Saturday, May 20, 2017

Video - Dr. Putin Diagnoses US Establishment With Incurable Stage Of Political Schizophrenia

Video Report - Putin: The Whole World is in Turmoil, Russia With China Seek For Stability -May 16, 2017

Journalism is not a crime (apart from in Turkey)


Turkey celebrated one of its most meaningful national days on May 19, Youth and Sports Day, marking the 98th anniversary of the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk headed from allied-occupied Istanbul to Samsun on the Black Sea coast in 1919. 

However, this year the day was also marked as another example of growing oppression of the independent media in Turkey with the operation staged against daily Sözcü, a critical mass-market newspaper.  

Police searched the newspaper’s offices in Istanbul and İzmir as well as the house of its publisher, Burak Akbay, and issued detention warrants for him and online manager Mediha Olgun, finance manager Yonca Kaleli, and İzmir reporter Gökmen Ulu. The four were reported to be investigated over alleged links to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt.

They were accused of “being a member of a terror organization,” “committing a crime on behalf of the organization,” “assaulting the president,” and staging an “armed insurgency against the Turkish government.”
The prosecutor’s move also includes confiscation of the newspaper, according to Sözcü’s lawyers, increasing concerns that the prosecution could result in shutting the newspaper down. 

The operation against Sözcü follows the arrest of Oğuz Güven, the online manager of daily Cumhuriyet, landing another heavy blow on freedom of the media in Turkey. Güven was arrested simply over the headline of a news report on the car accident that killed chief prosecutor of Denizli two weeks ago. The headline was removed from Cumhuriyet’s website in less than a minute, but that did not stop the launching of a judicial move against Güven. In Turkey, a simple editorial mistake can turn a journalist life into a nightmare. 

Sözcü is one of the country’s most critical newspapers and is well-known for its long-standing opposition to the Fethullah Gülen movement, even back in the days when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was a close ally of Gülen. Accusing Sözcü of supporting the Gülen movement and taking part in last year’s coup attempt is ridiculous, even comical. 

Sözcü, like all media outlets in Turkey, stood against the coup attempt and supported the crackdown on Gülenists within state institutions. But it also urged the government not to cover up the political branch of the Gülenists, especially within the AKP, through a number of insistent reports. 

In his long address to mark the occasion of May 19, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the process that Turkey has been passing through since the AKP first entered office in late 2002 as a “silent revolution.” 
However, in a country where more than 150 journalists are behind bars and oppression against freedom of expression, along with other fundamental freedoms, is constantly rising, it is not possible to talk about such a revolution. Rather, Turkey is in the midst of a noisy counter-revolution that deteriorates democratic principles and universal values. 

Journalism is not a crime. Those who imprison journalists just because of what have written or reported are the onescommitting the real crime.

China - It’s high time to give Tsai an ultimatum

Even after one year in office, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen has not given a positive response to the question of recognizing the 1992 Consensus, and this has halted cross-Straits official communications and stalled relations.

Tsai dares not confront the Chinese mainland head-on, and wants to buy some time for "Taiwan independence," so she has chosen to be ambiguous to scale back exchanges from the height of the Kuomintang era but prevent confrontations.

In the past year, Tsai has been busy aligning Taiwan with the US and Japan to create a "cold peace" with the mainland.

By contrast, the mainland has upheld the 1992 Consensus and squeezed the space for "Taiwan independence" by winning more international support.

Without recognizing the consensus, there is no basis for communication. In the past year, bilateral trade stagnated, Taiwan economy headed for marginalization, and investors in and outside of the island became hesitant.

Tsai's policies like the "new invention plan" and "new south policy" will also be undermined soon as they aim at breaking away from the mainland-led Asia-Pacific industrial chain and market system.

The "reform" that Tsai talks about is implicitly geared toward independence. The welfare of Taiwan and the well-being of the Taiwan people are merely a disguise for the reform policies she has advocated to uproot the Kuomintang's political influence and foster her Democratic Progressive Party and eventually achieve "Taiwan independence."

Taiwan people have become disappointed with Tsai. A latest popular poll in Taiwan released on Thursday shows that Tsai's approval rating has plummeted from 50.2 percent when she first took office a year ago to 33 percent now, while the rate of disapproval rose from 16.3 percent to 53.3 percent.

Tsai blamed this on "people's lack of patience," and she would never admit the true reason behind it. 

The 1992 Consensus is a question that Tsai cannot bypass or ignore, and there is only one right answer to it. It cannot be circumvented with ambiguous answers. Tsai cannot make peace with herself if she does not answer the question.

One cannot wake a person pretending to be asleep. Tsai must be clear about the result of insisting on "Taiwan independence," as it will have no good ending. People on both sides of the Taiwan Straits will not tolerate "Taiwan-independence" forces to destroy the development outcomes of the past decades.

Now it's time to give Tsai an ultimatum.

Washington’s calls on US allies to stop contacts with Assad encourage terrorists — Lavrov

According to Lavrov, the US air strike against pro-government forces in Syria was illegitimate and unlawful regardless of what had caused it.

The new strike of the US Air Force in Syria confirms Washington’s intention to use the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group (outlawed in Russia) for the fight against Bashar Assad’s government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Friday.
Moscow is concerned over differences in understanding the need to unite those who indeed fight on the ground and in the air against terrorists of the Islamic State and the former Jabhat al-Nusra, he said.

"We see the confirmation of an intention to use opposition and some extremists, including Jabhat al-Nusra, in the fight against the legitimate government of Syria," Lavrov said.
This comes amid Washington’s calls to stop all contacts with Assad, he said, noting that the US Congress had passed a law demanding punishment for those who cooperate with the legitimate government of Syria.

"This distracts us from the Syrian settlement and the major goal of this settlement - preventing the seizure of Syria and other parts of the Middle East by terrorists," Lavrov said. "So, what we hear about Washington’s position on Syria now is in fact coddling terrorists."

The warning 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has no information that Washington warned Moscow before delivering an air strike on Syrian pro-government forces, Lavrov pointed out:

"I don’t know about any such warning."

US air strike against pro-government forces in Syria was illegitimate and unlawful regardless of what had caused it, the Russian diplomat added: 

"The US command said the strike was delivered because these pro-government forces posed a threat to the opposition which cooperates with the US-led coalition."

"Whatever the reason the US command made such a decision, the strike was illegitimate and unlawful. It was yet another crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty," he stated.

An air force group of the US-led counter-terrorist group on May 18 attacked pro-government forces in Syria operating within the established de-escalation zone northwest of At Tanf. The coalition’s headquarters argued that the forces had posed a threat to the United States and its allies.


Music Video - Irene Parveen - Tum hee ho mehboob mere

Pakistan - Four policemen killed in Kohat ambush

Four police personnel, including a station house officer, were gunned down in the Lachi sub-district of Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa on Saturday night.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Lachi Raza Khan told DawnNews that unknown assailants targeted a police mobile which was on routine petrol.
"The assailants ambushed the mobile, killing four policemen on-board, including SHO Khanullah and additional SHO Tahir Mehmood," said the DSP.
The mobile was targeted at Indus Highway, he said, adding that police personnel have reached the spot and initial investigations have been started. The police official further said that the area has been cordoned off by police and a search operation is under way.

Pakistan' blasphemy - ''The lynching games''

By Ziad Zafar 

Inviting people to report blasphemy is like placing landmines across the country that could go off at anytime.
Millions of Pakistanis received a text message from their country’s telecommunications regulator asking them to report incidents of blasphemy. This was less than a month after we witnessed a public lynching and the spectacle of crazed mobs around the country baying for human blood. Over 3,000 complaints were received in the first week alone. If all these are true it means there have been more instances of blasphemy in the last week than have been documented in 70 years of the country’s existence. And we can be sure this is only the beginning. On a purely operational level one wonders how these complaints will be processed. Will the FIA, to whom these crimes are forwarded, investigate each instance separately? How much manpower will they need? Perhaps a centralised blasphemy database will have to be created or even a new federal authority formed to coordinate a national response?
The farcical nature of this exercise may have provided some humour if it weren’t so serious an issue. Indeed the PTA has not let us down on this score in the past. One is almost nostalgic for the time when all the authority wanted to do was prevent amorous couples from talking on phone using ‘midnight [cellular] packages’, or when it decided to filter ‘racy’ words like tongue, stupid, rape, joints, jugs, fairy, and camel toe, from SMS messages . The recent incident of soliciting blasphemy reports is a fair bit more sobering.
In sending out this mass message, the PTA has effectively put out a public tender for witch burnings. An act so grossly irresponsible, so callously deliberate, it is tantamount to throwing a match into a fireworks factory.
PTA officials maintain that it is an awareness raising campaign and they have provided an email address where citizens can report blasphemy ‘instead of taking the law into their own hands’. It’s hard to imagine anyone with a modicum of sanity who thinks this message was intended to promote law and order. The last thing this country needs is a 200-million-strong blasphemy neighbourhood watch. Let us be clear, it is an invitation to lynch: one of a series of recently taken steps which will result in the institutionalisation of blood lust, encouraging thousands to set out gleefully on a macabre treasure hunt for blasphemers.
When the 18th century Lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson had finished compiling the first English dictionary, he was paid visits by many admirers including a delegation of London’s respectable women who came to his parlour in Fleet street and said "Dr we congratulate you on your decision to exclude all indecent words from your dictionary." Johnson replied, "Ladies I congratulate you on your persistence in looking them up." In Pakistan we have decided that we are determined to be offended, even if we must seek it out. Blasphemy is a strange creature, a thing that predicts itself. Mere suspicion of its existence ensures that it exists. Those looking for it are certain to find it. And so on it will go.
One would be hard pressed to recall a more insincere, naked exploitation of religion by the state since General Ziaul Haq. The Sharif government which has otherwise scored surprisingly highly on the progressive agenda, has committed a most damaging act- almost unwittingly it seems. The PM appears reluctant, but weakened on other fronts, he has been unable to resist the horses dragging his chariot in this direction. The chain goes back and the dots are not hard to connect, but in the end he bears the responsibility..
A German proverb holds:“where they begin by burning books, they end by burning men”. What about places where they begin by burning men? Where does it end in these places? The most frightening thing about this storm of madness into which we are descending is that unlike storms, it is not certain to pass. We know all too well the near impossibility of putting this particular genie back in the bottle. Elapsed time has the effect of making it seem normal, and therefore harder to oppose. If ever Pandora had a suitcase, it’s just flown out of the chute and flipped open on the conveyer belt. Inviting the entire population to report blasphemy is like placing land mines across the country that could go off at anytime. If there is any chance of preventing this, it must be fought back now, not later.
The children of Zia are alive and well, resolved to claw back power from the shadows. Proliferation of fear is their biggest weapon, the PTA’s SMS is only the latest gambit- now brace for the holy month with a freshly sharpened Ehtaram-e-Ramzan ordinance set to debut. The lynching games are just getting started. One thing is for certain; those who seek to use blasphemy as a ‘strategic asset’ have already lost control of it. They are leading us to a fire that will swallow us all. A German proverb holds: "where they begin by burning books, they end by burning men". What about places where they begin by burning men? Where does it end in these places?

Pakistan - Population Growth is linked to Development: Aseefa Bhutto

Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari has stressed that rapid population growth is an issue that cannot be seen in isolation from development, as the effects of population growth affect all development sectors. She was speaking as guest of honor at the 6th Meeting of the Sindh FP2020 Working Group here. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, MNA and the Chair of Sindh FP2020 Working Group.
Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari pledged her support for the objectives of the FP2020 Working Group on unchecked population growth. Ms. Bhutto-Zardari further said she may also visit districts and rural and remote areas and would play her role to mobilize young women and girls so that Sindh can achieve its policy objectives under international commitments made by Pakistan.
Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, while chairing the meeting said that Planned Parenthood is one of the ways to address poverty. She stressed the need for reducing high fertility which is a main cause for rapid population growth. She emphasized that it was necessary to engage young couples for Planned Parenthood. She pointed out the need for integrating Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) methods into the curriculum so that adolescents are educated about their basic needs of nutrition, hygiene, planning their future and other needs.
Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Coordinator for Public Health Oversight Committee, Sindh said that the efforts of the Sindh FP2020 Working Group are regarded as best practice by other provinces, and Sindh has become a role model in this regard since, it is far ahead in achieving its FP2020 goals.
Dr. Talib Lashari, Technical Advisor, CIP and Focal Person, FP2020 gave a detailed presentation on linkages between planned parenthood and socio-economic development and the status of implementation on CIP activities in Sindh. Dr. Lashari said that rising population strains infrastructure and social services like electricity, clean water, education, health, transportation etc. He said that as per credible surveys, the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) of Sindh stands at 30% which means fewer couples are using Planned Parenthood services. If the lower rate of CPR continues it will require more hospitals, schools to be built; more jobs to be created and more need for food. Dr. Lashari said that Sindh is the first province to come up with a robust family planning initiative called Costed Implementation Plan (CIP) in response to Pakistan’s international commitments thus; Sindh government is trying best to address the issue of rapid population growth.
Dr. Fazlullah Pechuho, Secretary Health, Sindh said that the Department was working towards integrating the different health programs related to planned parenthood to make a coordinated effort to ensure the provision of services.
Laeeq Ahmed, Secretary Population Welfare Department, Sindh pointed out that the province was making much progress on FP2020 initiative because there was commitment from the highest level of the government.
The representative from the Finance and Planning and Development Departments also committed their support in the ongoing work towards achieving Sindh’s FP2020 goals.
The meeting was attended by the members of FP2020 Working Group consisting of multiple stakeholders, including public sector organizations; USAID and its partners; United Nations Fund for Population (UNFPA); non-government organizations, professional organizations like Society of Gynecologists of Pakistan (SOGP); NCMNCH; donors and other development partners.
At the end, Dr. Talib Lashari presented a copy of the Costed Implementation Plan to Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari.

In Afghanistan, Civilian Casualties Happen by Design, Not by Accident

By Masud Wadan

The people of few conflicted countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria hardly seem to get out of bloody wars. Syria, which is battling the regime change, would land into the same bloody fate of Afghanistan if it undergoes this transition. In both cases – before and after the regime change- the natives of these territories should pay the price of the West’s ambitious and hegemonic conspiracies.
Afghanistan’s death toll from the US-led war is placed at 100,000 people. This startling figure sparks the speculation that the US and allies were just watching the people dying over this period. The US-based Brown University’s “Costs of War” study finds that at least 100,000 civilians have lost their lives to the war between 2001 through 2014.
It added to the injury when the year 2015 ended up with record-high human casualities than any single year since 2001. And then at the end of the following year 2016, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) described the causalities “shocking” and “unprecedented”. The rate is set to go up as the US mulls over sending further reinforcements and F-16 fighters jets that suggest fierce war.
The Brown University’s finding seems to be authentic, because it is strongly circulated among Afghan war experts that an average of 20 people die a day in Afghanistan that constitute the estimated number when calculated. On the opposite front, the UNAMA reports the Afghan fatalities about one third of the Brown University’s figure. This UN agency’s compilation of war victims is unfounded and impartial and it amounts to complicity or clemency towards war instigators – by not disclosing the right statistic or just by sufficing to call on warring sides to heed for civilians life.
The Brown University’s study concludes that over 370,000 people have died due to direct war violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan since 2001. It also revealed that the costly war in terms of life and expenditure didn’t result in inclusive, transparent, democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR), Syrian fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000 people. It states the number is twice the UN’s figure of 250,000 victims collected nearly a year ago. The SCPR’s report estimates that 11.5% of the country’s population has been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011.
In Afghanistan, civilians are killed for certain causes, and it is not by accident. Last month, ten Taliban suicide infiltrates killed 170 soldiers in a military headquarter in northern Balkh province [the unofficial figure put dead between 300 and 400 soldiers]. The harrowing and murderous Balkh carnage could serve as a best example behind many civilian and military deaths in Afghanistan. In days after the massacre, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrived in Kabul and informed of a new Washington strategy on the way in a press conference with the top US commander, as a response to the incident.
The carnage apparently became a motive for the likely shift in US’s policy that might be deployment of further US troops, more military hardware and demanding additional NATO forces in Afghanistan. In this context, Australia has already said it is open to sending more soldiers after Berlin signaled reservations.
In a single sentence: it was not the carnage that caused the strategy change, but it was, indeed, the strategy change that caused the carnage.
Afterwards, in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, the US National Intelligence Chief DanielCoats spoke of a downhill security in Afghanistan through 2018. He said:
“Even if NATO deploys more troops, the political and security situation in Afghanistan will likely get worse”.
In spite of being the most powerful military in a recent ranking, the US casts the Taliban “unbeatable”. The US officials since long predict each coming year “dangerous” for Afghanistan. But how do they know that?
The other day, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford speaking at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont also followed the track of James Mattis and Daniel Coats and stressed on sending more troops to Afghanistan. While speaking, he hinted at the latest Afghan Army massacre and raised it as basis to lobby the audience. The US never bothers to deliver a statement repeatedly unless the issue is concerned for it.
These high-ranks’ back-to-back rhetoric speech comes as the US is vigilant of measurable Russian support of the Taliban fronts in parts of Afghanistan.
In October 2015, the Taliban militants rushed into the unseen mass-killing of civilians on the streets of northern Kunduz city and converted it into a ghost city. The war analysts believed it was the US’s intrigue to send shockwaves into the Central Asian countries and importantly Russia.
Following the Kunduz attack, Sen. John McCain appeared to say that:
“The Taliban’s strength has been fueled by the Obama Administration’s scheduled troop withdrawal”.
He critically directed the Kunduz attack’s blame to Obama administration’s “untimely” troop drawdown. He wanted the troops to stay behind and only such a tragedy was feasible to push the troop-pullout plan in reverse.
Even though McCain and others have long sought more troops or continued war on terrorism, Afghanistan loses more inhabitants to the fake war with every year going by.
Even the waves of so-called “terrorists attacks” in Germany, Holland and France last year underscores that these are the conspiracy theories aimed at continuous war in Syria and elsewhere. Many Europeans would still keep faith with the war-mongers’ cooked-up stories and back the US and NATO’s intervention in Syria. The sole purpose of all these planned attacks was and is to demonize the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda and draw a whole support to wage a filthy war against “the nations” where these terrorists operate.
Unrest in Afghanistan is a recipe for more US weapons’ sales to war-exposed countries, viable drug trafficking that generates a profit far beyond measure, unearthing of underground resources worth of several trillion dollars, restraining of the regional military and economic rival powers and so others.
The insurgent groups – be it in Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq depending on the nature of war – have always chanted their slogans against the military forces or the incumbent governments – not civilians. But the wars have instead largely cost the ordinary people’s lives.
In almost every Taliban attack where the NATO and Afghan forces or government officials were targets, quite a few normal people have fallen victim. Typically, in a recent suicide attack on NATO fleet in Kabul, no international servicemen died or injured, but dead were only passersby and passengers of a minivan running behind the convoy.
The terrorist groups have left almost no public establishment un-attacked over this period, from hospitals and TV stations to universities and restaurants have tasted the undue violent killings. In March, Kabul’s Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan hospital was penetrated by several suicide bombers. Every war front including the Taliban leadership understands the immunity and neutrality of hospitals having no issue with war, but the armed men indifferently set off a killing spree and shot dead every one they came across in the hospital including ailing and elderly people and children.
The militants are, of course, aided and abetted by external and internal elements and this is just a show of distorted reality in Afghanistan used by war architects to hold a foot on the ground. While the terrorist groups have nothing in mind to achieve by slaughtering innocents, it rather give birth to grounds for the West’s presence and drag the fake war well into the future.
This war is stoked or afloat thanks, in most part, to the “kill and then blame” policy. This is well captured in Syria’s Khan Sheikhon chemical attack. First the gas attack that was over-amplified in the world media was fabricated and later the ground was prepared for the US to carry out Tomahawk missile strikes on Syrian Shayrat airbase without finding that the Khan Shaikhon chemical attack was launched from this base.
According to Afghan Human Rights organization, the Afghan war has claimed some 40,000 lives only between 2009 and 2016. Laal Gul an Afghan Human Rights expert says:
 “The Afghan and NATO security officials never disclose a true statistic of victims of an attack”.
It is aimed to simmer down public fury.
In Afghanistan, another excuse for civilian causalities is that the Taliban loyalists bury IEDs or landmines on public avenues allegedly for striking Afghan Army or the NATO’s convoy, but in many instances a civilian vehicle often packed with people has run over the explosives and torn apart. In an extremely disturbing episode, a footage released earlier showed that an old man rushes to the scene where his entire family’s car was blown up by a roadside bomb and desperately looks to women and children’s blood-soaked corpses that litter around the explosion point. Later it features that the man burst into tears as he lifts a lifeless child’s body.
People of Afghanistan are put to suffer this way along the one-and-a-half-decade-long US “war on terror”.
This is while Trump is considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. In 2011, there were 100,000 US soldiers on the ground with almost the same causality rate of present day. Fewer more troops are not up to making a twist in civilian life.
Many years ago, an Afghan journalist who was not named over security reasons learned about a mind blowing fact after contacting a Taliban spokesman and asking about those innocents killed in the Taliban suicide bombing, who replied:
“Those Afghans [other than foreign troops] killed in the blast would go straight to the heaven along with the suicide bomber”.
The intensifying conflict tells that another huge bulk of people is about to perish in the future. The people of Afghanistan and other war-wrecked nations can no longer tolerate such a vortex which is putting them on agony.

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Saudi Arabia Is a Terrible Choice for Trump’s First Overseas Visit


''If the Trump administration truly wants to find a way out of the wars in the Middle East, it should stop arming, aiding, and abetting the ruthless Saudi regime.''

Donald Trump has selected Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first trip abroad, strengthening U.S. ties to a regime that is fueling the very extremism, intolerance, and violence that the U.S. government purports to want to eradicate.
Here’s 10 reasons why the United States shouldn’t be closely allied with the Saudi kingdom.
  1. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has spent about $4 billion per year on mosques, madrasas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let’s not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden himself.
  2. The Saudis fund terrorism worldwide. A WikiLeaks-revealed 2009 cable quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide … More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, and other terrorist groups.” In Syria the Saudis are supporting the most extreme sectarian forces. And while the Saudi government condemns ISIS, many experts, including 9/11 Commission Report lead author Senator Bob Graham, believe that ISIS is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money, and Saudi organizational support.
  3. The government represses religious minorities. Trump says he is promoting tolerance with this trip, but this theocratic Sunni regime is based on repressing the Shia minority and non-Muslims. It is the only country in the world to ban all churches, and atheism is a capital offense. Year after year, the U.S. government’s own Commission on International Religious Freedom says Saudi Arabia commits “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
  4. Free speech and free association are forbidden in the kingdom. Criticizing the Saudi regime can lead to flogging, long jail sentences, or even beheading. Tragic examples are Raif Badawi, languishing in prison for blogging; attorney Waleed Abulkhair, serving a 15-year sentence for defending human rights; and Ali al-Nimr, arrested as a minor and now on death row for nonviolent dissent.
  5. The regime is the most misogynist, gender-segregated country in the world. Women are not even allowed to drive and must live under a guardianship system that gives men authority over the most important decisions in their lives.
  6. There is no political freedom in Saudi Arabia. While most of the world’s monarchies have evolved to lessen the role of royalty, Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s last absolute monarchies. The Saud family picks the king, who then has ultimate authority in virtually every aspect of government. There are no national elections and political parties are banned, as are unions and most civic organizations.
  7. They have engaged in a catastrophic war in Yemen. In March 2015, the Saudis launched a bombing campaign in Yemen that has targeted schools, hospitals, markets, weddings, and funerals. The war has resulted in acute malnutrition and disease, leaving a Yemeni child dying every 10 minutes. Instead of supporting the bombing, the US government should be pushing a ceasefire and negotiations.
  8. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Scores of people are killed each year after being convicted of various nonviolent charges that range from adultery, apostasy, drug use, and sorcery. The executions are usually carried out by public beheading.
  9. The Kingdom primarily functions on the backs of mistreated foreign laborers. Of the nation’s 30 million people, some 10 million are foreigners. Workers from poor nations seek economic gains within Saudi Arabia, but are often lured under false pretenses and then not allowed to leave the country without permission from their employer. Female migrant workers, treated like indentured servants, often face physical and sexual abuse.
  10. Saudi Arabia helps maintain the world’s destructive dependence on oil. Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of oil in the world. With its vast potential for solar energy, Saudi Arabia could lead the world in renewable energy. Instead, the economy remains almost entirely dependent on oil and on the international level, Saudi Arabia works with the United States to oppose global climate agreements that would affect oil profits.
If the Trump administration truly wants to find a way out of the wars in the Middle East and make the United States safer from terrorists, it would do well to stop arming, aiding, and abetting the ruthless Saudi regime.
Medea Benjamin is a co-founder of CODEPINK for Peace and the author of the book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connections.

Jared Kushner, the Arms Deal, and Alleged Saudi War Crimes


Jared Kushner played a leading role in orchestrating a $100 billion arms deal with the Saudi government, according to the New York Times. At the same time the Saudi air force has allegedly engaged in repeated war crimes in Yemen, including attacks on schools, hospitals, and a funeral home, on many of these occasions reportedly with the use of US weaponry. Discussing the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, Human Rights Watch’s Kristine Beckerle wrote earlier this month of the “the twenty-third time Human Rights Watch had identified remnants of U.S.-supplied weapons at the site of an apparently unlawful coalition attack.” As uncomfortable as it is for me to write this, Kushner may be stepping directly into the zone where US officials can become liable for aiding and abetting Saudi war crimes. One question this raises is what mitigation measures, including assurances from the Saudis, might the Trump administration pursue to avoid such risks.
This would not be the first time for US officials to consider such questions, according to news reports. Based on internal government documents received through the Freedom of Information Act, Reuters’ Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay wrote in October of last year:
“The Obama administration went ahead with a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings from some officials that the United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians.”
In a piece entitled, “U.S. Arms Sale to Saudis Spells Legal Trouble for State Department Officials,” I drew a similar conclusion about the legal risks, and I explained a flaw in the Defense Department’s Military Manual that could unintentionally lead to poor advice to senior officials. The Manual would tell them they are not at risk of aiding and abetting war crimes if they did not desire the Saudis to engage in bad acts. But that conclusion is based on a statement about a legal opinion written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel which reached an opposite conclusion. What’s more, as I explained, other legal positions adopted by the Defense Department support the standard and correct legal view of aiding and abetting war crimes, which does not require US officials to have any desire for the Saudis to violate the laws of war. It would be wholly sufficient for the officials simply to have knowledge of the Saudi’s actions to trigger liability.
And indeed the executive branch has surely built up knowledge of Saudi actions over time, as explained in congressional testimony by Dafna Rand, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of State. Accordingly, earlier support for the Saudi-led operations in Yemen may not have incurred criminal liability, but today’s support might. In addition, according to Andrew Exum, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East policy, the US has appeared to learn over time that the Saudis do not have the capacity to avoid civilian casualties in their air campaign. And indeed the Obama administration suspended a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia in December out of concern for repeated civilian casualties from Saudi airstrikes in Yemen.
I am not alone in my legal assessment that US officials who play a leading role in providing support to the Saudi operations, especially through arms sales, can run into legal problems due to aiding and abetting liability.
Consider a letter written in October by Congressman Ted Lieu to then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter and then-Secretary of State John Kerry. Rep. Ted Lieu, was also a military lawyer who taught the laws of war and is currently a Colonel in the US Air Force Reserve. He wrote:
“U.S. personnel are now at legal risk of being investigated and potentially prosecuted for committing war crimes. Under international law, a person can be found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes. Under U.S. law, a person can be found guilty for conspiring to commit war crimes.”
My former colleague at Harvard Law School, Professor Noah Feldman also wrote: “It isn’t a legal stretch to say that refueling a plane that then bombs civilians is aiding and abetting the bombing. No refueling, no bombing. That’s a concern raised by Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat who is an Air Force reserve lawyer and knows what he’s talking about.”
Tom Malinowski, the top human rights official at the State Department until January 2017 told Just Security, “There is a strong policy argument for suspending some sales, as President Obama did, until concerns about these kinds of incidents are resolved, and a possibility of legal jeopardy for U.S. officials if sales continue despite continuing evidence of violations of the laws of war.”
“Continued arms sales,” Beckerle said, “increasingly put U.S. officials at legal risk for aiding those crimes.”
What could the Trump administration do to avoid these legal risks? First, it might matter about the weapons systems. These assessments of legal exposure may not apply to the sale of defensive weapons and radar systems which are reportedly part of Kushner’s negotiated package. Second, perhaps in recognition of the legal risks involved, the Trump administration has reportedly sought new assurances from the Saudis to minimize civilian casualties. That is, in principle, the right approach—if pursue in a genuine and effective fashion. As I initially wrote back in September, the Office of Legal Counsel opinion describes mitigation measures that US officials might include to assure that US support will not contribute to international law violations. However, as I also wrote last month, Exum’s descriptions of flaws in the Saudi military systems may suggest they are not capable of reforming their practices anytime soon. Finally, the same New York Times story that described Kushner’s role and “personal touch” in the arms deal, also said that President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia will studiously avoid discussion of human rights concerns:
“Mr. Trump is not expected to raise human rights concerns with the Saudis, in keeping with his approach to strongmen in Turkey, Egypt, China and the Philippines. The president, his aides said, does not believe the United States gets results by lecturing other countries.”
It would be good to know how the president’s aides could explain then how he does expect to get results. We can’t tell whether the Times’ reference to human rights includes humanitarian concerns raised by US-supported Saudi operations in Yemen. The president’s failure to raise specific concerns in that respect could put his own officials at legal risk, his son-in-law included.