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The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

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After the crown prince of the Austia-Hungary monarchy Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot and killed in Sarajevo the government of Austria waited three weeks to issue a 10 point ultimatum to Serbia which it held responsible for the incident. At least three of those points concerned the suppression of "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" and the Austrian Monarchy by private and state entities. It demanded a response within two days:
Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, commented that he had "never before seen one State address to another independent State a document of so formidable a character."
The Austrian ultimatum was an offer to be refused. But Serbia did not fall into that trap. It conceded on everything but two minor points. This was to no avail. The issues and plans Austria had were not about the assassination of [the disliked] Franz Ferdinand or the demands issued in the ultimatum. Two days later Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Allies jumped to either side. World War I had started.

The now official demands by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some minor Gulf sheikdoms against Qatar have a similar smell to them. They are also "an offer to be refused."

The demands come late, three weeks after Saudi Arabia first accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism", three weeks after it closed the border and laid siege on the country.

(Qatar is surly "supporting terrorism". So is the US - the US Citizenship and Immigration Services just rejected an asylum request because the person in question has relations with the Free Syrian Army which it considers to be an "undesignated terrorist organization". The CIA built and supports the FSA. But the biggest terrorist sponsors of all are and have been the Saudis.)
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Groundhog Day in Iraq? Nope, Worse

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It’s a helluva question: “Tell me how this ends.”

It was a good question in 2003 when then Major General David Petraeus asked it as the United States invaded Iraq, an ironic one in 2011 when the US withdrew, worth revisiting in 2014 when the US reinvaded Iraq, and again in 2017 as Islamic State appears to be on its way out. Problem is we still don’t have a good answer. It could be Groundhog Day all over again in Iraq, or it could be worse.

Groundhog Day

The Groundhog Day argument, that little has changed from 2003 until now, is quite persuasive. Just look at the headlines. A massive Ramadan car bomb exploded not just in Baghdad, but in Karada, its wealthiest neighborhood, during a holiday period of heightened security, and all just outside the Green Zone were the American Embassy remains hunkered down like a medieval castle. Islamic State, like al Qaeda before it, can penetrate the heart of the capital city, even after the fall of their home base in Fallujah (2004, 2016.) Meanwhile, Mosul is under siege (2004, 2017.) Iranian forces are on the ground supporting the Baghdad central government. The Kurds seek their own state. American troops are deep in the fighting and taking casualties. The Iraqi Prime Minister seems in control at best only of the Shia areas of his country. Groundhog Day.

But maybe this time around, in what some call Iraq War 3.0, we do know how it ends.
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How America Armed Terrorists In Syria

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Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them.  Equally important, it would prohibit US military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a US policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power.  And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

That policy, ostensibly aimed at helping replace the Assad regime with a more democratic alternative, has actually helped build up al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise al Nusra Front into the dominant threat to Assad.

The supporters of this arms-supply policy believe it is necessary as pushback against Iranian influence in Syria. But that argument skirts the real issue raised by the policy’s history.  The Obama administration’s Syria policy effectively sold out the US interest that was supposed to be the touchstone of the “Global War on Terrorism”—the eradication of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates. The United States has instead subordinated that U.S. interest in counter-terrorism to the interests of its Sunni allies. In doing so it has helped create a new terrorist threat in the heart of the Middle East.
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Russia/Iran Sanctions Delayed In House: Policy Change...or Deep State Pressure?

The Senate recently passed a new round of sanctions on Iran and Russia (98-2), with House concurrence likely by a similar margin. Then out of nowhere came concerns over a money/tax bill originating in the Senate instead of the Constitution-mandated House. Is Congress suddenly concerned about the Constitution? Don't believe it. The delay in House action on the bill is being seized by Democrats as yet more proof that Trump and the Republican Party are in the pay of Putin and thus will not pass new sanctions. What's really at play in the delay? Tune in to today's Liberty Report...
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Ron Paul: ‘US Should Mind its Own Business; It Shouldn’t be in Syria’

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The US has no right to fly into Syrian airspace where it shouldn’t be and set boundaries but should mind its own business. Otherwise, it is an act of aggression, says former US Congressman Ron Paul.

The US fighter jet downed an armed drone belonging to pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria, near a base in the al-Tanf region, on June, 20 as the drone was advancing on US-backed forces, according to a coalition statement.

This is happening at a time of escalating tension between Moscow and Washington. Also on Tuesday, Australia said it is temporarily suspending air operations in Syria.

RT discussed the latest developments in Syria with former US Congressman Ron Paul.

RT: Australia halted its cooperation. How significant is this development? Why did they do it?

Ron Paul: I think that is good. Maybe wise enough, I wish we could do the same thing – just come home. It just makes no sense; there’s a mess over there. So many people are involved, the neighborhood ought to take care of it, and we have gone too far away from our home. It has been going on for too long, and it all started when Obama in 2011 said: “Assad has to go.” And now as the conditions deteriorate …it looks like Assad and his allies are winning, and the US don’t want them to take Raqqa. This just goes on and on. I think it is really still the same thing that Obama set up – “Get rid of Assad” and there is a lot of frustration because Assad is still around and now it is getting very dangerous, it is dangerous on both sides.


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Paul Ryan's Tax 'Reform' -- Beware!

House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered his "major" policy speech this week on the need to pass Republican tax reform. He promised it would be passed this year. As Dr. Paul points out in today's Liberty Report, there's virtually no chance tax reform will result in less government. The government will lower taxes on some people but to do so it will have to raise taxes on others. And the poor? They get hit with the most cruel tax of all: the inflation tax that comes with endless money-printing. And the military-industrial complex? They will not be tightening their belts. On the contrary...
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Our Rush to War in Syria -- It’s a Disaster in the Making

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The downing of a Syrian fighter jet by the United States – and, more recently, of an Iranian drone – augurs a confrontation that could take us down the road to World War III. The US media is echoing the Pentagon’s explanation, which is that the Syrian jet bombed (or was threatening to bomb) units of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) around the town of Tanf. The Syrians say they were attacking forces aligned with ISIS, which both the US and the Syrian government are supposedly fighting.

The reality is that there is no such entity as the “Syrian Democratic Forces.” There are only loosely aligned groups, factions and splinters of factions, which proliferate seemingly on a daily basis in a mosaic of ethno-religious-ideological conflicts that reflect the chaos that has enveloped that country. The failure of the US to unite these various factions into the so-called Free Syrian Army – large units of which kept defecting to the various radical Islamist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda – led to an explosion of smaller groups centered around local, tribal, ethnic, and religious affiliations. The SDF is an attempt to solder these groups together in a military force capable of fighting and defeating the “Caliphate” established by ISIS – an effort that is far less successful than it seems.

The main military component of the SDF is the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel/YPG), consisting of about 45,000 fighters, including the all-female unit. The YPG is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, a far-leftist formation which adheres to the “democratic confederalist” vision of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan, who in turn credits anarcho-communist theoretician Murray Bookchin as his inspiration. The YPG is the official army of “Rojava,” a non-contiguous union of Kurdish-controlled territories that is supposedly secular, egalitarian, and socialist.
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Supreme Court Rules Overwhelmingly To Strike Down 'Disparagement Clause' Used To Bar Offensive Trademarks

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The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major victory for free speech on Monday in striking down a provision of the Lanham Act that barred registration for “disparaging” trademarks.  The decision came in Matal v. Tam, a case that we have been following. I have previously written about my disagreement with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision to rescind federal trademark protections for the Redskins as a racially disparaging name. As predicted, the ruling answered  the question raised in the prior column in controversies like the denying of trademark protection to the Washington Redskins.  The decision is good news for Washington’s NFL team, which lost its trademark because its name is disparaging to Native Americans.

Tam is the “front man” for the Asian-American rock band The Slants and, in 2010, filed an application seeking to register the mark THE SLANTS.  Tam’s group called itself the Slants because it wanted to “reclaim” and “take ownership” of stereotypes about Asians.

The Lanham Act provision, known as the “disparagement clause,” bans the registration of a trademark that may disparage “persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”  I have been highly critical of the provision for years in both columns and testimony before Congress.  Now it is gone but I remain perplexed how Congress failed to act on the matter to protect free speech for so many years.  One obvious reason is that many legislators lined up praising the denial of trademarks as entirely proper.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi celebrated the denial of the trademark, which clearly contravened free speech protections.  Sen. Harry Reid not only praised the action but predicted that the Redskins name would be gone within three years. That was in 2014.  Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said, “We’re so excited to know that finally people are recognizing that this issue can no longer be a business case for the NFL to use this patent.”
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Self-Defense Is No Defense for US Acts of War in Syria

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The shooting down of a Syrian fighter jet by US forces this week comes on the back of several aggressive actions by American military on the ground. Taken together the US actions mark an alarming escalation of intervention in the Syrian war – to the point where the Americans can be said to be now openly at war against Syria.

The American military actions also come despite repeated warnings from Russia against such unilateral deployment of force. Following the shoot-down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the American violence as an act of "flagrant aggression" against a sovereign state. Some Russian lawmakers such as Duma foreign affairs chief Alexei Pushkov went further and condemned it as an act of war by the Americans.

Of course, Washington’s logic is riddled with absurdity. To claim that its forces are acting in self-defense overlooks the glaring reality that the US-led military coalition has no legal mandate whatsoever to be in Syria in the first place. Its forces are in breach of international law by operating on Syrian territory without the consent of the government in Damascus and without a mandate from the UN Security Council.

Another absurdity is the claim that the US forces are "protecting" militants whom they are supposedly training to "fight" the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). On at least three occasions over the past month, American military have carried out air strikes on Syrian government forces and their allies near a strategically important border crossing between Syria and Iraq.
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Security...or Surveillance? The Edward Snowden Interview

What does former NSA analyst turned whistleblower Edward Snowden have to tell us about liberty? About trading a little freedom for government promises of security? Does he feel that his historic release of government documents showing how the NSA spies on all of us, constantly, without a warrant, has had a positive effect on freedom? Tune in to this very special episode of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, where we speak to Snowden on these and so many more issues...
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