How US policies to stop terrorist financing end up hurting innocent families abroad – Vox – Updated by Dylan Matthews on November 18, 2015, 1:00 p.m. ET


A Western Union receipt. Remittances are particularly in danger from derisking. Matt Cardy/Getty ImagesOne of the most significant, but least covered, parts of the war on terror has been the Treasury Department’s effort to shut down al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups’ access to financial institutions. It’s an attractive way of tackling the problem: Freezing accounts here isn’t as expensive as sending in troops or airstrikes, and no civilians get hurt.Except the second part might not be true. A report released last week by the Center for Global Development, authored by a working group chaired by visiting fellow Clay Lowery and senior fellow Vijaya Ramachandran, argues that laws meant to counteract money laundering and terrorism financing are encouraging broader “derisking,” in which Western banks cut off ties with financial institutions in the developing world so as to reduce the odds that they’ll run afoul of regulations. The result is that developing-world banks, money transfer organizations (which handle remittances), and nonprofit organizations are losing access to the financial system as a whole.That can have real human consequences. People in countries like Somalia or Nigeria who rely on remittances from relatives in rich countries like the US could see fewer transfers or higher fees. NGOs doing health programs or cash transfers could see programs scaled back due to lack of banking. Foreign investment in developing countries could decrease due to fewer big international banks dealing in those countries.

Source: How US policies to stop terrorist financing end up hurting innocent families abroad – Vox

Odessa’s Georgian Leader: The Governor – YouTube


Ukraine’s government has found a novel way of trying to deal with corruption. They’ve hired a number of foreigners to head government agencies, ministries and even an entire region, in the hopes that their status as outsiders will make them less susceptible to the temptation to award contracts to their best friends, who presumably are not in Ukraine. In the port of Odessa, Mikheil Saakashvili has been appointed governor of the city and the surrounding region. Saakashvili was once the president of Georgia, but fled the country when a new government pressed charges of corruption against him. VICE News’ Simon Ostrovsky spent a day with with the president-turned-governor to find out how he was handling his new job.

Watch “The Russians Are Coming: Georgia’s Creeping Occupation” – http://bit.ly/1kArgnK

This is why they hate us: The real American history neither Ted Cruz nor the New York Times will tell you – Salon.com


We talk democracy, then overthrow elected governments and prop up awful regimes. Let’s discuss the actual history

Source: This is why they hate us: The real American history neither Ted Cruz nor the New York Times will tell you – Salon.com

Embedded in Northern Afghanistan: The Resurgence of the Taliban – Vice News Published on Nov 6, 2015


In late September, the Taliban launched an offensive against Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan, capturing key buildings and freeing hundreds of prisoners from the city’s jail.

American planes targeted Taliban positions, but at the beginning of October, a hospital run by medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) was hit, killing 22 hospital staff and patients, with many seriously injured. The Pentagon later admitted that the strike was a mistake.

Gaining exclusive access to the Taliban, VICE News filmmaker Nagieb Khaja spoke to fighters that briefly took control of Kunduz — the first major city to fall to the group since it was ousted from power in 2001.

Watch “Robert Grenier: The VICE News Interview” – http://bit.ly/1KTO5aw

The Russians Are Coming: Georgia’s Creeping Occupation – Vice News Published on Nov 4, 2015


In July 2015, Russia-backed forces moved the boundary fence between Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Georgia — placing more Georgian territory under Russian control. Georgians refer to this as the creeping occupation, and several people who unfortunately live in the area now have a different citizenship.

VICE News travels to Georgia to see how the country is handling Russia’s quiet invasion, and meet those getting caught in the crossfire.

Watch “The Russians Are Coming: NATO’s Frontier” – http://bit.ly/1O5ruzt

The Russians Are Coming: Georgia’s Creeping Occupation – Published on Oct 27, 2015


In July 2015, Russia-backed forces moved the boundary fence between Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Georgia — placing more Georgian territory under Russian control. Georgians refer to this as the creeping occupation, and several people who unfortunately live in the area now have a different citizenship.

VICE News travels to Georgia to see how the country is handling the Russia’s quiet invasion, and meet those getting caught in the crossfire.

Watch “The Russians Are Coming: NATO’s Frontier” – http://bit.ly/1O5ruzt

Before Osama bin Laden Raid, Obama Administration’s Secret Legal Deliberations


WASHINGTON — Weeks before President Obama ordered the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, four administration lawyers hammered out rationales intended to overcome any legal obstacles — and made it all but inevitable that Navy SEALs would kill the fugitive Qaeda leader, not capture him.

Stretching sparse precedents, the lawyers worked in intense secrecy. Fearing leaks, the White House would not let them consult aides or even the administration’s top lawyer, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. They did their own research, wrote memos on highly secure laptops and traded drafts hand-delivered by trusted couriers.

From left, Stephen W. Preston, the C.I.A.’s general counsel; Mary DeRosa, the National Security Council’s legal adviser; then-Rear Admiral James W. Crawford III, the Joint Chiefs of Staff legal adviser, and Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel worked secretly on clearing legal hurdles for the 2011 raid against Osama bin Laden. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; U.S. Government; Doug Mills/The New York Times 

Just days before the raid, the lawyers drafted five secret memos so that if pressed later, they could prove they were not inventing after-the-fact reasons for having blessed it. “We should memorialize our rationales because we may be called upon to explain our legal conclusions, particularly if the operation goes terribly badly,” said Stephen W. Preston, the C.I.A.’s general counsel, according to officials familiar with the internal deliberations.

While the Bin Laden operation has been much scrutinized, the story of how a tiny team of government lawyers helped shape and justify Mr. Obama’s high-stakes decision has not been previously told. The group worked as military and intelligence officials conducted a parallel effort to explore options and prepare members of SEAL Team 6 for the possible mission.

The legal analysis offered the administration wide flexibility to send ground forces onto Pakistani soil without the country’s consent, to explicitly authorize a lethal mission, to delay telling Congress until afterward, and to bury a wartime enemy at sea. By the end, one official said, the lawyers concluded that there was “clear and ample authority for the use of lethal force under U.S. and international law.”

Article continues:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/fed-faces-a-rates-puzzle-of-its-own-making-1445986207

South China Sea: Beijing ‘not frightened to fight a war’ after US move – Tom Phillips in Beijing Wednesday 28 October 2015 03.16 EDT


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China is not afraid of fighting a war against the United States in the South China Sea, a state-run newspaper with links to the Communist party has claimed.

Twenty-four hours after Washington challenged Beijing’s territorial claims in the region by deploying a warship to waters around the disputed Spratly archipelago, the notoriously nationalistic Global Times accused the Pentagon of provoking China.

“In [the] face of the US harassment, Beijing should deal with Washington tactfully and prepare for the worst,” the newspaper argued in an editorial on Wednesday.

“This can convince the White House that China, despite its unwillingness, is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region, and is determined to safeguard its national interests and dignity.”

The People’s Liberation Army Daily, China’s leading military newspaper, used a front-page editorial to accuse the US of sowing chaos in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Cast-iron facts show that time and again the United States recklessly uses force and starts wars, stirring things up where once there was stability, causing the bitterest of harm to those countries directly involved,” the newspaper said, according to Reuters.

Competing claims in the South China Sea.

Tuesday’s manoeuvre, which saw the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sail close to artificial Chinese islands, came after Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping failed to find common ground over the issue during recent talks at the White House.

US defence secretary Ash Carter warned that further “freedom of navigation” operations in the region were planned. “We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits,” he told a congressional hearing.

US defence secretary Ash Carter acknowledges that a US ship did enter disputed waters 

China reacted to Tuesday’s long-anticipated mission by hurling a barrage of accusations at Washington.

“The United States has been very irresponsible,” defense ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

“We will take any measures necessary to safeguard our security.”

 

Article continues:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/28/china-not-frightened-fight-war-south-china-sea-uss-lassen

Tony Blair sorry for Iraq war ‘mistakes’ and admits conflict played role in rise of Isis – Nick Watt Sunday 25 October 2015 06.32 EDT


 

Former British PM apologises for ‘wrong’ intelligence and mistakes in planning of conflict and admits ‘elements of truth’ in claim war led to rise of Isis

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Tony Blair has apologised for aspects of the Iraq war, sparking claims of attempted “spin” ahead of the Chilcot inquiry findings.

The former UK prime minister used a US television interview – due to be broadcast by CNN Europe on Sunday – to express regret over the failure to plan properly for the aftermath of the toppling in 2003 of Saddam Hussein and the false intelligence used to justify it.

“I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” he told CNN. “I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”

Asked by host Fareed Zakaria if the Iraq war was “the principal cause” of the rise of Islamic State, he was reported by the Mail on Sunday to have conceded: “I think there are elements of truth in that.”

He added: “Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”

Later, a spokeswoman for the former prime minister said: “Tony Blair has always apologised for the intelligence being wrong and for mistakes in planning. He has always also said, and says again here, that he does not however think it was wrong to remove Saddam.

Article continues:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/25/tony-blair-sorry-iraq-war-mistakes-admits-conflict-role-in-rise-of-isis

 

The End of Pax Americana – By Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson November/December 2015 Issue


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The Obama administration has clearly pulled back from the United States’ recent interventionism in the Middle East, notwithstanding the rise of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and the U.S.-led air war against it. Critics pin the change on the administration’s aversion to U.S. activism in the region, its unwillingness to engage in major combat operations, or President Barack Obama’s alleged ideological preference for diminished global engagement. But the reality is that Washington’s post-9/11 interventions in the region—especially the one in Iraq—were anomalous and shaped false perceptions of a “new normal” of American intervention, both at home and in the region. The administration’s unwillingness to use ground forces in Iraq or Syria constitutes not so much a withdrawal as a correction—an attempt to restore the stability that had endured for several decades thanks to American restraint, not American aggressiveness.

It’s possible to argue that pulling back is less a choice than a necessity. Some realist observers claim that in a time of economic uncertainty and cuts to the U.S. military budget, an expansive U.S. policy in the region has simply become too costly. According to that view, the United States, like the United Kingdom before it, is the victim of its own “imperial overstretch.” Others argue that U.S. policy initiatives, especially the recent negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, have distanced Washington from its traditional Middle Eastern allies; in other words, the United States isn’t pulling back so much as pushing away.

The long period of American primacy in the Middle East is ending.

In actuality, however, the main driver of the U.S. pullback is not what’s happening in Washington but what’s happening in the region. Political and economic developments in the Middle East have reduced the opportunities for effective American intervention to a vanishing point, and policymakers in Washington have been recognizing that and acting accordingly. Given this, the moderate U.S. pullback should be not reversed but rather continued, at least in the absence of a significant threat to core U.S. interests.

Article continues:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-10-20/end-pax-americana