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 11 
 on: July 24, 2017, 05:00:52 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
If You’re Arrested Abroad, the U.S. May Not Bail You Out
The State Department needs to do a better job protecting travelers—and warning of the danger.
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
By Jared Genser
July 23, 2017 5:28 p.m. ET
81 COMMENTS

I represent two Americans, Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer, being held in deplorable conditions in Iran’s Evin Prison. Last October they were sentenced to 10 years on sham charges of “collaboration with a hostile government,” namely the U.S. In a statement Friday, the White House demanded their freedom: “President Trump is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned.” In June the administration arranged for Otto Warmbier to be brought home after nearly 18 months in a North Korean camp. He died shortly after returning to the U.S.

Americans need to appreciate they are highly vulnerable to arbitrary detention abroad—and not just in countries like Iran and North Korea. I say this from experience, as a lawyer who has represented not only the Namazis but also U.S. citizens wrongfully imprisoned in such countries as China, Cuba, Myanmar and Nicaragua. Each year more than 70 million Americans travel abroad. Several thousand are arrested annually. The State Department estimates more than 3,000 are imprisoned, some 100 of whom, two officials told me on condition of anonymity, are hostages of rogue states and terrorist groups.

Many Americans believe if they get into trouble the U.S. government will rescue them. In most cases it won’t. Those who are detained typically get a list of local lawyers and visits from consular staff every one to three months. Buried on its website, the State Department explicitly advises it “cannot get U.S. citizens out of jail.” Still, more can be done to help Americans imprisoned abroad.

First, Mr. Trump should direct the State Department to evaluate individually the case of every imprisoned American to determine privately whether he is likely to have been arbitrarily detained. This need not be a complex legal evaluation, but rather a simple application of international law to the facts of each case.

This review is critical. Many of the imprisoned did break local laws, and the U.S. Privacy Act prohibits government agencies from releasing information that might enable human-rights groups or the media to conduct independent evaluations. That’s why the State Department must determine internally which Americans are unfairly imprisoned and then provide diplomatic and political support to push for their freedom.

Second, Congress should require, every three months, that the State Department provide lawmakers a private list of Americans believed to be imprisoned wrongly abroad, including suggested steps to assist them. In opposing such a bill previously, the department argued in a memo to Congress: “The idea that we would distinguish among U.S. citizens as more or less ‘deserving’ of our support contradicts the fact that all U.S. citizens deserve our best efforts.” Yes, Americans deserve consular support without distinction, but those who are wrongly detained merit special attention. Lawmakers should encourage the State Department to provide it. They should not, however, prescribe or require specific action, because these cases require specialized support based on the facts of each case.

Third, the government needs an integrated approach. In 2015 President Obama issued a directive that created a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, a position Mr. Trump should fill soon. But the administration also needs to identify and assist other wrongly detained Americans. It needs to enhance deterrence, to go beyond saying it has a “no concessions” policy, and to consider coercive measures such as suspending foreign aid and imposing targeted sanctions against governments, organizations and individuals responsible for holding U.S. citizens unfairly.

Fourth, the State Department should do a better job educating Americans as to the dangers of traveling abroad. That wouldn’t help dual nationals like the Namazis, visiting family or friends. But a warning could help others avoid trouble. Every passport should come with a letter emphasizing the government’s limited ability to recover wrongfully imprisoned citizens, listing countries that have taken American hostages, and noting that U.S. citizens traveling abroad are wholly outside the protection of the Constitution and must follow local laws.

Even with these measures, securing the release of wrongfully imprisoned Americans will remain difficult. But perhaps high-profile hostage cases like those of the Namazis and Warmbier will focus the government on fulfilling one of its most basic duties: protecting its citizens when they most desperately need help.

Mr. Genser is founder of Freedom Now.

 12 
 on: July 24, 2017, 03:07:26 PM 
Started by captainccs - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Trump’s Syria Muddle
Iran and Russia won’t negotiate a cease-fire until they have to.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, prepare to move for a battle against the Islamic state militants, in Raqqa, northeast Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, prepare to move for a battle against the Islamic state militants, in Raqqa, northeast Syria. Photo: Hussein Malla/Associated Press
By The Editorial Board
July 23, 2017 5:26 p.m. ET
140 COMMENTS

Does the Trump Administration have a policy in Syria worth the name? If so it isn’t obvious, and its recent decisions suggest that the White House may be willing to accommodate the Russian and Iranian goal of propping up Bashar Assad for the long term.

Last week the Administration disclosed that it has stopped assisting the anti-Assad Sunni Arab fighters whom the CIA has trained, equipped and funded since 2013. U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Raymond Thomas told the Aspen Security Forum Friday that the decision to pull the plug was “based on an assessment of the nature of the program and what we are trying to accomplish and the viability of it going forward.”

That might make sense if anyone knew what the U.S. is trying to accomplish beyond ousting Islamic State from Raqqa in northern Syria. In that fight the Pentagon has resisted Russia and Iran by arming the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces and shooting down the Syria aircraft threatening them. Mr. Trump also launched cruise missiles to punish Mr. Assad after the strongman used chemical weapons.

The muddle is what the U.S. wants in Syria after the looming defeat of Islamic State. On that score the Trump Administration seems to want to find some agreement with Russia to stabilize Syria even if that means entrenching Mr. Assad and the Russian and Iranian military presence.

Cutting off the Sunni Free Syrian Army has long been a Russian and Iranian goal. FSA fighters in southern Syria have helped to contain the more radical Sunni opposition formerly known as the Nusra Front and they’ve fought Islamic State, but they also want to depose Mr. Assad. Not all of the Sunni rebels are as moderate as we’d like, but they aren’t al Qaeda or Islamic State. The arms cutoff caught the rebels by surprise and will make our allies in the region further doubt American reliability.

This follows the deal Mr. Trump struck at the G-20 meeting with Vladimir Putin for a cease-fire in southern Syria near its border with Israel and Jordan. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hailed it as a potential precedent for other parts of Syria, and Administration sources advertised that Israel and Jordan were on board.

But we later learned that Israel is far more skeptical. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a recent cabinet meeting that “Israel will welcome a genuine cease-fire in Syria, but this cease-fire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular.”

Yet by this point any territory controlled by Mr. Assad will come with Iranian military tentacles. Iran’s Hezbollah footsoldiers from Lebanon helped rescue Mr. Assad’s military, and they’d love to open another frontline against the Jewish state.

President Trump and Mr. Tillerson may want to negotiate a diplomatic settlement with Mr. Putin on Syria, and no doubt the Russian is pitching his “common front” line against radical Islamists. But CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Aspen forum on Friday that Russia has done little fighting against Islamic State. Mr. Putin also has no incentive to give ground in Syria while his side is winning.

Russia and Iran know what they want in Syria: a reunified country under Mr. Assad’s control. Iran will then get another Arab city—Damascus—under its dominion. It will have another base from which to undermine U.S. allies in Jordan and attack Israel when the next war breaks out. Russia wants to show the world that its allies always win while keeping its air base and a Mediterranean port.

None of this is in the U.S. interest. The only way to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution is if Iran and Russia feel they are paying too large a price for their Syrian sojourn. This means more support for Mr. Assad’s enemies, not cutting them off without notice. And it means building up a Middle East coalition willing to fight Islamic State and resist Iran. The U.S. should also consider enforcing “safe zones” in Syria for anti-Assad forces.

It’s hard to imagine a stable Syria as long as Mr. Assad is in power. But if he stays, then the U.S. goal should be a divided country with safe areas for Sunnis and the Kurds who have helped liberate Raqqa. Then we can perhaps tolerate an Assad government that presides over a rump Syria dominated by Alawites. But none of that will happen if the U.S. abandons its allies to the Russia-Assad-Iran axis. And if abandoning Syria to Iran is the policy, then at least own up to it in public so everyone knows the score.

 13 
 on: July 24, 2017, 03:03:04 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Replace Sessions With Rudy Giuliani
By DICK MORRIS
Published on DickMorris.com on July 24, 2017
Jeff Sessions, in recusing himself from the two key matters before his office: The phony Russia investigation and the issues surrounding the Clinton Foundation and Hillary's conduct as Secretary of State, has effectively left his post, AWOL.  He cannot act in either of these key investigations because he has recused himself -- recusals which are tantamount to resignation.

Trump should ratify what Sessions has done by replacing him entirely as Attorney General and bringing on someone who will vigorously defend him on the issues of Russia and will play offense in investigating "corrupt Hillary" and the leaks from Mueller and the intel community.
 
He should name Rudy Giuliani as the new Attorney General.

Rudy is only 73 (Sessions is 71).  A national hero, his actions would have great credibility and he would out duel Mueller in a public contest. 

The new Attorney General should:

•  Investigate the leaks that are proliferating from the prosecutor's office

•  Demand that Mueller fire the newly hired members of his staff who have compromised their objectivity by having donated to either political party or any of the 2016 presidential candidates.

•  Insist that Mueller limit his investigation to only that conduct by Trump or his associates that is recent.  He should not be allowed to act as a sort of appellate court to see if the electorate elected the right person president by rummaging through Trump's 71 years to come up with something to hang on him.

Sessions has neither the strength nor the ability -- in light of his self-emasculating recusals -- to act on this level.

Trump needs and AG who will fight for him and battle the usurpations of the special prosecutor.

And he needs one of sufficient prestige to be able to fire Mueller and assure that the public (or at least Trump's half of it) sides with the Administration.

Giuliani is his man.

 14 
 on: July 24, 2017, 02:51:58 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/kushnerstatement0724.pdf

 15 
 on: July 24, 2017, 02:48:43 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
* * * * * *
The United States and China met to discuss trade issues. The meeting ended without agreement on anything. The obligatory joint press conference after the talks, where everyone pretends that everything was fine, was canceled. The only comment came from a U.S. official who said there were frank discussions, which means that the talks were tough and full of threats.

At the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, GPF expected that these kinds of confrontations would take place. But both countries put aside their disagreements to deal with another overriding issue: North Korea’s nuclear program. The issue emerged shortly after Trump’s inauguration, when it became apparent that North Korea was moving aggressively to develop a nuclear delivery capability. After analyzing the military reality, the United States was reluctant to launch a strike against North Korea and instead pursued negotiations.

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in April, discussions between Xi and Trump turned from trade and related policies to the question of North Korea. Over the years, the United States had relied on the Chinese to act as an intermediary and restrain North Korea. Trump asked Xi to play that role again, offering to reward China for its cooperation by softening the U.S. negotiating position on trade. We know that this happened because of various leaks, because of the lack of further confrontation over trade and because Trump tweeted that China’s help on North Korea would lead to a better deal for China.

But China has clearly failed to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear program. There are two possible explanations for this. The first is that North Korea doesn’t trust China but does trust that having a nuclear weapon would block any American attempts to destabilize the North Korean regime. The second possible explanation is that China did not want to persuade North Korea this time. The reason is simple: Although China cares a great deal about trade, it cares much more right now about its geopolitical balance with the United States. North Korea has the United States on a hook. If the U.S. chooses not to attack North Korea, it would appear weak, and China would in turn look stronger. And if the U.S. chooses to attack, it could be portrayed as a lawless aggressor. In a full-scale attack, the U.S. would likely take out North Korea’s nuclear program, and China would be spared that problem. China would then claim that it had been busy mediating, and had nearly reached a deal, when the American cowboys struck.

This posturing matters a great deal to Beijing. China depends on maritime trade, and it requires easy passage through the South and East China seas to access the ocean. But the seas are riddled with small islands, and the U.S. Navy can easily block China’s access. With a navy that is in no position to challenge the U.S. at sea, China is left vulnerable to a potential blockade. Its best strategy is to convince one of the countries in the region, like the Philippines or Indonesia, to align with it to allow free passage. This strategy may be a long shot, but it matters greatly to China. The perception of U.S. weakness or recklessness on North Korea might cause some movement in these countries. And even if it doesn’t, either an attack or a failure to attack would create political problems for the U.S. in the region.

I believe that some variant of the second explanation was behind China’s failure to move North Korea. But the lack of results on this issue meant that trade, having been put on the back burner since the Trump-Xi summit, was now back at the forefront. The U.S. no longer had any reason to go easy on China, and China was not prepared to cave. This is both because the Chinese are good negotiators who play a weak position extremely well, and because the Chinese are trying to understand how Trump’s weak political position will intersect with trade talks.

The trade issue is a perfect example of how economic, military and political positions are inseparable in real life. Nations do not bargain on economic matters in a vacuum. In this case, the trade issue was bound up with possible war in North Korea as well as domestic U.S. politics. To fully understand the trade issue, you can’t examine trade on its own. And this is a great example of how these things intersect, but it’s far from a unique one. In international relations, all dimensions intersect and become part of a single fabric.

 16 
 on: July 24, 2017, 02:18:04 PM 
Started by bigdog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Robotic Systems Disruption in Practice
Posted: 23 Jul 2017 11:01 AM PDT
The Ukrainian SBU now believes that the destruction of arms depot at Balakliya in March that did a billion dollars in damage was carried out by a small drone armed with a thermite grenade.  That's an ROI (Return on Investment) of $500,000 for every $1 invested (not bad relative to earlier comparatives).
 
This is a spot on demonstration of what I wrote back in February of 2016.  Here's a recap of what I wrote in that article: 
From a mechanical perspective, consumer drones aren't that impressive:

   ~1-2 pound payload
   ~20 min flight time
   20-40 miles per hour flight speed

However, these drones are smart and the smarter the drone is, the better it can mimic the performance of the much more expensive precision guided munition (PGM).  For example:

   Drones can fly themselves.  They can take-off, fly enroute, and land autonomously.
   Drones can precisely navigate a course based on the GPS waypoints you designate.
   Drones can now (a recent development) use digital cameras to find, track, and follow objects.  Some can even land on objects they find based on a description of that object. 

Even this basic capability is more than enough to turn a basic drone into an extremely dangerous first strike weapon against fragile/explosive targets. Here's a scenario that pits ten drones against a major airport: 

1.   Ten drones would take off autonomously in 1 minute intervals.
2.   Each would follow a GPS flightpath to a preselected portion of an airport.
3.   Upon arrival, a digital camera would identify the nearest wing of an aircraft.
4.   The drone would land itself in the middle of that wing.
5.   A pound of thermite in the payload would ignite upon landing. 
6.   The thermite would burn through the wing, igniting the fuel inside...
7.   Most of the airport and nearly all of the planes on the tarmac are destroyed.

Here are the takeaways: 

   Even the simple robotic platforms of today can be extremely effective as weapons.  At current rates of improvement in machine intelligence, the situation will get much more interesting very, very soon.

   It's possible to creatively trade inexpensive machine smarts for expensive mechanical performance. 

   We need to figure this out before the bad guys do.  However, truly figuring this out requires a deep insight into the dynamics driving this forward. 

Sincerely,
John Robb
PS:  The Balakliya follows five earlier attacks on warehouses and even this facility since December 2016 using the same technique.  They are getting better.

 17 
 on: July 24, 2017, 02:13:19 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Turkey Strives to Influence the Gulf States 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia over the weekend, in an effort to further insert Ankara into the ongoing Gulf dispute. Ankara has made clear its backing for Qatar's position in the conflict by reinforcing and accelerating the deployment of Turkish military personnel — and this week, equipment — to Qatar. The Turkish backing for Doha will help Qatar outlast further threats from the four blockading countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt — as the crisis continues but slowly begins to de-escalate. Erdogan is not visiting the UAE on his Gulf tour: the animosity between the two countries, based on their opposing stances on supporting Islamist groups, is still on display. U.S. mediation in the crisis as well as a pullback from the initial 13 demands on Qatar helped elicit a small concession when Doha submitted a revised anti-terror law this week that correlates with one of the main imperatives for behavior laid out by Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Manama. The UAE, the most vocal of the blockading countries seeking to isolate Qatar, has expressed its approval of the small step made by Qatar, an important sign of de-escalation.

 18 
 on: July 24, 2017, 02:11:50 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
https://patriotpost.us/humor/50347

 19 
 on: July 24, 2017, 11:01:06 AM 
Started by DougMacG - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Venezuela's Predominate Source of Revenue Could be in the Crosshairs

Washington has drawn a red line on Venezuela. If the government in Caracas moves forward with elections on July 30 to elect members of a Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, the Trump administration will likely implement some sort of sanctions against it. The effect those sanctions will have on the political confrontation between the government, opposition, and dissident members of the ruling party largely depends on their severity. Individual sanctions targeting Venezuelan politicians will likely have little effect. But if the United States implements sanctions targeting Venezuela's oil sector, it would have an immediate and drastic impact on the country, especially given that Venezuela depends on oil for virtually all its export revenue. If Venezuela's energy sector is sanctioned, it could rapidly reduce oil production because the state-run energy company PDVSA depends heavily on the U.S. market, as well as on U.S. companies for services and crude oil imports to blend with its own oil. Sanctions would, however, also lead to a sharp reduction in food imports, a wider migration of Venezuelans abroad and greater political instability in the country.

 20 
 on: July 24, 2017, 11:00:41 AM 
Started by captainccs - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Venezuela's Predominate Source of Revenue Could be in the Crosshairs

Washington has drawn a red line on Venezuela. If the government in Caracas moves forward with elections on July 30 to elect members of a Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, the Trump administration will likely implement some sort of sanctions against it. The effect those sanctions will have on the political confrontation between the government, opposition, and dissident members of the ruling party largely depends on their severity. Individual sanctions targeting Venezuelan politicians will likely have little effect. But if the United States implements sanctions targeting Venezuela's oil sector, it would have an immediate and drastic impact on the country, especially given that Venezuela depends on oil for virtually all its export revenue. If Venezuela's energy sector is sanctioned, it could rapidly reduce oil production because the state-run energy company PDVSA depends heavily on the U.S. market, as well as on U.S. companies for services and crude oil imports to blend with its own oil. Sanctions would, however, also lead to a sharp reduction in food imports, a wider migration of Venezuelans abroad and greater political instability in the country.

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