Archive for the ‘U.S. Congress’ category

Reps Push Trump Admin to Bypass U.N. and Help Iraqi Christians, Yazidis Directly

October 18, 2017

Reps Push Trump Admin to Bypass U.N. and Help Iraqi Christians, Yazidis Directly, Washington Free Beacon , October 18, 2017

Church of Mart Shmoni in Erbil / Getty Images

Four House members are pressing the top official of the U.S. Agency for International Development to bypass the United Nations and channel funds intended to help Christians and Yazidis in Iraq directly to Catholic charities and others helping them on the ground.

The urgent push comes amid dire warnings from lawmakers and human rights activists that Christians and Yazidis, already victims of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State, are on the verge of extinction in Northern Iraq, their home for thousands of years.

The lawmakers also point to new evidence of corruption in the United Nations’ process for stabilization projects in Iraq.

Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, and Chris Smith of New Jersey, along with Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, sent a letter to USAID Administrator Mark Green last week arguing that these communities now face “dire conditions where they desperately need assistance if they are to survive.”

“Returning Christians, Yazidis, and others to their rightful place will reknit the once rich tapestry of pluralism and diversity that existed in the region—an effort that is essential to any hope of durable stability in Iraq and the region,” they wrote in a letter dated Oct. 12.

USAID did not immediately return an inquiry about the letter.

Fortenberry, Aderholt, and Smith are longtime human rights champions. Eshoo has a personal interest in the mission. She is a Chaldean Catholic and first-generation American. Her mother is Armenian and her father is an Assyrian Christian from Iraq.

The letter is the latest effort by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate, along with human rights activists and Catholic groups, to persuade the State Department and USAID to change the Obama-era policy of directing most of its money to Iraq through the United Nations.

The lawmakers argue that Catholic charities most connected to the communities on the ground are the only groups that have a track record of helping persecuted minorities survive for the last several years and are best positioned to help them return and rebuild. The United Nations, they argue, has little to show for its assistance to these communities.

As the Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month, photos of the few United Nations Development Program projects in Ninevah show the work being done is mostly cosmetic in nature. This contradicts claims for the United Nations, which has suggested far more substantial work has been done.

Steve Rasche, an attorney for the Catholic archdiocese of Northern Iraq testified before a House hearing that so-called “completed” school-rehabilitation projects in the towns of Teleskov and Batnaya “take the form of one think coat of painting of the exterior surface walls, with freshly stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet.”

Inside, he said, the rooms remain untouched and unusable.

U.S. agencies have a responsibility to intervene more directly and effectively, the lawmakers argue, especially after both the Obama and Trump administrations have declared that Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq are the victims of ISIS genocide.

“USAID has an immediate opportunity to partner with entities committee to the appropriate reconstruction of damaged homes and public buildings in several key towns in the Ninevah Plan of Iraq,” they wrote.

“Timely action would address provisions outlined in the genocide declarations and mirror the current administration’s desire to help the survivors,” they argued.

As ISIS is driven from Iraq, it is also critical to U.S. national security that that these indigenous communities are supported to prevent Iran from gaining influence in the region.

“Repatriation has a strategic advantage of heading off potential conflict between the KRG and Baghdad while barring an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean, which presently threats to fill the vacuum in the Ninevah Plain created by the removal of ISIS,” the lawmakers wrote. “This land bridge will be occupied by forces loyal to Tehran if security and rebuilding fails to come from other quarters.”

Congress has taken a number of steps to try to provide direct assistance to the minority populations in Iraq. Earlier this year, Congress allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

The House passed legislation, cosponsored by Smith and Eshoo, that would explicitly authorize the State Department and USAID to direct aid to faith-based entities, such as the Archdiocese of Erbil following congressional delegations to the region.

More recently, the House and Senate have held hearings about the need for the Trump administration to act quickly to get the funds where they are needed.

“We implore you to review proposals from credible organizations on the ground in the region who are committed to these goals, and if deemed worthy, to move swiftly to empower the through available resources to rebuild the region,” they lawmakers wrote.

FULL MEASURE: October 1, 2017 – Bucking the System

October 3, 2017

FULL MEASURE: October 1, 2017 – Bucking the System via YouTube, posted on October 2, 2017

(Both parties in Congress are corrupt and seek their own benefits rather than ours.  Please see also, Republican donors seek out Steve Bannon. — DM)

Steve Scalise full address to Congress

September 28, 2017

Steve Scalise full address to Congress, Washington Free Beacon via YouTube, September 28, 2017

(Shot and almost killed, he’s back! — DM)

Iran Defies Nuclear Deal With Latest Ballistic Missile Test

September 25, 2017

Iran Defies Nuclear Deal With Latest Ballistic Missile Test, Washington Free Beacon , September 25, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images

Iran’s weekend test firing of yet another long-range ballistic missile is amplifying congressional calls for the Trump administration to formally declare Iran in violation of the landmark nuclear agreement, a move that would lay the groundwork for the United States to abandon the agreement.

Iran claims to have successfully test fired a new long-range ballistic missile in response to threats by the Trump administration to leave the nuclear accord.

President Donald Trump criticized Iran during his first speech before the United Nations last week, singling out the Islamic Republic as one of the leading global threats. The speech prompted tough talk by senior Iranian leaders and military officials, who vowed to boost the country’s capabilities.

The latest ballistic missile test has amplified congressional calls for Trump to leave the deal and has provided grist to those inside the administration pushing for the president to formally declare Iran in violation of the nuclear deal due to these tests and other actions that violate the accord.

“Iran’s missile test is further proof that the Obama-Khamenei nuclear deal has only served to empower and embolden the Islamist regime,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon.

“Given Iran’s belligerent conduct and its violations of the terms of the deal, President Trump should follow his instincts and decertify the JCPOA in October,” DeSantis said, using the acronym for the nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “We can’t allow Iran to follow in the footsteps of North Korea when it comes to acquiring a nuclear capability.”

DeSantis’s comments jibe with public remarks from Trump and some of his most senior officials, including United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has been a vocal critic of the nuclear accord and Iran’s threatening behavior.

Haley, commenting on Iranian violations of U.N. accords last week, said that U.S. is focused on holding the Islamic Republic responsible for defying these resolutions.

“What we’re looking at and what you’re going to hear us very vocal on is the fact that 2331, the resolution that was in place, what we saw was it basically wrapped in with the nuclear deal; it said if Iran did any of these things, it would be in violation,” Haley said, adding that evidence indicates Iran has violated international resolutions multiple times.

The ballistic missile test shows that Iran had made further strides in its long-range ballistic technology and that international calls for it to refrain from such behavior have no impact on the country’s actions.

Under U.N. Security Resolution 2231, which codifies the nuclear agreement, Iran is prohibited from test firing ballistic missiles, though the restriction has not altered Tehran’s behavior.

The newest missile, unveiled during a Friday military parade in Tehran, is reported to be Iran’s third such rocket capable of traveling nearly 1,250 miles. It weighs more than a ton and can carry “several warheads,” according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled media.

Trump offered a strong response to the missile test, tweeting that the missile is “capable of reaching Israel.”

Iran is also “working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have,” Trump wrote.

The tweet is being viewed as a window into Trump’s thinking on the deal and whether he will formally designate Iran as in violation.

A State Department official told the Free Beacon that officials are looking into the missile launch and will seek to counter the threats posed by Iran’s continued rocket tests.

“We have seen the media reports that Iran launched a ballistic missile,” the official said. “We are looking into these reports.”

“As we’ve said before, Iran’s continued ballistic missile development and support for terrorism are provocative and undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout the region,” the official added, noting that “UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231 (2015) calls upon Iran to not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The administration “will continue monitor these issues closely and to use all of the tools at our disposal to counter threats from Iran’s missile program,” the official said.

While the Trump administration has recertified the deal in the past months, some believe that Trump has decided not to do so again.

One veteran Middle East analyst who works closely with White House official on the Iran portfolio told the Free Beacon that Trump’s tweet is a good indication of where he currently stands on the matter.

“The president’s tweet reflected exactly how he feels, and everyone at every level knows it,” the source said. “He thinks the deal is garbage because it’s riddled with so many flaws, in this case dismantling sanctions while Iran builds ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel and Europe.”

However, there have been internal tensions of the matter, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pushing for Trump to keep the agreement. The Free Beacon first reported last week that disagreements between Tillerson and Haley on the matter have been a source of tension in the State Department.

“The State Department has been fighting [Trump] at every turn because Tillerson and his Obama holdovers want to preserve the deal,” the source explained. “So suddenly they’ve begun downplaying Iranian missile launches, because that would make it obvious how the deal isn’t in America’s national interest.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has vowed a fierce response if the United States decides to leave the deal, saying in a recent interview such a move would “yield no results for the United States, but at the same time, it will generally decrease international trust placed in Washington.”

Iran is prepared to respond if the United States abandons the agreement.

“We have thought long and hard about our reactions,” Rouhani said, noting that these reactions would come “quite swiftly” and “probably within a week.”

Meanwhile, Iranian military leaders have disclosed the Islamic Republic continues to build advanced weaponry, despite international bans on some of these arms.

“Different missiles and ground combat weaponries, along with our air defense and marine combat systems, are all made in Iran and our ready-to-service experts will continue this path robustly,” Brigadier General Amir Hatami, Iran’s defense minister, said during the weekend.

Nigel Farage weighs in on Merkel’s victory, Alabama Senate primary

September 25, 2017

Nigel Farage weighs in on Merkel’s victory, Alabama Senate primary, Fox News via YouTube, September 25, 2017

Critics: State Department Delaying Aid Congress Provided to Yazidis, Christians in Iraq

September 25, 2017

Critics: State Department Delaying Aid Congress Provided to Yazidis, Christians in Iraq, Washington Free Beacon , September 25, 2017

Iraqis Yazidis dance during a ceremony celebrating the Yazidi New Year north east of Mosul / Getty Images

Human rights activists and Catholic groups are questioning why the State Department still appears reluctant to direct money Congress appropriated to assist Christians, Yazidis, and other persecuted religious minorities in Iraq but this week quickly dispatched $32 million to help a majority Muslim group fleeing violence in Burma.

The State Department on Thursday announced it would provide a humanitarian aid package worth nearly $32 million to the Rohingya, a persecuted minority group in Burma. More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled Burma, a majority Buddhist nation, for Bangladesh over the past month to escape wide-scale violence that the United Nations’ top human rights official has labeled ethnic cleansing.

The aid package came the day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma, and urged the Burmese government and military to “address deeply troubling allegations of human rights abuses and violations.”

Tillerson’s quick efforts to help the Rohingya demonstrated the State Department’s ability to quickly direct humanitarian aid to a threatened minority group. However, critics say the swift action stands in sharp contrast to State’s foot-dragging when it comes to directing funds to Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities facing genocide in Iraq.

Earlier this year, Congress allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims—all groups the State Department deemed victims of genocide in 2016. Over the summer, Tillerson affirmed his belief that these religious minority groups in Iraq are the victims of Islamic-State genocide.

Lawmakers who passed the bills providing the funds, as well as human rights activists and Catholic charities, were encouraged by Tillerson’s affirmation of the genocide declaration, but they say his statements have done nothing to change the situation on the ground. The Yazidis and Christians are still not getting the necessary money to help them rebuild their lives and communities in the Northern Iraq’s Ninevah province, where they have thrived for thousands of years.

The Knights of Columbus, a global Catholic charity that has spent years on the ground housing and feeding thousands of Yazidis and Christians ground, said a much larger rebuilding plan is needed to save them extinction from Iraq. Congress has already responded by allocating funds, but the State Department is preventing them from getting directly to the communities in Iraq, according to GOP lawmakers and human rights activists.

ISIS murders and kidnappings, as well as efforts to flee this persecution, have radically reduced the Yazidi and Christian population in Iraq. Christians, which numbered between 800,000 to 1.4 million in 2002, number fewer than 250,000 now. Without action, these lawmakers and activists warn, Christians could soon disappear completely from Iraq.

The Yazidi population also has plummeted, although estimates of how far the population has fallen vary wildly, ranging from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands since ISIS launched its attack in the Sinjar region of Iraq in 2014.

Despite the congressional commitment, lawmakers and human rights activists say most of the U.S. taxpayer money going to help people in Iraq is channeled through the United Nations, which has a “religion-blind” policy of distributing most of the money to refugee camps that Yazidis and Christians avoid out of fear of further violence and persecution.

“It is always good when people who are in danger are helped. But why is there a terrible disparity between our government’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma and the absolute lack of help for Yazidis and Christians in Iraq, whom Secretary Tillerson declared last month to be victims of genocide?” asked Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer who directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

“In Iraq, we should be helping people who are victims of genocide, but our government is not,” she said. “We should be caring for religious minorities. But our government is not. We should be concerned about religious freedom. But our government is not.”

Shea, who spent 12 years as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the dearth of U.S. taxpayer resources getting to these communities is incredibly frustrating, considering the direct national security interests of rebuilding those communities. Displaced Christians specifically could help play a stabilizing role in the Ninevah Plain area of Iraq if they have enough infrastructure and support to rebuild their homes and communities, she said.

If they had the resources, they also could combat Iran’s colonization of northern Iraq, where pro-Iranian militias are illegally buying up Christian-owned property in the area to try to broaden their influence, she said.

“Right now, Iran is using the Ninevah province as a land bridge to Syria and the Mediterranean and that is a threat to our interests and Israel’s interests,” she said.

The State Department’s inaction continues despite President Trump’s promise to do everything in his power to defend and protect “historic Christian communities of the Middle East.” Trump made the pledge after meeting with Pope Francis and again in the wake of the ISIS attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt in late May.

A State Department official did not respond directly to questions about why the money is not getting to Yazidis and Christians despite the genocide declaration. Instead, the officials stressed that the U.S. government is the largest single donor to the Iraq and Syria humanitarian crises, having contributed $1.7 billion since fiscal year 2014.

“The United States closely monitors the needs of all vulnerable, displaced and conflict-affected populations, including members of religious and ethnic minorities and has taken extraordinary measures to aid imperiled civilians,” the official said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

“Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief is fundamental to the United States and who we are. The United States remains committed to ensuring the protection of religious freedoms for all,” the official added.

Congressional aides dispute any suggestion that the United States is committed to ensuring that Yazidis and Christians communities remain in Iraq.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and human rights activists are tracking the list of U.N. development projects in Iraq closely and said there are only very minor projects in Christian towns and communities, such as one that would repair a canopy on a municipal building and no major infrastructure or road projects that would help Christian communities return and provide interim jobs for those returning.

The Iranians, in contrast, just opened a new elementary school, mosque, and library in the Ninevah region, she said.

The continued push to get the funds to Yazidis and Christians on the ground comes the same week that the U.N. Security Council created an investigative team aiming to hold ISIS accountable for war crimes and genocide in Iraq.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the resolution creating the team a “landmark” development. “It is a major step towards addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq—crimes that include genocide. These victims have been Yazidis, Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and many, many more.”

Shea and other activists consider the resolution a good first step but argue it is critically important that Yazidi and Christian leaders are appointed to help lead the investigative team aiming to hold ISIS accountable for war crimes and genocide in Iraq.

According to a Security Council resolution calling on the U.N. secretary-general to create the investigative team, its mission would be to collect, preserve and store evidence of ISIS war crimes and genocide.

Brexit Leader Nigel Farage Endorses Judge Roy Moore, Will Speak Alongside Bannon at Rally

September 24, 2017

Brexit Leader Nigel Farage Endorses Judge Roy Moore, Will Speak Alongside Bannon at Rally, BreitbartOliver JJ Lane, September 24, 2017

Jonathan Bachman/Getty

Mr. Farage told Breitbart London he was keen to help the President achieve his goals, and that his appearance at the rally was about helping to cement the victories over the political establishment that the President and his base won in 2016.

Breitbart reported Friday the remarks of the President on his thoughts surrounding the Alabama race when he appeared to show regret in backing the establishment candidate. “We have to be loyal in life,” Trump said. “There is something called loyalty, and I might have made a mistake and I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake.”

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Nigel Farage — the man behind Britain’s anti-establishment Brexit vote and an early supporter of President Donald Trump during his campaign for election will stand behind Alabama  Republican primary candidate Judge Roy Moore.

The veteran campaigner will speak in support of the candidate Monday evening at a rally in Fairhope, Alabama, reports The Guardian.

The news comes a day after Breitbart reported executive chairman of Breitbart News and President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon would be addressing the same rally alongside Phil Robertson, businessman and star of popular television programme Duck Dynasty.

The appearance of Mr Farage, Breitbart London understands, is not to oppose President Trump but to assist him in battling against Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s candidate in the GOP primary.

Mr. Farage told Breitbart London he was keen to help the President achieve his goals, and that his appearance at the rally was about helping to cement the victories over the political establishment that the President and his base won in 2016.

Breitbart reported Friday the remarks of the President on his thoughts surrounding the Alabama race when he appeared to show regret in backing the establishment candidate. “We have to be loyal in life,” Trump said. “There is something called loyalty, and I might have made a mistake and I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake.”