Archive for October 28, 2017

ANALYSIS: How Saudi Crown Prince’s promise of ‘moderate Islam’ shifts power

October 28, 2017

ANALYSIS: How Saudi Crown Prince’s promise of ‘moderate Islam’ shifts power, Al Arabiya, October 28, 2017

Mohammed bin Salman has pushed forth changes that could usher in a new era for one of the United States’ most important allies. (SPA)

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is charting a new, more modern course for a country known as so conservative.

Since catapulting to power, Mohammed bin Salman has pushed forth changes that could usher in a new era for one of the United States’ most important allies.

He’s introduced musical concerts and movies again and is seen as the force behind the king’s decision to grant women the right to drive as of next year.

When social openings in the kingdom were taking place four decades ago, extremists opposed to the monarchy laid siege to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca.

Prince Mohammed’s agenda is upending the current internal alliances in favor of synchronizing with a more cosmopolitan, global capitalism that appeals to international investors and tourists from all over the world.

Grabbing headlines

The prince grabbed headlines in recent days by vowing a return to “moderate Islam.”

In his sweeping “Vision 2030” plan to wean Saudi Arabia off of its near total dependence on petrodollars, Prince Mohammed laid out a vision for “a tolerant country with Islam as its constitution and moderation as its method.”

Prince Mohammed, used a rare public appearance on stage at a major investor conference in the capital, Riyadh, this week to drive home that message to a global audience.

“We only want to go back to what we were: Moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all religions,” he said in the ornate grand hall of the Ritz-Carlton. “We will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas. We will destroy them today.”

His remarks were met with applause and a front-page article in Britain’s Guardian Newspaper. In expanded remarks to the paper, the 32-year-old prince said that successive Saudi monarchs “didn’t know how to deal with” Iran’s 1979 revolution that brought to power a clerical Shiite leadership still in place today.

That same year Saudi rulers weathered a stunning blow: Sunni extremists laid siege to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca for 15 days. The attack was carried out by militants opposed to social openings taking place at the time, seeing them as Western and un-Islamic.

Indeed, Sunni extremists have used the intolerant views to justify violence against others.

To appease a sizeable conservative segment of the population at home, cinemas were shuttered, women were banned from appearing on state television and the religious police were emboldened.

Much is now changing under the crown prince as he consolidates greater powers and prepares to inherit the throne.

There are plans to build a Six Flags theme park and a semi-autonomous Red Sea tourist destination where the strict rules on women’s dress will likely not apply. Females have greater access to sports, the powers of the once-feared religious police have been curtailed and restrictions on gender segregation are being eased.

Unlike previous initiatives who backed gradual and cautious openings, Prince Mohammed is moving quickly.

More than half of Saudi Arabia’s 20 million citizens are below the age of 25, meaning millions of young Saudis will be entering the workforce in the coming decade. The government is urgently trying to create more jobs and ward off the kinds of grievances that sparked uprisings in other Arab countries where unemployment is rampant and citizens have little say in government.

Finding solutions
The prince has to find solutions now for the problems he is set to inherit as monarch.

“What MBS is doing is a must requirement for any kind of economic reform. Economic reform requires a new Protestant ethic if you will, a new brand of Islam,” said Maamoun Fandy, director of the London Global Strategy Institute.

In other words, Saudi Arabia’s economic reforms require social reforms to succeed.

Meanwhile, Prince Mohammed still needs public support from some controversial clerics in order to position his reforms as Islamic and religiously permissible.

These clerics, many of whom had spoken out in the past against women working and driving, appear unwilling or unable to publicly criticize the moves.

In Saudi history and society, the king holds final say on most matters and the public has shown it is welcoming the changes.

Hillary’s very own Russian collusion connection

October 28, 2017

Hillary’s very own Russian collusion connection, Washington TimesWesley Pruden, October 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Clinton can is as full of worms as her harshest critics ever imagined it was, and now the worms are turning. Washington is agog, liberal and conservative alike, as the details of the spreading story of confusion, chicanery and crime in Hillary’s campaign for president emerge from the dark and fetid places so abundant in the capital.

Hillary thought she had the presidency in the can, as her friends in Hollywood might have put it, but it turns out that there was no room in the can for a mere presidency. There were too many interesting worms.

It’s turning out that there was in fact Russian meddling in the election last year, and it was not meddling in behalf of Donald Trump, as Hillary and the Democrats have been so loudly decrying for months, but meddling in behalf of the little lady late of Little Rock.

Two tales of chicanery are hotly pursuing Hillary and prominent figures in her campaign. The first is the uranium scam, the purchase of certain assets, arranged and managed by Canadian “facilitators” who greased the path of these assets to the Russians with enormous donations (the grease) to the Clinton Foundation, and even a speech for Bubba in Moscow. He pocketed a cool half-million dollars for reworking an oldie and not even necessarily a goodie. This was a transaction that had to be approved by the State Department, and who better to approve it than a secretary of State.

The FBI discovered this grease moving back and forth in a vast bribery scheme — bigger even than the vast right-wing media that could make up sleazy stuff about a president and a White House intern. The existence of this vast bribery scheme was not disclosed to the agencies of the government examining the details of a transfer in 2010 of American commercial nuclear assets to Russia.

There was no attempt by the FBI to break up the bribery scheme, and five years later, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and President Obama’s Justice Department disclosed a plea bargain to settle the case with the Russian managing the bribes on a convenient Friday afternoon when the story could be put quietly to sleep, where it slumbered until the Hill, a daily newspaper on Capitol Hill, shook it awake last week.

Conveniences, if not conspiracies, had to be served. Mr. Obama and his secretary of State were hard at work “resetting” U.S.-Russian relations, and the FBI, then under direction of Robert Mueller, was going easy on the investigation. Hillary and her campaign were saved from exposure lest national interests be compromised. What was good for Hillary was good for America. It’s a continuing source of amazement how coincidences like this work in a swamp.

Not that Mr. Mueller, a rampart of rectitude in the nation’s capital, famous as the lawyer who never emasculates an ethic, would suffer anything questionable, but as Holman Jenkins Jr. observes in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Mueller has the means, motive and opportunity to obfuscate and distract from matters embarrassing to the FBI, while pleasing a large part of the political spectrum. He need only confine his focus to the flimsy, disingenuous but popular (with the media) accusation that the shambolic Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.” And so it came to pass.

The uranium scam, which requires concentration to follow all the twists and turns, leads inexorably to “the dirty dossier,” which, being about sex, does not require such concentration, because sex is never about technicalities.

This is the dossier retailing lurid tales about naked ladies cavorting with the Donald without interruption even when nature called. Just as Bubba educated inquiring minds about the mechanics of oral sex, so Hillary now educates a later generation about golden showers that require no plumbing.

Hillary’s campaign had a high old time with the tales, spinning them along to eager media just before the inauguration of President Trump. Hillary and the Democrats were outraged, of course, aghast at details of the Russian romp, with endless tut-tuts at Donald Trump for so defiling traditional values with such untraditional behavior. Distraught Democrats hardly knew what to say, but said it anyway.

But such stories rarely survive the light of day, and it turns out that Hillary’s campaign lawyer, one Marc Elias, brokered a deal between the Hillary campaign and the Democratic National Committee and Fusion GPS, a Washington dealer in campaign dirt, to make up the smarmy stuff. Now a lot of reporters, some at The Washington Post and some at The New York Times, are complaining that Hillary’s lawyer lied to them. Heaven forfend!

Did somebody say collusion with Russians?

• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.

Cartoons of the Day

October 28, 2017

H/t Freedom is Just Another Word

 

 

H/t Power Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China Asks US to Not Allow Taiwan President in Guam, Hawaii

October 28, 2017

China Asks US to Not Allow Taiwan President in Guam, Hawaii, Latin American Herald Tribune, October 28, 2017

(How does one say “mind your own  *!@#^$ business” in Chinese?  Please see also, Chinese Official Says China Might Invade Taiwan If “Peaceful Reunification Takes Too Long.”  — DM)

Beijing’s objection to Tsai’s stopovers is possibly related to China’s concerns that the Taiwan president could use them to meet US officials.

This is the third foreign visit by the Taiwanese president, who recently visited other allies in Latin America, making stopovers in the US mainland.

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

BEIJING – China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry urged the United States on Friday to not allow Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to make stopovers in the US islands of Hawaii and Guam en route her visit to three ally countries in the South Pacific.

Tsai, who is set to visit the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu between Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, has scheduled stopovers in Hawaii on Saturday and in Guam on Nov. 3.

“I will hope that the US can adhere to the ‘One China’ principle and not allow her to make stopovers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press conference, adding that Beijing had already lodged a formal complaint with Washington over the visit.

The spokesperson said the US should not send out wrong signals and take concrete steps to maintain stability in Taiwan and China.

Beijing’s objection to Tsai’s stopovers is possibly related to China’s concerns that the Taiwan president could use them to meet US officials.

Taiwan has only 20 diplomatic allies around the world, out of which half are located in Latin America and the Caribbean, although countries like Panama have switched over their loyalties to China recently.

This is the third foreign visit by the Taiwanese president, who recently visited other allies in Latin America, making stopovers in the US mainland.

Investigate This (3)

October 28, 2017

Investigate This (3), Power LineScott Johnson, October 28, 2017

This is why I believe that the dossier took on added importance after the initial denial of a FISA order. We know, or think we do, that the FBI wanted Steele to do additional research. The focus of that research, however, would have to be to establish “reason to believe” that Trump or persons close to his campaign were “agents of a foreign power.” Only that would get them the FISA coverage they wanted. Lacking those, FISA was the quick route, but it required “reason to believe” that Trump or persons close to his campaign were “agents of a foreign power.” Voila the “dossier” as it apparently featured in the successful FISA application in October, the height of the campaign. And then it came to be used in the attempt to nullify the election (the attempted “coup”?).

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

Now we know that the Trump Dossier was not just a product funded by Democrats, but was commissioned by the general counsel of the Clinton presidential campaign. After the Trump campaign collusion hysteria fomented by Democrats and their media friends roughly since the election, we learn that Russian disinformation (as it seems to me) disseminated by the friends of Vladimir Putin (i.e., the Russian officials identified by alphabetic descriptors in the dossier) has come to us courtesy of Hillary Clinton herself. Yet John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and campaign general counsel Marc Elias have all denied knowledge, either now or in the past. Whole lotta lyin’ goin’ on. As for Hillary herself, well, “she may or may not have been aware.”

But there is more. Rowan Scarborough has reported that the first of the dossier memos was circulated last year in late June. The first dossier memo is dated June 20, 2016, and cites Sources A (“a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure”) and B (“a former top level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin”). Sources A and B tout the collusion scenario. Sources A and B were not out to help Donald Trump, were they? They were out to throw sand in our gears or to help Hillary Clinton.

Former CIA Director John Brennan was a key player in the collusion scenario, but he has left much to implication in his congressional testimony. Brennan has acknowledged, however, that “that there were efforts made by the [FBI] to try to understand whether or not any of the information in that [dossier] was valid.”

Following up on his comments yesterday, our friend with two decades of experience in counterintelligence as an FBI Special Agent writes to add “some additional context that may be be useful.” He writes:

Why was the “dossier” ultimately so important for the anti-Trump conspiracy (if you think of a better way of putting it, let me know)? The reason, I think, is that the use of standard political smears against Trump had proven ineffective. Therefore it became necessary to take it all a step further and to attempt to make some superficially credible allegations of action against the national interest (again, the vague allegations of Mafia ties had fallen flat).

We know that that effort began some time in the late Spring or early Summer of 2016 because an application was made to the FISC in June/July. That application mentioned Trump by name–and was rejected. Why FISA? Because a Title III “wiretap” would have required an actual investigation based on a violation of a real US criminal law and a quite high and specific standard in the application for a court order.

Why, you might ask, was that application even made? Why not rely on the flow of info coming from NSA, which notoriously scoops up virtually all electronic communications? The answer is that Trump and all those close to him were US Persons (USPERs). The NSA targets foreign powers and individuals. If those foreign powers and individuals of concern are in contact with USPERs and, in the judgment of NSA, US counterintelligence (basically, FBI) should know about those USPERs, then NSA informs the FBI.

In my own career, outside FBI headquarters, I only saw a handful of NSA referrals of that sort. They were mostly general in nature. They could perhaps be used to initiate a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) to gain a bit more insight into the nature of the relationship between the USPER and the foreign power or individual — if we judged that advisable based on our own knowledge and experience — meaning that typically the NSA info would not rise to the level needed in order to say that there was “reason to believe” (i.e., for practical purposes, probable cause) that the USPER was an actual agent of a foreign power. That means: no Full Investigation (FI), therefore no FISA.

But in the anti-Trump conspiracy that’s exactly what was needed: FISA coverage, “wiretaps.” There was no time to do the painstaking research on Trump and his associates–they needed FISA and they needed it NOW. They’d already been turned down at least once. The NSA info was essentially useless, because what they really wanted was to get conversations between Trump and his associates here in the US–all USPERs–not international conversations (those were either lacking or harmless). Yes, NSA probably scoops up internal US communications of USPERs, too, but to use it without a FI and without a FISA order would be illegal. Therefore, the “dossier.”

For the conspirators the significance of the “dossier” was that it provided supposed “reason to believe” that Trump or those close to him were “agents of a foreign power,” subject to blackmail or pressure by a foreign power, already cooperating with a foreign power. The ability to claim that most of this “information” was coming via friendly foreign intel services with contacts in Russia added a bit of verisimilitude.

A “dossier” that could provide that sort of “reason to believe” would justify a FI and then FISA coverage. And therefore access to Trump campaign related communications (the extent would be dependent on the nature of the FISA order, who were the USPERs listed as targets–Page for sure, Flynn maybe, etc.). NB: Although they were claiming Trump collusion with Russia, what they were really targeting was campaign communications. By claiming that key people were foreign agents they could collect ALL their domestic communications with anybody.

This is why I believe that the dossier took on added importance after the initial denial of a FISA order. We know, or think we do, that the FBI wanted Steele to do additional research. The focus of that research, however, would have to be to establish “reason to believe” that Trump or persons close to his campaign were “agents of a foreign power.” Only that would get them the FISA coverage they wanted. Lacking those, FISA was the quick route, but it required “reason to believe” that Trump or persons close to his campaign were “agents of a foreign power.” Voila the “dossier” as it apparently featured in the successful FISA application in October, the height of the campaign. And then it came to be used in the attempt to nullify the election (the attempted “coup”?).

 

Looted and lied to, Iran’s people are protesting

October 28, 2017

Looted and lied to, Iran’s people are protesting, American ThinkerHassan Mahmoudi, October 28, 2017

Ever since the Obama administration signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, commonly known as the Iran Deal, an influx of cash has rolled into the Iranian economy, and Tehran itself has grown emboldened in its oppression and terrorism. Sadly, its bad behavior has been ignored in the West, particularly in its press, even as its citizens have noticed. They have carried on a series of protests this week.

As President Trump outlined in his strategy, Iran’s offenses in this regard are not limited to its nuclear program. Ever since sanctions on Iran were lifted in 2016, Iran has invested in destabilizing many of its neighbors.

At home, Iran has adopted the policy of suppression and execution as its main domestic policy.

The Iranian people are frustrated with high unemployment, outlandish living costs, and the lack of public services. According to the report by the National Council of Iran Resistance, on Monday morning, Oct. 23, more than two thousand people, whose property was plundered by institutions affiliated with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the mullahs’ judiciary and other state agencies, rallied in front of the regime’s parliament.

Iran’s repressive police force, using batons, assaulted the demonstrators and beat them brutally. Then they tried to disperse the demonstration in which women played a very active role. But they were faced with the resistance of the people.

Protestors chanted: “Shame! Shame on the police force! ” and “Cannon, machine gun, tank no longer works,” and “Death to the dictator.” When the police arrested some people, especially women, and wanted to take them by force, people chanted “You are ISIS, you are ISIS, death to ISIS, let them go,” and “Police, shame on you, let our fellow citizens go.”

Some of the slogans were: “Death to Saif (head of the Central Bank),” “Shame on Rouhani,” “Larijani is apparently the judge but a thief’s accomplice,” “Theft is institutionalized, the hearts are full of hatred,” “For traveling to other countries, they have taken our money, ” “They had a budget deficit, but they have taken it from our money,” “Caspian Institute [a corrupt bank] has stolen, the government has supported it,” “Saif betrays, Parliament confirms,” ” I will not give up unless I get my rights,” and “Enough injustice!”

When a number of participants in the demonstration, including women, were attacked by police forces, other people on the scene joined and defended them. People chanted “I kill, I kill whoever killed my brother” while throwing rocks, wood and other objects at the police.

Subsequently, the police encircled the protesters so that they could not leave the surrounded area, but the people broke out of the siege and started marching towards the Baharestan square. The repressive forces tried to control the population by bringing a motorized unit, but the people continue their rally while throwing rocks towards them. A large number of people joined the protesters.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, hailed her courageous compatriots who staged demonstrations in Tehran. She welcomed the protests by Iranians whose savings have been plundered by institutions affiliated with the mullahs’ Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) with the complicity of government agencies under Rouhani and previous presidents.

She said, “The courageous chants in today’s demonstrations targeting the heads of the Judiciary and Executive Branch, as well as the suppressive State Security Force and intelligence forces, reflect the Iranian people’s desire for the overthrow of the mullahs’ religious dictatorship.”

Noting the chant “theft has become institutionalized under this regime,” Mrs. Rajavi added, “Institutionalized fraud along with institutionalized murder and belligerence constitute the pillars of the mullahs’ decadent regime. Ali Khamenei and his office hold the strings controlling all the depraved crimes taking place in the country. As long as this regime is in power, there will be no end to the astronomical embezzlement, poverty, unemployment and catastrophic economic conditions.”

Khamenei has attained enormous wealth by plundering the people of Iran, devastated by poverty to the extent that they sell their children or organs, and by suppressing Iran’s youth who demand freedom. He has amassed this wealth in giant financial conglomerates such as the Staff Implementing Khomeini’s Order, the Qods Razavi Foundation, the IRGC and Bassij cooperatives, and the Mostaz’afan Foundation. He has delegated the administration of these institutes to officials who were in charge of the massacre of political prisoners in 1988, as well as other ruthless officials.

Mrs. Rajavi called on all Iranians, especially the youth, to support their plundered and deprived countrymen and women protesting in demand of their rights, and to help them expand their protests.

 

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. @hassan_mahmou1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Madrid can only act by force’: Spain & Catalonia on a collision course

October 28, 2017

Source: ‘Madrid can only act by force’: Spain & Catalonia on a collision course — RT World News

People celebrate in front of the Catalan regional government headquarters after the regional parliament declared independence from Spain in Barcelona, Spain, October 27, 2017 © Jon Nazca / Reuters

The Catalan crisis is nearing its culmination as Madrid and Barcelona make bold moves against each other, increasing the possibility of a violent conflict and “tanks on the streets” of Catalonia, politicians and analysts warn.

Friday’s events in Spain represents the rubicon – with the Catalan Parliament unilaterally declaring independence and Madrid triggering constitutional Article 155, stripping Barcelona of its autonomy.

Follow LIVE UPDATES on Catalonia declaring independence

While the weeks of political uncertainty which followed the October 1 Catalan independence referendum – deemed illegal and void by Madrid – have apparently ended, recent developments raises even more questions over what lies ahead.

Spanish authorities won’t be able to fix the situation by only invoking Article 155, as Catalonia has already become an independent republic, Enric Folch, Secretary of the International section of the separatist Catalan Solidarity for Independence movement told RT.

Read more

Barcelona, Spain, October 27, 2017. © Yves Herman

“In Spain they want to remove the autonomy of Catalonia by Article 155, but actually there’s no autonomy in Catalonia, because Catalonia decided not to be inside of Spain,” Folch said.

“They can say that they void the autonomy of Catalonia but it doesn’t matter for us, because we will follow our own law, our own institutions our own Catalan Republic.”
Such a stance sets Barcelona on a collision course with Madrid, which can now only use force to keep the want-away region within Spain, Folch stated. He added that the time for dialogue has passed as Madrid has rejected all offers for talks.

“The only one thing they could do is to act by force, not by law as they’ve been acting before. They repelled absolutely all the law and all the Catalan petitions,” the separatist activist told RT.

While there are people within Catalonia who oppose independence, they have missed their chance to be heard by not participating in the October 1 referendum, Folch said, as only a fraction of those who made it to the ballot boxes, amid the massive Spanish police crackdown, voted against the move.

Such an attitude, however, bears a fleur of “adventurism,” political commentator and journalist John Wight believes, as it effectively deprived the opponents of independence of their rights. The anti-independence crowd boycotted the referendum in compliance with Spanish laws, Wight told RT.

“They [the Catalan Government] are denying the democratic rights of opponents of Catalan independence within Catalonia of which we know there’re many, denying them their voice in this process,” Wight said.

Read more

Spanish and Catalan flags are seen atop the Catalan regional government headquarters after the regional parliament declared independence from Spain in Barcelona, Spain, October 27, 2017 © Juan Medina

“The referendum that was organized, supervised and held by the Catalan regional government. The independence leadership of Catalonia was boycotted by opponents of Catalan independence, abiding by the decision of the Spanish constitutional court that this referendum was illegal.”

The leaders of Catalonia’s separatist movement are following a dangerous path, ultimately playing into the hands of Madrid, which has already showed its resolve to “unleash violence against unarmed civilians,” Wight pointed out. Madrid’s approach is equally treacherous, he added.

“The Spanish constitution is invaluable, but when this Constitution is used just as a justification for unleashing body-armored Kevlar-helmeted riot police against unarmed civilians, the Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on,” Wight stated, referring to the violent crackdown on the October 1 referendum.

Spain and Catalonia are clearly heading for conflict now, and unless one, or both, takes considerable steps back, “tanks on the streets of Barcelona” seem to be a distinct possibility, Wight warned.

The European Union also bears responsibility for any potential violence, as it showed unanimous support to the Spanish government’s actions, Wight noted. “That has effectively given license to Mr. Rajoy to deploy these coercive methods and measures against the Catalan independence movement,” he said.