Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Key Senate leaders emerged from a briefing Tuesday with CIA Director Gina Haspel convinced that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was complicit in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and that Congress must respond by penalizing the kingdom.
“He murdered him, no question in my mind,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said of Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the killing. “The crown prince directed the murder and was kept apprised of the situation all the way through.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had demanded the Haspel briefing, called the crown prince a "wrecking ball" and suggested the evidence against the prince, known by his initials MBS, was overwhelming.
"I think he’s complicit to the highest level possible,” Graham said.
"There’s not a smoking gun. There’s a smoking saw," Graham added, a reference to reports that the Saudi operatives who killed Khashoggi used a bone saw to dismember him after the murder. Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was killed inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 by a team of Saudi operatives.
Only about 10 senators were allowed to attend the briefing with Haspel on Tuesday. They included the chairmen and ranking members of four key committees, including the Senate intelligence panel and the Armed Services Committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., were also in the closed-door, classified session.
McConnell and Schumer left the briefing without talking to reporters.
But Corker, Graham and others said the only question now was how Congress would respond. Graham said he would push legislation to sanction the crown prince and other high-level Saudis involved in Khashoggi’s killing and halt arms sales to the regime. He said he also wanted the Senate to pass a non-binding resolution naming Mohammed as responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
"Saudi Arabia's a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs," Graham said. "We’ll do more damage to our standing in the world by ignoring MBS" than by confronting him.
Lawmakers were infuriated last week when Haspel declined to brief lawmakers on Khashoggi's murder. Senators wanted to hear directly from Haspel because the CIA has reportedly concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder. But the Saudi government has denied that, and President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the CIA's conclusions.
Last week, the Trump administration dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to brief lawmakers, and both men played down the U.S. intelligence on Mohammed's involvement.
Pompeo told reporters last week there was "no direct reporting connecting" the crown prince to the killing, and Mattis said there was no "smoking gun" implicating him.
Graham suggested the two cabinet secretaries were being "willfully blind" in their statements because the Trump administration does not want to confront Saudi Arabia over the murder.
"I’m going to assume they’re being good soldiers," the South Carolina Republican said. "I think the reason they don’t draw the conclusion that he’s complicit is because the administration doesn’t want to go down that road, not because there’s not evidence."
Haspel's closed-door briefing came as the Senate considers legislation that would force the Trump administration to end its military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has caused a horrific humanitarian disaster. That measure could become the main vehicle for penalizing Saudi Arabia's role in Khashoggi's death.
Corker said he is trying to craft an amendment to that proposal that would directly rebuke Saudi Arabia and the crown prince for Khashoggi's murder, separating the murder from the war in Yemen. He said combining the two issues would make it more complicated to win broad bipartisan support.
"Temperatures are up by all involved," Corker said. "So figuring out something that can pass overwhelmingly still is going to be difficult."
But Democrats have signaled they want the war in Yemen to be part of any legislative response.
"The United States must have a strong response to both the war in Yemen as well as the killing of a United States permanent resident and journalist," said Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Last week, senators voted 63-to-37 to advance the Yemen measure, a direct rebuke to President Trump's warm embrace of Saudi Arabia. The timing for further debate and final passage is unclear.
Pompeo has warned lawmakers against ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, where the U.S. is providing logistical assistance, munitions, and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
"Abandoning Yemen would do immense damage to U.S. national security interests and those of our Middle Eastern allies and partners," the secretary of state told lawmakers last week, according to excerpts released by the State Department.
By Jennifer Williams and Alex Ward
The protests are not “a middle class rebellion against cultural Marxism.” Not even close.
Cutting social welfare benefits and labor protections are not “radical leftist” policies
Last time I checked, ending labor protections, cutting taxes for wealthy corporations, and scaling back social welfare programs are not the policies typically associated with a “radical leftist” agenda, as Kirk phrased it.
The protests are also about Macron’s elitism and perceived disdain for the working class
Trump should know all of this. Instead, he retweeted Kirk’s demonstrably false comments.
BY BRETT SAMUELS
The three former presidents spoke recently with "60 Minutes" about George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday at age 94.
George W. Bush, who took office eight years after his father, said his father taught him that the presidency "is more important than the man."
"And therefore, one of the jobs is to strengthen the institution of the presidency, bring honor to the office," he said. "And that clearly George H.W. Bush did."
George W. Bush said his father didn't like to discuss his legacy, and suggested that the elder Bush's time in office is often overlooked because it was a single term."I feel really good about — people, if they analyze not only his accomplishments but his character, they'll say, 'Job well done, George H.W. Bush,' " he said.
Clinton, who followed Bush into office after winning the 1992 election, said on "60 Minutes" that the two enjoyed a warm personal relationship, despite their political disagreements. He read a letter that Bush wrote him upon departing office in which the outgoing president wished his successor good luck.
"It's been one of the great joys of my life, my friendship with him," Clinton said. "Our arguments were good-natured and open, and we continue to debate things all the way up until recently."
Obama, who awarded Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, praised the 41st president's foreign policy accomplishments, particularly his handling of the end of the Cold War.
Obama visited Bush at his home in Houston just a few days before he died.
"He was a good reminder that as fiercely as we may fight on policy and on issues, that ultimately we're Americans first," Obama said. "And that kind of attitude is something that I think a lot of people miss."
George H.W. Bush will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda from late Monday through Wednesday morning. President Trump declared a national day of mourning for Wednesday, when a service will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Bush's remains will then be transported back to Houston for a funeral service there. He will be buried next to his late wife, Barbara Bush, and his daughter Robin Bush at his presidential library and museum at Texas A&M University.
Pakistan's expulsion of 18 international aid agencies will hurt 11 million aid recipients in a South Asian nation grappling with perilously low standards of education and healthcare, two Western diplomats said on Tuesday.
Affected NGOs include World Vision, Pathfinder, Plan International, Trocaire and Saferworld, while another group, ActionAid, last week said it was closing offices and laying off staff after the government told it to halt operations and leave.Pakistan's interior ministry confirmed it had rejected the appeals of 18 NGOs that had been allowed to continue operations while their appeals were being reviewed, but declined to give further details.Aid groups and western diplomats have criticised a lack of transparency in the process of expulsion and the review of appeals by the aid agencies, saying they crimped humanitarian work.
"It is as appalling as it is inexplicable that the government has decided to deprive 11 million of its own people of much-needed support with no apparent reason," a Western diplomat told Reuters, asking not to be identified.
The interior ministry did not immediately respond to the diplomats' comments, instead referring Reuters to a statement by Pakistan's foreign office last month.
In its Nov. 15 statement, the foreign office said policies regarding international aid groups were "fully aligned" with nationally determined development priorities and needs, and that Islamabad appreciated the assistance provided by donor agencies.
"Representatives of all 18 INGOs were given the right to appeal and the opportunity to provide additional details and discuss mutual concerns," it added.
"As for shrinking space, the evidence is contrary to assertions. Out of 141 that applied for registration since October 2015, applications of 74 INGOs have been approved."
A total of 27 international NGOs received expulsion orders late last year, but 18 appealed. Most of the affected groups worked on human rights and advocacy issues.This week's expulsion orders come amid complaints by Pakistani journalists about growing curbs on media freedom, though Islamabad has clamped down on foreign-funded aid groups for years.
"The international community is disappointed by the recent forced closures of a number of international NGOs," another Western diplomat told Reuters.
"We have consistently expressed our concern to the government and continue to urge a clear and transparent process to ensure INGOs can operate effectively in Pakistan or understand the reasons for their eviction."
Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/pakistan-s-aid-group-clampdown-could-hit-11-million-people--diplomats-say-10996490
#Pakistan - Editorial: Will the govt follow through on its assertion to hold TLP leaders accountable?
BELATEDLY, the state may be proceeding to hold accountable the party leadership and some of its supporters for the violence and terror that they unleashed on the country more than a month ago.
According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the PTI government is moving towards having the leadership of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and individuals involved in violence during the days-long protests that paralysed the country in late October and early November put on trial on an assortment of treason, sedition and terrorism-related charges. The trials will, according to the information minister, be held in anti-terrorism courts in the relevant jurisdictions across the country.
It remains to be seen if the government intends to follow through on what the information minister has asserted, but if it does it would lay down an important marker for lawful discourse and protest in the country.
The protests were a historic debacle for the state and more than a month since the country has tried to return to normality, the shocking nature and brazenness of the TLP rhetoric has not faded.So direct and categorical was the violence-inciting narrative against the government, the judiciary and the military leadership by the TLP leaders that the lawful sentencing of the latter and their violent supporters is a sine qua non for the re-establishment of the rule of law in the country.Unhappily, elements within the religious establishment in the country are seeking to shield the TLP leaders from lawful action by the state in the name of so-called religious harmony. Several clerics led by Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who heads the Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Ahle Sunnat and the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, held a news conference on Sunday to demand that the government not take action against the TLP’s Khadim Rizvi and Afzal Qadri.
But what the religious leaders argued was necessary for religious harmony and peace in the country would amount to the state being blackmailed by violent extremists in the name of religion. There exist laws in the country against incitement to violence and attempts to spread religious hatred. If the language and actions of the TLP leaders and some of their supporters do not meet the criteria of unlawful incitement to violence and attempts to spread religious hatred, then what else possibly could?
Arguably, the one-sided politics of appeasement that the state has used — seemingly allowing those threatening violence and spreading intolerance in the name of religion free rein, while taking oppressive action against those demanding constitutionally protected rights — has created distortions in both state and society that now threaten to devour everyone.
Similarly, the dharna culture that has developed and been tacitly supported by elements within the state in recent years has turned political protests into deadly affairs.
The shocking events in the country after the acquittal of Aasia Bibi by the Supreme Court must never be allowed to take place again.