup truck. Blood stained his shirt under a dark suit.

Circumstances of his death remained unclear but some officials said rebels killed him as he tried to leave the capital. ...

Washington Post:
Ali Abdullah Saleh, the deposed president of Yemen who ruled for more than three decades, has died in the latest outbreak of violence in the country’s civil war, members of Saleh’s political party said Monday.

Saleh’s death was also announced by the Yemeni rebel group that drove him from power in 2011 and then later made an alliance with Saleh’s militia forces. The Associated Press also reported the death. ...


Kenya: Odinga vows to continue quest for fair elections.

National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga has maintained the opposition will not relent in its campaign for electoral reforms to give Kenyans an opportunity to elect leaders of their choice.

Mr Odinga, who spoke in Kakamega Town on Sunday accompanied by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, said Nasa would not be intimidated by the Jubilee administration to abandon the quest for free and fair elections. ...

Middle East: Saudi Arabia may switch sides, says report.

Arutz Sheva:
Prime Minister Netanyahu's former national security advisor Yaakov Nagel told the Telegraph that Saudi Arabia is so desperate to ink an agreement with Israel that it is prepared to move forward despite lack of a Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia's traditional position forbids negotiations with Israel until a two-state solution is implemented.

“They just have to say there is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, they don’t care, they don’t give a damn about what will be in the agreement,” Nagel said. “They need to say there is an agreement in order to go for next steps.” ...

On related US / ME developments, here's Debka:
The US hands-off to Iran’s top general in Iraq, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s changeover of sides in the Yemen war and Trump’s’ thinking on Jerusalem – all signal a new, proactive US strategy for the region.

Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo was uncharacteristically frank when he addressed high-ranking US military and security officials on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Reagan Presidential Foundation. He revealed that he had sent a note to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and explained: “I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests n Iraq.”

Soleimani replied that he had refused to open the letter, commenting: “It didn’t break my heart to be honest with you.” Pompeo went on to elaborate: “What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold him and Iran accountable… and we wanted to make sure that he and the leadership of Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear.”

Since words clearly don’t mean much without deeds, the United States, after being frozen in place for months in the Middle East, suddenly sprang into action in the past 48 hours, along with its senior Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, on four fronts: Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinians. ...

Kurdistan: YPG announce defeat of Daesh east of Euphrates.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish forces have announced they are entering a new phase in northern Deir ez-Zor province after the military defeat of ISIS and asked for coalition and Russian backing as they work to maintain peace in the liberated areas.

"We thank the international forces: the International Coalition and the Russian forces including their commanders in Hmeimim [air base] for offering air support, logistical advice, and cooperation on the ground” following the defeat of ISIS in rural areas east of the Euphrates River, stated the General Command of the YPG, the Kurdish armed force in northern Syria, in a statement released following what the YPG said was a joint press conference with Russian military officials on Sunday. ...
Go to the link for the rest.

Afghanistan: Taliban Controls 20 pct of Herat Schools

Long War Journal:
Ahmad Razaq Ahmadi, the chairman of Herat’s department of education, disclosed that the Taliban controls 219 of the province’s 969 schools, or nearly 23 percent, according to TOLONews. Ahmadi said his department is unable to administer schools in the districts of Adraskan, Ghoryan, Koshki Kohna, Obe, and Shindand “due to the high level of security threats.”

“In areas where there are security threats, the Taliban undertakes the monitoring, our employees can not undertake monitoring of these schools, therefore the Taliban are monitoring the schools in areas under their control,” Ahmadi said. He then praised the Taliban for administering the schools. ...
Go to the link for the rest, with map.