Russia’s Putin Wants Traditional Marriage And God In Constitution | News | Peacefmonline.com

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Russian President Vladimir Putin wants marriage to be defined as the union of a man and woman in a revised constitution, ruling out gay marriage.

It is among several constitutional amendments proposed by Mr Putin, which are set to be put to a public vote.

Critics see the proposals as a move by Mr Putin to keep a hold on power after his presidential term ends in 2024.

The package includes a proclamation of Russians’ faith in God and a ban on giving away any Russian territory.

The territorial amendment would strengthen Russia’s hold on Crimea – a Ukrainian region it annexed in 2014 – and the Kuril Islands, disputed with Japan since World War Two, according to Vladimir Mashkov, a renowned actor-director involved in drafting the new constitution.

Mr Putin also proposed an amendment on “historical truth”, to protect “the great achievement of the people in their defence of the Fatherland”.

He has railed against what he sees as foreign attempts to diminish the enormous sacrifice made by the USSR in World War Two. The defeat of Nazi Germany cost an estimated 27 million Soviet lives.

Mr Putin is in his fourth presidential term; he has been the dominant figure in Russian politics for 20 years. His presidency has been marked by a revival of Soviet-era symbols, conservative values and the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

He surprised the nation in January with plans for constitutional changes that include transferring some powers from the presidency to parliament.

While most Russians identify as Orthodox Christians, the state is officially secular. The current constitution dates from 1993, when then President Boris Yeltsin was embracing Western democracy and capitalism.

Mr Putin’s drive against Western liberalism has included a controversial ban on disseminating “gay propaganda” among young Russians. The ban – condemned by many liberals and the European Court of Human Rights – has been used to harass gay rights activists.

The constitutional reform bill was approved by the Russian parliament’s lower house – the State Duma – in January, and Mr Putin’s amendments were introduced in time for a second reading next week. The Russian legislature is dominated by Putin supporters.

A public vote on the constitutional revision is scheduled for 22 April, but before then it has to get final approval from parliament and the Constitutional Court.

A Russian political analyst, Konstantin Kalachev, told BBC Russian that the proposals were “a mixed bag”. “It turns out that our forefathers gave us faith in God and the ideas of communism,” he commented, but added: “Putin is a mirror for the majority of Russians”.

Many of the amendments were submitted to Mr Putin by prominent social and cultural figures appointed to a constitutional working group.

Political scientist Grigory Golosov criticised the changes as “political”. “The constitution we have indicates that the state should be free of ideology. So I think these changes are inappropriate.”

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China’s coronavirus death toll reaches 1,770 – World – TASS

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BEIJING, February 17. /TASS/. The number of people who died from the novel coronavirus in China has reached 1,770, more than 70,500 cases of the disease have been confirmed, while more than 10,800 people are said to have recovered from it, China’s health committee reported Monday.

On Sunday, the committee informed about more than 68,500 cases, 1,665 deaths and 9,419 recovered. According to the data update, the official coronavirus death rate is now standing at 2.5% compared to Sunday’s 2.43%

Among China’s regions, the Hubei Province has the most cases with 58,100 people identified to have contracted coronavirus, 1,696 of them dead and 6,639 recoveries. Hubei is followed by the Guangdong Province (south China) with 1,300 infections, the Henan Province (central China) and the Zhejiang Province (east China) which report 1,200 and 1,100 cases respectively.

According to data available on Sunday, there are 381 coronavirus cases in Beijing, 144 of them were discharged from hospitals, while four people died.

According to the latest official reports, more than 150,500 Chinese citizens are monitored in the country because they had close contacts with those who are known to have contracted the disease. China also says there are about 7,200 people placed in quarantine because of coronavirus fears. According to doctors, more than 10,600 people are in critical condition.

A pneumonia outbreak caused by the COVID-19 virus (previously called 2019-nCoV) was reported in China’s city of Wuhan – a large trade and industrial center in central China populated by 11 million people – in late December. The WHO declared it a global emergency, describing the outbreak as an epidemic with multiple foci.

The virus spread to 25 more countries, apart from China: Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, India, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak in China a global health emergency. Chinese authorities have confirmed more than 68,500 cases of the disease, over 1,665 people died, while more than 9,400 people are reported to have recovered.

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Russian Embassy in UK perplexed by statements on ‘persecution of Christians’ in Russia – Society & Culture – TASS

LONDON, February 15. /TASS/. The Russian Embassy in the UK has expressed bewilderment about remarks by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Heather Wheeler who claimed that Christians’ rights were not respected in Russia.

Wheeler made such a statement in the British parliament on February 6, mentioning Russia as part of a debate on the persecution of Christians around the world. She provided neither details nor evidence to substantiate her claims.

“This statement raises eyebrows at the very least. Orthodox Christians make up the vast majority of Russian believers. Hundreds of new churches are being built, and the Russian Orthodox Church plays an active role in discussing socially significant issues. All conditions have been created for freely practicing the religion by followers of other Christian churches,” the embassy’s press officer said in a statement.

“Patriarch Kirill’s meetings with head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Church of England, in 2016 were the evidence of the recognition of the revival of Christian spiritual values and the substantial beneficial role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and throughout the world. We know nothing about the issue of discrimination against Christians in Russia being raised at these meetings. Reports by personal envoys of the current OSCE chairperson-in-office on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination make no mention of that either,” the diplomat stressed, adding that “the same is true of the problem of religious and racial intolerance towards representatives of other religions.”

“At the same time, we have to state that the problems of religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, are well known in Britain itself,” he pointed out.

“While declaring their determination to protect the rights of Christians, our British partners are, in actual fact, politicizing the issue, as evidenced by the fact that they refer to China, North Korea and Iran as the main [rights] abusers. We urge London to start cooperation to solve real problems facing Christians, primarily in the Middle East. A lot of work lies ahead, and its results depend on coordinated efforts by many countries,” he said.

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Fox’s MacCallum Gives Rand Paul Safe Space For Impeachment Trial Sabotage – NewsHounds

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After rejection by Chief Justice John Roberts and some of his own colleagues for trying to out the whistleblower in an impeachment trial question, Sen. Rand Paul ran to his safe space on Fox News. There, he freely sabotaged Trump’s impeachment with disinformation that was validated by “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum.

Yesterday, Paul deliberately flouted Justice John Roberts’ impeachment trial rules by re-submitting a previously-denied question outing the Ukraine whistleblower. When it was refused again, Paul stalked out of the trial and publicly aired his question (and the alleged name of the whistleblower) to reporters and on Twitter.

MacCallum helped reveal the whistleblower’s name without actually doing so by suggesting viewers read Paul’s tweet: “Anybody who wants to hear the whole text of that question and the names that you included, it’s on your Twitter feed and you talked about it today and I would direct them there but I’d ask you not to say them here,” she said.

She continued by asking “why you feel it’s so important to focus on the origins of this investigation and to bring that point home.” Nice way to ignore the actual findings of the investigation, Martha!

MacCallum did not mention that Roberts had signaled he would not allow whistleblower outing before the question period began, nor did she mention that top Republicans were in accord.

Instead, MacCallum cocked her head with a look of intent listening, messaging that Paul’s comments were to be taken seriously – unlike the serious impeachment accusations against Donald Trump which she conveniently ignored.

Paul claimed his question did not name the whistleblower, thus contradicting Chief Justice Roberts. Politico explains that while Paul may not have technically outed the whistleblower, he “named a person referred to in conservative media as the purported whistleblower.” But MacCallum didn’t challenge Paul’s disingenuousness.

So, we got a stream of Democratic demonization, unquestioned. Paul claimed his question discussed “two Obama partisans who worked in the National Security Council” one of whom now supposedly works for Rep. Adam Schiff and “one of them is someone who is involved in the origins of the impeachment inquiry.”

MacCallum nodded in agreement.

Paul persisted with his claim that “there are stories and reports now that they, a few years ago, were heard saying, you know what? We’ve got to do everything we can to bring down the president, to take down the president.”

You may recall that Fox described MacCallum as the embodiment of “ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism” when it pleaded with the DNC to hold a debate on the network. But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never bothered to ask Paul his source for that smear. Nor did she note that even if true, that does not disprove any of the evidence uncovered during the House impeachment investigation. No, Fox’s “ultimate professional” continued nodding as Paul promoted his unsubstantiated, pro-Trump propaganda deflection and whataboutism.

Paul went on with his conspiracy theory (and MacCallum continued nodding in agreement) about “six people who were Obama partisans who worked for the National Security Council who all are transmitting stuff back and forth and my question is, did they have discussions predating the official impeachment inquiry?” We also heard about House Manager Adam Schiff’s supposed dishonesty in the process but none about Trump’s dishonesty – and it’s Trump’s behavior that is on trial.

But MacCallum responded to Paul by saying that questions about the origin of the Ukraine investigation, just like those about the origin of the Russia investigation, “are certainly valid questions.” She called it “frustrating” that there’s no cross examination. But she wasn’t promoting the calling of any witnesses, oh no. She meant Paul had no opportunity to see Schiff “try to answer” Paul’s questions. She later “asked,” on behalf of “anybody at home who says, yeah, I’d like to know the answer to these questions, why doesn’t the Senate Judiciary Committee or the DOJ, someone, start to look into this, just as we saw happen with the origins of the Russia investigation? Is that gonna happen?”

“Maybe eventually,” Paul replied. He quickly segued to promoting himself as “a big defender of whistleblowers.” He claimed that the whistleblower is only protected from being fired so he or she should come forward (and death threats are A-OK).

And Rand Paul wouldn’t be a Republican if he didn’t play the victim. “I never identified anybody as a whistleblower,” he disingenuously reiterated. “That’s why it’s unfair to exclude my question.”

Finally, in the last minute of the 7:15 interview, MacCallum asked if Paul saw “anything wrong” with Trump’s Ukraine phone call and whether he saw it as “a request for a political favor?”

Paul falsely claimed that there was a lot of corruption and that Trump “would actually be going against the law if he didn’t investigate the Bidens” (i.e. hold up aid to Ukraine) and that Trump’s actions were “completely within compliance with the law.”

FACT CHECK: The Pentagon sent a letter to four congressional committees last May certifying that Ukraine had taken sufficient anti-corruption measures to warrant the release of aid. The Department of Defense announced in mid-June that it would release $250 million but the White House blocked that assistance in July.

FACT CHECK: Furthermore, the Government Accountability Office found that Trump violated the law by withholding the aid.

But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never mentioned any of that to her viewers.

You can watch MacCallum enable Paul’s gaslighting propaganda below, from the January 30, 2020 The Story.

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Birth Tourism: Pregnant Nigerian Women To Be Denied United States Visa Under New Policy – Motherhood In-Style Magazine

The United States Government on Thursday gave visa officers more power to block pregnant women abroad including those from Nigeria from visiting America. Under a new rule, the US Department of State directed visa officers to stop “birth tourism” — trips designed to obtain citizenship for children of pregnant women to the country.

The President Donald Trump’s administration is using the new rule, which takes effect on Friday, to push consular officers abroad to reject women they believe are entering the United States specifically to gain citizenship for their child by giving birth.

The visas covered by the new rule are issued to those seeking to visit for pleasure, medical treatment or to see friends and family, a report by The New York Times, said.

Conservatives have long railed against what they call “anchor babies,” born on American soil and used by their parents to bring in other family members.

President Trump has also criticised the constitutional provision that grants citizenship to most babies born on American soil.

It is not clear whether such “birth tourism” is a significant phenomenon or that “anchor babies” do lead to substantial immigration, but many conservatives believe both issues are real and serious.

“Birth tourism poses risks to national security,”

Carl C. Risch, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs at the State Department, wrote in the final rule.

“The birth tourism industry is also rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes.”

Consular officers were already unlikely to grant visa to women, who they believe were travelling to the United States solely to give birth. But with the new rule, the White House seems to be signalling to officers abroad that those close to delivering a child would be added to a growing list of immigrants unwelcome in the United States.

Nigeria is number three on birth tourism list in the United States after Russia and China. On Tuesday the US announced plans to impose fresh visa restrictions on countries including Nigeria.

Trump’s administration said the move was necessary to prevent potential acts of terrorism, as countries on the list don’t adequately vet their travelers to America.

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The General’s Death Upsets Iran’s Plan

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Qassem Soleimani, who was Iran’s most hyped general, loved publishing “selfies” showing himself close to battlegrounds in the Middle East. He was never present anywhere near a battle but was always to come after the dust had settled, to take “selfies” and claim the credit. (Photo by Mehdi Ghasemi/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

While analysts and policymakers are busy speculating on ways that Tehran’s ruling mullahs might avenge the killing of their most hyped general, the real question that needs considering may be elsewhere.

The question is: what effect Soleimani’s death might have on the power struggle that, though currently put on hold, is certain to resume with greater vigor in Tehran.

Tehran’s propaganda tries to sell Soleimani as a kind of superman who, almost single-handedly, brought Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and parts of Afghanistan and Yemen under Iranian control while driving Americans out of the Middle East and crushing ISIS’s so-called Caliphate which tried to rival the Islamic Republic in Tehran. Soleimani himself did a lot to promote that image and, doing that, received much help from Western, especially American, and Israeli media that bought the bundle of goods from Tehran.

Facts, however, offer a different portrait of the late general. Soleimani joined the Islamic revolution in 1980, aged 27, at a time that the mullahs were busy putting together a praetorian guard to protect their new regime. A few months later, the ragtag army that Soleimani had joined was sent to help the remnants of a heavily purged national army fight an invading Iraqi force. With over 8,000 officers and NCOs of the national army purged by Khomeini, the new regime offered a fast track to people like Soleimani who had joined the military with no proper training and often little or no formal education. Thus, just three years after he had joined the military, young Soleimani found himself in command of a division of raw recruits. Under his command, Iranian forces suffered three of their biggest defeats in operations Al-Fajr 8, and Karbala I and Karbala II. Mohsen Reza’i, then chief of the Revolutionary Guard, describes the three battles as “a string of catastrophes” for Iranian forces.

However, Soleimani, who was to demonstrate his genius for networking and self-promotion, scored one lasting victory when he attached himself to Ali Khamenei, the mullah who was to become the Islamic Republic’s “Supreme Guide”.

Khamenei started as Deputy Defense Minister and rose to become President of the Islamic Republic. Soleimani, mocked as “the mullah’s bag-carrier”, was always at his side. In the 1990s, as Khamenei slowly built himself as the sole arbiter of Iran’s fate, Soleimani seized the opportunity to secure a fiefdom for himself.

That came in the shape of the project to “export” the Iranian Revolution to other Muslim countries. Initially, exporting the revolution, mentioned in the regime’s constitution as a sacred duty, had been regarded as a matter of propaganda and organizing sympathizers in Arab countries through outfits named Hezbollah. The task was handled by a special office in the Foreign Ministry headed by Ayatollah Hadi Khosroshahian. Partly thanks to lobbying by Soleimani, the task was taken away from the Foreign Ministry and handed over to the Revolutionary Guard. But even then Soleimani didn’t get the top job, which went to then Col. Ismail Qaani, the man who has now succeeded Soleimani as Commander of the Quds Force. Soleimani’s next move was to dislodge Qaani and get the top job himself. (Qaani was named as deputy). Even that configuration would not satisfy Soleimani, who had bigger ambitions. As long as he was part of the IRGC’s chain of command, he had to obey rules set by superiors whom he despised.

Thanks to Khamenei’s support, he succeeded in securing his independent fiefdom in the shape of the Quds Force which, though formally part of the IRGC, has its own separate budget and chain of command and is answerable to no one but Khamenei.

Next, Soleimani seized control of Tehran’s foreign policy in Arab countries, Afghanistan, North Korea, and South America and, in some sensitive areas, even Russia. The Islamic Republic’s presidents and foreign ministers have never had tête-à-tête talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Soleimani had.

It became a matter of routine for Soleimani to appoint Iran’s ambassadors to Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Doha and several other Arab capitals.

A dramatic illustration of Soleimani’s “independence” came when he shipped Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad to Tehran in a special airplane without even telling the Iranian president, let alone the foreign minister, who were also excluded from the Syrian’s audience with Khamenei.

A control freak, Soleimani insisted on deciding even the smallest details himself. In his one, and now final, interview, last November, the general talks of how Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had to clear every move with him.

Inside Iran, Soleimani built a state within the state. According to the Islamic Customs Office, the Quds Force operates 25 jetties in five of Iran’s biggest ports for its “imports and exports” with no intervention by the relevant authorities. A levy on imports of foreign cars is reserved for a special fund, controlled by the Quds Force, to cover expenditures in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and help pro-Iran Palestinian groups.

Soleimani had his own network of lobbyists in many Arab countries and some Western democracies. Hundreds of Iranian and Arab militants have enrolled in Western universities with scholarships from the Quds Force.

The Quds Force has registered vast tracts of public land in its name, claiming the need for future housing for its personnel. It also runs two dozen companies and banks, several shipping lines and an airline.

Soleimani, who loved making and publishing “selfies” showing himself close to battlegrounds in the Middle East, was never present anywhere near a battle but was always to come after the dust had settled, to take “selfies” and claim the credit.

A master of self-promotion, Soleimani received the rank of major-general without having risen through the hierarchy of the top brass like the other 12 men on the list. (After death, he has been promoted to Lt. General).

Some analysts in Tehran believe that Khamenei was planning to promote Soleimani further by making him President of the Islamic Republic in 2021. An image-building campaign started last year, as Soleimani was marketed as “the Sufi commander”, a label given to Safavid kings in the 16th century.

A committee of exiled Iranians in Florida also started campaigning to draft Soleimani as president.

If that was Khamenei’s game plan, there is no doubt that Soleimani’s demise will lead to more uncertainty regarding the future course of Iranian politics.

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.

This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.

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Patriarch Kirill: Do Not Postpone Religious Upbringing of Children | A Russian Orthodox Church Website

On December 4, the feast day of the Entry of the Holy Theotokos into the Temple, His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, officiated a Divine Liturgy at the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, reported Patriarchia.ru. After the service, the Patriarch delivered a sermon, in which he spoke about religious upbringing of children.

“Sometimes people, including journalists, ask me, ‘When did you feel like a believer?’ ‘When did you start attending a church?’ I reply that I do not remember. Apparently, it happened at an age, when I was not self-aware yet. And I’m grateful to my parents for beginning my upbringing at an early age. Addressing parents, Orthodox people, today I say: do not postpone religious upbringing of your children under any circumstances, do not allude to their age or health! Some people say that a child is too weak to bring him to a church. People should bring their children to church at any time, if it is physically possible. The sooner the religious upbringing of a personality begins, the stronger one’s religiosity becomes. Thus the stronger one’s beliefs become, including moral principles, which form a personality and make it powerful, so that a person is open to good and able to oppose evil. This personality is the one that society considers an ideal. One cannot form such a social ideal without bringing up a child from an early age. Primary, I’m talking about religious education: bringing children closer to church.

“At a certain age, children reach a crucial point and become teenagers. They experience certain feelings that did not exist in their early childhood. A person becomes sensitive to outside influence. This age is called a transition period and is considered very difficult. But it can be completely harmless if a personality was brought up from an early age: a certain viewpoint was formed, and, most importantly, spiritual experience was gained. If a child knows what a church is, what Holy Communion is, if he happily goes to a church service, his view of life won’t change neither at twelve, thirteen, nor at fifteen years of age, his perception of the outside world will stay the same. It is because the main characteristics of a personality have already been formed by the grace of God, which is laid on a child when he attends a church.

“That is why bringing children to a church is one of the main tasks in children’s education. If we want the next generation to be wholesome, of strong spirit, brave, strong, and loving those who surround them, especially and primary loving their parents and the Motherland, we should remember that religious upbringing, attending a church, and the impact of the grace of God are reliable factors that ensure the formation of such personality.

At the end of each divine service, we remember Saints Joachim and Anna, calling them Ancestors of God, precisely because they brought up the Most Holy Theotokos in a way that She was able to become the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These holy parents give all of us an example of how to spiritually raise our children, so that no temptations of the world and no worries would ever destroy the wholeness of a personality,” said the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Trump leaving NATO: dangerous for U.S., nightmare for Israel – Haaretz.com

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This article was first published on January 17, 2019

When Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the new Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, settled into his office at the Kirya after being sworn in Tuesday, he had a long list of military challenges to plan for: Rockets and tunnels by Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s persistent threatening stance against Israel in Syria, Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

One thing he probably never thought he would have to add to that list was planning for the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. 

The day is almost over, and no one from the Administration has denied the NYT story about Trump wanting to pull out of NATO. Worse, no one from the Administration would dare say he would never do it. Because they know he might.

— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro)

But as he learned from the New York Times, the possibility is very much on President Donald Trump’s mind.

It is no small matter for Israel.

In the first instance, Israel benefits from NATO because of the way it broadens U.S. influence. NATO is an alliance, but it also entails its European members willingly accepting the United States’ leadership position on the continent.

U.S. allies outside the alliance benefit from the association. It has helped earn Israel a seat at the table as a NATO partner, has opened doors to cooperation with non-U.S. militaries, and helps prevent escalatory scenarios in moments of tension between Israel and NATO members, notably Turkey. In a post-NATO world, Israel’s alignment would be with an isolated United States that lacks the multiplying effect of broader Western support.

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But the operational effects could be far more challenging. Israel maintains impressive self-defense capabilities, which will be sustained in any scenario, but its security partnership with the United States, another critical pillar of its defense policy, will be forced to adapt in complicated ways.

The day-to-day relationships between the IDF and the U.S. military are conducted via U.S. European Command. U.S. forces based in Germany are the ones who travel to Israel by the thousands to conduct joint exercises, including those that drill bringing Patriot missile batteries to augment Israel’s domestic capabilities and help defend Israel in the case of a major conflict.  

U.S. Navy destroyers, home-ported in Spain and equipped with Aegis missile defense capabilities, are among the Sixth Fleet’s ships that sail regularly in the Eastern Mediterranean (and make port calls in Haifa) to ensure adequate support for Israel’s defense. U.S. Air Force squadrons based in Italy come to Israel to conduct joint air exercises with the Israeli Air Force. Other U.S. troops sit even closer, at Incirlik Air Force Base in Eastern Turkey.

Remove the United States from NATO – and forward-deployed U.S. forces from Europe, which would certainly follow – and the United States’ ability to respond to a Middle East crisis would be diminished.

Could U.S. support for Israel be shifted and coordinated instead through U.S. Central Command, based in the Persian Gulf? It has been proposed before as an efficiency measure. But Israeli generals have always resisted the proposal. Their worry is that they would find it challenging to enjoy the same level of intimacy they currently have with Europe-based U.S. commanders, with commanders who maintain a similar closeness with Arab militaries. 

True, Israel is closer strategically today with the Arab Gulf states than at any time in its history, because of a focus on the common threat of Iran and the lower priority of the Palestinian issue. But those relationships are a long way from being normalized – and could still backslide.

Israeli security planners are, therefore, still most likely to want to maintain separation between their relationships with the U.S. military and with their Arab neighbors. Having observed the intense friendships formed between Israeli military commanders and their U.S. counterparts based in Europe, I can say that these ties will not be easily replaced.

The broader Middle East would also experience the effects of NATO’s demise in the form of further empowerment of Russia. That is happening already, but losing NATO would turbocharge those trends.

Already, Russia’s brutally decisive intervention in Syria, combined with successive U.S. administrations’ preference to reduce active U.S. military engagements in the region, have led many regional states to explore expanded security ties with Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets more frequently with Putin than he does with Trump, and the IDF and Russian Air Force deconflict their operations in Syria. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all close partners of the United States, have visited Moscow and explored acquiring advanced Russian weapons systems in addition to their American-supplied arsenals.

Should Russia decide to exert leverage, such as by constraining Israeli freedom of action against Iranian military targets in Syria, the United States would be ill-equipped to push back.

A U.S. withdrawal from NATO would unmistakably be understood as a major pullback from the United States’s leadership in global affairs. The effect of expanding Russian influence would be felt far beyond Europe and the Middle East.

Military planners are renowned for imagining, and developing options for, every possible scenario. So General Kochavi and his colleagues will find a way to prepare, and put themselves in a position to adapt. But there are certain anchors that any country hopes to maintain, particularly one facing as many threats, and so tied to its American ally, as Israel.

To avoid having to grapple with the nightmarish set of problems that would result from the U.S. leaving NATO, General Kochavi might consider recommending to his Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he use his influence with President Trump to dissuade him from such a dangerous course.

Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro

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Akinrinade on civil war: “Day my dancing partner was shot and my other escapes from death” | P.M. News

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From left: Alabi Isama, Akinrinade, Adekunle, Godwin Alli, and Col Alimi Ogunkanmi during the civil war

Ademola Adegbamigbe 

General Alani Akinrinade, a Nigerian Army General, civil war hero and pro democracy fighter who, like many other kindred spirits, spent times at the barricades, has a lot to thank God for at 80. He still stands on his feet, breathing. In other words he, on many occasions, would have died but for luck or Providence or a combination of both.

One of such occasions was when, at the war front, the rank and file liked to let off tension when live bands were brought to play and soldiers were free to dance and make merry. That day, his dancing partner was hit by gun bullets and she died. Perhaps, Akinrinade was in the enemy’s cross hairs. He revealed this to TheNEWS in an interview in his Yakoyo country home recently.

TheNEWS cover interview with General Akinrinade

Dancing and merry making at the war front are are a global practice. Many soldiers like to enjoy every minute of their days, for who knows the next set that will end up in body bags? US Navy permits such on their aircraft carriers- those aquatic juggernauts that roam the oceans of the world, telling anyone who cares to listen that America has the capability to balance terror with terror. Russia and France know this happens on their war frigates, so also is the British Admiralty.

Akinrinade narrated what happened: “I was sitting on a sofa with one lady, there was music and I just told the woman, Let’s go and dance, but she wouldn’t answer me. At first, I thought, These civilians are so petrified. Unknown to me, a bullet came into the sitting room, hit her in the head and she died.”

Before then, he sat down with people when he and his men of the 3rd Marine Commando were going to capture Aba, talking about what next to do, because Biafran land mines were, as he put it, very pervasive, going off at every 100 meters. “We were just sitting down when a young soldier who was on the same parapet that we were sitting got shot and he went down. The bullet went to his helmet, but it was the concussion that knocked him down. The bullet did not really hit his head.”

General Akinrinade was also in the same room with another military brass hat, Ayo Ariyo, who had a rocking chair. “He was sitting in the chair. He was our classmate, but he was already a Sergeant in the Army by the time they recruited us. He sat in the chair and we were all sitting together. He just got up and wanted to go to the bathroom. As soon as he got up, he couldn’t have taken two steps away when a bullet hit where his head was on the chair. When he came back, we jokingly said, That bullet was meant for you, bloody idiot! We all laughed about it. That’s the nature of the work.” It could also have been aimed at Akinrinade.

Another anecdote he shared with the magazine is laughable and also shows the vulnerability of African mesmerism in the face of bullets. He narrated: “The only time I ever got hit was on my finger. People could get killed so easily. Felix Onifade was my senior, but over the time the war started, he lost seniority because we had exams and I overtook him. When they now posted him to work under me, he came, we spent the night in my house. We later joined a Navy ship to Bonny. We went out in the morning to show him his new command and then we sat in one trench and I was pointing out something to him. But a bullet hit him there and he died. 

“That was his first day. When we got the medics to take off his shirts, we found a small tortoise that was still alive under his chest. That diminished my belief in the potency of charms.”

Even after the war, when he returned to civvy street, fighting for democracy, he was a target. TheNEWS asked him:

Q: In January 1984, you were shot by some assassins at Opebi. Why did they want to kill you?
He replied: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. The hoodlums were trying to order me out of my car, but I refused. I said, What the hell is that? So they jumped into my car, took away my brief case and shot me. I don’t think they were assassins—they were hoodlums.”

Read more in the Preface and the marathon interview here.

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ISIS confirms death of its ‘caliph’, al-Baghdadi, names new leader

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…as it warns America ‘not to rejoice’ in the death of its leadership

ISIS has confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after the self-appointed ‘caliph’ died during a U.S. special forces raid in Syria last weekend.

In an audio statement today the terror group named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi as its new leader.

The jihadists also confirmed the death of their former spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir in a separate operation.

READ ALSO: ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi was sold out by wife

The message today is the first official statement from ISIS since Donald Trump announced Baghdadi’s death five days ago.

‘We mourn you… commander of the faithful’, said new ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Quraishi.

However, the extremists warned America not to ‘rejoice’ in the death of two senior ISIS figures.

‘America, don’t you realize that the Islamic State is now at the forefront of Europe and West Africa? It is extended from the East to the West,’ the statement said.

Warning that ISIS was not limited to the Middle East, the terrorists vowed that their extremist ‘mission’ would continue.

ISIS fanatics were also urged to heed Baghdadi’s words in his final recorded message in September when he urged his followers to break imprisoned ISIS members out of prison.

More than 10,000 ISIS prisoners are being held in Syria while another camp is home to some 70,000 people, mainly relatives of the extremists.

Terror expert Rita Katz said the message showed that ISIS’s online operations were ‘alive and well’ despite Baghdadi’s death.

‘We should expect to see a campaign for this message spanning various platforms, accompanied by pledges from across the world,’ she said today.

The appointment of al-Qurayshi as the new ISIS leader contradicts rumours that Baghdadi’s former security henchman Abdullah Qardash was set to take the top job.

Qardash, a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army, had met Baghdadi in a U.S. prison in Iraq after the American invasion in 2003.

On Telegram, a messaging service, the Amaq news agency linked to ISIS has continued to post claims of attacks in the Middle East.

Baghdadi died after fleeing into a network of underground bunkers and tunnels that snaked through the compound in Syria, Trump revealed on Sunday.

The terrorist leader wore a suicide vest and dragged along three children as he fled from the American troops who had arrived by helicopter from Iraq.

Trump said that as U.S. troops and their dogs closed in, the militant went ‘whimpering and crying and screaming all the way’ to his death.

‘He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down,’ Trump said. ‘He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children.’

Trump also declared two days ago that Baghdadi’s ‘number one replacement’ had been ‘terminated’, apparently referring to spokesman Muhajir.

Muhajir was killed on Sunday in a joint raid between Kurdish-led and U.S. forces in northern Syria, a State Department official confirmed on Monday.

Russia had previously voiced doubts about whether Baghdadi was really dead after numerous false rumours of his death over the years.

The American troops had confirmed his identity by matching his DNA to an Iraqi prison where he was held 15 years ago.

Baghdadi had been detained in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The operation against Baghdadi has already prompted fears of revenge attacks by followers of the terrorist leader.

A military operation led by Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces reduced  Baghdadi’s so-called ‘caliphate’ to nothing earlier this year.

However, Baghdadi was widely seen as a figurehead rather than a day-to-day leader and his followers are still capable of mounting attacks.

Small units of fighters have since gone underground and continued to carry out guerrilla-style attacks in the region.

Security has been tightened at ISIS prisons in northern Syria where Kurdish guards were said to be on ‘high alert’.

Baghdadi had urged his followers to break ISIS fanatics out of prison in the last weeks of his life.

There are also fears that ‘sleeper cells’ around the world will carry out reprisals, and Britain and France have both stepped up security.  (Dailymail)

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