Posted on April 07, 2017 in Countdown

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A Turning Point in Syria?

The daily infliction of death in Syria has gone on for so long, it rarely makes headlines. But when horrific images of children reacting to a deadly chemical weapons attack emerged, the world reacted in horror, reminded of the inhumanity still plaguing the country. For President Trump, who had long accused his predecessor of being “weak”, this was the time for a military strike: He ordered the launching of several dozen cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase where he said the chemical attack was launched from a few days earlier. The US strike reportedly killed 6 people and disabled the airbase, to a mixture of praise and condemnation from across the world. Interestingly enough, this marks a complete reversal on Trump’s part from a few years earlier. When President Obama was considering the same action in response to another chemical attack in 2013, Trump tweeted “do not attack Syria” at the President, and said congressional approval was required before such a strike (which in this case he did not seek). In response to the US strike, Russia suspended its cooperation with the US in Syria, and vowed to “increase the effectiveness” of Assad’s air defenses. Whether this marks the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian tragedy is still unclear, but what is clear is that an end to the horrors of the Syrian people couldn’t come soon enough.

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Leave the Jedi Council, You Must

Darth Vader has been demoted, when he was called into Emperor Palpatine’s office, made to turn in his sleek black armor and put on a white Stormtrooper uniform. Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, but the Darth Vader-aspiring Steve “Islam is not a religion of peace” Bannon was just removed from the National Security Council (NSC). This means the council has lost input from one of the foremost national security experts… Sorry, correction: It means the council has lost the input of someone whose resumé headliner is running an inflammatory alt-right troll site. If you’re worried about how we’re going to keep the country safe without such expertise, relax! The troll site reassured its readers that their former boss will retain his White House security clearance, so his lovely thoughts are still available to the President. Of course, finding himself off the NSC was no small blow to Bannon in his infighting with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and if you thought he might quit his job altogether over it, you weren’t off the mark. However, the Death Star’s destruction was averted when Breitbart funder Rebekah Mercer (the woman credited with Bannon’s initial rise in the Trump orbit) talked him out of resigning, thereby ensuring the dark(er) side of the force lives on.

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A New Bully In Town

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, is on a mission to stamp out criticism of Israel at the UN. While speaking at AIPAC last week, Haley drew contrast with the Obama administration’s abstention on a UN resolution opposing settlements, which she described as “embarrassing” and “hurtful”, promising this would never happen again because there was “a new sheriff in town”. It would’ve been cute when she joked about wearing heels because she plans  on kicking those who oppose her at the UN, except she took credit for actual bullying, which makes the bullying joke a bit distasteful. She admitted to blocking a Palestinian from a position at the UN, not because she had any objections to him personally, but simply because he was Palestinian. She took credit for blocking a UN report that’s critical of Israel, and getting that agency’s director to resign. She also dedicated herself to opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel’s human rights violations. We can’t bring ourselves to help Haley with any of these wrongheaded efforts, but we’re willing to lend a hand with one issue: Haley started her talk at AIPAC noting she was “confused” about all the criticism of Israel at the UN. Let’s demystify it for you, Haley: Israel is perpetuating the longest illegal military occupation in modern history, and is actively destroying Palestinian society in a cruel and brutal fashion. Perhaps you can redirect your kicks towards the people responsible for these atrocious policies, not the people who want to hold them accountable.

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Another Election, More Anti-Arab Bigotry

You haven’t seen all the bigoted fear-mongering this election season has to offer until you see what’s going on with the race for Georgia’s 6th congressional seat, the one previously held by HHS Secretary Tom Price. The 6th district may be a Republican stronghold, but Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is reportedly crushing it in the polls. With the election less than two weeks away, it seems desperation has given way to a disgraceful ad attacking Ossoff for getting paid by mainstream world news organizations who use his footage. How did they make an attack ad out of this, you ask? Well, one of the media organizations has the Arabic name Al Jazeera, so cue the ominous music, footage of Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda (we’re totally serious), and the question: “What is [Ossoff] hiding?” Well, we don’t know what Ossoff is hiding (certainly not his investigative journalism films that were featured on BBC and a variety of outlets), but we do know what the Super PAC responsible for the ad is hiding: Any pretense of decency.

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President Trump and King Abdullah Host Press Conference to Discuss… Obama?

Imagine a world where President Trump answers every question about his policies not by offering any details on them at all, but simply by pointing to how bad he thought Obama’s policies were. Having trouble imagining that world? No worries, just look up Trump’s White House press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan from Wednesday. Trump’s responsibility to deal with North Korea? “That responsibility could’ve been made a lot easier if it was handled years ago.” How about Iraq? “The past administration were [sic] saying: ‘We will be attacking in 4 months’, and I said: ‘Why are they doing that?” Got a policy for Iran? “The Iran deal made by the previous administration is one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed.” Okay, how about just anything in the world you want to talk about? “I inherited a mess, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s North Korea, whether it’s so many other things, whether it’s in our country, horrible trade deals, I inherited a mess.” Well, Mr. President, we absolutely appreciate that the world is a messy place with complex problems, but we already know what you think of the Obama administration, and you’re clearly charting a new course right now. Perhaps it’s time to let go of the past and address forward-looking questions about the Middle East with more forward-looking specifics, we’d certainly like more on that. As for King Abdullah, he cut through the distractions and stayed on topic, reminding the world of, among other things, the Arab Peace Initiative offered to Israel in exchange for Israeli compliance with its legal and human rights obligations. But don’t hold your breath, the initiative has been rejected by Israel for more than a decade. Who doesn’t have a partner for peace, again?