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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on ISIS's cyber capabilities on: Today at 11:38:39 AM

    The Islamic State will continue efforts to improve its capabilities in communication and offensive attacks in cyberspace.

    The availability of cybercrime tools and services on underground criminal markets will allow the Islamic State to further bolster its existing abilities.

    The geographic spread of the Islamic State's online presence and its ability to tap into underground markets mean that efforts to counter the group's online activities will occur in countries other than Iraq and Syria.

    Regardless of offensive capabilities in cyberspace, the Islamic State's online activities will continue to focus on disseminating propaganda in efforts to draw recruits and funding.


On Nov. 13, armed militants killed 130 people in Paris. On Nov. 14, unarmed militants from the public relations branch of the Islamic State sat down at their computers, signed in to their social media accounts — accounts from which they could reach virtually anyone in the world — and claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Propaganda is immensely important to the Islamic State. Part of its mission is to convince the world it is as dangerous as it claims to be, so it is little surprise that the group's behavior on the Internet is every bit as theatrical as its behavior on the battlefield. Even some of the venues of the Paris attacks — a soccer stadium, a concert hall — are structures of performance meant to host large crowds. In that sense, the Islamic State achieved precisely what it intended to on Nov. 13: It commanded the attention of a global audience, which it can use to spread its message and recruit new members.

Harnessing Technology

Islamic State's first claim of responsibility for the Paris attacks was disseminated through a popular instant messaging service, Telegram, which allows end-to-end encrypted communication. A month earlier, the Islamic State's media wing began encouraging its supporters to use the service. After the initial release of the message, the rest of the Islamic State's social media network operators and supporters amplified it further. The initial call to use Telegram drew focus to the Islamic State's technical capabilities in cyberspace, particularly when coupled with the group's repeated claims that it has offensive online capabilities.

Since the Islamic State's online presence began to grow rapidly in 2014, culprits claiming affiliation with the group have carried out numerous unsophisticated online attacks, such as hijacking social media accounts and defacing poorly secured websites. Online harassment of individuals, organizations and whole populations is a tactic frequently used to foster fear without any actual threat of violence. The Islamic State's online media machine has also made claims of hacking U.S. government networks, on some occasions by posting names and personal details claimed to belong to government and military personnel. In addition to carrying out cyberattacks, whether real or fabricated, the Islamic State has more recently attempted to educate its supporters in rudimentary operational security measures when communicating over the Internet.

The Islamic State has indeed given some attention to building up its technical online capabilities and will likely continue to do so. But these capabilities have largely focused on theatrics in online media in an attempt to maintain the group's image as an expanding threat despite losing the momentum it had in 2014, rather than presenting any significant threat to public safety. These capabilities carry even less significance on the battlefields in Iraq or Syria. Nevertheless, the Islamic State likely will continue to incorporate the use of information technology and attempt to expand its technical capabilities in cyberspace.
Social Media

For more than a decade, transnational jihadists have turned to the Internet to spread claims of terrorist attacks. However, the Islamic State has built up a particularly robust and effective online media machine that has placed its propaganda, and a glimpse into its recruitment efforts, on some of the most popular public mediums in the West, including Twitter and Facebook.

No technical sophistication is required in broadcasting social media messages, and the Islamic State's social media presence in terms of users is tiny. In March, the Brookings Institution released a paper estimating that there were only 46,000-90,000 Islamic State Twitter accounts between October and November 2014. This is a small number compared to the number of total Twitter users: 307 million. However, this number of accounts is evidently enough to routinely elevate the Islamic State's propaganda efforts to the level of the international media. The Islamic State's ability to sustain an effective social media presence shows a notable degree of organizational sophistication. Maintaining this kind of presence becomes even more challenging when the group's activities are under relentless scrutiny by international law enforcement and intelligence efforts, social media service providers and anti-Islamic State activists.

The Islamic State has leveraged this social media presence to portray itself as possessing exaggerated offensive capabilities in cyberspace. In March, the "Islamic State Hacking Division" posted a list of 100 names and personal information that the hackers claimed belonged to U.S. military personnel. The hackers said they obtained the information by compromising government databases, but the list was more likely compiled through open source research. In January, someone claiming affiliation with the Islamic State hijacked the U.S. Central Command's Twitter account. However, social media users — particularly those sharing accounts — often take poor security measures in selecting account credentials; thus, hijacking or "hacking" accounts can often be accomplished with cheap tricks.


The Islamic State intentionally misrepresents its online capabilities in its online propaganda efforts. This feeds into the principal reason for the group's organizational focus on online activities: drawing recruits and funding. However, because the bulk of the Islamic State's social media presence is highly decentralized, with a significant portion spread outside of Iraq and Syria, extensive online communication is required in order to organize its propaganda efforts. The Islamic State's means of communication are diverse — a guard against the effects of any crackdown on social media accounts. As a result, the group has recently begun efforts to at least bolster the security awareness of its broader online audience, such as recommending tools like anonymous communication service "Tor" in hopes of concealing messages.

The Islamic State has made additional efforts to educate its supporters on proper operational security, even circulating a manual on securing communications around more obscure online forums. The manual contains numerous best practices and suggestions, many of which were plagiarized from another manual. Although unlikely to ultimately thwart Western intelligence agencies' targeted surveillance efforts, these practices could pose significant obstacles to law enforcement organizations. However, given the decentralized and dispersed nature of the Islamic State's online presence, it is unlikely that most online supporters will heed all the advice listed in the manual.

Islamic State Hacking

Despite names associated with the Islamic State that imply offensive online capabilities, such as the "Islamic State Hacking Division" or the "Cyber Caliphate," there is no indication that the Islamic State has any organized branch capable of carrying out cyberattacks that could inflict physical harm on individuals or cause significant financial or physical damage.

Thus far, possible Islamic State members and supporters have demonstrated little sophistication in their online offensive abilities. Website defacements are common; the wide array of websites that have been targeted over the past year, along with the use of well-known security exploits, suggests that these efforts have been simply seized opportunities rather than targeted attacks. In other words, these attacks could be carried out by a low-skilled hacker working with simple software that automatically scans a selection of targets for known vulnerabilities and relies on documented exploits to compromise vulnerable targets.

In some cases, online attacks carried out in the Islamic State's name were not in fact carried out by the group's supporters. In April, the French television network TV5Monde suffered several cyberattacks targeting its social media accounts, website and station. The culprits claimed to be associated with the Islamic State, but by June, French authorities believed the attackers were in fact Russian hackers posing as Islamic State militants. In a domain where attributing activity to particular actors can challenge even the most resourceful intelligence agencies, names are trivial.

The Islamic State probably is not capable of carrying out spectacular acts of cyberterrorism, such as targeting critical infrastructure. The group would welcome such capabilities, but so far its use of cyberspace principally has been psychological operations and communications. The low sophistication of its offensive online capabilities has been effective in this regard.

However, the group has clearly put emphasis on publicizing its activities in cyberspace and on recruiting somewhat skilled individuals. In October, Malaysian authorities arrested Ardit Ferizi, a hacker from Kosovo, who U.S. authorities accused of stealing personal information after compromising the network of a U.S. company. Ferizi then allegedly handed the information over to an Islamic State member, Junaid Hussain, who reportedly was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Aug. 25 in Raqqa, Syria. Ferizi had been a known hacker operating under the pseudonym of a group of Kosovar hacktivists. Hussain, likewise, was a known hacker and British national previously associated with a different hacktivist group.

There is nothing to suggest the prevalence of Islamic State supporters with backgrounds similar to Hussain's or Ferizi's, nor are there any indicators that Ferizi and Hussain had highly technical abilities. But their association with the Islamic State shows the group at least has the intent to recruit individuals capable of carrying out cyberattacks, and the group is likely to be able to do so again eventually.

The Islamic State's Next Steps

As it has been for other jihadist groups, the Internet has been a powerful tool for the Islamic State. Given the Islamic State's efforts to recruit hackers to carry out low-level cyberattacks, it seems likely the group will continue to pursue greater capabilities that will help it organize its online communications and its attempts to portray itself as a technically capable threat, though not to the point of committing catastrophic cyberattacks.

Capabilities to carry out cyberterrorism do not necessarily have to come from within the Islamic State. A thriving underground market exists where tools designed to commit cybercrimes for financial gain, such as stealing banking credentials or installing malware that holds critical information on a victim's device hostage for ransom, can be purchased or even rented. Offensive skills for hire and exploits in popular software not publically known (referred to as "zero day" exploits) are also available, and often the buyers and sellers do not have to know each other's identities.

Cybercrime can be a considerably profitable endeavor, potentially earning millions of dollars for the culprits. The existence of such markets means that jihadist groups like the Islamic State could gain offensive capabilities without actually recruiting a person with the necessary skills into the organization. By intersecting with existing global cybercrime networks, the Islamic State could bolster the potential funds earned through its efforts online while potentially increasing the effect of its online attacks and thus boosting its overall propaganda efforts.

Regardless of how far the Islamic State can continue to develop its online capabilities, no improvements in this area will shape its fighting abilities in and around its core territories in Iraq and Syria. Its efforts as an insurgent force largely are independent of its cyberspace activities, and this will likely be reflected in the geography of counter-Islamic State efforts. The large, decentralized pool of supporters being organized over online media and the ability to contract additional capabilities from cybercriminals means that efforts to counter the Islamic State's online activities likely will occur in areas outside of Iraq and Syria, as was the case with Ferizi.
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: November 29, 2015, 08:09:03 PM
Bringing the discussion on Meta Data from the Sen. Ted Cruz thread over to here:

Pat commented it does not matter anymore, the Feds have new ways of getting the data.

My response:  So why then the fuss over this by the NSA et al?  What are they up to?
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS propaganda video in English on: November 29, 2015, 08:06:34 PM
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: November 29, 2015, 05:43:48 PM

Quite the zinger there! 

Peggy Noonan's biography "When Character was King" captures what these two authors are saying about Reagan quite well.

5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: November 29, 2015, 05:40:12 PM
Excellent discussion on the merits; I may have to reevaluate my position.  Please post this on Intel Matters and/or Privacy/4th Amendment.
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 29, 2015, 04:49:21 PM
Unfortunately that is both funny , , , and not.
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: November 29, 2015, 01:23:02 PM
If I have it right, a three way race might also get the results tossed into the House of Reps.

Anyway, I stand by my analysis that a Donald Perot means a President Hillary and the end of most of what made this country exceptional.

8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Where are the widows and orphans? on: November 29, 2015, 01:19:57 PM
Many of my Euro friends regard the source of this video, the English Defense League, as a nasty and racist organization, but this looks to me like a fairly presented clip.
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Turkey-Russia in Syria and elsewhere on: November 29, 2015, 08:31:14 AM
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey and Russia promised on Wednesday not to go to war over the downing of a Russian military jet, leaving Turkey’s still-nervous NATO allies and just about everyone else wondering why the country decided to risk such a serious confrontation.
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The reply from the Turkish government so far has been consistent: Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Though minor airspace violations are fairly common and usually tolerated, Turkey had repeatedly called in Russia’s ambassador to complain about aircraft intrusions and about bombing raids in Syria near the border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday evening — and a Pentagon spokesman later confirmed — that before a Turkish F-16 shot down the Russian Su-24 jet, Turkish forces had warned the Russian plane 10 times in five minutes to steer away.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

    A military plane in flames after being shot down by Turkish fighter jets near to the Syrian border on Tuesday.
    Navigator of Downed Russian Plane Says There Was No WarningNOV. 25, 2015
    Kirsan N. Ilyumzhinov, shown in 2011, is accused of “materially assisting” the government of Syria and top banking officials there.
    U.S. Announces Sanctions on 2 Accused of Dealings With Assad or ISISNOV. 25, 2015
    NATO-Russia Tensions Rise After Turkey Downs JetNOV. 24, 2015
    A Russian Internet meme created on Tuesday, just after the nation's president called an attack by Turkey a
    Open Source: Anger at Turkey’s ‘Stab in the Back’ Fills Russian Social Networks and AirwavesNOV. 24, 2015
    A military plane in flames after being shot down by Turkish fighter jets near to the Syrian border on Tuesday.
    Turkey Footage Shows Downed PlaneNOV. 24, 2015
    Russians Pelt Turkish Embassy with EggsNOV. 25, 2015

“I personally was expecting something like this, because in the past months there have been so many incidents like that,” Ismail Demir, Turkey’s undersecretary of national defense, said in an interview. “Our engagement rules were very clear, and any sovereign nation has a right to defend its airspace.”
News Clips: Europe By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 2:09
Turkey Audio on Downed Russian Plane
Continue reading the main story
Turkey Audio on Downed Russian Plane

In a recording released by the Turkish Air Force, through the prime minister's office, a voice can be heard repeatedly saying ”change your heading south immediately.” By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish Date November 26, 2015. Watch in Times Video »



While that may be true, analysts said Mr. Erdogan had several more nuanced reasons to allow Turkish pilots to open fire. These include his frustration with Russia over a range of issues even beyond Syria, the Gordian knot of figuring out what to do with Syria itself and Turkey’s strong ethnic ties to the Turkmen villages Russia has been bombing lately in the area of the crash.

Turkey has been quietly seething ever since Russia began military operations against Syrian rebels two months ago, wrecking Ankara’s policy of ousting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Turks were forced to downgrade their ambitions from the ouster of Mr. Assad to simply maintaining a seat at the negotiating table when the time comes, said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a nonpartisan research group.

“That would require Turkey-backed rebels to be present in Syria, and I think Turkey was alarmed that Russia’s bombing of positions held by Turkey-backed rebels in northern Syria was hurting their positions and therefore Turkey’s future stakes in Syria,” Mr. Cagaptay said. “So this is also an aggressive Turkey posture in the Syrian civil war to prevent the defeat of Turkey-backed rebels so they can hold onto territory and have a say in the future of Syria.”

But the fate of the particular rebels the Russians were bombing in the mountainous Bayirbucak area where the plane was shot down is more than just a policy matter to the Turks. Mr. Erdogan particularly emphasized the ethnic tie in a speech Tuesday evening, saying, “We strongly condemn attacks focusing on areas inhabited by Bayirbucak Turkmen — we have our relatives, our kin there.”
Continue reading the main story
Sorting Out What Russia and Turkey Say Happened in the Sky

Comparing the conflicting versions of the events.
OPEN Graphic

The Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said as much on Wednesday while dismissing Russia’s explanation that it was fighting a common enemy, the Islamic State. “No one,” he said, “can legitimize attacks on Turkmens in Syria using the pretext of fighting the Islamic State.”

Continue reading the main story

The bombing was creating political problems for Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Cagaptay said. “In the days leading up to the incident, many newspapers, especially the pro-government publications, were running headlines highlighting the suffering of the Turkmens, who are closely related to Anatolian Turks,” he said. “I think the government felt that, in terms of domestic politics, it had to do something to ease some of this pressure that had resulted from the Russian bombardment against Turkmens in northern Syria.”

Russia’s bombing of Turkmen villages was to be the principal issue Turkey raised with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in talks that had been set for Wednesday but were canceled after the shooting down of the plane.

Mr. Erdogan’s emphasis on helping the Turkmens has another important political dimension in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan’s political party emphasized Turkish ethnic identity and Sunni Muslim faith in the campaign leading up to critical elections on Nov. 1, as it competed with one rival party heavily composed of Turkey’s Kurdish minority and another committed to preserving Turkey’s status as a secular society and state.
News Clips: Europe By REUTERS 1:46
Putin Criticizes Turkish Leaders
Continue reading the main story
Putin Criticizes Turkish Leaders

A day after Turkey shot down one of Moscow’s jets, Russian president Vladimir V. Putin said Turkey’s political leaders had been "supporting the Islamization of their country." By REUTERS on Publish Date November 25, 2015. Photo by Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky. Watch in Times Video »



Mr. Erdogan managed an important victory in that election, preserving his chances of winning legislative approval to change the Constitution and turn the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential one.

Complicating matters further, Turkey and Syria have a longstanding border dispute in exactly the area where the Russian plane, a Sukhoi Su-24, was shot down, and Russia has sometimes voiced support for Syria’s claim. It is a narrow strip of territory, the Hatay Province of Turkey, that runs south along the Mediterranean Sea, deep into Syria.

The province is a melting pot of ethnic Turks and Arabs. It is also a religious mélange, with many Muslims but also a large Christian population, as Hatay includes the biblical city of Antioch. And the province has an acrimonious history.

The League of Nations granted Hatay Province to France after World War I as part of France’s legal mandate over Syria. Ethnic Turks led the province’s secession from Syria and declaration of an independent republic in 1938, and that republic then joined Turkey the next year — much as Texas seceded from Mexico a century earlier, became a republic and soon joined the United States.

Syria has periodically questioned the loss of Hatay over the years. “If you look at Syrian maps, that province, that chunk of territory, is shown as belonging to Syria,” said Altay Atli, an international relations specialist at Bogazici University.

When Hatay seceded from the French mandate of Syria, Hatay’s borders did not encompass all of the ethnic Turks in the area; many Turkmens remained just across the border in what is now northernmost Syria. For decades, it was difficult for families divided on either side of the border by the secession of Hatay to even visit one another. Tensions finally began to ease during the years immediately before the Arab Spring, but they have resumed in the last several years as Turkey has led calls for the removal of Mr. Assad.

The fact that Russia has over the years expressed sympathy for Syria’s claim to Hatay makes the province even more delicate for Turkey, and Tuesday’s incident with the Russian jet even more important, said James F. Jeffrey, a former American ambassador to Turkey who is now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

He questioned whether the Russian jet had strayed into Hatay Province’s airspace accidentally or whether Russia might have been deliberately allowing incursions by its jets during military activities in Syria because of Hatay’s tangled history.


“Turkey was tired of Russia’s intimidating Turkey,” he said.

The Russian and Ottoman Empires battled for centuries for control over the area from the Balkans to the Black Sea, and vestiges of that bloody rivalry keep arising. One of those is reflected in Turkey’s deep concern about Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, said Murat Yesiltas, the director of security studies at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, a large research group in Ankara with close government links.

Turkey now faces across the Black Sea a much wider arc of territory occupied by Russian forces. Many in Turkey are further upset by Russia’s treatment of the Crimean Tatars, who speak a Turkic language and have opposed the Russian annexation. Most of the Crimean Tatars’ leaders have been forced into exile by Russia, and this week Tatars have been blocking repair crews from restringing crucial power lines to Crimea that were mysteriously blown up over the weekend, producing a nearly total blackout on the peninsula.

“Turkey wants to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Mr. Yesiltas said. Turkey has already provided economic assistance to Ukraine, but it has been reluctant to confront Moscow more publicly because Russia is one of Turkey’s biggest export markets and supplies three-fifths of Turkey’s natural gas.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said on Tuesday that Turkish forces had warned the Russian plane 10 times in five minutes to leave before a Turkish F-16 shot it down. Credit Pool photo by Kayhan Ozer

With President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia saying things about the jet’s downing like, “We will never tolerate such crimes like the one committed today” and warning of “serious consequences,” the biggest question perhaps is what comes next.

Russia on Wednesday announced plans to deploy its most modern air-defense system, the S-400 mobile antiaircraft missile, to its air base outside Latakia. But while most experts — and Mr. Erdogan himself, in remarks on Wednesday — play down concerns of a wider confrontation, many worry that the biggest losers from Tuesday’s incident could be the Turkmens.

While the jet’s two crew members were able to eject from the plane, Russia said that one of them was killed — possibly by fire from the ground as he floated to earth — as was a marine sent in a helicopter that was shot down by local ground forces while trying to rescue the pilots; the Kremlin said the second crew member had been rescued by Russian special forces.

Several experts warned that Mr. Putin may step up his country’s attacks on the Turkmens in retaliation.

“They’re the real target,” Mr. Jeffrey said. “He can just plaster them.”
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And now the WSJ on the same thing on: November 29, 2015, 08:18:13 AM

By Tamer El-Ghobashy and
Hassan Morajea
Nov. 29, 2015 6:55 a.m. ET

MISRATA, Libya—Even as foreign powers step up pressure against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the militant group has expanded in Libya and established a new base close to Europe where it can generate oil revenue and plot terror attacks.

Since announcing its presence in February in Sirte, the city on Libya’s Mediterranean coast has become the first that the militant group governs outside of Syria and Iraq. Its presence there has grown over the past year from 200 eager fighters to a roughly 5,000-strong contingent which includes administrators and financiers, according to estimates by Libyan intelligence officials, residents and activists in the area.

The group has exploited the deep divisions in Libya, which has two rival governments, to create this new stronghold of violent religious extremism just across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. Along the way, they scored a string of victories—defeating one of the strongest fighting forces in the country and swiftly crushing a local popular revolt.

Libya’s neighbors have become increasingly alarmed.

Tunisia closed its border with Libya for 15 days on Wednesday, the day after Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a bus in the capital Tunis that killed 12 presidential guards.

Tunisia is also building a security wall along a third of that border to stem the flow of extremists between the countries. Two previous attacks in Tunisia this year that killed dozens of tourists were carried out by gunmen the government said were trained by Islamic State in Libya, which has recruited hundreds of Tunisians to its ranks.

This burgeoning operation in Libya shows how Islamic State is able to grow and adapt even as it is targeted by Russian, French and U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria as well as Kurdish and Iraqi ground assaults in Iraq.

In Libya, Islamic State has fended off challenges from government-aligned militias, crushed an uprising in Sirte and called for recruits who have the technical know-how to put the nearby oil facilities into operation.

Libyan officials said they are worried that it is only a matter of time before Islamic State attempts to take over more oil fields and refineries near Sirte to boost its revenue—money that could fund attacks in the Middle East and Europe.

Sirte is a gateway to several major oil fields and refineries farther east on the same coast and Islamic State has targeted those installations over the last year.

“They have made their intentions clear,” said Ismail Shoukry, head of military intelligence for the region that includes Sirte. “They want to take their fight to Rome.”

Islamic State is benefiting from a conflict that has further weakened government control in Libya.

An image taken from Aamaq News Agency, a YouTube channel that posts videos from areas under the Islamic State control, and provided courtesy of SITE Intelligence Group on June 9 allegedly shows a flag of the group flying on top of what they say is a power plant in the southern Libyan city of Sirte.

An image taken from Aamaq News Agency, a YouTube channel that posts videos from areas under the Islamic State control, and provided courtesy of SITE Intelligence Group on June 9 allegedly shows a flag of the group flying on top of what they say is a power plant in the southern Libyan city of Sirte. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

For nearly a year, the U.S. and European powers have pointed to the Islamic State threat to press the rival governments to come to a power-sharing agreement. Despite a United Nations-brokered draft agreement for peace announced in October, neither side has taken steps to implement it.

A new U.N. envoy, Martin Kobler, was appointed this month to break the stalemate, part of efforts to find a political solution to counter the extremists’ expansion.

“We don’t have a real state. We have a fragmented government,” said Fathi Ali Bashaagha, a politician from the city of Misrata who participated in the U.N.-led negotiations. “Every day we delay on a political deal, it is a golden opportunity for Islamic State to grow.”

Islamic State militants have successfully taken on and defeated myriad Libyan armed factions, including the powerful militias from Misrata which were the driving force behind the revolt that unseated longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Misrata, 150 miles west of Sirte, has recently come under sporadic attacks from Islamic State.

Since early 2014, two rival factions have ruled Libya, effectively dividing the country. In the east, an internationally recognized government based in the town of Tobruk has won the backing of regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In the west, an Islamist leaning government based in Tripoli has relied on Misrata fighting forces for political legitimacy.

Members of Misrata’s militias, who are loosely under the control of the western government in Tripoli, say they lack the support to mount an offensive against Islamic State. Earlier this month, the Tripoli government forced the Misrata militias into a humiliating prisoner swap with Islamic State.

“There will be no meaningful action without a political agreement,” said Abdullah al-Najjar, a field commander with the Brigade 166, an elite Misrata militia that engaged in a protracted fight with Islamic State on the outskirts of Sirte earlier this year. “You have to know you’re going to war with a government that is going to back you.”

This month, the U.S. launched its first airstrike against Islamic State outside Syria and Iraq, underlining concern about the group’s expansion. Officials said they believe the strike killed one of the top deputies of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The deputy, Abu Nabil al-Anbari, had been sent to Libya last year to establish the group’s presence there.

In recent weeks, a flood of foreign recruits and their families have arrived in Sirte—another indication the group is becoming increasingly comfortable in its North African base, according to residents and activists from Sirte and Libyan military officials.

Islamic State has called on recruits to travel to Libya instead of trying to enter Syria, while commanders have repatriated Libyan fighters from Syria and Iraq, Libyan intelligence officials said.

“Sirte will be no less than Raqqa,” is a mantra often repeated by Islamic State leaders in the Libyan city during sermons and radio broadcasts, several residents and an activist from the city said. Raqqa is the group’s self-declared capital in Syria.

Like its mother organization in Syria, Islamic State has appointed foreign “emirs” in Sirte to administer its brutal brand of social control. Music, smoking and cellphone networks have been banned while women are only allowed to walk the streets in full cover. Morality police patrol in vehicles marked with Islamic State’s logo and courts administering Islamic law, or Shariah, as well as prisons have been set up.

With a population of about 700,000, Sirte was long known for being Gadhafi’s hometown and a stronghold of his supporters. Soon after Libya’s uprising ended more than four decades of Gadhafi’s rule, he was killed in Sirte by fighters from Misrata.

Earlier this month, Islamic State reopened schools in the city, segregating students by gender and strictly enforcing an Islamic State approved curriculum. On Fridays, the traditional day of communal prayer, the group organizes public lectures and residents are often herded into public squares to witness executions and lashings of those who run afoul of the strict rules.

The seeds of Islamic State’s growth in Libya were planted after Gadhafi’s ouster. In the almost exclusively Sunni Muslim Libya, the Sunni extremist group exploited tribal and political rifts that lingered after the strongman’s death, particularly around Sirte. Islamic State lured extremists from other groups under the Islamic State umbrella.

By June, Brigade 166, one of western Libya’s strongest armed brigades, abandoned a monthslong battle with the militants on Sirte’s outskirts. In August, Islamic State cemented their grip on the city, bringing the last holdout district under their control, officials and residents said.

Islamic State crushed an armed uprising in August in three days. It was sparked by local residents angered over the group’s killing of a young cleric who opposed the radicals. Militants publicly crucified several people who participated in the revolt and confiscated homes.

The brutality moved the internationally recognized government of eastern Libya to plea for military intervention by Arab nations and a lifting of a U.N. arms embargo on Libya in effect since 2011. But the support never came.

Unlike in Syria, the group has struggled to provide basic services. Gas stations are dry and residents are expected to smuggle in their own fuel—as long as it is not confiscated by Islamic State.

Hospitals have been abandoned after Islamic State ordered male and female staffers be segregated. The ill must travels miles to other cities for treatment, a trip that is often accompanied by difficult questioning and searches at Islamic State checkpoints.

“No services, just punishment,” said Omar,  a 33-year-old civil engineer who fled Sirte after taking part in the failed uprising against Islamic State. “Sirte has gone dark.”

Despite the challenges, Islamic State has big plans for Sirte. A recent edition of their propaganda magazine, Dabiq, featured an interview with Abu Mughirah al-Qahtani, who was described as “the delegated leader” for Islamic State in Libya. He vowed to use Libya’s geographic position—and its oil reserves—to disrupt Europe’s security and economy.

“The control of Islamic State over this region will lead to economic breakdowns,” the Islamic leader said, “especially for Italy and the rest of the European states.”
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS now holds territory in Libya: Nice work Hillary! on: November 29, 2015, 08:14:56 AM
This is a big article


MISURATA, Libya — Iraqi commanders have been arriving from Syria, and the first public beheadings have started. The local radio stations no longer play music but instead extol the greatness of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

When the Libyan arm of the Islamic State first raised the group’s black flag over the coastal city of Surt almost one year ago, it was just a bunch of local militants trying to look tough.

Today Surt is an actively managed colony of the central Islamic State, crowded with foreign fighters from around the region, according to residents, local militia leaders and hostages recently released from the city’s main prison.

“The entire Islamic State government there is from abroad — they are the ones who are calling the shots,” said Nuri al-Mangoush, the head of a trucking company based here in Misurata, about 65 miles west of the Islamic State’s territory around Surt. Many of its employees live in Surt, and five were jailed there recently.

State of Terror

Articles in this series examine the rise of the Islamic State and life inside the territory it has conquered.

As the Islamic State has come under growing military and economic pressure in Syria and Iraq, its leaders have looked outward.

One manifestation of the shift is a turn toward large-scale terrorist attacks against distant targets, including the massacre in Paris and the bombing of a Russian charter jet over Egypt, Western intelligence officials say. But the group’s leaders are also devoting new resources and attention to far-flung affiliate groups that pledged their loyalty from places like Egypt, Afghanistan, Nigeria and elsewhere. There are at least eight in all, according to Western officials.

Of those, by far the most important is based in Surt, a Libyan port city on the Mediterranean about 400 miles southeast of Sicily. Western officials familiar with intelligence reports say it is the only affiliate now operating under the direct control of the central Islamic State’s leaders. In Libya, residents of Surt and local militia leaders say the transformation of the Islamic State group here has been evident for months.

“Libya is the affiliate that we’re most worried about,” Patrick Prior, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top counterterrorism analyst, said at a recent security conference in Washington. “It’s the hub from which they project across all of North Africa.”

The leadership of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is now clenching its grip on Surt so tightly that Western intelligence agencies say they fear the core group may be preparing to fall back to Libya as an alternative base if necessary, a haven where its jihadists could continue to fight from even if it was ousted from its original territories.

“Contingency planning,” said a senior Defense Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence. Western officials involved in Libya policy say that the United States and Britain have each sent commandos to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence on the ground. Washington has stepped up airstrikes against Islamic State leaders. But military strategists are exasperated by the lack of long-term options to contain the group here.

Libya could present the West with obstacles at least as intractable as those in the Islamic State’s current home base in Syria, Raqqa, amid the bedlam of the civil war. There, the Islamic State is hemmed in by a host of armed groups with international backing and is being hammered by American, Russian, French and Syrian airstrikes.

ISIS Is Likely Responsible for Nearly 1,000 Civilian Deaths Outside Iraq and Syria

At least a dozen countries have had attacks since the Islamic State, or ISIS, began to pursue a global strategy in the summer of 2014.
OPEN Graphic

In Libya, where a NATO bombing campaign helped overthrow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi four years ago, there is no functional government. Warring factions are far more focused on fighting one another than on taking on the Islamic State, and Libya’s neighbors are all too weak or unstable to lead or even host a military intervention.

The Islamic State has already established exclusive control of more than 150 miles of Mediterranean coastline near Surt, from the town of Abugrein in the west to Nawfaliya in the east. The militias from the nearby city of Misurata that once vowed to expel the group completely have all retreated. Only a few checkpoints manned by one or two militiamen guard the edge of the Islamic State’s turf, where its fighters come and go as they please.

Militia leaders and Western officials estimate that the group’s forces in Libya now include as many as 2,000 fighters, with a few hundred in Surt and many clustered to the east, around Nawfaliya. A flurry of recent bombings, assassinations and other attacks has raised fears that the city of Ajdabiya, farther to the east, is the group’s next target. Its conquest could give the Islamic State control of a strategic crossroads, vital oil terminals and oil fields south of the city.

What is more, in the tangle of factions that have taken over whatever remains of the Libyan government, Islamic State fighters have been receiving weapons and other support from the accumulated oil wealth that should belong to the Libyan state. And they are getting the weapons through an intermediary who himself played a peripheral role in the deadly attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012.

One of the Islamic State’s most senior leaders, a former Iraqi Army officer under Saddam Hussein now known as Abu Ali al-Anbari, recently arrived in Libya by boat from across the Mediterranean, residents and Western officials say. And Western officials say another senior Iraqi leader of the Islamic State — Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, also known as Abu Nabil — may have recently served as the group’s top commander in Libya until he was killed this month in an American airstrike near the eastern Syrian city of Darnah.

“A great exodus of the Islamic State leadership in Syria and Iraq is now establishing itself in Libya,” said Omar Adam, 34, the commander of a prominent militia based in Misurata.

The group in Surt has also begun imposing the parent organization’s harsh version of Islamic law on the city, enforcing veils for all women, banning music and cigarettes, and closing shops during prayers, residents and recent visitors said. The group carried out at least four crucifixions in August.
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Last month the group held its first two public beheadings, killing two men accused of sorcery, according to prison inmates who knew the men and a Surt resident who said he had witnessed the killings.

An Image to Sustain

The Islamic State once called on Muslims everywhere to come to Syria and Iraq to join its self-declared caliphate. Its propaganda portrayed migration as all but a religious duty. Muslim doctors, engineers, and other professionals as well as fighters should all hurry to join the Islamic State, the group’s English-language magazine Dabiq often warned, or they would face the consequences on Judgment Day.

“Rush to the shade of the Islamic State with your parents, your siblings, your spouses and children,” the first issue of the magazine declared last year.

But the messages began to change as the state-building project came under increased military pressure in Syria. Increasingly, Islamic State leaders began to focus more of their attention on the battle abroad. When the United States started airstrikes against the group last fall, its official spokesman, known as Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, called for Muslims in the West to stay where they were and murder those around them.

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian,” Mr. Adnani urged in an audio message, “then rely upon Allah and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”

The logic of the growth of the Islamic State, though, has always depended on a steady beat of battlefield victories. It craved the headlines to reinforce its apocalyptic propaganda and lure new recruits. It depended on conquests to loot money and weapons. In Syria and Iraq, all of that has recently slowed to a near standstill.

The Islamic State has seized no significant territory there since May, when its fighters took the cities of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. Instead, it withdrew in June from the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad and this month from the towns of Sinjar in Iraq and Al Hol in Syria.

The Islamic State forces “still send small groups to attack us now and then, but they can’t move in big convoys or they’ll get bombed by the coalition,” said Faisal Abu Leila, a rebel commander allied with Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Recent American airstrikes on Islamic State-controlled oil trucks and facilities have sent fuel prices soaring. Until lately, the Syrian and Iraqi governments paid thousands of civil servants working in Islamic State territories.

But this summer the Iraqi government stopped paying salaries in Mosul and Anbar Province, and shifts on the battlefield have prevented public employees in Islamic State territory from reaching banks on the outside to cash their paychecks.

“ISIS is still strong,” said the manager of an electronics store who lives in Raqqa. “But it has lost popularity among ordinary, uneducated people because it has lost its brilliant victories.”

Perhaps hoping to sustain its image of invincibility, the Islamic State’s propaganda has increasingly promoted the operations of its foreign affiliates. Western intelligence agencies say it is devoting more resources to them as well.

Most remain largely autonomous. The Egyptian branch of the Islamic State, deemed second after Libya’s in the scale of its threat, had a long record as a domestic insurgency before pledging its allegiance. The branch appears to have acted on its own initiative to carry out the bombing of the Russian charter jet on Oct. 31, say Western officials familiar with the intelligence reports. But the objective, those officials say, was to impress the group’s central leadership in order to win financial support. The core Islamic State immediately embraced the bombing, which killed 224 people, trumpeting the achievement of its Egyptian “brothers.”

The Nigerian group Boko Haram has been around for two decades and became a regional scourge five years ago. Western officials say its pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State this year changed almost nothing. The group had been almost comically inept in its use of social media, though, and it has evidently learned from the Islamic State’s savvy example.

Western officials believed that a breakaway faction of the Taliban in Afghanistan was also using the Islamic State name primarily to distinguish itself. But then in recent months the core group delivered several hundred thousand dollars to the Afghan fighters, helping them gain ground and recruits. Western officials say its operations so far have mainly sought to attract publicity or stir sectarianism, but clashes with the Taliban are increasing.

Foreigners in Control

Two fuel truck drivers recently released after a month in Surt’s main prison said they were stunned by the extent of the foreign control over the group’s Libyan outpost. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity for their safety but provided consistent accounts in separate interviews, backed up by a third interview with their employer, Mr. Mangoush, who had also debriefed three other drivers kidnapped with them.

The drivers were stopped on Oct. 6 on a desert highway 90 miles south of Misurata, in part for the fuel in their trailers and in part to be taken as hostages. They were surprised to find themselves surrounded by two dozen masked fighters who spoke mainly in foreign dialects of Arabic — there were many Tunisians, but also Egyptians, Iraqis, Yemenis and Sudanese, they said.

The fighters and guards in Surt all bowed to a Saudi administrator, or “wali,” who had been sent by the Islamic State to preside over the city. (A former Surt City Council member now in exile in Misurata said the Islamic State periodically rotates in new administrators, who typically are from the Persian Gulf.) Whenever drones were heard flying overhead, guards would run to the Saudi, take away his cellphone, and hurry him away to safety, the truck drivers said, suggesting that the Islamic State considered him important enough to be a target of American airstrikes.

The truck drivers said that the Islamic State fighters were commanded by Iraqis more powerful than the Saudi, but they met only the civilian administrator. He questioned each of the roughly 90 prisoners himself and offered some clemency in exchange for “repentance” — that is, a pledge of loyalty to the Islamic State.

“He would ask each prisoner, ‘Why are you here? What is your case?’ He has a very good memory,” one driver said. But, he added, “Thieves would join them just to get out.”

The prisoners were put in front of a flat-screen television to watch a video of the Islamic State’s leader, Mr. Baghdadi, proclaiming himself caliph in a sermon in Mosul last year, with occasional pauses while the guards explained the importance of a given passage. At other times, the prisoners had to watch hours of footage of the group’s attacks around the world, in Libyan cities like Benghazi, but also in Syria, Iraq and Egypt. “They would bring in a hard drive with what they called ‘the new releases,’ ” one prisoner said.

Both recounted meeting an Islamic State fighter from Chad who had been jailed for disobeying orders. But they also met a young man from Benghazi who worked with the guards and said he had just returned after five months of fighting in Syria for the Islamic State. He gave his name as Abu Malik and he planned to return to the battlefield after a short visit with his mother, suggesting that the Islamic State could arrange easy transit back and forth.

The drivers said the Islamic State seemed to command a strong intelligence network in Misurata. They marveled at an interrogator’s probing and well-informed questions about their families and personal histories. “If he said he was my own brother I would have believed him,” one driver said.

Other prisoners often returned from questioning with bloody faces, lash marks on their backs, or other marks of abuse. Then, one Friday last month, they said, two older prisoners who had been accused of sorcery — Adel Hafez, in his 50s, and, Saed Al Ma’dani, a septuagenarian — were led away to be executed in the first public beheadings in the central square under the Islamic State’s rule.

“The guards were so excited and happy,” one driver recalled. “They said, ‘Thank God, we have started the hudood,’ ” or Islamic punishments.

“They are vicious,” the other driver said. “Nobody is safe from them, and Surt is going to be very different.”

The State of the War Against ISIS

The United States, Iraq and their allies are engaging the Islamic State on multiple fronts in an attempt to weaken the militants' defenses.

The drivers themselves were treated well. They were informed at the start that they had been taken as hostages for a prisoner exchange. On Nov. 11, five kidnapped truck drivers and the bodies of three Misuratan fighters were swapped for the release of 11 Islamic State men held by the authorities in Misurata, according to the drivers and Mr. Mangoush, their boss.

The Islamic State also appeared to be seeking toll revenue from the main desert highway, Mr. Mangoush said. “People who are working with us and living in Surt told us, ‘ISIS is willing to give you safe passage in exchange for bringing fuel and other things into Surt,’ ” he said.

Instead, he said, the Misurata trucks stopped using the road, cutting off hundreds of trucks a month that had previously carried goods and supplies south through the desert.

“If we agree to a deal, what we would get is small peanuts compared to what ISIS would gain,” he said. “The next step, they will be here in Misurata.”

The Stronghold

Surt was the hometown and last refuge of Colonel Qaddafi, and the Islamic State’s roots there go back to the battle to remove him.

A Misuratan brigade under the leadership of a charismatic local extremist entered at the time and stayed to occupy part of the city. By the fall of last year, Surt was at the center of an escalating civil war. The militias that had overrun Libya were squaring off in two rival coalitions battling for money and power.

One faction based in Misurata included various moderate and extremist Islamists. The other, based in eastern Libya, was dominated by a would-be strongman, Gen. Khalifa Hifter. The Misurata forces took over the government in Tripoli, and a second government aligned with General Hifter set up in the eastern city of Tobruk (that one includes the internationally recognized Parliament).

The fighting between the two sides allowed the extremists to take full control of Surt but also killed off their leader, leaving militants searching for a new direction just as the Islamic State was storming across Iraq and declaring its caliphate.

“There was a vacuum,” said Makluf Ramadan Salim, 45, the Surt City Council member now in Misurata. “That was when Surt first heard the name of the Islamic State.”

“That is when the foreign fighters started appearing — the Tunisians, the Egyptians,” he added. By the beginning of 2015, he said, foreigners were openly manning checkpoints and questioning drivers.

In February, the Islamic State fighters in Surt collaborated with the core group in Raqqa on the beheading of about 20 Egyptian Christian migrant workers who had been kidnapped in Surt. The Raqqa group’s media arm released under its own logo a video of the killings that had been produced with its usual studio-quality sophistication but was filmed on the Libyan coast. A brigade from Misurata set out for Surt in March vowing to retake the city. But it never got past the outskirts. Its commanders said at the time that they had been surprised by the Islamic State’s strength and numbers. The brigade’s fighters complained they had not been paid in months.

“The Islamic State had weapons, they had strength and we had no support whatsoever,” one of the brigade’s fighters recalled last week. He gave his name only as Ali, for the safety of cousins still living in Surt.

Some unconvincingly dismissed the group as Qaddafi “remnants.”

The Evolution of ISIS

How has ISIS, a 21st-century terrorist organization with a retrograde religious philosophy, spread from Iraq to Syria, Libya and beyond? By Quynhanh Do on Publish Date December 13, 2014. Watch in Times Video »

“Martyrdom operations, bombings and foreign fighters,” Hassan el-Karami, a Libyan Islamic State preacher mocked in a sermon. “After you see all of this, you still say ‘remnants?’ Who do you think you are fooling?”

In August, Islamic State fighters killed a popular ultraconservative imam, Khalid bin Rajab Ferjani, for refusing to swear allegiance. When his followers and his tribe tried to rise up, the group killed three dozen of them, crucifying at least four in a busy traffic circle.

The group seized the houses and property of those who fled, and the leaders gave them to their fighters, including the foreigners, as “spoils of war,” said Mr. Salim, the council member, who soon escaped himself.

“They established Islamic police, an Islamic court, and a tax office, and they numbered all the shops in Surt to collect taxes,” he added ruefully. “They showed they really were a state.”

Contradictory Loyalties

The Islamic State’s fighters are attacking both of the country’s rival governments with bombings and assassinations, but the Central Bank continues to pay for public budgets and payrolls across both governments and the Islamic State’s territory. Surt residents — including Islamic State fighters — drive into Misurata to cash checks and buy fuel and other supplies.

Through a web of contradictory local alliances, the jihadists have even been able to tap into a line of weapons and funding through the Misurata-dominated government in Tripoli and its allies among the Benghazi militias — even as it continues to attack that faction in Tripoli, Misurata and elsewhere.

The point man responsible for obtaining the money from the Tripoli government and buying weapons for the Benghazi militias — including the Islamic State fighters — is Wissam bin Hamid, a commander well known for his ties to hard-line Islamist groups.

He was the leader of Benghazi’s most formidable fighting force at the time of the deadly assault on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012. By his own account he stood outside watching and did nothing to stop it, and he later tried to cover up for the fighter that witnesses said led the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala.

Among the Islamist militias fighting General Hifter in Benghazi, though, Mr. Bin Hamid “is the person everyone revolved around,” in part because he has maintained good relations with all of the factions, including the Islamic State, said Ziad Bellam, another brigade leader in the same coalition. “His only ideology is defeating Hifter.”

Outraged at the realization that their own faction was indirectly supporting the Islamic State fighters attacking it, several Misurata militia leaders complained to the Tripoli government. “The Islamic State in Surt will fight us with the same weapons you are funding,” Mr. Adam, the militia leader, said he told the officials in Tripoli.

When Tripoli refused to change its policy, Mr. Adam and other Misuratan militia leaders confronted Mr. Bin Hamid, their supposed ally, with the same accusation, demanding that he at least declare publicly that he opposed the Islamic State.

Mr. Bin Hamid refused, said Mr. Adam, Mr. Bellam, and others close to Mr. Bin Hamid. He insisted that he privately opposed the Islamic State but “he does not want to split the front against Hifter,” Mr. Bellam said.

Unconvinced, Mr. Adam and other Misurata leaders say they have barred Mr. Bin Hamid from returning to Misurata. But others here connected to the Tripoli government say they are still working with Mr. Bin Hamid even if he is providing weapons to Islamic State.

“Wissam bin Hamid is a true revolutionary, and he is working with the government,” said Ismael al-Shokri, who holds the title of head of military intelligence for the Misurata-Tripoli forces.

Mr. Shokri promised that those forces would someday turn their guns against the Islamic State. But he declined to say when.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Misurata, Ben Hubbard from Sanliurfa, Turkey, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Suliman Ali Zway contributed reporting from Misurata and Tripoli, Libya, and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Who is afraid of the big, bad Putin? on: November 29, 2015, 08:03:39 AM
 By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Nov. 24, 2015 6:00 p.m. ET

Vladimir Putin is not the master strategist some make him out to be. He’s a gambler and maneuverer whose bold moves are not testaments to vision or cojones but to the unhealthiness of his domestic political situation.

His choice of words in reaction to Turkey’s downing over Syria of a Russian jet—he called it “a stab in the back”—was redolent of another leader who spoke of stabs in the back, and not one whose regime broke any records for longevity.

Mr. Putin presumably has two immediate goals: Remove sanctions so Russian companies can start rolling over their debts again, without which many may collapse. He also needs higher oil prices to stave off the eventual insolvency of his state.

The Putin regime, let’s recall, arose to loot the benefits of Russian integration in the world economy, not as a reaction against it, despite claims by some today that Russia is motivated by eternal geopolitical insecurities prompted by (largely mythical) Western expansionism.

He needs conflict with the West to justify his people’s privation and his failure to allow the diversification and modernization of the Russian economy under a rule of law. He also needs the West’s complicity, which he has mostly gotten. It’s hard to fathom, for instance, why his cheating athletes were allowed at the London Olympics, much less why he was allowed to host the Sochi Olympics. Both would have been unthinkable if the West had publicly recognized his regime’s likely complicity in nuclear terrorism on British soil in the polonium murder of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

His salvation, though he would not phrase it this way, is to become the West’s client regime, while masquerading as a superpower-equal.

Truth be told, there are Westerners who would like to accommodate him, but Western politics is not likely to allow it, especially the politics of a post-Obama America.

A related problem likely guarantees failure in any case: There is quite probably nothing that U.S. or Western appeasement can do to save the Putin regime from itself in the long run.

Which brings us to the shootdown. Whatever he woke up thinking on Tuesday morning, Mr. Putin now appears to be contemplating playing the victim of NATO aggression (Turkey is a NATO member). Where he goes from here is hard to forecast. Pathological gamblers who get themselves in holes tend to double down. KGB colleagues recall that as a youthful agent Mr. Putin was sidelined to an East German backwater because his recklessness and propensity for miscalculation were unwelcome at a time when the Soviet Union was weak and the KGB had become risk averse.

Otto Dietrich, Hitler’s press aide, noted the Fuhrer’s own devolution from “domestic reformer” into a “foreign-policy desperado and gambler in international politics,” who “began to hate objections to his views and doubts on their infallibility. . . . He wanted to speak, but not to listen.”

It’s not exactly reassuring that Mr. Putin’s reaction to Turkey’s defense of its airspace seems to have emerged almost instantly, unlike the shilly-shallying that proceeded his reaction to the blowup of a Russian airliner over Sinai (perhaps partly because Mr. Putin was trying to figure out if his own security apparatus was involved).

If he’s paying attention, Mr. Putin should by now have learned his leverage is much less than he imagines. At least while Angela Merkel is around, he has only managed to turn his important German friend into a quasi-enemy. He has turned a formidable Turkish friend into an actual enemy.

On Friday the Turkish government called in the Russian ambassador for a tongue lashing over Russia’s bombing of ethnic Turks in northern Syria. Tuesday’s downing was clearly not an accident. The Turkish government doesn’t seem to find Mr. Putin quite as impressive as some of his American admirers do.

Then again, only the misguided ever did. By March of this year, Russian economist Sergei Guriev estimated that Russia had already spent half its 2015 military budget. Russia’s spending plan was premised on $100 oil. This year’s budget hopes for $50 oil. Meanwhile, capital flight is running at perhaps $100 billion a year. Meanwhile, some of Russia’s biggest companies are verging on default. The Russian army has had to cease recruiting in the fertile Caucasus region due to a worrisome overreliance on Muslim troops. Moscow also faces a growing liability in economically failing Crimea and eastern Ukraine, complicated this week by partisan sabotage of Crimea’s electricity supply.

Global stock markets dipped only modestly on the Turkish shootdown. Oil jumped a buck. This muted reaction should not be seen as a testament that Mr. Putin or his regime have much of a future.
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The Food Cops and their ever-changing menu of taboos on: November 29, 2015, 07:59:35 AM
The Food Cops and Their Ever-Changing Menu of Taboos
After decades of failure, maybe government should get out of the business of giving dietary advice.
By David A. McCarron
Nov. 27, 2015 3:39 p.m. ET

With the release of the eighth edition of the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines expected by year’s end, it seems reasonable to consider—with the “obesity plague” upon us and Americans arguably less healthy than ever before—whether the guidelines are to be trusted and even whether they have done more harm than good.

Many Americans have lost trust in the science behind the guidelines since they seem to change dramatically every five years. In February, for example, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee declared that certain fats and eggs are no longer the enemy and that cholesterol is “not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” This, after decades of advising Americans to “watch their cholesterol.”

Such controversy is nothing new. U.S. Dietary Guidelines were first released by the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services in 1980. One nutrition expert at the time, Edward “Pete” Ahrens, a groundbreaking researcher on fat and cholesterol metabolism, called the guidelines “a nutritional experiment with the American public as subjects . . . treating them like a homogeneous group of Sprague-Dawley rats.”

The original goals were to: 1) increase Americans’ carbohydrate consumption to 55%-60% of caloric intake; 2) reduce fat consumption to less than 30% from 40% of caloric intake; 3) reduce saturated fat to 10% of calories and increase poly- and monounsaturated fats each to 10% of calories; 4) reduce cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams a day; 5) reduce sugar intake by 40%; and 6) reduce salt consumption by 50%-80%.

These six goals, viewed in the context of what we know today, could hardly be more misdirected. That assessment starts with the guideline’s emphasis on increasing carbohydrates and reducing fat consumption, a strategy that research has documented is more likely to add excess weight than to improve health. Most recently, a study published in April in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “lowering the fat content of dairy or other foods may simply lead to increased carbohydrates consumption and explain . . . associations with weight gain.”

Promoting polyunsaturated fats as a safer alternative to saturated fats exposed the population to trans-fats, which are more harmful to heart health than the saturated fats they replaced. Focusing on cholesterol, experts now acknowledge, has limited health benefits—thus the advisory committee’s ending its long-standing recommendation of “no more than 300 mg/day.”

With nearly every edition of the Dietary Guidelines, the sodium recommendation has become more restrictive. The 1980 recommendation was “avoid too much,” which had evolved by 2010 into a population-wide limit of less than 2,300 mg/day and less than 1,500 mg/day for anyone over the age of 50 or at risk of heart disease. Decades of government surveys have found that the average sodium intake in the U.S. and world-wide is about 3,600 mg/day.

As for the increasingly restrictive government guidelines, a 2013 Institute of Medicine study concluded that the evidence supporting either benefit or harm of the sodium guidelines was “inconsistent and insufficient.” In other words, the study found no scientific justification for population-wide sodium reduction.​

There is no debate that, since 1980, sugar intake in the U.S. has increased. What is rarely discussed is the likelihood that the original Dietary Guidelines were, in part, if not largely, responsible for that increase. Two unintended consequences of the emphasis on restricting dietary fat were an increased use of sugar in many food items, and the precipitous decline in milk intake and parallel increase in sugar-containing beverages such as soda pop and juice.

On Oct. 7, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the guidelines before the House Agriculture Committee. As Chairman Michael Conaway (R., Texas) said in the hearing: “It is essential that the guidance that comes out of this process can be trusted by the American people.”

When asked in the hearing if the Dietary Guidelines had failed, Ms. Burwell suggested that Americans’ waistlines might well have been greater without them—an opinion not a fact. Mr. Vilsack’s reply to the same question was closer to the truth: “This is really about well-informed opinion,” he said. “I wish there were scientific facts. But the reality is stuff changes, right? Stuff changes.”

The view that governmental nutrition guidance is largely opinion-based was on display again in late October. The World Health Organization warned against eating processed and red meat, a finding based principally on observational studies as opposed to properly controlled clinical trials. Given that one third of the WHO committee did not agree with the report’s findings, it’s unclear if we really need to hold the bacon when we order eggs for breakfast.

A reasonable argument can be made that the only perspective of the original guidelines that proved correct was that they represented, as Ahrens stated, “a nutritional experiment” on the American public. By any reasonable standard of science, that experiment has failed.

Dr. McCarron is a research associate at the University of California-Davis department of nutrition and chairman-elect of the American Society for Nutrition’s Medical/Nutrition Council. He has consulted with food companies and, before 2010, with the Salt Institute, an industry group.
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Congress's Submission Hold on: November 29, 2015, 07:53:07 AM
More than a Rep-Dem issue, it makes sense to me to cast this as a matter of CONGRESS reclaiming its power.
When Chuck Schumer feels compelled to dial up a grouchy conference call with the press, it usually means Republicans are doing something right.

In this case what’s right is a strategy by the Republican Senate, which is refusing to confirm a slew of President Obama’s nominees to key posts. GOP senators are issuing “holds” on appointees and explaining that they will continue until the administration accedes to specific demands. Judging by the number, volume and bitterness of Democrats’ howls, this is getting the White House’s attention.

“We should be fighting ISIS with all hands on deck, not with one hand tied behind our back,” complained Mr. Schumer on his recent call, suggesting that the fight against terrorism might improve if the State and Defense departments simply had more people to not implement Mr. Obama’s non-policy in Syria and Iraq.

“Why are nonpartisan public-service positions being used as political pawns?” grumped Harry Reid, from his usual grumping ground on the Senate floor.

The answer, as Mr. Reid well knows, is that the holds are proving to be one of the Republican Senate majority’s best means of negotiating with this intransigent White House. Barack Obama isn’t willing to sign bills to improve ObamaCare or rein in spending or even tighten vetting for refugees. The administration continues to block basic congressional oversight. And the president still shows withering contempt for Congress and the law, threatening to go around both whenever he doesn’t get his way. The holds are a small, sometimes effective way to extract concessions.

The best holds are those that come with specific demands—and most of these do. Iowa’s Chuck Grassley placed a hold on three senior State Department officials, which he says will continue until the department delivers documents related to Hillary Clinton’s email and staff—requests it has stonewalled since 2013.

Nebraska’s Ben Sasse is holding all nominees to the Health and Human Services Department until the administration coughs up answers to specific questions about ObamaCare’s failed co-ops. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is holding three would-be ambassadors until the administration investigates the Secret Service’s ugly leak of unflattering information about a GOP congressman. Kansas’ Pat Roberts is holding Mr. Obama’s nominee for secretary of the Army until the White House rules out using executive action to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

All told, more than 100 nominees are awaiting either committee or floor action—and they aren’t likely to get it until the administration accedes to these simple requests. Since this White House would prefer to have its own way, it has instead deputized Democrats and administration officials to complain that this partisan “hostage”-taking by Republicans is detrimental to smooth functioning of the federal government. As if there were such a concept.

State Department officials have moaned that Mr. Grassley’s requests for documents are too onerous. Mr. Reid has suggested that the Iowan is simply out to get Hillary Clinton. (Because for what other reason might a senator be interested in investigating the mishandling of classified information?) Mr. Schumer and others argue that the Obama administration’s failings with ISIS, refugee policy and ObamaCare can be blamed on GOP holds that have left departments lacking staff or stuck with “acting” leaders.

But Democrats did plenty of their own holding in their day. And the other complaints are downright funny. The press is documenting the many ways Mr. Obama has ignored the advice that his State Department advisers and military brass have given him to improve the fight against ISIS. This is a one-man administration. It’s a wonder Mr. Obama nominates any officials, ever.

Mr. Obama is happy to leave positions unfilled if it allows him to avoid unpleasant questions. When Arne Duncan stepped down as education secretary, Mr. Obama chose to designate his successor, John King, as acting head for the rest of the president’s term—to avoid a Senate grilling over education policies. The administration has left vacant the top job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—to circumvent queries about the scandal-plagued body.

For now, Democrats are fighting this strategy, trying to make the holds a liability for Republicans. But recent history suggests that a committed GOP can wring results from the process. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held up Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s vote for months, until Democrats finally agreed to a human-trafficking bill. Other senators over the past 10 months have used holds to successfully extract at least some concessions.

This may not be as dramatic as repealing ObamaCare, but it does matter. One of Congress’s basic jobs is oversight, and the GOP has a particular interest in and duty to inform the electorate about Mr. Obama’s policy failings. The holds are a good sign this Republican majority knows that, and is using one of the only available tools.
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FBI tracking 48 ISIS suspects 24/7 on: November 29, 2015, 07:44:14 AM
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Senator Marco Rubio on: November 29, 2015, 06:58:40 AM

By Patrick O’Connor And
Byron Tau
Nov. 29, 2015 5:30 a.m. ET

DAVENPORT, Iowa—Florida Sen. Marco Rubio likes to remind GOP primary voters of the long odds he faced running for the Senate in 2010.

“Everybody in the Republican establishment came forward and said, ‘You can’t run, it’s not your turn, you’ve got to wait in line,’ ” Mr. Rubio told the crowd at a recent campaign stop in early-voting Iowa.

The underdog narrative helps Mr. Rubio cast himself as a political outsider to a party desperate for change. But it glosses over a basic fact: The 44-year-old Florida senator has spent the bulk of his working life in politics, reared by the party whose leaders he occasionally campaigns against.

This tension between Rubio the insider and Rubio the outsider cuts to the heart of his biggest challenge in the Republican primary—positioning himself as a bridge candidate, while some of his rivals specifically target evangelicals and tea-party conservatives and others focus on rallying the establishment.

Though Mr. Rubio is viewed favorably by different parts of the GOP, his appeal has yet to deepen. He trails the two front-runners—businessman Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson—by wide margins in national polls, and lags behind in every early-voting state, including his native Florida. A super PAC backing his candidacy is trying to change that by launching a $2.5 million ad campaign in three early states in its first major ad buy to date, set to air ahead of the nation’s first nominating contests in February.

According to Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling, Mr. Rubio draws roughly similar support from the four main segments of the GOP primary electorate—centrists, religious conservatives, tea partiers and libertarians. In New Hampshire, he scored equally well among Republican primary voters who want the next president to be a political outsider and those who want someone with prior elected experience, according to a recent survey by WBUR.

In contrast, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Mr. Trump draw much higher marks from tea-party Republicans than from more centrist Republicans or even religious conservatives, according to Journal polling. Mr. Carson, meanwhile, is most popular among tea partiers and religious conservatives.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst recently polled Republican primary voters and found they move fairly fluidly between the top four candidates—Messrs. Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio. However, the Florida senator served as a link between the outsiders and the establishment contenders, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“Rubio shares a lot of support with Trump, Carson and [former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Carly] Fiorina and with establishment candidates, like Bush and Christie,” said Mia Costa, one of the researchers on that poll. “He’s well-positioned to pick up supporters from both camps.”

On the trail, Mr. Rubio’s message has something for everyone. He often emphasizes his foreign-policy expertise for Republicans who favor who experience. But he also complains about dysfunction in Washington and occasionally riffs about the need to nominate a true conservative, an appeal more often associated with Mr. Cruz and other candidates in that mold.

“What this nation needs is an alternative to the direction that Barack Obama and the radical left-wing elements of the Democratic Party are taking America,” Mr. Rubio told the crowd in Davenport. “That is in a direction that applies the principles of limited government and free enterprise to the unique challenges of a new era.”

On abortion, Mr. Rubio personally opposes exceptions for rape and incest, although he has said he would sign legislation that included both.

His conservative message appears to resonate. A South Carolina survey conducted this month by Public Policy Polling showed the Florida senator garnering roughly similar levels of support from Republicans who identified with the tea party and those who didn’t, as well as Republicans who consider themselves evangelicals and those who don’t.

In the same South Carolina poll, Republicans who described themselves as “somewhat conservative” viewed him more favorably than “moderate” or “very conservative” Republicans. An Iowa poll in October, conducted by Quinnipiac University, revealed a similar trend, with Mr. Rubio performing better among conservative GOP primary voters than more moderate ones.

Mr. Rubio, seeking to expand that base, appeared in Iowa recently with six other candidates at an event for evangelicals organized by the Family Leader, a Christian conservative group. A few days later, he capped a five-day swing through this first-in-the-nation caucus state by meeting with church leaders.

“I haven’t been a Rubio supporter until really tonight,” said Kent Peterson, 61, a journalism teacher from West Des Moines who attended the Family Leader event. “For me, as a conservative Christian, he resonates with my belief system. Every time I hear him, it’s a consistent message.”

Appealing to evangelicals means competing for the support of voters who tend to favor Messrs. Carson and Cruz. Both Republicans frequently outperform Mr. Rubio among tea-party Republicans, evangelicals and those GOP primary voters who consider themselves “very conservative,” both nationally and in the early voting states. At a reception after the Family Leader event, Mr. Rubio’s campaign drew a small crowd, while people flocked to Mr. Cruz, Mrs. Fiorina and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Mr. Rubio could miss out if he neglects or alienates more centrist voters with his efforts to court conservatives. “He could be a bridge candidate, but can he walk that line without turning off the Main Street crowd?” asked John Stineman, a Republican operative in Iowa who ran races in the state for former GOP presidential candidates Steve Forbes and Phil Gramm but remains unaffiliated this year. “He doesn’t want to be painted as the establishment candidate, but he does want to benefit from their support.”

The Florida senator, the son of Cuban immigrants, has straddled the divide between the insiders and the outsiders for much of his career. He started interning for a local congresswoman in college and volunteered for another Cuban-American Republican running for a U.S. House seat. Both wrote his recommendations for law school, according to Mr. Rubio’s memoir, “An American Son.”

After law school, Mr. Rubio organized voters in South Florida for former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole’s unsuccessful 1996 White House bid. His team included a future congressman and the state’s current lieutenant governor, Carlos López-Cantera. As a joke, some volunteers made a “Rubio for President” sign from a Dole yard sign and that of another Rubio running for local office.

But Mr. Rubio has been an underdog in most of his campaigns for elected office, including his first run for the state Legislature. He eventually became speaker. In 2010, he traveled Florida addressing groups organized by the then-nascent tea-party movement in his uphill race against then-Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination to a vacant Senate seat.

Since joining the Senate, Mr. Rubio has maintained that balancing act. He delivered the party’s official response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013 and alienated a number of conservative supporters that same year for his role in shaping a sweeping immigration overhaul that would have created a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

“Once upon a time I did support him, but now, no, absolutely not,” said Edna Mattos, a tea-party activist in Florida who frequently invited Mr. Rubio to rallies during his 2010 Senate race. “He’s a flip-flopper.”

Mr. Rubio frequently sides with the most conservative elements of the Senate on high-stakes legislation, opposing a series of must-pass budget deals, a hurricane-relief bill and legislation to raise the country’s borrowing limit. He joined Mr. Cruz on the Senate floor during the latter’s talk-a-thon against the Affordable Care Act in the fall of 2013 when the government was headed toward a partial shutdown.

The Florida senator generated a standing ovation at the Values Voter Summit in Washington in September when he announced former Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign. “I’m not here today to bash anyone,” Mr. Rubio told the crowd at a Washington hotel. “But the time has come to turn the page.”
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Erdogan and Turkey are the wrong partners to fight ISIS on: November 28, 2015, 10:18:06 PM
Turkey is the Wrong Partner to Fight Terror
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
November 28, 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right), seen here with Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal (center) and Ismail Haniyeh in June 2013, famously declared that "there is no Islamic terror."

Sadly, the free world feels compelled to partner with the wrong country in its fight against Islamic terror.

The host of this year's G-20 summit, which came right after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, was Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In his usual Sunni supremacist language, he accused the victims of jihad rather than the jihadists. "New tragedies will be inevitable," he said, "if the rising racism in Europe and other countries is not stopped. Racism, coupled with enmity against Islam, is the greatest disaster, the greatest threat."

Yet Erdogan willingly ignores the rising racism, xenophobia, and anti-western, jihadist sentiments that increasingly command the hearts and minds of his fellow Turks. A quick look at a few sports games and fan behavior in recent weeks would reveal much about the Turkish mind and heart.

Erdogan ignores the jihadist sentiments that increasingly command the hearts and minds of his fellow Turks.

On October 13, three days after a twin suicide bomb attack in Turkey's capital, Ankara, killed more than 100 Kurds and pro-Kurdish, leftist and secular Turks, the central Anatolian province of Konya, a hotbed of political Islam in Turkey, hosted a Euro 2016 football qualifier between Turkey and Iceland. Before the kick-off, both teams stood for a moment of silence to protest the bomb attack -- a typical gesture to respect the victims. Sadly, the moment of silence was marred by whistles and jeers: apparently the football fans of Konya were protesting the victims, not their jihadist killers.

Anyone under the impression that the whole world stands in solidarity with Paris should think again. Hundreds of Turkish fans booed and chanted "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is greater" in Arabic) during a moment of silence for the Paris attack victims before a Turkey-Greece soccer friendly. Once again, the Turks were exhibiting solidarity with the terrorists, not their "infidel" victims.

More recently, on Nov. 21, Turkish police had to deploy 1,500 policemen so that Turkish fans could not harm the visiting Israeli women's national basketball team. One thousand five hundred police officers at a women's basketball game! Despite that, Turkish fans threw objects at Israeli players as they were singing Israel's national anthem. Fans also booed the Israeli players while others applauded the fans who threw the objects.

Turkish fans threw trash at the visiting Israeli women's national basketball team last week.

Unsurprisingly, Turkish fans waved Palestinian flags. Israeli women basketball players were barred from leaving their hotel other than for training and the game.

None of that is surprising although, at least in theory, Turkey is a candidate state for membership in the European Union. A new study by Pew Research Center revealed that 8% of Turks have a favorable opinion of the Islamic State (IS), higher than in the Palestinian territories, where support for IS stands at 6%, and only one point lower than in Pakistan. Nineteen percent of Turks "do not know" if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of IS -- which means 27% of Turks do not have an unfavorable opinion of the jihadist killing machine. That makes more than 21 million people! Of the countries polled, Lebanon boasted a 100% unfavorable opinion of IS and Jordan, 94%. In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, 4% reported a favorable opinion of IS, half of Turkey's.

This is Erdogan's "neo-Ottoman" and increasingly Islamist Turkey. After the Paris attacks, this author saw tweets that called the victims "animal carcass;" that said "now the infidels will lose their sleep out of fear;" and others that congratulated the terrorists "who shouted Allahu Akbar."
Meanwhile, and so funny, the free world cannot see that its ally to fight the jihadists is another jihadist. How should Erdogan fight Islamic terror – something he does not believe exists? One of Erdogan's famous remarks is, "there is no Islamic terror." But he thinks that "just like fascism," Zionism is a crime against humanity.

There is a Turkish saying that could perhaps describe the free world's alliance with Erdogan's Turkey against jihadist terror: "Kuzuyu kurda emanet etmek" ("to trust the wolf with the sheep").

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Prosecuting the prosecutor and/or judge on: November 28, 2015, 02:53:48 PM
WHEN it comes to poor people arrested for felonies in Scott County, Miss., Judge Marcus D. Gordon doesn’t bother with the Constitution. He refuses to appoint counsel until arrestees have been formally charged by an indictment, which means they must languish in jail without legal representation for as long as a year.
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Judge Gordon has robbed countless individuals of their freedom, locking them away from their loved ones and livelihoods for months on end. (I am the lead lawyer in a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Scott County and Judge Gordon.) In a recent interview, the judge, who sits on the Mississippi State Circuit Court, was unapologetic about his regime of indefinite detention: “The criminal system is a system of criminals. Sure, their rights are violated.” But, he added, “That’s the hardship of the criminal system.”

There are many words to describe the judge’s blunt disregard of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Callous. Appalling. Cruel. Here’s another possibility: criminal — liable to prosecution and, if found guilty, prison time.

If this notion seems radical, it shouldn’t. Federal law already provides a mechanism to prosecute judges and district attorneys as criminals when they willfully deprive people of their civil rights: Title 18, Section 242, of the federal code.

This isn’t some dusty, rarely used legal tool. The Department of Justice typically wields Section 242 against police and correctional officers accused of physical or sexual violence. But Section 242 applies with equal force to those who prosecute and sentence, the state officials whose deliberate skirting of civil rights can be most devastating.

At least, that’s how it is on paper. The federal government has not in recent memory pursued a judge under Section 242, and it has only rarely enforced this law against prosecutors.

It is absolutely essential to bring rogue law enforcement officers to justice, particularly in a post-Ferguson world in which violations of constitutional rights have come under intense scrutiny. However, the government’s focus on abuses by law enforcement officials leaves the burden of curbing abuse by judges and prosecutors to private individuals.

This is a responsibility few lawyers are willing to accept, in large part because the United States Supreme Court has made pursuing a civil case against a prosecutor or judge practically impossible.

Consider the case of John Thompson, who spent 14 years on death row for a murder he didn’t commit because the New Orleans Parish district attorney’s office intentionally concealed forensic evidence establishing his innocence. After his exoneration, Mr. Thompson sued the office under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, landmark legislation intended to provide a federal forum to those deprived of their civil rights by state officials.

Though Mr. Thompson won a $14 million jury award, the Supreme Court set aside the verdict on appeal. Notwithstanding the fact that the New Orleans prosecutors had similarly withheld evidence in at least four other cases, or the fact that several prosecutors suppressed the evidence in Mr. Thompson’s own case, the court said that Mr. Thompson had failed to demonstrate a pattern of wrongdoing by the district attorney’s office, which it held was required by Section 1983. The court’s decision illustrates just one of a host of protections it has given to prosecutors and judges to shield them from liability.

Civil cases like Mr. Thompson’s reveal a frightening reality. In privileging the discretion of prosecutors and judges to enforce the law, we have come perilously close to placing these officials above the law. We do not know the extent to which judges and prosecutors cross the line into criminality. After all, cellphones rarely capture the moment when a judge or prosecutor illegally locks someone away.

Nonetheless, advocates across the country continue to expose judges who unlawfully deprive defendants of lawyers or throw people in jail simply because they are too poor to pay small amounts of money. We are constantly confronted with wrongful convictions rooted in a prosecutor’s belief that winning a case is more important than seeking justice. These experiences compel us to recognize that sometimes the criminals our justice system most needs to confront are actually running it.

There is a solution: federal criminal prosecutions of state judges and prosecutors who flout the law. The nearly insurmountable barriers to justice in civil court don’t apply in criminal prosecutions. Indeed, the Supreme Court has invoked the availability of Section 242 prosecutions to justify its sealing of federal courthouse doors against people seeking to vindicate their civil rights.

Last month, the Department of Justice provided a rare glimpse of the law’s untapped potential. A Missouri prosecutor pleaded guilty under Section 242 of concealing police officers’ brutal assault of an arrestee, then prosecuting the victim on charges the officers fabricated to cover up their crime.

Missouri marks a promising, yet incomplete mandate. Judges and prosecutors violate civil rights every day, in plain sight, and with seeming impunity. To make them answer for these crimes, the federal government must continue to extend its reach beyond the streets and into the courtroom.

Brandon Buskey is a staff attorney with the A.C.L.U.’s Criminal Law Reform Project.
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: November 28, 2015, 02:07:02 PM
IMO it is simple:  If Trump does a Perot, like Perot he will give us a Clinton and this country is done for.

 angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Obama admin neutering Inspector Generals on: November 28, 2015, 12:45:31 PM

21  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio: Hombre y mujer contra policia on: November 28, 2015, 10:57:07 AM
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egyptian Cleric: ISIS grows out of Islamic Mainstream on: November 28, 2015, 10:49:27 AM
Egyptian Cleric: ISIS Grows out of Islamic Mainstream
by Raymond Ibrahim  •  Nov 25, 2015
Cross-posted from Coptic Solidarity

Originally published under the title "Al Azhar and ISIS: Cause and Effect."
Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr heads a group of former Al Azhar graduates who support a civil government.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and graduate of Egypt's Al Azhar University—regularly touted as the world's most prestigious Islamic university—recently exposed his alma mater in a televised interview.

After being asked why Al Azhar, which is in the habit of denouncing secular thinkers as un-Islamic, refuses to denounce the Islamic State as un-Islamic, Sheikh Nasr said:

It can't [condemn the Islamic State as un-Islamic]. The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar's programs. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic? Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world [to establish it]. Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate. Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches, etc. Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya [extracting tribute from religious minorities]. Al Azhar teaches stoning people. So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?

Nasr joins a growing chorus of critics of Al Azhar. Last September, while discussing how the Islamic State burns some of its victims alive—most notoriously, a Jordanian pilot—Egyptian journalist Yusuf al-Husayni remarked on his satellite program that "The Islamic State is only doing what Al Azhar teaches... and the simplest example is Ibn Kathir's Beginning and End."
Al Azhar, which the New York Times calls "Sunni Islam's leading religious institution," refuses to denounce ISIS as un-Islamic.

Ibn Kathir is one of Sunni Islam's most renowned scholars; his Beginning and End is a magisterial history of Islam and a staple at Al Azhar. It is also full of Muslims, beginning with Muhammad, committing the sorts of atrocities that the Islamic State and other Islamic organizations and persons commit.

In February, Egyptian political writer Dr. Khalid al-Montaser revealed that Al Azhar was encouraging enmity for non-Muslims, specifically Coptic Christians, and even inciting for their murder. Marveled Montaser:

Is it possible at this sensitive time — when murderous terrorists rest on texts and understandings of takfir [accusing Muslims of apostasy], murder, slaughter, and beheading — that Al Azhar magazine is offering free of charge a book whose latter half and every page — indeed every few lines — ends with "whoever disbelieves [non-Muslims] strike off his head"?

The prestigious Islamic university—which co-hosted U.S. President Obama's 2009 "A New Beginning" speech—has even issued a free booklet dedicated to proving that Christianity is a "failed religion."

In short, the phenomenon known as "ISIS" is not a temporal aberration within Islam but rather a byproduct of what is considered normative thinking for Al Azhar—the Islamic world's most authoritative university.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The fear of the other Europe on: November 28, 2015, 10:44:07 AM
second post

The Fear of the Other Europe
Geopolitical Weekly
November 24, 2015 | 08:00 GMT Print
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By Reva Bhalla

Refugees are a natural byproduct of revolution. Stripped of status and security in the throes of political change, the masses will tend to sacrifice a life of familiar faces, customs and places and flock to foreign lands in search of simple things: a place to live, earn and provide for their kin in peace. But in that search for the path of least physical and political resistance, migrants cannot avoid disturbing the peace along the way. Their names, clothes, accents, languages and religions — everything that gives them a sense of place and belonging at home — make them "the other" in the eyes of their new hosts and thus undeserving of the rights and privileges of those with whom they are expected to assimilate. For the many who end up in Europe, assimilation will instead occur in the ghettos, where migrants already pushed to the fringes of society cling to rose-tinted memories of the life they left behind, widening a chasm in which radical ideas can fester for generations.

These are the conditions that threaten to radicalize and mobilize migrant offspring in France, Belgium and elsewhere. These were also the conditions endured by waves of displaced Goths who flooded the Roman Empire to flee their Hun invaders and of the millions of Eastern Europeans whose identity cards could scarcely keep up with the borders changing beneath their feet in the fervor and confusion of the world wars (the great "migration of nations," as Polish-born writer Aleksander Wat named it). In each mass migration, identities were lost, traded or hijacked along the way. As deeper phobias develop and moral restraint wears away, inventive and often dangerous schemes are developed to "solve" the problem of "the other." In 1926, the League of Nations had the idea to relocate former czarist emigres from Russia to the interior of Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, an offer only briefly taken up by a few hundred Cossacks who warned their countrymen that a persecuted life in Europe, or even suicide, was still preferable to the exotic dangers they encountered in malaria-infested jungles. For the Third Reich, it was the ideological pursuit of lebensraum, or living space, through aggressive territorial expansion and genocide that would be framed in Nazi propaganda as an answer to Germany's post-World War I travails.
Europe Struggles to Find Its Balance

If refugees are a product of revolution, then the product of mass refugee flows is often a blend of economic stress and ethnic nationalism, the foundation of many transformative geopolitical events in our time. It would therefore be prudent to think through the deeper consequences of the large numbers of migrants fleeing lawlessness in the Middle East for a European Union that was sliding into an existential crisis before the most recent wave of migrants even showed up.

Over the past century, Europe has swung dramatically between two poles. After taking a destructive leap into ethnic nationalism, years of industrial-scale killings exhausted Europe to the point that states developed the extraordinary will to sacrifice their national sovereignty for the sake of avoiding conflict and pursuing prosperity in a union of European states. Europe's storied past, in a sense, would be overcome only by pushing nationalism under the rug and focusing on making money instead. That worked only until the promise of prosperity was crushed in the financial crisis of the early 21st century.

As economic pain grew from south to north and west to east on the Continent, the Euroskeptics calling for taking care of one's own before bailing out the distant relatives in the union gained popularity and strength at the expense of the Europeanists advocating an ever-closer union. Whether the message came from the right or the left or from the creditors or the debtors of the crisis, the idea was the same: When livelihoods are threatened, a state must look after its own interests before making sacrifices for the other. Even before Syrians, Libyans and Afghans began arriving en masse on European shores, the European Union was struggling with the idea that Germany shared the identity and fate of Greece. The suggestion, then, that a German taxpayer would now have to make sacrifices for a Syrian on the run was simply a bridge too far.

The Paris attacks did not send Europe into an entirely new direction; they catalyzed the long-running and arguably inevitable trend of European fragmentation. The debate over borders — lines that distinguish one's own from the other — is a logical flashpoint. As part of the European Union's efforts to forge a common European identity, the Schengen Agreement was designed to eliminate physical borders, a policy anchored in the bloc's foundational principle of allowing free movement of Europeans across national boundaries. But as more countries from the farther reaches of the Continent joined, fears grew of Balkan peoples straining social welfare systems and bringing crime into the core of Europe. The influx of refugees from the Middle East only deepened European disillusionment with Schengen as Syrians, Libyans and other migrants took advantage of weak border controls in the Balkans to make their way north. In the wake of the Paris attacks, the potential for militants to camouflage themselves in migrant flows only reinforces Europeans' paranoia over the security of their borders.

While lengthy, sophisticated and ultimately ineffectual debates over Schengen were taking place in Brussels, the countries on the front lines of the migrant crisis took matters into their own hands. Hungary and Slovenia built fences, and border controls were reimposed throughout the Schengen zone. No one was about to wait around while Brussels tried to come up with a 28-member consensus on how to deal with the problem. The danger now is that as Greece continues to funnel refugees northward, as Hungary and Slovenia shut off their non-Schengen neighbors to the south with fences, and as the Carpathian Mountains create physical difficulties for rerouting to the east, a bottleneck will develop in the Balkans. Already, some Balkan countries are trying to cherry-pick which refugees they will accept based on nationality and religion. This is a region where numerous unsettled issues from the 1990s can spark ethnic riots that a distracted Europe will have trouble containing.

As the Schengen pillar of the European Union comes crashing down, logically we should give the foundation of the European Union — France and Germany — a closer inspection. The European Union, after all, is a form of grand compromise between Paris and Berlin whereby they put aside their historical competitive impulses along the North European Plain and economically tether themselves to each other as a form of mutual containment. An economically stagnant France is more likely to identify with its southern Mediterranean roots as it grows more alienated from its economically healthier European peers to the north. Both France and Germany will face elections in 2017. In France, the nationalist and Euroskeptic currents underpinning Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front and Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right Republicans are likely to continue strengthening as economic stresses persist and as security concerns overwhelm the state. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's voice is already being drowned out by her more Euroskeptic Cabinet members and coalition partners who are showing less inhibition as they assert German rights in violation of pan-European interests.

Elsewhere in Europe, the United Kingdom is in the process of negotiating additional distance between itself and its European peers, creating political space for Poland to also go down a reverse-integration path. The Dutch have recently put forth an idea to create a mini-Schengen of culturally like-minded states with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria, a grouping that harkens back to the Holy Roman Empire of the late 18th century. The fact that European elite are comfortable openly discussing a break-up into smaller blocs of culturally and historically harmonious entities and the ejection of more awkward elements such as Greece should not be taken lightly. Indeed, the debate over a "Grexit" is bound to resurface as a politically fragile Athens continues to struggle to implement reform. Germany's irritation will reverberate throughout the eurozone once again as Greece tries to leverage the growing number of refugees bottled up within its borders to negotiate a more lenient bailout timeline with its creditors. Only this time, the term Grexit and proposals to form new blocs is no longer taboo.
A Cycle of Division

A divided Europe will not necessarily replicate the horrors of the early 20th century. History will rhyme, however, at the intersection of several trends running in parallel. The splintering of Europe overlays the erosion of central authority within the Sykes-Picot borders in the Middle East — borders that the Europeans created to divide the region and tighten their colonial grip. With those territories in prolonged conflict, the weakening of those regimes and the radical ideologies borne out of power vacuums will risk drawing a minority of European Muslims into battle while driving migrants into the heart of Europe, accelerating Europe's path toward fragmentation.

As the core powers of Europe become more skeptical of the benefits of the European Union, compromises on issues ranging from migration to bailout policies will become elusive. A resurgent Turkey will leverage its position as the migrant gateway to Europe to exact concessions from the West while reassuming its imperial responsibilities in northern Syria and Iraq. Russia will use European divisions to its advantage as it tries to temper a Western encroachment in its former Soviet space even as it remains just as susceptible as the Europeans to the ethnic frictions and security threats emanating from mass migrant flows.

The global hegemon, by definition, will find itself at the center of this oddly familiar set of challenges afflicting Eurasia. The United States already shoulders most of the burden in extending a security buffer against Russia in Central and Eastern Europe and in trying to put a lid on conflicts in the Middle East. But an even bigger challenge may not have fully registered on Washington's radar: the darker side of a Europe willing to re-embrace nationalism in response to a fear of the other.
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russians in the Arctic: The Prize of a Presence on: November 28, 2015, 10:37:18 AM
The pictures and maps in the original do not post here:

Russians in the Arctic: The Prize of a Presence
November 28, 2015 | 14:00 GMT Print
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Russia is bolstering its Arctic installations. As mentioned in previous Stratfor analyses about the facilities under construction by the Russian military and the logistical effort that goes into maintaining them, these outposts are not typical military bases and are not meant to host significant ground combat elements. The overall military purpose of Russia's activity in the Arctic is of a different nature.

As the northernmost outposts belonging to Russia's armed forces, the Alexandra and Kotelny island facilities are mainly used for monitoring and observation duties. Through the construction of radar stations and new runways, identified in satellite imagery by experts at AllSource Analysis, Russia is able to maintain a limited yet capable presence on the islands. The radar facilities enable Russia to track activity in the Arctic's airspace, a theater that has some significance in both the scramble for the Arctic itself and the broader military balance between Russia and the West.

The Arctic contains the most direct routes between northern Russia and North America, thereby playing an important role in the element of deterrence that is maintained through bomber fleets.

In addition to the radar stations, Russia has also been constructing new runways on the islands to support the deployment of military aircraft to its bases there. The main goal is not necessarily to set up an air combat capability, but rather to forward deploy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. Aircraft are a key part of maritime reconnaissance, and the ability to deploy them so far north vastly expands Russia's reach.

Although Moscow's most immediate concern is monitoring activities, the potential for Russia to deploy combat-capable forces to the islands in case of crisis cannot be ruled out. Ground combat forces would make little sense on the islands; any military conflict in the Arctic would be heavily focused on maritime and aerial capabilities, but nonetheless, Russia has been deploying forces to the islands to familiarize them with operations in the harsh Arctic climate. Imagery of exercises shows Russian forces using equipment geared specifically toward operations in the Arctic, but it also indicates the small scale of such deployments. In times of crisis, the Arctic bases could play a much more critical role as staging points for bomber or interceptor aircraft and perhaps even as supply points for maritime task forces.
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Britain begins to rearm on: November 28, 2015, 09:20:09 AM

Nov. 26, 2015 5:00 p.m. ET

Europeans will remember 2015 as the year in which national security became an everyday concern, from Russia’s encroachments on NATO’s periphery to the jihadist threat to their urban centers. So kudos to David Cameron’s government for reversing years of cuts to Britain’s military spending with a strategic review that starts to take account of the world as it is.

“We must expect the unexpected,” the Prime Minister warned Parliament on Monday. Britain, he added, “can make sure that we have the versatility and the means to respond to new risks and threats to our security.”

To that end, the government plans to spend £2 billion ($3 billion) on additional weapons for its special forces, hire 1,900 new foreign and domestic intelligence personnel, buy 20 long-range Reaper drones, restore Britain’s maritime patrol capabilities with nine P8 Poseidon aircraft (useful for hunting Russian submarines), and add new squadrons of land-based Typhoon and sea-based F-35 jets. The government will also set aside £41 billion to build Britain’s next generation of nuclear missile submarines.

As important, Mr. Cameron seems belatedly to recognize the need for Britain to maintain robust expeditionary forces. The number of deployable troops will increase to 50,000 from 30,000, including two new strike brigades of 5,000 troops each, capable of moving on short notice. “Not one of these capabilities is an optional extra,” he noted. “These investments are an act of clear-eyed self-interest.”

The Prime Minister is surely right, though even this new spending is not sufficient given the degraded state of Britain’s military. The U.K. spent 5.4% of GDP on defense in 1982, when it was barely able to muster the forces needed to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina. Defense spending now hovers at 2.2%—large by European standards but barely meeting the NATO minimum of 2%.

Another concern is that many of the new capabilities won’t be operational for several years, while the security threats are increasing now. Mr. Cameron wants to increase Britain’s involvement in attacking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, but Britain’s involvement is partly limited by not having an aircraft carrier capable of deploying fixed-wing aircraft. The U.K. is building two large carriers to replace the small jump-jet carriers it retired over the last decade, but the new ships aren’t scheduled to come into service until the 2020s. Maybe they’ll be put to use against whatever comes after Islamic State.

All of this is a reminder of the danger of shortchanging the military in a belief that the world will stay peaceful without a robust deterrent. That’s one of President Obama’s signature illusions, with his predictions of a receding tide of war. U.S. defense spending is also too low in an era of multiplying threats. Still, Mr. Cameron has made a useful start, and his NATO allies should follow his lead.
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Senator Marco Rubio on: November 27, 2015, 09:19:56 PM
Excellent article.
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: UAE sends Colombian mercenaries to Yemen on: November 26, 2015, 08:27:34 PM
 shocked shocked shocked

WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.
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It is the first combat deployment for a foreign army that the Emirates has quietly built in the desert over the past five years, according to several people currently or formerly involved with the project. The program was once managed by a private company connected to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, but the people involved in the effort said that his role ended several years ago and that it has since been run by the Emirati military.

The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.

Saudi Arabia

Leading a coalition of Sunni nations that includes Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt. The country has also recruited Sudanese fighters for the campaign.


United Arab Emirates

In addition to sending its own special operations troops, the U.A.E. has sent more than 400 Colombian troops to Yemen who had been training in the Emirati desert.


United States

Has provided intelligence to help targeting for airstrikes, as well as refueling aircraft and other logistical support.






Against Yemen’s government

Houthi rebels

The Shiite group that pushed the Yemeni government out of Sana, the capital.



Although Iran has not officially acknowledged its role in the conflict, it has provided military and financial support to the Houthis over the years.

It is also a glimpse into the future of war. Wealthy Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates, have in recent years embraced a more aggressive military strategy throughout the Middle East, trying to rein in the chaos unleashed by the Arab revolutions that began in late 2010. But these countries wade into the new conflicts — whether in Yemen, Syria or Libya — with militaries that are unused to sustained warfare and populations with generally little interest in military service.

“Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight,” said Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of “The Modern Mercenary.”

“The private military industry is global now,” said Mr. McFate, adding that the United States essentially “legitimized” the industry with its heavy reliance on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over more than a decade of war. “Latin American mercenaries are a sign of what’s to come,” he said.

The Colombian troops now in Yemen, handpicked from a brigade of some 1,800 Latin American soldiers training at an Emirati military base, were woken up in the middle of the night for their deployment to Yemen last month. They were ushered out of their barracks as their bunkmates continued sleeping, and were later issued dog tags and ranks in the Emirati military. Those left behind are now being trained to use grenade launchers and armored vehicles that Emirati troops are currently using in Yemen.

Emirati officials have made a point of recruiting Colombian troops over other Latin American soldiers because they consider the Colombians more battle tested in guerrilla warfare, having spent decades battling gunmen of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the jungles of Colombia.

Continue reading the main story

The exact mission of the Colombians in Yemen is unclear, and one person involved in the project said it could be weeks before they saw regular combat. They join hundreds of Sudanese soldiers whom Saudi Arabia has recruited to fight there as part of the coalition.

In addition, a recent United Nations report cited claims that some 400 Eritrean troops might be embedded with the Emirati soldiers in Yemen — something that, if true, could violate a United Nations resolution restricting Eritrean military activities.

The United States has also been participating in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, providing logistical support, including airborne refueling, to the nations conducting the airstrikes. The Pentagon has sent a team to Saudi Arabia to provide targeting intelligence to the coalition militaries that is regularly used for the airstrikes.

The Obama administration has also in recent years approved the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware from American contractors to the Saudi and Emirati militaries, equipment that is being used in the Yemen conflict. This month, the administration authorized a $1.29 billion Saudi request for thousands of bombs to replenish stocks that had been depleted by the campaign in Yemen, although American officials say that the bombs would take months to arrive and were not directly tied to the war in Yemen.

The Saudi air campaign has received widespread criticism from human rights groups as being poorly planned and as having launched strikes that indiscriminately kill Yemeni civilians and aid workers in the country. Last month, Saudi jets struck a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Saada Province in northern Yemen, and in late September the United Nations reported that 2,355 civilians had been killed since the campaign began in March.

On the other side in Yemen is Iran, which over the years has provided financial and military support to the Houthis, the Shiite rebel group fighting the coalition of Saudi-led Sunni nations. The divisions have created the veneer of a sectarian conflict, although Emirati troops in southern Yemen have also been battling members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Sunni terrorist group’s affiliate in Yemen.

Dozens of Emirati special operations troops have died since they arrived in southern Yemen in August. A single rocket attack in early September killed 45, along with several Saudi and Bahrani soldiers.

The presence of the Latin American troops is an official secret in the Emirates, and the government has made no public mention of their deployment to Yemen. Yousef Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to Washington, declined to comment. A spokesman for United States Central Command, the military headquarters overseeing America’s involvement in the Yemen conflict, also declined to comment.

The Latin American force in the Emirates was originally conceived to carry out mostly domestic missions — guarding pipelines and other sensitive infrastructure and possibly putting down riots in the sprawling camps housing foreign workers in the Emirates — according to corporate documents, American officials and several people involved in the project.

Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

A 2011 intelligence briefing for senior leaders involved in the project listed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Somali pirates and domestic riots as some of the biggest threats to Emirati stability.

The troops were told that they might one day be called for foreign combat missions, but until the deployment to Yemen the only external missions they were given were to provide security on commercial cargo vessels.

Those missions were rare, and soldiers involved in the project describe years of monotony at the desert camp, housed within a sprawling Emirati military base called Zayed Military City. They rise every day at 5 a.m. for exercise and military training — including shooting practice, navigation and riot control. A number of Westerners, including several Americans, live at the camp and serve as trainers for the Latin American troops.

But by late morning the sun burns so hot at the windswept complex that the troops move into air-conditioned classrooms for military instruction.

The troops live in typically austere military barracks, hanging their laundry out the windows to dry in the hot air. There is a common computer room where they can check their email and Facebook pages, but they are not allowed to post photographs on social media sites. Meals are basic.

“It’s the same food all the time, every day,” one member of the project said several weeks ago. “Chicken every single day.”

The Emiratis have spent the equivalent of millions of dollars equipping the unit, from firearms and armored vehicles to communications systems and night vision technology. But Emirati leaders rarely visit the camp. When they do, the troops put on tactical demonstrations, including rappelling from helicopters and driving armored dune buggies.

And yet they stay largely because of the money, receiving salaries ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, compared with approximately $400 a month they would make in Colombia. Those troops who deploy to Yemen will receive an additional $1,000 per week, according to a person involved in the project and a former senior Colombian military officer.

Hundreds of Colombian troops have been trained in the Emirates since the project began in 2010 — so many that the Colombian government once tried to broker an agreement with Emirati officials to stanch the flow headed to the Persian Gulf. Representatives from the two governments met, but an agreement was never signed.

Most of the recruiting of former troops in Colombia is done by Global Enterprises, a Colombian company run by a former special operations commander named Oscar Garcia Batte. Mr. Batte is also co-commander of the brigade of Colombian troops in the Emirates, and is part of the force now deployed in Yemen.

Mr. McFate said that the steady migration of Latin American troops to the Persian Gulf had created a “gun drain” at a time when Latin American countries need soldiers in the battle against drug cartels.

But experts in Colombia said that the promise of making more money fighting for the Emirates — money that the troops send much of home to their families in Colombia — makes it hard to keep soldiers at home.

“These great offers, with good salaries and insurance, got the attention of our best soldiers,” said Jaime Ruiz, the president of Colombia’s Association of Retired Armed Forces Officials.

“Many of them retired from the army and left.”
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Important Read: Why Turkey can't sell a Syrian Safe Zone on: November 26, 2015, 07:06:06 PM

Why Turkey Can't Sell a Syrian Safe Zone
Geopolitical Diary
October 7, 2015 | 01:24 GMT Text Size

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Brussels on Tuesday with an ambitious agenda: to promote the establishment of a "safe zone" in northern Syria. Erdogan can see that the Europeans have no good solutions to their immigration crisis other than to manipulate the route and flow of migrants. The latest idea gaining traction in a host of European capitals is to keep the hundreds of thousands of people trying to cross the Mediterranean off of Europe's shores by bottling them up closer to home instead. Brussels would, of course, pay Ankara to take care of its problem by housing more refugees traveling overland. But Turkey, which already hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians and has spent $7.6 billion on the refugee crisis so far, isn't buying into Europe's offer. Erdogan wants more. Much more.

Now that Turkey has Europe's attention and Russia has blindsided the United States in Syria, Erdogan is attempting to use the chaotic climate to dust off his plans for a Syrian safe zone. The Turkish version of a safe zone entails reinforcing rebel forces that are friendly with Turkey to flush out the Islamic State from a zone measuring 80 kilometers (50 miles) by 40 kilometers in Syria's northern Aleppo province. A no-fly zone, according to the Turkish proposal, would accompany the safe zone. Once the zone is declared safe and free of terrorist activity, refugee camps would be set up and Syrian migrants could live within their country's borders again.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

The motives behind Turkey's plan are many and thickly layered. Most important, Turkey needs to avoid augmenting the burden migrants are placing on it at home while its economy is deteriorating. Second, Turkey is legitimately threatened by the Islamic State and wants to create as much distance as possible between its borders and those of the self-proclaimed caliphate. But the reasons don't stop there. Turkey can see that its southern neighbor will be fragmented for the foreseeable future. Ankara does not want to eradicate the Islamic State only to see Kurdish forces take its place. Rather, it wants to establish a physical foothold in northern Syria to ensure that the Kurds cannot create a viable autonomous state that could exacerbate Turkey's own Kurdish problem at home.

There is also a broader objective framing Turkey's strategy. A divided Syria undoubtedly creates risk, but it also presents an opportunity for Turkey to expand its sphere of influence in the Levant. This is the main driver behind Turkey's campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government and replace it with a Sunni Islamist-led administration that takes its cues from Ankara. After all, someone would have to provide security to make the zone in northern Syria "safe"; Turkish forces and civilian personnel presumably would take the lead in reinforcing such a corridor, potentially placing Turkish boots back on Arab soil.

Meanwhile, there is a murkier motive to consider. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party will enter the Nov. 2 elections with a low chance of winning enough votes to regain its majority in parliament. The likelihood of the elections resulting in another hung parliament, coupled with Erdogan's reluctance to share power, raises the potential (albeit in an extreme scenario) for Turkey to use the premise of a military operation in Syria to stave off a third round of elections.

But Russia is botching Turkey's plans. Russia, Turkey and NATO are still arguing over whether two alleged Russian violations of Turkish airspace near the Syrian border were intentional (as Turkey and NATO claim) or accidental (as Russia insists they were). Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday that Russia was ready to form a working group and that it would be pleased to host Turkish Defense Ministry officials in Moscow to avoid further misunderstandings in Syria. Ankara has no choice but to interpret Russia's actions as a signal that Moscow is willing to interfere in a Turkish-led safe zone if Ankara tries to push ahead with its plans.

Moscow's strategy has already begun to bear fruit. The European officials who met with Erdogan in Brussels listened politely to his ideas for a safe zone and promised to discuss the idea further. But no European power wants to risk getting mixed up with a brazen Russia on the Syrian battlefield. The Europeans would rather bargain with Erdogan on issues such as visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and Turkey's acceptance of more migrants on the Continent's behalf instead.

The United States has kept Turkey's safe zone plan at arm's length for similar reasons. However, Russia's military adventurism in Syria is accelerating U.S. plans for a rebel offensive that could still at least partially fit with Turkey's interests.

In the coming months, the United States will be focused on the areas east and west of the Euphrates River. To the east, the United States will ramp up its support for Kurdish forces and their allies in preparation for a move toward Raqqa against the Islamic State. Greater U.S. support for Kurdish forces will not please Turkish leaders, but the United States' simultaneous boost in aid for the rebels Turkey has been preparing to the west will. Here, the United States and Turkey will work together to try to carve out a border zone free of the Islamic State's presence. The Americans are avoiding the label of a safe zone to keep the operation from conflating with Turkey's more ambitious agenda. Nonetheless, the United States will be indirectly taking the first crucial steps toward Turkey's ultimate goals for northern Syria.

Of course, Turkey will still have to contend with Russia. Moscow will do whatever it can to play off the fears of the NATO alliance. If a buffer zone were established in Syria and if Turkey, a NATO member, tried to protect the airspace over the zone, who would shoot down the Russian air force in the event that it crossed into the zone? In Brussels, Erdogan reiterated that "an attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO." But if NATO proves too afraid of the consequences of responding to Russian interference, then NATO's credibility will have been dealt a major blow. And that is exactly the outcome the Russians are hoping for.
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Important Read: Why Turkey can't sell a Syrian Safe Zone on: November 26, 2015, 06:57:20 PM

Why Turkey Can't Sell a Syrian Safe Zone
Geopolitical Diary
October 7, 2015 | 01:24 GMT Text Size

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Brussels on Tuesday with an ambitious agenda: to promote the establishment of a "safe zone" in northern Syria. Erdogan can see that the Europeans have no good solutions to their immigration crisis other than to manipulate the route and flow of migrants. The latest idea gaining traction in a host of European capitals is to keep the hundreds of thousands of people trying to cross the Mediterranean off of Europe's shores by bottling them up closer to home instead. Brussels would, of course, pay Ankara to take care of its problem by housing more refugees traveling overland. But Turkey, which already hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians and has spent $7.6 billion on the refugee crisis so far, isn't buying into Europe's offer. Erdogan wants more. Much more.

Now that Turkey has Europe's attention and Russia has blindsided the United States in Syria, Erdogan is attempting to use the chaotic climate to dust off his plans for a Syrian safe zone. The Turkish version of a safe zone entails reinforcing rebel forces that are friendly with Turkey to flush out the Islamic State from a zone measuring 80 kilometers (50 miles) by 40 kilometers in Syria's northern Aleppo province. A no-fly zone, according to the Turkish proposal, would accompany the safe zone. Once the zone is declared safe and free of terrorist activity, refugee camps would be set up and Syrian migrants could live within their country's borders again.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

The motives behind Turkey's plan are many and thickly layered. Most important, Turkey needs to avoid augmenting the burden migrants are placing on it at home while its economy is deteriorating. Second, Turkey is legitimately threatened by the Islamic State and wants to create as much distance as possible between its borders and those of the self-proclaimed caliphate. But the reasons don't stop there. Turkey can see that its southern neighbor will be fragmented for the foreseeable future. Ankara does not want to eradicate the Islamic State only to see Kurdish forces take its place. Rather, it wants to establish a physical foothold in northern Syria to ensure that the Kurds cannot create a viable autonomous state that could exacerbate Turkey's own Kurdish problem at home.

There is also a broader objective framing Turkey's strategy. A divided Syria undoubtedly creates risk, but it also presents an opportunity for Turkey to expand its sphere of influence in the Levant. This is the main driver behind Turkey's campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government and replace it with a Sunni Islamist-led administration that takes its cues from Ankara. After all, someone would have to provide security to make the zone in northern Syria "safe"; Turkish forces and civilian personnel presumably would take the lead in reinforcing such a corridor, potentially placing Turkish boots back on Arab soil.

Meanwhile, there is a murkier motive to consider. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party will enter the Nov. 2 elections with a low chance of winning enough votes to regain its majority in parliament. The likelihood of the elections resulting in another hung parliament, coupled with Erdogan's reluctance to share power, raises the potential (albeit in an extreme scenario) for Turkey to use the premise of a military operation in Syria to stave off a third round of elections.

But Russia is botching Turkey's plans. Russia, Turkey and NATO are still arguing over whether two alleged Russian violations of Turkish airspace near the Syrian border were intentional (as Turkey and NATO claim) or accidental (as Russia insists they were). Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday that Russia was ready to form a working group and that it would be pleased to host Turkish Defense Ministry officials in Moscow to avoid further misunderstandings in Syria. Ankara has no choice but to interpret Russia's actions as a signal that Moscow is willing to interfere in a Turkish-led safe zone if Ankara tries to push ahead with its plans.

Moscow's strategy has already begun to bear fruit. The European officials who met with Erdogan in Brussels listened politely to his ideas for a safe zone and promised to discuss the idea further. But no European power wants to risk getting mixed up with a brazen Russia on the Syrian battlefield. The Europeans would rather bargain with Erdogan on issues such as visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and Turkey's acceptance of more migrants on the Continent's behalf instead.

The United States has kept Turkey's safe zone plan at arm's length for similar reasons. However, Russia's military adventurism in Syria is accelerating U.S. plans for a rebel offensive that could still at least partially fit with Turkey's interests.

In the coming months, the United States will be focused on the areas east and west of the Euphrates River. To the east, the United States will ramp up its support for Kurdish forces and their allies in preparation for a move toward Raqqa against the Islamic State. Greater U.S. support for Kurdish forces will not please Turkish leaders, but the United States' simultaneous boost in aid for the rebels Turkey has been preparing to the west will. Here, the United States and Turkey will work together to try to carve out a border zone free of the Islamic State's presence. The Americans are avoiding the label of a safe zone to keep the operation from conflating with Turkey's more ambitious agenda. Nonetheless, the United States will be indirectly taking the first crucial steps toward Turkey's ultimate goals for northern Syria.

Of course, Turkey will still have to contend with Russia. Moscow will do whatever it can to play off the fears of the NATO alliance. If a buffer zone were established in Syria and if Turkey, a NATO member, tried to protect the airspace over the zone, who would shoot down the Russian air force in the event that it crossed into the zone? In Brussels, Erdogan reiterated that "an attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO." But if NATO proves too afraid of the consequences of responding to Russian interference, then NATO's credibility will have been dealt a major blow. And that is exactly the outcome the Russians are hoping for.
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Important Read: Why Turkey can't sell a Syrian Safe Zone on: November 26, 2015, 06:56:37 PM

Why Turkey Can't Sell a Syrian Safe Zone
Geopolitical Diary
October 7, 2015 | 01:24 GMT Text Size

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Brussels on Tuesday with an ambitious agenda: to promote the establishment of a "safe zone" in northern Syria. Erdogan can see that the Europeans have no good solutions to their immigration crisis other than to manipulate the route and flow of migrants. The latest idea gaining traction in a host of European capitals is to keep the hundreds of thousands of people trying to cross the Mediterranean off of Europe's shores by bottling them up closer to home instead. Brussels would, of course, pay Ankara to take care of its problem by housing more refugees traveling overland. But Turkey, which already hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians and has spent $7.6 billion on the refugee crisis so far, isn't buying into Europe's offer. Erdogan wants more. Much more.

Now that Turkey has Europe's attention and Russia has blindsided the United States in Syria, Erdogan is attempting to use the chaotic climate to dust off his plans for a Syrian safe zone. The Turkish version of a safe zone entails reinforcing rebel forces that are friendly with Turkey to flush out the Islamic State from a zone measuring 80 kilometers (50 miles) by 40 kilometers in Syria's northern Aleppo province. A no-fly zone, according to the Turkish proposal, would accompany the safe zone. Once the zone is declared safe and free of terrorist activity, refugee camps would be set up and Syrian migrants could live within their country's borders again.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

The motives behind Turkey's plan are many and thickly layered. Most important, Turkey needs to avoid augmenting the burden migrants are placing on it at home while its economy is deteriorating. Second, Turkey is legitimately threatened by the Islamic State and wants to create as much distance as possible between its borders and those of the self-proclaimed caliphate. But the reasons don't stop there. Turkey can see that its southern neighbor will be fragmented for the foreseeable future. Ankara does not want to eradicate the Islamic State only to see Kurdish forces take its place. Rather, it wants to establish a physical foothold in northern Syria to ensure that the Kurds cannot create a viable autonomous state that could exacerbate Turkey's own Kurdish problem at home.

There is also a broader objective framing Turkey's strategy. A divided Syria undoubtedly creates risk, but it also presents an opportunity for Turkey to expand its sphere of influence in the Levant. This is the main driver behind Turkey's campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government and replace it with a Sunni Islamist-led administration that takes its cues from Ankara. After all, someone would have to provide security to make the zone in northern Syria "safe"; Turkish forces and civilian personnel presumably would take the lead in reinforcing such a corridor, potentially placing Turkish boots back on Arab soil.

Meanwhile, there is a murkier motive to consider. Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party will enter the Nov. 2 elections with a low chance of winning enough votes to regain its majority in parliament. The likelihood of the elections resulting in another hung parliament, coupled with Erdogan's reluctance to share power, raises the potential (albeit in an extreme scenario) for Turkey to use the premise of a military operation in Syria to stave off a third round of elections.

But Russia is botching Turkey's plans. Russia, Turkey and NATO are still arguing over whether two alleged Russian violations of Turkish airspace near the Syrian border were intentional (as Turkey and NATO claim) or accidental (as Russia insists they were). Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Tuesday that Russia was ready to form a working group and that it would be pleased to host Turkish Defense Ministry officials in Moscow to avoid further misunderstandings in Syria. Ankara has no choice but to interpret Russia's actions as a signal that Moscow is willing to interfere in a Turkish-led safe zone if Ankara tries to push ahead with its plans.

Moscow's strategy has already begun to bear fruit. The European officials who met with Erdogan in Brussels listened politely to his ideas for a safe zone and promised to discuss the idea further. But no European power wants to risk getting mixed up with a brazen Russia on the Syrian battlefield. The Europeans would rather bargain with Erdogan on issues such as visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and Turkey's acceptance of more migrants on the Continent's behalf instead.

The United States has kept Turkey's safe zone plan at arm's length for similar reasons. However, Russia's military adventurism in Syria is accelerating U.S. plans for a rebel offensive that could still at least partially fit with Turkey's interests.

In the coming months, the United States will be focused on the areas east and west of the Euphrates River. To the east, the United States will ramp up its support for Kurdish forces and their allies in preparation for a move toward Raqqa against the Islamic State. Greater U.S. support for Kurdish forces will not please Turkish leaders, but the United States' simultaneous boost in aid for the rebels Turkey has been preparing to the west will. Here, the United States and Turkey will work together to try to carve out a border zone free of the Islamic State's presence. The Americans are avoiding the label of a safe zone to keep the operation from conflating with Turkey's more ambitious agenda. Nonetheless, the United States will be indirectly taking the first crucial steps toward Turkey's ultimate goals for northern Syria.

Of course, Turkey will still have to contend with Russia. Moscow will do whatever it can to play off the fears of the NATO alliance. If a buffer zone were established in Syria and if Turkey, a NATO member, tried to protect the airspace over the zone, who would shoot down the Russian air force in the event that it crossed into the zone? In Brussels, Erdogan reiterated that "an attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO." But if NATO proves too afraid of the consequences of responding to Russian interference, then NATO's credibility will have been dealt a major blow. And that is exactly the outcome the Russians are hoping for.
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Geopolitics of Thanksgiving on: November 26, 2015, 06:52:18 PM
Editor's Note: In light of the U.S. celebration of Thanksgiving, we are republishing this November 2014 piece explaining the geopolitical and historical context of the Plymouth colony.

The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation's small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England's successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England's place in it unsure. Moreover, England was going through a period of internal instability that would culminate in the unthinkable — civil war in 1642 and regicide in 1649. England's colonies were born from this situation, and the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the little-known colony of Providence Island in the Caribbean were part of a broader Puritan geopolitical strategy to solve England's problems.

Throughout the first half of the 17th century, England was wracked by internal divisions that would lead to civil war in 1642. Religion was a huge part of this. The dispute was over the direction of the Church of England. Some factions favored "high" church practices that involved elaborate ritual. The Puritans, by contrast, wanted to clear the national religion of what they considered Catholic traces. This religious crisis compounded a political crisis at the highest levels of government, pitting Parliament against the monarchy.

By the beginning of the 17th century, England had undergone centralizing reforms that gave the king and his Parliament unrestricted power to make laws. Balance was needed. The king had the power to call Parliament into session and dismiss it. Parliament had the power to grant him vital funds needed for war or to pay down debt. However, Parliament had powerful Puritan factions that sought not only to advance their sectarian cause but also to advance the power of Parliament beyond its constraints. Kings James I and his son Charles I, for their part, sought to gain an unrestrained hold on power that would enable them to make decisive strategic choices abroad. They relied, internally and externally, on Catholics, crypto-Catholics and high church advocates — exacerbating the displeasure of Parliament.

Both kings continually fought with Parliament over funding for the monarchy's debt and for new ventures. Both dissolved Parliament several times; Charles ultimately did so for a full 11 years beginning in 1629.
Europe in 1600

Click to enlarge
Europe in 1600

Spain was England's major strategic problem on the Continent. Protestant England saw itself as under constant threat from the Catholic powers in Europe. This led to problems when the people came to see their leaders, James I and his son Charles, as insufficiently hostile to Spain and insufficiently committed to the Protestant cause on the Continent. In order to stop mounting debt, shortly after taking power James made the unpopular move of ending a war with Spain that England had been waging alongside the Netherlands since 1585. In 1618, the Thirty Years' War broke out in the German states — a war that, in part, pitted Protestants against Catholics and spread throughout Central Europe. James did not wish to become involved in the war. In 1620, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, a relative of Spain's King Philip III, pushed Frederick V, the Protestant son-in-law of England's King James, out of his lands in Bohemia, and Spain attacked Frederick in his other lands in the Rhineland. The English monarchy called for a defense of Frederick but was unwilling to commit to significant military action to aid him.

Puritan factions in Parliament, however, wanted England to strike at Spain directly by attacking Spanish shipments from the Americas, which could have paid for itself in captured goods. To make matters worse, from 1614 to 1623, James I pursued an unpopular plan to marry his son Charles to the Catholic daughter of Philip III of Spain — a plan called the "Spanish Match." Instead, Charles I ended up marrying the Catholic daughter of the king of France in 1625. This contributed to the impression that James and Charles were too friendly with Spain and Catholicism, or even were secret Catholics. Many Puritans and other zealous promoters of the Protestant cause began to feel that they had to look outside of the English government to further their cause.

Amid this complex constellation of Continental powers and England's own internal incoherence, a group of Puritan leaders in Parliament, who would later play a pivotal role in the English Civil War, focused on the geopolitical factors that were troubling England. Issues of finance and Spanish power were at the core. A group of them struck on the idea of establishing a set of Puritan colonial ventures in the Americas that would simultaneously serve to unseat Spain from her colonial empire and enrich England, tipping the geopolitical balance. In this they were continuing Elizabeth I's strategy of 1585, when she started a privateer war in the Atlantic and Caribbean to capture Spanish treasure ships bound from the Americas. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were part of this early vision, but they were both far too remote to challenge the Spanish, and the group believed that the area's climate precluded it from being a source of vast wealth from cash crops. New England, however, was safe from Spanish aggression and could serve as a suitable starting point for a colonial push into the heart of Spanish territory.
The Effects of Spanish Colonization

Spain's 1492 voyage to the Americas and subsequent colonization had changed Europe indelibly by the 17th century. It had complicated each nation's efforts to achieve a favorable balance of power. As the vanguard of settlement in the New World, Spain and Portugal were the clear winners. From their mines, especially the Spanish silver mine in Potosi, American precious metals began to flow into their government coffers in significant amounts beginning in 1520, with a major uptick after 1550. Traditionally a resource-poor and fragmented nation, Spain now had a reliable revenue source to pursue its global ambitions.
Spanish Colonies

Click to enlarge
Spanish Colonies

This new economic power added to Spain's already advantageous position. At a time when England, France and the Netherlands were internally divided between opposing sectarian groups, Spain was solidly Catholic. As a result of its unity, Spain's elites generally pursued a more coherent foreign policy. Moreover, Spain had ties across the Continent. Charles V was both king of Spain and Holy Roman emperor, making him the most powerful man of his era. He abdicated in 1556, two years before his death, and divided his territories among his heirs. His son, Philip II of Spain, and Charles' brother, Ferdinand I, inherited the divided dominions and retained their ties to each other, giving them power throughout the Continent and territory surrounding France.

Despite having no successful colonies until the beginning of the 17th century, England did see some major benefits from the discovery of the Americas. The addition of the Western Atlantic to Europe's map and the influx of trade goods from that direction fundamentally altered trade routes in Europe, shifting them from their previous intense focus on the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean to encompass an ocean on which England held a unique strategic position. The nearby Netherlands — recently free from Spain — enjoyed a similar position and, along with England, took a major new role in shipping. By the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch had a merchant fleet as large as all others combined in Europe and were competing for lands in the New World. Sweden, another major European naval power, also held a few possessions in North America and the Caribbean. (This led to curious events such as "New Sweden," a colony located along the Delaware River, falling under Dutch control in the 1650s and becoming part of the "New Netherlands.")
England's Drive Into the New World

In spite of its gains in maritime commerce, England was still far behind Spain and Portugal in the Americas. The Iberian nations had established a strong hold on South America, Central America and the southern portions of North America, including the Caribbean. Much of North America, however, remained relatively untouched. It did not possess the proven mineral wealth of the south but it had a wealth of natural capital — fisheries, timber, furs and expanses of fertile soil.

However, much of the population of the Americas was in a band in central Mexico, meaning that the vast pools of labor available to the Spanish and Portuguese were not present elsewhere in North America. Instead, England and other colonial powers would need to bring their own labor. They were at a demographic advantage in this regard. Since the 16th century, the Continent's population had exploded. The British Isles and Northwest Europe grew the most, with England expanding from 2.6 million in 1500 to around 5.6 million by 1650. By contrast, the eastern woodlands of North America in 1600 had around 200,000 inhabitants — the population of London. Recent catastrophic epidemics brought by seasonal European fishermen and traders further decimated the population, especially that of New England. The disaster directly benefited Plymouth, which was built on the site of the deserted town of Patuxet and used native cleared and cultivated land.

After its founding in 1620, Plymouth was alone in New England for a decade and struggled to become profitable. It was the first foothold, however, for a great Puritan push into the region. In time, this push would subsume the tiny separatist colony within the larger sphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This new colony's numbers were much higher: The first wave in 1630 brought 700 English settlers to Salem, and by 1640 there were 11,000 living in the region.

Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were different from nearby Virginia. Virginia was initially solely a business venture, and its colonists provided the manpower. New England, by contrast, was a settler society of families from the start. Both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were started by English Puritans — Christian sectarians critical of the state-run Church of England. Plymouth's settlers were Puritan separatists who wanted no connection to England. Massachusetts Bay's colonists were non-separatist Puritans who believed in reforming the church. For both, creating polities in North America furthered their sectarian political goals. The pilgrims wanted to establish a separate godly society to escape persecution; the Puritans of Salem wanted to establish a beacon that would serve to change England by example. Less known, however, is that the financial backers of the New England colonies had a more ambitious goal of which New England was only the initial phase.

In this plan, Massachusetts was to provide profit to its investors, but it was also to serve as a way station from which they could then send settlers to a small colony they simultaneously founded on Providence Island off the Miskito Coast of modern Nicaragua. This island, now part of Colombia, was in the heart of the Spanish Caribbean and was meant to alter the geopolitics of Central America and bring it under English control. It was in this way that they hoped to solve England's geostrategic problems on the Continent and advance their own political agenda.

Providence was an uninhabited island in an area where the Spanish had not established deep roots. The island was a natural fortress, with a coral reef that made approach difficult and high, craggy rocks that helped in defense. It also had sheltered harbors and pockets of fertile land that could be used for production of food and cash crops.

It would serve, in their mind, as the perfect first foothold for England in the lucrative tropical regions of the Americas, from which it could trade with nearby native polities. In the short run, Providence was a base of operations, but in the long run it was to be a launchpad for an ambitious project to unseat Spain in the Americas and take Central America for England. In keeping with Puritan ideals, Providence was to be the same sort of "godly" society as Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth, just a more profitable one. Providence Island would enable the English to harry Spanish ships, bring in profit to end disputes with the crown and bolster the Protestant position in the Thirty Years' War.

But while Massachusetts Bay would succeed, Providence would fail utterly. Both Massachusetts Bay and Providence Island received their first shipment of Puritan settlers in 1630. Providence was expected to yield immense profits, while Massachusetts was expected to be a tougher venture. Both were difficult, but Providence's constraints proved fatal. The island did not establish a cash crop economy and its attempts to trade with native groups on the mainland were not fruitful.

The island's geopolitical position in Spanish military territory meant that it needed to obsessively focus on security. This proved its downfall. After numerous attacks and several successful raids on Spanish trade on the coast, the investors decided in 1641 to initiate plans to move colonists down from Massachusetts Bay to Providence. Spanish forces received intelligence of this plan and took the island with a massive force, ending England's control.
Puritan Legacies

The 1641 invasion ended English settlement on the island, which subsequently became a Spanish military depot. The Puritans left little legacy there. New England, however, flourished. It became, in time, the nearest replica of English political life outside of the British Isles and a key regional component of the Thirteen Colonies and, later, the United States. It was the center of an agricultural order based on individual farmers and families and later of the United States' early manufacturing power. England sorted out its internal turmoil not by altering its geopolitical position externally — a project that faced serious resource and geographical constraints — but through massive internal upheaval during the English Civil War.

The celebration of the fruits of the Plymouth Colony's brutal first year is the byproduct of England's struggle against Spain on the Continent and in the New World. Thus, the most celebrated meal in America comes with a side of geopolitics.
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We are fuct on: November 26, 2015, 03:06:43 PM
IMHO this is an EXTREMELY significant development:

My initial snap impressions:

We just lost dominance of the skies.

Israel just lost dominance of the skies.

Russia-Iranian-Shia Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah arc will solidify.  

Iran is going nuclear and will develop further its already significant missile capablilties.  Iran will continue to foment in Yemen, Saudi Arabia already cannot handle the pressure and Shia Saudi Arabia, now more brazenly supported by Iran, will get increasingly more restless.  This will apply to the tiny countries the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula as well.  The position of the House of Saud will become increasingly tenuous-- its' fall is a possibility.

I'm not seeing ANY viable strategy for us in the Middle East.

Russia is now in a position to disrespect a NATO ally Turkey to legally defend the skies of Syria at Syria's request.

Russia is now in a position to fukc further with West/US in Ukraine.

Russia is now in a position to further destabilize NATO further with intimidation tactics with regard to NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

France will turn increasingly to alliance with Russia (remember those navy assault ships they were so set upon selling to the Russians?) and left in the middle so too will Germany as it deals with one million new Arab Muslim refugee invaders.

What will happen with the Euro Union?  The Euro?  Free movement?  Will they survive?

Russia is now in a position to nakedly assert its power play in the Arctic.

China will seal its control of the South China Sea.

Islam will destabilize Europe.

American homeland is now in cross hairs of Islamic Fascism.

Happy Thanksgiving , , ,
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: November 26, 2015, 11:32:56 AM
 shocked shocked shocked angry angry angry
34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Obama has just begun on: November 26, 2015, 01:53:54 AM
 Obama Has Just Begun
How much damage can he do in his last year in office?
By Victor Davis Hanson — November 24, 2015

Insidiously and inadvertently, Barack Obama is alienating the people and moving the country to the right. If he keeps it up, by 2017 it will be a reactionary nation. But, counterintuitive as it seems, that is fine with Obama: Après nous le déluge.

By sheer force of his personality, Obama has managed to lose the Democratic Senate and House. State legislatures and governorships are now predominantly Republican. Obama’s own favorable ratings rarely top 45 percent. In his mind, great men, whether Socrates or Jesus, were never appreciated in their time. So it is not surprising that he is not, as he presses full speed ahead.

Obama certainly has doubled down going into his last year, most recently insisting on letting in more refugees from the Middle East, at a time when the children of Middle Eastern immigrants and contemporary migrants are terrorizing Europe. What remaining unpopular executive acts might anger his opponents the most? Close down Guantanamo, let thousands more refugees into the United States, free thousands more felons, snub another ally, flatter another enemy, weigh in on another interracial melodrama, extend amnesty to another million illegal aliens, make global warming laws by fiat, expand Obamacare, unilaterally impose gun control? In lieu of achievement, is the Obama theory to become relevant or noteworthy by offending the public and goading political enemies?

An Obama press conference is now a summation of all his old damn-you clichés — the fantasy strawman arguments; the caricatures of the evil Republican bogeymen; the demagogic litany of the sick, the innocent, and the old at the mercy of his callous opponents; the affected accentuation (e.g., Talîban; Pakîstan, Îslám, Latînos, etc.) that so many autodidacts parade in lieu of learning foreign languages; the make-no-mistake-about-it and let-me-be-clear empty emphatics; the flashing temper tantrums; the mangled sports metaphors; the factual gaffes; and the monotonous I, me, my, and mine first-person-pronoun exhaustion. What Obama cannot do in fact, he believes he can still accomplish through invective and derision.

In the 2016 election campaigns, most Democratic candidates in swing states will have distanced themselves from the last eight years. Otherwise, they would have to run on the patently false premise that American health care is more affordable and more comprehensive today than it was in 2009; that workforce participation is booming; that scandals are a thing of the past; that the debt has been addressed; that Obama has proved a healer who brought the country together; that immigration at last is ordered, legal, and logical; that the law has never been more respected and honored; that racial relations are calmer than ever; that the campuses are quiet; that the so-called war on terror is now over and won with al-Qaeda and ISIS contained or on the run; that U.S. prestige aboard has never been higher; that our allies appreciate our help and our enemies fear our wrath; that Iran will now not go nuclear; that Israel is secure and assured of our support; and that, thanks to American action, Egypt is stable, Libya is ascendant, Iraq is still consensual, and the Middle East in general is at last quiet after the tumultuous years of George W. Bush.

The hordes of young male migrants abandoning the Middle East for the West are merely analogous to past waves of immigrants and should be uniformly welcome. For Obama,  there is no connection between them and his slashing of American involvement in the Middle East — much less any sense of responsibility that his own actions helped produce the crisis he now fobs off on others.

If an American president saw fit to attack fellow Americans from abroad, and lecture them on their illiberality, there are better places from which to take such a low road than from Turkey, the embryo of 20th-century genocide, and a country whose soccer crowds were recently shouting, “Allahu akbar!” during what was supposed to be a moment of silence offered to the Paris dead. Surely an American president might suggest that such grassroots religious triumphalism about mass death is much more reprehensible behavior than are his own fellow citizens’ demands to vet the backgrounds of refugees.

If you suggested to Obama that, in his search for a contrarian legacy, he should do something to stop the slaughter in the Middle East and be careful about letting in more unexamined refugees, in answer, he would be more likely to do less than nothing abroad and vastly expand the influx of migrants. Getting under his critics’ skin is about all that is left of a failed presidency.

Many of our observers still do not quite grasp that Obama will end his presidency by seeking to get his opponents’ goat — and that his resentment will lead to some strange things said and done.

Few foresaw this critical element of the Obama character. The tiny number of prescient pundits who warned what the Obama years would entail were not the supposedly sober and judicious establishment voices, who in fact seemed to be caught up in the hope-and-change euphoria and missed entirely Obama’s petulance and pique: the Evan Thomases (“he’s sort of god”), or the David Brookses (“and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant, and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” “It is easy to sketch out a scenario in which [Obama] could be a great president.”), or the Chris Matthewses (“the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”), or the Michael Beschlosses (“Uh. I would say it’s probably — he’s probably the smartest guy ever to become President.”), or the Chris Buckleys (“He has exhibited throughout a ‘first-class temperament,’ pace Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s famous comment about FDR. As for his intellect, well, he’s a Harvard man”), or the Kathleen Parkers (“ . . . with solemn prayers that Obama will govern as the centrist, pragmatic leader he is capable of being”), or the Peggy Noonans (“He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief.”).

In truth, it was the loud, sometimes shrill, and caricatured voices of talk radio, the so-called crazy Republican House members, and the grassroots loudmouths of what would become the Tea Party who had Obama’s number. They warned early on that Barack Obama’s record was that of a petulant extremist, that his writing presaged that he would borrow and spend like no other president, that his past associations gave warning that he would use his community-organizing skills cynically to divide Americans along racial lines, that nothing in his past had ever suggested anything other than radicalism and an ease with divisive speech, that his votes as a state legislator and as a U.S. senator suggested that he had an instinctual dislike of the entrepreneur and the self-made businessman, and that his past rhetoric advised that he would ignore settled law and instead would rule by fiat — that he would render immigration law null and void, that he would diminish the profile of America abroad, and that he would do all this because he was an ideologue, with no history of bipartisanship but a lot of animus toward his critics, and one who saw no ethical or practical reason to appreciate the more than 60 years of America’s postwar global leadership and the world that it had built. Again, the despised right-wingers were right and the more moderate establishment quite wrong.

Abroad, from Obama’s post-Paris speeches, it is clear that he is now bored with and irritated by the War on Terror. He seems to have believed either that Islamist global terror was a minor distraction with no potential for real harm other than to bring right-wingers in backlash fashion out of the woodwork, or that it was an understandably radical manifestation of what was otherwise a legitimate complaint of Islam against the Western-dominated global system — thus requiring contextualization rather than mindless opposition.

A lot of ambitious and dangerous powers are watching Obama assume a fetal position, and may well as a consequence act foolishly and recklessly this next year. Not only Russia, China, and North Korea, but also Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, ISIS, and assorted rogue states may take chances in the next 14 months that they would otherwise never have entertained (given that America is innately strong and they are mostly in comparison far weaker) — on the premise that such adventurism offers tangible advantages without likely negative consequences and that the chance for such opportunities will not present itself again for decades to come.

At home, Obama feels liberated now that he is free from further elections. He thinks he has a legitimate right to be a bit vindictive and vent his own frustrations and pique, heretofore repressed over the last seven years because of the exigencies of Democratic electioneering. Obama can now vent and strike back at his opponents, caricaturing them from abroad, questioning their patriotism, slandering them for sport, and trying to figure out which emblematic executive orders and extra-legal bureaucratic directives will most infuriate them and repay them for their supposed culpability for his failed vero possumus presidency.

The more contrarian he becomes, and the more he opposes the wishes of the vast majority of the American people, all the more Obama envisions himself speaking truth to power and becoming iconic of something rather than the reality that he is becoming proof of nothing.

Hold on. We haven’t seen anything yet.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.
35  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WI appeals court upholds Second Amendment knife rights on: November 25, 2015, 10:30:30 PM
Wisconsin Appeals Court Upholds Second Amendment Argument in Switchblade Possession Case

Applying the Second Amendment to knives as arms and the groundbreaking Heller U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that it was illegal for someone to possess a switchblade (automatic) knife in their home. The court concluded that the Second Amendment protects knives as well as guns, one of Knife Rights' foundational principles.

As such, this decision, albeit narrow as was required by Wisconsin law, held that at least with regards to switchblades at home, Wisconsin's ban is unconstitutional. Knife Rights believes such bans are entirely unconstitutional. Having said that, Knife Rights Wisconsin Knife Law Reform bill, AB 142 would remove this prohibition altogether, as well as enact Knife Law Preemption, resolving the issue entirely. AB 142 has passed the House and awaits a vote in the Senate.     
The case arose when Cory Herrmann, the defendant, was injured in his home. Showing his switchblade knife to a friend, Herrmann dropped the knife and cut his femoral artery. After 911 was called, officers responding to the scene seized the switchblade and subsequently Herrmann was charged with illegal possession.
While AB 142 will hopefully settle the issue for good in Wisconsin, this decision is part of an evolving body of law protecting knife ownership and carry that was summarized in the first detailed scholarly analysis of knives and the Second Amendment published in 2013 and authored by noted Second Amendment scholars Dave Kopel, Clayton Cramer and Joe Olson. Read "Knives and the Second Amendment" here:
Some enlightening quotes from the Court of Appeals decision:
You can read the court's decision here: 
"Although the Heller Court emphasized that handguns are frequently used for self-defense, we do not think Heller can be read to create different levels of protection for different types of arms that fall under the Second Amendment, based on their popularity. In addition, it is not particularly surprising that handguns are more prevalent than switchblades, given that switchblades were banned or severely restricted in many states, including Wisconsin, beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s."
 A key point is that the court also rejected the state's intellectually bankrupt argument that only a subset of knives was banned and that alternative knives were available, "Herrmann could have easily used a non- prohibited weapon for his protection. The statutory ban on switchblade knives does not unreasonably impair Herrmann's right to keep and bear arms." The Second Amendment, supported by Heller and other decisions, doesn't differentiate between types of arms. The court held, "The State...failed, to the extent necessary after Heller, to show that Herrmann had reasonable alternative means to exercise his Second Amendment right to bear arms."
The court also noted some advantages switchblades have over guns, "For safety reasons people with children may not want guns around the house. People with limited financial resources who may not be able to afford a proper gun likely would be able to afford an effective $10 automatic knife. Finally, for people who are excluded from lawful gun ownership, an automatic knife may be the most effective arm available."
"The State argues that [the switchblade ban] serves an important governmental objective - namely, protecting the public from the danger of potentially lethal surprise attacks posed by individuals using switchblade knives. However, the State cites no evidence to establish that this danger actually exists to any significant degree. Again, the State has the burden to establish that [the switchblade ban] satisfies intermediate scrutiny, and it must do so by showing the existence of real, not merely conjectural, harm... Thus, on the record before us, we are not convinced that [the switchblade ban] serves an important governmental objective."
36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iman who issued death fatwa gets DOJ contract on: November 25, 2015, 10:15:50 PM
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / History and Legacy of Thankgiving on: November 25, 2015, 05:02:03 PM
The History and Legacy of Thanksgiving

    "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." —Psalm 100:4-5

Thanksgiving, as introduced by European explorers and settlers in the "New World," was a time set aside specifically for the purpose of giving thanks to our Creator for His manifold blessings.

The earliest record of a thanksgiving in America is 1541 by Spanish explorer Coronado at Palo Duro Canyon in what is now Texas. French Protestant colonists at Charlesfort (now Parris Island, South Carolina) held a thanksgiving service in 1564. In 1607, the Jamestown settlers held thanksgiving at Cape Henry, Virginia, and there are many other records of such hallowed observances.

The first call for an annual Thanksgiving was at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, in 1619, when Captain John Woodlief and 38 settlers aboard the ship Margaret, proclaimed, "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacion in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

But the contemporary celebration of Thanksgiving across our nation has its roots in the first "harvest feast" celebrated in 1621 by religious refugees, Pilgrims, who established the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, in the year 1620. According to the fact that most history books following the War Between the States were written by Northern historians, it is that iconic event which is most directly associated with the current traditions for our national Day of Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims

Who were these "freedom men"?

They were Puritan "separatists" -- Calvinist Protestants, most under the leadership of pastor John Robinson, church elder William Brewster, and William Bradford. They rejected the institutional Church of England, believing that worshipping God must originate freely in the individual soul, without coercion.

Suffering persecution and imprisonment in England for their beliefs, these separatists fled to Holland in 1608. There, they found the spiritual liberty they sought, but amid a disjointed economy and a dissolute, degraded, corrupt culture that tempted their children to stray from faith. Determined to protect their families from such spiritual and cultural degradation, the Pilgrims returned to Plymouth, England, where they arranged for passage to the New World.

Their long and dangerous voyage was funded by the London Company, the "merchant adventurers" (investors) whose objective was to establish a communal plantation "company" upon which the "planters" would be obligated to work for seven years in order to return the investment with premium. "The adventurers & planters do agree that every person that goeth being aged 16 years & upward ... be accounted a single share.... The persons transported & ye adventurers shall continue their joint stock & partnership together, ye space of 7 years ... during which time, all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means of any person or persons, remain still in ye common stock.... That all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provision out of ye common stock & goods.... That at ye end of ye 7 years, ye capital & profits, viz. the houses, lands, goods and chattels, be equally divided betwixt ye adventurers, and planters."

On September 6th, 1620, aboard a 100 foot ship named Mayflower, 102 Pilgrims and 30 crew members departed for America, a place that offered the promise of both civil and religious liberty. Among those in command of the expedition were Christopher Martin, designated by the Merchant Adventurers to act as Governor, and Myles Standish, who would be the colony's military leader.

After an arduous eight week journey, on November 11 they dropped anchor at Provincetown Harbor off the coast of what is now Massachusetts.

On 11 December 1620, prior to disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they signed the Mayflower Compact, America's original document of civil government. It was the first to introduce self-government, and the foundation on which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were built. Plymouth Colony's Governor, William Bradford, described the Compact as "a combination ... that when they came a shore they would use their owne libertie; for none had power to command them."

The First Harvest Thanksgiving Feast

Upon making landfall, the Pilgrims conducted a prayer service and quickly turned to building shelters. They committed all their belongings to a "comone wealth." Under harrowing conditions, the colonists persisted through prayer and hard work, but the Winter of 1621 was devastating and only 53 of the original party survived. William Bradford wrote, "of these one hundred persons who came over in this first ship together, the greatest half died in the general mortality, and most of them in two or three months' time."

However, with the help of the indigenous "Indians" in the region, the summer of 1621 was productive as recorded by Bradford in his diary: "They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion."

In addition to their regular expressions of reverence and thanksgiving to God, by the Autumn of 1621 the surviving 53 Pilgrims had enough produce to hold a three day "harvest feast." That feast was described in the journal of Edward Winslow: "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

The Pilgrims endured another harsh winter, but had put up enough stores to survive.

The Collectivist Plantation Plan

Endeavoring to improve the production at Plymouth Plantation for its second growing season in 1622, Governor Bradford implemented a collectivist policy, and noted that to increase production, he allotted each family a plot of land, and mandated that "all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means" must be forfeited to a common storehouse in order that "all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock."

In theory, their Governor thought the colony would thrive because each family would receive equal share of produce without regard to their contribution. Unfortunately, then as always, collectivism only works in theory, and the new policy almost destroyed the Plymouth settlement. Indeed, collectivism is antithetical to human nature, and destined to fail, as Plato's student Aristotle observed in 350 BC: "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it." But to this day, many still fail to grasp the "tragedy of the commons."

After abysmal results in 1622, Bradford realized that his collectivist plan had undermined the incentive to produce. He wrote, "The failure of that experiment of communal service ... the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth ... was found to breed much confusion and discontent; and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit.... For the young men who were most able and fit for service objected to being forced to spend their time and strength in working for other men's wives and children, without any recompense.... The strong man or the resourceful man had no more share of food, clothes, etc., than the weak man who was not able to do a quarter the other could. This was thought injustice. The aged and graver men, who were ranked and equalized in labor, food, clothes, etc., with the humbler and younger ones, thought it some indignity and disrespect to them."

The women "who were obliged to do service for other men, such as cooking, washing their clothes, etc., they considered it a kind of slavery, and many husbands would not brook it...."

"If all were to share alike, and all were to do alike," wrote Bradford, "then all were on an equality throughout, and one was as good as another; and so, if it did not actually abolish those very relations which God himself has set among men, it did at least greatly diminish the mutual respect that is so important should be preserved amongst them. Let none argue that this is due to human failing, rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself...."

The Free Enterprise Plan

Responding to the failed economic plantation plan, the Colony leaders "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery," Bradford recorded in his journal. "At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."

They decided to trade their collectivist plan for a free market approach, and in 1623, Bradford wrote, "This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any other means the Governor or any other could use. ... Women went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn. Instead of famine now God gave them plenty and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many. ... Any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day."

Property ownership and families freely laboring on their own behalf replaced the "common store," but only after their ill-advised experiment with communism nearly wiped out the entire settlement.

The Colony celebrated a much greater Harvest and Thanksgiving Day in 1623 as called for by Bradford's proclamation:

"Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings."

After the Pilgrims were given liberty and incentive to be industrious, the Colony thrived, and by 1624, production was so abundant that the Colony exported corn back to England. For generations since, to the extent men have been set at perfect liberty to establish free enterprise, to produce goods and services without having profits seized for redistribution, our nation has thrived.

The Pilgrims' Legacy of Civil Liberty

The Puritans seeded democratic self government and free enterprise in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but demonstrated much of the same religious intolerance they had fled in England. Having broken ground for religious Liberty, at least for themselves, in the 20 years following the establishment of Plymouth Plantation, more than 25,000 men, women and children followed them to the New World, seeking first and foremost, religious Liberty. The second great immigration of Puritans came after Charles II was restored to the Crown in 1660, and Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan reformists fled for their lives. They brought with them a much more legalistic religious intolerance, and displayed bigotry for those who did not practice there particular Christian traditions and practices.

However, the promise of civil and religious Liberty drew hundreds of thousands of other seekers to east coast settlements, and they formed the bedrock of our nation. The crossroads of civil and religious Liberty was outlined in the central tenant of our Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That eternal truth is the basis for the enumerated restrictions against government outlined in the First Amendment of our Constitution's Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The prohibition against any "establishment of religion" appears first in order of importance, because our nation was largely founded by those seeking Liberty from oppression of the wedded church and state of England.

Though we are not a "Christian nation" as some would suggest, clearly most of our Founders understood that American Liberty has its roots in the Liberty of the Christian Gospel. The Father of our Country, George Washington, wrote, "To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian. The signal Instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labours with complete Success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude and Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good."

Historic American Thanksgiving Proclamations

During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress designated days of thanksgiving each year. The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was made in 1777:

"FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success: It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost."

Of that proclamation, Samuel Adams wrote to another Declaration signer, Richard Henry Lee, noting the specificity of the language that, "the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and join ... their supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ."
Liberty's Bounty

In 1789, after adopting the Bill of Rights to our Constitution, among the first official acts of Congress was approving a motion for proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving, recommending that citizens gather together and give thanks to God for their new nation's blessings.

The first Thanksgiving Day designated by the United States of America was proclaimed by George Washington on October 3, 1789:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

"And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

"Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

Then-governor Thomas Jefferson followed with this 1789 proclamation in Virginia: " appoint ... a day of public Thanksgiving to Almighty God ... to [ask] Him that He would ... pour out His Holy Spirit on all ministers of the Gospel; that He would ... spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; and that He would establish these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue."

Governor John Hancock proclaimed, " appoint ... a day of public thanksgiving and praise ... to render to God the tribute of praise for His unmerited goodness towards us ... [by giving to] us ... the Holy Scriptures which are able to enlighten and make us wise to eternal salvation. And [to] present our supplications ... that He would forgive our manifold sins and cause the benign religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the inhabitants of the earth."

Thanksgiving celebrations were irregularly proclaimed in the years that followed until the War Between the States. After 1863, presidents issued annual proclamations of Thanksgiving.
Norman Rockwell, 1943

In 1941, with World War II on the horizon, the Senate and House approved the fourth Thursday of November as a National Day of Thanksgiving, perpetuating the observance annually.

Thanksgiving and our Legacy of Liberty

Appropriately crediting the Pilgrims for chartering the path of American Liberty through self government, President Ronald Reagan made frequent reference to John Winthrop's "shining city upon a hill."

As Reagan explained, "The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free."

Closing his farewell address in 1989, President Reagan asked, "And how stands the city on this winter night?"

Contemplating our Legacy of Liberty this Thanksgiving, more than two decades after President Reagan left office, how stands the city on our watch?

My fellow Patriots, never in the history of our country has there been such an acute, coordinated and vicious assault upon Liberty and the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution. From individuals, to state governments, to federal institutions initiated at the dawn of our Constitution, nothing, absolutely nothing, is sacred to the current statist hegemony seeking to dispense with our Constitution.

But take heart, for as George Washington wrote in the darkest days of our American Revolution, "We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."

Of such exertions, Washington wrote, "It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors."

Of the incredible obstacles overcome in the American Revolution to establish Liberty, Washington declared, "The hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations."

So it is that on Thanksgiving Day, we are called to pause and take respite in order to acknowledge the gift of Liberty as "endowed by our Creator," and the Divine intervention throughout the history of this great nation; in order to recommit ourselves to obeisance of His will; in order to express our gratitude and give Him all thanks and praise for the bounty which He has bestowed the United States of America -- land of the free, home of the brave, that shining city on the hill; and in order to all the more humbly implore that He protect us and grant us much favor in our coming struggle to re-establish Rule of Law over rule of men.

In his first Thanksgiving proclamation, President Reagan wrote: "America has much for which to be thankful. The unequaled freedom enjoyed by our citizens has provided a harvest of plenty to this Nation throughout its history. In keeping with America's heritage, one day each year is set aside for giving thanks to God for all of His blessings. ... As we celebrate Thanksgiving ... We should reflect on the full meaning of this day as we enjoy the fellowship that is so much a part of the holiday festivities. Searching our hearts, we should ask what we can do as individuals to demonstrate our gratitude to God for all He has done. Such reflection can only add to the significance of this precious day of remembrance. Let us recommit ourselves to that devotion to God and family that has played such an important role in making this a great Nation, and which will be needed as a source of strength if we are to remain a great people.

This is the genuine spirit of Thanksgiving.

I humbly thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you as editor and publisher of The Patriot Post. On behalf of your Patriot team and our National Advisory Committee, I wish you a peaceful Thanksgiving, and God's blessings to you and your family.

If you have the means, please take a moment to promote Liberty by supporting our Patriot Annual Campaign today.

Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

Take the Thanksgiving Quiz

For inspiration, read the text of Charlie Daniel's My Beautiful America or listen to the song.

For perspective, view "We still hold these truths."

(Note: The original version of this Thanksgiving account was published by Mark Alexander in November 2000. Please forward a link to this page to your family, friends and colleagues.)
38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How communism almost killed the second Thanksgiving on: November 25, 2015, 02:01:41 PM
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Keeping the commies out? on: November 25, 2015, 01:47:10 PM
IIRC back in the 50s and 60s we kept Communists from coming to America.  What was the legal framework used?  Does it still exist?
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Strong leverage for ISIS through its control of water on: November 25, 2015, 01:35:19 PM
second post:

By Ambika Vishwanath

The Islamic State's use of natural resources to achieve its strategic goals is nothing new. Oil, one of the group's biggest sources of funding, plays an especially important role in its calculations — something the countries fighting the Islamic State are increasingly coming to realize. And they have begun to adjust their target sets accordingly. The United States and France, for example, have begun to launch airstrikes against the group's oil trucks and distribution centers, hoping to hamper its ability to pay for its military operations.

But what is less talked about, although no less important, is the Islamic State's use of water in its fight to establish a caliphate. Its tactics have brought water to the forefront of the conflict in Iraq and Syria, threatening the very existence of the people living under its oppressive rule. If the Islamic State's opponents do not move to sever the group's hold over Iraqi and Syrian water sources — and soon — it may prove difficult to liberate the region from the Islamic State's hold in the long term.

An Age-Old Conflict

Civilizations have long battled for access to water and founded their empires around great rivers. Historians believe that the ancient Sumerian city of Ur was favored by the empires that followed for its abundance of water and its proximity to the Persian Gulf. Other accounts say the city's inhabitants abandoned it amid severe droughts and the drying up of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Today, drought and low rainfall compete with the manmade disaster of terrorism to destroy the same, once-fertile swathe of land stretching along the two rivers.

What is Global Affairs?

Governments and non-state actors alike have used water as a weapon for centuries. While the number of full-blown wars over water resources has been lower than one might expect, given how critical water is to any population's survival, smaller conflicts have been numerous, destructive and deadly. The Middle East has fallen prey to this competition in recent years as states and groups have increasingly shifted from simply cutting off water supplies for a short period of time to diverting water flows or completely draining supplies in an attempt to threaten or coerce consumers.

The Islamic State is no exception. Since the group began expanding its territorial claims in western Syria, it has used water as a tool in its broader strategy of advancing and establishing control over new land. True, the Islamic State has also (and perhaps more visibly) targeted strategic oil and natural gas fields in both Syria and Iraq, but a close look at the group's movements clearly indicates that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers hold a central role in its planning. Recognition of the Islamic State's intention to organize its new caliphate around the Tigris-Euphrates Basin may prove helpful in the long-term fight against the group.

In 2012, the Islamic State emerged from the power vacuum created by the Syrian civil war and made its presence known in the western city of Aleppo. It had little in common with Syria's other rebel groups, which were primarily focused on fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al Assad for regime change. Instead, the Islamic State was a terrorist organization with a clear agenda and strategy: It wanted to build an Islamic caliphate that would, from its perspective, follow the truest form of Islam as decreed by the Prophet Mohammed. Over the following year, the group moved quickly and decisively, cutting a path through Syria and toward Iraq, capturing the key towns of Maskana, Raqqa, Deir el-Zour and al-Bukamal  — all of which are positioned along the Euphrates River.

The Iraqi front didn't look much different; the Islamic State easily captured the river towns of Qaim, Rawah, Ramadi and Fallujah, two of which (Rawah and Ramadi) gave the group direct access to two of Iraq's major lakes, Haditha Dam Lake and Lake Tharthar. Meanwhile, the Islamic State pursued a similar strategy along the Tigris River, successfully capturing Mosul and Tikrit and attempting to seize other towns and cities along the way. In Iraq the goal was Baghdad, from which the group could rule a caliphate encompassing Syria and Iraq. While the oil and natural gas fields it seized along the way were a means for the group to threaten military forces and make money, the bodies of water and infrastructure were a means to hold the entire region hostage.

Historically, the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have been an important source of contention between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The lack of cooperation and coordination between these countries on sharing the mighty rivers has led to a failure to regulate their use and an overconsumption of resources. Consequently, any and all activity by upstream nations regarding the water resources carries the risk of agitating tensions with downstream countries. With no regional coordination and poor security along the rivers themselves, terrorist groups — including the Islamic State — have been able to use water as both a target and a weapon. Not only have they destroyed water-related infrastructure such as pipes, sanitation plants, bridges and cables connected to water installations, but they have also used water as an instrument of violence by deliberately flooding towns, polluting bodies of water and ruining local economies by disrupting electricity generation and agriculture.

Since 2013, the Islamic State has launched nearly 20 major attacks (as well as countless smaller assaults) against Syrian and Iraqi water infrastructure. Some of these attacks include flooding villages, threatening to flood Baghdad, closing the dam gates in Fallujah and Ramadi, cutting off water to Mosul, and allegedly poisoning water in small Syrian towns, to name just a few. Most of these operations are aimed at government forces, designed to fight the military by using water as a weapon against them, though some targeted water infrastructure to disrupt troop movements. Such efforts also often have the added benefit of enhancing recruitment efforts; by allowing water to flow to towns sympathetic to the Islamic State's cause, or even by simply doing a better job of providing necessary services, the group can attract more men and women to its ranks.

With water at the core of its expansionist strategy, the Islamic State has also ensured that bodies of water and their corresponding infrastructure have moved to the forefront of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The control of major water resources and dams has, in turn, given the Islamic State a firm grip on the supplies used to support agriculture and electricity generation. Mosul Dam, for example, gave the Islamic State control over 75 percent of Iraq's electricity generation while it was in the group's possession. In 2014, when the group shut down Fallujah's Nuaimiyah Dam, the subsequent flooding destroyed 200 square kilometers (about 77 square miles) of Iraqi fields and villages. And in June 2015, the Islamic State closed the Ramadi barrage in Anbar province, reducing water flows to the famed Iraqi Marshes and forcing the Arabs living there to flee. While coalition and government forces in both countries have managed to recapture some key water sites, the threat of further damage persists.

At the same time, governments and militaries have used similar tactics to combat the Islamic State, closing the gates of dams or attacking water infrastructure under their control. But the Islamic State's fighters are not the only ones hurt by these efforts — the surrounding population suffers, too. The Syrian government has been repeatedly accused of withholding water, reducing flows or closing dam gates during its battles against the Islamic State or rebel groups, and it used the denial of clean water as a coercive tactic against many suburbs of Damascus thought to be sympathetic to the rebels.
Finding a Regional Solution

Because of its importance to both electricity generation and agricultural production, water has the power to run or ruin an economy. And since bodies of water often extend beyond any one country's borders, history shows that the competition for water resources can often only be settled peacefully through regional cooperation. Before Iraq and Syria deteriorated, and groups like the Islamic State arose, countries around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers had only each other to contend with. And in late 2010, the leaders of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan appeared to be on the verge of making progress toward setting up an integrated economic region. The countries' leaders called for regionwide cooperation on tourism, banking, trade and other sectors, and could have laid the foundation for further agreements on the distribution of shared natural resources like water. Though ambitious, the ideas and sentiments behind the proposals had the power to transform the region.

But politics prevailed, as is so often the case, and in less than a year the moment was lost. Had Turkey, Iraq and Syria taken the opportunity to act while political conditions were favorable, they would have found it easier to collectively tackle the Islamic State's advance later on. Bodies of water could have been labeled regional commons and thus the collective responsibility of all parties, ensuring swifter reactions by the governments involved to protect the water and associated infrastructure from terrorism. This, in turn, would have better protected the people and areas surrounding the rivers and lakes in the region. Of course, it is easy to look back and lament actions not taken, but the point remains that there is still a chance for these countries to come together and start working collectively to protect the water resources they share.

There is no doubt that the Islamic State has a very clear strategy, one that extends even beyond Syria and Iraq and into the wider region. The group has established bases throughout North Africa, following a similar path of controlling key resources and using them as weapons against the populations and governments it seeks to coerce or destroy. It is time that nearby states and the international community re-examine what they know about the Islamic State's tactics and formulate a new plan of action. Forces fighting the Islamic State must look at the region as a single integrated basin and bring bodies of water — and by extension, the populations dependent on them — to the forefront of their strategies. Water has always formed the core of civilizations; the Middle East — not to mention an Islamic State caliphate — is no different.
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia and France focus on ISIS on: November 25, 2015, 01:29:53 PM

In the heaviest Russian strikes against the Islamic State to date, the Russian air force and navy deployed dozens of cruise missiles and other weaponry against Islamic State targets in Syria on Tuesday, particularly in and around Raqqa, the militants' self-proclaimed capital. Russian Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M strategic long-range bombers flew their missions from bases in southern Russia, while the Russian cruiser Moskva fired a number of cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea. In a signal that this was just the start, Russian army Gen. Valery Gerasimov has indicated that Russia is allocating 25 strategic bombers for the Syrian mission.

Since Russian airstrikes began in Syria on Sept. 30, Moscow's attention has been focused largely on striking non-Islamic State rebels, some of whom were actively supported by other Arab States, the United States and Turkey. The Russians in effect reinforced the Syrian loyalist strategy of designating the non-Islamic State rebels as the primary threat and sought to reduce these rebels' ability to threaten the core city of Hama as well as the Syrian coast. Over time, Russian efforts did begin to include more Islamic State targets. For example, Russia provided active air support to loyalist forces advancing toward the previously besieged Kweiris air base and the Islamic State-occupied ancient city of Palmyra.

What is a Geopolitical Diary?

The overwhelming Russian focus on the other rebels in lieu of the Islamic State appears to have shifted even more after the Oct. 31 crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 in Sinai, in which 224 (mostly Russian) passengers and crew were killed. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for bringing down the aircraft — a claim Russia finally confirmed on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible and intensify airstrikes against Islamist extremists in Syria.

Recent events in France may also give Russia more leverage with the Europeans. Fully aware of the effects of the Islamic State attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, Russia will use the attacks to highlight the necessity of Russian-European cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State. Under French President Francois Hollande's stewardship, France has already suffered one major attack in January. Now the president's main concern is not to appear weak, especially considering that his two main rivals — center-right leader Nicolas Sarkozy and the far-right's Marine Le Pen — are traditionally stronger on security issues. Sarkozy and Le Pen also have ties to Russia and have urged Paris to strengthen its relationship with Moscow.

The French have also significantly ramped up their air campaign against the Islamic State over the past two days, and Hollande is set to meet with Putin on Nov. 26 in the wake of the French president's call for a global campaign against radicals. Moreover, Putin has given orders for Russian forces to link up with the French. The Kremlin announced that Putin had spoken to Hollande by telephone. He then ordered the Russian navy to establish contact with a French naval force heading to the eastern Mediterranean, led by an aircraft carrier, and to treat the French forces as allies.

Though the common cause of fighting the Islamic State may cause Russia and the West (particularly France) to collaborate more closely in Syria, there are still very real limits to that cooperation. Russia is ramping up its campaign against the Islamic State, but overall it is likely to remain focused on fighting non-Islamic State rebels. After all, Russia is trying to maintain its strategic position in Syria, and in its view, to fully address the Islamic State threat the country first needs a viable government. So long as these rebels continue to pose a critical threat to the Syrian government, Russia will continue supporting its loyalist allies on the ground against rebel advances. This dynamic will only reinforce U.S., European, Turkish and Sunni Arab support for the rebels, undermining the potential for a credible and lasting cease-fire. 

Beyond Syria, the limits of Russia's cooperation on the Syrian battlefield will keep Moscow from getting all the concessions it wants from the Europeans, including relief from the sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine. So far, the United States and its European partners have not let the Russian government link cooperation in Syria to the ongoing Minsk negotiations over Ukraine. Russia may have better chances with France at this stage to try to strike a broader bargain, but even its newfound leverage is probably insufficient. Sanctions removal would require a unanimous European decision, and there are still enough European nations backed by the United States in their opposition to easing restrictions, that for now any efforts to give Russia sanctions relief will likely fail.
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey picks a side on: November 25, 2015, 01:28:07 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the downing of a Russian Su-24 by Turkish F-16s on Tuesday was "a stab in the back delivered by accomplices of the terrorists." In another oblique reference to Turkey, Putin said the Islamic State is "protected by the military of an entire nation." He expressed concern and disbelief that Turkey did not try to contact Russia following the incident and instead rushed to convene a NATO meeting when Russia has "always treated Turkey as not only a close neighbor, but also a friendly nation."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin have been well aware that competition between their countries has been growing on multiple fronts. And until Tuesday, both took great care to avoid having that competition devolve into outright confrontation. A number of factors will drive Moscow and Ankara to try to temper the latest bout of hostilities, but neither leader will be able to avoid the uncomfortable reality that geopolitical forces are once again pulling these old rivals further apart.

Turkey and Russia cannot help but step on each other's toes. Turkey is the gatekeeper to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea through its control of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. That means if Russia wants to send container ships, oil cargoes and warships westward, they pass through Turkey. If NATO wants to threaten the Russian underbelly from the Black Sea, Turkey has to give the green light. This is a point not lost on Putin's Russia.

As two Eurasian powers with long imperial pasts, Russia and Turkey have overlapping spheres of influence in parts of the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. This dynamic brought both empires to war multiple times over nearly five centuries. Not surprisingly, Turkey was profoundly uncomfortable when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014 to reinforce its position in the former Soviet space. Though Turkey saw an imperative to keep Russian ambitions in check, it preferred letting the United States, Poland, Romania and others take the lead. After all, Russia supplies 55 percent of Turkey's natural gas needs, and Ankara was not interested in risking disruptions to that supply or to the broader Turkish-Russian trade relationship that could further strain the Turkish economy.

But Russia has been getting too close for Turkey's comfort more recently. In the Caucasus, several factors are challenging the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict zone that could eventually draw Russian and Turkish intervention. In the Middle East, Russia's military intervention in Syria on the side of the Alawite government squarely challenges Turkey's ambitions to bring Sunni power back to Syria through the toppling of President Bashar al Assad. Turkey's downing of the Russian fighter jet shows that Ankara is now willing to act on its frustration with Russia and bear the consequences.

The most immediate consequence will be felt in Syria. The preliminary steps toward a power-sharing deal are effectively stalled for now. The videos of Turkmen rebels shooting Russian pilots and attacking search and rescue missions will only reinforce Russia's claims that the rebels Turkey, the United States and others have been sponsoring cannot be trusted and therefore do not deserve a place at the negotiating table. There were already major doubts about whether the rebel sponsors could be talked into negotiating with the Syrian government at this stage of the fight anyway.

The battlefield, however, will remain just as intense. Turkey is serious about moving ahead with a plan to create a safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border to root out the Islamic State, keep a check on the Kurds and reinforce its rebel proxies against the al Assad government. The United States also remains committed to the fight against the Islamic State and is willing to facilitate Turkish operations in northern Syria toward that end. Russia is unlikely to back down from its operations in Syria targeting both Islamic State and rebel forces. In fact, Russia will be reinforcing its bombers with accompanying fighter jets to deter another shoot-down. The potential for further skirmishes on the Syrian battlefield cannot be ruled out.

The less visible, but no less significant, consequence concerns Turkey's relationship with NATO. Turkey's careful balance with Russia and differences with the West over working with Islamist forces have long been a source of frustration for other members of NATO, especially given the significant role Turkey could play in counterbalancing Russia and in responding to threats such as the Islamic State. As the Islamic State threat escalated and as Russia became more involved in Syria, Turkey started drifting closer toward its NATO allies. Turkey's recent decision to officially cancel a controversial deal to purchase a multibillion-dollar air defense system from China gave hope to NATO members that Turkey was prepared to remove some of the ambiguity from its role in the security alliance. And with Turkey's competition with Russia now on full display following the downing of the Russian Su-24, the United States and a number of Central and Eastern European powers will see an opportunity to draw Turkey deeper into NATO.

Russian officials and media have proposed retaliatory measures against Turkey, such as energy cutoffs, trade restrictions and undefined military responses. Russia certainly has the means to squeeze Turkey economically, though cutting off natural gas would also undermine Gazprom's commercial reputation at a time when Russia is fighting to retain market share in the West. Russian military interference against Turkish operations on the Syrian battlefield is also possible, though such actions are very risky for Russia itself. So long as Russia remains in a standoff with the United States and the West at large — a situation that will not abate anytime soon — Russia will need to play it carefully with Turkey. Only now, it is dealing with a Turkey that is sitting a lot more comfortably with its NATO partners than it was just a couple of months ago. 
43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: Kill the Dolphins! on: November 25, 2015, 12:44:05 PM
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Deal with Iran is not signed ?!? on: November 25, 2015, 12:25:10 PM
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Terrorist nation OTMs have crossed border. Some have been caught 2.0 on: November 25, 2015, 12:18:05 PM
Pasting Doug's post from the Immigration thread here as well:
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Partners in peace-- what could go wrong? on: November 25, 2015, 12:16:50 PM
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Judicial Watch: State Dept rushed approval despite security concerns on: November 25, 2015, 12:09:14 PM
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Putin takes total control of the air? on: November 25, 2015, 11:58:20 AM
Putin has announced he is putting in his extremely potent anti-aircraft system into Syria. 

As best as I can tell, this means short of total war the US (and Turkey, and France) is now denied the airspace.

From our side , , , crickets , , ,
49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New Russian bomb in action? on: November 24, 2015, 11:44:17 PM
Reliability completely unknown
50  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Training Camp with Top Dog, Lonely Dog, and yours truly on: November 24, 2015, 09:42:07 PM
Let the Howl Go Forth:

On a date yet to be determined, sometime in the year 2016 there will be a DBMA Training Camp with Top Dog, Lonely Dog, and yours truly.

Stay tuned!!!
PG Crafty Dog
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