Saturday, May 27, 2017

Jared Kushner’s Growing Stench of Treason

Foreign Policy


Nobody knows yet whether the president's son-in-law broke any laws. But "traitor" is more than just a legal term.
Jared Kushner’s Growing Stench of Treason
It’s time to talk about treason.
We now know, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports cited by the Washington Post, that in early December 2016 Jared Kushner and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak “discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities, in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring.”
At any time in the Cold War, what Kushner did would certainly have attracted the stigma of treachery. Should the same standard apply today?
Let’s consider Kushner’s best defense. Backchannels are an accepted part of diplomatic relations. A relationship may be too controversial for public consumption, and it is useful to have fora where diplomats and those entrusted with the leadership of states can speak frankly, without the glare of the media.
But this appears to have been no ordinary proposal for a backchannel. First and foremost, the intent was to avoid monitoring by the United States’ own intelligence agencies. And second, Trump’s team weren’t in government yet (unless the intent was for the backchannel to continue, or to start, after the inauguration, and thus provide a means to avoid U.S. intelligence monitoring while in office, which would be even more dubious).
The charitable interpretation here is that the Trump transition team did not want the Obama administration to know what they were discussing with Moscow. But this is unpersuasive as a defense, because if those conversations were within the realm of legality, what difference would it have made if the Obama administration knew about them? One might retort that it was important that the outreach to the Russians be kept out of the public domain, and that the Obama administration could have frustrated that by leaking to the press. But this argument is inane, given how publicly Trump advertised his desire for rapprochement with Russia during the campaign.
A final argument might be that Trump’s team was aware that it is illegal for private citizens to conduct diplomacy with a foreign government, so they needed a secret backchannel. Of course, being illegal, the Trump team would never make that argument. They might say, perhaps not unreasonably, that they were not conducting diplomacy, but merely talking to the Russians as an opposition party might do (call it the Marine le Pen argument). But you can’t have it both ways: either the enterprise was legal, in which case there would have been no need to hide it from U.S. intelligence, or it was not.
Let’s be clear. There would be nothing inherently illegitimate with the Trump transition team pursuing better relations between the United States and Russia. Indeed, it was a major part of the campaign platform Trump used to win the election. Foreign policy debate between Russia doves and hawks has been going back and forth since the deterioration of post-Cold War relations following the West’s intervention in Kosovo 1999, and those who want the West to have warmer relations with Russia have many reasonable arguments.
But it’s the very legitimacy of wanting better relations with Russia, given Trump’s democratic mandate to pursue such a course, that makes Kushner’s desire to hide the Trump transition team’s connections with the Kremlin from U.S. intelligence so dubious, especially if he did intend for the backchannel to continue, or to start, after the inauguration. That is the kernel of the illegitimacy here: not the effort to improve relations through a backchannel, but the extraordinary measures to keep it secret from one’s own side.
In the Cold War, Kushner’s actions would have attracted the stigma of treachery because Russia was an enemy of the United States. But his actions would not have gotten him indicted because there was no ongoing open war in accordance with the legal definition of treason (18 U.S. code § 2381): “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason”.
Similarly today, what we are talking about is not the legal offense of treason but the stigma of treachery — the broader social meaning of treason.
To understand this broader social meaning it helps to think about the history of the concept. In the Roman Republic, there were two treasonable offenses. One was called perduellio, which basically aligns with our current definition of treason of aiding an enemy in war. The other was called the crimen maiestas populi Romani immunutae, known commonly as maiestas, which was the offense of diminishing the majesty of the Roman people. It was only later, after the Republic collapsed and the emperors took over, that maiestas became the offense against the person of the emperor, given how in this kind of monarchy, there was little difference between the sovereign identity of the state and its ruler. (This is the origin of the offense of “lèse majesté” against monarchs still on the statute books in some states today).
If Kushner’s actions should come to attract the stigma of treachery, it would be in the old Roman Republican sense of maiestas, when public values and their expression in state institutions still meant something. Thus, in the Roman Republic, maiestas was about punishing individuals for hijacking their state positions for their personal gain. It could be used, for example, to prosecute official maladministration, like corruption by provincial officials or military officers. An apt modern equivalent would be soliciting personal investments by selling political access or expedited visas to rich Chinese people, which Kushner’s family business has already independently been accused of.
We’ll have to wait for the facts to see what Kushner may have been trying to hide from U.S. intelligence. But my hunch is that far from the “Manchurian Candidate” theories, this will turn out to be a sorry case of operating in the grey areas of the law to enrich oneself whilst in office. Not as bad as aiding the enemy, but still rancid. It is exactly what treachery as maiestas meant in Republican Rome: An offense against the dignity of the state understood as a community bound by its public values.
In Rome, the punishment for maiestas was normally exile. Kushner’s fate is still to be determined. But the public response to it will tell us much about whether the American people, under their new monarch, still have the dignity to protect their ancient majesty.


By Eric Margolis


The Great White Father came to Saudi Arabia last week to harangue some 50 Arab and African despots on the glories of Trumpism, democracy and the need to fight what the Americans call terrorism.
Having covered the Mideast for many decades, I cannot think of a more bizarre or comical spectacle. Here was Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, hosting the glad-handing US president who hates Islam and the Mideast with irrational passion.
I was amazed to learn that Trump’s speech to the Arab and African attendees had been written by pro-Israel ideologue Stephen Miller, a young senior White House staffer from California who is an extreme Zionist. How very bizarre.
Not only that, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who are also strongly pro-Israel, were with him. So too was the powerful commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, another ardent pro-Israel cabinet member with whom I spent a weekend last year. Billionaire Ross performed the traditional Saudi sword dance with skill and verve.
Listening to Trump and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, blast Iran as the font of terrorism provided another big joke. Trump’s tirade against Tehran was delivered in Saudi Arabia, a feudal monarchy that holds no elections, cuts off the heads of some 80-90 people annually, and treats women like cattle. While claiming to be the leader of the Muslim world, the Saudi royal family funds mayhem and extreme Muslim obscurantism through the region. The current wave of primitive violence by some self-professed Muslims – ISIS being the leader – was originally funded and guided by the Saudis in a covert struggle to combat revolutionary Iran. I saw this happen in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let’s recall 15 of the 18 men who attacked the US on 9/11 were Saudis.
Iran has the freest political system in the Mideast except for Israel). Iranian women have rights and political freedoms that are utterly unknown in Saudi Arabia. Iran just held a fair and open national election in which moderates won. Compare this to Saudi Arabia’s medieval Bedouin society. I was once arrested by the religious police in Jeddah just for walking down a street with an Egyptian lady.
Today, US and British equipped Saudi forces are laying waste to wretched Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation. As a result of a Saudi air, land and sea blockade, the UN now reports that famine has gripped large parts of Yemen. US and British technicians are keeping the Saudi air force flying; the US and Britain supply the bombs.
President Trump arrived with a bag of $110 billion worth of arms (some already approved by the Obama administration), and a promise of $350 billion worth in ten years. There was nothing new about this arms bazaar: for over a decade the Saudis have bought warehouses of US arms in exchange for keeping oil prices low and fronting for US interests in the Muslim world. Most of these arms remain in storage as the Saudis don’t know how to use them.
Many of America’s most important arms makers are located in politically important US states. The Saudis were so deeply in bed with the Republicans that their former ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, was known to one and all as ‘Bandar Bush.’ Saudi money and influence has flowed far and wide across the US political landscape. That’s how the Saudis get away with mass killing in Yemen, funding ISIS and ravaging Syria with hardly any peeps of protest from Congress.
By now, it’s perfectly clear that the long secret relationship between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates has finally come into the open. Israel and its rich Arab friends all hate Iran, they oppose Palestinian rights, and fear revolution in the Arab world.
The two most reactionary Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are now close allies, though they compete over who will lead the Arab world. Neither despotic regime has any right to do so. Trump lauded the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sissi who overthrew Egypt’s first ever democratically elected government (with Saudi help), gunned down hundreds of protestors, jailed and tortured thousands. Suspects in Egypt are routinely subjected to savage beatings and anal rape.
As I tried to explain in my second book, ‘American Raj,’ the brutal, corrupt regimes we westerners have imposed on the Arab world and Africa are the main cause of what we call ‘terrorism.’ So too the wars we have waged in the region to impose our will and economic exploitation. It’s blowback, pure and simple. So-called terrorism is not at all about Islam as our politicians, led by Trump of Arabia, falsely claim.
But no shoes were thrown at Trump by his audience. They were too scared of their heads being cut off by our democratic ally.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

DNA - 25/05/2017 طريق القدس تمر في البحرين

#الهزيمة ليست عسكرية فقط: إعلام النكسة

عرب 48


ليست الحرب قضية عسكريّة فحسب، ولا تكون العودة إليها عبر مطالعة الخطط العسكريّة والاستماع إلى ما يقوله الخبراء العسكريّون، ذلك جزء مهم من 'استخلاص العبر'، لكن الجزء الأهم يكون في العودة إلى الظروف التي هيَّأت للهزيمة، من انتصار محسوم للعرب قبل الحرب، إذ اعتقد كثيرون أن العائق الوحيد أمام تحرير فلسطين هو حالة اللاحرب بين إسرائيل والدول العربية، وأن المانع الوحيد لتحريرها هو عدم نشوب الحرب، في مقابل الخوف والذعر الإسرائيليين من أن العربَ سيرمونهم في بحر حيفا ويافا.
لم يصحُ العربي على الهزيمة العسكريّة فقط، بل استفاق على هزيمة عسكريّة، لا زالت آثارها ماثلة للعيان حتى الآن، إنها أزمة الإعلام، إعلام النكسة، الذي لا زلنا نستظل بظلّه، فحين كان الاحتلال الإسرائيلي يتقدّم في أرض الفيروز ويرتكب المجازر بحقّ أبنائها، ويعربد في القدس وسائر مدن الضفّة الغربيّة والجولان، كان الصحف العربيّة، تتحدّث عن أن القوات العربية احتلت النقب وتتقدّم نحو تل أبيب، وهو ما اتضح زيفه وكذبه، ظنّ إعلام النكسة (بالمناسبة، مصطلح 'نكسة' هو مصطلح مخفّف لأكبر هزيمة في تاريخ العرب الحديث، وضياع ما تبقّى من أرض فلسطين) أنه بتزييفه الواقع يحققُ حلمًا طال انتظاره، وهو تحرير فلسطين، لكنه لم يصنع حلمًا مستمدًا من الواقع، إنما صنع وهمًا، جاء بديلا عن الواقع، عن الضعف والوهن العربيّين، وعن استقواء إسرائيل وتمكّنها منّا.
في مقابل صناعة الوهم العربيّة كان الوضع مختلفًا في إسرائيل، فقد أصدر وزير الأمن الإسرائيلي حينها، موشيه دايان، في اليوم الأول للحرب، أمرًا لكافة وسائل الإعلام الإسرائيليّة بضرورة منع كتابة أيّة تطورات في الحرب، وهي احتلال جيشه الأرضَ العربيّة، في محاولة لمنع تدخل مجلس الأمن الدوليّ للحد من تقدّم جيش الاحتلال كما حصل أثناء العدوان الثلاثي على مصر.
يترككم موقع 'عرب 48' مع ما تداولته أبرز الصحف العربيّة والإسرائيلية قبل، أثناء وبعد النكسة، على أن ينشر، لاحقًا، يوميات الحرب في الصحف العربية والإسرائيلية كما وردت في تاريخها عام 67.

The Trump effect: More dangerous than the man himself

Qataris awoke last night to fears that a coup was under way, just the start of dark days to come after Trump's blessing to the region's tyrants

By David Hearst


These are dark days. Darkened by the slaughter of children in Manchester. Darkened by the fawning welcome Donald Trump received in Riyadh. But darkened further by the Trump effect, which could be even more dangerous than the man himself. 
Trump was crystal clear to those Arab leaders who had paid their jizya: “I am not here to talk to you about human rights. In fact, I am not going to mention the word once. I am not here to lecture you on democracy. You can do what you want to your own people. In fact, I am not here to talk to you about life at all. I am talking about death. I want you to wipe jihadis from the face of the earth,” he seemed to be saying.
This was not Cicero talking. It was Caesar. Proximity to this new source of wisdom and power was everything. At the photocall at the end of the summit, King Salman stood to the left of Trump and the Emir of Qatar to his right. The closest that Sisi could get was next to King Abdullah II of Jordan who was next to Salman.
Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, turned up late. He shook hands with Sisi and then pushed himself between Trump and Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
Bin Zayed took his duties as Trump’s right-hand man in the Middle East seriously. On Monday, the sound of someone knocking at the door in the middle of the night was heard all over Qatar.

Night moves

Qataris woke to find the website of the official news agency QNA quoting the ruler of Qatar saying all the most damaging things a Gulf state ruler could say: that Doha had tensions with Trump; that he acknowledged that Iran was an Islamic power; that there was no wisdom in harbouring hostility to Iran; that Trump was facing legal issues at home.
The media coverage given to the fake news report was so swift and so complete, it could only have been pre-planned
This was crude fake news, planted by hackers. Firstly, the emir never even gave a speech to a graduation ceremony for new army recruits, the source of the alleged remarks. Secondly, no Arab leader in his right mind would publicly acknowledge at an official ceremony that he had close links to Israel.
Fake news or not, the Saudi and Emirati-controlled media went to town. Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, Al Ekhbariya and the Emirati-co owned Sky News Arabia cancelled their schedules and gave the fake news piece wall-to-wall coverage throughout the night. The media coverage given to the fake news report was so swift and so complete, it could only have been pre-planned. It took some hours for the dozy Qataris to react with a denial, but even then this was ignored or not carried until the morning.
The offensive against Qatar continued on Wednesday. Al Arabiya published “proof” that the emir’s speech was not hacked. The article however did not address the fact that the news ticker shown on the screen had been manipulated. The UAE's foreign ministry announced it was banning all Qatari news websites.
The hacking was a professional operation. And it had the intended effect. When they did realise what was going on, the shock rippled throughout the small kingdom. No one slept. They thought a coup was being planned.

Trump's green light

The finger for this points to one of Qatar’s several hostile neighbours, but to the Emirates in particular, which has both the motive and the capability of pulling a stunt like this. 
If Trump wanted a short answer to the question of who is responsible for the rise of al-Qaeda and IS, the answer was sitting collectively straight in front of him
In August last year, an Italian security expert, Simone Margaritelli, a researcher with the US cybersecurity firm Zimperium, claimed that an Emirati-sponsored firm tried to recruit him to build an elite task force of hackers. Previously, the New York Times had reported how the UAE was buying off-the-shelf surveillance products. Now, the allegation went, the Emiratis were trying to develop their own team of hackers to develop their own malware and spyware.
This, of course, is exactly what happens when a Middle East neophyte like Trump gives the green light to an audience which includes most of the Arab leaders whose tyrannies and misrule are responsible for creating al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group in the first place.
This is not in any way to diminish the responsibility of Western governments in feeding the food chain of violence. British intelligence had no problems encouraging British-born Muslims to fight in Bosnia, Libya and Syria - initially - when the bogeymen were the Serbs, Gaddafi and Assad. When, however, national policy flips - as it did with Syria after 2012 - these returning yeomen are treated very differently. 
Demonstrators protest outside QEII Centre in London in July 2016 as they wait to hear the outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry (AFP)
But at the very least, if we are to avert another Bush-Blair-type disaster in the Middle East - maybe this time directed against Iran or its proxies like Hezbollah - Trump has to realise that his newfound Arab allies have very different motives from the US or any Western state in seeking to engage in yet another chapter of the never-ending war on terror. 
Their sole concern is the preservation of autocracies of a viciousness that makes the regimes of Mubarak and Ben Ali pale in comparison. Al-Qaeda was on its knees when popular revolutions toppled these two dictators and when free elections were held for the first time in Egypt and Tunisia. The arrival of IS dates almost exactly with the military coup in Egypt in June 2013. If Trump wanted a short answer to the question of who is responsible for the rise of al-Qaeda and IS, the answer was sitting collectively straight in front of him.
This makes the Trump effect in the Middle East even more hazardous than the one Barack Obama had when he tried and failed to withdraw from it.

Free fall

Obama had many faults. He proved to be in many ways a crueller US president for the Arab people than Trump is by promising more than he could hope to deliver. Trump neither promises nor delivers.  
However, the comparison between Obama’s equivalent “reset” speech that he made in Cairo in June 2009 and the tawdry laundry list recited in Riyadh is instructive.
Its not just that there is no end in sight to 15 years of the War on Terror. It is that every time you think you have reached the bottom of this downward spiral, you find there is further to fall
Obama addressed Arab people, students at Cairo University, in a venue that spelled learning. Trump addressed Arab leaders in a hall that spelled power. Obama talked about civilisation’s debt to Islam. Trump treats the Middle East like a souk, or as he put it, a global centre of opportunity - one he himself had just grabbed with both hands by bagging hundreds of billions of dollars of arms contracts.
Obama acknowledged the responsibility on him for clearing up the mess caused by the US invasion of Iraq. Trump never even mentioned it. Obama talked of human rights. Trump did not mention the words once. Obama talked of life. Trump talked of death. He said the only way to deal with the jihadis was to wipe them from the face of the earth.
US President Donald Trump tours the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh on 21 May 2017 (Reuters)
It's not just that there is no end in sight to 15 years of the war on terror. Nor is it even that each new actor who happens along contributes to the process of keeping it going - Blair and Bush in 2003, Cameron and Sarkozy in 2011, Trump and Netanyahu in 2017. It is that every time you think you have reached the bottom of this downward spiral, you find there is further to fall. 
The conditions which generated the popular uprising of 2011 are stronger now than they ever were. The repression is stronger, states are failing all over the Middle East to provide protection and basic services to their people. The brake has been released on killing machines around the world. The US-led coalition air strikes killed nearly twice the number of civilians in Syria than IS militants did. 
You would think by now that anyone with an ounce of grey matter between his ears would pause before engaging again in another intervention. But that is indubitably where we appear to be headed. On whom the collective death wish will settle is any one’s guess. It could be southern Lebanon, yet again. But the smell of yet another intervention is unmistakable. The consequences of it on future generations of innocent civilians are unmistakable too.
David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon: Arab Media!

اعلام عربي

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Remember That?



ترامب يشبه حماس بالقاعدة و"داعش"


قال الرئيس الأميركي، دونالد_ترمب، في خطاب ألقاه أمام القمة الأميركية العربية الإسلامية في الرياض، اليوم الأحد، إن إيران 'تمول وتسلح وتدرب الإرهابيين والميليشيات. فقد أشعلت إيران النزاعات الطائفية، وهي مسؤولة عن زعزعة الاستقرار في لبنان والعراق واليمن، كما أن التدخلات الإيرانية التي تزعزع الاستقرار واضحة للغاية في سورية، وبفضل إيران ارتكب الأسد الجرائم بحق شعبه، ويجب أن نعمل معاً لعزل إيران ومنعها من تمويل التنظيمات الإرهابية'، مشيراً إلى أن 'الضحية الأبرز للنظام في طهران هو الشعب الإيراني'.
وادعى ترامب، الذي اعتبر أن مشاكل العالم العربي تنحصر ب'الإرهاب' وبعد أن أبرم صفقات أسلحة بمئات مليارات الدولارات مع السعودية، إنه 'اليوم نبدأ فصلا جديدا في الشراكة مع السعودية'، زاعما أنه يقدم 'رسالة صداقة وأمل وحب باسم الشعب الأميركي'.
وقال ترمب لزعماء يمثلون نحو 55 دولة عربية وإسلامية، إنه يهدف لإقامة 'تحالف يقضي على التطرف تماما'، وإلى السلام والأمن والازدهار في هذه المنطقة والعالم، وأن 'المستقبل الأفضل في المنطقة يعتمد على طرد الإرهابيين'، واعتبر أن السعودية والتحالف الإقليمي قاموا بعمل كبير ضد المتمردين في اليمن، ويجب أن تضمن الدول الإسلامية أن الإرهابيين لن يجدوا ملاذا آمنا'.
وقال ترمب إنه 'ملتزمون بتعديل إستراتيجيتنا لمواجهة أخطار الإرهاب، ويجب أن نعمل على قطع مصادر التمويل للتنظيمات الإرهابية'، وأن الدول الإسلامية يجب أن تتحمل المسؤولية الكبرى في هزيمة 'الإرهاب' وأن اتفاقات صفقات الأسلحة ستساعد الجيش السعودي على لعب دور أكبر.
وأضاف ترمب أنه 'سوف نقوم بخطوة تاريخية الليلة بافتتاح مركز مكافحة التطرف في الرياض، وهذا المركز الجديد يوضح أن المسلمين عليهم الدور الأكبر في محاربة الإرهاب'.
وخلط ترامب بين حركات المقاومة في لبنان وفلسطين وبين المنظمات الإرهابية، وادعى أن حزب الله وحماس وداعش والقاعدة وغيرهم 'يمارسون نفس الوحشية... وذبح الأبرياء باسم الدين إهانة لأتباع كل الأديان'.
واعتر ترامب أن 'هذه القمة تمثل بداية السلام ليس فقط في الشرق الأوسط بل في العالم، ودول الشرق الأوسط عليها أن تقرر ما هو المستقبل الذي تريده.
وعن الأزمة السورية، قال ترامب إنه 'يجب أن نعمل معا لإنهاء الأزمة الإنسانية في سورية والتخلص من داعش'.
وقالت قناة الجزيرة إن الشخص الذي أعد النسخة الأولى من خطاب ترمب في الرياض هو ستيفان ميلر، المعروف بأنه يميني محافظ ومن أشد المعادين للمسلمين والمهاجرين ويؤمن بتفوق العرق الأبيض.
وأضافت أن ميلر كان معروفا في مراحل دراسته بعدائه الشديد للمسلمين والمهاجرين من الأقليات الأخرى، ومن أشد الكارهين للاحتفالات الخاصة بذوي الأصول اللاتينية، كما أنه كان مهندس القرار التنفيذي الذي أصدره ترمب لمنع دخول مواطني دول عربية وإسلامية إلى الولايات المتحدة قبل أن تبطله محاكم أميركية. ويعرف عن ميلر أنه محافظ يميني عمل في منظمات كانت توصف بأنها معادية للمسلمين.
وتابعت الجزيرة أن النسخة الأولى التي أعدها ميلر من خطاب ترمب خضعت لمراجعة وتنقيح من قبل مستشاري ترمب، وعلى رأسهم صهره، جيرالد كوشنر، المكلف بكل ملفات الشرق الأوسط، ما جعل الخطاب -وفق مطلعين- أكثر 'تهذيبا'.



Al-Jazeera Cartoon

كاريكاتير: إضراب الأسرى

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon: The Palestinian Cause Is Buried Under Many Other Pressing Crises

القضية الفلسطينية