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Iran's Leadership Must Decide 'If They Want Their People To Eat' - Pompeo

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Less than a week after US Secretary of State Secretary Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday that the "Iranians are responsible for the starvation' of Yemeni civilians" he's again issued hugely provocative words, telling the BBC during an interview that Iranian "leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat" in reference to the latest round of US sanctions. 

As the interview was with BBC Persian, Pompeo's words were immediately translated from English and broadcast to the Iranian public through BBC's Persian-language publication. Pompeo repeated his theme that Iran is the world's foremost state sponsor of terror and a "destabilizing influence" in the Middle East while ultimately blaming the country's economic suffering on the intransigence of the country's leaders. 

Pompeo's words came on the heels of Iran's foreign ministry issuing a formal response to this week's US sanctions snap back on the energy sector, publishing a 3-minute video of FM Javad Zarif on Tuesday wherein Zarif emphasized that the sanctions mainly targeted average Iranian citizens, referencing "the economic warfare that directly targets the Iranian people."
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The US 'Cannot Win Militarily' In Afghanistan, Says Top Commander In Shocking Interview

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Historians of the now seventeen-year old US war in Afghanistan will take note of this past week when the newly-appointed American general in charge of US and NATO operations in the country made a bombshell, historic admission. He conceded that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan.

Speaking to NBC News last week, Gen. Austin Scott Miller made his first public statements after taking charge of American operations, and shocked with his frank assessment that that the Afghan war cannot be won militarily and peace will only be achieved through direct engagement and negotiations with the Taliban — the very terror group which US forces sought to defeat when it first invaded in 2001. 

"This is not going to be won militarily," Gen. Miller said. "This is going to a political solution."

Miller explained to NBC:
My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily. So if you realize you can't win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.
He gave the interview from the Resolute Support headquarters building in Kabul. "We are more in an offensive mindset and don't wait for the Taliban to come and hit [us]," he said. "So that was an adjustment that we made early on. We needed to because of the amount of casualties that were being absorbed."
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NATO Is At War With NATO In Northern Syria

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Not for the first time the Turkish army has attacked US-backed forces in northeastern Syria on Sunday in yet another absurd contradiction of American policy in the region. It highlights the awkward fact that in northern Syria for over the past year one NATO country (Turkey) is at war with another NATO country's proxy force, namely the Pentagon armed and trained Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, of which the YPG is a core part).

The new flair up of tensions comes as President Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again vowed to eliminate "terrorists and separatists" from near its border. Speaking at the four-way Syria summit involving Russia, Germany, and France in Istanbul over the weekend, Erdogan said, "We will continue eliminating threats against our national security at its root in the Euphrates' east as we have done so in its west."

Notably the Saturday summit with two major European/NATO powers did not include the United States.

Syrian Kurdish groups, for their part, have accused Turkey of committing ethnic cleansing on Syrian soil in a bid to essentially annex territory while conducting a campaign of 'Turkification' — a charge for which there's ample evidence. As a new AFP report finds in the northwest Syrian town of Azaz: "From Turkish-language classes for Syrian children to the state-owned Turk Telekom company erecting its first cell towers on Syrian soil, Ankara's role in the rebel-held region around Azaz has been expanding."
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Facebook Sells Disabled Iraq Vet $300,000 In Ads, Then Deletes His Influential Pages

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Facebook banned several pages operated by disabled by Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, after he says he spent $300,000 on advertising. The social media giant removed without warning Kolfage's Right Wing News and Military Grade Coffee Company (which donates 10 percent  of all profits to veteran organizations), in a site-wide effort to crack down on "misinformation" on the network.
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US Intel Officials Publicly Contradict Netanyahu's UN Speech On 'New' Iran Atomic Facility

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Netanyahu's Thursday UN General Assembly speech predictably included the familiar props and visuals condemning Iran over what the Israeli prime minister says is a continuing nuclear program it is hiding from the world's view. 

Like pretty much all prior Netanyahu speeches focusing on Iran, he held up a physical "evidence" to illustrate his points as he spoke — this time it was a "proof" that Iran has yet another secret warehouse holding nuclear-related material in the form of an aerial photograph of the Iranian capital marked with a red arrow pointing to a large building. 

Though this was perhaps a step up from the cartoon bomb performance at the UNGA in 2012, the act is now a fixture and entirely predictable after many others spanning years, barely eliciting much media excitement compared to six years ago. 

But unlike the last number of similar speeches, US intelligence officials have told Reuters that the claims are not true.
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The White House Has A Step-By-Step 'Program Of Escalation' For Venezuela

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The White House has prepared an intelligence blueprint for regime change in Venezuela, according to a bombshell Monday evening report in Axios. 

According to the report, which follows a New York Times story from early this month that confirmed the administration had previously established a "clandestine channel" involving covert meetings with Venezuelan military coup plotters targeting President Nicolás Maduro, the White House has prepared for multiple scenarios involving dramatic military escalation that could trigger US invasion of the small Latin American country. 

Per Axios:
The White House National Security Council drafted a step-by-step “program of escalation” for Venezuela after President Trump took office, including the grounds for military intervention, a former senior official said today.
The plans were revealed by Fernando Cutz, who was a top adviser to former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and the top National Security Council official on South America, while speaking at an event at the Wilson Center.
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UK Begged Trump Not To Declassify Russia Docs; Cited 'Grave Concerns' Over Steele Involvement

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The British government "expressed grave concerns" to the US government over the declassification and release of material related to the Trump-Russia investigation, according to the New York Times. President Trump ordered a wide swath of materials "immediately" declassified "without redaction" on Monday, only to change his mind later in the week by allowing the DOJ Inspector General to review the materials first. 

The Times reports that the UK's concern was over material which "includes direct references to conversations between American law enforcement officials and Christopher Steele," the former MI6 agent who compiled the infamous "Steele Dossier." The UK's objection, according to former US and British officials, was over revealing Steele's identity in an official document, "regardless of whether he had been named in press reports." 

We would note, however, that Steele's name was contained within the Nunes Memo - the House Intelligence Committee's majority opinion in the Trump-Russia case. 

Steele also had extensive contacts with DOJ official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, who - along with Steele - was paid by opposition research firm Fusion GPS in the anti-Trump campaign. Trump called for the declassification of FBI notes of interviews with Ohr, which would ostensibly reveal more about his relationship with Steele. Ohr was demoted twice within the Department of Justice for lying about his contacts with Fusion GPS.
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US Destroyer Enters Mediterranean As Syria Tensions Build; Carrier On Standby

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An American battleship, the USS Bulkeley destroyer, has reportedly entered the Mediterranean and is headed for Syria, equipped with over 50 Tomahawk missiles. This deployment comes after previous reports of the attack submarine USS Newport News (SSN-750) arriving in the Mediterranean, and after the arrival Tuesday of A U.S. Marine Corps small attack carrier full of F-35B stealth jets, the USS Essex, in the Middle East region as detailed by the military website, Task and Purpose.

The Russian news agency Interfax now reports that American forces in the region possess up to 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles available to strike targets in Syria if ordered to do so.

And the USS Essex, part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), has rapid deployment forces of Marine units designed for immediate amphibious landing in coastal areas, along with a advanced stealth fighter aircraft.

Gerald Olin, commander of Amphibious Squadron of which the Essex is part, has defined the deployment's mission as follows: “The embarked Marines of 13th MEU allow us the flexibility to rapidly respond to crises and set conditions that promote security in the region.”
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US Military Preparing For 'Options' In Syria

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Events are moving rapidly in Syria as Russian jets pound insurgent positions in Idlib Province and as the Syrian Army initiates a ground invasion which Damascus has described as coming in a "phased" approach. 

The White House responded to the Syrian and Russian bombing campaign by vowing it would act “swiftly and vigorously” should chemical weapons be used, and a day ago claimed there's “lots of evidence” chemical weapons are being prepared by the Syrian forces, citing intelligence of such activities. 

And now America's top general has confirmed the Pentagon is drawing up military options to attack Syria and is in currently in close discussion with the White House over the plans. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters on Saturday during a trip to India, according to Reuters:
...he was involved in “routine dialogue” with the White House about military options should Syria ignore US warnings against using chemical weapons in an expected assault on the enclave of Idlib.
However, Gen. Dunford noted that no decision has been made to intervene militarily in response to Idlib.
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DNC Backpedals After Cyberattack 'Hack' Was Actually A Security 'Test'

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The DNC has backpedaled on a report by CNN that a recent "sophisticated attempt to hack into its voter database" had been discovered by San Francisco-based cybersecurity firm Lookout - whose co-founder John Hering contributed $30,700 to the DNC in June of 2016, along with $2,700 to Hillary Clinton the same day. It's not Lookout's fault, however, as they were simply "looking out" for the Democratic National Committee when they discovered a "simulated phishing test" they assumed was real.

And in a massive breakdown in communication before verifying facts, the DNC contacted the FBI and CNN about the hack - before thinking to speak with the outside contractor which runs the voter database, NGP VAN.
Earlier on Wednesday, Bob Lord, the committee's chief security officer, briefed Democratic officials after detecting a fake login page that was designed to look like the access page Democratic Party officials and campaigns across the country use to log into a service called Votebuilder, which hosts the party's voter database, a Democratic source familiar with the briefing told CNN.

The initial detection of the apparent hacking attempt by a cybersecurity firm on Monday prompted the DNC to call the FBI, the source said. -CNN
According to Axios, NGP-VAN was running an unauthorized "simulated phishing test" on the DNC's VoteBuilder system. Meanwhile, PCMag reporter Michael Kan reported  that it was the Michigan Democratic Party which asked a third party (NGP VAN) to conduct the test.
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