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The Middle East, North Africa, and Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next President

Luis Durani

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2016 will be a pivotal year for the US as it chooses a new president. It is an election year with no incumbent running. With candidates on both sides vying for the highest office in the land, major challenges exist for the next president of the US. One of the more turbulent areas the next president will have to deal with is foreign policy.

With global affairs being tempestuous and capricious, the next president will have many challenges abroad to confront especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

ISIS

The US campaign against ISIS began with airstrikes in 2014. Despite the coalition air campaign against them, ISIS still managed to increase their territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq. As they acquired more territories, they managed to increase and build a steady flow of revenue from the oil wells they captured. They expanded their recruiting campaign by going global and becoming social media savvy. They have further escalated their operations by going after targets abroad such at the attacks in Paris as well as the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt. ISIS feeds on anarchy and anywhere instability erupts, the group moves in. Aside from originating in the chaotic regions of Syria and Iraq, ISIS has managed to get its tentacles into other anarchical war zones such as Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, and the North Caucasus.

While defeating ISIS has become a complicated matter due to the regional and international web of involvement, the issue goes beyond defeating a terror organization. In order to prevent playing a game of whack a mole with terror organizations, the next president needs to tackle the root of the issue that led to the rise of ISIS. The invasion of Iraq was a major catalyst behind the regional battle for influence. The regional tug of war between Iran and Saudi Arabia that emerged after the fall of Iraq has helped further enflame the issue. With Sunnis being ostracized in Iraq during the tenure of Prime Minister Maliki, ISIS became the outlet for their frustrations as well as a means to security.

The next president not only has to be able to defeat and contain ISIS but also has to be able to reduce the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Defeating ISIS will not be an easy feat, sending in ground troops can lead to a potential quagmire while airstrikes so far have only managed to slow but not stop the group . It will require diplomatic finesse in order to put together an international coalition of troops, mainly comprised of regional nations, to lead the fight against ISIS. Simultaneously, the question of Assad poses a further complication for any coalition . Defusing the Saudi-Iranian tension will help remove the possibility of another ISIS-like group rearing its head again. This may be the one of the most difficult and complex military/diplomatic agenda the next president will face.

Afghanistan

The longest war in US history continues to go largely ignored by the media for the past 15 years. This war will span over 3 different presidencies before it might end. While the initial intervention can be justifiably argued due to the 9/11 attacks, the continuation and execution of the campaign has sparked a different debate.

Aside from removing a misogynistic regime that supported a terror organization, the US also decided to partake in nation building. The goal was to remake this war-torn nation into a vibrant democracy. But the whole campaign was born in original sin. The US inst alled warlords instead of technocrats. It was these same warlords that led the brutal massacre of Afghans during the civil war that erupted after the withdrawal of the Soviets. With corruption and other crimes taking place under the auspices of the Afghan government, the Afghan people lost hope. They began to look to the insurgency as an alternative government to provide them with security and justice. While the US became focused on Iraq, the Taliban built on the American diversion to create a momentum that is allowing them to win today. President Obama decided to prematurely imitate an Iraqi-style surge, which led to no real perturbations to the Taliban movement. With a raging insurgency, ISIS managed to establish a foothold in the country. As the deadline passed for the US withdrawal, President Obama has decided to retain a small contingent of US troops to ensure the survivability of the Afghan government.

The next president will have to come to terms with the somber reality that an ideal withdrawal and resolution will not happen. He/she will need to decide either to stay the course and further waste money into a black hole that will end the same whether there is a withdrawal now or later. The only element that has changed in the political calculus is the presence of ISIS. If a negotiated peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government is not formulated, which it most likely won’t, the US needs to make a pseudo-peace deal with the Taliban and work with both the Afghan government and Taliban to eliminate the threat of ISIS. While the Taliban may be a short-term regional nuisance, ISIS is a long-term strategic threat to the US globally. Time and momentum are on the side of the Taliban, so it might not hurt for channels to be opened with the group   on defeating ISIS.

Pakistan

On the border with Afghanistan, Pakistan represents the ultimate balancing act for US foreign policy. The fragile country possesses both nuclear warheads and radical fundamentalist groups. Pakistan’s alliance with the US is shaky at best. Despite a strong alliance during the Cold War especially during both nations’ covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the relationship went somewhat sour shortly after. The relationship was renewed once again after 9/11 but was circumstantial at best. To the chagrin of the Pakistanis, the newly installed Afghan government of Karzai was much friendlier to India, Pakistan’s mortal enemy. As the US became entangled in Iraq, the Pakistanis renewed their covert alliance with the Afghan Taliban to help secure an allied government on their northern border. The control of Islamic fundamentalist organizations to carry out the Pakistani foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan, India and other places has metastasized into a whirlwind of trouble for them. At one point, their native insurgents came within miles of taking over the capital and perhaps the nuclear arms. Pakistan has been in a low-level civil war ever since. While the US has larger threats, it has to watch the developments in Pakistan closely because the situation can become the primary concern for the US overnight.

Syria

Syria represents a Great Game within a Great Game. It is the battleground for two proxy wars; a regional war between the Saudis and Iranians as well as the emerging global competition between the US and Russia. Ever since the protests against Assad’s government in 2011, the country has descended into civil war. In the wake of this bloodshed, ISIS used the chance to expand its territories and establish a foothold in both Syria and Iraq. Now the conflict has foreign militaries that include the US, EU, Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Gulf States, the Kurds and others. The situation is a powder keg that can explode at any moment into a larger regional conflict. The next president has to find a way to wade through the turbulent seas of the Syrian conflict. Despite what the next president decides to do in Syria, ISIS will force them to be actively involved in the battle. The future of Syria is bleak at best.

Libya

President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s intervention in the Libyan civil war to remove Gaddafi has proven unwise to say the least. The once quiet North African nation has been in turmoil ever since. Despite the lack of media coverage, Libya has descended into civil war with a tribal twist. In the wake of the anarchical state that Libya has become, ISIS has expanded its tentacles and created a stronghold in the North African nation. This strategic location allows ISIS a pivotal base at the southern gate of Europe as well as access to another oil-rich country. The next US president has to decide on whether to get involved in a civil conflict that was mostly instigated by its initial intervention or try to limit any type of involvement to solely eliminating ISIS.  

Yemen

Yemen represents another venue in the continuing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional supremacy. While Iranian troops have been bogged down in Syria, Yemen has become Saudi Arabia’s quagmire. Yemen has long been simmering with tribal and sectarian conflicts. The Cold War witnessed the nation bifurcating along US/Soviet lines while reunification in the early 1990s helped to temporarily heal the divide. The long authoritarian rule of Saleh came to an end when the Arab Spring swept the region. Shortly thereafter, the country devolved into civil discord. When the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels appeared to be ascending into power, the Saudis decided to intervene and restore their allies back into power. Saudi Arabia could not afford to have an Iranian-allied nation on its southern border. The Saudi intervention has turned into a quagmire. In the midst of the civil strife, Al Qaeda found havens in the mountain region of the country. But now Al Qaeda has been eclipsed by ISIS. With Saudi Arabia bogged down in its own imbroglio and ISIS at its border, the entire US strategic calculus for the Middle East can fundamentally change if ISIS creates upheaval in the Saudi kingdom itself and establishes a foothold there.  

Somalia

Ever since the early 1990s, Somalia has been a failed anarchical state. Different factions have been vying for power but to no avail. The US has stayed clear of the region since its failed 1993 intervention in an incident that became renowned as Black Hawk Down. But since 9/11 and the rise of the Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization Al Shabaab, the region once again has popped onto the US radar. To make matters worse, the group began piracy operations, which eventually culminated in an international effort to stop their raids. Despite not posing the direst threat against US interest at the moment relative to other issues, the organization has been successful in recruiting Somalis from the West especially the US. In addition, ISIS has begun a campaign to have the Al Shabaab turn against Al Qaeda and join its ranks. The next president will need to ensure that not only Al Shabaab is isolated but also find a way to help the provisional Somali government establish authority over the entire country. If that happens, then Horn of Africa will not be a potential breeding ground and emanating source for terrorism.

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

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Russiagate-Trump Gets Solved by Giant of American Investigative Journalism

Eric Zuesse

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Lucy Komisar, who is perhaps the greatest living investigative journalist, has discovered — and has documented in detail — that the source of the Russiagate charge against Russia, the source of the charge that Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign had connived with Russians in order to be able to win the U.S. Presidency, can be found in explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of the key event, when Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, met with Russian lawyer Nataliya Veselnitskaya, in Trump Jr.’s Trump Tower office, on 9 June 2016. Komisar figured it out: Veselnitskaya, thinking that Trump might become America’s President, lured (through George Papadopoulos, the Trump-campaign volunteer whom Komisar unfortunately doesn’t mention, but he was the contact between Veselnitskaya and the Trump team) Trump’s team, into that meeting, by promising (as communicated to them via Papadopoulos) to inform them of dirt against Hillary Clinton. But that wasn’t Veselnitskaya’s real purpose, Komisar has found.

Komisar’s investigation wasn’t into Russia-Trump, but instead into the actual source of the first set of economic sanctions that were instituted against Russia, the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which source was a major former American investor in Russian companies, Bill Browder. He had successfully lobbied into law, both in the U.S. and in the EU, the Magnitsky Act. Komisar’s focus on this Browder-versus-Russia issue caused her not even to mention George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign volunteer, who had served as Veselnitskaya’s contact and set up that fateful June 2016 meeting. This non-political focus has also caused Komisar’s brilliant reporting on the matter — her latest such article being published on 10 February 2018, which article will subsequently be linked-to here — to have been ignored in the general news-reports about the Russiagate-Trump story.

Komisar’s investigation found and reported on 20 October 2017

, that the reason why Veselnitskaya wanted to meet Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner, was to enable them — and she hoped ultimately Donald Trump himself — to come to know that the company she was representing, Prevezon, was being subjected to a lengthy legal battle to defend itself against a lawsuit by the former American, William Browder, the owner of Hermitage Capital Management in Russia, and that:

Veselnitskaya says the Prevezon suit

[suit against Prevezon — Prevazon was’t actually the bringer of this suit, but was instead the suit’s target] was a distraction Browder used to cover up his own tax evasion and – she claims – collusion in the tax refund fraud [by Hermitage Capital Management]. She bases her accusation in part on the role of Magnitsky [Hermitage’s accountant]. She has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act, deriding it as Browder’s way of protecting himself from Russian legal trouble.

Browder declined repeated requests for an interview about the Russian charges, his time as an investor in Russia, and his campaigns for the Magnitsky Act. Browder went so far as to have the author of this article banned from a public talk he gave at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, in December 2016.

The Magnitsky Act placed sanctions against the Russian Government, on the basis of accusations by Browder and his agents, that Hermitage’s ‘lawyer’, who was actually no lawyer at all but instead Hermitage’s accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, had been supposedly beaten to death in prison, because he had been, supposedly, a ‘whistleblower’ against corruption, by those police who, according to Browder’s team, had stolen three companies from Hermitage (i.e., from Browder), not stolen $230 million in taxes from the Russian national Treasury — as was charged by the Russian Government. Supposedly, these police had supposedly beaten Magnitsky to death, in order to protect themselves. That storyline, that viewpoint, ‘documenting’ ‘corruption’ in Russia, is embodied as sacrosanct and unchallengeable fact, in the Magnitsky Act, but Komisar disproves all of its essential assertions, linking to the actual documents in the case, and proves a damning case against Browder and his team.

The Browder viewpoint was recently reinforced by an article in National Law Journal, as well as in a report by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Komisar exposed their fraudulence, in her 12 January 2018 “Evidence? The National Law Journal doesn’t need it”, and in her 10 February 2018 “CFR Report, with no evidence, promotes fake Browder-Magnitsky story”. The former reported:

The fraud was not uncovered by Magnitsky, who was an accountant, not a lawyer.

Magnitsky talked about the matter for the first time in an interrogation by Russian tax investigators in June 2008. (It identifies him as an auditor.) But, he was not a whistleblower. He was called to answer questions as a suspect. He did not expose the fraud. He cited an article by the Russian business daily Kommersant article, which two months earlier had printed the information with Browder’s response.

Magnitsky said: “On 3 April 2008, Kommersant published an article which, referring to the law-enforcement authorities, reported that Parphenion, Limited Liability Company, Realand, Limited Liability Company, and Machaon, Limited Liability Company, had allegedly used «tax evasion schemes» and criminal proceedings were launched to prosecute those at fault.” See Kommersant (in Russian) April 3, 2008 and April 4, 2008 .

Rimma Starova was a hired “name” fronting as a director of the company to which the shells had been transferred. She saw the Kommersant articles. By then the re-registered companies had participated in the $230 million tax refund fraud. Investigators might have discovered the scam. She didn’t want to take a fall and went to the police. Her complaint April 9th detailed the fraudulent theft of three Hermitage companies.

The latter said:

the authors write: “… the summer of 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act — a set of tough sanctions on eighteen Russian officials involved in the “torture and death in prison of Russian human rights whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky.” I don’t comment on the rest of the report, but this part shows they didn’t bother to research, ignored facts, or deliberately reported falsehoods.

Torture? The Wall Street Journal links to the definitive prison report. Not exactly a left-wing media. The report describes awful conditions and medical care, says nothing about torture.

Whistleblower? The first step in the theft of budget funds from the Russian Treasury was reported to police April 9, 2008 by Rimma Starova, a hired director for Boily Systems, a shell controlling Browder’s stolen companies. She returned to testify again July 10th. The companies had been used in the scam to get a fake tax refund [to the benefit of Browder’s Hermitage] from the Treasury. She didn’t talk about the theft of funds, but she gave police a roadmap.

Rimma Starova July 10, 2008 testimony

Then, Paul Wrench, director for Browder companies registered in the offshore tax haven of Guernsey, filed complaints of the tax refund fraud July 23. The story was published in Vedomosti, July 24. This link is on Browder’s own website!

Not till his Oct 7 interrogation did Magnitsky, before his arrest for complicity in tax evasion, refer to “fraud of budget monetary assets in the amount exceeding 5 (five) billion rubles.” A three-months-later whistle-blower? For his Oct 7 testimony, see 100Reporters story with link to what Magnitsky said.

This is what Veselnitskaya was hoping that, if Trump would become President, he’d check out and investigate for himself. But, apparently, Trump wasn’t at all interested.

So: You, dear reader, now can investigate it for yourself (clicking onto those links), if you want to understand what may very possibly produce (either in Syria or in Ukraine or elsewhere) what could easily expand to nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, World War III, as a result of those sanctions, and the subsequent Ukraine-war-based sanctions, and the subsequent massing of U.S. missiles and troops on and near Russia’s border in Ukraine and elsewhere, on the basis of almost entirely false allegations by the U.S. Government (plus the latter’s own illegal invasion/occupation of Syria, plus the latter’s own illegal and very brutal coup in Ukraine during February 2014). The Magnitsky matter was actually a corporate tax dispute, between U.S. investor (now instead a British citizen in order to avoid some U.S. taxes), Bill Browder, versus Russia’s Government.

The world could end, over that (and over lots of lies about it, which are routinely spread in the mainstream, and in much of the ‘alternative news’ media).

Some people’s greed, apparently, knows no limits — not even when it could produce a world-ending nuclear war.

PS: As regards the leaks that occurred from the computers of the DNC (in June 2016) and from Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager John Podesta (in September 2016), here are articles that set forth evidence these leaks probably were from DNC worker Seth Rich, and-or, from another Democratic Party worker on the inside (angered against Hillary Clinton’s theft of the nomination away from Bernie Sanders), and weren’t hacks, at all, but purely leaks:

In other words: These probably weren’t authentically “hacks” — not from Russians, nor from anyone else. The Democratic Party didn’t need whatever the Russian Government did (or not) in order to lose the 2016 election; the Democratic Party managed quite well, on their own, to lose — to lose, by Election Day, enough Sanders-voters (progressive populist Democrats) so that Trump (the pretended-populist Republican) was able to win. Some Sanders-voters hated Hillary Clinton, and were unsure which side of Trump’s mouth to believe and voted for the progressive-populist side of it, because there wasn’t anything at all progressive-populist about Hillary. That’s no real democracy (but instead a choice between two fascists), no honest choice at all, and Russia didn’t make it that way — and going to war as if it had been Russia’s fault, would be entirely the U.S. regime’s fault, yet another of its many incredibly vicious lies, such as were used to ‘justify’ invading Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, and much more.

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‘Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People’: Time to retire

Mohammad Ghaderi

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Again, another mass shooting, again a school, again a troubled teen, a racist, a white supremacist, a Bloods or Crips gangster, a refugee, a war veteran, a mad policeman, a terrorist from al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front or from the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Daesh) terrorist outfits … what difference does it make and again dead bodies lying on the ground in their blood. Who believes they were alive seconds ago. The story goes on and to my surprise it is having less effect than it used to have years ago. Why?

We are getting bad. We are not hurt anymore. Too much violence has made us numb.

What does the motto on the entrance of the United Nations building says? A poem by the Iranian influential poet Sa’adi, from the 13th century, the medieval period. The poem has many translations however one is this:

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.

Give it a thought, try to put it in practice, politician and statesmen in the United Nations, New York, United States. It is ludicrous that almost all of them call for end of wars, urge foe peace and tranquil but at the same time produce and sell arms.

War, violence and killing is simply unacceptable, nasty and painful in any kind and form, whether it occurs in a house, street, city, countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine or the United States of America.

U.S. teen confesses to mass shooting at Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

A troubled teen with alleged ties to a white supremacist group confessed on Thursday to murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida, as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, the U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing on Thursday afternoon before a judge who ordered him held without bond.

After being read his legal rights, “Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” court documents showed.

Cruz also admitted he discarded his rifle — which he bought legally in Florida — and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd to flee the campus, the documents showed.

The recent mass shooting at a school in Florida is the latest reminder that the United States is a “very violent country,” a journalist in Detroit says.

After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart store and then McDonald’s, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later, after police identified him using school security camera footage.

Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” the gunman was “mentally disturbed” — while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

But U.S. authorities themselves were under scrutiny, after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out “database reviews and other checks” but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

Trump cites mental health, not guns, in speech on shooting

Declaring the nation united and grieving with “one heavy heart,” Trump promised on Thursday to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health” in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence.

Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared.”

“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be,” Trump said. “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.”

However, the ones killed were alone when they were shot in cold blood in fear and hope. The ones who lost their precious lives had many hopes and ambitions.

Now they are dead, and it could be every and each one of us, at a school, stadium, concert hall, cinema, home, Middle East, Americas… anywhere, it could be.

Such incidents are cause of sorrow and pain, I cannot explain how I felt when I saw the horrible pictures of the Florida High School shooting, just like how I felt when I saw the massacre committed by the ISIL terrorists killing cadets in Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. At the time of the attack there were between 4,000 and 11,000 unarmed cadets in the camp. ISIL terrorists singled out Shia and non-Muslim cadets from Sunni ones and murdered them.

Who arms and supports terrorist groups like ISIL? No one can be so naeive to believe that they have just popped out. I recall the U.S. President Trump as saying on his election campaign to Hillary Clinton that the U.S. created ISIL. Well done!

While Trump stressed the importance of mental health and school safety improvements, his latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programs by more than a third. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Trump’s silence on guns was noted with displeasure by many who are seeking tougher firearm restrictions. But the White House said the president wanted to keep his remarks focused on the victims.

Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the National Rifle Association spent $30 million in support of his campaign.

During his brief, televised statement, Trump said he wanted to work to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” a phrase likely to resonate with his conservative base.

In contrast, former President Barack Obama tweeted out a call for “long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws.” Obama wrote: “We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job.”

In reacting to previous mass shootings, Trump has largely focused on mental health as a cause, dismissing questions about gun control. After a shooting at a Texas church in November left more than two dozen dead, the president said, “This isn’t a guns situation.”
The US has averaged one school shooting every 60 hours since the beginning of 2018, data shows.

Trump was criticized in early August for saying that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were responsible for the violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While Trump has offered somber responses to some tragedies, he has also drawn criticism for other reactions.

After the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead in June 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London last June, he went after Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter.

Sadiq Khan compares the US president’s rhetoric against Islam to tactics used by ISIL to inspire terror attacks in Western cities.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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On Jettisoning Failed Leaders and Mass Shootings in the U.S.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The scene is the House of Commons; the date May 7, 1940.  A simple motion to adjourn for the ten-day Whitsun recess is of little concern to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who has a comfortable 213 seat majority.  Then things take a turn.  A plan approved by the first Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to land troops in Norway and engage the Germans directly has been a disaster with huge losses, and the eventual naval evacuation of the expeditionary force — an Arctic Dardanelles planned by the same man.

Chamberlain rises to defend Churchill and the conduct of the war in what has now come to be known as the “Norway Debate”.  In the most unlikely of scenarios and with no evidence of Winston trying to put his name forward — in fact the opposite — when the tide turns against Chamberlain, within three days as more favored candidates are shed, he has become prime minister.  Such is the parliamentary system.  Margaret Thatcher is another example, toppled shortly after success at the polls.

The American system, however, puts the president beyond such reach other than through a laborious impeachment.  Analogous to the third Roman Emperor Caligula, Donald Trump, too, has no military or political experience.  Caligula made his horse a senator or some say consul; Trump has the equivalent running government departments and agencies.  Caligula declared himself a god; Trump tweeted he is a ‘stable genius.’  If Caligula’s reign ended with assassination, Trump’s will be more prosaic — just disaffected voters.

Another mass shooting this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Seventeen are dead and  many more injured.  The gunman, identified as Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault type rifle, a weapon far deadlier than a pistol — perhaps he watched the coverage of the Las Vegas shooting.  He was a former pupil who had been suspended from the school, and who students recalled as disturbed and scary.

President Trump in his remarks following the incident did not bring up the obvious question of why an AR-15 was so easily available for purchase.  Gun owners and the gun lobby are part of his constituency.

Following a mass shooting in April 1996 when a man armed with two semi-automatic rifles killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government put together strict gun laws.  They were supplemented with a mandatory gun-buyback program through which 650,000 firearms were destroyed.  Did the program work?  The data tells the story more vividly:  From 1979 to 1996, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings; since 1997 it has had none.

Under his usual theme of ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’, President Trump continues to talk about finding ways to deal better with disturbed people.  The sure Australian way is to stop them acquiring guns.

Lost in the Florida school story was another shooting the same day when trigger-happy guards let loose at a National Security Agency entrance.  The forested area is a confused mass of entries and exits.  It has happened before that somebody inadvertently makes a wrong turn and panics when faced with shouting armed guards.  In this incident, bullet holes can be seen in the windshield and the three men in the car were injured.

Introducing the Gates Foundation’s annual philanthropic letter a few days ago, Bill and Melinda Gates appealed to Donald Trump to not cut foreign aid — “even a 10 percent cut could lead to 5 million deaths in the next decade”, Bill Gates warned.  Will President Trump listen?

Despite the many wonderful aspects the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, when it comes to jettisoning incompetent leaders, it is difficult to best the parliamentary system for immediacy.

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