A Crazy Leader, a Dear Leader, and a Supreme Leader Walk Into a Bar…
|IN A NUTSHELL: MUST READ|
Who Needs Leakers When You Have Donald Trump?: Last Wednesday, President Trump met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. Yesterday The Washington Post reported that, according to former and current US officials, during the meeting Trump went off script and shared highly classified information provided by a US ally through an intelligence-sharing arrangement. The information was (note the tense we use) considered so sensitive that it was tightly restricted even within the US government. “This is code-word information,” said a US official familiar with the matter, using a term that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American intelligence agencies. After Trump disclosed the information, senior White House officials immediately called the CIA and the National Security Agency to inform them of what had happened.
The US president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information, but in this case Trump did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which could jeopardize a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement. The ally had not given the US permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s disclosure endangers cooperation from a partner who has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.
Vox writes, “Trump’s disclosures represent a direct threat to US counterterrorism efforts, which rely less on the skills of individual operatives and more on the web of intelligence-sharing agreements that Washington has with allies around the globe.” One of the most well-known is the Five Eyes agreement between the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. But the US also maintains formal and informal intelligence-sharing arrangements with countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey.
The White House declared the allegations false. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster told reporters at the White House, “The story that came out tonight as reported is false. At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known…I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
Syrian Government Commits Mass Atrocities at Prison Near Damascus: The US State Department, or what is left of it, stated that a crematorium has been built by Butcher al-Assad’s government near Saydnaya Military Prison in an attempt to hide mass killings taking place there. Stuart Jones, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said on Monday: “We are appalled by the atrocities taking place in Syria” with the “seemingly unconditional support of Russia.” Jones noted that the detention center was just one of many where prisoners are being held.
Jones held up a series of aerial photos taken from 2013 – 2017 that show the construction of a crematorium next to the prison. The State Department believes that as many as 50 prisoners are killed each day and then burned in the crematorium. In February, Amnesty International published a report called Human Slaughterhouse, alleging that thousands from the prison have been hanged.
|NUTS AND BOLTS: SHOULD READ|
Congolese Government Spends $5 Million on American Lobbyists….But Doesn’t Have Enough Funds to Hold Elections: The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is spending over five million dollars on a new lobbying campaign that includes several prominent US Republicans, including former US Senator Bob Dole. (Dole’s lobbying prowess was on full view when President Trump took a congratulatory call from Taiwan’s president last December). The DRC’s lobbying campaign is being managed by an Israeli security company, Mer Security and Communications, which has no stated expertise in government or policy matters.
Lobbying firms often earn millions of dollars representing foreign governments, particularly ones with bad reputations or who are in crisis, as is the DRC government currently led by President Joseph Kabila, who should have stepped down last year. In December, his government struck a deal with the opposition in which Kabila was allowed to stay in power in exchange for holding elections before the end of 2017. Now Kabila says that planning for the upcoming election has faced delays due to logistical and budgetary challenges, the exact same excuse used to scrap last November’s vote. Anyone else thinking of the failed Munich Agreement that was signed the year before World War II started? What’s that adage about history repeating itself?
|KEEPING OUR EYE ON|
Iranian Hardliners Rally Against Current President: Iranians vote on Friday for a new president. There will be one less candidate in the running as Tehran’s hardline mayor has dropped out and asked his supporters to back Ebrahim Raisi, another hardliner who is a close ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader. And we know elections matter, even in a country where the president reports to the Supreme Leader. The current president, Hassan Rouhani (a moderate by Iranian standards) is responsible for the 2015 nuclear deal.
There will be a run-off one week later if no candidate receives more than half of the vote. And this looks to be the case as Rouhani is leading, but only has around 40% of the vote. The Iranian presidential debates, which devolve into mud slinging and jeering, are eerily similar to those in the US and France. Each of the candidates has accused the others of outright corruption.
From Supreme Leader to the Dear Leader’s Missiles: The UN Security Council has, for the umpteenth time, unanimously condemned North Korea’s missile test and warned of additional sanctions. The analogy for North Korea for the past decade has been that the world tries to take a carrot and stick approach with its Dear Leader. But in return, North Korea has become famously adept at taking the carrot and then brandishing the stick for all to see. It is doubtful that any Hollywood production company is considering a movie that would make a mockery of North Korea’s Dear Leader. (By the way, for a country that has little to no internet access, it’s impressive that North Korea also has some of the world’s best hackers.)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU