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French election explained: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen go head to head
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[Video] Rush Limbaugh: French Election Mirrors U.S. 2016 Vote
As anti-establishment candidates advance, France’s political establishment unites against Le Pen
French election: What would Emmanuel Macron’s presidency mean for Britain? – BBC Newsnight
Published on Apr 24, 2017
Centrist Emmanuel Macron will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential election.To learn more about the presidential candidate, Evan Davis has met up with Benjamin Griveaux, Mr Macron’s campaign spokesman.
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Official first round result
With 107 of 107 departements counted | At 17:58 CEST
Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron Advance
For the first time in modern French history, neither candidate is from a major party.
Emmanuel Macron casts his ballot in the first round of French presidential election at a polling station in Le Touquet, France on April 23, 2017.Eric Feferberg / ReutersYASMEEN SERHANAPR 23, 2017
Macron and Le Pen’s strong showings Sunday, which saw an approximately 77 percent voter turnout (slightly lower than the 79 percent who voted in the first round in 2012), signaled a rebuke of the political establishment that has dominated French politics for decades. Macron launched his centrist party in August 2016 after he quit his role in President François Hollande’s Socialist government, and despite the party’s youth it boasts a quarter of a million members. Meanwhile, Le Pen’s FN secured the most votes it has ever received in its nearly half-century history, surpassing the 18-percent first-round finish it saw in 2012. Even Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate who ran under a movement called La France Insoumise, or “Unsubmissive France,” had his strongest performance to date. Though his last-minute surge in the polls wasn’t enough to propel him to the second round, he still managed to claim 19.5 percent of the vote, far surpassing the 11 percent he won during his first presidential bid in 2012.Republican candidate François Fillon also earned 19.5 percent of the vote, tying Mélenchon for third place. The center-right candidate and former prime minister enjoyed a comfortable lead early on in his campaign, but support wavered in January after his candidacy was embroiled by allegations he misused public funds to pay his wife, Penelope, and two of their children for parliamentary work they are alleged not to have performed. Fillon denied any wrongdoing, although the launch of a formal investigation into both him and his wife prompted several of his Republican allies to quit his campaign.Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, who came in last of the main contenders with 6.2 percent of the vote, also suffered from fissures within his own party. Despite clinching a decisive victory during the January primary, Hamon failed to command the support of Socialist party leaders, many of whom, including former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, endorsed Macron instead. This, paired with the deeply unpopular presidency of Hollande and the competition of similarly far-left Mélenchon, made the ruling party’s poor showing all but certain. The results prompted the losing candidates to urge their supporters to back Macron. Hamon said there was a distinction between a political adversary and an “enemy of the Republic,” referring to Le Pen. Fillon warned that Le Pen would lead France to “ruin.”
The advancement of two non-traditional candidates will certainly have an impact on their ability to govern once they make it to the Élysée Palace. In the month following the presidential contest, French voters will return to the polls to elect members of the National Assembly, France’s lower but more powerful house of parliament. This election is particularly important because whoever becomes prime minister almost always comes from the party that controls the chamber and, at present, neither Le Pen’s FN (which claims two of the National Assembly’s 577 seats) or Macron’s En Marche (which claims none) are expected to command a majority. This makes cohabitation, in which the president must share power with the prime minister of a different party, almost certain. Though this power-sharing arrangement is not unprecedented in French political history, as Politico’s Pierre Briançon notes, it has never been a favorable one.
It reduces the head of state to a figurehead, akin to northern European monarchs or ceremonial presidents such as those of Germany or Italy. In those times, the prime minister holds most of the executive powers, save for those governing foreign policy and defense, which the constitution puts specifically in the president’s domain. …It has happened three times in postwar history — first from 1986 to 1988, when Socialist President François Mitterrand had to live with Jacques Chirac as prime minister. From 1993 to 1995, Mitterrand had to deal with another conservative premier, Édouard Balladur. And finally, from 1997 to 2002, President Chirac had to contend with Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
Macron and Le Pen now have two weeks ahead of the runoff to court the voters who backed their former competitors, as well as the estimated one-third of French voters who are still undecided. From the recent terrorist attack in Paris to the country’s 10 percent unemployment rate, issues such as security and the economy will likely remain at the forefront of the contest.
Outsiders Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen sweep to victory as France kicks out old guard: Europhile newcomer narrowly wins first vote to take on far-Right’s Madame Frexit for the presidency
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron have made it to the second round
36.7million voted, a turnout of 78.2 per cent; Macron won 23.9 per cent of the vote, Le Pen 21.4
Republican candidate Francois Fillon conceded after initial results showed he achieved 19.5 per cent of vote
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon refused to concede until final results of first-round vote announced
France’s Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has called on voters to support Macron instead of Le Pen
This is the first time in 60 years none of France’s mainstream parties have entered the second round
Riots broke out in Nantes and Paris’ Place de la Bastille – the birthplace of the French Revolution
By Emily Kent Smith In Paris For The Daily Mail and Isobel Frodsham and Nick Fagge In Paris and Gareth Davies and Peter Allen In Paris for MailOnline
PUBLISHED: 06:50 EDT, 23 April 2017 | UPDATED: 02:43 EDT, 24 April 2017
French voters turned their backs on the political establishment last night in round one of the presidential election.
Emmanuel Macron – an independent centrist – won first place ahead of National Front leader Marine Le Pen.
The result will have major implications for Britain and its departure from the EU.
Miss Le Pen wants to completely renegotiate France’s relationship with Brussels while Mr Macron wants closer links.
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Marine Le Pen (left) and Emmanuel Macron (right) celebrated the initial results of the polls, which said they both made it to the second round of the election
Le Pen went to greet her supporters after the initial results and said: ”This is a historic result. The French must take the step for this historic opportunity. This is the first step to drive the French [people] into the Elysee Palace’
Supporters of Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, were seen waving their flags emblazoned with ‘Marine Presidente’ at her election headquarters in Henin-Beaumont, after the inital results were announced
Supporters of French centrist candidate Macron were also seen cheering in delight at the results and waving the French flag
Many people were seen hugging after initial results showed Macron winning 23.9 percent of the vote, beating France’s two main parties
According to France’s Interior Ministry, 46 million people voted in the first stage of the elections which knocked the traditional Right and Left parties out of the running for the first time in 60 years.
With 97 per cent of the vote counted, Macron achieved 23.9 per cent, followed by Le Pen on 21.4. A total of 36.7million voted, a turnout of 78.2 per cent.
But it is thought that Le Pen’s chances of winning the second round are limited as supporters for Republican candidate Francois Fillon, who conceded but has gained 19.9 per cent of the votes, will support Macron.
However, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who gained 19.6 per cent, refused to concede until the final results of first-round vote were announced.
Macron took to the stage in Paris earlier, with his wife Brigitte, and urged national unity against Le Pen.
To chants of ‘Macron president!’ and ‘We’re going to win,’ Macron began his speech by paying tribute to his opponents, and praised his supporters for his lightning rise.
He said: ‘We have turned a page in French political history,’ and added he wants to gather ‘the largest possible’ support before May 7.
Macron acknowledged widespread anger at traditional parties and promised ‘new transformations’ in French politics.
At a rally last night, Le Pen told her supporters she is offering ‘the great alternative’ in the presidential race.
Crowds celebrate as Macron & Le Pen expected go through to next round
She added: ‘It is time to liberate the French people from the arrogant [political] elite.’ Le Pen was later given a bunch of flowers
Le Pen addresses supporters as she goes through to second round
She said: ‘This is a historic result. The French must take the step for this historic opportunity. This is the first step to drive the French [people] into the Elysee Palace.
‘It is time to liberate the French people from the arrogant [political] elite.’
Former favourite Fillon conceded and voiced his support for Macron after initial projections showed he and Melanchon got 19.5 per cent of the vote.
Shortly afterwards, France’s Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, also called on voters to support Macron.
The outcome capped an extraordinary few months for a deeply divided France, which saw a campaign full of twists and turns and widespread anger at traditional parties.
It signals a stinging defeat for the Fillon and Socialist Benoit Hamon, meaning neither of France’s mainstream parties will be in the second round for the first time in 60 years.
Macron, a 39-year-old who had never before stood for election and only started his independent centrist movement 12 months ago, will be the overwhelming favourite to win the second round on May 7.
He served as an economy minister under President Francois Hollande, ran without the backing of an established party, forming his own called ‘En Marche!’.
His wife Brigitte is 25 years his senior and taught him at school.
Macron, a 39-year-old who had never before stood for election and only started his independent centrist movement, En Marche!, 12 months ago
Macron thanks supporters for campaign that changed French politics
He said he wants to gather ‘the largest possible’ support before the May 7 runoff. He praised his supporters for a campaign that ‘changed the course of our country’
Macron acknowledged widespread anger at traditional parties and promised ‘new transformations’ in French politics
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Macron on Sunday and wished the centrist well for the May 7 French presidential runoff against Le Pen.
‘Juncker congratulated Macron on his result in the first round and wished him all the best for the next round,’ Margaritis Schinas said on Twitter.
Underlining broad support for Macron among leaders of the European Union institutions in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini from the Italian centre-left added her congratulations to those of Juncker, a centre-right former prime minister of Luxembourg.
‘To see the flags of France and the EU hailing Emmanuel Macron’s result shows hope and the future of our generation,’ tweeted Mogherini, 43, after the 39-year-old Macron’s first-round victory speech to supporters was broadcast on television.
Last night he was congratulated by former Labour MP David Miliband and by former chancellor George Osborne.
Mr Miliband said: ‘Tremendous achievement by Emmanuel Macron. Bulwark against evil forces and tribune for modernization in France and Europe.’
Mr Osborne said: ‘Congratulations to my friend Emmanuel Macron. Proof you can win from the centre. At last the chance for the leadership that France needs.’
Fillon urges supporters to vote for Macron as he concedes
Despite his defeat, supporters for the election candidate far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon still cheered for him outside his election headquarters
Anti-fascist activists clashed with riot police in Paris’ Place de la Bastille – the birthplace of the French Revolution
Demonstrators in Nantes chanted anti-Le Pen slogans as they showed their opposition to the National Front leader
The euro has jumped 2 per cent on Sunday night, to more than 85p ($1.09), after projections showed Macron and Le Pen would go head to head.
Macron has vowed to reinforce France’s commitment to the EU and euro.
Stock markets will next open in Asia before Europe starts trading on Monday morning.
But despite stock markets around the world improving significantly, investors fretted beforehand that another unforseen election outcome could upend the market. In addition, the presidential race was plagued by controversy.
Republican candidate Fillon, 63, is accused of embezzling state money by paying his British wife Penelope, 61, as his assistant – despite her allegedly carrying out no work.
Le Pen faces a fraud inquiry, with her chief of staff accused of misusing EU funds while Melenchon, 65, had vowed to pull his country out of Europe and get rid of the euro.
Earlier this evening, Le Pen had security authorities on high alert, with rioting expected across the country in protest due to her election success.
More than 50,000 police and gendarmes were deployed to the 66,000 polling stations for Sunday’s election, which comes after Thursday’s deadly attack on the Champs-Elysees in which a police officer and a gunman were slain.
However, initial election results triggered riots across the country, initially sparked in Paris’ Place du la Bastille, the birthplace of the French Revolution, tonight against the Le Pen’s National Front.
The crowds of young people, some from anarchist and anti-fascist groups, gathered in eastern Paris as results were coming in from Sunday’s first-round vote.
Police fired tear gas to disperse an increasingly rowdy crowd. Riot police surrounded the area.
Protesters have greeted several of Le Pen’s campaign events, angry at her anti-immigration policies and her party, which she has sought to detoxify after a past tainted by racism and anti-Semitism.
There were angry scenes in Nantes in western France, where anti-fascists took to the streets to protest
Ballot boxes in Le Port, on the French overseas island of La Reunion were seen locked after the polls closed earlier this evening
Two officials were seen tipping out the votes ready to count them ahead of the results, which are expected to be announced within the hour
Le Pen has vowed to offer French voters a referendum to leave the EU and wants to leave the euro, known as Frexit.
Her father, the convicted racist and anti-Semite Jean-Marie Le Pen, won through to the second round of the 2002 presidential election but was then crushed by the conservative Jacques Chirac.
However she faces a similar prospect of defeat when she goes up against Macron in the second round of the next week.
He is widely expected to win the contest against Le Pen.
In France the election took place with the nation on high alert, with the vote taking place just three days after a police officer was gunned down by a Jihadi on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
In Besancon, eastern France a stolen car was abandoned outside a polling station with the engine running.
A policeman secures the entrance of a polling station as people arrive to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Henin-Beaumont, France, April 23, 2017
Policemen stand near a polling station during the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Paris, France
Femen activists with masks, including one wearing a mask of Marine Le Pen, top left, are detained as they demonstrate in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, where far-right leader and presidential candidate Le Pen voted during the first round of the French presidential election
Police found a hunting rifle inside the vehicle which had been disguised with stolen number plates.
In Rouen, Normandy, a gunman shot and wounded another man but the incident was classified as ‘non-terror related’.
Two other polling station, in Saint Omer, northern France, were evacuated because of a suspicious vehicle with Dutch number plates.
Ballots were cast in the wake of took place after a series of devastating terror attacks across France, but despite that armed police and soldiers are outlawed from protecting 67,000 French polling stations.
There had been a serious concern that groups including Islamic State would target the election.
However the 50,000 policemen and gendarmes that were only standby along with 7,000 soldiers were not required as the day went on.
The presidential poll is the first to be held during a state of emergency, put in place since the Paris attacks of November 2015.
A Femen activists wearing the mask of Marine le Pen is detained as they demonstrate in Henin Beaumont, northern France
TOPLESS demonstrators protests outside French polling station
Voters are choosing between 11 candidates in the most unpredictable contest in decades, and the poll conducted by RTBF suggests just that.
Topless demonstrators from the Femen activist group caused a commotion as they staged a stunt against Le Pen outside a polling station where the far-right presidential candidate was heading to vote.
Around six activists were detained Sunday morning after jumping out of an SUV limo wearing masks of Le Pen and United States President Donald Trump.
Police and security forces quickly forced them into police vans, confiscating their signs.
Le Pen voted at the station shortly after without further disruption.
After nine hours of voting, turnout was 69.4 percent, one of the highest levels in 40 years.
While down slightly on the same point in the 2012 election, an extra hour of voting in smaller towns was expected to take turnout to around 78 to 81 percent.
A Femen activist wearing the mask of U.S President Donald Trump is taken away from the scene near a scrum of photographers
People line up before casting their vote for the first-round presidential election at a polling station in Paris, Sunday, April 23, 2017
Outgoing French president Francois Hollande casts his ballot at a polling station in Tulle (left) as Marine Le Pen emerges from a booth (right)
Outgoing French president Francois Hollande picks up ballot papers before casting his vote at a polling station in Tulle, central France, on April 23, 2017, during the first round of the Presidential election
Former French President and former Head of Les Republicains right wing Party Nicolas Sarkozy (centre) and his wife, the singer Carla Bruni Sarkozy (left) vote in the first round of the 2017 French Presidential Election at the Jean de la Fontaine High School in the 16th arrondissement on April 23, 2017 in Paris, France
Former French President and former Head of Les Republicains right wing Party Nicolas Sarkozy sweeps the curtain aside as he leaves a voting booth
Marine Le Pen was today poised for a historic breakthrough in France’s nail-biting presidential race
Her campaign has been dominated by anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric and critics said she has used the violence to stoke further hostility.
Defiant voters proclaimed the Paris terrorist attack would not alter their political loyalties in the French presidential elections today, although many feared a surge in support for the National Front.
As citizens flocked to polling stations across the country Parisians told how they would ‘vote with their hearts’ to reject extremist ideas, in the first round of voting to decide the new leader of France.
Mother-of-one Marie-Noelle Liesse told MailOnline she voted for independent centrist Emmanuel Macron to stop Marine Le Pen.
She said: ‘I voted with my heart to stop the extremists, the National Front, from getting into power.
‘The terrorist attack on the Champs Elysee has not affected the way I voted, but I fear it may have influenced some people.
‘I voted for Macron. I believe he is the right candidate to lead France.’
Mrs Liesse, 45, a communications executive, brought her five-year-old son Amant, to the polling station in the central Marais district of Paris.
Marine Le Pen casts her vote in the French presidential elections
French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party, Marine Le Pen casts her ballot in the first round of the French presidential elections in Henin-Beaumont, Northern France, shortly after the commotion
Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron waves supporters after casting his vote in the first round of the French presidential election, in le Touquet, northern France, Sunday April 23, 2017
People line up before casting their vote for the first-round presidential election at a polling station in Paris, Sunday, April 23, 2017
Young professional couple Max Nivoix and Mariam Guedra voted for independent centrist Emmanuel Macron for said they feared the terrorist attack would galvanise support for Marine Le Pen’s National Front.
Mr Nivoix, 28, an industrial products buyer, told MailOnline: ‘I have voted for Macron. I think he is the best candidate to lead France.
‘The terrorist attack last week has not influenced the way I voted. But I fear that people outside of Paris will turn to Le Pen because of it.’
French nationals in the UK casting their votes
Among the 60,000 polling stations to open their doors was the French Consulate in South Kensington, where the bulk of the UK’s French nationals are expected to cast their votes.
According to figures from 2014, there are 400,000 French people living in London, which prompted Boris Johnson to call it France’s sixth biggest city.
At the end of 2013, the Foreign Ministry recorded 1.6million French expats living in the UK, according to The Independent.
Outside of the capital, there are polling stations in Ashford, Brighton, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
His partner Ms Guedra, 28, an engineer, added: ‘I voted for Emmanuel Macron too. He has the best policies for young people and for the time we live in now.
‘But we are both educated and from the city. I know that old people and people in the countryside are more in favour of Le Pen.’
Flight attendant Baptiste Laurent said he voted for communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc Melonchon he feared National Front candidate Marine Le Pen could come top in the poll.
Mr Laurent, 39, told MailOnline: ‘I voted for Melonchon because I voted for what I believe in – a more equal society.
‘But I fear that Le Pen could be the biggest winner today.’
Mr Laurent came to the polling station with his 14-month-old daughter Romy.
A primary school teacher also backed communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc Melonchon but feared a surge of support for Le Pen’s National Front.
Alexandre, 42, told MailOnline: ‘I voted for Melonchon because I support his programme and his socialist policies.
‘But Le Pen will do well in the polls today. She has a strong base of support. And after the terrorist attack she will get more votes. I think she will get through to the second round of voting.’
The second round of voting between the two front runners of today’s poll will take place on Sunday 7 May.
She is locked in a duel with centrist front-runner Emmanuel Macron, 39, a staunch defender of the single market who has told Theresa May he favours a ‘hard Brexit’.
If, as expected, Le Pen and Macron are successful in the first round of voting today, they will face each other in the run-off on May 7.
People line up to vote at a polling station in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Vaulx-en-Velin, France, April 23, 2017
Brigitte Trogneux casts her ballot next to her husband, French presidential election candidate for the En Marche movement Emmanuel Macron during the first round of the Presidential election at a polling station in Le Touquet
But analysts say the battle for the Élysée Palace is by no means a two-horse race.
Le Pen has moved from 22 per cent to 23 per cent in the latest opinion poll while her three rivals have all lost half a percentage point of support.
Macron dropped back to 24.5 per cent, while republican candidate François Fillon and leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon were back on 19 per cent.
The far-Right leader is confident her chances of winning the election’s first round have been strengthened by last week’s terrorist murder of a police officer on the Champs-Élysées
Experts said a Le Pen victory in the first round could mean cheaper holidays for Brits heading to Europe.
Kathleen Brooks, of City Index Direct, said: ‘I think if Le Pen wins today by a wide enough margin, then the euro will fall significantly, possibly to the lowest levels we’ve seen this year. And a weak euro will initially be great for us as everything will be much cheaper in Europe.’
Le Pen’s father, the convicted racist Jean-Marie Le Pen, caused shockwaves around the world in 2002 when he came second in the first round. He then went on to lose to Jacques Chirac by a landslide of more than 80 per cent.
But Marine Le Pen is convinced she can go one better by positioning herself as the candidate who is toughest on terror.
She had pledged to ‘immediately reinstate border checks’, to expel foreigners and to ban all immigration, whether illegal or not. Supporters include Donald Trump who said the Paris attack would ‘have a big effect on the presidential election’ because the French people ‘will not take much more of this’.
But Prime Minister Cazeneuve accused Le Pen of ‘shamelessly seeking to exploit fear and emotion for exclusively political ends’. Mr Cazeneuve pointed out that Karim Cheurfi, the 39-year-old responsible for the murder of traffic officer Xavier Jugelé, 37, was a born and bred Frenchman.
Le Pen has called for negotiation with Brussels on a new EU, followed by a referendum; extremist mosques closed and priority to French nationals in social housing; and retirement age fixed at 60.
Macron forged a reputation with his ‘Macron Law’, a controversial reform bill that allowed shops to open more often on Sundays. On security, he has said France is paying for the intelligence jobs cuts made when Fillon was PM between 2007 and 2012.
For the French establishment, Sunday’s presidential election came close to a near-death experience. As the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo, it was a “damn near-run thing.”
Neither candidate of the two major parties that have ruled France since Charles De Gaulle even made it into the runoff, an astonishing repudiation of France’s national elite.
Marine Le Pen of the National Front ran second with 21.5 percent of the vote. Emmanuel Macron of the new party En Marche! won 23.8 percent.
Macron is a heavy favorite on May 7. The Republicans’ Francois Fillon, who got 20 percent, and the Socialists’ Benoit Hamon, who got less than 7 percent, both have urged their supporters to save France by backing Macron.
Ominously for U.S. ties, 61 percent of French voters chose Le Pen, Fillon or radical Socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon. All favor looser ties to America and repairing relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Le Pen has a mountain to climb to win, but she is clearly the favorite of the president of Russia, and perhaps of the president of the United States. Last week, Donald Trump volunteered:
“She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France. … Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”
As an indicator of historic trends in France, Le Pen seems likely to win twice the 18 percent her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won in 2002, when he lost in the runoff to Jacques Chirac.
The campaign between now and May 7, however, could make the Trump-Clinton race look like an altarpiece of democratic decorum.
Not only are the differences between the candidates stark, Le Pen has every incentive to attack to solidify her base and lay down a predicate for the future failure of a Macron government.
And Macron is vulnerable. He won because he is fresh, young, 39, and appealed to French youth as the anti-Le Pen. A personification of Robert Redford in “The Candidate.”
But he has no established party behind him to take over the government, and he is an ex-Rothschild banker in a populist environment where bankers are as welcome as hedge-fund managers at a Bernie Sanders rally.
He is a pro-EU, open-borders transnationalist who welcomes new immigrants and suggests that acts of Islamist terrorism may be the price France must pay for a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.
Macron was for a year economic minister to President Francois Hollande who has presided over a 10 percent unemployment rate and a growth rate that is among the most anemic in the entire European Union.
He is offering corporate tax cuts and a reduction in the size of a government that consumes 56 percent of GDP, and presents himself as the “president of patriots to face the threat of nationalists.”
His campaign is as much “us vs. them” as Le Pen’s.
And elite enthusiasm for Macron seems less rooted in any anticipation of future greatness than in the desperate hope he can save the French establishment from the dreaded prospect of Marine.
But if Macron is the present, who owns the future?
Across Europe, as in France, center-left and center-right parties that have been on the scene since World War II appear to be emptying out like dying churches. The enthusiasm and energy seem to be in the new parties of left and right, of secessionism and nationalism.
The problem for those who believe the populist movements of Europe have passed their apogee, with losses in Holland, Austria and, soon, France, that the fever has broken, is that the causes of the discontent that spawned these parties are growing stronger.
What are those causes?
A growing desire by peoples everywhere to reclaim their national sovereignty and identity, and remain who they are. And the threats to ethnic and national identity are not receding, but growing.
The tide of refugees from the Middle East and Africa has not abated. Weekly, we read of hundreds drowning in sunken boats that tried to reach Europe. Thousands make it. But the assimilation of Third World peoples in Europe is not proceeding. It seems to have halted.
Second-generation Muslims who have lived all their lives in Europe are turning up among the suicide bombers and terrorists.
Fifteen years ago, al-Qaida seemed confined to Afghanistan. Now it is all over the Middle East, as is ISIS, and calls for Islamists in Europe to murder Europeans inundate social media.
As the numbers of native-born Europeans begin to fall, with their anemic fertility rates, will the aging Europeans become more magnanimous toward destitute newcomers who do not speak the national language or assimilate into the national culture, but consume its benefits?
If a referendum were held across Europe today, asking whether the mass migrations from the former colonies of Africa and the Middle East have on balance made Europe a happier and better place to live in in recent decades, what would that secret ballot reveal?
Like both legislative statutes and regulations promulgated by government agencies, executive orders are subject to judicial review and may be overturned if the orders lack support by statute or the Constitution. Major policy initiatives require approval by the legislative branch, but executive orders have significant influence over the internal affairs of government, deciding how and to what degree legislation will be enforced, dealing with emergencies, waging wars, and in general fine-tuning policy choices in the implementation of broad statutes.
Basis in the United States Constitution
The United States Constitution does have a provision that explicitly permits the use of executive orders. The term executive power in Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 of the Constitution is not entirely clear. The term is mentioned as direction to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and is part of Article II, Section 3, Clause 5. The consequence of failing to comply possibly being removal from office.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that all executive orders from the President of the United States must be supported by the Constitution, whether from a clause granting specific power, or by Congress delegating such to the executive branch. Specifically, such orders must be rooted in Article II of the US Constitution or enacted by the congress in statutes. Attempts to block such orders have been successful at times when such orders exceeded the authority of the president or could be better handled through legislation.
Presidential directives are considered a form of executive order issued by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of a major agency or department found within the executive branch of government.Some types of Presidential directives are the following:
With the exception of William Henry Harrison, all presidents beginning with George Washington in 1789 have issued orders that in general terms can be described as executive orders. Initially they took no set form. Consequently, such orders varied as to form and substance.
The first executive order was issued by George Washington on June 8, 1789, addressed to the heads of the federal departments, instructing them “to impress me with a full, precise, and distinct general idea of the affairs of the United States” in their fields.
The most famous executive order was by President Abraham Lincoln when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Political scientist Brian R. Dirck states:
The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order, itself a rather unusual thing in those days. Executive orders are simply presidential directives issued to agents of the executive department by its boss.
Until the early 1900s, executive orders went mostly unannounced and undocumented, seen only by the agencies to which they were directed. This changed when the Department of State instituted a numbering scheme in 1907, starting retroactively with United States Executive Order 1 issued on October 20, 1862, by President Abraham Lincoln. The documents that later came to be known as “executive orders” apparently gained their name from this order issued by Lincoln, which was captioned “Executive Order Establishing a Provisional Court in Louisiana”. This court functioned during the military occupation of Louisiana during the American Civil War, and Lincoln also used Executive Order 1 to appoint Charles A. Peabody as judge, and to designate the salaries of the court’s officers.
President Truman’s Executive Order 10340 in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 US 579 (1952) placed all steel mills in the country under federal control. This was found invalid because it attempted to make law, rather than clarify or act to further a law put forth by the Congress or the Constitution. Presidents since this decision have generally been careful to cite which specific laws they are acting under when issuing new executive orders. Likewise, when presidents believe their authority for issuing an executive order stems from within the powers outlined in the Constitution, the order will simply proclaim “under the authority vested in me by the Constitution” instead.
Wars have been fought upon executive order, including the 1999 Kosovo War during Bill Clinton‘s second term in office. However, all such wars have had authorizing resolutions from Congress. The extent to which the president may exercise military power independently of Congress and the scope of the War Powers Resolution remain unresolved constitutional issues, although all presidents since its passage have complied with the terms of the resolution while maintaining that they are not constitutionally required to do so.
President Truman issued 907 executive orders, with 1,081 orders by Theodore Roosevelt, 1,203 orders by Calvin Coolidge, and 1,803 orders by Woodrow Wilson. Franklin D. Roosevelt has the distinction of making a record 3,522 executive orders.
Prior to 1932, uncontested executive orders had determined such issues as national mourning on the death of a president, and the lowering of flags to half-staff. President Franklin Roosevelt issued the first of his 3,522 executive orders on March 6, 1933, declaring a bank holiday, forbidding banks to release gold coin or bullion. Executive Order 6102 forbade the hoarding of gold coin, bullion and gold certificates. A further executive order required all newly mined domestic gold be delivered to the Treasury.
Executive orders are assigned numbers and published in the federal register, similar to laws passed by Congress, and typically direct members of the executive branch to follow a new policy or directive. Trump has issued 24 orders.
Presidential memoranda do not have to be published or numbered (though they can be), and usually delegate tasks that Congress has already assigned the president to members of the executive branch. Trump has issued 22 memoranda.
Finally, while some proclamations — like President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation — have carried enormous weight, most are ceremonial observances of federal holidays or awareness months. Trump has issued 20 proclamations.
Scholars have typically used the number of executive orders per term to measure how much presidents have exercised their power. George Washington only signed eight his entire time in office, according to the American Presidency Project, while FDR penned over 3,700.
In his two terms, President Barack Obama issued 277 executive orders, a total number on par with his modern predecessors, but the lowest per year average in 120 years. Trump, so far, has signed 24 executive orders in 89 days.
Here’s a quick guide to the executive actions Trump has made so far, what they do, and how Americans have reacted to them:
Executive Order, April 18: ‘Buy American, Hire American’
President Donald Trump speaks at Snap-On Tools in Kenosha, Wisconsin on April 18, 2017.Associated Press/Kiichiro Sato
Presidential proclamation, April 14: National Park Week
White House press secretary Sean Spicer gave Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke the first quarter check of Trump’s salary to the National Park Service as Tyrone Brandyburg, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Superindendant, looked on during the daily press briefing at the White House on April 3, 2017.Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Trump designated April 15-23, 2017 as National Park Week, during which all 417 sites (59 official “parks”) across the country are free to enter, a move many past presidents have made as well.
Presidential memorandum, April 12: Delegating terrorist report request
FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 10, 2017, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian Intelligence Activities.AP Photo/Cliff Owen
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act directs the president to review “known instances since 2011 in which a person has traveled or attempted to travel to a conflict zone in Iraq or Syria from the United States to join or provide material support or resources to a terrorist organization,” and submit a report to Congress.
Trump delegated this responsibility to FBI Director James Comey.
Presidential memorandum, April 11: Signing letter on including Montenegro in NATO
Montenegro’s PM Djukanovic attends a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.Thomson Reuters
At the end of March, the US Senate voted to include Montenegro’s in NATO, 97 to 2. While Trump called the alliance “obsolete” as recently as January, he said he no longer feels that way, and didn’t veto the small southern European country’s inclusion.
Presidential memorandum, April 8: Notifying Congress of the US Syria strike
In this image from video provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP
“I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive,” Trump said in the memo. “I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution.”
In the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress called on the president to outline his principles for reforming the draft. So in his order, Trump told Congress that the US military should recruit a diverse pool of citizens, and offer them training opportunities that will benefit the armed forces as well as their future employment, in order to “prepare to mitigate an unpredictable global security and national emergency environment.”
2 Executive Orders, March 31: Lowering the trade deficit and collecting import duties
Vice President Mike Pence tries to stop President Donald Trump as he leaves before signing executive orders regarding trade in the Oval Office on March 31, 2017.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Ahead of Trump’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he signed two orders focused on an issue he decried during the campaign: the US trade deficit.
The first order directs the executive branch to produce a country-by-country, product-by-product report on trade deficits in 90 days, in order to figure out how to reduce the $500 billion trade deficit the US had in 2016.
Business Insider’s Pedro Nicolaci da Costa wrote that the order’s plan for a “90-day ‘investigation’ into why the US had trade deficits with specific countries, [was] a quixotic exercise most economists say shows a deep lack of understanding of the workings of international trade.”
The second order seeks to strengthen the US response to its trade laws preventing counterfeit or illegal imports, citing “$2.3 billion in antidumping and countervailing duties” that the government hasn’t collected.
“On a typical day, CBP screens more than 74,000 truck, rail, and sea cargo containers at 328 U.S. ports of entry — with imported goods worth approximately $6.3 billion,” a Department of Homeland Security press release on the order wrote. “In Fiscal Year 2016, CBP seized more than 31,500 of counterfeit shipments and collected more $40 billion in duties, taxes, and fees, making CBP the U.S. government’s second largest source of revenue.”
Executive Orders, March 31 and February 9: Changing the DOJ order of succession
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks after being sworn-in in the Oval Office of the White House on February 9, 2017.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
On February 9, Trump signed an order establishing a line of succession to lead the US Department of Justice if the attorney general, deputy attorney general, or associate attorney general die, resign, or are otherwise unable to carry on their duties. In order, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and then the US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri will be next in line.
The action reverses an order Obama signed days before leaving office. After Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce his first travel ban, he appointed Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general in her place. This order elevates his position in the order of succession.
On March 31, Trump signed another order reversing this order. The new order of succession after the AG, deputy AG, and associate AG are as follows: US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, and then the US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the DOJ probe into Trump’s associates contacts with Russian operatives, the order of succession will determine who will oversee that investigation. Trump will have to fill the North Carolina post soon, the Palmer Report points out, possibly allowing the president to influence who leads the Russia investigation.
Read the full text of each proclamation in the links above.
Executive Order, March 29: Combating the opioid crisis
President Donald Trump shakes hands with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a panel discussion on an opioid and drug abuse in the Roosevelt Room of the White House March 29, 2017 in Washington, DC.Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images
This order established the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is supposed to report to the president strategies to address the epidemic, which is now killing 30,000 Americans a year.
“These people don’t need another damn commission,” an anonymous former Obama administration official who worked on the issue told Politico. “We know what we need to do. … It’s not rocket science.” Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin outlined some strategies that scientists think will work.
Executive Order, March 28: Dismantling Obama’s climate change protections
President Donald Trump, accompanied by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, third from left, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, signs an Energy Independence Executive Order, Tuesday, March 28, 2017, at EPA headquarters in Washington with coal and oil executives.AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to bring back coal mining jobs and dismantle Obama’s environmental policy, declaring climate change a “hoax.” While coal jobs are unlikely to come back in droves, this executive order makes good on the second promise, directing federal agencies to rescind any existing regulations that “unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources.”
Executive Order, March 27: Revoking Obama’s fair pay and safe workplaces orders
President Barack Obama meets with then-President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on November 10, 2016.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
In 2014, Obama signed an executive order requiring federal government contracts over $500,000 had to go to companies that hadn’t violated labor laws. He signed two more orders making minor clarifications to that original order later that year and in 2016.
Trump’s new order revoking those three orders, and directed federal agencies to review any procedural changes they made because of the orders. When companies bid for federal contracts, they’ll no longer have to disclose if they’ve violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker
Protection Act, or the National Labor Relations Act.
Business titans Gary Cohn (National Economic Council director), Dina Powell (senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives and deputy national security adviser), Chris Liddell (assistant to the president for strategic initiatives), and Reed Cordish (assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives) will also be on the team.
2 presidential memoranda, March 23: Declaring an emergency in South Sudan
The same day he signed these memoranda, Trump honked the horn of an 18-wheeler truck while meeting with truckers and CEOs on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, March 23, 2017.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Trump signed two memoranda declaring a national emergency in South Sudan, and notifying Congress that he did so, extending the emergency Obama declared in 2014. One million people there are on the brink of dying from a lack of food.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has said that the president’s proposed budget would “spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home” and “absolutely” cut programs like those that would aid those starving in South Sudan.
Presidential memorandum, March 20: Delegating to Tillerson
President Donald Trump smiles at Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after he was sworn in in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.Associated Perss/Carolyn Kaster
Trump delegated presidential powers in the National Defense Authorization Act to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The law doles out funding “for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths.”
Presidential proclamation, March 17: National Poison Prevention Week
President Donald Trump departs the White House with his grandchildren Arabella and Joseph on March 3, 2017.Win McNamee/Getty Images
Trump proclaimed March 19 through March 25, 2017 National Poison Prevention Week in order to encourage Americans to safeguard their homes and protect children from ingesting common household items that may poison them.
With the written aim of improving the efficiency of the federal government, Trump signed an order to shake up the executive branch, and “eliminate or reorganize unnecessary or redundant federal agencies” identified in a 180-day review.
It directs Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to review agency head’s proposed plans to reorganize or shrink their departments, and submit a plan to Trump by September 2017 outlining how to streamline the government.
Historians expressed skepticism that Trump would be able to effectively shrink the government, since many past presidents have tried and failed to do so. Critics argued that Trump could use the order to dismantle federal agencies that he or his Cabinet members don’t like.
Presidential proclamation, March 6: National Consumer Protection Week
March 5 through March 11, 2017 was National Consumer Protection Week, Trump proclaimed, which “reminds us of the importance of empowering consumers by helping them to more capably identify and report cyber scams, monitor their online privacy and security, and make well-informed decisions.”
President Donald Trump signs a new temporary travel ban in the Oval Office on March 6, 2017.Sean Spicer/Twitter
Trump’s second go at his controversial travel order bans people from Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Libya from entering the US for 90 days, and bars all refugees from coming into the country for 120 days, starting March 16.
Existing visa holders will not be subjected to the ban, and religious minorities will no longer get preferential treatment — two details critics took particular issue with in the first ban. The new order removed Iraq from the list of countries, and changed excluding just Syrian refugees to preventing all refugees from entering the US.
Democrats denounced the new order, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying the “watered-down ban is still a ban,” and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez saying “Trump’s obsession with religious discrimination is disgusting, un-American, and outright dangerous.”
UPDATE 3/15: US District Judge Derrick Watson put an emergency halt on the revised travelban the day before it would have taken effect, after several states and refugee groups sued in court. Trump vowed to appeal the decision and take the order all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Presidential Memorandum, March 6: Guidance for agencies to implement the new travel ban
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly make statements on Trump’s new travel ban on March 6, 2017.AP Photo/Susan Walsh
This memo instructs the State Department, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security how to implement Trump’s new travel ban.
It directs the three department heads to enhance the vetting of visa applicants and other immigrants trying to enter the US as they see fit, to release how many visa applicants there were by country, and to submit a report in 180 days detailing the long-term costs of the United States Refugee Admissions Program.
Executive Order, February 28: Promoting Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, takes a photo of leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Trump in the Oval Office.Getty Images
This order established the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which will aim to increase private funding of these schools, encourage more students to attend them, and identify ways the executive branch can help these institutions succeed.
Students at some HBCU protested the meeting their leaders attended to witness Trump signing the order, expressing their disapproval of the president in general, and questioning whether the action was “truly a seat at the table” or merely “a photo op.”
Executive Order, February 28: Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ rule
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt holds up an EPA cap during his first address to the agency.AP Photo/Susan Walsh
The order directed federal agencies to revise the Clean Water Rule, a major regulation Obama issued in 2015 to clarify what areas are federally protected under the Clean Water Act.
Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called the rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen,” in 2015, and led a multi-state lawsuit against it while he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.
David J. Cooper, an ecologist at Colorado State University, cautioned that repealing the rule wouldn’t settle the confusion about what the federal government can protect under the Clean Water Act, or where.
Executive Order, February 24: Enforcing regulatory reform
President Donald Trump meets with union leaders at the White House.Getty Images
This order creates Regulator Reform Officers within each federal agency who will comb through existing regulations and recommend which ones the administration should repeal. It directs the officers to focus on eliminating regulations that prevent job creation, are outdated, unnecessary, or cost too much.
The act doubles down on Trump’s plan to cut government regulations he says are hampering businesses, but opponents insist are necessary to protect people and the environment. Leaders of 137 nonprofit groups sent a letter to the White House on February 28 telling the president that “Americans did not vote to be exposed to more health, safety, environmental and financial dangers.”
Executive Order, February 9: Combating criminal organizations
Recaptured drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico on January 8, 2016.Reuters/Amanda Macias/Business Insider
The order is intended to “thwart” criminal organizations, including “criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities.”
The action directs law enforcement to apprehend and prosecute citizens, and deport non-citizens involved in criminal activities including “the illegal smuggling and trafficking of humans, drugs or other substances, wildlife, and weapons,” “corruption, cybercrime, fraud, financial crimes, and intellectual-property theft,” and money laundering
The Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence will co-chair a Threat Mitigation Working Group that will identify ways that local, state, federal, and international law enforcement can work together in order to eradicate organized crime.
It also instructs the co-chairs to present the president with a report within 120 days outlining the penetration of criminal organizations into the United States, and recommendations for how to eradicate them.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with county sheriffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Following up on his promise to restore “law and order” in America, Trump signed an executive order intended to reduce violent crime in the US, and “comprehensively address illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime.”
The action directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to assemble a task force in order to identify new strategies and laws to reduce crime, and to evaluate how well crime data is being collected and leveraged across the country.
Executive Order, February 9: Protecting law enforcement
Police break up skirmishes between demonstrators and supporters of then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that broke out after it was announced the rally on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois would be postponed.Scott Olson/Getty Images
The order seeks to create new laws that will protect law enforcement, and increase the penalties for crimes committed against them.
It also directs the attorney general to review existing federal grant funding programs to law enforcement agencies, and recommend changes to the programs if they don’t adequately protect law enforcement.
Executive Order, February 3: Reviewing Wall Street regulations
President Donald Trump signs an executive order rolling back regulations from the 2010 Dodd-Frank law on Wall Street reform on Feb. 3, 2017 in the Oval Office.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Trump signed two actions on Friday that could end up rewriting regulations in the financial industry that Obama and Congress put in place after the 2008 financial crisis.
The executive order sets “Core Principles” of financial regulation declaring that Trump’s administration seeks to empower Americans to make their own financial decisions, prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts, and reduce regulations on Wall Street so US companies can compete globally.
It also directs the Secretary of Treasury to review existing regulations on the financial system, determine whether the Core Principles are being met, and report back to the President in 120 days.
Experts worry that loosening regulations could roll back the Obama administration’s landmark consumer protection reform bill, Dodd-Frank, aimed at reducing risk in the financial system. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive darling from Massachusetts, led the charge decrying the actions.
Presidential Memorandum, February 3: Reviewing the fiduciary duty rule
President Donald Trump signs an executive action in the White House.AP
The memorandum directs the Labor Secretary to review the “fiduciary rule,” another Obama-era law intended to protect Americans’ retirement money from conflicted advice from financial advisers that has long drawn rebuke from Wall Streeters and was scheduled to go into effect in April.
If the secretary finds the rule conflicts with the administration’s Core Principles, adversely affects the retirement industry, or causes increased litigation, then he should recommend revising or repealing the rule.
Presidential proclamation, February 2: American Heart Month
President Donald Trump and his wife Melania stand for the singing of the National Anthem during his inauguration ceremony at the Capitol on January 20, 2017.REUTERS/Carlos Barria
This ceremonial proclamation invited Americans to wear red on Friday, February 3, 2017 for National Wear Red Day, and followed Congress’ request in 1963 for presidents to annually declare February American Heart Month. The goal is to remember those who have died from heart disease and to improve its prevention, detection, and treatment.
The order requires appointees to every executive agency to sign an ethics pledge saying they will never lobby a foreign government and that they won’t do any other lobbying for five years after they leave government.
Presidential Memorandum, January 28: Reorganizing the National and Homeland Security Councils
Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Trump removed the nation’s top military and intelligence advisers as regular attendees of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, the interagency forum that deals with policy issues affecting national security.
The executive measure established Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as a regular attendee, and disinvited the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence to attend only when necessary.
Top Republican lawmakers and national security experts roundly criticized the move, expressing their skepticism that Bannon should be present and alarm that the Joint Chiefs of Staff sometimes wouldn’t be.
Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 after earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country.Associated Press/Craig Ruttle
In Trump’s most controversial executive action yet, he temporarily barred people from majority-Muslim Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days, and Syrians from entering until he decides otherwise.
Federal judges in several states declared the order unconstitutional, releasing hundreds of people who were stuck at US airports in limbo. The White House continues to defend the action, insisting it was “not about religion” but about “protecting our own citizens and border.”
Presidential Memorandum, January 27: ‘Rebuilding’ the military
Marine General James Mattis.US Marine Corps
This action directed Secretary of Defense James Mattis to conduct a readiness review of the US military and Ballistic Missile Defense System, and submit his recommendations to “rebuild” the armed forces.
Presidential proclamation, January 26: National School Choice Week
Thousands rally in support of charter schools outside the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.AP Images
Trump proclaimed January 22 through January 28, 2017 as National School Choice Week.
The ceremonial move aimed to encourage people to demand school-voucher programs and charter schools, of which Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos is a vocal supporter. Meanwhile, opponents argue that the programs weaken public schools and fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense.
Supporters of then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump chant, “Build that wall,” before a town hall meeting in Rothschild, Wis. on April 2, 2016.Associated Press/Charles Rex Arbogast
Trump outlined his intentions to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, one of his main campaign promises.
The order also directs the immediate detainment and deportation of illegal immigrants, and requires state and federal agencies tally up how much foreign aid they are sending to Mexico within 30 days, and tells the US Customs and Border Protection to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents.
While Trump has claimed Mexico will pay for the wall, his administration has since softened this pledge, indicating US taxpayers may have to foot the bill, at least at first.
Executive Order, January 25: Cutting funding for sanctuary cities
Lordes Reboyoso, right, yells at a rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.Associated Press/Jeff Chiu
Trump called “sanctuary cities” to comply with federal immigration law or have their federal funding pulled.
The order has prompted a mixture of resistance and support from local lawmakers and police departments in the sanctuary cities, which typically refuse to honor federal requests to detain people on suspicion of violating immigration law even if they were arrested on unrelated charges. The city of San Francisco is already suing Trump, claiming the order is unconstitutional.
The first two direct agencies to immediately review and approve construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the third requires all pipeline materials be built in the US.
While pipeline proponents argue that they transport oil and gas more safely than trains or trucks can, environmentalists say pipelines threaten the contamination of drinking water.
Presidential Memorandum, January 23: Reinstating the ‘Mexico City policy’
Hundreds of thousands of protesters march down Pennsylvania avenue during the Women’s March on Washington January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC to protest newly inaugurated President Donald Trump.Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Image
The move reinstated a global gag rule that bans American non-governmental organizations working abroad from discussing abortion.
Democratic and Republican presidents have taken turns reinstating it and getting rid of it since Ronald Reagan created the gag order in 1984. The rule, while widely expected, dismayed women’s rights and reproductive health advocates, but encouraged antiabortion activists.
UPDATE 4/12: The hiring freeze is lifted, but budget director Mick Mulvaney says many jobs will stay unfilled because the Trump administration wants to reduce the federal workforce. The AP reported that the federal government added 2,000 workers in February and January, despite the freeze.
Presidential Memorandum, January 23: Out of the TPP
This action signaled Trump’s intent to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that would lower tariffs for 12 countries around the Pacific Rim, including Japan and Mexico but excluding China.
Results were mixed. Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was “glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone,” while Republican Sen. John McCain said withdrawing was a “serious mistake.”
Executive Order, January 20: Declaring Trump’s intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act
Then President-elect Donald Trump meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin on Capitol Hill November 10, 2016.Reuters
One of Trump’s top campaign promises was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
His first official act in office was declaring his intention to do so. Congressional Republicans have been working to do just that since their term started January 3, though there was dissent among Republicans over whether or not to complete the repeal process before a replacement plan is finalized and strident Democratic resistance to any repeal of the ACA.
UPDATE 3/28: House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill to repeal and replace the ACA, officially called the American Health Care Act, on March 24 after Republicans didn’t have enough votes to pass it. But some members of the GOP are still working on a way to dismantle Obamacare.
Presidential Memorandum, January 20: Reince’s regulatory freeze
President-elect Donald Trump and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on election night.Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus signed this action, directing agency heads not to send new regulations to the Office of the Federal Register until the administration has leaders in place to approve them.
Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel signed a similar memorandum when he took office in 2009, but as Bloomberg notes, Priebus changed the language from a suggestion to a directive.
The action is partly carried out to make sure the new administration wants to implement any pending regulations the old one was considering. Environmentalists worried if this could mean Trump is about to undo many of Obama’s energy regulations.
Russia ‘moves troops, helicopters and armoured vehicles’ to its border with North Korea
‘New weapons’ displayed during military parade in North Korea to celebrate Kim Il SungA symphony orchestra played as one of Kim’s missiles hurtled into the US and revealed a smouldering Stars and Stripes flag.
Military figures watched on gleefully as uniformed troops from the Korean State Merited Chorus belted out a series of tuneless numbers.
And in a verse unlikely to make its way onto Broadway any time soon, one warbled: “Our proud Hwasong rocket blasts off” and “it flies as quickly as a flash of lightning to challenge imperialism”.
Others played trumpets as the 90s-style film saw a ballistic missile roar into America.
Accompanying it are the words: “If US imperialists move an inch toward us, we will immediately hit them with nukes.”
The bizarre video was played at the 105th birthday celebration of Kim’s late grandfather Kim Il-Sung at the weekend.
His regime had earlier that day put on a huge military procession to show off the country’s ballistic missile arsenal.
North Korea propaganda video shows US aircraft carrier being blown up
Story 2: Obama’s Iran Nuclear Agreement Legacy Heading Towards The Wastebasket? No. Certification Granted and Sanctions Suspended — All Talk–No Action — Bad Appeasement Deal Stands — Videos —
The Iran Nuclear Deal
How the Iran nuclear deal works, explained in 3 minutes
Iran and the Bomb
Published on May 12, 2014
Many countries have nuclear weapons, and many more want them. Only one, though, has its neighbors and the world terrified. That country is Iran. Why is everyone so concerned? Because the Islamic theocracy has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel, sponsors global terrorism, and would leverage the deterrence effect of a nuclear weapon to advance their anti-Western and anti-American interests. Bret Stephens, foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal explains the one thing you really need to know in order to understand why we can’t let Iran get the bomb–they may actually use it.
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The Iran Nuclear Deal Explained
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By GARDINER HARRIS APRIL 19, 2017
President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. During the 2016 campaign, he denounced the nuclear agreement with Iran as “the worst deal ever.”CreditAl Drago/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson described a landmark Iran nuclear deal as a failure on Wednesday, only hours after the State Department said Tehran was complying with its terms. But the top United States diplomat stopped short of threatening to jettison the 2015 agreement that was brokered by world powers, or saying whether the Trump administration would punish Iran with new sanctions.
The whiplash left Republicans on Capitol Hill, who had universally excoriated the agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program and voted against its implementation, uncertain of how to respond. Its architects, however, said they were cautiously optimistic that the deal would stay in place.
The nuclear deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” Mr. Tillerson said. “It only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state.”
He said that Iran continued to threaten the United States and the rest of the world, and he announced that the Trump administration was reviewing ways to counter challenges posed by Tehran.
It was an attempt to clarify a State Department certification, issued shortly before a midnight deadline on Tuesday, that said Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement that also eased crippling international sanctions against the Islamic republic’s economy. During the 2016 campaign, President Trump denounced the agreement as “the worst deal ever,” and Vice President Pence promised to rip it up.
In a hastily called news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, Mr. Tillerson likened Iran to North Korea, whose nuclear weaponry and burgeoning missile technology is what the administration now believes is the gravest risk to world peace and security. Mr. Pence visited Seoul, South Korea, this week to declare that the United States was united with its allies to stem North Korea’s threat.
The Iran deal “represents the same failed approach to the past that brought us to the current imminent threat that we face from North Korea,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters. “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear: Iran’s provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world.”
Once the National Security Council completes a review of the nuclear deal, Mr. Tillerson said, “we will meet the challenges Iran poses with clarity and conviction.”
Hours earlier, late on Tuesday night, Mr. Tillerson sent a terse letter to Speaker Paul D. Ryan pledging to evaluate whether earlier suspension of sanctions against Iran, as required under the terms of the nuclear agreement, “is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
A man of few words, Mr. Tillerson has sometimes found that his cryptic remarks create more confusion than clarity among allies, friends and even adversaries. Earlier on Wednesday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, offered little additional information about the Iran certification. He refused to say whether the Trump administration would add the Iran deal to a series of other stunning foreign policy reversals it has made by deciding to retain it instead of ripping it up or renegotiating the agreement as promised.
“I think part of the review, the interagency process, is to determine where Iran is in compliance with the deal and to make recommendations to the president on the path forward,” Mr. Spicer said.
The enigmatic remarks left top Republicans on Capitol Hill nonplused. Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who led congressional opposition to the Iran deal, said in a statement that the administration’s “certification is shaky, and it doesn’t mean that the intentions behind Iran’s nuclear program are benign.”
Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Trump administration appeared to be preparing a tougher line against Iran.
“Secretary Tillerson made clear that regardless of Iran’s technical compliance with the nuclear deal, the administration is under no illusion about the continued threat from Tehran and is prepared to work closely with Congress to push back,” Mr. Corker said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tuesday’s certification extends sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for continued constraints on its nuclear program. American sanctions, as approved by Congress, were suspended instead of revoked; they can be reimposed with the stroke of a presidential pen.
The Trump administration has given itself 90 days to complete its review, but it will need to make a series of decisions in coming weeks about whether to continue its support of the deal, which was also brokered with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. Those governments, along with representatives of the United States and Iran, will meet next week in Vienna to review the pact’s progress.
Mr. Trump faces a mid-May deadline, as imposed by Congress, to decide whether to continue the suspension of sanctions.
Backing away from the agreement would spur enormous consternation across Europe and in Moscow.
In their first congratulatory phone calls to Mr. Trump after his electoral victory, both President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany emphasized the need to keep the Iran deal in place. And after her first meeting with Mr. Tillerson in February, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign minister, said the Trump administration pledged “to stick to the full strict implementation of the agreement in all its parts.”
Analysts and former government officials said it was unlikely the Trump administration would renounce the Iran agreement.
“I’m glad this deal has held up to this point, and I hope it continues to hold up,” said Wendy Sherman, a former under secretary of state who was deeply involved in negotiating terms of the deal during the Obama administration.
Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was involved in Iran policy under President Barack Obama, said it was “pretty much a foregone conclusion” that Mr. Trump would keep the nuclear agreement in place.
Still, the administration has sought since its first days in office to ratchet up pressure on Iran. In January, before he resigned, Michael T. Flynn, then the national security adviser, walked into the White House briefing room and declared that the administration was “officially putting Iran on notice” after it launched a ballistic missile.
The Trump administration has returned the United States to closer ties with its traditional Arab friends in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Part of those ties means supporting those nations, which are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, in their intense rivalry with Iran, a Shiite power.
By contrast, by the end of his second term, Mr. Obama had begun to view those sectarian tensions with a jaundiced eye, believing the United States should not intervene in a millennium-old religious struggle.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Tillerson attended a United States-Saudi Arabia chief executive summit meeting where he declared that he was “pleased to be here today to reaffirm the very strong partnership that exists between the United States and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a group that sought to defeat the Iran deal, said the administration may still walk away from the agreement or renegotiate it. He contended that the administration “should not be bound by arms control agreements that are deeply flawed.”
And even Ms. Sherman shied away from predicting it will remain in place. “I’m taking this one day at a time,” she said.
Formal negotiations toward the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program began with the adoption of the Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries in November 2013. For the next twenty months, Iran and the P5+1 countries engaged in negotiations, and in April 2015 agreed on an Iran nuclear deal framework for the final agreement and in July 2015, Iran and the P5+1 agreed on the plan.
Under the agreement, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years. For the next 15 years, Iran will only enrich uranium up to 3.67%. Iran also agreed not to build any new heavy-water facilities for the same period of time. Uranium-enrichment activities will be limited to a single facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years. Other facilities will be converted to avoid proliferation risks. To monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities. The agreement provides that in return for verifiably abiding by its commitments, Iran will receive relief from U.S., European Union, and United Nations Security Council nuclear-related economic sanctions.
In 1979, the Iranian Revolution took place, and Iran’s nuclear program, which had developed some baseline capacity, fell to disarray as “much of Iran’s nuclear talent fled the country in the wake of the Revolution.” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was initially opposed to nuclear technology; and Iran engaged in a costly war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988.
Starting in the later 1980s, Iran restarted its nuclear program, with assistance from Pakistan (which entered into a bilateral agreement with Iran in 1992), China (which did the same in 1990), and Russia (which did the same in 1992 and 1995), and from the A.Q. Khan network. Iran “began pursuing an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capability by developing a uranium mining infrastructure and experimenting with uranium conversion and enrichment.” According to the nonpartisan Nuclear Threat Initiative, “U.S. intelligence agencies have long suspected Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for clandestine weapons development.” Iran, in contrast, “has always insisted that its nuclear work is peaceful”.
In August 2002, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, an Iranian dissident group, publicly revealed the existence of two undeclared nuclear facilities, the Arak heavy-water production facility and the Natanz enrichment facility. In February 2003, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami acknowledged the existence of the facilities and asserted that Iran had undertaken “small-scale enrichment experiments” to produce low-enriched uranium for nuclear power plants. In late February, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors visited Natanz. In May 2003, Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the Kalaye Electric Company, but refused to allow them to take samples, and an IAEA report the following month concluded that Iran had failed to meet its obligations under the previous agreement.
In June 2003, Iran—faced with the prospect of being referred to the UN Security Council—entered into diplomatic negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the EU 3). The United States refused to be involved in these negotiations. In October 2003, the Tehran Declaration was reached between Iran and the EU 3; under this declaration Iran agreed to cooperate fully with the IAEA, sign the Additional Protocol, and temporarily suspend all uranium enrichment. In September and October 2003, the IAEA conducted several facility inspections. This was followed by the Paris Agreement in November 2004, in which Iran agreed to temporarily suspend enrichment and conversion activities, “including the manufacture, installation, testing, and operation of centrifuges, and committed to working with the EU-3 to find a mutually beneficial long-term diplomatic solution”.
In August 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-liner, was elected president of Iran. He accused Iranian negotiators who had negotiated the Paris Accords of treason. Over the next two months, the EU 3 agreement fell apart as talks over the EU 3’s proposed Long Term Agreement broke down; the Iranian government “felt that the proposal was heavy on demands, light on incentives, did not incorporate Iran’s proposals, and violated the Paris Agreement”. Iran notified the IAEA that it would resume uranium conversion at Esfahan.
In February 2006, Iran ended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol and resumed enrichment at Natanz, prompting the IAEA Board of Governors to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. After the vote, Iran announced it would resume enrichment of uranium. In April 2006, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had nuclear technology, but stated that it was purely for power generation and not for producing weapons. In June 2006, the EU 3 joined China, Russia, and the United States, to form the P5+1. The following month, July 2006, the UN Security Council passed its first resolution demanding Iran stop uranium enrichment and processing.Altogether, from 2006 to 2010, the UN Security Council subsequently adopted six resolutions concerning Iran’s nuclear program: 1696 (July 2006), 1737 (December 2006), 1747 (March 2007), 1803 (March 2008), 1835 (September 2008), and 1929 (June 2010). The legal authority for the IAEA Board of Governors referral and the Security Council resolutions was derived from the IAEA Statute and the United Nations Charter. The resolutions demanded that Iran cease enrichment activities and imposed sanctions on Iran, including bans on the transfer of nuclear and missile technology to the country and freezes on the assets of certain Iranian individuals and entities, in order to pressure the country. However, in Resolution 1803 and elsewhere the Security Council also acknowledged Iran’s rights under Article IV of the NPT, which provides for “the inalienable right … to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes”.[b]
In July 2006, Iran opened the Arak heavy water production plant, which led to one of the Security Council resolutions. In September 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama, revealed the existence of an underground enrichment facility in Fordow, near Qom saying, “Iran’s decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the non-proliferation regime.” Israel threatened to take military action against Iran.
In a February 2007 interview with the Financial Times, IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said that military action against Iran “would be catastrophic, counterproductive” and called for negotiations between the international community and Iran over the Iranian nuclear program. ElBaradei specifically proposed a “double, simultaneous suspension, a time out” as “a confidence-building measure”, under which the international sanctions would be suspended and Iran would suspend enrichment. ElBaradei also said, “if I look at it from a weapons perspective there are much more important issues to me than the suspension of [enrichment],” naming his top priorities as preventing Iran from “go[ing] to industrial capacity until the issues are settled”; building confidence, with “full inspection” involving Iranian adoption of the Additional Protocol; and “at all costs” preventing Iran from “moving out of the [treaty-based non-proliferation] system”.
A November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Iran “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003; that estimate and subsequent U.S. Intelligence Community statements also assessed that the Iranian government at the time had was “keeping open the ‘option’ to develop nuclear weapons” in the future. A July 2015 Congressional Research Service report said, “statements from the U.S. intelligence community indicate that Iran has the technological and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons at some point, but the U.S. government assesses that Tehran has not mastered all of the necessary technologies for building a nuclear weapon.”
In March 2013, the United States began a series of secret bilateral talks with Iranian officials in Oman, led by William Joseph Burns and Jake Sullivan on the American side and Ali Asghar Khaji on the Iranian side. In June 2013, Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran. Rouhani has been described as “more moderate, pragmatic and willing to negotiate than Ahmadinejad”. However, in a 2006 nuclear negotiation with European powers, Rouhani said that Iran had used the negotiations to dupe the Europeans, saying that during the negotiations, Iran managed to master the conversion of uranium yellowcake at Isfahan. The conversion of yellowcake is an important step in the nuclear fuel process. In August 2013, three days after his inauguration, Rouhani called for a resumption of serious negotiations with the P5+1 on the Iranian nuclear program. In September 2013, Obama and Rouhani had a telephone conversation, the first high-level contact between U.S. and Iranian leaders since 1979, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had a meeting with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, signaling that the two countries had an opening to cooperation.
After several rounds of negotiations, on 24 November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, was signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries in Geneva, Switzerland. It consisted of a short-term freeze of portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran, as the countries work towards a long-term agreement. The IAEA began “more intrusive and frequent inspections” under this interim agreement. The agreement was formally activated on 20 January 2014. On that day, the IAEA issued a report stating that Iran was adhering to the terms of the interim agreement, including stopping enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, beginning the dilution process (to reduce half of the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium to 3.5 percent), and halting work on the Arak heavy-water reactor.
The agreement between the P5+1+EU and Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the culmination of 20 months of “arduous” negotiations.
The agreement followed the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), an interim agreement between the P5+1 powers and Iran that was agreed to on 24 November 2013 at Geneva. The Geneva agreement was an interim deal, in which Iran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some sanctions. This went into effect on 20 January 2014. The parties agreed to extend their talks with a first extension deadline on 24 November 2014 and a second extension deadline set to 1 July 2015.
An Iran nuclear deal framework was reached on 2 April 2015. Under this framework Iran agreed tentatively to accept restrictions on its nuclear program, all of which would last for at least a decade and some longer, and to submit to an increased intensity of international inspections under a framework deal. These details were to be negotiated by the end of June 2015. The negotiations toward a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action were extended several times until the final agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was finally reached on 14 July 2015. The JCPOA is based on the framework agreement from three months earlier.
Subsequently the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 continued. In April 2014, a framework deal was reached at Lausanne. Intense marathon negotiations then continued, with the last session in Vienna at the Palais Coburg lasting for seventeen days. At several points, negotiations appeared to be at risk of breaking down, but negotiators managed to come to agreement. As the negotiators neared a deal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry directly asked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to confirm that he was “authorized to actually make a deal, not just by the [Iranian] president, but by the supreme leader?” Zarif gave assurances that he was.
Ultimately, on 14 July 2015, all parties agreed to a landmark comprehensive nuclear agreement. At the time of the announcement, shortly before 11:00 GMT, the agreement was released to the public.
The final agreement’s complexity shows the impact of a public letter written by a bipartisan group of 19 U.S. diplomats, experts, and others in June 2015, written when negotiations were still going on. That letter outlined concerns about the several provisions in the then-unfinished agreement and called for a number of improvements to strengthen the prospective agreement and win their support for it. After the final agreement was reached, one of the signatories, Robert J. Einhorn, a former U.S. Department of State official now at the Brookings Institution, said of the agreement: “Analysts will be pleasantly surprised. The more things are agreed to, the less opportunity there is for implementation difficulties later on.”
The final agreement is based upon (and buttresses) “the rules-based nonproliferation regime created by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and including especially the IAEA safeguards system.”
Souvenir signatures of lead negotiators on the cover page of the JCPOA document. The Persian handwriting on top left side is a homage by Javad Zarif to his counterparts’ efforts in the negotiations: “[I am] Sincere to Mr. Abbas [Araghchi] and Mr. Majid [Takht-Ravanchi].”
Iran’s current stockpile of low-enriched uranium will be reduced by 98 percent, from 10,000 kg to 300 kg. This reduction will be maintained for fifteen years. For the same fifteen-year period, Iran will be limited to enriching uranium to 3.67%, a percentage sufficient for civilian nuclear power and research, but not for building a nuclear weapon.However, the number of centrifuges is sufficient for a nuclear weapon, but not for nuclear power. This is a “major decline” in Iran’s previous nuclear activity; prior to watering down its stockpile pursuant to the Joint Plan of Action interim agreement, Iran had enriched uranium to near 20% (medium-enriched uranium). These enriched uranium in excess of 300 kg of up to 3.67% will be down blended to natural uranium level or be sold in return for natural uranium, and the uranium enriched to between 5% and 20% will be fabricated into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor or sold or diluted to an enrichment level of 3.67%. The implementation of the commercial contracts will be facilitated by P5+1. After fifteen years, all physical limits on enrichment will be removed, including limits on the type and number of centrifuges, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, and where Iran may have enrichment facilities. According to Belfer, at this point Iran could “expand its nuclear program to create more practical overt and covert nuclear weapons options”.
For ten years, Iran will place over two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage, from its current stockpile of 19,000 centrifuges (of which 10,000 were operational) to no more than 6,104 operational centrifuges, with only 5,060 allowed to enrich uranium, with the enrichment capacity being limited to the Natanz plant. The centrifuges there must be IR-1 centrifuges, the first-generation centrifuge type which is Iran’s oldest and least efficient; Iran will give up its advanced IR-2M centrifuges in this period. The non-operating centrifuges will be stored in Natanz and monitored by IAEA, but may be used to replace failed centrifuges. Iran will not build any new uranium-enrichment facilities for fifteen years.
Iran may continue research and development work on enrichment, but that work will take place only at the Natanz facility and include certain limitations for the first eight years. This is intended to keep the country to a breakout time of one year.
Iran, with cooperation from the “Working Group” (the P5+1 and possibly other countries), will modernise and rebuild the Arak heavy water research reactor based on an agreed design to support its peaceful nuclear research and production needs and purposes, but in such a way to minimise the production of plutonium and not to produce weapons-grade plutonium. The power of the redesigned reactor will not exceed 20 MWth. The P5+1 parties will support and facilitate the timely and safe construction of the Arak complex. All spent fuel will be sent out of the country. All excess heavy water which is beyond Iran’s needs for the redesigned reactor will be made available for export to the international market based on international prices. In exchange, Iran received 130 tons of uranium in 2015 and in late 2016 was approved to receive 130 tons in 2017. For 15 years, Iran will not engage in, or research on, spent fuel reprocessing. Iran will also not build any additional heavy-water reactors or accumulate heavy water for fifteen years.
Iran’s Fordow facility will stop enriching uranium and researching uranium enrichment for at least fifteen years; the facility will be converted into a nuclear physics and technology center. For 15 years, Fordow will maintain no more than 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges in six cascades in one wing of Fordow. “Two of those six cascades will spin without uranium and will be transitioned, including through appropriate infrastructure modification,” for stable radioisotope production for medical, agricultural, industrial, and scientific use. “The other four cascades with all associated infrastructure will remain idle.” Iran will not be permitted to have any fissile material in Fordow.
Iran will implement an Additional Protocol agreement which will continue in perpetuity for as long as Iran remains a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The signing of the Additional Protocol represents a continuation of the monitoring and verification provisions “long after the comprehensive agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is implemented”.
A comprehensive inspections regime will be implemented in order to monitor and confirm that Iran is complying with its obligations and is not diverting any fissile material.[c]
The IAEA will have multilayered oversight “over Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, from uranium mills to its procurement of nuclear-related technologies“. For declared nuclear sites such as Fordow and Natanz, the IAEA will have “round-the-clock access” to nuclear facilities and will be entitled to maintain continuous monitoring (including via surveillance equipment) at such sites. The agreement authorizes the IAEA to make use of sophisticated monitoring technology, such as fiber-optic seals on equipment that can electronically send information to the IAEA; infrared satellite imagery to detect covert sites, “environmental sensors that can detect minute signs of nuclear particles”; tamper-resistant, radiation-resistant cameras. Other tools include computerized accounting programs to gather information and detect anomalies, and big data sets on Iranian imports, to monitor dual-use items.
The number of IAEA inspectors assigned to Iran will triple, from 50 to 150 inspectors.
If IAEA inspectors have concerns that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities at any non-declared sites, they may request access “to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with” the agreement, informing Iran of the basis for their concerns. The inspectors would only come from countries with which Iran has diplomatic relations. Iran may admit the inspectors to such site or propose alternatives to inspection that might satisfy the IAEA’s concerns. If such an agreement cannot be reached, a process running to a maximum of 24 days is triggered. Under this process, Iran and the IAEA have 14 days to resolve disagreements among themselves. If they fail to, the Joint Commission (including all eight parties) would have one week in which to consider the intelligence which initiated the IAEA request. A majority of the Commission (at least five of the eight members) could then inform Iran of the action that it would be required to take within three more days. The majority rule provision “means the United States and its European allies—Britain, France, Germany and the EU—could insist on access or any other steps and that Iran, Russia or China could not veto them”. If Iran did not comply with the decision within three days, sanctions would be automatically reimposed under the snapback provision (see below).
As a result of the above, the “breakout time”—the time in which it would be possible for Iran to make enough material for a single nuclear weapon—will increase from two to three months to one year, according to U.S. officials and U.S. intelligence.[d] An August 2015 report published by a group of experts at Harvard University‘s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs concurs in these estimates, writing that under the JCPOA, “over the next decade would be extended to roughly a year, from the current estimated breakout time of 2 to 3 months”. The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation also accepts these estimates. By contrast, Alan J. Kuperman, coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, disputed the one-year assessment, arguing that under the agreement, Iran’s breakout time “would be only about three months, not much longer than it is today”.
The longer breakout time would be in place for at least ten years; after that point, the breakout time would gradually decrease. By the fifteenth year, U.S. officials state that the breakout time would return to the pre-JCPOA status quo of a few months. The Belfer Center report states: “Some contributors to this report believe that breakout time by year 15 could be comparable to what it is today—a few months—while others believe it could be reduced to a few weeks.”
Reuters reported that exemptions were granted to Iran prior to January 16, 2016. The reported purpose of the exemptions was so that sanctions relief and other benefits could start by that date, instead of Iran being in violation. The exemptions included: (a) Iran able to exceed the 300 Kg of 3.5% LEU limit in the agreement; (b) Iran able to exceed the zero Kg of 20% LEU limit in the agreement; (c) Iran to keep operating 19 “hot cells” that exceed the size limit in the agreement; (d) Iran to maintain control of 50 tonnes of heavy water that exceed the 130 tonne limit in the agreement by storing the excess at an Iran-controlled facility in Oman. In December 2016, the IAEA published decisions of the Joint Commission that spell out these clarifications of the JCPOA.
Eight years into the agreement, EU sanctions against a number of Iranian companies, individuals and institutions (such as the Revolutionary Guards) will be lifted.
The United States will “cease” application of its nuclear-related secondary sanctions by presidential action or executive waiver.Secondary sanctions are those that sanction other countries for doing business with Iran. Primary U.S. sanctions, which prohibit U.S. firms from conducting commercial transactions with few exceptions, are not altered by the JCPOA.
This step is not tied to any specific date, but is expected to occur “roughly in the first half of 2016”.
However, all U.S. sanctions against Iran related to alleged human rights abuses, missiles, and support for terrorism are not affected by the agreement and will remain in place. U.S. sanctions are viewed as more stringent, since many have extraterritorial effect (i.e., they apply worldwide). EU sanctions, by contrast, apply only in Europe.
No new UN or EU nuclear-related sanctions or restrictive measures will be imposed.
If Iran violates the agreement, any of the P5+1 can invoke a “snap back” provision, under which the sanctions “snap back” into place (i.e., are reimplemented).
Specifically, the JCPOA establishes the following dispute resolution process: if a party to the JCPOA has reason to believe that another party is not upholding its commitments under the agreement, then the complaining party may refer its complaint to the Joint Commission, a body created under the JCPOA to monitor implementation. If a complaint made by a non-Iran party is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complaining party within thirty-five days of referral, then that party could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA, notify the United Nations Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant non-performance, or both. The Security Council would then have thirty days to adopt a resolution to continue the lifting of sanctions. If such a resolution is not adopted within those thirty days, then the sanctions of all of the pre-JCPOA nuclear-related UN Security Council resolutions would automatically be re-imposed. Iran has stated that in such a case, it would cease performing its nuclear obligations under the deal. The effect of this rule is that any permanent member of the Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia and France) can veto any ongoing sanctions relief, but no member can veto the re-imposition of sanctions.
Snapback sanctions “would not apply with retroactive effect to contracts signed between any party and Iran or Iranian individuals and entities prior to the date of application, provided that the activities contemplated under and execution of such contracts are consistent with this JCPOA and the previous and current UN Security Council resolutions”.
Ankit Panda of The Diplomat states that this will make impossible any scenario where Iran is non-compliant with the JCPOA yet escapes re-imposition of sanctions. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (which opposes the agreement) argues, however, that because the JCPOA provides that Iran could treat reinstatement of sanctions (in part or entirely) as grounds for leaving the agreement, the United States would be reluctant to impose a “snapback” for smaller violations: “The only thing you’ll take to the Security Council are massive Iranian violations, because you’re certainly not going to risk the Iranians walking away from the deal and engaging in nuclear escalation over smaller violations.”
Pictured here, Iranian foreign affairs minister and U.S. secretary of state shaking hands at the end of negotiations on 14 July 2015, Vienna. They shook hands on 26 September 2013 in the United Nations Headquarters for the first time.
Story 3: Radical Islamic Terrorist Attack In Paris, France Target Police One Officer Killed and One Wounded and One Shooter Killed and One Escaped — Videos —
One Officer Killed, One Wounded In Paris Shooting | NBC News
Trump Says Paris Shooting Looks Like Terror Attack
BREAKING Paris ISLAMIC Terrorist with Machine Gun kills police officer 2nd hurt April 20 2017 News
BREAKING!!! TERROR ATTACK IN PARIS!!!
Paris shooting ‘looks like another terrorist attack’ Trump says: ‘It just never ends’
The U.S. president addressed the assault on two police officers at a news conference Thursday afternoon in the White House’s East Room
French police say the incident involving at least two gunman was probably a ‘terrorist act’
‘We have to be strong, and we have to be vigilant, and I’ve been saying it for a long time,’ Trump said
By Francesca Chambers, White House Correspondent For Dailymail.com
PUBLISHED: 16:23 EDT, 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:26 EDT, 20 April 2017
President Donald Trump says a shooting in Paris today ‘looks like another terrorist attack.’
The U.S. president addressed the assault on two police officers at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
‘It just never ends,’ he said of the terror threat from the White House’s East Room.
French police say the incident involving at least two gunman was probably a ‘terrorist act.’
President Donald Trump says a shooting in Paris today ‘looks like another terrorist attack.’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said just before the news conference began that Trump had been briefed on the shooting that happened while he was meeting with the Italian prime minister.
‘Condolences from our country to the people for France again. It’s happening it seems,’ Trump said from the podium. ‘I just saw it as I was walking in, so it’s a terrible thing and it’s a very, very terrible thing that’s going on in the world today.’
Trump did not comment on the assault at the top of his remarks but said after he was asked for a reaction, ‘It looks like another terrorist attack, and what can you say? It just never ends.
‘We have to be strong, and we have to be vigilant, and I’ve been saying it for a long time,’ Trump told Fox News’ John Roberts.
France is in the process of holding a national election. The first round of voting begins on April 23.
A gunman wielding an AK-47 killed one police officer and wounded another today on the Champs-Elysees. The assailant was killed in the showdown with police, Paris police have said. Another suspect is believed to have been involved, as well.
Police just two days ago arrested two men in southern Marseille with weapons and explosives who were suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the first-round of the presidential election on Sunday.
France is in a state of emergency and at its highest possible level of alert since a string of terror attacks that began in 2015 and have killed over 230 people.
Thousands of troops and armed police have been deployed to guard tourist hotspots such as the Champs Elysees or other potential targets like government buildings and religious sites.
‘Stay back, stay back!’ Police warn after shooting in Paris
Police closed off the popular avenue (pictured) after a policeman was killed during a shooting incident in the French capital
A French police officer was tonight shot dead on the Champs Elysees in Paris (pictured) – just as presidential candidates took part in a TV debate nearby
Up until now, polls showed voters more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security, though analysts warned this would change in the event of further bloodshed.
For weeks, centrist Emanuel Macron and National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen have been out in front.
Scandal-plagued conservative Francois Fillon and far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon have closed the gap substantially in the last two weeks.
Opinion polls now show there is a chance that any of the four leading candidates could reach the second-round run-off on May 7 if none of them reach a majority in this weekend’s election.
Footage potentially show s the moments after the Paris shootingPolice say the suspect was from an eastern Paris in suburb, despite ISIS naming him as a Belgian national on their Amaq news agency.
He is thought to have been known to security services for “extremist links”.
The shooter’s house in an eastern Paris suburb and other addresses are being searched by officers, a source told Reuters.
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Cops have said they are hunting a second suspect who may or may not be involved in the incident.
Local police advised people to avoid the area after shots were fired at around 9pm local time.
Witnesses said the attacker pulled up beside a stationery police car and fired through the window.
“He parked just behind the van and he got out with a Kalashnikov and I heard six gunshots,” a witness named Chelloug said.
“I thought they were firecrackers, because we all looked around the road and there was no one.
“In fact, he was hidden behind the van and shooting at the police.
Eyewitness of the Paris shooting says he heard six gun shots between police and the gunman
Two French police officers killed by gunman in Paris ‘terror’ attack”I think he hit a policeman. As soon as the policeman opened the door of the van, he fell, I think.
“As soon as we saw that, we all ran back inside (a building). We hid and I went up to the first floor and we saw them (the policeman) shoot him (the perpetrator).”
He added: ” I was afraid. I have a two year-old girl and I thought I was going to die… He shot straight at the police officer.”
President Francois Hollande said officials are “convinced” the incident is a terror attack.
Paris Prosecutor’s anti-terror office has opened an inquiry.
Eyewitness of the Paris shooting says he heard six gun shots between police and the gunman
ISIS claims it was behind Paris police shootingYvan Assioma of the police union Alliance said: “The exact circumstances are still unclear but I can confirm the tragic death of one of our colleagues. Our thoughts are very much with the family.
“One or several attackers have been shot dead by the police. Some officers were hit but the bullets were stopped by their bulletproof vests, but two were hit.
“Nothing is being ruled out for the time being, terrorism or a criminal act.”
Champs-Elysees in Paris evacuated after two police officers shot dead
French police closes traffic on Champs Elysees after shootingA Government spokesperson said: “An automatic weapon was used against police, a weapon of war.
“The shooting started shortly after 9pm, when a car stopped alongside a stationary police car.
“A man immediately got out and opened fire on the police car, fatally wounding a police officer. He also wounded a second one, it would seem very seriously.”
The shooting happened near the Métro station Franklin D Roosevelt and the Marks and Spencer store on the Champs-Elysées.
It is one of the most famous streets in the world and a busy tourist hub.
Armed police and emergency services have been spotted at the scene.
Armed officers tak e position behind a kiosk on the Champs ElyséesFrance’s President Francois Hollande has scheduled an emergency meeting following the shootings.
French Presidential candidates Marine Le Pen and Francois Fill0n have cancelled their trips tomorrow.
The shooting comes just just days ahead of France’s presidential election.
On Tuesday, days after police arrested two men in southern Marseille with weapons and explosives who were suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the first-round of the presidential election on Sunday.
Policeman shot dead and ‘two seriously injured’ on Champs-Élysé, Paris
Police officers evacuate people off the Champs Elysees after ‘terror attack’France is in a state of emergency and at its highest possible level of alert since a string of terror attacks that began in 2015, which have killed over 230 people.
The UK Foreign Office said: “The British Embassy is in contact with local authorities and urgently seeking further information following reports of a shooting incident on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
“You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local security authorities and/or your tour operator.
“If you’re in the area and it is safe to do so, contact your friends and family to tell them you are safe.”
Story 4: Republicans Return Repeal Replace Obamacare — Compromise Should Pass House by April 28, 2017 Videos —
House Republicans Close To Obamacare Repeal
Published on Apr 20, 2017
House Freedom Caucus and moderate Republicans are edging closer to a deal on repealing Obamacare. The agreement, brokered by House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Tuesday Group co-chairman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), would allow states to eliminate Obamacare’s community rating system, a rule that prohibits health insurers from pricing health care plans based on age, gender, or health status. States that repeal Obamacare’s community rating rules would have to join a federal high-risk pool or establish a local high-risk pool to obtain the waiver.
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It’s going to be nearly impossible for Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare next week
The developing plan from House Republicans to push forward their overhaul of the US healthcare system has one big problem: timing.
A new amendment leaked Wednesday night appears to be a compromise between the leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and moderate Tuesday Group that could produce some movement on the bill in that timeframe.
But Congress faces another looming deadline by April 28: funding the federal government. If no new funding bill is passed by next Friday, parts of the federal government will shut down.
Washington is not known for multitasking, and it could be difficult to get a funding bill passed as the White House and lawmakers push to add policy proposals to the funding bill. Given the political ramifications of the issue, the shutdown fight could consume the calendar.
According to Politico, the White House and Congress are considering passage of a one-week extension on funding in order to hash out a more considered funding bill and possibly give the House time to take up the AHCA, which became colloquially known as “Trumpcare.”
Barring such an extension, however, it would be highly unlikely that the American Health Care Act moves forward before Trump’s 100th day in the Oval Office.
The full text of the proposed amendment, obtained by Politico’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, states that the waiver would be granted by the federal government if the state can prove that it has an alternative to “reduce premium costs, increase the number of persons with healthcare coverage, or advance another benefit to the public interest in the state.”
Essential health benefits require insurers to cover a baseline of health procedures such as prenatal care and emergency room visits. Community rating means that insurers must charge people living in the same area the same price for insurance regardless of things such as age, gender, or preexisting conditions.
“The gist of this is that federal protections for pre-existing conditions and required benefits remain…unless a state doesn’t want them to,” tweeted Larry Levitt, senior vice president at health policy think thank The Kaiser Family Foundation on Thursday.
However, this means that the Trump administration, most likely Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, would have final say on whether or not a waiver is granted.
While the deal was reportedly reached by conservative House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows and moderate Tuesday Group chair Rep. Tom MacArthur, it also bears similarities to a previous deal that drew the ire of moderates for going too far in pulling back protections.
Additionally, it does not address the concerns of moderates such as the defunding of Medicaid expansion or the estimates that the Affordable Health Care Act could leave up to 24 million fewer people without health coverage over the next 10 years.
The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reported after the amendment’s outline was leaked that the GOP leadership is planning to release the exact language for the amendment later on Thursday and are targeting Wednesday for a vote on the revised bill, but that could change.
The amendment comes the day after reports that the White House was pushing for a deal to be completed by the end of next week in order to show progress during Trump’s first 100 days as president. Additionally, House Speaker Paul Ryan said in London on Wednesday that the GOP was putting the “finishing touches” on an Obamacare deal.
Passing the AHCA, even with the proposed changes, would be difficult in the short-term as Congress must also pass a bill to fund the federal government before parts of it shut down on April 28.
Mnuchin: Most significant tax code change since Reagan 9 Hours Ago | 01:19
The Trump administration is close to bringing forward “major tax reform,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday, days after he tempered expectations for how quickly it will pass.
Mnuchin, who this week backed off of his earlier goal of passing tax reform by August, said the White House will unveil a plan “very soon.” However, the Trump administration previously missed several of its deadlines for releasing its tax plan.
In terms of timing, he said he hoped passing a tax overhaul will not “take till the end of the year.”
Mnuchin spoke at the Institute of International Finance Washington Policy Summit, where White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn was set to appear later Thursday.
In a Financial Times interview published Monday, Mnuchin said getting a bill to President Donald Trump‘s desk before August is “highly aggressive to not realistic at this point.” He said in February that he wanted to see “very significant” tax reform passed by Congress’ August recess.
The business community has hoped Republicans can move quickly on overhauling the American tax system, a prospect that partly fueled stock market gains in the months following Trump’s election. However, political realities have tempered expectations for changes to the tax system.
Republicans attempted to pass legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act before moving to a tax reform bill. That effort failed late last month, and Mnuchin said the setback contributed to his assessment that passing a tax overhaul by August could be difficult.
Trump put the pressure back on Tuesday after Mnuchin and Cohn appeared to walk back expectations for how quickly tax reform will happen. He called out Mnuchin by name during a speech at Snap-on headquarters in Wisconsin.
“So we’re in very good shape on tax reform. We have the concept of the plan. We’re going to be announcing it very soon,” Trump said at that time. “But health care, we have to get the health care taken care of, and as soon as health care takes care of we are going to march very quickly. You’re going to watch. We’re going to surprise you. Right, Steve Mnuchin? Right?”
Even though the president sounded optimistic Tuesday, the Trump administration has set deadlines for tax policy before that have not come to pass. In late February, Trump said the tax plan was “very well finalized,” only a day after press secretary Sean Spicer said it would be released “in the next couple weeks.
Republicans have refocused on resurrecting the effort to repeal the ACA, better known as Obamacare, as they get set to return from a recess next week. House GOP leaders are trying to balance the concerns of the both the party’s conservative and moderate wings as they try to follow through on a major campaign pledge.
Mnuchin said Thursday that “whether health care gets done or health care doesn’t get done, we’re going to get tax reform done.”
Story 1: Turkey Votes To Change From Parliamentary to Presidential System of Government — Videos —
Where’s Turkey headed after its referendum? – Inside Story
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Turkish Referendum Erdogan Wins ! | The Millennial Revolt
Published on Apr 16, 2017
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, hailing the result as an “historic decision”. The leader called on the international community to respect the result and discouraged his critics from “belittling” the outcome, saying they “shouldn’t try, it will be in vain”. The state-run Anadolu news agency claimed that 51 per cent per cent of voters had sided with the “Yes” campaign, ushering in the most radical change to the country’s political system in modern time.
But the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they would demand a recount of up to 40 per cent of the vote, saying that “illegal acts” occurred during the vote and that there were up to 2.5m “problematic ballots”. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) also claimed they had information that voter fraud was implicated in up to four per cent of the ballots. Both parties said they would appeal the results. CLICK LINKS FOR SOURCES
Story 2: Coalition Against Islamic State in Syria — What is Next: Wrath of Euphrates: The Battle for Raqqa: Isolate and Assault — Take No Prisoners — Videos
US eyes assault on ISIS stronghold
CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh talks to Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend near Mosul, Iraq, where coalition forces hope to make a push toward Raqqa, ISIS’ center of control in Syria.
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Published on Nov 12, 2016
12 Nov 2016 Syria. Raqqa.
SDF, YPG, YPJ and International Brigade fighters had began to advance from Siluk and Eyn İsa southwards from two directions on November 5.
The Siluk branch has cleared an area of 30 kms and the Ayn İsa branch has cleared an area of 15 kms from ISIS gangs. Yesterday, the two branches united along the Beliz creek.
After the liberation of Xınıse and the unification of the two branches of fighters, the first phase of the initiative ended successfully.
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Pentagon brass take lead on decisions that were made by White House under Obama; ‘I authorize my military,’ Trump says
U.S. Army trainers watch as an Iraqi recruit fires at a military base in Iraq. PHOTO: JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES
Dion Nissenbaum in Washington and
Maria Abi-Habib in Beirut
Updated April 14, 2017 10:29 p.m. ET
U.S. military commanders are stepping up their fight against Islamist extremism as President Donald Trump’s administration urges them to make more battlefield decisions on their own.
As the White House works on a broad strategy, America’s top military commanders are implementing the vision articulated by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Decimate Islamic State’s Middle East strongholds and ensure that the militants don’t establish new beachheads in places such as Afghanistan.
“There’s nothing formal, but it is beginning to take shape,” a senior U.S. defense official said Friday. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more—and so they are.”
While military commanders complained about White House micromanagement under former President Barack Obama, they are now being told they have more freedom to make decisions without consulting Mr. Trump. Military commanders around the world are being encouraged to stretch the limits of their existing authorities when needed, but to think seriously about the consequences of their decisions.
The more muscular military approach is expanding as the Trump administration debates a comprehensive new strategy to defeat Islamic State. Mr. Mattis has sketched out such a global plan, but the administration has yet to agree on it. While the political debate continues, the military is being encouraged to take more aggressive steps against Islamic extremists around the world.
The firmer military stance has fueled growing concerns among State Department officials working on Middle East policy that the Trump administration is giving short shrift to the diplomatic tools the Obama administration favored. Removing the carrot from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach, some State Department officials warn, could hamper the pursuit of long-term strategies needed to prevent volatile conflicts from reigniting once the shooting stops.
Gen. Nicholson said Friday it was too early to say how many militants had been killed in the previous day’s bombing. The Afghan Defense Ministry retracted an earlier statement that the strike had killed 36 militants, saying it was unable to provide precise figures yet.
A military official for the coalition who viewed footage of the bombing said it was difficult to make out details of its effects beyond a “mushroom cloud” of smoke rising into the sky. He added that a second MOAB was available for use in the country, but no decision had been made on whether it should be deployed.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency posted a statement on Friday saying none of its fighters were killed or wounded in the strike, which took place in Nangarhar province, along the country’s mountainous border with Pakistan.
Gen. Nicholson indicated that he—not the White House—decided to drop the bomb. “The ammunition we used last night is designed to destroy caves and tunnels. This was the right weapon against the right target,” he told reporters Friday. “I am fortunate that my chain of command allows me the latitude to make assessments on the ground.”
A senior administration official said Mr. Trump didn’t know about the weapon’s use until it had been dropped.
Mr. Mattis “is telling them, ‘It’s not the same as it was, you don’t have to ask us before you drop a MOAB,’” the senior defense official said. “Technically there’s no piece of paper that says you have to ask the president to drop a MOAB. But last year this time, the way [things were] meant, ‘I’m going to drop a MOAB, better let the White House know.’”
Indeed, on Thursday Mr. Trump himself emphasized the free rein he gives the Pentagon. “I authorize my military,” Mr. Trump said. “We have given them total authorization.”
On Friday, the U.S. military said it has sent dozens of soldiers to Somalia, where Mr. Trump recently gave the head of the U.S. Africa Command more leeway to carry out counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in the area.
The more aggressive military approach comes as the long slog against Islamic State is bearing fruit. The group is on the back foot in its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, and is facing a hard battle to defend its de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa.
The U.S. has sent more forces into Iraq and Syria, stepped up support for Saudi Arabia’s fight against Houthi militants in Yemen, and dispatched an aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula amid growing evidence that North Korea is preparing for a new nuclear test.
Loren DeJonge Schulman, who served as senior adviser to Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, said a more assertive military campaign is destined to fail unless it is part of a broader strategy against Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.
“It’s crazy that the Trump administration thinks that ‘taking the gloves off’ is either a winning strategy against ISIL or a useful narrative for the White House or the military,” said Ms. Schulman, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama administration, said giving the Pentagon more freedom is one of the most significant things Mr. Trump has done.
“It’s not clear to me that he’s making any tough decisions,” said Mr. Chollet, now executive vice president at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “All that he’s essentially done is ceded decision authority down to protect himself from making tough calls.”
The flip side of the Trump administration’s emphasis on a more-free-wheeling military approach to Islamic State is an apparent reduction of the use of soft-power tools—economic development, diplomacy and democracy-building—favored by the Obama White House.
Some State Department officials describe being cut out from the White House’s counterterrorism strategy in the Mideast, with efforts to nurture democratic governments and push for more secular education systems carrying less weight in the White House’s evolving approach.
“State is being systematically sidelined,” said a State Department official who has worked on counterterrorism issues in Washington and abroad.
The official said the White House strategy of prioritizing military might over diplomacy makes it hard to persuade Mideast allies to relax their grip on power. Many of Washington’s closest Arab allies are autocratic regimes guilty of human-rights abuses that critics say fuel terrorism.
“The problem there is that in many of the places where you need carrots, those carrots are often seen as threats to local governments,” the official said, referring to democracy and society-building programs the State Department funds across the Mideast.
Egypt offers a prime example of the Trump administration’s leanings. When Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, a military strongman, visited the White House earlier this month, Mr. Trump gave him a warm welcome. Mr. Obama had refused to meet him because of his regime’s alleged human-rights abuses.
U.S. officials in the Mideast say a counterterror approach that focuses solely on military might without programs to fight the causes that feed extremism could backfire, leading groups like Islamic State to go underground and wait for future opportunities to re-emerge. They are particularly concerned about Raqqa, where a U.S.-led military coalition is closing in around the city but post-liberation stabilization plans aren’t finalized as State Department officials wait for White House guidance.
—Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil in Kabul and Carol E. Lee in Washington contributed to this article.
After the start of the Battle of Mosul (2016–17) in Iraq, many of the 20,000 ISIL fighters estimated to be living in the city fled to Raqqa, boosting the ISIL forces that were already present in their de facto capital city.
The SDF officially announced the start of the operation on 6 November in the village of Ayn Issa. The intention was to proceed in two phases, first seizing areas around Raqqa and isolating the city, advancing from three fronts, then taking control of the city itself. The SDF general command called for the international coalition against ISIL to support the operation. In response, Ash Carter welcomed the announcement and emphasized the importance of capturing Raqqa and defeating ISIL, while cautioning that “there is hard work ahead”.
Phase One: Isolating Raqqa from its northern hinterland
Tal Saman, ISIL headquarters in the northern Raqqa countryside, after being captured by the SDF.
On 6 November, the SDF captured six small villages, including the villages of Wahid, Umm Safa, Wasita, Haran, al-Adriyah and Jurah south and southeast of Ayn Issa. The Islamic State detonated four car bombs on the first day of the offensive.
On 8 November, the SDF reported that they had taken control of 11 villages near Ain Issa. The SDF also claimed that ISIL used several car bombs against their forces. By 11 November, the SDF had captured over a dozen villages and the strategically significant town of Al-Hisbah, which had served as a local headquarters and command center for ISIL. On the next day, the SDF continued to advance against ISIL in the area around Tal Saman and Khnez, bringing the number of captured farms and villages to 26.
As of 14 November, the SDF reported the completion of the initial phase of the operations, stating that 500 km2has been captured: 34 villages, 31 hamlets and seven strategic hills, along with 167 Islamic State casualties.The SDF had also begun to besiege Tal Saman, the largest village and ISIL headquarters north of Raqqa, while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Salok in the eastern countryside of Raqqa Governorate in order to force the SDF to split its forces and open a new front. On the next day, the SDF advanced into Tal Saman, resulting in a fierce battle with its ISIL defenders. At the same time, the SDF also captured 10 more villages and farms. By 19 November, the SDF had fully captured Tal Saman and had driven ISIL completely from the surrounding countryside. With this, the first phase of the offensive was considered completed.On 20 November 2016, 200 fighters completed training, joined the SDF, and were sent to participate in the offensive.
The second phase of the offensive aimed to enforce a full blockade of the city of Raqqa. On 21 November, the SDF captured two more villages, while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Tal Saman. Over the next days, the SDF attempted to further advance, such as at al-Qalita, but was unable to break through ISIL’s defense line south of Tal Saman. On 24 November, a US serviceman died from wounds he suffered after stepping on an improvised explosive device near the town of Ayn Issa, to the north of Raqqa.
On 25 November, ISIL received reinforcements from Iraq, among them explosive experts and defected Iraqi Army personnel. On the next day, ISIL launched a counter-attack, retaking parts of Qaltah village and a nearby water pump station, while the SDF managed to advance in the village’s vicinity. Boubaker Al-Hakim, an ISIL commander who was linked to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, was reported to have been killed in an American airstrike in Raqqa on 26 November. Iraqi military however later stated in April 2017 that he might still be alive.
On 27 November, the SDF announced the offensive’s second phase was due to start, though this was then delayed. At least five SDF fighters were killed in renewed clashes north of Raqqa on 29 November. Meanwhile, ISIL suffered from the defection of two senior commanders, who fled from Raqqa to join Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Idlib. On 4 December, a coalition drone strike in Raqqa killed two ISIL leaders who had helped facilitate the November 2015 Paris attacks and another who was involved in a foiled suicide attack in Belgium in 2015. Three days later, co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim said that the first phase to surround Raqqa was almost over, while a new Arab brigade consisting of more than 1,000 men and women from the al-Raqqa area had joined the SDF as part of the second phase which was slated to be launched on 10 December. More than 1,500 Arab fighters who were trained and equipped by the anti-ISIL coalition joined the SDF for the second phase on its launch day.
Phase Two: Isolating Raqqa from its western countryside
SDF fighters advance northwest of Raqqa after the start of the offensive’s second phase.
The SDF launched the second phase on 10 December, with the aim of capturing the northwestern and western countrysides of al-Raqqa and ultimately reaching and securing the Tabqa Dam. The same day, it was announced that Arab SDF groups, consisting of the Elite Forces, Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa and the newly formed Deir Ezzor Military Council would be taking part. During the first day, the SDF began to advance south of the Tishrin Dam and captured al-Kiradi village. The United States announced that it would send 200 more troops to assist the SDF. The next day, the SDF captured seven more villages from ISIL. On 12 December, the SDF captured four villages as well as many hamlets south of Tishrin Dam. The SDF captured five villages during the next two days. On 15 December, the SDF captured three villages, taking the total number of villages captured by them in the second phase to 20.
Over the next four days, the SDF captured 20 more villages, while finally reaching Lake Assad‘s shore, thereby cutting off and besieging 54 ISIL-held villages to the west. In response to these territorial losses, ISIL began to carry out more suicide attacks against both the SDF as well as civilian targets within SDF-controlled areas in an attempt to hinder the offensive. On 19 December, ISIL launched a counter-attack to regain four villages in the northwestern countryside, but the attack was repelled after a few hours. The following night, ISIL forces retreated largely unopposed from the besieged 54 villages, leaving them to be captured by the SDF. The SDF declared that they had captured 97 villages overall during the second phase, and had begun to advance against Qal’at Ja’bar.
On 21 December, the SDF seized five villages near Qal’at Ja’bar, including Jabar, which served as the main weaponry storage and supply centre for ISIL in the northwestern countryside. The coalition then began to move toward Suwaydiya Saghirah and Suwaydiya Kabir, the last villages before Tabqa Dam. Even though an ISIL counter-attack managed to retake Jabar village soon after, the SDF attacked again on 23 December, and once again took control of it, while also capturing another village. This prompted ISIL to launch yet another counter-attack later that day, which was accompanied by several suicide car bombs. As a result, heavy clashes took place between them and SDF fighters in several villages along the frontline that lasted until the early morning of 24 December. The ISIL forces were eventually forced to withdraw after the SDF first shelled and then stormed their positions, whereupon the latter took control of most of Jabar as well as two more villages, though some ISIL holdouts persisted in Jabar.
ISIL was pushed out of the neighboring, strategic village of Eastern Jabar on the next day, bringing SDF within 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) of Tabqa Dam, and by 26 December, the SDF had finally fully secured the main Jabar village, with the last ISIL defenders being expelled after heavy fighting. An ISIL counterattack on the village later that day failed, with a US airstrike killing Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti as he commanded the assault. Al-Kuwaiti, also known as Abdulmuhsin al-Zaghelan al-Tarish, was a high-ranking ISIL commander leading the defense of the whole Raqqa region against the SDF. Meanwhile, the Amaq News Agency declared that Iman Na’im Tandil (nom de guerre: Abu ‘Umar Al-Hindi), one of the few Indian ISIL fighters active in Syria, had also been killed during the fighting near Jabar. The Islamic State’s official media wing later also officially paid tribute to Iman.
Battle for Jabar’s surroundings
A YPGBMP, loaded on a truck, being transported to the frontline near Mahmudli on 4 January.
On 27 December, ISIL launched an attack on the village of Secol in the northern countryside, reportedly breaching the local SDF defences. On the next day, the SDF reportedly captured Hadaj village after two days of heavy fighting, while another ISIL counter-attack against Jabar was repelled. Mahmud al-Isawi, a senior ISIL facilitator who was a manager of instructions and finances for the group’s leaders as well as a provider of propaganda and intelligence support, was killed on 31 December in a US-led coalition airstrike on Raqqa. After three days of heavy fighting, the SDF captured all or most of Mahmudli, the largest town of the Al-Jarniyah Subdistrict, on 1 January 2017. ISIL counterattacked later in an attempt to regain the town. The SDF leadership said that in the clashes since the launch of the second phase they had captured 110 villages, killed 277 ISIL fighters, and captured 13.
Also on January 1, the SDF resumed its offensive on the northern front, reportedly advancing 6 km south of Tell Saman against ISIL positions. The SDF reportedly captured nine more villages in this area, within the next three days. Meanwhile, with the SDF edging closer to Raqqa, ISIL further restricted Internet access and increased surveillance over Internet users in Raqqa. There were harsh punishments for accessing anti-ISIL websites, with a new special unit within the ISIL’s security office searching for offenders. Several online activists in Raqqa were captured and tortured or executed. Another two villages and hamlets were captured by the SDF on 5 January.
SDF fighters examine Qal’at Ja’bar. ISIL had built tunnels and weapons depots into the medieval castle.
The SDF captured Qal’at Ja’bar (Ja’bar Castle) from ISIL on 6 January. The same day, ISIL was reported to have moved its 150 prisoners from Tabqa city due to the offensive. The SDF later captured eight villages and five hamlets at the Ayn Issa front. On 7 January, the SDF captured five villages including the strategic Suwaydiya Gharbi and Suwaydiya Saghirah, reaching the outskirts of Tabqa Dam. ISIL reportedly recaptured Suwaydiya Saghirah by the next day after a counterattack, while a local leader of the group was killed in clashes. Meanwhile, ISIL was reported to have withdrawn 150 of its fighters towards Raqqa city.
On 8 January 2017, US special forces raided the village of Al-Kubar, between Ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor, killing at least 25 ISIL militants in the two-hour operation. It was believed that the goal of the US may have been to rescue hostages from an ISIL secret prison in the village. After the raid, ISIL forces cut off access to the village.
On 9 January, the SDF captured another village, along with three hamlets.
On 10 January, ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack at the Jabar frontline and reportedly recaptured several sites; with pro-Free Syrian Army sources claiming Qal’at Ja’bar and the village of Jabar were among these. ISIL consequently released photos of dead SDF fighters, while claiming that over 70 of them had been killed in the counter-attack. However, the SDF was reported to still be in control of Jabar village and Qalat Jabar a few days later.
An ISIL attack on Jib Shair village, trying to resist SDF advances from the north, was repelled on the next day, after which the SDF advanced and captured six hamlets around it. The SDF later announced that their forces advancing from the Ayn Issa front and on the Qadiriya front linked up in Kurmanju village after capturing several villages over the past few days, besieging a large pocket of about 45 villages and 20 hamlets. All of them were captured by the next day, resulting in the alliance gaining about 460 square kilometres (180 sq mi) of land. Another village was captured by the SDF on 13 January. On 15 January, the SDF progressed to Suwaydiya Kabir village, while ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack against Mahmudli and a nearby village, resulting in clashes within these settlements. The attack was repelled after several hours of fighting. The SDF captured three villages during the day, while Suwaydiya Saghirah was also reported to be under its control again. On 17 January 2017, 28 Arab tribes from Raqqa announced their support for the offensive and encouraged locals to join the SDF.
The SDF attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on the next day, leading to heavy clashes in the village. Meanwhile, it was announced that about 2,500 local fighters had joined the offensive since it began. On 19 January, ISIL launched a counter-attack against Suwaydiya Saghirah, supported by mortars and heavy machine guns, killing or wounding several YPG fighters. Despite this, the SDF made further progress on the next day, capturing a village and advancing against many other ISIL-held villages. The SDF again attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on 20 January, reaching the outskirts of the village, and captured it on 22 January after heavy clashes, with the support of U.S. special forces.
Tabqa Dam raid and further SDF advances in the north
In late January 2017, it was reported that a number of ISIL militants were hiding inside the structure of the Tabqa Dam, including senior militant leaders who used to be “very important prisoners” wanted by the US and several other countries, in order to deter a possible US-led coalition strike on them.
On 23 January, the SDF began to advance on the Tabqa Dam, spurring ISIL to open its turbines to raise the Euphrates River’s water levels. This was seen as an attempt to hinder the progress of the Kurdish-led forces and a scare tactic, and caused the water level of the Euphrates to rise to its highest level in 20 years, leading to record flooding downstream. Coinciding with this, pro-SDF sources reported that US special forces and SDF units had launched a raid against Al-Thawrah across the river. By 24 January, SDF forces had managed to capture parts of the town, and SDF forces on the dam began working towards the Tabqa Dam’s control rooms, at the southern part of the dam, in an attempt to stop the massive outflow of water released by ISIL. However, the entrance to the dam’s control rooms was too well defended, and with the continued threat of disastrous flooding downstream, SDF and the US forces withdrew from both the Tabqa Dam and the town of Al-Thawrah, after which ISIL closed the dam’s turbines again.
Over the next three days, ISIL repeatedly launched fierce counter-attacks against SDF positions in the western and northern countryside. ISIL managed to retake ground in the area around the dam, but the attack was later repelled.
Preparation for the third phase
An SDF IAG Guardian armoured personnel carrier in February 2017, one of several APCs that were supplied by the United States to the SDF.
On 31 January 2017, the SDF received a number of armoured personnel carriers supplied by the US. The SDF spokesman stated that preparations for a new phase of the operation were continuing and the operation would begin in “a few days”. Meanwhile, the leader of the SDF-aligned Syria’s Tomorrow Movement and its paramilitary wing, Ahmad Jarba, announced that 3,000 Arab fighters under his command were training with US special forces to be deployed in the battle for Raqqa against ISIL.
On the night of 2–3 February, intense CJTF–OIR airstrikes targeted several bridges in or near Raqqa city, destroying them as well as the local water pipelines, leaving the city without drinking water. Meanwhile, the SDF advanced against the village of Qaltah in the northern countryside, which the coalition had already unsuccessfully attacked in November. ISIL maintenance crews managed to fix the pipelines during 3 February, restoring Raqqa’s water supply. On 3 February, 251 Arab fighters in Hasaka completed their training and joined the SDF.
Phase Three: Isolating Raqqa from its eastern countryside
On 4 February, the SDF announced the offensive’s third phase, aiming at capturing Raqqa’s eastern countryside, and to separate Raqqa city from ISIL forces in Deir ez-Zor, though operations in the west and north would continue simultaneously. The SDF captured a village and three hamlets to the northeast of Raqqa later that day, with clashes being reported at al-Qaltah and Bir Said, while 750 Arabs completed training and joined the SDF. On the next day, the Kurdish-led forces captured another two villages along with a hamlet and two farms, and besieged Bir Said, while especially intense airstrikes hit several ISIL targets in Al-Thawrah. Bir Said, along with another village, was eventually captured by the SDF on 6 February. In addition to these villages, the SDF also captured another five villages on two fronts. The SDF made further progress, capturing three more villages on 7 February. In early February 2017, US-led coalition airstrikes destroyed much of the Deir ez-Zor-Raqqa highway, reducing it to a single-file gravel road in some spots, with the SDF patrolling other areas with minefields, in order to prevent ISIL from reinforcing Raqqa city. By this point, almost all of the five bridges leading to Raqqa had been destroyed either by the US-led coalition or by ISIL, with the only exceptions being the Tabqa Dam and the Baath Dam, both west of Raqqa city.
As these advances continued, ISIL responded by launching several unsuccessful counter-attacks against Suwaydiya Kabir and other strategic territories captured by the SDF. On 8 and 9 February, the SDF advanced at the northern and northeastern frontline, capturing several villages and besieging Mizella, a major strategic ISIL stronghold in the northern countryside. The advance put them within 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) of Raqqa. The SDF captured Mizella the next day. The two fronts of the alliance converged on 11 February as it also captured two villages and wheat silos to the north of Raqqa during the day; the next day, the SDF attempted to cross the Balikh River northeast of Raqqa, leading to heavy fighting with local ISIL defenders. On 12 February, a large-scale counter-attack by ISIL reportedly succeeded in retaking Suwaydiya Kabir and four other nearby villages. However, pro-YPG sources denied these reports. Another counterattack was carried out by ISIL to the northeast of Raqqa where the SDF had advanced to, leading to heavy clashes between both sides. Clashes continued over the next few days. On 16 February, 165 more SDF fighters completed training and joined the offensive.
On 17 February 2017, the SDF announced the launch of the second stage of the third phase, aimed at capturing the eastern countryside of Raqqa near Deir ez-Zor, with the Deir Ezzor Military Council leading the operation. On the same day the SDF captured two villages from ISIL to the north of Deir ez-Zor and came within 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) of the northeast of Raqqa, while the Russian Air Force conducted airstrikes on ISIL forces in Raqqa city for the second time since its entry into the war. The next day, the SDF captured another village to the southwest of the Makman front (north of Deir ez-Zor) as well as another near Raqqa. On 18 February, the SDF stormed a prison a few kilometres northeast of Raqqa, freeing some of the inmates. They later captured three villages in Deir ez-Zor’s northern countryside. On the next day, the SDF captured five villages to the east of Raqqa. On 20 February, they captured four villages on the Makmen front, including the strategic village of Sebah al-Xêr as well as a base station of Syriatel, thus cutting off the road between Makman and Raqqa and besieging three ISIL-held villages. Furthermore, the SDF took control of a significant bridge over the Balikh River on the western front.
On 21 February, the SDF captured two villages on the Makman front and another one near Raqqa. ISIL later again assaulted Suwaydiya Kabir, attacking it from three fronts, leading to heavy fighting around it. The SDF continued advancing in the eastern countryside of Raqqa on 22 February, capturing three villages, and merging the two fronts at Makman and Bir Hebe. A YPJ commander declared that the SDF had cut the road to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The SDF stated that it had entered Deir ez-Zor Governorate for the first time in the offensive. On the next day, they captured six villages and sixteen hamlets.
Opening of a new front
On 24 February, the SDF captured four villages in the Makman front and another three in a fourth front to the northeast of Deir ez-Zor. They captured the strategic Abu Khashab village later that day. On 25 February, they captured another three villages on the fourth front.
On 26 February, a US airstrike near Tabqa Dam destroyed a former government facility which was being used as a headquarters by ISIL. The airstrike’s vicinity to the dam’s structure led to fears that the dam could potentially be destabilized or destroyed during the fighting. Later that day, it was reported that the SDF had captured the village of Al-Kubar, on the northern bank of the Euphrates in the Deir ez-Zor countryside, further tightening the siege on Raqqa. On 28 February, it was reported that the US-led coalition had completely destroyed the Tabqa Airbase in an airstrike.
On 27 February, the plan that the Pentagon submitted to US President Trump to significantly speed up the fight against ISIL included a significant increase in US participation in the Raqqa campaign, with the possibility of the US increasing its ground presence on the Raqqa front to 4,000–5,000 troops.
Advance to the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway
YPG/SDF fighters on the bank of the Euphrates east of Raqqa.
The offensive resumed on 5 March, with the SDF capturing at least seven villages and 15 hamlets to the northeast of the Euphrates River, east of Raqqa. The offensive had previously been paused due to bad weather, according to the SDF. The area captured by SDF forces on that day was about 19 square kilometers, and about 32 ISIL militants were killed in the clashes. After further advances on 6 March, the SDF cut the highway between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, which was the last road out of the city, and reached the Euphrates River. The SDF captured six villages, the Al-Kubar Military Base (a former nuclear facility), and the Zalabiye Bridge, during the day. On 8 March, the SDF took control of the strategic West Menxer hill in the eastern countryside, while elements of the US 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were deployed to northern Syria, bringing with them an artillery battery of M777 howitzers to support the attack on Raqqa. Meanwhile, about 150 ISIL militants from Hama and Deir-ez Zor managed to reinforce Raqqa, by crossing the Euphrates, despite the partial siege that had been imposed by the SDF on the city.
On 9 March, SDF captured the strategic East Menxer hill and captured three villages on two different fronts. Two villages, including Kubar, were captured on the front to the far east of Raqqa, and one near Raqqa. 244 Arab fighters from the Raqqa countryside also joined the SDF during the day, for the protection of the people in the region. On the next day, SDF forces advancing from the Abu Khashab front captured three villages, including two near Kubar. On 12 March, the SDF captured Khas Ujayl village, to the southeast of Raqqa, on the Abu Khashab front, while ISIL continued to launch repeated counterattacks in the area, in an attempt to check the SDF advances. Meanwhile, 230 ISIL fighters entered Raqqa to reinforce the city.
On 14 March, the SDF captured the Khass Hibal village, as well as the Al-Kulayb grain silos, along the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway. An SDF spokeswoman stated that Raqqa had been isolated. The advance of the SDF put them in control of the land region used by ISIL to connect to their territories in the east, stretching from al-Kubar to the northern bank of the Euphrates and measuring 30 kilometres (19 mi). The SDF captured the Hamad Asaf silos and the Al Kulayb village the next day. Hamad Assaf was also reportedly captured. On 17 March, a YPG commander stated that the SDF planned to storm Raqqa city in April 2017, and that the YPG would be participating in the attack, despite the fierce opposition from the Turkish government. However, Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis denied that any decision regarding when and how an assault on Raqqa city will be carried out. Meanwhile, clashes continued to take place around Khas Ujayl.
The town of al-Karama, after the SDF had captured it from ISIL.
Heavy clashes took place in the town of al-Karama, to the east of Raqqa, on 19 March. On the next day, SDF captured al-Karama, along with Jarqa village as well as a train station and water pumping station nearby. On 21 March, it was reported again that the SDF had captured Hamad Assaf in the eastern countryside from the Abu Khashab front. Another village was captured on 22 March from the Abu Khashab front. Meanwhile, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS) stated that coalition airstrikes hit a school being used as a shelter for displaced people in a village to the west of Raqqa on 20 March. SOHR stated that 33 civilians were killed in the airstrikes while RIBSS stated that it was unknown what happened to 50 families who were there. The SDF continued advancing in the eastern Raqqa countryside on 23 March, capturing two more villages on the Abu Khashab front, allowing them to capture a small ISIL pocket.On 24 March, the SDF took control of two more villages in the eastern countryside of Raqqa.
Battle for al-Tabqa countryside and other advances
On 22 March, the SDF began an assault to capture the Tabqa Dam, al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, and its airbase. Five hundred SDF fighters and five hundred US Special Forces from CJTF–OIR were airlifted by helicopters of the United States military, across the Euphrates River and Lake Assad, and were dropped on the Shurfa Peninsula to the west of Al-Thawrah. The attack was supported by artillery support from United States Marines, as well as air support. SDF and US forces also landed on the Jazirat al-‘Ayd Island (or Peninsula) to the west of Tabqa Dam, capturing it as well. Four villages southwest of Tabqa were captured in the attack, including Abu Hurayrah, al-Mushayirafah, al-Krain, and al-Jameen. The SDF advanced towards the town of Al-Thawrah, where fliers were dropped, asking residents to stay indoors and avoid clashing against ISIL for now. These fliers were also dropped on Raqqa city. An anti-ISIL coalition spokesman announced that the advance had cut off the highway linking the Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa Governorates. He added that around 75-80% of the attacking force consisted of Arab fighters, with the rest being Kurds. The SDF stated that the advance was also meant to block any advance on Raqqa by the Syrian Arab Army from the west.
On the same day, SDF and US forces stormed the Tabqa Dam, triggering “intense” clashes with ISIL forces. US officials stated that it may take several weeks to capture Tabqa Dam, Al-Thawrah city, and the surrounding countryside from ISIL. Airstrikes by the coalition on Tabqa city were reported to have killed about 25 civilians. On 23 March, some early reports circulated that the SDF had captured Tabqa Dam from ISIL, after clashing with ISIL forces for a few hours. However, these reports were unconfirmed by other sources, with neither the SDF or CENTCOM confirming the capture of Tabqa Dam, and Rudaw reported that the SDF was still preparing to capture it. SDF spokesman Talal Silo stated during the day that they were still advancing on the dam and the city and expected to attack the dam soon. Later on the same day, it was reported that ISIL was redeploying a large number of fighters from the Deir ez-Zor Province to Al-Thawrah and Raqqa city, in order to reinforce those fronts. ISIL’s Amaq News Agency later denied later that the SDF had captured the dam.
Refugees from al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, who have fled from the fighting between the SDF and ISIL.
On 24 March, SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed announced that they had reached the Tabqa Dam, and were fighting ISIL at its entrance. The assault on the dam was spearheaded by SDF fighters who were backed by United States Special Operation Forces. According to early reports, the SDF and its allies had taken its outer perimeter, with the battle ongoing for its middle. On the same day, it was also reported that the SDF had captured 8 villages to the southwest of Al-Thawrah. On 25 March, pro-Kurdish news agency Kurdistan24 reported that the SDF had announced the capture of the Tabqa Dam. On the same day, the SDF advanced on Al-Tabqa Airbase, setting off clashes in the vicinity.Amaq meanwhile claimed SDF had withdrawn from the dam.
On 26 March, the SDF captured 2 villages to the east of Al-Thawrah. It was also reported that ISIL was shelling the surroundings of Tabqa Dam with heavy weaponry.On the same day, ISIL claimed that Tabqa Dam was on the verge of collapse and that all the floodgates were closed. The dam was reported to have become inoperable, which ISIL claimed was due to Coalition bombing and artillery strikes, though the SOHR stated that the actual reasons were unknown, adding that ISIL still held its main building and turbines.SDF however denied that it had been hit, while RIBSS (Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered) stated that ISIL was informing fleeing civilians that the dam was safe. Additionally, the US-led Coalition stated that the Tabqa Dam was structurally sound, and that the dam had not been targeted by any airstrikes. They also stated that the SDF controlled an emergency spillway at the northern part of the dam, which could be used in the event of an emergency. On the same day, SDF spokesman Talal Silo announced that SDF had stormed the Tabqa military airport, and had taken sixty to seventy percent of it. They later announced that they had completely captured the Al-Tabqa Airbase, following a 24-hour battle.ISIL forces stationed at Al-Tabqa Airbase were reported to have withdrawn northward, to Al-Thawrah city. Additionally, SDF forces captured 2 villages near the airbase during the advance.
Late on 26 March, it was reported that the SDF had taken full control of Tabqa Dam, and that repairs on the dam by Coalition engineers had begun. A day later however SDF announced they were temporarily pausing their offensive for the dam. Later in the day, a spokeswoman of the SDF announced that engineers who had been permitted to check the dam and its operations did not find it was damaged or malfunctioning. SDF also captured 2 villages to the west of Raqqa on the same day. It resumed the offensive against ISIL at the Tabqa Dam on 28 March. Syrian engineers worked on the dam during a pause in the fighting to open spillways and ease the pressure on the dam. Its southern reaches were reported to be under ISIL control. ISIL claimed that the maintenance team was killed in airstrikes by the anti-ISIL coalition while the SOHR stated that it had learned that the engineer administering the dam had been killed in airstrikes along with a technician. It also stated that the group had sent 900 fighters from Raqqa to fight against the SDF advance.
On 29 March, the SDF cut the road between Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city and Raqqa. The SDF stated that ISIL had shelled the Tabqa Dam during the day, causing repair work to be temporarily paused. On 31 March, SDF forces attacked the town of Al-Safsafah, to the east of Al-Thawrah, in an attempt to besiege the city. On the same day, the Ajeel tribe of al-Raqqa announced its support for the SDF’s Raqqa campaign and sent 150 fighters. On 1 April 2017, 200 Arab youths completed training and joined the SDF, also for the Raqqa campaign. The SDF announced during the day that over 220 new recruits had joined the offensive. Meanwhile, leaflets were dropped on the city calling on ISIL to surrender. Clashes continued in the countryside of Tabqa on next day as both sides attempted to advance.
The SDF and some activists stated on 2 April that it had repelled a major ISIL counterattack to the northeast of Tabqa city, near the Tabqa Dam and near the Tabqa airbase. They also continued to advance in villages to the east of Tabqa city. On the same day, it was reported that SDF had completely besieged Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, with Kurdish activists stating that 2 SDF units linked up to the east of the city. SOHR, however, stated that they were still trying to besiege the city. SDF fighters continued battling for Safsafah and Ibad, on the next day, to fully encircle Tabqa. On 3 April, it was reported that ISIL was possibly in the process of moving its capital from Raqqa city to Mayadin, in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate. This followed months of gradual relocation of resources and senior ISIL leaders from Raqqa to Mayadin. SDF entered and besieged Safsafah on 5 April, thus also besieging Tabqa city while claiming that it had also taken control of a major part of Safsafah. The village was captured by the next day, resulting in SDF completely encircling Tabqa city.
The SDF captured Ibad village, to the east of Safsafah, on 9 April, further expanding their control in eastern countryside of Tabqa, while more than 25 ISIL fighters were killed in the clashes. ISIL also launched unsuccessful counterattacks on Safsafah, while also attacking Al-Tabqa Airbase. The SDF captured another village near Tabqa on the next day.
On 11 April, the US-led Coalition reported that the SDF had captured 60% of Tabqa Dam, and that they were “very close” to liberating the dam. On 13 April, the United States military stated that CJTF-OIR had bombed a SDF fighting position near Tabqa as it was misidentified as belonging to ISIL. It added that the airstrikes resulted in deaths of 18 SDF fighters.
Phase Four: Offensive directly north of and around Raqqa city; Assault on Tabqa city
On 13 April, the SDF announced the launch of the fourth phase of the campaign. The new phase will involve capturing the entire area directly north of Raqqa city, including the Jalab valley, as well as completing the siege of Raqqa city. The advancements may involve capturing the southern countryside of Raqqa as well, since the SDF stated that they plan to fully isolate the city before launching an attack on it. A plan to attack Raqqa city itself was also scheduled to for April 2017, but it was postponed due to the Battle of Tabqa. SDF was reported to have captured a village in the northern countryside of Raqqa on the same day.
SOHR stated early on 15 April that the SDF had advanced to the edge of Tabqa, and was within hundreds of meters of the city. Later, SDF captured the village of Ayad al-Saghir village near Tabqa and stormed the city itself, capturing the Alexandria suburb and bringing about 15% of the city under their control. They also cleared the Mushayrifah village near Tabqa, killing 27 ISIL fighters.
On 17 April, the SDF captured 3 villages in the northern countryside of Raqqa along with four hamlets.
Civil administration of captured territory
Samer Kharkhi, one of the Raqqa Civil Council’s leading members.
On 14 November, the SDF’s civilian sister institution, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), started working on the establishment of a civilian administration to run the city of Raqqa after the expulsion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. SDC co-chair Îlham Ehmed said “such an administration could provide a good example for democratic change in Raqqa, especially that the city has been for years a de facto capital for the ISIS terrorist group. This accomplishment would be a major change in the overall situation in Syria, and would help the country move towards stability, democratic change. Raqqa will be an example for the whole country.”
On 8 December, Col. John Dorrian, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, stated that “a governance structure representative of the local population” similar to that in Manbij is planned for Raqqa. On 10 December, Cihan ShekhEhmed, the spokesman of the SDF-led operation, said that Raqqa would be run by a local elected civilian council after it was liberated. On 27 March 2017, Salih Muslim Muhammad, co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said that as soon as the SDF had captured the city, “the people of Raqqa are the ones who [will] take the decision on everything”. If they wanted to do so, Muslim said, they could choose to join the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria. On the same day, the Raqqa Civil Council announced that it had taken over the administration of the eastern countryside.
A YPJ sniper during the offensive on 13 November 2016
A boat carrying SDF fighters cross Lake Assad on 9 April 2017
Toyota Hilux and other vehicles of the YPG and YPJ near Tabqa, 9 April 2017
Jump up^Most Leftist Western volunteers fight as part of the YPG, though some have also formed an independent unit, the Antifascist International Tabur, or joined the International Freedom Battalion. The latter is a larger unit, mostly composed of Kurdish and Turkish communists.
Jump up^1,500 volunteers from villages captured by the SDF during phase one; 1,000 volunteers from villages captured during phase two, 750 volunteers from villages captured during phase three, 200 more joined in April
Jump up^According to SOHR, 8 SDF casualties were Western volunteers; among these were 4 Americans (one of which fought for the MFS), 1 British, 1 Canadian, and 1 German.ARA News, on the other side, reported that only 5 Western volunteers had been killed.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks with a delegate during the afternoon ministerial plenary for the Global Coalition working to Defeat ISIS at the State Department in Washington, March 22, 2017.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presided over a meeting of the 68-member Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and emphasized that the Coalition is unified, remains committed to the military defeat of ISIS, and noted the significant progress that has been made.
On March 22, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presided over a meeting of the 68-member Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and emphasized that the Coalition is unified, remains committed to the military defeat of ISIS, and noted the significant progress that has been made.
On the battlefield, 23 coalition partners have over 9,000 troops in Iraq and Syria in support of the effort to defeat ISIS. The Coalition has made significant progress in denying ISIS safe haven and building the military capacity of those directly engaged in fighting ISIS.
Coalition operations have liberated 62 percent of the terrain ISIS once controlled in Iraq and 30 percent in Syria, including key cities in both countries. The number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria is down by more than half since its peak in 2014.
Coalition aircraft have conducted more than 19,000 strikes on ISIS targets, removing tens of thousands of ISIS fighters from the battlefield and killing over 180 senior to mid-level ISIS leaders, including nearly all of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputies, his so-called ministers of war, information, finance, oil and gas, and his chief of external operations.
The Coalition has supported its Iraqi partners to achieve significant progress in the fight to retake Mosul. Iraqi Security Forces officially liberated eastern Mosul on January 24, 2017, and now are making significant territorial gains in the western portion of the city.
To date, Coalition efforts have trained nearly 90,000 Iraqi Security Force members, including Iraqi Army soldiers, Counterterrorism Services soldiers, Kurdish Peshmerga, federal police and border security soldiers, and tribal volunteers.
With the support of the Coalition, Syrian partners have liberated over 14,000 square kilometers of terrain in Syria, including more than 7,400 square kilometers of territory since isolation operations around Raqqa began on November 5.
Coalition forces are now pressuring ISIS in Raqqa, its external operations headquarters, from where ISIS is plotting against Coalition member interests around the globe.
“Hard-fought victories in Iraq and Syria have swung the momentum in our coalition’s favor,” said Secretary Tillerson, “but we must increase the intensity of our efforts to solidify our gains in the next phase of the counter-ISIS fight. Degradation of ISIS is not the end goal, we must defeat ISIS.”
The race for Raqqa: Major battle to liberate the ISIS stronghold looms after victory nears in Mosul and Palmyra… but who will lead the offensive?
Syrian soldiers, Turkish troops and US-backed Kurdish troops eyeing up Raqqa
Islamic State terrorists were driven out of Mosul and Palmyra in another victory
With liberation of the two cities drawing nearer, Raqqa will become top priority
The fall of the terror group’s de facto capital would be seen as ISIS’ biggest loss
By Gareth Davies For Mailonline
PUBLISHED: 06:48 EDT, 3 March 2017 | UPDATED: 07:05 EDT, 3 March 2017
A major battle to liberate the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria is looming after victories on the battlefields of Mosul and Palmyra.
The Pentagon has drawn up a secret plan which is likely to lean on local allies with stepped-up American support, but questions still remain as to who exactly will lead the operation to kick ISIS out of its de facto capital.
Syrian government forces, Turkish troops and their Syrian militia allies, and US-backed Kurdish forces all have their eye on Raqqa.
Each vehemently rejects letting the others capture the city and would likely react in anger should the United States support the others, and it is not clear that any has the resources to take the city on its own.
The fall of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital and largest remaining stronghold, would be the biggest defeat for the militants in Syria since they captured the northern city on the banks of the Euphrates River in January 2014.
An Iraqi Army officer (right) uses his mobile phone to film a rocket launched towards Islamic State militants during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul,Iraq
Iraqi family displaced due to fighting between the Iraqi army and ISIS, waiting at a temporary shelter to be sent to a refugee camp in Hamam Ali town, southern Mosul
Iraqi soldiers fire a rocket toward Islamic State militants on the outskirt of the Makhmour south of Mosul, Iraq
Smoke billows as Iraqi forces hold a position on a street in Mosul on March 1, 2017, during an offensive by security forces to retake the western parts of the city from Islamic State
Since October, US-backed coalition forces have been advancing on Mosul in an attempt to re-capture it from the terror group’s control.
Civilians have been evacuated and ISIS have been driven out of the city one village and area at a time.
This morning, an Iraqi military commander says forces have taken control of another neighborhood in western Mosul.
Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the Joint Military Operations Command said despite bad weather, Iraqi special operations forces have completely retaken the Wadi Hajjar area from militants.
However, commanders on the ground say that clearing operations are still continuing.
Wadi Hajjar lies just northwest of the city’s international airport.
Iraqi forces, including special operations forces and federal police units, launched an attack on the western part of Mosul nearly two weeks ago to dislodge the extremists.
Since the offensive began, more than 28,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the UN.
Across the border in Syria, army units were clearing land mines and explosives left behind by ISIS in the historic town of Palmyra on Friday, a day after government troops and allied militiamen recaptured it from the extremists.
The military expects the process to be long and difficult due to the large number of mines planted by the terror group.
Syrian troops fully recaptured Palmyra on Thursday after a push that saw the militants’ defenses crumble and ISIS fighters flee in the face of artillery fire and intense Russia-backed airstrikes.
The Tetrapylon and Roman Amphitheatre in the ancient city of Palmyra is blown up in conflict
Fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State, now called the Islamic State group, marching in Raqqa, Syria, where attention will now turn
Now, all eyes turn to Raqqa.
Faysal Itani, an analyst at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said: ‘Raqqa is more of an abstract goal: everyone wants it in principle, but no one is willing to commit the resources and bear the risks necessary.’
Turkey rules out a US compromise in Syria
Turkey is ruling out compromise with the United States over the involvement of Kurdish militia fighters in an assault in Syria, an obstacle for Washington’s plan to deploy its strongest allies on the ground in a decisive showdown with Islamic State.
Donald Trump has made defeating ISIS one of the key goals of his presidency, and his new administration received a draft Pentagon plan on Monday to accelerate the campaign.
Raqqa in Syria, one of Islamic State’s two de facto capitals along with Mosul in Iraq, is expected to be the scene of the final battle to crush the jihadists’ self-proclaimed Caliphate sometime this year, after a US-backed Iraqi government assault on Mosul already under way since October.
But putting together a united ground force to take Raqqa has so far proven a confounding task in Syria, where the United States, Turkey, Russia, Iran and Arab states have all backed local forces in a multi-sided civil war since 2011. All the foreign powers oppose Islamic State, but their Syrian proxies have mainly fought against one another.
Turkey, with the second largest army in NATO, is adamant that Washington should switch support for the planned Raqqa offensive from the Kurdish YPG militia to Syrian rebels Turkey has trained and led against Islamic State for the past year.
President Donald Trump has vowed to ‘obliterate’ the group.
‘We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet,’ he told Congress on Tuesday.
The top US commander in the campaign against IS, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, has said he believes Raqqa and Mosul will be taken within six months.
So far, the offensive on Mosul has been underway four months, with only half the city captured from the militants in ferocious street-to-street urban combat.
And that is using a relatively intensively trained and united military, backed by heavy U.S. firepower and commandos on the ground – a contrast to the comparatively undisciplined and fragmented forces the US has to choose from as allies in Syria.
Raqqa is a smaller city than Mosul, but the militants are believed to have dug in with powerful fortifications there.
In Syria, US-backed predominantly Kurdish fighters known as the Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, remain Trump’s best bet.
Aided by US-led coalition airstrikes and some 500 US special forces troops deployed in an advisory role, the force has been marching toward Raqqa since November.
Closing in on the city from different directions, it is now stationed some eight kilometers (five miles) north of the city.
The US military recently provided a small number of armored vehicles to the US-backed force to give better protection from small arms fire and roadside bombs as they get closer to Raqqa.
Further aid to the rag-tag group, however, raises sensitive questions over how to deal with Turkey, a NATO ally with much at stake in Syria.
Turkey considers the main Kurdish militia in Syria – known as the YPG, and an affiliate of the US-backed SDF – a terrorist organization, and has vowed to work with Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.
In a dramatic reversal of years of the Obama administration’s calls for the ouster of President Bashar Assad, Trump has hinted he might be willing to work with Assad’s army and Russia, whose year-and-a-half military intervention has propped up Assad’s government.
Assad’s forces are preoccupied with other battles, however, and would likely need significant US military involvement to take on Raqqa.
On Wednesday, the Syrian military recaptured the central town of Palmyra, a city located in the desert south of Raqqa that has gone back and forth between control of the military and the extremists several times.
The government forces have also clashed with the Turkish-backed Syrian fighters, who block their path to Raqqa.
Iraqi security forces inspect a recently discovered tunnel that had been used by Islamic State militants as a training camp, in western Mosul, Iraq on Wednesday, March 1. 2017
Syrians are sharply divided over who should enter Raqqa.
Many opposition supporters consider the SDF, which maintains a tacit non-aggression pact with Assad’s forces, to be a hostile group.
There are also fears of tensions if Raqqa, home to a nearly 200,000 mainly Arab population, is taken by the SDF, a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters.
‘Let us be frank that any force that will liberate Raqqa, other than the Free Syrian Army, is going to be a new occupation force with different flags and banners,’ said Mohammed Khodor of Sound and Picture Organization, which tracks atrocities by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was even more blunt, warning that if the SDF enters Raqqa, it will hurt relations between Ankara and Washington.
Since the Mosul offensive began, more than 28,000 people like these have been displaced by the fighting, according to the UN
‘We have said that a terror organization cannot be used against another terror organization,’ the Turkish leader told the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The Kurds reject that notion and insist that only forces fighting under the SDF banner will liberate Raqqa.
‘Turkey is an occupation force and has no legitimate right to enter Raqqa,’ said SDF spokeswoman Cihan Sheikh Ehmed.
In a text message exchange from northern Syria, she said the SDF has the experience in fighting IS to finish the operation.
Battlefield victories by the SDF against the Islamic State group have brought growing Western support.
Asked if adding more US troops or better arming Syria’s Kurds were options, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he will ‘accommodate any request’ from his field commanders.
In Mosul, the US-led coalition is playing a greater role than ever before in the fight against IS and coalition forces have moved closer to front-line fighting.
U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian says the increased support is an effort to ‘accelerate the campaign’ against the Islamic State group, noting that launching simultaneous operations in both Mosul and Raqqa ‘puts further strain on the enemy’s command and control.’
‘It is a complicating factor when you don’t have a partner government to work with,’ conceded Dorrian, adding that whoever the coalition partners with in the fight for Raqqa is ‘a subject of ongoing discussions.’
Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a Middle East analyst at the Jamestown Foundation who closely follows Kurdish affairs, says the US-led coalition wants to have a quick end to IS in Raqqa, from which external operations against the West are planned.
That means it would prefer to work with the Kurdish-led SDF forces ‘since they are able to mobilize manpower unlike the Turks,’ he said.
An ISIS flag flies in the city of Palmyra – but not for long as victory nears in the city
Allied forces stand on the rubble of the Tetrapylon and Roman Amphitheatre in Palmyra
An Iraqi soldier inspects a recently-discovered train tunnel, adorned with an Islamic State group flag
In any case, the battle for Raqqa is sure to be a long and deadly one. It took the SDF nearly 10 weeks to capture the northern Syrian town of Manbij from IS last year.
It took Turkish forces and allied groups more than three months to retake the town of al-Bab, a costly battle that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers and many civilians.
Raqqa is much larger than either Manbij or al-Bab.
Some Syrian opposition activists say the extremists dug a trench around it to make it difficult for attackers to storm it.
‘It would be difficult for any troops,’ said Itani of the Atlantic Council.
‘Witness the slow and ugly progress in Mosul as well. Raqqa would be tough,’ he said.
The Trump foreign policy team has been all over the map on what to do next in Syria — topple the regime, intensify aid to rebels, respond to any new attacks on innocent civilians. But when pressed, there is one idea everyone on the team seems to agree on: “The defeat of ISIS,” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put it.
Well, let me add to their confusion by asking just one question: Why?
Why should our goal right now be to defeat the Islamic State in Syria? Of course, ISIS is detestable and needs to be eradicated. But is it really in our interest to be focusing solely on defeating ISIS in Syria right now?
Let’s go through the logic: There are actually two ISIS manifestations.
One is “virtual ISIS.” It is satanic, cruel and amorphous; it disseminates its ideology through the internet. It has adherents across Europe and the Muslim world. In my opinion, that ISIS is the primary threat to us, because it has found ways to deftly pump out Sunni jihadist ideology that inspires and gives permission to those Muslims on the fringes of society who feel humiliated — from London to Paris to Cairo — to recover their dignity via headline-grabbing murders of innocents.
The other incarnation is “territorial ISIS.” It still controls pockets in western Iraq and larger sectors of Syria. Its goal is to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria — plus its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies — and to defeat the pro-Iranian Shiite regime in Iraq, replacing both with a caliphate.
Challenge No. 1: Not only will virtual ISIS, which has nodes all over the world, not go away even if territorial ISIS is defeated, I believe virtual ISIS will become yet more virulent to disguise the fact that it has lost the territorial caliphate to its archenemies: Shiite Iran, Hezbollah, pro-Shiite militias in Iraq, the pro-Shiite Assad regime in Damascus and Russia, not to mention America.
Challenge No. 2: America’s goal in Syria is to create enough pressure on Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah so they will negotiate a power-sharing accord with moderate Sunni Muslims that would also ease Assad out of power. One way to do that would be for NATO to create a no-fly safe zone around Idlib Province, where many of the anti-Assad rebels have gathered and where Assad recently dropped his poison gas on civilians. But Congress and the U.S. public are clearly wary of that.
So what else could we do? We could dramatically increase our military aid to anti-Assad rebels, giving them sufficient anti-tank and antiaircraft missiles to threaten Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Syrian helicopters and fighter jets and make them bleed, maybe enough to want to open negotiations. Fine with me.
What else? We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad. After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war — the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other. If we defeat territorial ISIS in Syria now, we will only reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah and enable them to devote all their resources to crushing the last moderate rebels in Idlib, not sharing power with them.
I don’t get it. President Trump is offering to defeat ISIS in Syria for free — and then pivot to strengthening the moderate anti-Assad rebels. Why? When was the last time Trump did anything for free? When was the last real estate deal Trump did where he volunteered to clean up a toxic waste dump — for free — before he negotiated with the owner on the price of the golf course next door?
This is a time for Trump to be Trump — utterly cynical and unpredictable. ISIS right now is the biggest threat to Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and pro-Shiite Iranian militias — because ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group that plays as dirty as Iran and Russia.
Trump should want to defeat ISIS in Iraq. But in Syria? Not for free, not now. In Syria, Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s, Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache — the same way we encouraged the mujahedeen fighters to bleed Russia in Afghanistan.
Yes, in the long run we want to crush ISIS everywhere, but the only way to crush ISIS and keep it crushed on the ground is if we have moderate Sunnis in Syria and Iraq able and willing to replace it. And those will only emerge if there are real power-sharing deals in Syria and Iraq — and that will only happen if Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah feel pressured to share power.
And while I am at it, where is Trump’s Twitter feed when we need it? He should be tweeting every day this message: “Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have become the protectors of a Syrian regime that uses poison gas on babies! Babies! Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad — poison gas enablers. Sad.”
Do not let them off the hook! We need to make them own what they’ve become — enablers of a Syria that uses poison gas on children. Believe it or not, they won’t like being labeled that way. Trump needs to use his global Twitter feed strategically. Barack Obama never played this card. Trump needs to slam it down every day. It creates leverage.
Syria is not a knitting circle. Everyone there plays dirty, deviously and without mercy. Where’s that Trump when we need him?
Iraqi Kurdistan first gained autonomous status in a 1970 agreement with the Iraqi government, and its status was re-confirmed as an autonomous entity within the federal Iraqi republic in 2005. There is a province by the name Kurdistan in Iran; it is not self-ruled. Kurds fighting in the Syrian Civil War were able to take control of large sections of northern Syria as government forces, loyal to Bashar al-Assad, withdrew to fight elsewhere. Having established their own government, they called for autonomy in a federal Syria after the war.
The Kingdom of Corduene, which emerged from the declining Seleucid Empire, was located to the south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia and ruled northern Mesopotamia and southeastern Anatolia from 189 BC to AD 384 as vassals of the vying Parthian and Roman Empire. At its zenith, the Roman Empire ruled large Kurdish-inhabited areas, particularly the western and northern Kurdish areas in the Middle East. Corduene became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC and remained allied with the Romans until AD 384. After 66 BC, it passed another 5 times between Rome and Persia. Corduene was situated to the east of Tigranocerta, that is, to the east and south of present-day Diyarbakır in south-eastern Turkey.
Some historians have correlated a connection between Corduene with the modern names of Kurds and Kurdistan;T. A. Sinclair dismissed this identification as false, while a common association is asserted in the Columbia Encyclopedia.
Some of the ancient districts of Kurdistan and their corresponding modern names:
19th-century map showing the location of the Kingdom of Corduene in 60 B.C
One of the earliest records of the phrase land of the Kurds is found in an Assyrian Christian document of late antiquity, describing the stories of Assyrian saints of the Middle East, such as Abdisho. When the SasanianMarzban asked Mar Abdisho about his place of origin, he replied that according to his parents, they were originally from Hazza, a village in Assyria. However they were later driven out of Hazza by pagans, and settled in Tamanon, which according to Abdisho was in the land of the Kurds. Tamanon lies just north of the modern Iraq-Turkey border, while Hazza is 12 km southwest of modern Erbil. In another passage in the same document, the region of the Khabur River is also identified as land of the Kurds. According to Al-Muqaddasi and Yaqut al-Hamawi, Tamanon was located on the south-western or southern slopes of Mount Judi and south of Cizre.
Map by Mahmud al-Kashgari (1074), showing Arḍ al-Akrād Arabic for land of Kurds located between Arḍ al-Šām (Syria), and Arḍ al-ʿIrāqayn (Iraq Arabi and Iraq Ajami).
Kurdistan in the Middle Ages was a collection of semi-independent and independent states called emirates. It was nominally under indirect political or religious influence of Khalifs or Shahs. A comprehensive history of these states and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the text of Sharafnama, written by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597. The emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan and Garmiyan in the south; Bakran, Bohtan (or Botan) and Badlis in the north, and Mukriyan and Ardalan in the east.
In the 16th century, after prolonged wars, Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between the Safavid and Ottoman empires. A major division of Kurdistan occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, and was formalized in the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab. From then until the aftermath of World War I, Kurdish areas (including most of Mesopotamia, eastern Anatolia, and traditionally Kurdish northeastern Syria) were generally under Ottoman rule, apart from the century-long, intermittent Iranian occupation in the early modern to modern period, and the later reconquest and vast expansion by the Iranian military leader Nader Shah in the first half of the 18th century. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies contrived to split Kurdistan (as detailed in the ultimately unratified Treaty of Sèvres) among several countries, including Kurdistan, Armenia and others. However, the reconquest of these areas by the forces of Kemal Atatürk (and other pressing issues) caused the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne and the borders of the modern Republic of Turkey, leaving the Kurds without a self-ruled region. Other Kurdish areas were assigned to the new British and French mandated states of Iraq and Syria.
At the end of the First Gulf War, the Allies established a safe haven in northern Iraq. Amid the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from three northern provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan emerged in 1992 as an autonomous entity inside Iraq with its own local government and parliament.
A 2010 US report, written before the instability in Syria and Iraq that exists as of 2014, attested that “Kurdistan may exist by 2030”. The weakening of the Iraqi state following the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has also presented an opportunity for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan, augmented by Turkey’s move towards acceptance of such a state although it opposes moves toward Kurdish autonomy in Turkey and Syria.
The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed by many Kurds, and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost. The region saw several major Kurdish rebellions, including the Koçgiri rebellion of 1920 under the Ottomans, then successive insurrection under the Turkish state – including the 1924 Sheikh Said rebellion, the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the 1937 Dersim rebellion. All were forcefully put down by the authorities. The region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965.
In an attempt to deny their existence, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as “Mountain Turks” until 1991. The words “Kurds”, “Kurdistan”, or “Kurdish” were officially banned by the Turkish government. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many people who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, political parties that represented Kurdish interests were banned.
In 1983, the Kurdish provinces were placed under martial law in response to the activities of the militant separatist organization, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A guerrilla war took place through the 1980s and 1990s in which much of the countryside was evacuated, thousands of Kurdish-populated villages were destroyed, and numerous extrajudicial summary executions were carried out by both sides. Many villages were reportedly set on fire or destroyed. Food embargoes were placed on Kurdish populated villages and towns. More than 20,000 Kurds were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homes.
Turkey has historically feared that a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq would encourage and support Kurdish separatists in the adjacent Turkish provinces, and have therefore historically strongly opposed Kurdish independence in Iraq. However, following the chaos in Iraq after the US invasion, Turkey has increasingly worked with the de facto autonomous Kurds in Iraq.
The successful 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with the resultant weakening of the ability of the Iraqi state to project power, also presented a “golden opportunity” for the Kurds to increase their independence and possibly declare an independent Kurdish state. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, who took more than 80 Turkish persons captive in Mosul during their offensive, is an enemy of Turkey, making Kurdistan useful for Turkey as a buffer state. On 28 June 2014 Hüseyin Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling AK party, made comments to the Financial Times indicating Turkey’s readiness to accept an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Various sources have reported that Al-Nusra has issued a fatwā calling for Kurdish women and children in Syria to be killed, and the fighting in Syria has led tens of thousands of refugees to flee to Iraq’s Kurdistan region. As of 2015, Turkey is actively supporting the Al-Nusra.
In A Dictionary of Scripture Geography (published 1846), John Miles describes Upper and Lower Kurdistan as following:
Modern Curdistan is of much greater extent than the ancient Assyria, and is composed of two parts the Upper and Lower. In the former is the province of Ardelan, the ancient Arropachatis, now nominally a part of Irak Ajami, and belonging to the north west division called Al Jobal. It contains five others namely, Betlis, the ancient Carduchia, lying to the south and south west of the lake Van. East and south east of Betlis is the principality of Julamerick, south west of it is the principality of Amadia. the fourth is Jeezera ul Omar, a city on an island in the Tigris, and corresponding to the ancient Bezabde. the fifth and largest is Kara Djiolan, with a capital of the same name. The pashalics of Kirkook and Solimania also comprise part of Upper Curdistan. Lower Curdistan comprises all the level tract to the east of the Tigris, and the minor ranges immediately bounding the plains and reaching thence to the foot of the great range, which may justly be denominated the Alps of western Asia.
The northern, northwestern and northeastern parts of Kurdistan are referred to as upper Kurdistan, and includes the areas from west of Amed to lake Urmia.
The lowlands of southern Kurdistan are called lower Kurdistan. The main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Arbil.
Much of the region is typified by an extreme continental climate – hot in the summer, bitterly cold in the winter. Despite this, much of the region is fertile and has historically exported grain and livestock. Precipitation varies between 200 and 400 mm a year in the plains, and between 700 and 3,000 mm a year on the high plateau between mountain chains. The climate is dominated by mountains in the zone along the border with Iran and Turkey, with dry summers and cold, snowy winters or wet springs, while to the south, it progressively transitions towards semi-arid and desert zones. The northern mountainous regions along the border with Iran and Turkey receive heavy snowfall.
Kurdistan is one of the most mountainous regions in the world with a cold climate receiving annual precipitation adequate to sustain temperate forests and shrubs. Mountain chains harbor pastures and forested valleys, totaling approximately 16 million hectares (160,000 km²), including firs and countryside is mostly oaks, conifers, platanus, willow, poplar and olive. Also the Mediterranean region known as west Kurdistan has olive trees. Kurdistan’s climatic conditions are due to the northern mountainous topography producing the steppe and forest vegetation in the area. The region north of the mountainous region on the border with Iran and Turkey features meadow grasses and such wild trees as poplar, willow and oak, hawthorn, Cherry plum, rose hips, mountain apple, pear, mountain ash, and olive. The desert in the south, by contrast, has such species as palm trees and date palm.
The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rain and snow fall, act as a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East, forming the source of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as well as other numerous smaller rivers, such as the Little Khabur, Khabur, Tharthar, Ceyhan, Araxes, Kura, Sefidrud, Karkha, and Hezil. Among rivers of historical importance to Kurds are the Murat (Arasān) and Buhtān rivers in Turkey; the Peshkhābur, the Little Zab, the Great Zab, and the Diyala in Iraq; and the Jaghatu (Zarrinarud), the Tātā’u (Siminarud), the Zohāb (Zahāb), and the Gāmāsiyāb in Iran.
These rivers, which flow from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level, are significant both as water sources and for the production of energy. Iraq and Syria dammed many of these rivers and their tributaries, and Turkey has an extensive dam system under construction as part of the GAP (Southeast Anatolia Project); though incomplete, the GAP already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey’s electrical energy needs. Due to the extraordinary archaeological richness of the region, almost any dam impacts historic sites.
Kurdistan extends to Lake Urmia in Iran on the east. The region includes Lake Van, the largest body of water in Turkey; the only lake in the Middle East with a larger surface is Lake Urmia – though not nearly as deep as Lake Van, which has a much larger volume. Urmia, Van, as well as Zarivar Lake west of Marivan, and Lake Dukan near the city of Sulaymaniyah, are frequented by tourists.
KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan are estimated to contain around 45 billion barrels (7.2×109 m3) of oil, making it the sixth largest reserve in the world. Extraction of these reserves began in 2007.
Al-Hasakah province, also known as Jazira region, has geopolitical importance of oil and is suitable for agricultural lands.
In November 2011, Exxon challenged the Iraqi central government’s authority with the signing of oil and gas contracts for exploration rights to six parcels of land in Kurdistan, including one contract in the disputed territories, just east of the Kirkuk mega-field. This act caused Baghdad to threaten to revoke Exxon’s contract in its southern fields, most notably the West-Qurna Phase 1 project. Exxon responded by announcing its intention to leave the West-Qurna project.
As of July 2007, the Kurdish government solicited foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the following 5 years by a factor of five, to about 1 million barrels per day (160,000 m3/d). Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 2,800 km3 (100×1012 cu ft). Notable companies active in Kurdistan include Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, Genel Energy, Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.
Other mineral resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include coal, copper, gold, iron, limestone (which is used to produce cement), marble, and zinc. The world’s largest deposit of rock sulfur is located just southwest of Erbil (Hewlêr).
In July 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil. Crude deliveries are expected to occur on a regular basis.
Mark Steyn: Trump hit a reset button for the world
President Trump’s Syria policy raises concerns
Sen. Paul: We didn’t have the debate, we simply went to war
A look at the intel that led to US strike on Syrian airbase
US Strikes Syria: Chemical attack not the first in Syrian civil war
Marco Rubio: President had legal, moral authority to attack
Israeli PM Netanyahu ‘fully supports’ US strike on Syria
President Trump Orders U.S. Airstrike on Syria
Trump turns on Assad: How will US strikes impact war in Syria? (part 1)
BREAKING! WE’RE AT WAR! TRUMP JUST LAUNCHED A MASSIVE STRIKE AGAINST SYRIA WW3 HAS BEGUN!!!
Issue Analysis: Trump, Assad, Syria, China, North Korea, UN Resolutions, Russia and What’s Next?
President Donald Trump Bombs Syria
Syria Chemical Attack: Push For Ousting Bashar al-Assad
Seymour Hersh: Obama “Cherry-Picked” Intelligence on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike
Global Empire – The World According to Seymour Hersh [Part Two]
Global Empire – The World According to Seymour Hersh [Part One]
Turkey’s interests in the Syrian civil war
Saudi Arabia’s role in the Syrian civil war
Why Do Saudi Arabia And Iran Hate Each Other?
TURKEY vs SYRIA Military Power Comparison | Turkish Army VS Syrian Arab Army | 2016
Toxicity of Phosgene with Audio
FSA use poison gas on SAA and Syrian people supplied by Turkey
Gas warfare in the First World War
What is Sarin Gas?
Published on Sep 7, 2013
Hank discusses the chemistry of sarin, the nerve agent that killed more than 1400 people in a chemical weapons attack in Syria.
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AMERICA’S TOP GENERAL JUST GAVE TRUMP SOMETHING THAT WILL SCARE NORTH KOREA TO DEATH!
Published on Apr 7, 2017
Sub for more: http://nnn.is/the_new_media | Danny Gold for Liberty Writers reports, Anyone who has been watching the news recently is sure to have heard all about North Korea and their nukes. They also know President Donald Trump is NOT happy about it and he and Mattis are ready to STRIKE BACK!
Why did Donald Trump strike al-Shayrat air base?
The strike on al-Shayrat air base near the western Syrian city of Homs was both a symbolic and a tactical one.
The airfield is not just a valuable military target, it is also the one from which the Syrian government launched its chemical attack on Tuesday.
Shayrat is one of the largest and most active Syrian Air Force bases, which has served as the nerve centre of its missions against rebels in Homs, as well as Palmyra, where government forces have been battling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Watch | Donald Trump: Syria strike in ‘vital’ US interest
However, it is believed that the US gave advance warning of the missile strike to Russia, which gave the Syrian military some time to move most of its assets to another base.
The Russians, who intervened militarily on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime in October 2015, have aircraft stationed at bases across Syria and the US could not risk accidentally hitting one.
Russia reportedly reinforced the base and built additional runways before beefing up its operations there.
Maj Gen. Igor Konashenkov, Russian defense ministry spokesman, reported on Friday that only 23 of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles reached the air base.
The raid damaged one of its two runways, according to pictures shared on social media which also showed severe fire damage to other parts of the base.
Rami Adbulrahman, director of UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said he was told 90 per cent of the base was destroyed and senior airforce commander, Brigadier Khalil Issa Ibrahim, was among the seven reported killed.
Before 2013 the base was used to store chemical weapons but nothing was targeted that could have contained them now.
It was believed there may have been sarin gas stored in one warehouse but that was avoided.
Maj Konashenkov said they destroyed six MiG-23 fighter jets of the Syrian air force which were under repairs, but did not damage other warplanes.
A former pilot who was stationed at Shayrat before he defected said Shayrat could hold up to 45 aircraft and that had they all been hit it would have had a major impact on the Syrian military’s strike capacity.
The mayor of Homs criticised the strikes, saying they only aided terrorists as the base was the main operations centre for carrying out strikes against Isil.
Fares Shehabi, an MP for Aleppo, posted on Twitter: “Trump attacked an airport solely dedicated to fighting ISIS in central Syria and providing aid to besieged civilians in Deir Ezzor.”
Jumping to conclusions; something is not adding up in Idlib chemical weapons attack
By Paul Antonopoulos
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:47 P.M.) – At least 58 people were killed in a horrific gas attack in the Idlib Governorate this morning. However, even before investigations could be conducted and for evidence to emerge, Federica Mogherini, the Italian politician High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemned the Syrian government stating that the “Assad regime bears responsibility for ‘awful’ Syria ‘chemical’ attack.”
The immediate accusation from a high ranking EU official serves a dangerous precedent where public outcry can be made even before the truth surrounding the tragedy can emerge
Merely hours after the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, supposedly by the Syrian government, holes are beginning to emerge from opposition sources, discrediting the Al-Qaeda affiliated White Helmets claims.
For one, seen in the above picture, the White Helmets are handling the corpses of people without sufficient safety gear, most particularly with the masks mostly used , as well as no gloves. Although this may seem insignificant, understanding the nature of sarin gas that the opposition claim was used, only opens questions.
Within seconds of exposure to sarin, the affects of the gas begins to target the muscle and nervous system. There is an almost immediate release of the bowels and the bladder, and vomiting is induced. When sarin is used in a concentrated area, it has the likelihood of killing thousands of people. Yet, such a dangerous gas, and the White Helmets are treating bodies with little concern to their exposed skin. This has to raise questions.
It also raises the question why a “doctor” in a hospital full of victims of sarin gas has the time to tweet and make video calls. This will probably be dismissed and forgotten however.
It is known that about 250 people from Majdal and Khattab were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda terrorists last week. Local sources have claimed that many of those dead from the chemical weapons were those from Majdal and Khattab.
ALSO READIn Video | ISIS Hunters secure gas fields in east Palmyra
This would suggest that on the eve of upcoming peace negotiations, terrorist forces have once again created a false flag scenario. This bares resemblance to the Ghouta chemical weapons attack in 2013 where the Syrian Army was accused of using the weapons of mass destruction on the day that United Nations Weapon’s Inspectors arrived in Damascus.
Later, in a separate chemical weapon usage allegation, Carla del Ponte, a UN weapons inspector said that there was no evidence that the government had committed the atrocity. This had however not stopped the calls for intervention against the Syrian government, a hope that the militant forces wished to eventuate from their use of chemical weapons against civilians in Khan-al-Assal.
Therefore, it is completely unsurprising that Orient TV has already prepared a “media campaign” to cover the Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Hama countryside against terrorist forces, with the allegations that the airforces have been using chemical weapons. And most telling, there announcement of covering the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, hours before this allegation even emerged…….. Seems like someone forgot to tell him that it would not occur for a few more hours before his tweet.
Meanwhile, pick up trucks have been photographed around bodies of those killed. Again, it must be questioned why there are people around sarin gas without any protective gear, and not affected at all when it can begin attacking the body within seconds? Also, the pick up trucks remain consistent to what local sources have said that many of those dead were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda terrorists from pro-government towns in rural Hama.
ALSO READUpdate from Syrian airbase targeted by US missiles
Also, what is brought into question is where the location of the hose is coming from in the below picture, a dugout carved into the rock. This also suggests that the location is at a White Helmets base where there are dug out hiding spots carved into the mountainside and where they have easy access to equipment, as highlighted by Twitter user Ian Grant.
The army “has not and does not use them, not in the past and not in the future, because it does not have them in the first place,” a military source said.
And this of course begs the question. With the Syrian Army and its allies in a comfortable position in Syria, making advances across the country, and recovering lost points in rural Hama, why would they now resort to using chemical weapons? It is a very simple question with no clear answer. It defies any logic that on the eve of a Syria conference in Brussels and a week before peace negotiations are to resume, that the Syrian government would blatantly use chemical weapons. All evidence suggests this is another false chemical attack allegation made against the government as seen in the Khan-al-Assal 2013 attack where the terrorist groups hoped that former President Obama’s “red-line” would be crossed leading to US-intervention in Syria against the government.
Most telling however, is that most recent report shows that the government does not deny striking Khan Sheikhun. Al-Masdar’s Yusha Yuseef was informed by the Syrian Army that the air force targeted a missile factory in Khan Sheikoun, using Russian-manufactured Su-22 fighter jet to carry out the attack. Most importantly, the Su-22’s bombs are unique and cannot be filled with any chemical substances, which is different than bombs dropped from attack helicopters. Yuseef was then told that the Syrian Air Force did not know there were any chemical substances inside the missile factory in Khan Sheikhoun. It remains to be known whether there actually were chemicals in the missile factory targeted by the airstrikes, or whether the terrorist forces used gas on the kidnapped civilians from the pro-government towns and brought them in the lorry trucks to the site of the airstrikes. Whether they were gassed by the militant forces, or the airstrikes caused a chemical weapon factory to explode, the gruesome deaths of children, seen foaming in the mouth because of the gas, lays in the hands of the terrorists.
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Therefore, it becomes evident that the area targeted was definitely a terrorist location, where it is known that the White Helmets share operation rooms with terrorist forces like Al-Qaeda as seen after the liberation of eastern Aleppo. Civilians and fighting forces, including Kurdish militias, have all claimed that militant groups that operate in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo countrysides, have used chemical weapons in the past. Therefore, before the war cries begin and the denouncement of the government from high officials in power positions begin, time must be given so that all evidence can emerge. However, this is an important factor that has never existed in the Syrian War, and the terrorist forces continue to hope that Western-intervention against the government will occur, at the cost of the lives of innocent civilians.
London’s Daily Mail in a 2013 article confirmed the existence of an Anglo-American project endorsed by the White House (with the assistance of Qatar) to wage a chemical weapons attack on Syria and place the blame of Bashar Al Assad.
The following Mail Online article was published and subsequently removed. Note the contradictory discourse: “Obama issued warning to Syrian president Bashar al Assad”, “White House gave green light to chemical weapons attack”.
The Pentagon’s Training of “Rebels” (aka Al Qaeda Terrorists) in the Use of Chemical Weapons
CNN accuses Bashar Al Assad of killing his own people while also acknowledging that the “rebels” are not only in possession of chemical weapons, but that these “moderate terrorists” affiliated with Al Nusra are trained in the use of chemical weapons by specialists on contract to the Pentagon.
In a twisted logic, the Pentagon’s mandate was to ensure that the rebels aligned with Al Qaeda would not acquire or use WMD, by actually training them in the use of chemical weapons (sounds contradictory):
“The training [in chemical weapons], which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.
The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American. (CNN, December 09, 2012, emphasis added)
screenshot of the CNN article, the original link has been redirected to CNN blogs,
And these are the same terrorists (trained by the Pentagon) who are the alleged target of Washington’s counterterrorism bombing campaign initiated by Obama in August 2014:
“The Pentagon scheme established in 2012 consisted in equipping and training Al Qaeda rebels in the use of chemical weapons, with the support of military contractors hired by the Pentagon, and then holding the Syrian government responsible for using the WMD against the Syrian people.
What is unfolding is a diabolical scenario –which is an integral part of military planning– namely a situation where opposition terrorists advised by Western defense contractors are actually in possession of chemical weapons.
This is not a rebel training exercise in non-proliferation. While president Obama states that “you will be held accountable” if “you” (meaning the Syrian government) use chemical weapons, what is contemplated as part of this covert operation is the possession of chemical weapons by the US-NATO sponsored terrorists, namely “by our” Al Qaeda affiliated operatives, including the Al Nusra Front which constitutes the most effective Western financed and trained fighting group, largely integrated by foreign mercenaries. In a bitter twist, Jabhat al-Nusra, a US sponsored “intelligence asset”, was recently put on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
The West claims that it is coming to the rescue of the Syrian people, whose lives are allegedly threatened by Bashar Al Assad. The truth of the matter is that the Western military alliance is not only supporting the terrorists, including the Al Nusra Front, it is also making chemical weapons available to its proxy “opposition” rebel forces.
The next phase of this diabolical scenario is that the chemical weapons in the hands of Al Qaeda operatives will be used against civilians, which could potentially lead an entire nation into a humanitarian disaster.
The broader issue is: who is a threat to the Syrian people? The Syrian government of Bashar al Assad or the US-NATO-Israel military alliance which is recruiting “opposition” terrorist forces, which are now being trained in the use of chemical weapons.” (Michel Chossudovsky, May 8, 2013, minor edit)
During the World War I, a new, deadly type of weapon was used for the first time; toxic gas. Considered uncivilised prior to the war, the development and military usage of poisonous gas grenades was soon called for by the demands of both sides to find a new way to overcome the stalemate of unforeseen trench warfare.
First used at the Second Battle of Ypres on 22 April 1915, cylinders filled with toxic gas soon became one of the most devastating and effective weapons used in the entire Great War, killing more than 90,000 soldiers and injuring about 1.25 million. In this article, we are going to explore the 4 of most deadly chemical weapons ever conceived, their history, usage, and effects on the human beings.
While Germans were releasing the mustard gas in year 1917 near the Belgian city of Ypres for the first time, chemist Frederic Guthrie was most likely turning in his grave. In year 1860, this British professor discovered the mustard gas, and also experienced its toxic effects first-hand for the first time. 57 years later, after its first military usage at Ypres, it got its infamous nickname, Yperite.
In the beginning, Germans planned to use the mustard gas only as a paralyzing agent. However, they soon found out, that when in sufficient concentrations, this gas could be easily lethal to the majority of the enemy soldiers.
Soldiers after the mustard gas attack
Due to its dangerous properties, mustard gas soon became a popular chemical weapon, used in WWII, during the North Yemen Civil War, and even by Saddam Husein in year 1988. Even 150 years after its discovery, antidote is still to be discovered.
Pure mustard gas is colourless, oily liquid at room temperature. When used in its impure form, as warfare agent, it is usually green-brown in color and has an specific odor resembling mustard or garlic, hence the name. Yperite fumes are more than 6 times heavier than air, staying near the ground for several hours, effectively filling and contaminating enemy’s trenches, and killing everyone without proper protection.
Mustard gas shells
Lethal dose for an adult man weighing 160 lbs is approximately 7,5 g of liquid mustard gas, when in contact with his skin for several minutes. However, when used in its gaseous form, lethality greatly depends on its concentration and on the length of exposure. Gas mask is usually not enough to be protected from this gas; it can easily penetrate the skin and kill the victim from inside. It easily passes through most of the clothes, shoes or other materials. For instance, standard rubber gloves could protect the skin for only about ten minutes.
4 or 6 hours after exposure, burning sensation appears in the affected areas, followed by reddening of the skin. After next 16 hours, large blisters appear on the affected skin, subsequently causing severe scarring and sometimes even necrosis. If the eyes were affected, temporary or permanent blindness typically occurs after few days.
Soldier with mustard gas burns
When inhaled, first symptoms start to manifest themselves after several hours, starting with chest pain, bloody coughing and vomiting, followed by muscle spasms. Death usually occurs within 3 days, caused either by lung edema or heart failure.
In year 1812, 22-year old British amateur chemist John Davy syntetized the phosgene gas for the first time. However, it didn’t contain any phosphorus, its name was derived from greek words phos(light) and gennesis(birth). John Davy probably assumed that his invention would be used in a more sensible way, however, on 9.th of December, 88 tons of phosgene were released during the trench warfare in France, killing 69 men and seriously injuring more then 1,200.
U.S. Army phosgene identification poster(WWII)
Germans were satisfied by the results, so they soon started using grenades filled by phosgene in combat. It accounts for more than 60% of all deaths caused by the chemical warfare during the First World War, more than chlorine and mustard gas combined.
During the Second World War, most soldiers were well-prepared for the possible use of this deadly gas, so the casualties were nowhere that high. However, phosgene-filled grenades used during the 1942 Battle of Kerch by Nazi Germany allegedly injured at least 10,000 Soviet soldiers.
British casualties after German phosgene attack
Which deadly properties does this gas possess? At low temperatures, it is a colourless liquid. However, when heated to more than 8 degrees celsius, it evaporates quickly. Its odor has been often described by the survivors as pleasant, similar to newly mown hay or wet grass. After release, it contaminates the area for about 10 minutes, double the time in the winter. When compared to chlorine, phosgene has a major advantage; first symptoms start to manifest themselves after much longer time period, usually after more than five minutes, allowing more phosgene to be inhaled.
After one inhales high concentrations of this lethal gas, his chances of survival are very mild. After few minutes, he is likely to die of suffocation, because phosgene aggresively disrupts the blood-air barrier in the lungs.
Australian soldiers wearing gas masks(WWI)
After inhaling less concentrated phosgene, you might be little bit better off. One hour after exposure, first symptoms include strong burning sensation in pharynx and trachea, severe headache and vomiting, followed by pulmonary edema(swelling and fluid buildup), which often leads to suffocation.
To this day, phosgene remains one of the most dangerous chemical weapons in the world. Although not as deadly as sarin or nerve gas, it is very easy to manufacture; no wonder it’s often used during terrorist attacks. Homemade phosgene grenade can be easily created by exposing a bottle of chloroform to UV-light source for a few days.
If previous two chemicals weren’t dangerous enough, here comes the sarin, often known as the most powerful of all nerve agents.
Sarin was developed back in 1938 by a group of 4 German scientists, Scharder, Ambros, Rudiger and van der Linde, during their research of pesticides. During the WWII, this deadly gas was first used by the Nazi Germany in June 1942. At the end of the war, Germany allegedly possessed more than 10 tons of sarin.
Japanese firemen decontaminating the Tokyo subway after sarin attack
However, it is most famous for being used during the 1995 terrorist attack on the Tokio subway by a Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, killing 13 people and allegedly injuring more than 5,000. It was also used back in August 2013 by al-Assad’s forces in Ghouta, Syria, killing more than 1,700 people.
Sarin belongs to the group of nerve gasses, the deadliest of all toxic gasses used in chemical warfare. It is highly toxic; a single drop of sarin the size of the head of a pin is enough to kill an adult human. In addition, most of the victims usually die few minutes after contamination.
It usually enters the organism via respiration, but it can also penetrate the skin or be ingested. In home temperature, sarin is a colourless liquid without significant odor, similar to water. However, when exposed to higher temperatures, it starts to evaporate, being still odorless. After release, it often remains deadly for more than 24 hours.
Missile filled with sarin containers
Immediately after exposure, first symptoms include strong headaches, increased salivation and lacrimation(secretion of tears), followed by gradual paralysis of the muscles. Death is caused by asphyxiation or heart failure.
According to some sources, Sarin is 500 times more deadly than kyanide, with its lethal dose being only about 800 micrograms. Only 5 tons of sarin, obiviously properly dosed, would be enough to wipe out entire humanity.
This mixture of two herbicides, most famous for its usage in Vietnam War, is not a chemical weapon in the true sense of the word. It was discovered in year 1943 by American botanic Arthur Galston. In year 1951, further research started by the scientific team in the military base of Detrick, Maryland.
Barrel of ”Agent Orange”
During the War of Vietnam, it was widely used for deforestation of the large areas covered by thick jungle, to enable easier and more effective bombing of enemy bases and supply routes. Although designed as herbicide, the Agent Orange also contained large amounts of dioxin, a highly toxic compound, making it one of the most deadly chemical weapons ever deployed.
In years 1962-1971, military operation with codenames ”Ranch Hand” or ”Trail Dust” took place in Southern Vietnam. During this operation, jungles in the region were heavily showered by this herbicide, primarily in the areas of Mekong delta. Mixture was storaged in orange barrels, hence the name ”Agent Orange”. During the operation, more than 20 million gallons of this dangerous chemical were used, destroying large areas of jungle, contaminating air, water and food sources.
Vietnamese babies born with severe birth defects
In high concentrations, dioxin causes severe inflammation of skin, lungs and mucous tissues, sometimes resulting in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary edema, or even death, however, it also affects eyes, liver and kidneys. It is also highly effective carcinogen, known for causing laryngeal and lung cancer.
It is estimated, that the usage of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War led to more than 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with mild to severe birth defects as a result of contamination. Agent Orange alone killed 10 times more people than all other chemical weapons combined.
The Tomahawk missile family consists of a number of subsonic, jet engine-powered missiles designed to attack a variety of surface targets. Although a number of launch platforms have been deployed or envisaged, only sea (both surface ship and submarine) launched variants are currently in service. Tomahawk has a modular design, allowing a wide variety of warhead, guidance, and range capabilities. The Tomahawk project was originally awarded to Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland by the US Navy. James H. Walker led a team of scientists to design and build this new long range missile. The original design, updated with advanced technology, is still used today.
Ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM) and their truck-like launch vehicles were employed at bases in Europe; they were withdrawn from service to comply with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Many of the anti-ship versions were converted into TLAMs at the end of the Cold War. The Block III TLAMs that entered service in 1993 can fly farther and use Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to strike more precisely. Block III TLAM-Cs retain the DSMAC II navigation system, allowing GPS only missions, which allow for rapid mission planning, with some reduced accuracy, DSMAC only missions, which take longer to plan but terminal accuracy is somewhat better, and GPS aided missions which combine both DSMAC II and GPS navigation which provides the greatest accuracy. Block IV TLAMs are completely redesigned with an improved turbofan engine. The F107-402 engine provided the new BLK III with a throttle control, allowing in-flight speed changes. This engine also provided better fuel economy. The Block IV TLAMs have enhanced deep-strike capabilities and are equipped with a real-time targeting system for striking fleeing targets. Additionally, the BLOCK IV missiles have the capabilities to be re-targeted inflight, and the ability to transmit, via satcom, an image immediately prior to impact to assist in determining if the missile was attacking the target and the likely damage from the attack.
UGM-109 Tomahawk missile detonates above a test target, 1986
A major improvement to the Tomahawk is network-centric warfare-capabilities, using data from multiple sensors (aircraft, UAVs, satellites, foot soldiers, tanks, ships) to find its target. It will also be able to send data from its sensors to these platforms. It will be a part of the networked force being implemented by the Pentagon.
Tomahawk Block III introduced in 1993 added time-of-arrival control and navigation through Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator (DSMAC) and jam-resistant GPS, smaller, lighter WDU-36 warhead, engine improvements and extended missile’s range.
Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) takes advantage of a loitering feature in the missile’s flight path and allows commanders to redirect the missile to an alternative target, if required. It can be reprogrammed in-flight to attack predesignated targets with GPS coordinates stored in its memory or to any other GPS coordinates. Also, the missile can send data about its status back to the commander. It entered service with the US Navy in late 2004. The Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS) added the capability for limited mission planning on board the firing unit (FRU).
Tomahawk Block IV introduced in 2006 adds the strike controller which can change the missile in flight to one of 15 preprogrammed alternate targets or redirect it to a new target. This targeting flexibility includes the capability to loiter over the battlefield awaiting a more critical target. The missile can also transmit battle damage indication imagery and missile health and status messages via the two-way satellite data link. Firing platforms now have the capability to plan and execute GPS-only missions. Block IV also has an improved anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced mission performance. Block IV includes Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS), and Tomahawk Command and Control System (TC2S).
On 16 August 2010, the Navy completed the first live test of the Joint Multi-Effects Warhead System (JMEWS), a new warhead designed to give the Tomahawk the same blast-fragmentation capabilities while introducing enhanced penetration capabilities in a single warhead. In the static test, the warhead detonated and created a hole large enough for the follow-through element to completely penetrate the concrete target. In February 2014, U.S. Central Command sponsored development and testing of the JMEWS, analyzing the ability of the programmable warhead to integrate onto the Block IV Tomahawk, giving the missile bunker buster effects to better penetrate hardened structures.
In 2014, Raytheon began testing Block IV improvements to attack sea and moving land targets. The new passive radar seeker will pick up the electromagnetic radar signature of a target and follow it, and actively send out a signal to bounce off potential targets before impact to discriminate its legitimacy before impact. Mounting the multi-mode sensor on the missile’s nose would remove fuel space, but company officials believe the Navy would be willing to give up space for the sensor’s new technologies. The previous Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile, retired over a decade earlier, was equipped with inertial guidance and the seeker of the Harpoon missile and there was concern with its ability to clearly discriminate between targets from a long distance, since at the time Navy sensors did not have as much range as the missile itself, which would be more reliable with the new seeker’s passive detection and active millimeter-wave radar. Raytheon estimates adding the new seeker would cost $250,000 per missile. Other upgrades include sea-skim mode – low-altitude flight over water at high subsonic speeds. The first Block IV TLAMs modified with a maritime attack capability will enter service in 2018-2019.
A supersonic version of the Tomahawk is under consideration for development with a ramjet to increase its speed to Mach 3. A limiting factor to this is the dimensions of shipboard launch tubes. Instead of modifying every ship able to carry cruise missiles, the ramjet-powered Tomahawk would still have to fit within a 21-inch diameter and 20-foot long tube.
In October 2015, Raytheon announced the Tomahawk had demonstrated new capabilities in a test launch, using its onboard camera to take a reconnaissance photo and transmit it to fleet headquarters. It then entered a loitering pattern until given new targeting coordinates to strike.
By January 2016, Los Alamos National Laboratory was working on a project to turn unburned fuel left over when a Tomahawk reaches its target into an additional explosive force. To do this, the missile’s JP-10 fuel is turned into a fuel air explosive to combine with oxygen in the air and burn rapidly. The thermobaric explosion of the burning fuel acts, in effect, as an additional warhead and can even be more powerful than the main warhead itself when there is sufficient fuel left in the case of a short range target.
TACTOM(Tactical Tomahawk) is Tomahawk’s modernization program that will incorporate an all-weather-seeker that will complement Tomahawk’s Synthetic Guidance Mode; which uses a high-throughput radio signal to update the missile in flight, giving it new target information as a maritime or land target moves.