Sunday, January 15, 2017

Arabic Music - Glorya - Habibi

Video - Duterte: 'I will declare martial law to preserve my nation'

Syrians express 'deep anger' at Turkey for war

Fehim Tastekin reports that many Syrians blame Turkey, once a close ally of Damascus, for the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, according to United Nations and independent estimates.
Tastekin, a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse, reports from Damascus that “being a Turk in Syria is a bit difficult nowadays. No one will harass, insult or attack you, for sure, but everyone has a few words to say about Ankara’s transition from friend to foe.”
Tastekin writes, “In a cafe booked by a group of friends, the owner had joined the dancing patrons. When he learned we were Turks, he couldn't resist a few stinging words despite all the commotion around. 'Six years ago, I was an [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan fan, and the two countries were friends,' he said. 'A Turkish friend who used to come and go cautioned me to go easy, saying that not everything is what it looks like. He proved right and we were badly mistaken. Still, I wish the best for the Turkish people, but the harm that Erdogan did to us will unfortunately reach Turkey as well.'”
Syrians doubt Turkey’s ability to restrain terrorist armed groups in Syria. “The international media may be preoccupied with the cease-fire,” Tastekin reports, “but one can hardly say it has led to great excitement in Damascus — not because of indifference, but because there is little faith that Turkey can fulfill its commitment to rein in armed groups. And the groups that really give the Syrian army a hard time are Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the Islamic State (IS), which are excluded from the deal. Put briefly, the sentiment in Damascus is that the cease-fire is better than nothing, but a far cry from fixing all problems.”
Damascus swirled with speculation that Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might meet at the upcoming summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. “According to Syrians,” Tastekin writes, “the prospect of Assad sitting at the same table with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hard to swallow. Yet even if the two come together for the sake of national interests and diplomacy, Syrians say this would be seen as Erdogan’s defeat, not Assad’s.”
Tastekin observes, “The war comes to Damascenes in the form of killer rockets fired abruptly from the countryside, water and power cuts that make life unbearable, soaring prices, searches at checkpoints that slow traffic and more than 2 million people displaced from war zones. Still, the city continues to function, and social and economic life remains vibrant.” Fighting in areas west of Damascus has led to a potable water crisis affecting as many as 5.5 million in and around the capital.
Reporting from Aleppo, where a UN official last week described the destruction as “beyond imagination,” Tastekin reports, “I encountered deep anger against Turkey. When people heard we were Turks, their attitudes hardened. The question we heard most was, 'Why did Turkey did this to us?'”
Tastekin discovered “that the Russian military police sent to Aleppo were mostly Chechen. All 250 of them were said to be loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.” Tastekin said his knowledge of the Caucasus facilitated his conversations with a Chechen soldier. “I asked him, 'Ah, you were serving under Shamil Basayev.' He panicked and signaled me to shut up. From 1992-1993, Basayev was tolerated by Russia and had recruited volunteers from the Caucasus and participated in the battles of Abkhazia. Basayev later emerged in the battles for Chechnya's independence and fought against the Russians. In the second Chechen-Russian war, Basayev's forces split; some joined Kadyrov, and those continuing to resist Russia set up the Caucasus Emirate. These two groups became dedicated enemies. Some from the Caucasus Emirate joined Jabhat al-Nusra (now Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) and the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Now Basayev's former soldiers were allied with the Syrian regime to confront their former comrades. It was not wise to share a hotel with these soldiers: Finding another hotel became the first task of the next day.”
Tastekin’s account offers firsthand testimony from Syrians about the role of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and other armed groups, a perspective often left out in the simple "government vs. rebels" narrative in much mainstream reporting on the conflict. “I was terribly shaken by what I saw in Aleppo. It became meaningless to ask who was responsible and why,” Tastekin writes.
Abadi seeks reset with Turkey, Saudi Arabia
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking to improve relations with Iraq’s neighbors in support of Iraqi unity, the shared threat from the Islamic State (IS), and the need for stability in Iraq once the terrorist group is defeated, Ali Mamouri writes.
Iraqi-Turkish relations, which have been particularly acrimonious because of the presence of Turkish forces in Bashiqa — the Turks are reportedly there to train fighters against IS — may have steadied, at least for now, after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s visit to Baghdad on Jan. 7. At a joint press conference, Bildrim backed Iraq’s “territorial integrity” and Abadi declared that “Iraq’s request for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Bashiqa was agreed.”
Mamouri quotes a source in intelligence that the “recent rapprochement between Iraq and Turkey was the result of ongoing efforts by the intelligence apparatus to resolve disputes between the two countries behind the scenes with Abadi's support and guidance.”
The Iraqi source also told Mamouri that efforts are underway for a possible rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. The day after Al-Monitor published Mamouri’s article, Reuters reported that Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari had been carrying messages between Riyadh and Tehran in an attempt to reduce tensions.
Such an effort by Abadi could provide a much-needed spark for an Iran-Saudi dialogue on regional issues. The Iran-Saudi divide has inflamed crises in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq. The prospects for an improvement in Iran-Saudi ties may have been set back last week by the death of former Iranian President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had been a proponent of rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh.
In an exclusive interview in 2015, Rafsanjani told Al-Monitor, “We do not inherently have any issues with Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries, because they are Islamic, and we see cooperation with them as a priority in our constitution. Even though they provided support for Saddam [Hussein] during Iraq’s imposed war on Iran, our differences were very quickly resolved once they responded to Iran's postwar policy of detente and stepped forward to cooperate. The [1987] killing [of Iranian pilgrims] in Mecca was among the disputes, and it was resolved by the order of the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] because the essence of the matter [of our relations] is not such that we [inherently] have conflict. … Recent events in the region, meaning the events in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain, are among the issues that have created a distance. Of course, if the Iranian government and [its counterparts] decide to work together, things won’t be difficult and will be as they were in the past. It is possible to normalize the situation with a swift move for the sake of the Muslim world as a whole. I really believe it is possible.”
Ali Hashem writes that Iranian-Saudi relations have otherwise mostly suffered from “a lack of conviction in the necessity of rapprochement.” He continues, “There are also other causes for the tensions. One main element missing is regional stability. Another missing element is the presence of political influencers who dare to take initiatives despite the repercussions. The regional struggle is no longer political or driven by economics. Blood between those fighting in the name of Iran and its regional foes is being shed in the name of God — and this makes a solution in the near future a godly solution.”
Read more:

Saudi women 'protest' sharia law by dancing in burkas in music video

A group of "progressive" Saudi women made a music video that has over four million views on YouTube.  The video shows women dancing to music in public (prohibited in Saudi Arabia) and wandering around outside without a male escort (also prohibited in Saudi Arabia).

But the video, intended to be progressive, unintentionally proves to be a parody, because these progressive women who are dancing and singing and showing their independence are all wearing burkas.  Even their faces are covered, except for their eyes.  In Saudi Arabia, the cutting edge for women is dancing and singing with a sheet over your body.  The idea that they think their act of rebellion is progressive when they are afraid to even show their face is funny and sad.

Read more:
Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

Saudi Arabia's Top Religious Body Denounces Cinemas, Concerts

Saudi Arabia's top religious authority has called cinemas and singing concerts harmful and corrupting, in a move that could complicate government efforts to introduce cultural reforms to the conservative kingdom.

The comments by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, published on his website, said cinemas and round-the-clock entertainment could open the door to "atheistic or rotten" foreign films and encourage the mixing of the sexes.

Cinemas and public concerts are already banned in the conservative Islamic kingdom. But the government promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of "Vision 2030" reforms announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz last year.

The head of the government's General Authority for Entertainment, Amr al-Madani, stirred debate last week when he raised the possibility of opening cinemas and staging concerts this year.
The Saudi Gazette quoted Madani as saying Saudi singer Mohammed Abdo would perform in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah very soon. Up to now, singers have been limited to performing for private gatherings.

"I hope those in charge of the Entertainment Authority are guided to turn it from bad to good and not to open doors to evil," Al al-Sheikh said on his weekly television program, according to a transcript of his comments on his website.

"Motion pictures may broadcast shameless, immoral, atheistic or rotten films," Al al-Sheikh said.
"The Mufti...also stressed that there is nothing good in song parties, for entertainment day and night and opening of movie houses at all times is an invitation to mixing of sexes," he added.
The "Vision 2030" initiative is meant to jumpstart the private sector, provide jobs for a growing population and open up Saudis' cloistered lifestyles.

The plan's said it considers culture and entertainment "indispensable to our quality of life".
In remarks carried by Foreign Affairs magazine last week, Prince Mohammed said he believed only a small percentage of clerics were too dogmatic to be reasoned with while more than half could be persuaded through engagement and dialogue to support the plan.

In a country that adheres to an austere brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam, where gender segregation is mandatory and concerts and cinemas are banned, the plan's seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment are controversial.

Saudi Arabia's clerics offer legitimacy and public support to a king who styles himself the guardian of Islam's holiest sites. They retain control of the justice system but leave most other matters of governance to him, so long as his edicts do not contradict their interpretation of Islamic law.

read more:

Music Video - Nicki Minaj - High School (Explicit) ft. Lil Wayne

Video - Jokes About This Story Present A Golden Opportunity

Video - The Daily Show - Obama Says Goodbye & Trump (Allegedly) Gets a "Golden Shower"

Video - The Daily Show - Processing Trump's Press Conference

Video - Donald Trump Press Conference Cold Open - SNL

Music Video - Nicki Minaj - Anaconda

Music Video - Redfoo - Where the Sun Goes ft. Stevie Wonder

Music Video - Let's Get Ridiculous

Music Video - LMFAO - Sorry For Party Rocking

White Girl Is ‘DISOWNED’ BY PARENTS . . . For Dating Black Man . . . So She Raises $12K From GoFundMe . . . To Pay For Her COLLEGE!!

A White girl is getting her COLLEGE TUITION PAID by strangers – after she was CUT OFF by her family, for dating a Black man.
Allie Dowdle, from outside Memphis, Tennessee, claims that he father CUT HER OFF after he found out that she was dating a Black man, and took to GoFundMe – to try and raise money to pay for her college.
This is a snippet from Ally’s GoFundMe page:
I’m 18 years old and a high school senior at a local private school, where I’ve maintained a 4.0 GPA since 9th grade and have taken 5 AP courses. I’ve jumped at every service opportunity available to me and completed a 2-month surgery fellowship this past summer at Regional One Health in downtown Memphis. My education has always been extremely important to me, which is why I am willing to share my story:
About a year ago, I told my parents that I’d started dating a boy named Michael, pictured with me above. Hoping to share him with my family, I showed my parents his picture, and the conversation was over before it even began. My dad did not give me an option: he told me that I was not allowed to see Michael ever again. Why? Strictly because of skin color.
Of course, the father denies the claims according to him he disapproves of his daughter’s boyfriend for issues “Other than race.” Here is what he told the NY Daily News:
He said that he and his wife would accept whomever their daughter wanted to date, but that he disapproved of both Michael and a previous boyfriend in part because Allie had started seeing them in secret.
The father said that he decided to cut off her college money because she has been spoiled and “it became obvious that she needed to go out in the world and grow up.”

President Obama: A look back

Five days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president, we take a look back at our 44th president, Barack Obama. Our Cover Story is reported by Martha Teichner:
“Because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
It was a moment that seemed to hold so much promise, such optimism: Barack Obama facing that sea of supporters in Chicago on November 4, 2008, after being elected our first African-American president:
“And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: ‘Yes, we can.’”
What began that night is ending now. The assessment of the Obama legacy is already underway.
“I think that moment, that Grant Park moment, will be remembered symbolically in history as a moment when America thought, ‘We’ve done something and we feel good about that,’” said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
“In history, we always talk about, is it the man or is it the times that makes for a presidential legacy? And that moment in Grant Park, it seemed like the man was even bigger than the times.” But “the times” set the agenda from Day One. As soon as Barack Obama took the oath of office, he inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The big banks, and GM and Chrysler, were teetering. Unemployment was pushing 8%.
It’s easy to forget how scary it was. Now, unemployment is 4.7%. Since early 2010, more than 15 million jobs have been created. By most accounts, a big check in the plus column of the Obama legacy tally.
“It’s a huge achievement to save the economy,” said Goodwin. “It’s not something that’s just a statistical thing you’ve done; you’ve affected people’s lives and affected their futures. And that is real.”
For President Obama, virtually every accomplishment was a struggle. He was blindsided by the partisan ugliness of the opening battles, as he told our Lee Cowan a year ago: “In those early months, my expectation was, is that we could pull the parties together a little more effectively,” he said.
In 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell defined what Democrats call Republican obstructionism: “Our top political priority over the next two years,” he told the Heritage Foundation, “should be to deny President Obama a second term.” Not one Republican, in either the House or the Senate, voted for the Affordable Care Act, what came to be known as Obamacare. The president wanted his signature expansion of health care insurance to be the biggest check in his legacy “plus” column, but Republicans are already dismantling it.
What about President Obama’s foreign policy legacy?
“Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda.”
The killing of bin Laden: Definitely, a plus. The way he pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iran nuclear deal, the now-dead-on-arrival Trans-Pacific Partnership, claimed by the administration as pluses; by his critics, not so much. And his handling of Syria, according to many policy experts, a big check in the “minus” column.
“I would argue that the decision not to make good on the American threat on Syrian use of chemical weapons was the single biggest flaw and mistake of Barack Obama’s presidency,” said Richard Haass, president of the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “This sent a message to our friends and our allies, who are inherently dependent on us, that we could not be counted on.
“And I think he had a view of the world that it would somehow sort itself out just fine even if the United States made the decision to do a lot less, and that’s simply wrong. What we’ve learned, particularly in the Middle East, but also elsewhere, is if the United States dials down, benign forces don’t fill the space.”
“Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say.”
Which brings us to what may be President Obama’s most provocative legacy: He changed the conversation about the nation’s social issues.
“The idea that people now talk about systemic racism and systemic bias, that it showed up on the campaign trail, that’s new,” said New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow. “The idea that it bubbles to the top while he is president is a real thing.”
“That can’t be undone,” said Teichner.
“You can’t put that genie back in the bottle,” said Blow. “Now that is at the top, on the surface. Now we have to deal with that.” Just this past Friday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the results of a 13-month investigation of the Chicago Police Department. For Chicago, substitute Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland … to name some of the cities whose police practices have been scrutinized. “That is him,” Blow said. “That is the influence that he is having on our discussion. And that comes to the front during the Obama years.”
Now consider this:
“Strangely enough, it’s not really him being African-American, I think, that is most remarkable of his eight years,” Blow said. “It is the incredible movement on issues like same-sex marriage and gay rights and inclusion. It has been the civil rights movement of our time, and it has changed over his tenure more than at any other time in American history.”
But what has also changed in President Obama’s eight years: devastating Democratic Party losses at the polls have left Republicans firmly in charge -- a big minus that will have an impact on his legacy.
Still, for historians, how a president is judged changes over time.
“When you think about Harry Truman having left the presidency with such a low level of approval rating, and yet now being considered one of the near-great presidents,” said Goodwin. “And you think about President Johnson having left the presidency with such sadness, feeling like the Vietnam War was a scar forever on his legacy. there’s no question that domestically he did far more than we realized at the time.”
Teichner asked, “Do you think history will be kind to President Obama’s presidency?” “I do.”
The symbolism of President Obama’s legacy can’t be ignored. The image of this particular first family, of a president who sang his heart out over the killings in that Charleston church, of a White House that was hip for a change.
Is symbolism equal in value in assessing a president’s legacy -- President Obama’s legacy -- as legislative achievement?
Charles Blow said, “I think absolutely. I believe in image. I believe in representation. I believe that it is a powerful, powerful thing. I have three kids who have grown up, and they have never known anything but a black president. I mean, their consciousness about a president begins with him.”
In his farewell address last week, President Obama said, “I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents.”
It is with symbolism in mind that President Barack Obama returned to Chicago -- where it all began -- to say goodbye, and to consign his presidency to history.
“A creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we can. Yes, we did. Yes, we can. Thank you, God bless you, may God continue to bless the United States of America.”

John Lewis reflects on Selma: 'I thought I saw death'

Video - John Lewis On Trump, Russia: 'We Must Not Be Silent'

Trump should’ve Googled John Lewis before he Tweeted


In a photograph from his youth, President-elect Donald J. Trump poses in the dress uniform of a New York Military Academy cadet. He’s posed next to his father, real estate mogul Fred C. Trump, and his mother, the Scottish immigrant/social climber, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump.
He graduated from NYMA in 1964, and with all due respect to the class of ’17, at the time his school had the reputation as little more than a holding pen for rich, disaffected young men who’d reach a level of incompetence unwelcome at other institutions.
During that same timeJohn Lewis, the son of the sharecropper Eddie Lewis, and Willie Mae Carter Lewis, was running the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and he was a keynote speaker at the 1963 March On Washington, the gathering where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream Speech.”
In an excruciating photo, taken about the time Trump was more focused on female conquest and winning squash matches than his studies during his years at Fordham University, John Lewis is on the ground, his hands covering his head as he’d been trained, while an Alabama state trooper beats him with a baton. Lewis, who would be arrested more than 40 times for his civil rights work, came away from that encounter with a fractured skull.
Meanwhile, Trump transferred to Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, and racked up five draft deferments — four for college, and one for bone spurs in his heels. He entered his father’s real estate business, where in 1973, the Department of Justice sued Trump and his company for alleged racial discrimination at their housing developments.
Trump and family settled, without admitting guilt, but only after Trump tried to counter-sue for $100 million.
During that time, Lewis was director of the Voter Education Project, which coordinated the voter registration work of five different organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, and the National Urban League. In 1987, John Lewis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia’s Fifth district. In 1998, he published, “Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of a Movement.” It won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He followed it with a much-acclaimed series of graphic novels titled, “March.”
In 1987, Trump published “Art of the Deal,” followed by “The Art of the Comeback,” “How to Get Rich,” and “Think Like a Billionaire,” though we don’t actually know if Trump is a billionaire as he won’t release his income taxes.
In 2005, Trump was recorded bragging that he could grab women by their genitals. 
Around that time, Rep. Lewis told an Oregon crowd of 30,000 protesting the war in Iraq: “People around the world will not be inspired by our missiles and our guns; they will be inspired by our ideas.”
In 2011, Trump began floating the (false) rumor that Pres. Barack Obamawas not born in the U.S. That same year, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
On Jan. 13, when Lewis said on “Meet the Press” that, while he believed in forgiveness and trying to work with people, he didn’t consider Trump a “legitimate” president. He also said he would not attend Trump’s inauguration.
On Jan. 14, Trump took to Twitter and suggested that Lewis should pay attention to his Georgia district, which is, said Trump, “in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested. He also said that Lewis is “All talk, talk, talk — no action or results,” and ended with his signature dismissal, “Sad!”
This is the moment when I want to invoke the words of millennials in respect to Trump’s Tweets: “Donald, delete your account.”
But I won’t. I will ask President-elect Trump to Google a name before he starts slinging insults and grow a thicker skin.
Millions of American appreciate Lewis heroism. And we are hunkering down to make your next months in the Oval Office as uncomfortable as we possibly can. 
You’ve been warned.

Outgoing CIA Chief Rips Into Trump on Russia Threat


The outgoing CIA director charged on Sunday that Donald Trump lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States, delivering a public lecture to the president-elect that further highlighted the bitter state of Trump's relations with American intelligence agencies.
John Brennan's pointed message on national television came just five days before Trump becomes the nation's 45th president amid lingering questions about Russia's role in the 2016 election even as the focus shifts to the challenges of governing.
"Now that he's going to have an opportunity to do something for our national security as opposed to talking and tweeting, he's going to have tremendous responsibility to make sure that U.S. and national security interests are protected," Brennan said on "Fox News Sunday," warning that the president-elect's impulsivity could be dangerous.
"Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests," Brennan declared.
Trump, who has unleashed a series of aggressive tweets against the U.S. intelligence community and his political rivals in recent weeks, did not respond to Brennan's criticism.
The president-elect remained behind closed doors in his Manhattan high rise Sunday as his team worked to answer questions about his plans at home and abroad once he's sworn into office on Friday. Among Trump's immediate challenges: the United States' complicated relationship with Russia, crafting an affordable health care alternative that doesn't strip coverage from millions of Americans, and growing questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.
Civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is among several Democrats in Congress who vowed to skip Trump's inauguration, charging that Russian interference in the 2016 election delegitimizes his presidency.
"There will be many more members who join us in this decision," Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., wrote Saturday on his Facebook page.
Trump's lieutenants pushed back hard Sunday in a round of television interviews.
"I think it's incredibly disappointing and I think it's irresponsible for people like himself to question the legitimacy of the next United States president," incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said of Lewis on ABC's "This Week," insisting that Republicans did not question the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's victory eight years ago. Vice President-elect Mike Pence said on "Fox News Sunday" that he hopes Lewis will change his mind and attend.
Priebus later acknowledged that conservatives — led by Trump himself — spent years questioning Obama's eligibility to serve as president, suggesting he was not born in the United States.
Trump has done little to encourage unity in recent days, instead inflaming tensions with his critics through a series of tweets. The incoming president tweeted Saturday that Lewis should pay more attention to his "crime ridden" Atlanta-area district, adding that the civil rights leader was "all talk."
Lewis suffered a fractured skull when he led a march in Selma, Alabama, more than a half century ago and has devoted his life to civil rights.
The current White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said "Lewis has literally fought, bled and gone to jail" during what he called his "remarkable life." He encouraged the incoming president to move past Lewis' criticism.
"That would be the kind of thing that would not only send a message to the American people that we're prepared to work together, but would also send a message to the Russians that we are united," McDonough said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Questions about Trump's relationship with Russia have dominated the days leading up to his inauguration.
Ret. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is set to become Trump's national security adviser, has been in frequent contact with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. in recent weeks, including on the day the Obama administration hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for the alleged election hacking, a senior U.S. official said.
After initially denying the contact took place, Trump's team publicly acknowledged the conversations on Sunday.
"The conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to the new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of diplomats," said Vice President-elect Mike Pence, also in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
Repeated contacts just as Obama imposed sanctions would raise questions about whether Trump's team discussed — or even helped shape — Russia's response. Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly did not retaliate against the U.S. for the sanctions or the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, a decision Trump quickly praised.
Trump has repeatedly called for a better relationship between the U.S. and Putin's government. He suggested in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday that he'd consider easing the latest sanctions on Russia.
"I think he has to be mindful that he does not have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road," Brennan said.
The CIA chief roundly denounced Trump's approach to Russia and other national security threats, suggesting the president-elect has much to understand before he can make informed decisions on such matters.
"The world is watching now what Trump says and listening very carefully. If he doesn't have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies as well as our adversaries?" Brennan said.
"It's more than just about Mr. Trump," he said.

Kandahar Bombing: Pakistani Messaging To UAE? – Analysis

Monish Gulati

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is mourning five of its diplomats killed in a bombing in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province on 10 January. The bomb killed at least 11 people and wounded 17, including Juma al-Kaabi, the UAE ambassador to Afghanistan. On the Afghan side, authorities said the dead included two politicians, a deputy governor from Kandahar and an Afghan diplomat stationed at its embassy in Washington.
The Emirati diplomats were reported to be “on a mission to carry out humanitarian, educational and development projects”. The diplomats were expected to open a number of UAE-backed projects as part of an aid programme to Afghanistan. The Taliban, the primary actor in the region, denied carrying out the bombing, saying the attack was a result of “internal local rivalry”.
The Kandahar blast was one in a string of bombings that hit three Afghan cities on that day killing nearly 50 people and wounding 100. The Taliban claimed two of them, including the twin suicide blasts near Afghanistan’s parliament in Kabul which killed at least 30 people and wounded 80.The other being a suicide bomb attack in Helmand province. Afghanistan last week had welcomed the Pentagon’s decision to deploy some 300 US Marines to Helmand.
The possibility of a Taliban attack targeting Emirati officials is not going down well with analysts; after all UAE was one of only three countries, along with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to recognize the Taliban government during its five-year rule of Afghanistan. The BBC in one of its reports suggested three possibilities: the first being that the Taliban or their allies in the Haqqani militant network carried out the attack targeting the Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq, who is known to be staunchly anti–Pakistan and who was present when the blasts took place. The Taliban denied involvement when they realised the victims included UAE officials.
The second identified possibility attributes the bombing to regional tensions – Iran reacting to increased Saudi/Arab interests in Afghanistan. The third possibility is that of local rivalries between officials and politicians in Kandahar, who at times have been accused of using the Taliban to harm each other.
There could be two other possibilities; first flowing out of ‘internal local rivalry’ – an Al-Qaeda faction squaring up for Emirati involvement in Yemen and the targeting of al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula cadres there. The second, a Pakistani (ISI) rap on the Emirati knuckles for cozying up to India.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is going to be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations this month. India expects its decision to have an air force contingent from UAE parade alongside the Indian armed forces during the Republic Day celebrations to send a “clear strategic signal” to Pakistan of its growing strategic bonding with the Gulf region.
There is a precedent to Pakistani ‘messaging’. Several members of the UAE royal family, including deputy prime minister Prince Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on a Houbara bustard hunting mission, had a lucky escape in December last year after their convoy was attacked by 10 armed men on motorcycles in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province. A spokesman for the banned Balochistan Libration Front claimed responsibility of the attack, the Dawn had reported.
Pakistan has a history of employing covert means to support its diplomatic efforts to secure its national interests.

Pakistan - The Rise of Religious Extremism in Balochistan

Religious extremism is on the rise in Balochistan. Several factors are driving this, but undoubtedly one concerns Balochistan’s northern regions, specifically Zhob district, which adjoins the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Following Operation Zarb-i-Azb in Fata, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters and other banned religious outfits penetrated deep inside Balochistan, where they are reportedly regrouping. As a result, Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, has been witnessing deadly assaults. A case in point is the August bombing at Quetta Civil Hospital, which killed more than 70 people, the majority of them lawyers.
This was followed in October by an attack on the Police Training College (PTC), involving heavily armed militants. More than 60 police cadets were killed. ISIS has claimed credit for both attacks.
Yet another act of terrorism took place the following month in Khuzdar District of Balochistan at Sufi Shrine of Shah Norani, where more than 50 pilgrims were killed. Again, ISIS claimed responsibility. This marked the third major attack carried out by ISIS in Balochistan in three months. It was an ominous development for Pakistan, and one that sent shockwaves around the world.
In the past, Pakistani authorities have flatly denied ISIS had a presence in their country, and in Balochistan in particular. While working on a piece for The Diplomat, “Can ISIS Gain a Foothold in Balochistan?” I still remember how a senior Quetta based senior police official airily dismissed a question I put to him about whether ISIS could gain a foothold in Balochistan. However, as I argued in my piece, “there is growing evidence that it is trying to do just that.”
Government officials have claimed that the assault on the Police Training College was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Al Alami, an offshoot of the banned LeJ. According to Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, “The attack was carried out by LeJ AL Almai originally, despite the fact it was claimed by ISIS, as well as its fake pictures were released by the same organization.”
But Quetta-based independent analysts say that members of LeJ have likely joined the ranks of the Islamic State, and are carrying out attacks in the Quetta city and elsewhere in the province.
Government officials have blamed Afghanistan for the attack. They argue that Afghanistan is being used as a safe sanctuary for militants who carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Authorities claim that, “Phone intercepts showed the three attackers received instructions from Afghanistan.”
However, noted Pakistaki journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote for the BBC: “Afghanistan is beset with civil war – five provincial capitals are presently under siege – it does not control the border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan where IS is active, and it is equally difficult to believe why LeJ – a virulently anti-Shia group – should be undertaking acts of terrorism at the behest of the Afghan government. In fact, LeJ has carried out several attacks on Afghan Shias who belong to the Hazara minority.”
Root Cause
To understand the root cause of religious extremism in Balochistan, local security analysts say it should not be thought of as a sudden rise, but rather as a phenomenon that has developed over decades. For example, although Balochistan has historically been a secular province, it began to transform in the mid 1970s. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa border Afghanistan, and Afghan mujahideen were given safe sanctuary in these provinces, a response to the Afghan government’s soft spot for Baloch and Pashtun nationalists.
Sajid Hussain, a former assistant editor at the respected Pakistani English newspaper, The News International, explains. “At the time of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), when religious extremism came to Pakistan, Balochistan was not badly affected by Zia’s policies. What did have an impact was the arrival of Afghan refugees in Quetta or elsewhere in the province. From the Pashtun belt of Balochistan up to Sibi, religious elements or, to be more specific, mujahideen elements brought with them the sentiments of jihad.”
Besides the northern parts of Balochistan, which are predominantly populated by local Pashtuns, Afghan refugees also poured into Baloch districts that border Afghanistan: Chaghi and Nushki. As a result, these regions have also been susceptible to religious extremism.
“First, in Balochistan, religious extremism was evident in Kech District of Balochistan, particularly in the town of Mand. Now, the same phenomenon is becoming apparent in Nushki and Chaghi,” Sajid Hussain observed. “In the beginning, these developments took place to counter the pan-Shia-ism in Balochistan, which borders Iran. The extremists supported Baloch Sunni groups.”
Hussain added, “Amongst the Iranian Baloch, there are religious elements involved in Baloch nationalism due to the presence of Baloch Sunni groups and the Shia Iran state. And Baloch nationalism in Iran is becoming increasingly religious in color. This is all due to the conflict between Shia and Sunni in Iran.”
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Balochistan was a hotbed of political activity, and many Baloch leaders and student activists were in the thrall of leftwing politics. In fact, educated Baloch at the time were oriented to the left, and took an active role in politics, forming the provincial government in Balochistan under the platform of the National Awami Party (NAP). Both Pakistan and Iran feared this secular Baloch nationalism in their respective provinces.
Following the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 that saw the ouster of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the installment of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni as supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sunni Baloch felt further marginalized at the hands of the Shia state of Iran. Subsequently, Baloch nationalism amongst Iranian Baloch strengthened.
Today, the Baloch in Iran who are fighting for their rights against the Iranian state are mostly not secular. They are more or less Islamists, waging a war against Iran. Pakistan and Iran do not enjoy the same level of cooperation they had in the 1970s. There are reportedly more than three Sunni Baloch groups active on the border, and they have carried out attacks inside Iran. Iran holds Pakistan responsible, along with Saudi Arabia, America, and even on some occasions Israel, for supporting these groups. Pakistan vehemently denies the charge.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, General Zia’s reign proved to be disastrous for the politics of Balochistan, where religious forces were encouraged throughout his rule. According to Niamat Gichki, a Baloch author, “During the days of Zia, in Balochistan, for the first time, different ideas were sponsored against other sects in Balochistan, particularly Zikri Baloch. Annually, religious clerics would go to Turbat for functions like “Khathme Nabuwwat” (Finality of the Prophethood).”
He added, “Basically, it was used for election tactics because in Balochistan’s Makran division nationalists were winning. That was why the political parties and government of Islamabad thought that nationalists were winning with the support of Zikris. So, by cutting their relations with Zikri Baloch, they were creating rifts by weakening the strength of Baloch nationalists so that the nationalists would lose. They continued to do that, and they succeeded to some extent to break this bond between them. They also bribed the Zikri sects of Muslims. But it was short-lived.”
Even after Zia’s assassination, his policies remained intact. For example, in 1988, the Zikri card was again used by clerics. As a result, in the 1990s, Zikri Baloch began to face the wrath of the religious fundamentalists. But the religious fundamentalists did not get what they were after. One reason is that Makran and its adjoining areas, where Zikri Baloch are predominantly populated and their sacred religious places are located, are considered to be traditionally secular areas with high rates of literacy.
Sectarian Attacks
In the meantime, a new but lasting development of targeting Shia Hazara had began to take place in Balochistan in the mid-1980s. From 1998, and continuing today, it took on an uglier form. The banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its affiliate groups have extensively targeted Shia Hazaras. According to rights groups, around 2, 000 Hazaras have been killed in sectarian attacks so far.
According to Sajid Hussain, “In Balochistan, the ‘systematic’ killing of Shias is not without a reason. For instance, if Iran can promote Shia Islam in the whole of the Middle East, how can it not look toward its own backyard, where Balochistan is situated? So, in this context, it can also promote pan-Shia-ism in Pakistan in general and Balochistan in particular. In short, Saudi-Arabia funds pan-Sunnism, while Iran funds Pan-Shia-ism in Pakistam. In order to counter pan-Shia-ism, a ‘systematic’ killing of Shia is ongoing.”
Hasan Raza Changazi, a senior Quetta based Hazara columnist, told The Diplomat, “Two political parties have influences on the Hazara community in Quetta: The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) and the Majlis-e-Wehdatul Muslimeen (MWM). As for the HDP, it is a liberal party, which is in contact with other communities in Balochistan and liberal forces. Also, it calls the killings ‘Hazara Genocide’ and connects it to Saudi-Iran proxy war. The HDP is also striving to end sectarianism in the Balochistan province, as well as to create harmony among communities, irrespective of their sect, caste, creed, and religion.”
The analyst said that MWM wanted to unify Shia throughout Pakistan, and HPD considered MWM a proxy of the Iranian state.
Baloch nationalists, on the other hand, claim that the sectarian attacks have been used in the last fifteen years as a way to counter the Baloch nationalist movement by promoting Salafi Islam in Balochistan Province. They add that in this backyard of Iran the Saudi riyal is being used to promote Salafism against Shia-state Iran, where Sunni-Baloch are marginalized.
Whatever the truth, one thing is clear: Moderate Baloch nationalists, hardliner Baloch nationalists, and even Pashtun nationalists seemingly all oppose, and are afraid of, religious extremism in Balochistan. One senator, who declined to be named, told The Diplomat, “Balochistan’s political parties, which are ideologically secular, including the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), the National Party (NP), and the PkMAP, all are on the same page when it comes to religious extremism in the province, because we know that if they gain a foothold in Balochistan, it would be a threat to our own existence.”
Accordingly, security analysts argue that if the secular political parties of Balochistan, or those people with secular ideology, were to unite against religious extremism in Balochistan, it could be countered. Fail to unite, and the extremists will not be defeated, because they are state-sponsored; they have the financial backing of the Gulf-states. So much so, the pan-Islamic organizations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir are campaigning worldwide, not only in Balochistan, to revive the Caliphate. So, analysts say, in this context, they are also working in Balochistan to revive the Caliphate.
Dr. Shah Mohammad Marri, a prolific Baloch author, told this writer, “Yet, the Baloch, as a whole, have not gone into organized religion. Baloch respect both sects of Islam.”
Marri does acknowledge that, “In the settled areas of Baloch, where there is agriculture, they are religious in nature. Farmers tend to be more religious due to the uncertainty of agriculture. The ‘lumpen’ class of Baloch people are also religious because they have neither land nor other assets. As a result, they resort to violence.”
It is Balochistan’s northern reaches, predominantly populated by local Pashtuns, that contain the seeds of religious extremism. That extremism is now penetrating ideologically and territorially into other Baloch areas. For example, central Balochistan in general and Mastung in particular have turned into something approximating an epicenter of religious extremism. These developments are also radicalizing Baloch youth elsewhere in the province.
“I know for a fact that there are at least two madrassas in every district of Balochistan. They are funded; they are possible linked with terrorists; they are also carrying out actions,” said Rashed Rahman, a veteran Pakistani journalist and former editor of the Daily Times. “I think the whole idea is, first of all, politics. I divert politics into a religious-sectarian discourse, rather than nationalism or rights. Second, of course, is to carry out actions, which is a deliberate attempt to suppress the nationalist movement. This is a very dangerous move, because once you unleash these monsters, as you know from Afghanistan, you cannot control them.”
In Balochistan, sectarian elements have gained ground in recent years, and their presence has been felt across Balochistan. In Jhal Masgi, Nasirabad, Jafferabad, and elsewhere, sectarian elements have apparently also found safe sanctuary. From there, they have been carrying out attacks in neighboring Sindh province. More surprising, these places had historically been under the influence of Sindh’s pluralistic Sufi culture, but this is changing now with the introduction of madrassahs and sectarian elements. Slowly but surely, security analysts warn, this will affect Sindh as well.
A journalist from Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi district told The Diplomat, “In recent years, one can see the flags of ASWJ in every square of the bazaar. Who would raise these flags, if they did not have a presence in the town?”
Following the attack on Eidul Azha prayers in an imambargah at Shikarpur, media reports emerged that incidents of sectarian terrorism in Sindh in the past few years have been found to be linked to Baloch militants, who are affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its affiliate groups. In this context, a Quetta-based analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained: “In Balochistan, the LeJ is predominantly Baloch, in spite of the fact that Baloch have traditionally been considered secular. They are gaining momentum, where Baloch nationalist forces previously had strength. For instance, Mastung, which used to be the epicenter of Baloch nationalists’ activities, has now turned into something of a headquarters for a sectarian groups.”
He added, “In recent times, a segment of Baloch militants have joined the rank-and-file of sectarian and religious extremist groups in the province.”
When I interviewed senior police official Razzaq Cheema from Quetta, he told me that police had successfully been carrying out robust actions against religious and sectarian militant groups. According to Cheema, they had wiped out the top leadership of LeJ in Quetta city and elsewhere in the province, with Osman Saifullah Kurd, Mubashir Ahmed Kurd and Mehmood Rind all killed. He was confident that the police were equipped to take on any group.
Most critics of the security establishment continue to believe that the authorities have a soft spot for jihadist groups, still viewing them as a foreign policy tool. Yet some security analysts say this is no longer the case. They argue that the situation has changed since Malik Ishaque, who wanted to join the ISIS in Pakistan, was killed in an encounter with police in Punjab.
Since General Raheel Sharif became Chief of Army Staff, thinking within the military establishment has reportedly shifted. So, as a result, has policy, at least in some respects. These shifts only intensified following the horrific attack on Army Public School, in Peshawar, in the wake of which security forces across the country began taking robust action against the Pakistan Taliban and its affiliates. Some now argue that the action against the Taliban groups have prompted the latter to take on “soft targets” in Balochistan and elsewhere.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, a Quetta-based analyst, said, “Within the military, it seems, there is some sort of realization. For instance, the killing of Malik Ishaque suggests a wholesale shift in policy. Given that there have also been attacks on security forces by the religious extremist groups, the state has been taking action.”
He added, “There are still those who believe that this is a temporary shift in policy, and with the changing of guard and leadership they [the extremists] will be considered assets again. But I think this is unlikely, given the heavy cost.”
Pakistani security officials say these plots are designed to disrupt $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which originates from Gawadar, Balochistan. According to them, the attack on the shrine in Balochistan took place the day after the first trade convoy carrying Chinese goods successfully arrived at Gawadar port. Senio civil and military leaders also believed that the attack at the Civil Hospital in Quetta was an attempt by “enemies of the country” to sabotage the ongoing CPEC project.
Last September, intelligence analyst Ian Price wrote about the threats to CPEC for The Diplomat. In this piece, he argued: “Unlike in traditional Taliban strongholds, Balochistan’s security arrangements are much less comprehensive. The same areas in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital city, are targeted over and over and over despite, or perhaps because of, headway in the FATA. And while the dominant ethnic group of the province is Baloch, there is still a sizable Pashtun population in northern Balochistan to blend into, including in and around Quetta. Balochistan also has its own border with Afghanistan that militants can move through.”
In March 2016, Sartaj Aziz, an advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, admitted that Afghan Taliban leaders were based in Pakistan. Interestingly, the Afghan Taliban have never carried out an attack on Pakistani soil. Still, it is disconcerting to know that the various banned religious militant groups that do conduct deadly attacks within Pakistan find or have found safe sanctuary and training opportunities in rural parts of Afghanistan that are under the control of the Afghan Taliban. Look no further for the key factor behind the deadly attacks in Pakistan in general and in Balochistan in particular.