Archive for February 10, 2017

Trump: I’ll do ‘whatever’s necessary’ to fight terrorism; considers modifying order

February 10, 2017

Trump: I’ll do ‘whatever’s necessary’ to fight terrorism; considers modifying order, Washington TimesDave Boyer, February 10, 2017

trump_us_japan_57031-jpg-9e9b3_c0-0-2838-1654_s885x516President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Trump said Friday he’ll do “whatever’s necessary” to protect the country from terrorism, including unspecified new executive action next week, in light of a federal appeals court ruling against his “extreme vetting” order.

“We are going to keep our country safe,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference, indicating he would take more actions next week to modify the order or issue another directive.

“We’ll be doing something very rapidly having to do with the additional security for our country,” Mr. Trump said. “You’ll be seeing that sometime next week.”

The president didn’t directly refer to his daily classified intelligence briefings, but his comments suggested that the information he’s received since taking office has made his executive order for migrants from seven terror-prone nations even more urgent to implement.

“While I’ve been president, which is just for a very short period of time, I’ve learned tremendous things that you could only learn, frankly, if you were in a certain position, namely president,” Mr. Trump said. “And there are tremendous threats to our country. We will not allow that to happen, I can tell you that right now.”

He added, “we’ll be going forward and we’ll be doing things to continue to make our country safe. It will happen rapidly and we will not allow people into our country who are looking to do harm to our people.”

But he also said he is confident his administration will win the court case on further appeal.

“It shouldn’t have taken this much time because safety is a primary reason,” Mr. Trump said of the court case. “We’re going to do whatever’s necessary to keep our country safe. One of the reasons I’ms standing here today is the security of our country, the voters felt I would give it the best security.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday night upheld a temporary restraining order that blocks the president’s extreme vetting plan.

Humor | More Loony leftist nonsense and a response

February 10, 2017

More Loony leftist nonsense and a response, Vermont Loon Watch, February 10, 2017

(Fake news which I wish were true. — DM)

Sometimes it is wise to take these crazies seriously and threaten to give them what they want, IN SPADES.

The Canadians know how to handle complaints. Here is an example:

A Canadian female liberal wrote a lot of letters to the Canadian Government, complaining about the treatment of captive insurgents (terrorists) being held in Afghanistan National Correctional System facilities. She demanded a response to her letter.

She received back the following reply:

National Defence Headquarters
M Gen George R. Pearkes Bldg., 15 NT
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa , ON K1A 0K2
Canada

Dear Concerned Citizen,

Thank you for your recent letter expressing your profound concern of treatment of the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists captured by Canadian Forces, who were subsequently transferred to the Afghanistan Government and Thank you for your recent letter expressing your profound concern of treatment of the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists captured by Canadian Forces, who were subsequently transferred to the Afghanistan Government and are currently being held by Afghan officials in Afghanistan National Correctional System facilities.

Our administration takes these matters seriously and your opinions were heard loud and clear here in Ottawa .. You will be pleased to learn, thanks to the concerns of citizens like yourself, we are creating a new department here at the Department of National Defence, to be called ‘Liberals Accept Responsibility for Killers’ program, or L.A.R.K. for short.

In accordance with the guidelines of this new program, we have decided, on a trial basis, to divert several terrorists and place them in homes of concerned citizens such as yourself, around the country, under those citizens personal care. Your personal detainee has been selected and is scheduled for transportation under heavily armed guard to your residence in Toronto next Monday.

Ali Mohammed Ahmed bin Mahmud is your detainee, and is to be cared for pursuant to the standards you personally demanded in your letter of complaint. You will be pleased to know that we will conduct weekly inspections to ensure that your standards of care for Ahmed are commensurate with your recommendations.

Although Ahmed is a sociopath and extremely violent, we hope that your sensitivity to what you described as his ‘attitudinal problem’ will help him overcome those character flaws. Perhaps you are correct in describing these problems as mere cultural differences. We understand that you plan to offer counseling and home schooling, however, we strongly recommend that you hire some assistant caretakers.

Please advise any Jewish friends, neighbours or relatives about your house guest, as he might get agitated or even violent, but we are sure you can reason with him. He is also expert at making a wide variety of explosive devices from common household products, so you may wish to keep those items locked up, unless in your opinion, this might offend him. Your adopted terrorist is extremely proficient in hand-to-hand combat and can extinguish human life with such simple items as a pencil or nail clippers. We advise that you do not ask him to demonstrate these skills either in your home or wherever you choose to take him while helping him adjust to life in our country.

Ahmed will not wish to interact with you or your daughters except sexually, since he views females as a form of property, thereby having no rights, including refusal of his sexual demands. This is a particularly sensitive subject for him.

You also should know that he has shown violent tendencies around women who fail to comply with the dress code that he will recommend as more appropriate attire. I’m sure you will come to enjoy the anonymity offered by the burka over time. Just remember that it is all part of respecting his culture and religious beliefs’ as described in your letter.

You take good care of Ahmed and remember that we will try to have a counselor available to help you over any difficulties you encounter while Ahmed is adjusting to Canadian culture.

Thanks again for your concern. We truly appreciate it when folks like you keep us informed of the proper way to do our job and care for our fellow man. Good luck and God bless you.

Cordially,
Gordon O’Connor
Minister of National Defence

The Muslim Council of Britain’s Little Problem

February 10, 2017

The Muslim Council of Britain’s Little Problem, Gatestone InstituteDouglas Murray, February 10, 2017

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) presented themselves in the manner of debt collectors: standing beside a big bruiser stressing how sorry they were to have to demand this payment, but that they were only just holding back their big, angry friend.

Unfortunately for them, during the last Labour government in Britain the MCB’s behaviour and beliefs were exposed by the more progressive Muslim voices who were by then coming along, and also by a wider society which had become wise to the tricks of these self-appointed “community leaders.”

The Daily Mail issued an apology, allowing supporters of the radical National Union of Students president to pretend that she was the victim of a smear campaign by self-confessedly inaccurate media reports rather than a nasty anti-Semite whose back was being covered by a full-time pedant with dodgy facts.

Miqdaad Versi is happy to apply rigorous standards to others, but holds exceedingly lax standards himself so long as he can carry on his own campaigning work against the UK government’s counter-terrorism and counter-extremism programmes.

Sadly for Versi, the British public’s security concerns are not caused by very slightly inaccurate media reports but rather by the deadly accurate bomb blasts and shooting attacks around the world which nobody needs to make up and nobody can fully cover over.

When considering the roles that various people worldwide play in advancing various causes, a lot of attention is paid to the people who blow themselves up. A fair amount of time is spent on the victims of such people. But relatively little time is spent focusing on the people whose role is clearly to tire everyone to death.

In this regard, it is worth introducing to a wider audience the existence of a man called Miqdaad Versi. This man works for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an organisation which enjoyed a certain amount of access to the British government after the Satanic Verses affair, 9/11, 7/7 and other atrocities. During those years, they presented themselves in the manner of debt collectors: standing beside a big bruiser stressing how sorry they were to have to demand this payment, but that they were only just holding back their big, angry friend.

Unfortunately for them, during the last Labour government in Britain, the MCB’s behaviour and beliefs were exposed by the more progressive Muslim voices who were by then coming along, and also by a wider society which had become wise to the tricks of these self-appointed “community leaders.” The Labour government took a strong exception to the MCB’s then-Deputy Secretary General, Daud Abdullah, signing the ‘Istanbul Declaration’. As Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said at the time, it “supports violence against foreign forces — which could include British naval personnel… and advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world.”

In the years since then, the MCB has had a problem. Its self-appointed task is to act as an interlocutor with the government, but the government will not speak to them, a state of affairs which leaves the leadership of the MCB with a lot of time on their hands. Happily, the group’s Assistant Secretary General, Miqdaad Versi, has found a way to fill that time. Last year he hit the headlines in Britain for an especially observant piece of mid-morning television watching. While filling up his day, Mr Versi noticed that a piece of paper, on which the lead character in a children’s cartoon, called “Fireman Sam,” at one point slipped, appeared to resemble a page of Arabic writing.

By watching the clip over and over again, Mr Versi discovered that the page of writing resembled a passage from chapter 67 of the Quran. As a result, the makers of “Fireman Sam” were forced to issue a statement assuring the world that a full-scale investigation was underway into how this happened, and that, in addition:

“We are taking immediate action to remove this episode from circulation and we are reviewing our content production procedures to ensure this never happens again.”

Then last month — thanks to the BBC — we got an update on Miqdaad Versi’s activities. In January, the Victoria Derbyshire show ran a special feature on Mr Versi. The article — “The man correcting stories about Muslims” — portrayed Versi as an intrepid crusader for truth. In particular, it focussed on his work of systematically and continually complaining to the UK’s new press regulator, Ipso, whenever he thinks that a story in the British media contains inaccurate reporting on Islam or Muslims.

The BBC report described, for instance, how Versi had managed to get a major correction from the Sunday Times. In a front-page piece on a recent report into the state of integration in Britain by Dame Louise Casey, the Sunday Times had run the headline “Enclaves of Islam see UK as 75% Muslim.” The contents of the report were wholly accurate — the headline writer at the Sunday Times had merely wrongly extrapolated one point in the story and wrongly recounted the fact that pupils at one school featured in Casey’s report had said they thought the UK was between 50 and 90 percent “Asian.” The Sunday Times subsequently ran a correction. On another occasion, Versi had managed to get a correction from the Daily Mail which he presented as “huge.” The correction was that in a story about the President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, the paper had reported that Bouattia had said that young Muslims were going to join ISIS “because of government cuts to education” and had referred to a Birmingham university as a “Zionist outpost” because “it had a large Jewish society.”

Versi’s complaint about this piece centred on claiming that Bouattia had not said that cuts were the “only” reason people were joining ISIS, and that her suggestion that a British university was a “Zionist outpost” was not “because” of its large Jewish society. Both claims were highly disputable. Versi also complained that a use of the word “groups” should have been the singular, “group.” On the basis of this, the Daily Mail issued an apology, allowing supporters of the radical National Union of Students’ (NUS) President to pretend that she was the victim of a smear campaign by self-confessedly inaccurate media reports rather than a nasty anti-Semite whose back was being covered by a full-time pedant with dodgy facts.

2289Miqdaad Versi. (Image source: ITV video screenshot)

One interesting aspect of Mr Versi’s work, and the hagiographic write-up he received from the BBC, is that Versi is not immune from a bit of inaccuracy himself. He often seems, in fact, given to a considerable level of inaccuracy himself.

On the day that the BBC were giving Versi his rave review, he was on social media sharing an untrue story claiming that the government’s Prevent counter-radicalisation strategy was forcing King’s College London to monitor all student emails. The story was wholly bogus (KCL’s policy of reserving the right to monitor all emails on their system came a year before such a policy became a legal duty). But the fact that Versi was sharing this story was typical of the double-ledger he runs when it comes to facts. He is happy to apply rigorous standards to others, but holds exceedingly lax standards himself, so long as he can carry on his own campaigning work against the UK government’s counter-terrorism and counter-extremism programmes — or continue to exercise his own low standards in trying to cover for people who are designated as “extremists” by the UK government . Or indeed, in belonging to an organisation correctly identified as an “enabler” of prejudice against the minority Ahmadiyya community.

None of this came up in the BBC’s report, nor would any observer have particularly expected it to. The story of this double book-keeper would certainly make a more interesting story. But it would be less exciting than the story of the lone, caped crusader whose meaningless pedantry appears to be exercised in the hope of boring everyone else into submission. Sadly for Miqdaad Versi, the British public’s security concerns are not caused by very slightly inaccurate media reports but rather by the deadly accurate bomb blasts and shooting attacks around the world — attacks which nobody needs to make up and nobody can fully cover over.

Iran’s Bluster Is Just Fear of Trump — and Revolution

February 10, 2017

Iran’s Bluster Is Just Fear of Trump — and Revolution, PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, February 10, 2017

he-not-heavy-he-my-brotherIranians march while carrying various portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in an annual rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, which toppled the late pro-U.S. Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

They’re chanting “Death to America” in Tehran again, on the anniversary of the Iranian revolution of 1979. And they are stomping on big posters of The Donald.

Iranian leaders are warning the United States that tough talk and threats are pointless; that Iran is so powerful they will pursue their revolutionary mission no matter what we do or say, that their efforts are blessed by Allah.

But it’s all bluster — and the Iranian people know it.

The rent-a-crowds, which have a high proportion of military men, are not really prepared to directly challenge the United States. The marches, chants, and posters are not so much for our consumption as for that of their own citizens, most of whom are disgusted with the failed regime and yearn for a return to the Western world. The regime fears that, sooner or later, the tens of millions who detest Khamenei, Rouhani, et al., will flood the streets as they recently did on the occasion of the funeral of Hashemi Rafsanjani, chanting anti-regime and anti-Russian slogans.

Today’s “festivities” are designed to keep the Iranian people in their oppressed places — and mass hangings and torture underline their real targets.

The regime is intensely worried that the Trump team is preparing serious action. The mullahs know that if America moves, most Iranians will try to bring down the regime.

As luck would have it, another Persian anniversary arrives next month: Nowruz, the Persian new year, whose origins lie in the country’s Zoroastrian past. The radical Muslims who rule the Islamic Republic have always disliked these celebrations — the most famous of which features jumping through bonfires — and it is likely that there is a vast Zoroastrian underground in the country.

This would be a great occasion for Trump, Tillerson, Pence, Mattis, Flynn, and Pompeo to call for a free Iran. Something like this:

We Americans embrace those brave Iranians who are fighting to be free. We are common victims of the tyrants around Khamenei.

The Tehran regime constantly preaches “Death to America,” and they have made good on this slogan, killing hundreds of American soldiers, taking scores of American hostages, harassing our naval forces in the Persian Gulf, and supporting terrorism worldwide.

We support the Iranian people in their legitimate efforts to freely design a modern constitution, remove the theocratic tyrants, and rejoin the Western world.

Revolutionary Donald? If he can do it here, he can do it there, too.

Beautiful Friendship

February 10, 2017

Beautiful Friendship, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, February 10, 2017

flags-1

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

********************

Less than a week after he was inaugurated into office, President Donald Trump announced that he had repaired the US’s fractured ties with Israel. “It got repaired as soon as I took the oath of office,” he said.

Not only does Israel now enjoy warm relations with the White House. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in the US capital next week, he will be greeted by the most supportive political climate Israel has ever seen in Washington.

It is true that dangers to Israel’s ties with America lurk in the background. The radical Left is taking control of the Democratic Party.

But the forces now hijacking the party on a whole host of issues have yet to transform their hatred of Israel into the position of most Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

Democrats in both houses of Congress joined with their Republican counterparts in condemning UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that criminalized Israel. A significant number of Democratic lawmakers support Trump’s decision to slap new sanctions on Iran.

Similarly, radical Jewish groups have been unsuccessful in rallying the more moderate leftist Jewish leadership to their cause. Case in point is the widespread support Trump’s appointment of David Friedman to serve as his ambassador to Israel is receiving from the community.

Whereas J Street and T’ruah are circulating a petition calling for people to oppose his Senate confirmation, sources close to the issue in Washington say that AIPAC supports it.

Given this political climate, Netanyahu must use his meeting with Trump to develop a working alliance to secure Israel’s long-term strategic interests both on issues of joint concern and on issues that concern Israel alone.

The first issue on the agenda must be Iran.

Since taking office, Trump has signaled that unlike his predecessors, he is willing to lead a campaign against Iran. Trump has placed Iran on notice that its continued aggression will not go unanswered and he has harshly criticized Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs.

In the lead-up to his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu has said that he will present the new president with five options for scaling back Tehran’s nuclear program. No time can be wasted in addressing this problem.

Iran continues spinning its advanced centrifuges.

The mullahs are still on schedule to field the means to deploy nuclear warheads at will within a decade. Netanyahu’s task is to work with Trump to significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program as quickly as possible.

Then there is Syria. And Russia.

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Here, too, time is of the essence.

According to news reports this week, President Bashar Assad is redeploying his forces to the Syrian border with Israel. Almost since the outset of the war in Syria six years ago, Assad’s forces have been under Iranian and Hezbollah control. If Syrian forces deploy to the border, then Iran and Hezbollah will control the border.

Israel cannot permit such a development. It’s not just that such a deployment greatly expands the risk of war. As long as Russia is acting in strategic alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, the deployment of Iranian-controlled forces to the border raises the real possibility that Israel will find itself at war with Russia in Syria.

Then there are the Sunnis. For the past six years, Netanyahu successfully withstood Obama’s pressure by developing an informal alliance with Sunni regimes that share its opposition to Iran and to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to sources aware of the Trump administration’s strategic plans, the administration wishes to integrate Israel more strongly into Washington’s alliance structure with Sunni regimes. Israel, of course, has good reason to support this plan, particularly if it involves extending the US military’s Central Command to include Israel.

There are, however, significant limitations on the potential of Israel’s ties to Sunni regimes. First, there is the fact that all of these regimes are threatened by Islamist forces operating in their territory and on their borders.

As Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel warned this week, Israel is concerned that in the event any of these regimes is overthrown, the advanced US weapons it fields will fall under the control of Islamist forces.

Then there is the fact that in exchange for taking their relations with Israel out of the proverbial closet, the Arabs will demand that Israel make concessions to the PLO.

This then brings us to the only subject the media is discussing in relation to Netanyahu’s upcoming meeting with Trump: Will Trump push Israel to make concessions to the PLO or won’t he? The short answer is that it doesn’t appear that Trump has the slightest intention of doing so.

Over the past week, the administration has made three statements about the Palestinians.

First, of course, was the White House’s statement about the so-called Israeli settlements that came out last Thursday.

Although nearly all media reports on the statement claimed it aligned Trump with his predecessors in opposition to Israel’s civilian presence in Judea and Samaria, the fact is that the statement was the most supportive statement any US administration has ever made about those communities.

Obama, of course rejected Israel’s right to any civilian presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including in Jerusalem. In his final weeks in office, Obama joined the international mob in falsely castigating Israeli communities in these areas as illegal.

George W. Bush for his part, made a distinction between the so-called settlement blocs and the more isolated Israeli villages in Judea and Samaria. He gave grudging and limited support for Israel’s right to respect the property rights of Jews in the former. He rejected Jewish property rights in the latter.

Trump repudiated both of these positions.

In its statement on Thursday, the administration made no distinction between Jewish property rights in any of the areas. Moreover, the statement did not even reject the construction of new Israeli communities.

According to the text of the statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace.

But, then again, they may be helpful. And then again, they may have no impact whatsoever on the chance of achieving peace.

Not only did the administration’s statement not reject Israel’s right to build new communities, it rejected completely the position of Trump’s predecessors that Israeli communities are an obstacle to peace.

In the administration’s words, “We don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”

After renouncing the positions of its predecessors on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, the administration then refused to say whether its vision for peace includes a Palestinian state.

In line with the Republican Party’s platform that makes no mention of support for Palestinian statehood, the Trump administration continues to question the rationale for supporting a policy that has failed for the past 95 years.

Finally, the administration said it had no comment on the regulations law this week regarding Jewish construction rights in Judea and Samaria.

All White House spokesman Sean Spicer would say was that it would be discussed in Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu.

This brings us back to that meeting, and how Netanyahu should broach the Palestinian issue.

Both from statements by administration sources since the election and from the administration’s refusal to speak with Palestinian Authority officials since Trump’s electoral victory, Trump and his top advisers have made clear that they see no upside to US support for the PLO.

They do not want to support the PLO and they do not want to be dragged into fruitless discussions between Israel and the PLO. For the past 24 years, US mediation of those discussions has weakened America’s position in the region, has weakened Israel and has empowered the PLO and anti-American forces worldwide.

According to sources with knowledge of the administration’s position, Trump views the Israeli- Palestinian conflict as an internal Israeli issue.

He expects Israel to deal with it and do so in a way that stabilizes the region and keeps the Palestinians out of the headlines, to the extent possible.

In this vein, sources with knowledge of administration considerations claim that last Thursday’s White House statement on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria was in part the result of exasperation with Israel’s inability to keep quiet on the issue. Had Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman not announced that they were issuing permits for thousands of building starts in Judea and Samaria, the White House wouldn’t have felt compelled to issue a statement on the matter.

The administration’s desire to disengage from the PLO is well aligned with Israel’s strategic interests. No good has ever come to Israel from US support for the PLO. Moreover, Israel has achieved its greatest strategic successes in relation to determining its borders when it has kept its moves as low key as possible.

For instance, in 1981, when then-prime minister Menachem Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, he did so with no fanfare. Rather than loudly announcing Israel’s right to sovereignty over the area, Begin insisted that the move was done to satisfy administrative imperatives and that Israel would be willing to consider border corrections in the event that Syria became serious about peace at some later date.

Begin’s example should inform Netanyahu’s preparations for his meeting with Trump.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu does not seem to realize the implications of Trump’s lack of interest in following in his predecessors’ footsteps in relation to the PLO.

Over the past few weeks, Netanyahu has insisted that he wishes to coordinate his positions on the Palestinians with the administration. While he should take any concerns Trump voices to him on the issue into consideration, he should also make clear that the administration’s belief that no good has come to the US from its support for the PLO is well-founded. He should also explain Israel’s need to control Area C in perpetuity, and the problem with maintaining military administration of the area. Finally, he should assure Trump that Israel intends to secure its interests in Judea and Samaria in a way than does not impinge on US priorities.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

Appeals Court Upholds The Suspension Of Pres Trump’s Temporary Travel Ban – Lou Dobbs – Hannity

February 10, 2017

Appeals Court Upholds The Suspension Of Pres Trump’s Temporary Travel Ban – Lou Dobbs – Hannity, Fox News via YouTube, February 9, 2017

(The video focuses mainly on President Trump’s agenda and slow-walking by the Republican establishment in Congress. — DM)

 

Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei: ‘Our Elite Was Lucky With Obama. He Was A Rather Weak President… Trump Could Apply Very Strong Pressure… And Within A Very Short Time’

February 10, 2017

Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei: ‘Our Elite Was Lucky With Obama. He Was A Rather Weak President… Trump Could Apply Very Strong Pressure… And Within A Very Short Time’, MEMRI, February 10, 2017

The Russian media outlet Fotanka.ru published a long interview by Irina Tumakova on events Russian lawmakers should anticipate in 2017 with one of the most influential and highly quoted intellectuals, Professor Valery Solovei.[1]In the interview, Solovei stated that Russia will witness “the start” of a “very serious political crisis in 2017,” which will last for about three years. He further explained that the political crisis will be characterized by the “growing incapacity of the state power to make decisions”, and implement them. “And at the same time it’s the increase of mass discontent; the society refuses to trust this power. And the refusal gathers strength. I think this process will take two or three years. But it will start in 2017. And the presidential election of 2018 will be an important, maybe even critical, stage of this crisis,” Solovei stated.

According to the Russian intellectual, Russian President Vladimir Putin may for run for the presidency in 2018. However, a constitutional reform would allow Putin to retire from the presidency but retain control. In a previous interview with Russia’s daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, Solovei reported about a large-scale constitutional reform in the works that will reduce the Russian presidency to implementing primarily ritualistic and representative functions, but will confide real power to the hands of the head of the State Council. “A post that Putin, naturally, will assume,” Solovei added. At the moment, the State Council is a consultative and extra-constitutional organ, this is the reason why a constitutional reform would be needed.[2]

Commenting on U.S.-Russia relations, Solovei said that Moscow can offer Washington to “to untie the Syrian knot”, and to put pressure on North Korea. However, he added that “Americans don’t care about Russia,” since “they are busy with their own problems.” Solovei stressed: “And if they decide that we are their problem, they will exercise pressure. In the meantime, we are trying to pretend that we are not a problem for them.” Solovei also warned that contrary to U.S. former president Barack Obama, who “was a rather weak president in the sphere of foreign policy,” U.S. President Donald Trump could apply “very strong pressure” on the Russian elite, within “a very short time.”

Below are excerpts from the interview with Solovei:[3]

znakcom-709673-890x591-1Valery Solovei (Source: znak.com)

Solovei: ‘The [Russian] Authorities Cannot Offer… The Society Any Positive Prospect, In Any Sphere Of Life’

Q: “What political events of 2016 do you consider important enough to impact 2017?”

Solovei: “Last year was not very rich in political events. One cannot claim that the State Duma election, especially in the way it was conducted and its results, was important or in any way fateful. More memorable are the events of the end of the year. Such as minister [Alexey] Ulyukaev’s arrest[4] or Alexei Navalny’s declaration that he was planning to run for the office of president of the Russian Federation.[5] That’s why I think that when historians evaluate 2016, they will not measure its abundance in events but rather the trends that were formed during this year. First and foremost, it is the start of gradual politicization of the Russian society. It is not clearly seen to the naked eye, but I think that it in 2017 it will already be quite clear.”

Q: “How does this politicization manifest itself?”

Solovei: “Our state interferes in all spheres of life, including private life. It is even interested in who sleeps with whom and in what way. When it starts intruding everywhere, it produces growing resentment. The resentment will sooner or later spread into the area of politics. Because any matter where the authorities interfere becomes a matter of politics by definition.  It is not unique to Russia, but is a worldwide phenomenon: any issue where the powers interfere immediately becomes a political issue. If the authorities interfere everywhere, they are the ones turning any issue into politics.”

Q: “Why do they do that?”

Solovei: “Out of fear. They want to control everything. They think that if they are in total control, there will be fewer unexpected developments. But in this way, they provoke mounting resentment and aggression in people.”

Q: “That is, the opposite effect is achieved?”

Solovei: “Precisely. And some people are even beginning to realize that. Characteristically there are already attempts to call [Culture] Minister [Vladimir] Medinsky to order, to try and avoid politicization of culture. Because we used to have culture. For example, you didn’t want to know anything about politics, it was all esthetically disagreeable to you. Suddenly, you realize you cannot visit an exhibition or go to a concert anymore, because there are some church banner waving, anti-Maidan militia units there. Because minister Medinsky starts telling you how to evaluate certain historical events. And the minister is a state official. And this causes strong resentment.”

Q: “The second half of 2016 was relatively quiet. Putin, in his address to the Federal Assembly was peacefulness itself.[6] Is this a manifestation of the fact that certain things have gotten through to the authorities?”

Solovei: “No, it’s a manifestation of the fact that [first deputy chief of chief of the Presidential Administration, Sergey] Kiriyenko has received an instruction to patch up relations with masters of culture.[7] But the machine has been put in motion. It has strong momentum, you cannot just stop it. What is the easiest job for the law (or lawlessness) enforcement bodies? Catching those who like or repost social network posts. They will register a crime solved, and they don’t even have to sweat for it, it’s enough to join [the Russian social network] VKontakte.”

Q: “Politicization of society is one trend. What are others?”

Solovei: “The authorities cannot offer the people, the society any positive prospect, in any sphere of life. This ‘peacefulness’ you’ve noticed in the presidential address is easily explained: he has nothing to say. Simply nothing about what is actually troubling people.”

Q: “Previously, when those in power had nothing to say, they explained to us that it was all the fault of ‘our Western partners’.”

Solovei: “No, earlier, from 2003 to 2014, Putin had something to say because the economic situation was not bad, despite the crisis of 2008-2009. People had hopes for the future. And they would invent and construct what was missing in their heads. They knew that we were in the upward trend. And as long as we are in the uptrend, those in power may be forgiven many things.”

Q: “But I meant the explanations after 2013.”

Solovei:Then, for two years, from 2014 to 2015, the authorities kept explaining to us that greatness comes with a price. But the problem is that you can’t feed people with greatness. And this propaganda of greatness stopped being effective long before now – a year ago, at the turn of 2015-2016. And now the president has nothing to say. When will we see the light at the end of the tunnel? He cannot even tell people when the tunnel will end. This creates apprehensions in people – even those who don’t think about it (and those are the majority). People get the feeling that this crisis is here for a long time that the authorities cannot offer any solution. Accordingly, they cannot feed us the stability spiel any longer. What kind of stability is it when life gets worse and worse? Incomes decrease. Two years ago the president said: you need to be patient for two years – and then everything will be OK.”

Solovei: ‘The Official Forecasts Predict 15-20 Years Of Poverty’

Q: “Two years have passed, and the situation is not as dire as it seemed.”

Solovei: “Yes, but the official forecasts predict 15-20 years of poverty.”

Q: “How many of the 86% of the population see these forecasts?”

Solovei: “They don’t have to see them. People feel. Many things that people are unaware of, that they don’t reflect upon, they sense instinctively. And they react by their behavior. Why do people spend less money? Not only because their income has decreased. They have some savings. But they feel instinctively – this crisis is serious. And the state sees this. And it says: so, you don’t want to give your money to us – then we’ll take it from you. We will introduce entry fee into the city, entry fee into courtyards, we will pull the money out of your pockets.”

Q: “This is definitely something people don’t like at all.”

Solovei: “That’s what I’m talking about: the state offers nothing, gives no hope, and wants to take from you. This produces resentment. And it all started to become apparent in 2016.”

Q: “In what way will this discontent and this politicization manifest themselves?”

Solovei: “They are already apparent. For example, the so-called urban activism is on the rise. There are more and more organizations in Moscow that defend the rights of hoodwinked stakeholders and car owners and protest against infill construction. I know that the same is happening in other large cities. This movement is not political in and of itself. It pursues no political goals. It just says: let us live normally, let us have a say in the decisions on issues that are relevant to us. People are just protecting their interests.”

Q: “Has this reached the level where people don’t care what to protest against as long as they can give vent to their frustration?”

Solovei: “No, people are not making a stand against anything. They say: we don’t want this or that because it decreases our income, makes our lives worse, negatively affects the urban environment. They do not make any political demands; they do not say it’s all because of Putin or United Russia. But sooner or later, it will come to that.

Q: “How can this happen? There are those who understand this, but most people, as I understand from my talks with them, have to have this connection explained to them.”

Solovei: “There’s no need to explain anything! Or to raise political consciousness. People will get to it themselves. They cannot change anything because such is the nature of power. And if such is the nature of power, sooner or later you find yourself faced with a dilemma: either I go on suffering or I make a stand against this power. And there are always 3-4 percent of people who say: we will no longer tolerate this. This is quite enough. You don’t need 86 percent. These figures – 86%, 14% – mean nothing for politics. They matter in voting only, not in mass public politics. Because 86% always sit at home, whereas 14% may actually take to the streets.”

Q: “But the people in power are no fools, they must be aware of this.”

Solovei: “Firstly, let’s not overestimate their intellectual capabilities. The power in Russia, like everyone else, acts on the principle of ‘as long as everything’s quiet – thank God’, the people have swallowed this until now, so they’ll continue to do so, and somehow it will go away. And if it does not – we have law enforcement agencies. But the problem is that there are no law enforcement agencies. It’s all a giant sham.”

Q: “What about the National Guard?”

Solovei: “What about it? There is no National Guard. It was meant to be some sort of elite unit. But as it turned out, it was not elite at all. Moreover, the efficiency of police has decreased abruptly. The National Guard consists of the same former policemen whose lives have become much worse. When they joined the National Guard, they lost some of their income. They are taxpayers, just like everybody else, but the authorities demand more from them, and the people are not very fond of them. Their lives are no picnic. So it all hangs by a thread.”

Q: “What happens if this thread snaps?”

Solovei: “It can still hold on. You know, it’s always like that in Russia: there is nothing temporary that could not be turned into a permanent fixture. A building is about to fall down – let’s reinforce it with piles. There is a crack in the wall – let’s put some wallpaper on it, it’ll hold the wall together.”

Q: “The appointment of Kiriyenko to the post of deputy head of the presidential administration, in charge of domestic policy, is it one of those ‘patches’?”

Solovei: “No, there are other reasons behind it. And not only political ones. Simply put, a certain group wanted to remove Kiriyenko from Rosatom [State Atomic Energy Corporation], take Rosatom under its own control. And Kiriyenko did not want to leave. Nevertheless, Putin trusts him personally and values him highly. Kiriyenko was picked, firstly, for the election campaign, and, secondly, for the constitutional reform. And there are several versions of this constitutional reform that are being prepared under his supervision.”

Q: “What do they want to change in the Constitution?”

Solovei: “To redistribute authority in state government bodies and create new government bodies. The most well-known part of what they discussed is the establishment of the State Council, a competent state authority. It is not the only variant, there are several of them, but it does not mean all of them will be implemented. Or any of them. Because the National Guard experiment has turned out to be most unsuccessful, and this curtails the implementation of the reform. There are preparations for it, to be sure; maybe the preparations are over already. In the same way, the economic reform is being prepared. Putin gave the assignment– and it’s under preparation. First, it was [former Minister of Finance Alexey] Kudrin who was responsible. Now they are speaking about some integrated governmental program, into which Kudrin’s ideas will be incorporated. There are already several versions of reform lying in the basements of the [Russian Prime Minister’s] White House, but it does not mean anything.”

Q: “Political protests, constitutional and economic reforms – how come everything grows, ripens, but does not actually come to fruition?”

Solovei: “It can all go on for quite a long time at a slow pace. And then, one day at an ugly moment and for someone else perhaps a gorgeous moment it can all explode.  A weak spot will reveal itself, and – after all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Solovei: ‘I Do Not Rule Out The Possibility That [Putin] Will Not Run [For The Presidency In 2018]’

Q: “Should we fear it in 2017?”

Solovei: “Nobody can tell you that. I believe that we will see the start of a very serious political crisis in 2017. I’d like to emphasize – only its start. The crisis itself will last for about three years.”

Q: “What do you mean by the words ‘political crisis’? What will it look like?”

Solovei: “It is a growing incapacity of the state power to make decisions, and what’s more – to implement them. And at the same time it’s the increase of mass discontent; the society refuses to trust this power. And the refusal gathers strength. I think this process will take two or three years. But it will start in 2017. And the presidential election of 2018 will be an important, maybe even critical, stage of this crisis.”

Q: “Can you already tell who will run for presidency in 2018?”

Solovei: “I can’t even tell whether Putin is going to be a candidate. He is getting ready for the elections, but it has not been finally decided yet.”

Q: “He said recently that he was very tired and that he would like to travel but the president’s job does not let him.”

Solovei: “He said it twice over the past two months, which is not typical of him. So, I do not exclude the possibility that he will not run.”

Q: “I will ask the pet question: if not Putin – who then?”

Solovei: “Dmitry Medvedev. He is the most suitable candidate.”

Q: “And how do you evaluate Navalny’s chances?”

Solovei: “If he can work out the right message to give to the country, he could have a good chance. He has the social networks, the population of large cities that he can win over… I think his chances are underappreciated. If he approaches it in a competent and sensible way, he can challenge Putin. And even defeat him.”

Q: “Medvedev or even Navalny – will Putin simply retire and travel?”

Solovei: “I don’t think so. This is what the constitutional reform is about: to let him retire but retain control. But nothing is decided yet. Any decision in Russia, especially now, is put off till the last moment.”

Q: “What do you mean by the ‘last’ moment?”

Solovei: “When you can no longer delay the decision, you have to make it. That is, you had to make it yesterday, so you’ll make it today. Because you always count on the chance that the circumstances will change for the better. By the way, it was Putin who started it. This hope that fate may throw you a surprise: oil prices will go up, Brexit, Trump will be elected president, etc.”

Q: “How can Trump’s election affect Russia? Watching the news, one gets the impression that his victory in the U.S. is Russia’s new national holiday, as if a new ‘good supervisor’ was appointed instead of evil Obama.”

Solovei:Such is the Russocentric character of our propaganda; it shows that the entire world revolves around Russia. Everybody thinks only about how to do it harm, all that’s going on should be seen from our point of view. Of course, it is not so. But there is a chance to come to an agreement and weaken the sanctions. There’s a chance – it does not mean everything is settled, but it is possible. With Hillary Clinton it would hardly be possible. But with Trump you can talk, which is good for Russia. Or, more precisely, for its authorities.”

Q: “Why for the authorities?”

Solovei: “Because, firstly, it would relax the grip of the economic vise. Secondly, it would remove the American pressure on the elite – which is what it is really afraid of. By the way, our elite was lucky with Obama. He was a rather weak president in the sphere of foreign policy. Any strong American president, like Ronald Reagan, or even Trump, could apply very strong pressure on our elite – much more powerful than the pressure it is experiencing now. And within a very short time.

Q: “Maybe, this is what Trump will do? Contrary to all the rejoicing in the Russian press, the team he has formed could not be described as great lovers of Russia.”

Solovei: “That is true. But that depends on whether we can come to an agreement. Americans don’t care about Russia; they are busy with their own problems. And if they decide that we are their problem, they will apply pressure. In the meantime, we are trying to pretend that we are not a problem for them.”

Q: “It is clear what we want from America. But Trump is a businessman. What can we offer in return, in what can we interest him?”

Solovei: “We can’t offer much, but we do have something. We can offer to untie the Syrian knot, we can participate in it together. We can offer to put pressure on North Korea, although here we are not as strong as, say, China.”

Q: “And that’s it?”

Solovei: “I think so, yes.”

Q: “Isn’t it too little to exchange for Crimea and sanctions?”

Solovei: “Nobody in Russia can possibly hope that the Crimea issue will be resolved! And after all, the most serious sanctions were applied against us not because of Crimea, but because of Donbass. Especially since the sanctions can be, in fact, watered down without announcing their removal. Which is what we hope for: that if we reach an agreement on Syria, we will then be able to come to an agreement on sanctions.”

Q: “In the beginning of our conversation you mentioned Ulyukaev’s arrest as an important event of 2016. In what way can it draw attention to itself in 2017?”

Solovei: “Actually, Ulyukaev’s arrest is the third trend what was formed in 2016. Not an event, but a trend. And a very important one: transformation of punitive measures into a mechanism for controlling the economy and politics. This is the meaning of repressive crackdowns: they must be illogical. So that people would be afraid. Imagine: you are under threat, but you don’t understand the logic behind it. Will you be eager to work? You will hardly try very hard if you know that any initiative on your part serve as the basis for launching a criminal investigation.”

Q: “Are they trying very hard now?”

Solovei: “At least they work. But the risk of persecution decreases their efficiency. It gets harder and harder to make decisions and ensure their implementation. That’s why it is yet another trend that will bring about the political crisis.”

Q: “I believe there were conversations similar to ours in early 1916; at that time, Lenin said that there would be no revolution in his generation.”

Solovei: “To be precise, he said it in January 1917. Three weeks before the revolution in Russia started. But no revolution in the world history has ever been predicted. I wrote an entire book about revolution [titled ‘Revolution! The Fundamentals of Revolutionary Struggle in Modern Times’], which is very popular, especially in the State Duma. You can spend an evening telling people that ‘everything is peaceful in Baghdad’ [reference to a popular movie and song], and the next day you’ll find yourself in a revolutionary country.”

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[1] The conversation was conducted by journalist Irina Tumakova.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6698, Russian Daily Mk.ru Removed Interview With Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei Predicting That ‘It Is Not Unlikely That [Putin] Will Have To Be Absent From The Public Spotlight For A Few Months’, December 2, 2016.

[3] Fotanka.ru, January 4, 2017.

[4] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6685, Russia This Week – November 13-20, 2016, November 20, 2016.

[5] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6756, Echo Of Moscow Interviews Russia’s Anti-Corruption Crusader Navalny Following His Announcement That He Will Run For President In 2018, January 26, 2017. This week a Russian court in a retrial found Navalny guilty of corruption charges, and the guilty verdict, even it does not involve jail time, will disqualify him from running. Themoscowtimes.com, February 8, 2017.

[6] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6704, Russia This Week – November 27-December 8, 2016, December 8, 2016.

[7] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6698, Russian Daily Mk.ru Removed Interview With Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei Predicting That ‘It Is Not Unlikely That [Putin] Will Have To Be Absent From The Public Spotlight For A Few Months’, December 2, 2016.