This week Russia, Iran, and Turkey reopened trilateral peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan in an effort to end Syria’s six-year civil war. In a statement, all three countries said there was no military solution that could end the civil war that has left at least 500,000 people dead and another 12 million refugees. But could the peace talk developments change the dynamic in the war-torn region?
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All three countries said the two-day peace negotiations yielded a delicate three-week cessation of hostilities throughout Syria. However, many opposition groups, including the US-backed militias were not invited to the highly publicized regional meetings. That snub prompted many groups to declare their exclusion essentially meant they wouldn’t abide by any proposed agreements.
Nevertheless, a statement from one opposition group stated they would “observe and ensure full compliance with the ceasefire, prevent any provocation and determine all modalities.”
The Syrian Kurdish YPG officials also responded: “As we are not participating in these talks, we stress that we are not bound by any decisions issued from the Astana conference. We, in the (Kurdish) People’s Protection Units (YPG), believe the entities that are participating and that have sponsored these talks are part of the problem in Syria in the first place.”
A major obstacle to peace has become Turkey’s President Recip Erdogan, who has a long history of outwardly speaking out against Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), while not so covertly supporting the terrorist organization by leaving open borders that afford the terror jihadis the ability to move weapons freely into Syria. Such a Turkish policy expands his quest for a true Caliphate over Syria. Also, Turkey considers the YPG and PYD as proxies of the Kurdistan Workers Party or (PKK). The Communist-aligned group has landed itself on the US State Department’s “Terrorist list.”
Further complicating matters, President Erdogan defended his army’s invasion into Syria in a 24 News Istanbul presser, saying the Turkish troops were only confirming that “the true owners” of land remained in the hands of legal titleholders. “They (Kurds) want to found a new state in northern Syria,” Erdogan said. “Let this be known; we will not allow the creation of such a state.”
On the other hand, the YPG is coordinating the US-led campaign’s fight against ISIS or Daesh (as it is known in the region), in an effort to control approximately one-third of Northern Syria. The group admits to taking fighting assistance from the PKK, but adamantly opposes strong ties to the Communist group.
So far peace has remained elusive with many of Syrian President Assad’s opponents saying the only way to end the bloodshed is “through democratic autonomous zones that preserve the unity of the Syrian land.”
The YPG and the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Federalism of Northern Syria (DFNS) have mostly avoided a direct battle with the Syrian government, despite a few skirmishes, as a way to ensure their place in a new Syria.
According to Reuters, “The YPG has clashed with nationalist Syrian Arab rebels, which have accused it of collaborating with the government – something the group denies.”
On December 29, 2016, the predominately Kurdish group (DFNS) announced their bid to create a federated state within Syria. “Taking this fact into consideration and given the cultural, national, and social richness of the Syrian society, it is clear that the pluralistic democratic federal system based on the notion of the democratic nation is the best system to unify Syrians while restoring the nation-state will lead to further divisions in our social structure,” the group affirmed.
The template could provide a new democratic standard in the Middle East, but the idea of a democratic Middle East is meeting with strong resistance from countries like Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and others.
The New York Times reported, “the Syrian Kurdish political party Democratic Union Party spokesman Nawaf Khalil said that his party has been planning to declare a federal region in northern Syria, the model which he said can be applied to the whole country…” his party is not promoting a Kurdish-only region, but rather an all-inclusive area which will include Turkmen, Arabs, and Kurds in northern Syria.
“As a Syrian citizen, I say we reject talks about a federal Syria … our people will reject any attempt to divide Syria,” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said at a press conference in Damascus. But Russians appear to remain neutral and say if the people of Syria want federalization it is a viable option. According to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, “Russia will support whatever solution the Syrian government and the opposition formulate to end the country’s war, including any form (of government) whatever it may be called: federalization, decentralization, unitary state.”
This is the opening the DFNS have been waiting to hear. The group released a statement saying: “Since the objective and subjective conditions are not met to establish a democratic constitution for all Syria in the present time, we, in the liberated areas, are going to organize our lives according to this social contract approved by all the components living in northern Syria till the establishment of a democratic constitution, which recognizes the rights of all Syrians.”
Needless to say, US State Department (DoS), playing the role of spoiler, confirmed that America has no immediate plans to recognize any “self-rule, semi-autonomous Kurdish zone in Syria” and believes Syrian unity is the best solution. DoS spokesperson Mark Toner said, “We’ve been very clear that we won’t recognize any self-rule autonomous zones within Syria.”
Despite the lack of solutions from the US, the Russia’s Sergei Lavrov requested that Syrian opposition groups that were omitted from the Astana, Kazakhstan talks, including the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), join the recent peace conference on Friday to discuss options for peace.
“We have invited on Friday all the opposition representatives from the political opposition that wish to come to Moscow and we will brief them about what happened in Astana,” Lavrov explained.
The group includes Kurdish politicians from the Rojava’s Self-Administration. “Minister Lavrov invited a wide range of political opposition members in order to brief us about the outcome of the recent Astana meeting that confirmed the ceasefire,” Jihad Makdissi told ARA News. “Friday’s meeting will also be a chance to reflect collectively with the minister [Lavrov] on the best way to push forward the Geneva talks in the direction of a political settlement based on UNSCR (United Nations Security Council Resolution) 2254.”
As part of President Putin’s fact-finding mission in Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev said “the Russian delegation handed over the draft constitution to representatives of the armed Syrian opposition and awaits a reaction to the document. The alleged draft constitution that was leaked by Rudaw included a reference to local administration areas and would provide equality between Kurdish and Arabic language in these areas.”
The general framework of the Syrian DFNS’s democratic constitution is:
The democratic nation – The democratic nation consists of individuals who share equal rights and freedoms. It also consists of different cultures, religions, and ethnicities, based on individual and group rights.
A State for all – It is clear that we, as Syrians, need a new notion for a State, a State for all. This means that the State should consist of people with different languages, ethnicities, and religions. This notion strengthens the integrity and coexistence and asserts the unity of the Syrian society and soil, while a mono-ethnic State marginalizes the majority of the people, which leads to divisions and fragmentations. Fascism produces people who follow the same styles of thinking while pluralism represents richness in nature and society. Thus, it is better to have a national spirit based on relation to the land, ecology, progress, but not in a fascist and chauvinistic way.
The democratic federal republic – Viewing the republic, as a nation-state is an influential factor of marginalization as it is the strict form of the republic. It is impossible to have a democratic nation-state. The optimal system for a republic should be democratic. The nation-state eliminates the democratic characteristics of societies, as is the case with the previous period.
If we take the cultural diversity in Syria into account, we will find out that the democratic solution is compatible with the Syrian democratic federal republic model. What is really important here is to establish a Syrian democratic federal republic, which unifies all federations. To solve the critical issues in Syria, it is important to the system and State not to be linked to an ideology, ethnicity, or religion. Thus, it is more convenient to formulate a legal definition of the Syrian democratic federal republic as a democratic legal system for all the people. By doing so, the principle of the democratic nation and secularism will be embodied in the definition above. Describing Syria as “the Syrian Democratic Federal Republic” without any reference to ethnic, racial, or religious terms would be more comprehensive and integral.
The democratic constitution – To lay the foundation of the democratic principles, they must be based on a constitution, which truly represents all the components of the society so that their rights can always be protected. This will pave the way for the social institutions and segments to organize and develop themselves and take their natural role in society, particularly women and youth. The democratic constitution is considered a tool that helps solve the problems of the State. It will ensure the unity of federations in a mutual State.
Self-defense – Self-defense is a very important issue because it protects the social and cultural identities of the Syrian peoples. It has been proved historically that the communities, which have not been able to defend themselves, have been exposed to all kinds of extermination. Thus, we must ensure self-defense for all communities and individuals in Syria. Moreover, the establishment of sufficient self-defense system is crucial for a free, equal and fair life.
Women’s freedom – Women’s freedom is one of the most important issues in the Syrian communities. One of the main reasons for retardation in our societies is the marginalization and elimination of women’s role in the process of building societies. To get rid of the undemocratic and unfair practices against women, there must be some constitutional articles to ensure equality between men and women in all aspects of life. Thus, the active participation of women in the process of drafting a new constitution in Syria is considered vital.
Economy – We must establish an economic policy to protect the society and environment against the destructive effects of monopolized policy, which dominates the economy. Therefore, there is a dire need for an economic policy, which fulfills the society needs and ensures a fair distribution of Syrian wealth. Furthermore, we must get rid of unemployment, which has been increasing in our societies, so that every individual should have a job regardless of his/her gender, ethnic, or religious identity.
Language and culture: Using the mother tongue and culture in the field of education, art, science, and religion are considered one of the basic human rights. Thus, we must ensure education in the mother tongue in the new constitution for Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmen, and Chechens. This will strengthen the social and cultural structure of the Syrian communities and will pave the way for a voluntary unity among all components.
According to what has been mentioned above, we, as a constituent assembly of the federalism in northern Syria, will do our best to develop a democratic solution which (sic) covers all Syria. We assert to the Syrian general opinion that we are ready for negotiation and dialogue with all Syrian forces to establish a democratic system, which ensures peace and stability for all Syrians.
Other highlights from the latest Russian held talks with opposition leaders consist of the following noteworthy changes in Syria.
“The draft suggests dropping the word ‘Arab’ from the country’s official name, thus making it the ‘Syrian Republic.'” The current provision enshrining “Islamic law as a main source of legislation” would be rejected along with the present constitutional provision requiring the president to be Muslim. These are the legal means suggested to make new Syria a freer, more open and all-inclusive state and a society with equal opportunities for social and political participation for everyone.
The second aspect deals with the very institution of the presidency: It would stipulate a seven-year term with no right to run for a second consecutive term. The president would still be commander-in-chief, but could only announce an emergency situation and call for a general mobilization with approval from a new body to be called the ‘Assembly of Regions.’”
And the third draft deals with the state structure by decentralizing the Syrian government and enabling local councils more say in their political outcome. A continued sticky topic is the provision providing for “autonomy of Kurdish regions.” Russia views this as a significant compromise that would put Syria on the path to federalization.
Russian-backed Kurd solution
Maxim Suchkov reports for al-Monitor “the draft constitution includes restrictions on the power of the Syrian presidency, with most powers deferred to the parliament and a newly created ‘Assembly of Regions.’ Under the draft, the president would serve for seven years with no option for a second consecutive term.”
The draft also includes the decentralization of government rule and the adoption of inclusive local councils.
“One issue that has stirred debate,” Suchkov explained, “is a provision allowing for ‘autonomy of Kurdish regions,’ which Russia sees as an adequate compromise for the country’s federalization. A provision stipulating equal rights for Kurds and Arabs on Kurdish territories is also remarkable. Moreover, under the proposed draft, every region in the country should be given the right to legalize the use of a language of the region’s majority — in addition to the state language and in accordance with the law.”
However, the proposed document has met with strong skepticism from Turkey’s president and his Sunni-led allies, who continues its march towards authoritarian rule and has his sights on Syrian land for himself. “The Kurdish issue is the most controversial. Turkey, Damascus and the Arab opposition forces all have their own caveats about the proposed autonomy — and it doesn’t please the Kurds, either, as they want more.”
But Lavrov argued, “We have only offered our proposals to the Syrian parties without any intention of forcing them to adopt them. Based on the experience of the past five years, we are convinced that practical work can only begin if specific proposals are put on the table. I hope that all Syrians will read our draft while preparing for a meeting in Geneva and that it will provide an impetus for a practical discussion of ways to achieve accord in Syria in keeping with the Geneva Communique.”
Suchkov finished his report by highlighting: “The expectation in Moscow is that, at the end of the day, the parties will share the view that extreme, uncompromising positions will mean no end to the civil war in the near future, while the proposed formula may be the best possible solution under the current circumstances.”
More on Syrian Kurds…
Regional cynics (primarily Turkey and Sunnis) argue the new DFNS is nothing more than the subterfuge for Kurdish domination. A regional report written by Amberin Zaman claims, “Rojava’s leaders say the federation is a blueprint for the secular, egalitarian, multi-ethnic and federal plan they giddily imagine for the rest of Syria. Most people still call the place Rojava, and its administrators make no secret of their desire to dilute decades of government-enforced Arabization crafted to efface the Kurds.”
But the aforementioned group who are referring skeptics to its charter nixes that notion.
Zaman alleged the DFNS’s might fall short on the mandatory free school education system. “Education is a key pillar of this new order, and mandatory schooling in the Arabic language is being phased out. Kurds, who make up the largest ethnic group in Rojava, are finally receiving education in the long-banned Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish that is spoken here,” she claimed. “Arabs continue to send their children to Arabic schools while Syrian Orthodox Christians, also known as Syriacs, tutor their children in their own tongue.”
However, the newly created DFNS political document states, “Using the mother tongue and culture in the field of education, art, science, and religion is considered one of the basic human rights. Thus, we must ensure education in the mother tongue in the new constitution for Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmen, and Chechens. This will strengthen the social and cultural structure of the Syrian communities and will pave the way for a voluntary unity among all components.”
Zaman admits the group will allow those in high school to continue Arabic-language studies currently associated with the Syrian Ministry of Education.
Another concern for the “Kurdish-administered regions of Syria is they have become laboratories for the revolutionary, egalitarian ideas of ‘Abdullah Ocalan,’ the imprisoned leader of the Turkish-Kurdish rebel group called the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). When Ocalan and his comrades set up the PKK in 1978, they said they would be fighting for an independent Kurdistan that would unite the Kurds of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. But over time the PKK scaled back its ambitions as geopolitical realities set in.”
Also, Syria’s Kurds also have a complicated relationship with the autonomous Iraqi Kurds. “Muhammad Yusuf, who runs a small shop that sells mobile phone accessories, said cellphone covers with Barzani’s face sell in numbers equal to those featuring Ocalan. Barzani owes his popularity above all to his father, the legendary Kurdish warrior Mullah Mustafa Barzani, a central figure in the Kurds’ struggle for freedom. But Barzani’s friendship with Turkey and hostility to the PYD are beginning to dent his image here. Still, Barzani is lobbying the United States to pressure Rojava’s leaders to let back in some 3,000 KDP-S fighters he helped arm and train. The aim, Barzani says, is to unify the Kurds. Critics counter that it is to shatter the PYD’s monopoly over power to his own advantage. The Rojava administration says it will allow the KDP-S forces to return provided they agree to fall under their command. But they won’t.”
However, from the carnage of war positive changes seem to be stemming the tide. “Massoud Barzani, Iraqi Kurdistan’s president and the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on which the KDP-S was modeled, is well liked throughout Rojava and especially in Derik and its environs, where the yellow KDP banner flutters above entire villages,” Zaman explains.
The costs of the US driven Syrian War have been devastating on the region. So far the United Nations has asked for $4.63 billion in new funding to assist the Syrian refugees living in nearby countries. Human rights organizations have estimated that an additional $3.4 billion is needed to assist an estimated 13 million Syrian’s still living in the war-ravaged country this year alone.
The costs of reconstruction have not even been estimated. But the Syrians seem to collectively realize that more war is not the answer. A political solution could be in the offing whether the US participates or not.
Watch YPG women fighting in the military and their fight against ISIS: https://yadi.sk/mail/?hash=XozdNCJPv94Lgn2P05hoBtjnM1EsRO6CYYu4%2FtANQcY=
As the deplorables descended into Washington DC for the 45th president’s inauguration, the festivities incorporated a simple theme, Make America Great Again or as Twitter commonly refers to it as #MAGA.
The Mainstream Media hyped the idea that protesters would outnumber Trump supporters, but the continued incorrect predictions of the MSM persisted on inauguration day. The weathermen predicted rain throughout the event, that didn’t happen either. President Trump gave his inaugural address while TV talking heads predicted protestors would be louder than the speakers, wrong, they were drown out by chants of USA, USA and Trump, Trump, Trump. The roughly one-thousand protestors embarrassed themselves by destroying a Starbucks on 14th and K Street, isn’t that their mother ship?
But even the minor chaos didn’t disrupt the throngs of Trump supporters who drove, flew and traveled hours to witness history. The Brooklyn kid with a brash personality that Vegas said would never be president raised his hand and like the 44 presidents before him took the oath of office and proved to the world America had a new sheriff in town and things were changing.
It’s been a few days since Donald J. Trump became the 45th president and the inside the beltway elites are still complaining and plotting his demise. But as the 16 other candidates that ran against him learned one-by-one, the real estate billionaire proved he is a formidable man of the people—politicians and media beware!
Writer’s note: Please forgive me for not covering more of the inauguration, but as luck would have it I fractured my ankle the day I arrived and the government used its cell service on the National Mall. Enjoy the pictures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook…
This week in an open door Senate hearing, the nation’s top intelligence director James Clapper, told lawmakers that the Russian government used a multi-faceted campaign of hacking, fake news and propaganda to sway US voters before they went to the ballot box for the 2016 presidential election.
“I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere with our election process,” said James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence a political appointee of President Obama.
On Friday, intelligence officers made their way to Trump Tower to brief the incoming president. Three agencies of the 17- member Intel community claimed their unclassified Russian hacking report would provide ironclad evidence the Ruskies have been up to no good when it comes to America’s elections.
Nevertheless, the lackluster details of the report were leaked to NBC News and that prompted a famous President-elect Donald Trump Tweet that read: “I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.”
Not only does the report lack a smoking gun, the Intel report found only two (CIA & FBI) of the three agencies reported high confidence, while the NSA said it was moderately confident that Russia interfered in the elections. Hardly the blockbuster Americans were expecting. However, the 25-page report (including lots of empty pages) was littered with so-called fake news that “apparently” swayed voters, even though the Director of National Intelligence Clapper repeatedly told Capitol Hill lawmakers they found no evidence Russia hacked voting machines nor could they confirm Vladimir Putin swayed voters.
Clapper did say there were ample examples of Russian-run media outlets providing plenty of stories that were unkind to Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. The funny thing about the “fake news” is that the root of the stories was anchored in fact. The Democrat National Committee, Hillary Clinton, and John Podesta all had their email accounts hacked and the information was released to WikiLeaks who found ample readers wanting to know what was really going on behind the scenes at the DNC. Despite the Democrats complaints, WikiLeaks has a bi-partisan history and has hit both political parties as well as receiving scorn from both parties. For example, WikiLeaks released all of GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s emails, unsavory details about the unpopular war in Iraq that Army Private Bradley/Chelsea Manning removed from government computers as well as the massive surveillance state the US maintains.
Regarding election enthusiasm, there is no question the Russian’s exploited the 2016 election. They aggressively took information that was somewhat known within the journalistic world but wasn’t really being widely reported. Once the information made it to WikiLeaks a lot of journalists were able to confirm the damning information. As a result of the fact that the Obama administration has consistently slowed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process, leaving many journalists unable to correctly report the news.
Another point, when the Russian government saw the released hacked emails, it was easy to write the slant based on “true email facts.” The IC report relies on Russian TV “RT” that is a Russian state-run outlet as the main boogieman. Of course, the various Intel talking heads tried to debunk WikiLeaks, but so far, they have yet to get a story wrong.
As for the so-called “fake news,” it’s based on “facts.” Unless the Main Stream Media (MSM) forgot to report the story, Putin didn’t tell Mrs. Clinton to use a “home-brewed” unencrypted, private email server that was separate from the State Department. Nor did he counsel Clinton to mix State Department business with Clinton Foundation business and he certainly did not tell Clinton to fundraise rather than campaign, the fault rests with the former Secretary of State. On the other hand, Podesta allegedly fell for a phishing campaign that convinced him to reveal his email password opening all of his emails to hackers, although WikiLeaks reported the leaks were from an insider.
Nobody knows for certain how the oodles of scandals that followed Clinton around like the plague changed the minds of voters; America has become a very polarized country. If anything the Russian influence highlighted and exploited the glaring facts that the journalistic world may not be a fair broker. The leaked emails demonstrated that the MSM might not be reporting all the information that comes their way.
The voters spoke loud and clear. A Rasmussen poll found last week that 48 to 31 percent of the American electorate believe the MSM media is still reporting Trump unfairly and are turning the channel.
Chances are if the majority of Americans read the IC report, “Key Judgments Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election” they would see the politicized Intel community highlights “Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US- led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”
The declassified IC report claims the conclusions reached, mirror the highly classified assessment but “does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.”
- Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment. NSA has moderate confidence.
- Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign…When it appeared that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency.
- Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”
- Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber-operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties.
- Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data.
- Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.
- Russia’s state-run propaganda machine contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election process.
Incoming National Security Advisor for President-elect Trump, Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has been worried about the intelligence communities’ increasing politicization and leadership’s new trend of telling the Commander in Chief what he wants to hear rather than the cold hard facts. In 2010, he penned a position paper titled “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan” The tough-talking general believes the IC needs to refocus its energy on human intelligence and “in the field” operations to better access what the enemy is feeling and doing. “Because the United States has focused the overwhelming majority of collection efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, our intelligence apparatus still finds itself unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which we operate and the people we are trying to protect and persuade,” Gen Flynn wrote. “I felt the Intel system was way too politicized, especially in the Defense Department.”
In closing, there can be little doubt that Russia has engaged in both and cyber-sabotage and cyber-espionage against America and its allies. But America’s flirtation with coining news you don’t agree with, as “fake news” doesn’t mean it is true or not.
The US should heed the warning from Adolf Hitler’s chief propagandist, Joseph Goebel’s slogan, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”
As the 2016 election post-mortem results rolled in, Americans learned the Main Stream Media (MSM) is largely in the tank for the left. For example, CNN/ABC’s Donna Brazile and fellow Democrats were caught red-handed with emails released by WikiLeaks that showed they were providing Hillary Clinton with pre-debate questions and/or a healthy dose of negative news for Mr. Trump.
However, the fallout from the media bias may not be what the voters think, as Ms. Brazile’s and the media’s outing produced no firings, instead, Congress rewarded their behavior by creating America’s first “Ministry of Propaganda.”
If voters prefer Russia’s or Turkey’s state-run media, they will be pleased with the new law enacted by Congress, and signed into law by President Obama as an add-on buried in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The Friday night before Christmas, President Obama quietly signed into law the $611 billion, 1,576-page 2017 NDAA that included the controversial assault on America’s media status guaranteed by the First Amendment.
During the brutal 2016 presidential campaign, many Clinton supporters argued or tried to sell the American population on the postulation that Hillary Clinton was the prohibitive front-runner, but once the results were in, they claimed it was the so-called “fake news” that undermined the election process and gave Mr. Trump the win.
Dubiously dubbed the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act,” the bipartisan amendment demands through a new government tax that the new federal program will “educate” journalists, media outfits, and other so-called propaganda outlets what exactly the news is and relinquish media’s control to the US government’s interpretations of facts or fiction.
The sponsors insist the new program will only promote the beltway’s “foreign policy goals,” whatever that means. The potential for government cover-ups of embarrassing actions under the guise of national security will force all journalists to tow the proverbial line and destroy an adversarial media.
According to the new law, the Global Engagement Center should “develop, plan, and synchronize … whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation directed against United States national security interests and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests. It should also work to establish cooperative or liaison relationships with foreign partners and allies … and other entities, such as academia, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.”
Many critics argue that non-profits, businesses, universities, K-12 schools, could be reigned into the campaign and forced to promote any presidential administration propaganda.
This latest hoopla centers on Russia. The Ruskies are the easiest boogieman, as America’s old Cold War foe has become a reliable enemy to keep the US military machine cranking out billions in weaponry contracts.
“I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence — even now,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said. “There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”
But as the post-election autopsy highlights, it was the Washington Post and the New York Times that the voters thought were disseminating “fake news.” WikiLeaks provided ample evidence the traditional media were trying to protect their access and secrets.
In an attempt to protect those potential career-ending mistakes, Congressmen Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced controversial legislation, H.R. 5181 and they say is a “whole-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions to counter foreign disinformation and manipulation, which they believe threaten the world’s security and stability. As Russia continues to spew its disinformation and false narratives, they undermine the United States and its interests in places like Ukraine, while also breeding further instability in these countries,” Kinzinger explained in a statement. “The United States has a role in countering these destabilizing acts of propaganda, which is why I’m proud to introduce [the aforementioned bill]. This important legislation develops a comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter disinformation campaigns through interagency cooperation and on-the-ground partnerships with outside organizations that have experience in countering foreign propaganda. From Ukraine to the South China Sea, foreign disinformation campaigns do more than spread anti-Western sentiments — they manipulate public perception to change the facts on the ground, subvert democracy and undermine U.S. interests,” Congressman Lieu said. “In short, they make the world less safe.”
The Bill charges the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and a Broadcasting Board of Governors to “establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response, to rid their idea of disinformation, in an effort to “develop and disseminate fact-based narratives.”
According to the bill’s text, the goal will identify “current and emerging trends in foreign propaganda and disinformation, including the use of print, broadcast, online and social media, support for third-party outlets such as think tanks, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations, and the use of covert or clandestine special operators and agents to influence targeted populations and governments in order to coordinate and shape the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures to expose and refute foreign misinformation and disinformation.”
A companion bill, also named the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S. 2692), was introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OHIO). “These countries spend vast sums of money on advanced broadcast and digital media capabilities, targeted campaigns, funding of foreign political movements, and other efforts to influence key audiences and populations,” Portman explained, adding that while the US spends a relatively small amount on its Voice of America, the Kremlin provides enormous funding for its news organization, RT. Surprisingly, there is currently no single US governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.”
If these reports are true, Americans should worry that free speech may be regulated by the Broadcasting Board and therefore, not the arbiter of watchdog journalism the founding fathers promised.
According to a New American article, the founders insisted, “Journalists and pamphleteers were certainly vital to spreading the ideas of American rebellion against the English—names like Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams were nearly synonymous with the American Revolution, and they certainly weren’t alone. Though propaganda and distortion of the news were common as well. When the framers of the Constitution met to discuss the construction of the new government at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, freedom of the press and what it would mean for the future of the country was certainly on their minds.”
Even an observer of American values, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville concluded the importance of free speech. “When the right of every citizen to a share in the government of society is acknowledged, everyone must be presumed to be able to choose between the various opinions of his contemporaries and to appreciate the different facts from which inferences may be drawn. The sovereignty of the people and the liberty of the press may therefore, be regarded as correlative, just as the censorship of the press and universal suffrage are two things which are irreconcilably opposed and which cannot long be retained among the institutions of the same people.”
The cornerstone of America’s free spirit and perpetual growth rests with the freedom of all media. In fact, it’s enshrined in the First Amendment to emphasize governmental misdoings no matter the political party in charge.
As of late, the MSM is happy to propagate that it is President-elect Donald Trump who will violate and punish journalists he does not agree with, but ultimately, the MSM journos can blame President Obama as he signed the new program into law. The same new government program will have the power to decide whether or not to throw a whistleblower in jail for disclosing embarrassing facts to the media or if the government chooses to spy on reporters seeking to uncover corrupt politicians.
Nonetheless, President Obama has pushed back on his critical actions against members of the media. “I am a strong believer in the First Amendment and the need for journalists to pursue every lead and every angle,” he told a Rutgers University paper. “I think that when you hear stories about us cracking down on whistleblowers or whatnot, we’re talking about a really small sample. Some of them are serious. Where you had purposeful leaks of information that could harm or threaten operations or individuals who were in the field involved with really sensitive national security issues.”
However, the new freedom of press law could prevent the information from ever being disseminated to the general public in the first place.
This week the GOP House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes wrote a letter to the country’s 17 intelligence directors asking them for a closed-door Congressional briefing to find out if Russia tampered with the presidential elections. They declined.
The California lawmaker expressed concern with conflicting media reports and wrote in his letter: “The Committee has an urgent need to accurately understand the current IC[Intelligence Community] assessment of alleged Russian cyber-activities relating to the election and any disagreements among IC components.”
However, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin disagreed and told CNN’s WBAL: “What has been publicly released by our Intelligence Community is that the United States was attacked by cyber and that Russia, at the highest levels, signed off on that type of attack and their purpose was to interfere with our free elections.”
So there you have it, another he said, she said inside the beltway. A more likely explanation lies within the story being politically based but not empirically supported.
Proof comes from average Americans. Only one-third of US voters say they believe Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
And when it comes to interfering with elections, it’s the Central Intelligence Agency who has plenty of experience. “The CIA got its start trying to influence the outcome of Italy’s elections in 1948, as author Tim Weiner documented in his book “Legacy of Ashes,” in an effort to keep Communists from taking power. Five years later, the CIA engineered a coup against Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s democratically elected leader, when the United States and Britain installed the Shah. The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government, the agency concluded in one of its own reports, declassified around the 60th anniversary of those events, which were engineered in large part by Kermit Roosevelt Jr., a grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.”
Nevertheless, the usual suspects in Washington DC continue to push the latest “conspiracy theory” in an effort to remain relevant and to reject reality as the new Trump administration blows into town next month.
Senators John McCain, Chuck Schumer and an unnamed group of bipartisan lawmakers will try to form a Senate select committee to explore the idea that Russia influenced the 2016 election cycle. However, GOP Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said he would employ existing committees to investigate what exactly Russia did or didn’t do.
President-elect Donald Trump continues to push back, via Twitter, that it was Russia who gave him the Oval Office, nor has he included the “hack” within his 100 days agenda.
Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, told Fox News Sunday that the president-elect “would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would get together, put out a report, show the American people that they are actually on the same page.”
Conversely, on Sunday CNN’s State of the Union, McCain said Russia did interfere with the 2016 election. “We need to get to the bottom of this. The question is now, how much and what damage? And what should the United States of America do?”
On a rare occasion, President Obama agreed with McCain and has ordered a full study to be put on his desk before he leaves on January 20th.
Meanwhile, Obama acknowledged that he learned about the DNC cyber attacks “early last summer.”
That information came last Wednesday via The New York Times when they disclosed the “Democrat National Committee had virtually no protections for its electronic systems, and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, had failed to sign up for the ‘two-factor authentication’ on his Gmail account. Doing so probably would have foiled what Mr. Obama called a fairly primitive attack.”
California Democrat Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said, “The response should mix additional economic sanctions along with our allies, and clandestine means of exacting a cost on the Russians for their flagrant meddling in our election. I have little confidence that the incoming president will take the actions necessary to make the Russians pay any price for the most consequential ‘active measures’ campaign against us in history.”
Nonetheless, it was WikiLeaks that published 30,000 emails for the world to read and there is little doubt that the government investigation into the alleged hacking will decide if WikiLeaks is an arm of the Russian government or an honest broker for whistleblowers.
Perhaps, President-elect Trump can send a strong message in his bid to “drain the swamp” by pardoning NSA’s Edward Snowden, WikiLeak’s Julian Assange, as well as other whistleblowers currently serving prison terms for disclosing illegal or inappropriate conduct by the US government and its officials. Assange and Snowden are currently serving self-imposed prison terms without ever having been charged with a crime based solely on their publication of illegal or embarrassing US government activities.
By pardoning these whistleblowers, the President-elect will send a strong message to government officials that illegal and inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated in his administration and whistleblowers will be treated appropriately under US laws.
It’s also important to keep in mind the press serves, as an integral part of our Constitutional First Amendment “checks and balances.” The media should not operate under fear of arrest and incarceration for publishing alleged illegal and inappropriate activities. If Mr. Trump truly intends to “drain the swamp,” he needs an inquisitive press and conscience-based whistleblowers to step forward without fear of recrimination.
A Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) new report that used the employment data from the 2016 US government’s third quarter, highlights the movement within the labor market remains flat. While the unemployment rate dropped to new lows, the government fails to incorporate the real unemployment numbers that include those not participating in the labor force or have given up looking for a job altogether. Data reveals that the employment participation rate still hasn’t returned to pre-2009 recession levels. The news has been particularly bad for those without a college degree relying on manufacturing industry.
“The election of Donald Trump has surprised many, but his appeal to working-class voters is much easier to understand when your look at the persistently abysmal labor force participation rate of Americans without a college degree,” according to Steven Camarota, CIS Director of Research. “It is hard to argue that we should allow all illegal immigrants to stay in the country or continue to keep legal immigration at extremely high levels on the grounds that there are not enough less-educated workers.”
Below are some of the report’s statistics regarding Native-Born Americans:
- The overall unemployment rate for natives in the third quarter of 2016 was 5.1 percent (6.8 million), a dramatic improvement over the peak in the third quarter of 2010 at 9.5 percent. However, the rate is still above the 4 percent in the same quarter in 2000 (unemployment figures are for those 16 and older).
- There has been a long-term decline in the labor force participation rate of working-age (18 to 65) natives without a bachelor’s degree. Only 70.4 percent of natives in this group were in the labor force in the third quarter of this year; in 2007, before the recession, it was 74 percent, and in 2000 it was 75.9 percent.
- The decline in labor force participation among those without a bachelor’s degree is even more profound when it is measured relative to those who are more educated.
- In the third quarter of 2016, 70.4 percent of natives without a bachelor’s degree were in the labor force, compared to 84.7 percent with a bachelor’s degree – a 14.2 percentage-point difference. In the third quarter of 2007, the gap was 11.1 percentage points, and in the third quarter of 2000 the gap was 10.6 percentage points.
Statistics within the immigrant community:
- Working-age immigrants without a college education also have not fared well since the recession. Unlike natives, immigrants without a college education did improve their labor force participation between 2000 and 2007. But it has not returned to 2007 levels. Also like natives, there has been no meaningful progress in the last few years.
- In the third quarter of 2016, the labor force participation rate of immigrants (18 to 65) without a bachelor’s degree was 71.2 percent, somewhat better than that of natives, but still well below their rate of 75.1 percent in the third quarter of 2007.
Immigrants and Natives Not in the Labor Force:
- In the third quarter of 2016, there were a total of 50.5 million immigrants and natives ages 18 to 65 not in the labor force, up from 43.4 million in 2007 and 37.9 million in 2000.
- Of the 50.5 million currently not in the labor force, 40.1 million (79.5 percent) did not have a bachelor’s degree.
- The above figures do not include the unemployed, who are considered to be part of the labor force because, although they are not working, they are looking for work. There were almost eight million unemployed immigrants and natives in the third quarter of this year; almost three-quarters of the unemployed are adults who do not have a bachelor’s degree.
It’s been more than a month since the contentious presidential election cycle ended with a Donald Trump victory. But that hasn’t stopped navy-blue California state politicians from ramping up rhetoric telling any newscaster that will listen Trump will be met with condemnation in the Golden State.
“It is up to us to pass policies that would firewall Californians and what we believe from the cynical, short-sighted, and reactionary agenda that is rising in the wake of the election,” State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) bloviated. He continued to say, “unity must be separated from complicity…Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”
The fiery talk isn’t new in California, Trump only received 31-percent of the vote in the limousine liberal state.
“We have all heard the insults, we have all heard the lies, and we have all heard the threats,” Rendon said. He spoke to his fellow assemblymen and told them California has the largest illegal immigration populations and “if you (Trump) want to get to them, you have to go through us.”
The sparring with President-elect Trump comes as the Democrats see every presidential appointment as deplorable on the proposed immigration policies that would prioritize the deportations through ICE. At the top of the list are 2-3 million criminal immigrants that Trump wants repatriated to their home nations.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, (D-LA), opened his morning speech by accepting the Trump’s election results. However he suggested the Republican House, Senate and Oval Office remember they will rebuff Trump every time he crosses their imaginary line. De León insisted the Trump administration better “treat immigrant families and children humanely, with a modicum of dignity and respect. They are hard working, upstanding members of our society who contribute billions of dollars to our economic activity and tax revenue to our state each year. No matter what else we accomplish together, “if we don’t comprehensively address the lack of investment in affordable housing and our crumbling roads, bridges, parks and water resources, it will continue to be a drag on the quality of life of our communities.”
Meanwhile, San Francisco officials claim they will continue to be a sanctuary city in spite of Trump.
More push-back comes from former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who now runs the California public university program.
“While we still do not know what policies and practices the incoming federal administration may adopt, given the many public pronouncements made during the presidential campaign and its aftermath, we felt it necessary to reaffirm that [University of California] will act upon its deeply held conviction that all members of our community have the right to work, study, and live safely and without fear at all UC locations,” Napolitano said in a written statement.
Current federal law states that law enforcement agencies, including campus police, are required to alert federal authorities “when they detain a suspected illegal immigrant. But dozens of cities across the country, as well as colleges and churches, have openly defied the law,” according to a Fox News report.
Another component in the Trump backlash is the University of California system process that allows illegal immigrants to apply to colleges using the same criteria as US citizens. Under Napolitano’s official new policy, campus police are not allowed to cooperate with local, state or federal law enforcement agencies to “investigate, detain, or arrest individuals for violation of federal immigration law.”
Currently under an Obama directive, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are told to steer clear of schools, universities and colleges – “sensitive locations,” where they will not act unless “exigent circumstances exist.
“The ICE and [Customs and Border Patrol] sensitive locations policies, which remain in effect, provide that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and require prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official, ” Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Gillian Christensen told FoxNews.com. “DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.”
Back in 2008, the Pew Research Center estimated that 340,000 babies were born that year to illegal immigrant parents. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) says that number has climbed to more than 400,000 annually. Trump contends anchor babies cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars.
In Trump’s 2011 book, “Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again” he outlines the anchor baby problem. “Some four million anchor babies are now officially U.S. citizens,” Trump said in his book. “This has to stop. The only other major country in the world that issues citizenship based on where one’s mother delivers her child is Canada. The rest of the world bases citizenship on who the kid’s parents are, which is, of course, the only sane standard.”
Using a Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) report, Trump claimed taxpayers spent in excess of $52 billion annually to educate illegal immigrants. “The root cause of all the welfare payments to illegal aliens is the so-called ‘anchor baby’ phenomenon,” he explains. Open borders? Another politician told the paper, “What do we do with the repatriated? As Mexicans, we are worried. They are Mexicans but they are also people – fathers and mothers and young people with jobs who won’t have work in Sonora (Mexico).”
Further documentation of Mexico’s leaders urging an open border came from former President Felipe Calderon. In an address before both houses of Congress, he lamented Arizona law. “I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona. It’s a law that not only ignores reality but also introduces racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.”
Calderon continued, “but what we need today is to fix a broken and inefficient system. We favor the establishment of laws that work and work well for all (Mexicans).”
Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) said he was “disappointed that President Calderon did not use this opportunity before us to talk about what more Mexico will do to discourage illegal immigration and improve conditions so that good, hardworking Mexican citizens will want to stay home instead of coming to America.
“Team Trump will have a laundry list of urgent immigration-related tasks at Foggy Bottom, including action on visas and passports, not to mention refugees,” Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies said. The biggest challenge for the incoming appointed leadership will be overcoming the senior career managers’ obliviousness to the impact of key policies on American communities (as opposed to the travel industry or the clients of immigration lawyers) and their clear preference for facilitating travel over preventing unqualified or dangerous foreigners from entering.”
It is true the US immigration system does not work effectively regarding the US border with Mexico. It’s been estimated that 500,000 immigrants cross the southern border; many argue the number does not include the “catch and release” tactic that burdens taxpayers with an annual tab of $120,000,000.
Border states, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, have sought varying degrees of federal enforcement of the border, but the tide of illegal immigrants has reached such epidemic proportions that California has “thrown in the towel” and now grants drivers licenses, in-state tuition, and even professional licenses (Law) to illegal immigrants in California.
Further compounding the problem are sanctuary cities. They bar local law enforcement from working with the federal government like ICE. The results have been deadly. Criminal illegal immigrants have been literally killing Americans while the government refuses to address the repeat offender problems. Many states seemingly condone illegal immigrants working in the sanctuary cities without work permits, social security numbers, or possible health issues (like Ebola, TB, Whooping Cough) and prior criminal status.
The fact is that the estimated 11-30 million illegal immigrants in the US today wield an incredible amount of political power. From flooding the halls of Congress demanding a path to citizenship, to demands from the President of Mexico that the US change its laws to accommodate them, such a disenfranchised group of immigrants has never held such political clout. Ironically, the illegal immigration epidemic seems unfair to those prospective legal immigrants that pay their fees, pay for medical tests, study US civics and language, and wait in line for years for legal admission.
Furthermore, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) claims, “Effective immigration enforcement will not collapse our economy. Opponents of immigration enforcement have resorted to doomsday economic scenarios under which all illegal aliens are removed or leave at once. Even the most ardent supporters of true immigration reform understand that 13 million illegal aliens did not all arrive yesterday and they are not all going home tomorrow no matter what policies are put in place. Since all rational immigration enforcement plans rely heavily on deterrence, the reversal of years of non-enforcement will happen gradually, over time. Just as the economy adjusted to the presence of millions of low-wage illegal workers, it will adjust to their absence. Moreover, the cumulative economic output of illegal alien workers will not be lost; it will be replaced. As illegal aliens leave, the jobs that need to be done in our economy will be filled by some of the 90 million working-age Americans who are now outside the traditional labor force – and likely taking those jobs at higher wages. Thus, the jobs will continue to be performed by workers who earn more and send less of their money abroad in the form of remittances, and who are more likely to be in the above-ground economy and paying taxes instead of consuming public benefits.”
So it is not surprising Americans of all political stripes are angry about the immigration and economic rhetoric of the “out-of-touch” the “Establishment” elites, which drove a non-politico, straight talker, like Trump to the top of the presidential polls.
It all started in Tunisia when Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor set himself on fire and gave birth to the Arab Spring in 2011. His uncle Ridha Bouazizi, who is also a fruit vendor said, “These government inspectors used to confiscate our goods and demand bribes. It was because of their tyranny that Mohammed set himself on fire.”
Watch CW6 San Diego news TV segment here
Self-rule in the tiny African nation has been messy, but ultimately a new country emerged from the turbulent Arab Spring with a somewhat successful transition and returned to the business of living life.
Enter the US.
Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi has confirmed the US military is now operating out of an unnamed military base. His critics say the US presence is a breach of its sovereignty.
A large segment of Tunisia’s, young people, elite, and leftist supporters remain adamant that the US stays out of its fledgling democracy. Yet, many government officials are relying on America’s military spending to economically sustain the former French protectorate. Since Essebsi became president, he has traveled to the US and gained favorable-NATO status from the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, not one to let a good wartime crisis go to waste, the Pentagon quickly moved to establish a military base in the African country, according to senior US officials. Pentagon officials confirmed they were using Air Force Reaper surveillance drones to fly cross-border missions into Libya, specifically Sirte.
The Washington Post confirmed the Reaper “drones began flying out of the Tunisian base in late June and played a key role in an extended US air offensive against an Islamic State [ISIS] stronghold in Libya.”
The Tunisian government claims the drones are only flying over the Tunisian-Libyan border in an effort to warn its military of any impending attacks from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria known to be operating from nearby Libyan strongholds. But Tunisia’s parliament has requested Essebsi clarify exactly what American troops are doing in their country.
Essebsi told local TV channel Elhiwar Ettounsi, that the US was only conducting surveillance “and it was at our request. Our agreement with the US was to share intelligence information.”
The worry in Tunisia is the nation could be ripe for another Islamic uprising if the United States is uses Tunisia to conduct drone strikes on Libyan soil. Despite fighting against a repressive government, the fragile nation is relying on a mutual political agreement with Islamic groups to keep relative order.
According to a Reuters report, “Islamic State (has) exploited the chaos of post-uprising Libya to establish a foothold there, using it as a base for attacks (against) Tunisia and Egypt. The perpetrators of several militant attacks in Tunisia in the past two years were trained in Libya. The United States is fighting the group’s Libyan arm with air strikes launched from its ships in the Mediterranean and armed drones launched from Sicily. Washington’s use of armed drones against militants in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan has been criticized for its toll on civilians, and some opponents question its legality under international law.”
President Essebsi says the drones being used were given to Tunisia after 70 US service members trained his military. So far the President says there is no timeline for the US departure.
Essebsi said fears of an ISIS attack inside Tunisia are well founded after an ISIS ambush in the town of Ben Guerdan earlier this year. The assault left 53 people dead, including civilians. Essebsi also says he believes more attacks from neighboring Libya were underway and suggested his country should remain on offense in its fight against all terrorist groups. “We do not have clear information, and we should act instead of waiting until another Ben Guerdan,” he finished.
But, Ahmed Mannai, the head of the Tunisian Institute for International Relations, suggested there was something afoot between the US military and Tunisia’s president.
“The United States is using the war on terrorism as a pretext to ensure its military presence in Tunisia. It is true that the current US presence [in Tunisia] is limited to military trainers and unmanned aircraft, but it is obvious that things will develop later on under the same pretext. History tells us that the United States — once it is present in an area — is there to stay without any excuse. This is the case in the Gulf, Japan, South Korea and Cuba. However, the Tunisian authorities are to blame here, as they have undermined the country’s sovereignty. They could have preserved cooperation with the United States without direct military presence that might compromise the independence of the country.”
Read more: Tunisia—too small to care written in January of 2014.
He called some rapists, he called some killers, he called some drug dealers, but despite the comments being taken out of context, Donald Trump beat Mitt “Mr. Nice Guy” Romney with the Latino voters. CNN exit polls found President-Elect Donald J. Trump won at least 29 percent of the Latino vote and Romney only won 27 percent in in 2012. Trump also beat Romney with African Americans.
Conventional thinking and the odds makers both made the GOP candidate a long shot for the oval office, especially since Hispanics make up approximately one-fifth of the voting population in four swing states, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and the big prize of Florida.
The underwhelming performance by Hillary Clinton proved there is always a bridge too far with voters, and the scandal-ridden female candidate lacked enthusiasm—something she needed to break the glass ceiling.
As it turns out immigration policy is less important to Latino voters and they generally line up with the general electorate, it’s always the “economy stupid.” furthermore, a preponderance of the Latino voting block agreed with many of the immigration positions supported by Trump during his historic non-politician presidential campaign.
A Zogby Analytics exit poll commissioned by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) found several key findings.
The poll was conducted on Nov. 9-10, and it torpedoes dire warnings uttered by Hispanic activist groups, Latino media outlets, open borders believers, and inside the beltway political class that immigration would coalesce Hispanic voters and turn them into a monolithic voter block for the Democrats. Additionally, Hispanic voters who legally immigrated to the country did not overwhelmingly support candidates who favored immigration enforcement over amnesty.
“The conventional wisdom that advocating enforcement of immigration laws is a deal-killer for Hispanic voters is just plain wrong. It is a myth perpetuated by groups and individuals with a political stake in maintaining mass immigration and by a bunch of high-price political consultants who continually misread public sentiment,” Dan Stein president of FAIR said.
Other key findings included:
- 4 percent of Hispanic voters rated immigration as important or somewhat important in their voting decisions. That figure is substantially less than the 84.6 percent of all voters who said it was important or somewhat important, and a full ten percentage points less than the 87.8 percent of white voters who rated immigration as important or somewhat important.
- 5 percent of Hispanic voters said they “support Donald Trump’s immigration policies,” including many who said they do not like him as a person. Conversely, only 32.9 percent of Hispanic voters said they “support Hillary Clinton’s immigration policies,” even though a much greater percentage liked her as a person. Among all voters, 54.7 percent supported Trump’s immigration policies compared with 38.4 percent who supported Clinton’s.
- 3 percent of Hispanic voters believe current immigration enforcement is too lax, double the number, 18.3 percent, who say it is too strict, and more than ten percentage points higher than those who think it is about right was 25.5 percent.
Approximately four in 10 Latino voters favor “enforcing and strengthening laws against illegal immigration to encourage them to return home… with 48.8 percent support allowing current illegal aliens to become legal and remain in the country.”
According to FAIR, “Donald Trump may not have won the Hispanic vote in this election, but clearly, it was not because of his views on immigration. If anything, his positions on immigration seem to have helped him among Hispanic voters whose economic circumstances are being harmed by excessive immigration and unchecked illegal immigration.”
Along with other after election polling information, Pew Hispanic Center concluded “bread-and-butter issues like jobs, quality education, healthcare, and other issues are the primary motivating factors for Hispanic voters.”
After their 2012 presidential loss, the Republicans put together an autopsy report meant to be the blueprint for the party moving forward, but they never envisioned a hostile takeover by successful businessman Donald Trump.
“As Republicans lay out their immigration agenda for the next two years in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they would be well-advised to ignore the self-anointed spokespeople and the political consulting class. Enforcing immigration laws, securing our borders, protecting American workers and taxpayers, and setting reasonable limits on immigration enjoy broad public support, including large numbers of Hispanic Americans who stand to benefit economically from the policies President-elect Trump ran on,” Stein said. “The conventional wisdom that advocating enforcement of immigration laws is a deal-killer for Hispanic voters is just plain wrong.”
On Thursday, President Obama addressed German media regarding the complicated relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He encouraged his successor to stand up for American values and avoid taking a more expedient approach.
“I don’t expect that the president-elect will follow exactly our approach, but my hope is he does not simply take a realpolitik approach and suggest that, you know, if we just cut some deals with Russia, even if it hurts people or even if it violates international norms or even if it leaves smaller countries vulnerable, or creates long-term problems in regions like Syria, that we just do whatever’s convenient at the time,” President Obama said in a joint press conference with Angela Merkel and the German media.
“My hope is the president-elect coming in takes a similarly constructive approach: Finding areas where we can cooperate with Russia, where our values and interests align but are willing to stand up to Russia where they are deviating from our values and international norms.”
On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald J. Trump made it clear he was willing to work with the Russian president. But Obama urged his successor to take it slow because he had concerns regarding the Russian leader and his perceived fight against ISIS in Syria.
The Russian leader did call to congratulate Trump on his sweeping victory. Trump’s office confirmed the phone call and said that Putin “offered his congratulations” and reviewed mutual threats and, “strategic economic issues.” The short discussion included the long-term relations the two countries shared.
“The overall tone of the conversation corresponded with the tone of statements already made during [Trump’s] election campaign concerning Russian-American relations,” Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
According to a press release, “Putin and Trump agreed that the current state of US-Russia relations is unsatisfactory and agreed to actively work toward their normalization and constructive cooperation on a broad range of issues.” And the statement emphasized that both countries need to “return to a pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation that meets the interests of the two states as well as stability and security in the world.”
In a Heritage Foundation speech last month, former Rep. Mike Rogers clarified one area where he disagrees with his former boss, Donald Trump. The president-elect strongly favors a renewed diplomatic relationship with the Russian President and strongman. “The Russians are certainly on the march,” Rogers said. “Russia’s change in the way they have used their cyber policy will give you a bead of sweat.”
But it was this kind of thinking that led to Trump’s decision to let the former Congressman go and another indication that the flamboyant businessman turned politician is listening to the voters who gave him the White House victory.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), an outspoken critic of Trump, sided with the former Congressman confirming he will battle a President Trump’s national security policy with Russia. The current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said any effort to “reset” relations with Russia is deplorable. Mr. Trump has frequently reminded Americans that Senator McCain was an avid supporter of the failed Iraq War and continues to support multiple wars in the Middle East.
“With the US presidential transition underway, Vladimir Putin has said in recent days that he wants to improve relations with the United States,” McCain said in a statement. “We should place as much faith in such statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America’s allies and attempted to undermine America’s elections.”
However, November’s election results saw more establishment players in both parties lose their grip on power and it’s clear the new administration will seek a new direction in the Middle East. It’s likely the old guard will continue its dissension with Russia’s growing hegemony in the region.
“That is an unacceptable price for a great nation. When America has been at its greatest, it is when we have stood on the side [of] those fighting tyranny. That is where we must stand again,” McCain regurgitated.
Nevertheless, Middle East allies are taking the opportunity to welcome the President-Elect’s renewed focus on fighting the brutal terrorist group ISIS.
“Should Trump indeed decide to focus on the fight against the Islamic State and Islamic extremists in general, it would create some solid ground for cooperation with Moscow. Yet his actual policy may be more nuanced, and at this point, the equation has many unknowns, especially given genuine opposition to such cooperation within the Pentagon,” the Middle East paper al-Monitor reported.
“Changing this situation is a serious challenge, and the key question people in Moscow are asking these days is: Given that Trump is hard pressed on every side already, will he be forced to compromise his position on Russia for the sake of a ‘deal’ with the Washington establishment — including his own party, where the level of antagonism vis-a-vis Moscow is high? Or will he remain determined to fix the relationship with the Kremlin — albeit for the pragmatic reasons of safeguarding US national interests as he sees them?”
However, the current president and incoming leader strongly differ in their plan to defeat the terrorist group ISIS. This was highlighted with Trump’s pick of Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, a trusted confident as his National Security Advisor. The outspoken former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) repeatedly warned President Obama that ISIS was on the rise and not classifying the enemy as a “radical Islamic terrorism” organization would only allow the barbarous group to expand and gain territory. He was proved right.
In an effort to restrain the president-elect, the lame-duck Congress voted for robust new Syrian sanctions that could make any new policy efforts more difficult.
A Democratic congressional aide told Al-Monitor “that bill writers declined to do so, in part because of concerns that Trump might use that authority to avoid enforcing the law.”
The sponsor of the bill, Eliot Engel (D-NY) told al-Monitor: “I am sensitive to the fact that there have to be some waivers because presidents have to have a certain kind of authority. But I am unhappy with waivers all the time that you can drive a Mack truck through. I think at some point Congress has to say what it feels and, as a co-equal branch of government, have as much of a say as the executive.” Maybe the election provoked a change in heart as Congress has really let President Obama fight an undefined war for nearly eight years despite the War Powers Act.
It’s no secret that Trump has a different point of view on Syria. He told The Wall Street Journal: “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting [the Islamic State (IS)], and you have to get rid of [IS]. … Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.”
Trump has made it clear that he isn’t interested in regime change and since the election; Assad called Trump a “natural ally.”
The embattled Syrian president told Portugal’s RTP state television “If he [Trump] is going to fight the terrorists, of course, we are going to be [an] ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian[s], with the Iranian[s], with many other countries.”
But Obama strongly disagrees. “The way this is going to be resolved is going to have to be a recognition by Russia and a willingness to pressure Assad that a lasting durable peace with a functioning country requires the consent of people,” Obama said. “You cannot purchase people’s consent through killing them. They haven’t made that transition yet. But we’re going to keep on trying.”
Siding with President Obama is the establishment politicos who just had their fannies handed to them by the American people. “Republicans and Democrats recognize the need to isolate the Assad regime for its continued atrocities against the Syrian people,” a statement from House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-WI). “I’m glad the White House has stopped blocking these critical sanctions, which are a necessary response to Assad’s crimes against humanity.”
Also agreeing with Ryan was Rep. Engel. “I am very concerned about the destructive role Russia is playing and has played in Syria. And I feel that they ought to be challenged, that we cannot simply let them get away with this.”
But judging Mr. Trump’s advisory picks, it looks like Congress will be battling for control of a new US foreign policy, one that leaves nation building and regime change in the dustbins of history.