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Loophole in Bernie Sanders’ Yemen Bill Actually Allows Continued US Involvement in Yemen

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Last week, many celebrated the advancement of Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 54, which had been introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), as a sign that the US Congress was finally willing to act to reduce the US’ culpability for the situation in Yemen, currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The bill, which will be voted on by the Senate this week, has been praised by many within the anti-war movement for its bid to “end” US military involvement in Yemen. Passage of the bill would, however, do no such thing.

Much of the media coverage of the bill has noted that the resolution invokes the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which prohibits the president from deploying US troops into armed conflicts without congressional approval. Though that resolution has been ignored many times since its passage, particularly since the War on Terror began in 2001, SJR 54 has been promoted as a “progressive” effort to bring the US’ military adventurism to heel at a time when Saudi Arabia — one of the two countries leading the war against Yemen – is under increased scrutiny.

Yet, the text of the bill itself reveals that SJR 54 invokes the War Powers Resolution in name only. Indeed, while the bill claims to be aimed at achieving “the removal of United State Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress,” it contains a major loophole that will allow the majority of US troops in Yemen – if not all – to stay.
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Iran Warns It Will Respond to Future Israeli Strikes Targeting Syria and Its Allies

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Concerns that the conflict in Syria could soon escalate have now grown exponentially following comments from Iran’s top security official that Israel will face retaliatory actions if the country continues to launch unilateral strikes against Syrian military installations.

Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told the Iranian Fars news agency that Israel “will face reactions that would cause sorrow and penitence” if it continues to launch new airstrikes targeting Syria in support of “terrorist groups” that are fighting to overthrow the country’s government.

Shamkhani, who made the statements during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, added:

The Zionist regime [in Israel] is seeking to create a crisis in Syria and has taken measures in direct support of terrorist groups by hitting the Syrian Army and the forces [in Syria] fighting against terrorism.”
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After Cutting All UNWRA Humanitarian Aid, US to Award Israel with $3.3B/Year in Military Aid

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A massive spending bill, which would deliver $3.3 billion dollars in military aid to Israel over the next year, passed the House on Wednesday under cover of a media blackout. The US Senate had passed a different version of the same bill in early August, a vote that also went largely unreported. 

Now, after the House’s passage of a slightly altered version of the Senate’s spending bill, officially titled the “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018,” all that remains is for the two chambers of Congress to reconcile their versions before the product is sent to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law. According to Skopos Labs, the bill now has a 90 percent chance of being enacted. If enacted, the bill will be the largest aid package in American history.

As MintPress previously reported, $3.3 billion was supposed to be the annual limit for US military aid to Israel. However, the figure is actually set to be higher this year as a result of Congress’ recent passage of a massive $716 billion defense bill that provides an additional $550 million in US aid for Israeli missile defense systems. That defense bill also authorizes an additional $1 billion for US weapons stockpiles in Israel.
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One Year After Calling Idlib 'Al Qaeda’s Largest Safe Haven Since 9/11,' the US Govt is Trying to Save it

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As the Syrian government and its allies prepare to begin a military offensive against the last rebel-held province in the country, top US government officials and even US President Donald Trump have recently urged Syria to refrain from “recklessly” attacking the Idlib province, warning that it could result in a high civilian death toll. These recent statements of US government officials have sought to portray Idlib as chiefly populated by civilians and benign opposition “rebels.”

Yet, just last year, one of the US government’s top counterterrorism officials involved in the country’s Syria and Iraq policy stated on video that, in contrast to current government statements, Idlib is dominated by none other than the Al Qaeda terrorist group and that the province should be a major focus of US counterterrorism policy given the threat that Idlib represents to global efforts to fight terrorism.

Speaking last July at a conference organized by the Middle East Institute, Brett McGurk – the US government’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (Daesh, ISIS) – called Syria’s Idlib province “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11 tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri [current leader of Al Qaeda].” He then immediately added that the Al Qaeda presence in Idlib was a “huge problem” and had been so “for some time.” McGurk later stated that the efforts by foreign governments, including the US, “to send in tens of thousands of tons of weapons and looking the other way as foreign fighters come into Syria may not have been the best approach. Al Qaeda has taken full advantage of it and Idlib now is a huge problem.”
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Is Mattis Next on Chopping Block for Questioning the 'Adelson Agenda'?

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Like Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster before him, Secretary of Defense James Mattis – one of the longest-serving members of the Trump cabinet – may soon be out of a job. Just as was the case for the former secretary of state and the former national security adviser, media reports are now asserting that Mattis has been shut out of major White House decisions for months and is increasingly “out of the loop.”

According to NBC News, Mattis was shut out of major administration decisions such as President Trump’s decision to tear up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (better known as the Iran nuclear deal), Trump’s call to militarize outer space, and his decision to cancel war games near North Korea during recent negotiations with that country’s leadership.

The Secretary of Defense’s “fall from grace” is a dramatic departure from the early days of the administration, when Trump – out of respect for Mattis – kept him informed of key decisions even when they had disagreed. Now, however, the report notes that Trump relies heavily, if not exclusively, on the advice of two administration officials: John Bolton andMike Pompeo, the very men who replaced McMaster and Tillerson.

Overall, the report mirrors those that had preceded the firings of both Rex Tillerson from the top post at the State Department and H.R. McMaster from his position as national security adviser. In each of those instances, first Tillerson and then McMaster were described by administration officials as being “at odds” with the President over key decisions such as North Korea and the Iran deal.

The similarities, however, between Mattis’ fall from favor and those experienced by his former allies in the administration don’t end there.
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Outcome of Assange Case Could Undermine the Rights of Millions

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As the sixth anniversary of his extended stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London approaches, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange is faced with increasingly limited options. Barred from communicating with the outside world and from receiving most visitors, Assange’s only hope of avoiding extradition to the United States on trumped-up espionage charges comes down to the governments of the two countries of which he is a citizen: Australia and Ecuador.

In an unexpected move last week, the Australian government sent officials to meet with Assange and later confirmed that Australia would finally extend consular assistance to the Australian-born journalist after years of failing to do so and even threatening to revoke his Australian passport. The Australian government, in the past, has attempted to argue that it can do little to help Assange’s situation, asserting that it was “unable to intervene in the due process of another country’s court proceedings or legal matters.”

It has also failed to publicly comment on the UN’s finding that Assange has been subjected to arbitrary detention by the United Kingdom — asserting, as recently as last week, that the government’s position on the matter is “confidential,” and deflecting responsibility by claiming that the UN’s findings “are directed at the United Kingdom and Sweden, not at Australia.”
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Trump Puts his Logo on the Military-Industrial Complex, Sets Up US Arms Sales with Syria Demo

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The week after the US, along with the UK and France, launched unilateral strikes against the Syrian government, the Trump administration is rolling out a “Buy American” weapons-selling initiative aimed at allowing other nations to buy even more weapons from US-based arms manufacturers.According to Reuters, the initiative, set to be announced today, will speed up the approval of arms deals to US allies and will call for members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, as well as the president himself, to act as “closers” in major arms deals and salesmen for US weapons companies at international air shows and weapons showcases.

“This policy seeks to mobilize the full resources of the United States government behind arms transfers that are in the US national and economic security interest,” a White House official told Reuters. After news of the initiative first broke in the media, US weapons manufacturers made massive gains in the stock market and Raytheon’s stock hit an all-time high. In addition to helping the military-industrial complex secure more business, Trump may be pushing the initiative, at least in part, because of his personal investments in US weapons giants like Raytheon, Boeing and General Electric.

The initiative comes less than a week after the US strikes launched against Syria, and the strikes themselves were likely part of a PR bid to boost US weapons manufacturers and international arms orders leading up to the “Buy American” announcement. In addition, doubts have been raised that the strikes were planned to cause any major damage to the Syrian government, as the Syrian and Russian governments were allegedly “tipped off” by Trump prior to the attack, and given ample time to prepare by evacuating nearly all key military hardware.

This suggests that the purpose of the strike was not actually to harm the Syrian government as much as showcase US military might and weaponry in the lead-up to the official announcement of Trump’s new weapons selling initiative.
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How the US Occupied the 30 Percent of Syria Containing Most of its Oil, Water and Gas

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DAMASCUS, SYRIA –   After the U.S. launched “limited” airstrikes on Friday against Syria, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced that the U.S. will maintain its illegal presence in Syria until U.S. goals in the area are fulfilled, opening the door for the U.S. occupation to continue indefinitely. 

While the U.S. military presence in Syria has been ongoing since 2015 – justified as a means of countering Daesh (ISIS) — U.S. troops have since turned into an occupying force with their failure to pull out following Daesh’s defeat in northeastern Syria. Currently, the U.S. occupies nearly a third of Syrian territory — around 30 percent — including much of the area east of the Euphrates River, encompassing large swaths of the Deir Ezzor, Al-Hasakah and Raqqa regions.

Though the U.S. currently has between 2,000 to 4,000 troops stationed in Syria, it announced the training of a 30,000-person-strong “border force” composed of U.S.-allied Kurds and Arabs in the area, which would be used to prevent northeastern Syria from coming under the control of Syria’s legitimate government. Though it backtracked somewhat after backlash from Turkey, the U.S. has continued to train “local forces” in the area. Russian military sources have asserted that former members of Daesh — who were allowed to leave cities attacked by the U.S. and their proxies, as was the case in battle for Raqqa — are to be included among the force’s ranks.
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US Commander: ‘US Troops Prepared to Die for Israel’ in War against Syria, Hezbollah

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Last Sunday, the largest joint military exercise between the United States and Israel began with little fanfare. The war game, dubbed “Operation Juniper Cobra,” has been a regular occurrence for years, though it has consistently grown in size and scope. Now, however, this year’s 12-day exercise brings a portent of conflict unlike those of its predecessors.
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Something For Everyone: Mueller Indictment a Boon for Partisan Status Quo

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Last Friday, depending on which side of the partisan divide one was watching from, President Trump was either vindicated or his treachery was confirmed. The impetus for these seemingly disparate reactions was Robert Mueller’s indictment against 13 Russian nationals, the latest and largest indictment to result from his investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. However, over the nine months that Mueller’s investigation has been active, it has continuously grown from its original purpose of investigating Russian collusion, expanding to include the business dealings of Trump and his inner circle with countries ranging from Qatar to China, meaning that the probe is no longer expressly about Russian collusion.

The drift of focus from its original purpose — as well as its failure to produce any connection between the Trump campaign, the Russian government, and the leaks of DNC and John Podesta’s emails — has led critics who place themselves outside of the left-right paradigm to treat this latest indictment with skepticism. Not only that, but concerns have been raised that the real purpose of Mueller’s probe is much more subtle and nefarious than publicly admitted and that it may itself be a threat to American democracy.

One such critic is Daniel McAdams, political analyst and executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. McAdams, in an interview with MintPress News, stated that the Mueller indictment “has something for everybody,” explaining the strikingly different reactions from the establishment left and right. However, McAdams noted that the indictment was especially helpful to the “entire political class in Washington,” which may now “continue with its Cold War 2.0 project” without interference from anyone in favor of normalizing U.S.-Russian relations. In addition, McAdams warned that the recent indictment is likely to have a “chilling effect on the First Amendment,” also a boon to those elements of the political elite that seek to limit the acceptable range of debate on U.S. foreign policy.
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