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Trump Submits to Neocon Orthodoxy

In his Mideast trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, President Trump sought some political safe harbor by tacking toward neocon orthodoxy and jettisoning his campaign promises of a more rational strategy.

by Daniel Lazare

Consortium News (May 28 2017)

With astounding precision, Donald Trump zeroed in on the worst possible Middle East policy option in his recent trip to Saudi Arabia and made it his own. He rebuffed the efforts of Iran’s newly elected moderate government to open up communications with the West and instead deepened America’s alliances with decrepit autocratic regimes across the Persian Gulf.

Turning up his nose at Iran – a rising young power – he embraced Saudi Arabia, which is plainly on its last legs. It was a remarkable display – rather like visiting a butcher shop and passing up a fresh steak for one that’s rancid and smelly and buzzing with flies.

Saudi Arabia is not just any tired dictatorship with an abysmal human-rights record but one of the most spectacularly dysfunctional societies in history. It takes in half a billion dollars a day in oil revenue, yet is so profligate that it could run out of money in half a decade. It sits atop eighteen percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, yet is so wasteful that, at current rates, it will become a net importer by the year 2030.

Its king travels with a thousand-person retinue wherever he goes while his son, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, plunked down $550 million not long ago when a 440-foot yacht caught his eye in the south of France. Yet this pair of royal kleptocrats dares preach austerity at a time when as much as 25 percent of the population lives on less than $17 a day in trash-strewn Third World slums.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s appetite for high-tech weaponry is such that in 2015 it became the largest arms importer in the world. Yet its military is so inept that it is unable to subdue ragtag Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen or even stop them from raiding deep inside Saudi territory and launching regular missile attacks.

The kingdom accuses Iran of sectarianism yet bans all religions other than Islam, arrests Christians for the “crime” of praying and possessing Bibles, equates atheism with terrorism, and has imposed a state of siege on Shi’ite Muslims in its own Eastern Province. Although a bit restrained of late, its religious police are notorious for roaming the shopping malls and striking out with canes at anyone violating Shari’a law.

As the English novelist Hilary Mantel (of Wolf Hall fame) recalled of the four years she spent in the kingdom with her geologist husband, it was impossible to know what might arouse their ire:

it might be the flashing denim legs of a Filipina girl revealed for a second beneath an abaya gone adrift, or it might be the plate-glass shop front of a business that, as the evening prayer call spiraled through the damp air-conditioned halls, had failed to slam down its metal shutters fast enough. What were the rules? No one knew.

Saudi Arabia also denounces terrorism at every turn even though its funding groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS (also known as ISIL and Islamic State) is an open secret. In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained in a diplomatic memo made public by Wikileaks that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. In September 2014, she observed that “Qatar and Saudi Arabia … are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region”.

A few days later, Vice President Joe Biden told a Harvard audience that “the Saudis, the Emirates, et cetera … were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war … [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” (Quote starts at 53:30.)

Arming the Saudis

Rather than fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda, the Saudis give them money so that they can wage jihad on religious minorities. Yet this is the country that Trump now calls upon to “drive out the terrorists and extremists”, which is as ludicrous as relying on the KKK to drive out racism. It’s also the country that he hopes will serve as the cornerstone of an “Arab Nato” so that he can sell it more jet fighters and Blackhawk helicopters.

But the Saudi military is already top-heavy with such gear while at the same time so short of infantry that it relies on ill-trained Sudanese mercenaries, scores of whom were reportedly killed in a recent battle in the Red Sea province of Midi in Yemen’s north. This is not surprising since no Saudi in his right mind wants to serve as a foot soldier so that the deputy crown prince can buy another yacht. But more such purchases will only add to the military imbalance while adding more fuel to the broader Middle East conflagration.

So how did this god-awful marriage come about? Is it all Trump’s fault? Or have others contributed to the mess? The answer, of course, is the latter.

Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has contributed to the catastrophe. Roosevelt declared Saudi Arabia a US protectorate while Dwight Eisenhower got it into his head that a corrupt desert monarchy would somehow be useful in the fight against Communism. Worried that it might come under Soviet influence, Jimmy Carter commenced a military buildup in the Persian Gulf that, according to a 2009 Princeton University study, has now surpassed the $10-trillion mark.

Ronald Reagan relied on the Saudis to finance arms to the Nicaraguan Contras and to Jonas Savimbi’s pro-apartheid guerrillas in Angola. George H W Bush launched a major war to save the Saudis from the evil Saddam Hussein. George W Bush and Barack Obama covered up the Saudi role in 9/11, while Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged them and other Gulf monarchies to fund anti-government rebels in Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring. Both Libya and Syria fell to ruin as a consequence as hundreds of millions of dollars flowed to pro-Al Qaeda forces and the flames of Wahhabist terrorism spread ever wider.

Indeed, Donald Trump for a while seemed to augur something different. Rather than praising the kingdom, he denounced it in 2011 as “the world’s biggest funder of terrorism” and asserted, not inaccurately, that it was using “our petro dollars – our very own money – to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people while the Saudis rely on us to protect them”. Once on the campaign trail, he upped the ante by declaring that the Saudis “blew up the World Trade Center” and threatened to block their oil if they didn’t do more to fight ISIS.

Even more disconcertingly – at least to Washington’s endlessly bellicose foreign-policy establishment – Trump dismissed the cherished US-Saudi-neoconservative goal of overthrowing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, arguing that the US should concentrate on fighting ISIS instead.

“I don’t like Assad at all”, Trump declared in his second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton. “But Assad is killing ISIS, Russia is killing ISIS, and Iran is killing ISIS”. If killing ISIS was the main goal, then it followed that checking the power of the other three could be safely put off to another day.

Prioritizing in this way made a modicum of sense. But it went counter to Official Washington’s self-serving orthodoxy that Assad was somehow in league with the terrorists and that weakening one would undermine the other. Trump’s “Assad is killing ISIS” line thus triggered a firestorm of protest from those “in the know”. Clinton shook her head sadly at Trump’s naivete while the mainstream US media agreed that Trump didn’t know what he was talking about.

CNN, a division of Time Warner, said the claim was false because “there has been no visible effort by Assad regime forces to go after ISIS”. The Huffington Post, owned by Verizon Communications, wrote that Syria’s “primary focus” was not to go after ISIS, but “to wipe out less radical Syrian rebel groups that pose a larger challenge to Assad because they could be a popular, internationally acceptable alternative to him”.

Another Groupthink

In other words, although it might look to an objective observer that Assad was fighting ISIS, the Washington groupthink held that he really wasn’t; he was somehow on ISIS’s side. Or so such mainstream outlets assured us.

But it was nonsense as IHS Markit, a London analytics firm with extensive aerospace and defense experience, made clear in a subsequent report. Beginning in April 2016, its study of actual field conditions in Syria found that government forces engaged Islamic State in battle two and a half times as often as US-backed forces did. Damascus, for all its faults, was the one doing the heavy lifting, not the United States and its allies.

“Any further reduction in the capability of Syria’s already overstretched forces”, IHS Markit observed, “would reduce their ability to prevent the Islamic State from pushing out of the desert into the more heavily populated western Syria, threatening cities like Homs and Damascus”.

Added a Middle East analyst named Columb Strack: “It is an inconvenient reality that any US action taken to weaken the Syrian government will inadvertently benefit the Islamic State and other jihadist groups”.

Overthrowing Assad, in other words, means clearing a path for ISIS straight through to the presidential palace. This reality is obvious. Yet it is a reality that Official Washington prefers to ignore so it can continue selling Saudi Arabia more military goods.

As a result, Democrats, neocons and the liberal media opened up with a rhetorical artillery barrage when it became apparent that America had someone in the White House who might think differently. Trump, they cried, was a “Siberian candidate”! He was a Kremlin stooge!

The fact that Trump questioned whether overthrowing Assad should be the first priority of the US strategy in Syria was proof that he was in league with Vladimir Putin! Reeling from the onslaught, Trump began to realize that he was in a no-win situation, just as Obama had eight years earlier when he gave Hillary Clinton and her neocon allies control of the State Department.

Bucking Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, aka “The Blob”, was a losing proposition. The neocons were too powerful. Resistance was pointless. So Trump surrendered to the “truisms” of Official Washington’s foreign-policy elite regarding the Middle East conflicts: Saudi Arabia and its allies: good; Russia, Syria, and Iran: baaaad.

Shoring up his right flank, Trump brought on board standard-issue hawks like Secretary of Defense James (“Mad Dog”) Mattis and National Security Adviser H R McMaster. He launched a raid inside Yemen and bombed a Syrian military air base, earning rave reviews from the press. He invited Saudi Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman to a lavish White House lunch and then flew to Riyadh to cozy up with his dad, King Salman. Washington Officialdom was pleased. So was Israel.

Trump’s discordant comments on the campaign trail were forgotten as US-Saudi relations settled back into their well-worn groove. The upshot was a record $110-billion arms deal, a sword dance, ritualistic denunciations of terrorists – Saudi-speak for anyone opposed to the royal family – and a good deal of incendiary rhetoric aimed at Tehran.

Where to Now?

The big question now is whether all this tough talk leads to something more substantial. If so, two flashpoints bear watching. One is the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen’s chief entry point for humanitarian aid and, according to the Saudis, for Iranian military aid to the Houthis. For months, the kingdom has been pushing for an all-out effort to wrest the port away from Houthi control, and the great danger now is that Trump, swept along by his own rhetoric, will go along.

But a frontal assault on a city of more than 300,000 is no easy matter. To the contrary, it would be a major undertaking requiring not only US air and naval support but probably US ground troops as well.

As the rightwing Jamestown Foundation noted:

Even with US assistance, the invasion will be costly and ineffective. The terrain to the east of Hodeidah is comprised of some of the most forbidding mountainous terrain in the world. The mountains, caves, and deep canyons are ideal for guerrilla warfare that would wear down even the finest and best disciplined military. The most capable units of what was the Yemeni Army and the Houthis themselves will inflict heavy losses on those forces that try to take Hodeidah and then, if necessary, move up into the mountains.

It’s hard to imagine even Trump blundering into such a trap. This is why the second flashpoint is even more worrisome. Located some 1,800 miles to the north near the desert town of Al-Tanf, it is where the Baghdad-Damascus highway, a crucial supply route, crosses into Syria from Iraq. It is also where US jets struck a pro-Syrian government convoy on May 18 as it neared a US-British military outpost. It is an area where all sides – the Syrian army, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, Iranian-backed forces plus US, UK, and even Norwegian troops – are now beefing up their forces. With Trump’s “Arab Nato” vowing to contribute 34,000 troops to the struggle against both ISIS and Iran, the question is whether the US and Saudis will push matters to the brink by attempting to sever a key Syrian supply link to the outside world.

If so, the upshot could well be a firefight that triggers a wider war. That will make the neocons and their Saudi allies very happy and no doubt please Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well. But it will scare the hell out of everybody else.

_____

Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (1997).

https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/28/trump-submits-to-neocon-orthodoxy/

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Al-Qaeda’s Godfather is Dead

Good Riddance

by b

Moon of Alabama (May 27 2017)
The ruthless US imperialist Zbigniew Brzezinski died last night. Good riddance.

Brzezinski was the godfather of al-Qaeda and similar groups.

As National Security Advisor to US President Jimmy Carter, Brzezinski devised the strategy of using religiously motivated radical militants against secular governments and their people. He sent Saudi-financed Wahhabi nuts to fight the government of Afghanistan before {1} the USSR intended to send its military to support that government. His policy of rallying Jihadis {2} caused millions of deaths. Brzezinski did not regret that:

What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Brzezinski hailed from a Polish nobility family in Galicia, now west Ukraine. (Galicia is, not by chance, also the place of origin of today’s Ukrainian neo-nazis.) The family fled Poland after its German/Soviet partition and the socialization of the vast nobility properties during and after the second world war. Zbigniew Brzezinski hate of anything socialist and Russian-derived from that.

The 9/11 attacks, the war on Syria, the recent massacre in Manchester and the murder of 28 Copts yesterday in Egypt are direct consequences of Brzezinski’s “some stirred-up Moslems” strategy of exporting revolutions {3}. The growth of the fundamentalist Saudi Wahhabi creed, a danger to all mankind {4}, was prepared and propagated by him.

May he burn in hell – soon to be joined by the other “total whore” and fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger,

Links:

{1} http://www.counterpunch.org/1998/01/15/how-jimmy-carter-and-i-started-the-mujahideen/

{2} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9RCFZnWGE0&app=desktop

{3} http://www.mintpressnews.com/exporting-revolution-zbigniew-brzezinski-on-trial-at-the-un-general-assembly/210126/

{4} http://www.habilian.ir/en/201704163203/interview/trump-should-end-illegal-arming-of-al-qaeda-groups-in-syria-sais-johns-hopkins-fellow.html

{5} https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/post/kissinger-once-called-brzezinski-a-total-whore/2012/10/16/71f8b2d2-1701-11e2-a55c-39408fbe6a4b_blog.html?utm_term=.df8315e9f3fc

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/05/al-qaedas-godfather-is-dead-good-riddance-.html

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The Deep State is the State

by Ron Jacobs

CounterPunch (May 26 2017)

The deep state is not some enigmatic entity that operates outside the US government. It is the US state itself. Like all elements of that state, the so-called deep state exists to enforce the economic supremacy of US capitalism. It does so primarily via the secret domestic and international police forces like the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies. The operations of these agencies run the gamut from surveillance to propaganda to covert and overt military actions. Naturally, this so-called deep state operates according to their own rules; rules which ultimately ensure its continued existence and relevance. Although it can be argued that it was the 1950 National Security Directive known as NSC-68 along with the Congressional Bill creating the Central Intelligence Agency that launched the “deep state” as we understand it, a broader understanding of the “deep state” places its genesis perhaps a century prior to that date. In other words, a structure designed to maintain the economic and political domination of certain powerful US capitalists existed well back into the nineteenth century. However, the centralization of that power began in earnest in the years following World War Two.

For those who don’t know what the NSC-68 actually was, it is essentially a directive that militarized the conflict between US capitalism and Soviet communism. It was based on the correct understanding that US capitalism required open access to the resources and markets of the entire planet and that the Soviet Union represented the greatest threat to that access. Not only did this mean the US military would grow in size, it also ensured that the power of the intelligence sector would expand both in terms of its reach and its budget. When one recalls that this period in US history was also a period when the FBI and the US Congress were going after leftists and progressives in the name of a certain right-wing ideological purity, the power of the US secret police becomes quite apparent.

As the 1950s turned into the 1960s, the so-called deep state’s power continued to grow. Some of its better-known manifestations include the failed attempt to invade revolutionary Cuba that became known as the Bay of Pigs, the use of psychoactive drugs on unsuspecting individuals as part of a mind control study, and numerous attempts to subvert governments considered anti-American. Among the latter actions, one can include covert operations against the Vietnamese independence forces and the murder of the Congolese president Patrice Lumumba. In terms of the “deep state’s” domestic operations, this period saw the intensification of spying on and disrupting various groups involved in the civil rights and antiwar organizing. Many elements of the domestic operation would become known as COINTELPRO and were directed by the FBI.

Although the agencies of the so-called deep state operate as part of the US state, this does not mean that those agencies are of one mind. Indeed, like any power structure, there are various factions represented. This means that there are disagreements over policies, priorities, direction, and personnel. The only certainty is that all of its members agree on the need to maintain the supremacy of US capital in the world. At times, the seemingly absolute power of the CIA and FBI have caused the US Executive Branch to try and set up other means and methods in order to circumvent that power. Two examples of this that come quickly to mind are the establishment of the Defense Intelligence Agency (“DIA”) by the Kennedy administration in 1961~1962 and the failed attempt (known as the Huston Plan after its creator Tom Huston) by the Nixon White House to centralize the direction of all US government intelligence operations in the White House.

There is no soft coup taking place in DC. The entire government has been owned by big business and the banking industry for more than a century, if not since its inception. That ownership has been dominated by the military-industrial complex since about the same time as when the aforementioned agencies were created. That is no coincidence. However, their role in the current uproar over Russia and Michael Flynn is not because they are taking over the government. It is because their current leadership represents the factions of the US establishment that were removed from power in November 2016.

Donald Trump is not against the so-called deep state. He is against it being used against himself and his cohorts. In the world of capitalist power, the factions Trump represents are not the same factions represented by the presidents former FBI director Comey served – the factions represented by Bush and Obama. He understands that if he can install individuals in key positions at the FBI, CIA, DHS and other security and military agencies, he and his allies will be more than happy to use the power of these agencies against their opponents. Indeed, he would most likely greatly enhance those agencies’ power, making a further mockery of the US Constitution. If Trump is able to get the agencies of the deep state to work for the factions he represents – either by replacing those loyal to others not named Trump or by cajoling and coercing them to change their loyalty – he will think the deep state is a great thing. In this way, he is no different than every other US president. He understands that whoever controls the deep state controls the US. The struggle we are witnessing between the FBI and the Trump White House is part of a power struggle between US power elites.

When the ruling class is in crisis, as it is now, the job of the left is not to choose one side or the other. Nor is it to accept the narrative provided by one or other faction of the rulers, especially when that narrative supports the police state. Instead, it is the Left’s job to go to the root of the crisis and organize resistance to the ruling class itself.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/26/the-deep-state-is-the-state/

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US President Assaulted by Deep State

Back to Second Red Scare

by Peter Korzun

Consortium News (May 25 2017)

The assault on President Donald Trump is unprecedented. Unsupported accusations of treasonous or illegal Russian connections have been the mainstay of the news since the election campaign. Almost every day something happens to make President Trump vulnerable for attacks. The enemy fires high precision salvos from strongly fortified positions. Never in the recent history of the United States has been a president facing such a united front of various opposing groups pursuing the goal of removing power from the nation’s chief executive.

It’s not Democrats only who dig up dirt on him and stage protests. There are moles inside his team and government agencies leaking information to media. The leaks are readily picked up to prepare scoop stories for readers. This is an information war waged to oust Donald Trump from the White House. Every little slip-up or a minor mishap is painted as an unforgettable, irreparable blunder, or even a suspected crime, to be followed by a scandal blown out of proportions. Unnamed leaks, allegations, unfounded conjectures, and value judgments are used to press new charges and make people believe that the president is unfit to govern.

None of the stories has been backed up by anything like solid evidence or facts. Even if only a small part of them were true, impeachment procedures would be launched. Nothing like this has happened.

With all the ballyhoo raised over the president’s ties with Russia and its leadership, nothing worth consideration has surfaced so far. For instance, allegations about the president’s business connections to Russia started to fly last year in the middle of his presidential campaign. What does it all boil down to?

Trump bought a mansion a number of years ago in Palm Beach for $40 million and sold it to a Russian tycoon for about $100 million. Some of the Trump Tower residents are supposedly connected to Russia. Some Russian companies rent offices there. So, is it enough to accuse the president of being manipulated because he has business interests in Russia?

This is New York and that’s what the city’s high-profile residential buildings are for. Trump World Tower is a prominent depository of money. It’s a well-known fact that real estate provides a safe haven for overseas investors. What’s wrong with Russian presence there and what does it have to do with the supposed “Russia connections”?

Here is one recent example. Someone who supposedly belongs to the National Security Council senior staff leaked the information that Trump disclosed a secret while meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The information reportedly came from Israel to warn about a terrorist act being prepared by Islamic State. As a result, the source is jeopardized. If it was true and Trump really shared a secret with Lavrov, the fact would have never been revealed. There is a reason to believe Mr Lavrov knows how to keep secrets.

The US officials present at the meeting, including National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster and State Secretary Rex Tillerson, said no classified information disclosure took place during the event. The Russian government offered a transcript of the meeting and video recording to debunk the witch hunt but neither media nor Congress appears to be interested in knowing the truth. Still, media affirm that Trump cannot keep secrets and, thus, is unfit for office.

Now hue and cry is raised over Trump firing FBI Director James Comey. As the story goes, President Trump asked the official to shut down the federal investigation into Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T Flynn, at an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

As usual, the information is reported to be coming from mysterious unnamed sources. Has anybody seen the memo? Does it exist? Nobody finds it proper to wait till an investigation is conducted to make precise just what exactly happened. Democrats and the media rushed to accuse the president of nothing less than obstructing justice.

It’s important to know what exactly the president said. Words can be construed in different ways. If the president wished the scandal to be over with Flynn getting off lightly, there is nothing wrong about it. One more thing. If the memo existed and Trump really tried to influence the FBI director, then why Comey wouldn’t inform the Attorney General and lawmakers about it? Why did he not go public? These questions remain unanswered. Much ado about nothing again. There is nothing to back up the accusations.

Was Russia involved in the hacker attacks to help Trump during the US election campaign? Several months have passed. Congress, as well as the FBI, has been conducting an investigation. So what?

The only thing known is that somebody talked to the Russian ambassador on the phone and sent him e-mails. The prospects for lifting anti-Russia sanctions were supposedly mentioned during the conversation. Does it provide evidence to go on blaming Moscow for the hacker attacks? The FBI did not even examine the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) server! It couldn’t because the DNC did not let the agency do it! Is the Committee really interested in knowing the truth? There is a reason to doubt it. So, is there anything to prove the Russia’s involvement? Absolutely not. There is nothing in concrete terms but rumors.

The country is divided into two irreconcilable camps and tensions are running high. With the scandals in focus, Congress has not time for crucial tax and health reforms. They are postponed indefinitely. The White House resembles a besieged fortress. The stock market dips down. Can it last long? Does it meet the nation’s interests?

Now the whole country will keep its breath waiting for the results of the investigation conducted by Robert Mueller, recently assigned as Special Counsel. He is respected on both sides of the aisle. Mueller is the one to produce facts which would either exonerate Trump or provide evidence for impeachment procedures. If no evidence and facts against the president are produced, then the current information campaign will look like a failed plot to stage a quiet coup d’etat. Will those who disseminated unconfirmed information and conducted the smear campaign be held responsible? Will their activities be investigated too? Will the names of those who were behind the attacks against the president become known? Americans certainly have the right to know them.

According to Stephen Cohen, a scholar and professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University, the greatest threat to national security “is this assault on President Trump”. He believes that the intelligence community obstructs the normal functioning of the executive and legislative branches of power.

The whole anti-Trump campaign is based on a collection of innuendoes to show just how much the bogey of “Russian threat” is in demand. President Trump simply couldn’t imagine how dangerous it was to speak out one’s mind, for instance, saying it was time to normalize relations with Russia. “Russia-Trump collusion” stories will be circulated over and over again to stymie the administration and its America First plans. The whole thing looks very much like a well-planned conspiracy to prompt a witch hunt returning the country to the days of the Second Red Scare.

_____

Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal http://www.strategic-culture.org.

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/05/25/us-president-assaulted-deep-state-back-second-red-scare.html

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Ukraine Factions Vie for Lobbying Edge

Though many Ukrainians live in poverty, government officials and oligarchs lavish millions on Washington insiders to buy influence, another example of how foreign lobbying can fuel a crisis.

by Jonathan Marshall (This is the sixth and final installment of a series on foreign lobbying.)

Consortium News (May 24 2017)

Donald Trump doesn’t just have a Russia problem, in the eyes of his critics. He also has a big – and related – Ukraine problem. His 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was forced to resign {1} last August amid a flurry of media exposes about Manafort’s lobbying for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia following violent protests against his government in February 2014.

“Any presidential candidate should properly vet the backgrounds of and moral decisions of the people he picks to advise him”, said {2} Atlantic Council deputy director Alina Polyakova last year, declaring that Manafort’s work in Ukraine “absolutely should cast a shadow on Trump’s campaign”.

Either she or the reporter forgot to mention that two of her influential think tank’s top ten contributors {3} are the US State Department, which applauded the ouster of Yanukovych, and the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC”), a diaspora organization that attacked him as well. The UWC now works {4} to promote Ukraine’s integration into the European Union, a key issue that helped cause Yanukovych’s downfall and led to the ongoing crisis with Russia over Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

That small detail exemplifies the complexity of Ukrainian influence campaigns over the last few years. Although Trump’s campaign manager attracted enormous public attention for his work in Ukraine, other prominent lobbyists in the Yanukovych camp were connected to high-level Obama administration officials. Still others took money from Yanukovych’s political foes, or from independent billionaire oligarchs with their own agendas.

The only common denominators are money, influence and lack of transparency.

Paul Manafort exemplifies {5} those characteristics to the nth degree. A Republican adviser {6} to the campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush and Bob Dole, he also represented a string of foreign dictators and warlords, including Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos, Zaire kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko, Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi, Somali dictator Siad Barre, and Saudi Arabia.

A 1992 report {7} by the Center for Public Integrity named his firm as one of the top five members of the “Torturer’s Lobby” in Washington. His former partner Roger Stone {8}, the infamous political operative for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, boasted {9} that their firm “lined up most of the dictators of the world we could find”.

Manafort and Stone also represented the Trump Organization in the late 1980s. Trump reportedly met Manafort and Stone through Roy Cohn, the New York mafia lawyer and former hatchet man for Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Another long-time Manafort client, the Kashmiri American Council, was exposed {10} by US prosecutors as a “scam” and a front group for Pakistani military intelligence, allegedly created to deflect public attention “away from the involvement of Pakistan in sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere.”

The Ukrainian Gold Mine

A New York Times exposé {11} in July 2016 revealed that Trump’s campaign manager first got involved in Ukraine in the mid-2000s as an image consultant to the controversial {12} billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who was widely suspected of being an organized crime leader (a charge he has always denied).

Soon Manafort began advising Akhmetov’s favored presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, and his Party of Regions. Manafort’s advice was credited {13} by at least one Yanukovych ally with helping the candidate win Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election.

The original Times story also noted that “Mr Manafort has not registered as a lobbyist representing Ukraine, which would require disclosing his earnings”. Two weeks later, the paper reported {14} the existence of handwritten ledgers, produced by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, showing {15} that Manafort had received $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from Yanukovych’s Party of Regions from 2007 to 2012. Manafort denied receiving the cash.

A follow-up story {16} in The Washington Post reported that Manafort lobbied “State Department officials and other opinion leaders” on behalf of Yanukovych, failed to file official reports, and “did not officially close his business in Kiev until April 2016, the month after he joined the Trump campaign”. Manafort left the Trump campaign a day later.

Recent document disclosures {17} confirm Manafort’s lobbying activities for the Party of Regions. They also confirm that he was aided by former Republican Congressman Vin Weber, whose lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs earned more than $1.2 million on the Ukraine account from 2012 to 2014.

“Our goal as Americans and Westerners was to bring Ukraine into the EU”, said Weber {18}, who also represents Qatar and Turkey. “Our explicit work was anti-Russian”.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, Manafort also enlisted {19} the services of Podesta Group Inc – co-founded by John Podesta (President Clinton’s former chief of staff, President-elect Obama’s transition team chief, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman) – to help influence Congress for a fee of about $1 million.

Podesta Group last year also signed on as lobbyists to help lift sanctions {20} against Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, which the United States imposed after Russia intervened in Ukraine following the violent ouster of Yanukovych in 2014.

In the run-up to the overthrow of Yanukovych, anti-government Ukrainian protestors assembled on K Street {21} – lobbyist row in Washington DC – with signs saying, “Podesta Group Takes Blood Money”.

It wasn’t the first time critics had called attention to the firm’s choice of clients. For its services to such notorious human rights violators as Azerbaijan, Egypt, Thailand and Vietnam, Podesta Group was paid more than $7 million from 2010 to 2015, according to the Center for Public Integrity {22}.

Mercury and Podesta Group didn’t just lobby for Yanukovych; they also fought proposals {23} in Washington to pressure his government to release his political rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison on corruption charges.

She, in turn, was represented {24} in Washington by several powerful lobbyists, including former Represative Jim Slattery (Democrat, Kansas). His law firm received {25} $920,000 over two years from Tymoshenko’s husband to pressure the Kiev government to free her. She was finally released in February 2014, after the successful putsch against Yanukovych.

“A lot of people are making a lot of money off Ukraine’s political competition”, observed Bruce Jackson {26}, president of the Project on Transitional Democracies {27}, in late 2013, noting that he and his group, which promoted democratic change in Eastern Europe, did not lobby.

That was rich coming from Jackson, a former vice president at Lockheed Martin, who had been {28} a director of the infamous, neo-conservative Project for the New American Century {29}, founder of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and co-founder of the US Committee to Expand Nato. It was Nato’s 2008 commitment to expand into Ukraine that helped trigger the current crisis with Russia.

Biden and Kerry Connections

Another Democrat who cashed in on the Ukraine crisis was Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter. In May 2014 he joined the board of Burisma Holdings, a private Ukrainian oil and gas company owned by a former government minister.

Also joining its board was Devon Archer, a Democratic fundraiser and former adviser to John Kerry, then Secretary of State. A week later, David Leiter, former Senate chief of staff to Kerry, came aboard as a lobbyist for the company, to promote “a stable and secure energy future for Ukraine”, independent of Russia.

Time magazine commented {30} at the time,

 

 

By taking a job with Burisma, the younger Biden has put himself in the middle of a struggle between the United States and Russia, which currently provides the bulk of the natural gas supplies to Ukraine … Since Hunter Biden took the new job, his father, Vice President Joe Biden, has continued to serve as the Obama Administration’s point person on Ukraine.

 

 

Although experts agreed that it appeared no one had broken any laws, a pundit at one Washington think tank observed,

 

 

It’s unhelpful when we are trying to get across to the Ukrainians to clean up corruption and special deals for special folks. It maybe sends the wrong message that Westerners are just hypocritical.

 

 

Since Trump’s election, money is pouring into well-heeled Republican lobbyists. The Ukrainian government said in January {31} that it had hired BGR Group {32} as its Washington lobbyist to “help open lines of communication” with Congress, the administration, and other influential groups with the “goals of strengthening US-Ukrainian relations and increasing US business investment in Ukraine”.

Translated, that means the lobbyists will urge members of Congress and the administration to tighten economic sanctions against Russia until it pulls out of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Ukraine also seeks more financial and military aid as it struggles to make ends meet. BGR Group is on a retainer worth $50,000 a month. Its past foreign clients have included Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The “B” in BGR is former Republican Party leader and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. The “R” is Ed Rogers {33}, a former White House official in the Reagan and George H W Bush administrations and protege of take-no-prisoners campaigner Lee Atwater. Rogers’ ongoing column in The Washington Post has come under fire {34} for failing to disclose numerous conflicts of interest with his firm’s clients.

Also jumping on the Ukraine gravy train this year was Monica Crowley {35}, a former Fox News commentator who had to pass up an appointment as director of strategic communications for Trump’s National Security Council after CNN revealed that she had plagiarized portions of her dissertation and a subsequent book.

Crowley now represents Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk {36} in Washington policy circles on unspecified “issues of concern” to him. In a bipartisan spirit, Pinchuk also pays Democratic pollster Doug Shoen $40,000 per month to facilitate conversations with US policy makers “regarding Democratization in Ukraine and European integration”.

Pinchuk, a billionaire with interests in steel, pipelines, media and banking, ingratiated himself into the Clinton camp by contributing millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and hosting a visit to Ukraine by Chelsea Clinton and her husband. Two years ago, he paid the Trump Foundation $150,000 in return for the Republican upstart appearing on video at an annual European strategy meeting held by Pinchuk.

Last but not least, Pinchuk’s foundation – along with the Ukrainian World Congress, as noted above – is a leading funder of the influential Atlantic Council, which promotes {37} collaboration with other Nato powers to combat “Kremlin aggression in Ukraine”.

The Atlantic Council’s lavish funding of position papers, op-ed columns, conferences and other persuasive vehicles by agents of anti-Russian Ukrainians is not so very different – although somewhat less transparent – than pro-Russian propaganda disseminated by RT or Sputnik News. The Atlantic Council’s efforts show up as columns {38} by think-tank experts {39} in The Washington Post and other papers, while what appears on RT or Sputnik News is branded by Western officials as “information warfare” {40}.

The American public, their elected officials, and Washington bureaucrats have a hard enough time sorting out the complex issues of foreign relations without the additional challenge of not knowing who is paying for their news and information. That’s why full disclosure is so vital. And that’s why the United States badly needs not just an investigation into Russian political interference, but an in-depth probe into the activities of all foreign agents of influence in the United States.

_____

This is the sixth and last article in a series on foreign lobbying. The previous installments were “The Open Secret of Foreign Lobbying” {41}; “How China Lobby Shaped America” {42}; “Israel Pays the Political Piper” {43}; and “Saudis Win Hearts by Lining Pockets” {44}; and “Turkey’s Varied Tactics of US Lobbying” {45}.

Links:

{1} https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/us/politics/paul-manafort-resigns-donald-trump.html

{2} https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/27/paul-manafort-donald-trump-campaign-past-clients

{3} http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/support/supporters

{4} http://www.ukrainianworldcongress.org/index.php/id/231

{5} https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/27/paul-manafort-donald-trump-campaign-past-clients

{6} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Manafort

{7} http://cloudfront-files-1.publicintegrity.org/legacy_projects/pdf_reports/THETORTURERSLOBBY.pdf

{8} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Stone

{9} http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/04/paul_manafort_isn_t_a_gop_retread_he_s_made_a_career_of_reinventing_tyrants.html

{10} https://www.yahoo.com/news/top-trump-aide-lobbied-for-1409744144007222.html

{11} http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/us/paul-manafort-ukraine-donald-trump.html

{12} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinat_Akhmetov

{13} https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-trump-adviser-manafort-revived-his-career–and-business-fortunes–in-ukraine/2016/08/18/8bcfb144-648f-11e6-be4e-23fc4d4d12b4_story.html

{14} http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/15/us/politics/paul-manafort-ukraine-donald-trump.html

{15} https://www.facebook.com/nabu.gov.ua/posts/1792546890990989

{16} https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-trump-adviser-manafort-revived-his-career–and-business-fortunes–in-ukraine/2016/08/18/8bcfb144-648f-11e6-be4e-23fc4d4d12b4_story.html

{17} http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/28/paul-manafort-ukraine-lobbying-237764

{18} http://www.startribune.com/weber-linked-to-embattled-manafort-s-ukrainian-lobbying-effort/391363471/

{19} https://apnews.com/6eed1ef61eb744e1aac584f8ac1f7247/Trump-advisers-waged-covert-influence-campaign

{20} http://observer.com/2016/04/panama-papers-reveal-clintons-kremlin-connection/

{21} http://dcinno.streetwise.co/2014/02/11/as-ukraine-consumed-by-protests-2-washington-lobbying-firms-are-cashing-in/

{22} https://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/12/17/19051/us-lobbying-pr-firms-give-human-rights-abusers-friendly-face

{23} http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-trump-aides-covertly-fought-freeing-of-ukraine-2016aug23-story.html

{24} http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-ukraine-lobbying-idUSBRE9BJ1B220131220

{25} http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/199114-lobbyists-for-jailed-ukraine-leader-courted-the

{26} http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-ukraine-lobbying-idUSBRE9BJ1B220131220

{27} http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/project_on_transitional_democracies/

{28} http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Jackson_Bruce/

{29} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

{30} http://time.com/2964493/ukraine-joe-biden-son-hunter-burisma/

{31} https://www.unian.info/politics/1731621-poroshenkos-administration-confirms-us-lobbying-firm-hired-for-ukraine.html

{32} http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/lobbying-hires/313041-ukraine-hires-lobby-firm-ahead-of-trump-inauguration

{33} http://www.bgrdc.com/b/bio/25/Ed-Rogers

{34} http://www.salon.com/2017/04/29/the-wash-post-has-a-lobbyist-as-a-writer-here-are-12-times-they-didnt-disclose-conflicts-of-interest_partner/

{35} http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/monica-crowley-registers-foreign-agent-lobbying-for-victor-pinchuk

{36} http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/14/monica-crowley-lost-white-house-job-now-she-s-got-one-with-pro-russian-oligarch

{37} http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/news/transcripts/the-ukraine-crisis-withstand-and-deter-russian-aggression

{38} https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/02/03/the-united-states-abandons-ukraine/?utm_term=.4c244bfb0431

{39} https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/putins-takeover-of-crimea-is-part-of-a-larger-strategy/2014/03/03/a9cd5d7a-a2ec-11e3-84d4-e59b1709222c_story.html?utm_term=.2daf4fcb8089

{40} https://consortiumnews.com/2016/04/13/the-new-propaganda-war/

{41} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/19/the-open-secret-of-foreign-lobbying/

{42} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/20/how-china-lobby-shaped-america/

{43} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/21/israel-lobby-pays-the-political-piper/

{44} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/22/saudis-win-hearts-by-lining-pockets/

{45} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/23/turkeys-varied-tactics-of-us-lobbying/

Jonathan Marshall is a regular contributor to ConsortiumNews.com.

https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/24/ukraine-factions-vie-for-lobbying-edge/

Categories: Uncategorized

The Republic Has Fallen

The Deep State’s Plot to Take Over America Has Succeeded

by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute

Zero Hedge (May 23 2017)

No doubt about it.

The coup d’etat has been successful.

The Deep State – aka the police state, aka the military industrial complex – has taken over.

The American system of representative government has been overthrown by a profit-driven, militaristic corporate state bent on total control and global domination through the imposition of martial law here at home and by fomenting wars abroad.

When in doubt, follow the money trail.

It always points the way.

Every successive president starting with Franklin D Roosevelt has been bought – lock, stock and barrel – and made to dance to the tune of the Deep State.

Enter Donald Trump, the candidate who swore to drain the swamp {1} in Washington DC.

Instead of putting an end to the corruption, however, Trump has paved the way for lobbyists, corporations, the military-industrial complex, and the Deep State {2} to feast on the carcass of the dying American republic.

Just recently, for instance, Trump agreed to sell Saudi Arabia more than $110 billion in military weapons {3}.

Meanwhile, Trump – purportedly in an effort to balance the budget in ten years – wants to slash government funding for programs for the poor {4}, ranging from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments.

The military doesn’t have to worry {5} about tightening its belt, however. No, the military’s budget – with its trillion dollar wars, its $125 billion in administrative waste {6}, and its contractor-driven price gouging {7} that hits the American taxpayer where it hurts the most – will continue to grow, thanks to Trump.

This is how you keep the Deep State in power.

The rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, the military will get more militaristic, America’s endless wars will get more endless, and the prospect of peace will grow ever dimmer.

As for the terrorists, they will keep on being played for pawns as long as Saudi Arabia remains their breeding ground {8} and America remains the source of their weapons, training, and know-how.

Follow the money. It always points the way.

As Bertram Gross noted in Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, “evil now wears a friendlier face than ever before in American history” {9}.

Writing in 1980, Gross predicted a future in which he saw:

 

 

… a new despotism creeping slowly across America. Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and, more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion … {9}

 

 

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long – sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs – that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

The “government of the people, by the people, for the people” has perished.

It will not be revived or restored without a true revolution of values {10} and a people’s rebellion {11} the likes of which we may not see for a very long time.

America is a profitable business interest for a very select few, and war – wars waged abroad against shadowy enemies and wars waged at home against the American people – has become the Deep State’s primary means of income.

After all, war is big business.

In order to maintain a profit margin, one would either have to find new enemies abroad or focus on fighting a war at home, against the American people, and that’s exactly what we’re dealing with today.

* Wars waged abroad to the tune of trillions of dollars {12} since 9/11.

* Military equipment {3} sold to foreign enemies.

* Local police transformed into a standing army in the American homeland through millions of dollars’ {13} worth of grants {14} to local police agencies for military weapons, vehicles {15}, training and assistance.

* The public acclimated to the sights and sounds of martial law through urban training exercises {16} and domestic military training drills timed and formulated to coincide with or portend actual crises {17}.

* The citizenry taught to fear and distrust each other and to welcome the trappings of the police state.

Had the government tried to ram such a state of affairs down our throats suddenly, it might have had a rebellion on its hands. Instead, the American people have been given the boiling frog treatment, immersed in water that slowly is heated up – degree by degree – so that they’ve failed to notice that they’re being trapped and cooked and killed.

“We the people” are in hot water now.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People {18}, the Constitution doesn’t stand a chance against a federalized, globalized standing army protected by legislative, judicial and executive branches that are all on the same side, no matter what political views they subscribe to: suffice it to say, they are not on our side or the side of freedom.

From Clinton to Bush, then Obama and now Trump, it’s as if we’ve been caught in a time loop, forced to re-live the same thing over and over again: the same assaults on our freedoms, the same disregard for the rule of law, the same subservience to the Deep State, and the same corrupt, self-serving government that exists only to amass power, enrich its shareholders and ensure its continued domination.

The republic has fallen to fascism with a smile {9}.

Elections will not save us.

Learn the treacherous lessons of 2008 and 2016: Presidential elections have made a mockery of our constitutional system of government, suggesting that our votes can make a difference when, in fact, they merely serve to maintain the status quo.

Don’t delay.

Start now – in your own communities, in your schools, at your city council meetings, in newspaper editorials, at protests – by pushing back against laws that are unjust, police departments that overreach, politicians that don’t listen to their constituents, and a system of government that grows more tyrannical by the day.

If you wait until 2020 to rescue our Republic from the clutches of the Deep State, it will be too late.

Links:

{1} https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/04/05/trump-promised-drain-swamp-how-that-going/2BBNbWU1Xd5ExA7u83Vh3I/story.html

{2} http://www.newsweek.com/2017/02/17/donald-trump-drain-swamp-lobbyists-553809.html

{3} https://www.vox.com/2017/5/20/15626638/trump-saudi-arabia-arms-deal

{4} https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/us/politics/trump-budget-cuts.html

{5} https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/22/trump-says-budget-can-balance-major-cuts-safety-net-programs/102026130/

{6} https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html

{7} http://thehill.com/policy/defense/334566-pentagons-overpriced-fuel-leads-to-slush-fund-allegations-report

{8} https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-ban-terrorism/514361/

{9} http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Fascism/RiseFall_Friend_Fascism_FF.html

{10} https://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/21/dr_martin_luther_king_in_1967

{11} https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/96oct/obrien/blood.htm

{12} http://nationalpriorities.org/cost-of/

{13} http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/301526/Marine+Shipping/Congress+Funds+the+Agencies

{14} http://www.hstoday.us/industry-news/general/single-article/carper-encourages-states-to-prepare-applications-for-preparedness-grants/6daa513c818715ab2ac8782e4c663a33.html

{15} http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304450904579366963588434656

{16} http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2012/08/27/downtown-mpls-serves-as-black-hawk-helicopter-training-zone/

{17} http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/06/07/before-police-could-plan-for-terrorist-attack-real-thing-happened/ufxjb9O0RXyzVZNPFyGkiI/story.html

{18} https://www.amazon.com/Battlefield-America-War-American-People/dp/1590793099

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_republic_has_fallen_the_deep_states_plot_to_take_over_america_has_succe

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-05-23/republic-has-fallen-deep-states-plot-take-over-america-has-succeeded

Categories: Uncategorized

Turkey’s Varied Tactics of US Lobbying

Turkey has built one of the premier foreign lobbies in Washington by paying powerful politicians, spreading around money to arms manufacturers, and teaming up with the Israel Lobby.

by Jonathan Marshall (This is the fifth in a series on foreign lobbying.)

Consortium News (May 23 2017)

For all the furor over retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia, which got him fired after just 24 days on the job {1} as President Trump’s first national security adviser, his biggest legal risks may relate to his unregistered lobbying for agents of the Turkish government. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed all records of that work {2} as part of a major ongoing investigation of Flynn’s foreign ties.

Although details of Flynn’s work on the account remain murky, and his own story has characteristically shifted over time, his job put him in crowded company. The Turkish lobby has long been one of the most active and unrestrained in Washington. An article in Politico last fall called {3} Turkey “the poster child when it comes to foreign lobbying opportunities for former members of both parties”.

In the past few years, the article noted,

 

 

… the country’s increasingly autocratic government has employed an army of lobbyists, including [former Missouri Democrat and House Minority Leader Richard] Gephardt, [former Mississippi Republican and Senate Majority Leader Trent] Lott, [former Louisiana Democrat and Senator John] Breaux, former House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston (Republican, Louisiana), the late Representative Stephen Solarz (Democrat, New York), former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Republican, Illinois), former CIA director and longtime House member Porter Goss (Republican, Florida.) and former Representatives. Albert Wynn (Democrat, Maryland. and Jim McCrery (Republican, Louisiana).

 

 

Turkey has also multiplied its lobbying clout by allying with various “defense contractors, finance and energy corporations, trade groups … and a well-financed network of domestic advocacy nonprofits”, according to the Sunlight Foundation {4}.

Cognizant of Turkey’s importance as a major Nato arms market, for example, the Aerospace Industries Association helped coordinate lobbying by major military contractors such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Textron on issues important to Turkey.

The American Turkish Council {5}, which promotes “stronger US-Turkey relations”, is chaired by retired General James L Jones, former US national security adviser and commander of Nato. Its board members {6} have included representatives of Lockheed Martin, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Boeing, General Electric, Raytheon, and Bechtel.

Another friend in Washington is the Atlantic Council, a widely quoted, pro-Nato think tank, whose vice chairman, Stephen Hadley, was national security adviser to President George W Bush. The Atlantic Council’s top financial supporters {7} include no fewer than five major Turkish government and business organizations, along with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and other large military contractors.

The Atlantic Council’s annual Istanbul Summit drew fire {8} this year for allegedly excluding critical journalists and opposition politicians, at the request of the Erdogan regime. The council’s CEO said that it supported Turkey in today’s turbulent times, adding, “the Atlantic Council is not a fair weather friend”.

Fighting the Armenian Genocide Resolution

One longstanding issue for Turkey has been fighting perennial efforts in Congress to adopt a resolution condemning as genocide the mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, starting in 1915. A study published in 2009 by ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundation reported {9} that Turkey was the fifth biggest spender on foreign lobbying, at more than $3.5 million. Turkey ranked number one in contacts with members of Congress, as a result of its ongoing fight to block the genocide resolution.

A big chunk of the $1.7 million raked in by former Representative Gephardt from the Turkish government in 2015 was dedicated to that end. Buying his services was a real coup for Ankara. During his long career in Congress, Gephardt had been a champion of the Armenian-American community’s campaign to officially recognize the genocide of their ancestors.

Turkey found a powerful ally for its genocide denial campaign in the Israel Lobby, which backed Ankara {10} out of gratitude for the Muslim state’s recognition of Israel. In 2007, as they had for many years, the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs joined Turkey in opposing the congressional genocide resolution.

Abraham Foxman, longtime head of the Anti-Defamation League, told one reporter {11} bluntly, “Our focus is Israel. If helping Turkey helps Israel, then that’s what we’re in the business of doing.”

“Since the 1990s, Turkey has turned into a key strategic ally”, explained {12} Jerusalem Post writer Herb Keinon:

 

 

What Israel gets from Turkey is clear: a friendly Muslim face in a sea of hostility; a geographical asset; a huge market for military wares and other products … And what do the Turks get? Firstly, they benefit from our geography, just as we do from theirs. Both countries box in Syria for the other, and Syrian-Turkish relations, put mildly, have known their ups and downs. Secondly, they buy our arms …

And the final thing the Turks “get” from Israel is access to the Jewish lobby in Washington … Turkey looks to these organizations to put in a good word in Congress or with the administration when issues of importance to Ankara – such as issues regarding the Armenians or Cyprus – make their way to those bodies.

 

 

Years of genocide denial by major American Jewish organizations finally caused a furor {13} in 2007, not only among Armenian-Americans but among many progressive Jews who decried the cynicism of their community leaders.

Representative Adam Schiff, a Jewish Democrat from California and lead sponsor of the genocide resolution, condemned Israel’s interference and said, “I cannot see how major Jewish American organizations can in good conscience and in any way support efforts to deny the undeniable”. (Today Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation {14} of possible Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.)

Leaders of conservative Jewish groups began changing their tune in 2010 {15} – after Ankara condemned Israel for killing nine Turkish citizens aboard a flotilla bound for Gaza. In 2016, under more progressive new leadership, the Anti-Defamation League finally officially recognized {16} the 1915 massacre of Armenians as “unequivocally genocide”.

The Sibel Edmonds Affair

The Turkish lobby hasn’t always played by the rules, according to former FBI-translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds {17}. She testified {18} that over the years 1996 to 2002, she had access to FBI counterintelligence wiretaps that implicated former House Speaker Dennis Hastert in taking “large sums” of cash – roughly half a million dollars in bribes – “to do certain favors … (for the) Turkish government’s interest”.

It is a matter of record that after leaving Congress in 2007, Hastert went on the payroll of the Turkish government as a registered lobbyist, earning $35,000 a month. In 2016, he was convicted {19} of bank fraud relating to allegations that years earlier he sexually abused boys he coached in high school wrestling.

Edmonds also claimed that former Representative Stephen Solarz, who also became a registered lobbyist for Turkey {20}, “acted as a conduit to deliver or launder contributions and other bribes(s) to certain members of Congress”. She accused Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, of “bribe(ry)” and “disclosing [the] highest level protected US intelligence and weapons technology information both to Israel and to Turkey [and] other very serious criminal conduct”. And she alleged that Turkish agents filmed a member of the House Intelligence Committee who was lured into a sexual affair.

Most explosively, Edmonds told a reporter that former US Ambassador to Turkey and Deputy Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman sold nuclear technology to Turkish agents acting for Pakistani military intelligence and that he revealed to Turkish diplomats the identity of a CIA front company engaged in gathering intelligence on nuclear proliferation.

Grossman strongly denied her claims, but the London Sunday Times found them credible enough to run a major story {21} in 2008 (without identifying Grossman by name). Former FBI counterintelligence and counterespionage manager John Cole later went on the record, saying {22}, “I am fully aware of the FBI’s decade-long investigation of … Marc Grossman, which ultimately was buried and covered up. It is long past time to investigate this case and bring about accountability.”

Evidently, other officials in Washington did not find her allegations credible, however. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed Grossman {23} to replace Richard Holbrooke as special US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It should also be noted that Edmonds’s initial allegations, given some credence by the Department of Justice’s inspector general {24} and “60 Minutes” {25}, concerned mainly potential espionage by a co-worker and general incompetence in the FBI’s translation department, not the much more explosive charges against major politicians. Nor is it clear how she would have had access to so many highly sensitive investigative files involving members of Congress.

The Michael Flynn Affair

President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is reportedly {26} under investigation by at least two congressional committees, the Pentagon’s inspector general, and a federal grand jury not only for his relations with Russia, but also about his payments from a Turkish organization while he was a top foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign.

Investigators say they have found no evidence that Flynn sought permission from the Departments of Defense or State for his foreign payments. Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, did not register as a foreign lobbyist until last September, a month past the start of its work for Turkish interests.

The subject of Flynn’s work was well disguised. His client was an obscure Dutch firm. An enterprising reporter {27} who checked Dutch records discovered that its founder was military contractor and real estate magnate {28} Ekim Alptekin, “an ally of Erdogan’s who is director of the Turkey-US Business Council, a non-profit arm of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board … In the role, Alptekin helped coordinate [President] Erdogan’s visit to the US [in 2016”.

Three months after signing with Alptekin’s firm – on Election Day 2016, no less – Flynn published an opinion column {29} in The Hill lauding Turkey as “vital to US interests” and “our strongest ally” against ISIS. He denounced the coup attempt that summer, which he had once praised, and supported Turkey’s controversial request for the extradition of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of inspiring the coup.

In March 2017, a month after Flynn resigned as national security adviser for lying about his contacts with Russian officials, the White House finally admitted {30}, in the words of CNN, that “President Donald Trump’s transition team was aware that retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn engaged in work that would likely require him to register his consulting firm as a foreign agent before Flynn was tapped to serve as national security adviser”.

A few days later, The Wall Street Journal reported {31} that back in September, Flynn had met with senior Turkish government officials to discuss “the political climate in Turkey”. One attendee, former CIA Director James Woolsey, claimed that when he walked into the meeting, they were reviewing options for kidnapping Gulen to avoid the extradition process. Woolsey said he “found the topic startling and the actions being discussed possibly illegal”.

Flynn denied Woolsey’s account. But he did belatedly file foreign agent registration papers with the Justice Department this March, acknowledging {32} that the $530,000 his firm received from August to mid-November “could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey”.

Members of the House Oversight Committee from both parties have since said that Flynn’s failure to get permission for those payments from Turkey could subject him to criminal prosecution {33} for violating a constitutional ban on retired military officers taking payments from foreign governments.

Trump and Turkey

Something of Flynn’s support for Turkey seems to have rubbed off on Donald Trump. The US President called Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan {34} to congratulate him after the success of April’s controversial national referendum, which greatly expanded the powers of the Turkish presidency. Trump was apparently oblivious to allegations of electoral fraud {35}, warnings about the death of Turkish democracy {36}, and the fate of more than 113,000 people detained {37} since last year’s coup attempt.

Critics of Trump’s embrace of Erdogan {38} recalled what Trump had to say on Steve Bannon’s radio show, Breitbart News Daily, on December 01 2015: “I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers – two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.” Trump was no doubt grateful to Erdogan for presiding over the opening of Trump Towers in 2012.

In mid-May, President Trump also honored Erdogan as one of the first foreign leaders received this year at the White House. But while Trump lauded Turkey’s “legendary” courage in wartime, and Erdogan hailed Trump’s “legendary triumph” in the 2016 election, no one was fooled {39}. The two countries have grave differences over how to handle the military campaign against ISIS in Syria and Turkey’s request to extradite Gulen.

In short, Turkey’s millions of dollars have bought it a few seats at the table, not a guarantee of winning its case in either Congress or the White House. But every seat counts in politics, and as the international stakes keep rising, so will Turkey’s investment in shaping policies in Washington.

_____

This is the fifth in a series on foreign lobbying. The previous installments were “The Open Secret of Foreign Lobbying” {40}; “How China Lobby Shaped America” {41}; “Israel Pays the Political Piper” {42}; and “Saudis Win Hearts by Lining Pockets {43}”. Next: The Ukraine Lobby.

Links:

{1} https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/14/flynn-sets-record-with-only-24-days-as-nsc-chief-the-average-tenure-is-about-2-6-years

{2} https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/us/politics/michael-flynn-donald-trump-national-security-adviser.html

{3} http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/congress-foreign-lobbying-228982

{4} https://sunlightfoundation.com/2009/09/17/defense-contractors-join-turkish-lobbying-effort-in-pursuit-of/

{5} http://the-atc.org/wp/about/

{6} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American-Turkish_Council

{7} http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/support/supporters

{8} http://washingtonhatti.com/2017/04/27/atlantic-councils-istanbul-council-opens-with-scandals/

{9} https://www.propublica.org/article/adding-it-up-the-top-players-in-foreign-agent-lobbying-718

{10} http://noplacefordenial.blogspot.com/2007/08/press-kit-history-of-lobbying-against.html

{11} http://www.salon.com/2010/06/16/israel_lobby_genocide_armenia/

{12} http://www.jpost.com/Features/Diplomacy-The-politics-of-principles

{13} http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/19/us/19genocide.html

{14} http://time.com/4706721/comey-hearing-adam-schiff-transcript/

{15} http://www.salon.com/2010/06/16/israel_lobby_genocide_armenia/

{16} https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/13/adl-leader-says-massacre-armenians-was-unequivocally-genocide/7lqWr0vsWyPvvw9sZpRvEI/story.html

{17} http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2005/09/edmonds200509

{18} http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24886.htm

{19} https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/04/27/ex-speaker-dennis-hastert-faces-sentencing-chicago/83584440/

{20} http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/17/washington/17lobby.html

{21} http://web.archive.org/web/20080109045435/http:/www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article3137695.ece

{22} http://www.theamericanconservative.com/2009/09/28/and-its-not-only-sibel-edmonds-who-says-so/

{23} https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/02/meet-richard-holbrooke-s-afpak-successor-marc-grossman/342235/

{24} https://fas.org/irp/agency/doj/oig/sedmonds.html

{25} http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lost-in-translation-25-10-2002/

{26} http://www.timesofisrael.com/fresh-inconsistencies-raise-questions-over-flynn-consulting/

{27} http://dailycaller.com/2016/11/11/trumps-top-military-adviser-is-lobbying-for-obscure-company-with-ties-to-turkish-government

{28} http://www.boulderweekly.com/news/the-russian-connections-to-michael-flynns-turkish-benefactor/

{29} http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/foreign-policy/305021-our-ally-turkey-is-in-crisis-and-needs-our-support

{30} http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/10/politics/michael-flynn-donald-trump-consulting-firm/

{31} http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/325698-flynn-discussed-how-to-whisk-away-cleric-wanted-by-turkey-report

{32} http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/323087-flynn-discloses-lobbying-that-may-have-helped-turkey

{33} http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-lawmakers-say-flynn-sidestepped-1493134802-htmlstory.html

{34} https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-calls-turkeys-erdogan-to-congratulate-him-on-contested-referendum/2017/04/17/f997d306-2397-11e7-a1b3-faff0034e2de_story.html

{35} https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/us/politics/trump-erdogan-turkey-referendum.html

{36} http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/turkeys-vote-makes-erdogan-effectively-a-dictator

{37} https://news.vice.com/story/erdogan-is-still-arresting-his-opponents-in-massive-purge-that-has-surpassed-113000-people

{38} http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/04/trump-turkey-erdogan-conflict-interest

{39} https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/05/17/erdogans-big-meeting-with-trump-gets-obscured-by-white-house-chaos

{40} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/19/the-open-secret-of-foreign-lobbying/

{41} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/20/how-china-lobby-shaped-america/

{42} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/21/israel-lobby-pays-the-political-piper/

{43} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/22/saudis-win-hearts-by-lining-pockets/

Jonathan Marshall is a regular contributor to ConsortiumNews.com.

https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/23/turkeys-varied-tactics-of-us-lobbying/

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