WORLD U.S.-China Relations Show Chilling Signs After Obama Changes Hotel Accommodations SEP 14, 2015 2:00PMCREDIT: AP PHOTO/ANDY WONGPresident Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China The United States’ relationship with China has become so strained the president will break decades of precedent during his annual trip to New York this month for the United Nations General Assembly. Due to spying concerns, Obama and other White House staff will not stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, but at the New York Palace Hotel.White House security concerns stemmed from the luxury hotel’s ownership change last year when Hilton Worldwide sold it for $2 billion to Anbang Insurance Group, which has ties to Chinese leadership and the People’s Liberation Army. The Astoria was renovated after the sale, leading the White House to question the hotel’s security and potential vulnerability despite Hilton continuing to manage the property for the next century.News of the commander in chief changing hotels comes after the strain between the U.S. and China approach critical mass. Obama lambasted China on unacceptable cybersecurity practices, namely of the country near constant hacking of the U.S. computer systems, at a town hall event for U.S. military.White House and Chinese officials concluded four-days of meetings of cybersecurity among other issues over the weekend ahead of China’s President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington, D.C. in September. According to a White House statement, discussions were “frank and open” between top national security adviser Susan Rice and Meng Jianzhu, legal and political affairs committee secretary for China’s communist Party. FBI Director James Comey also met with Meng and other intelligence community members.International relations have chilled significantly in the wake of multiple hacks U.S. officials have linked to China — most notably the Office of Personnel Management breach of more than 21 million background check records, the hacking of United Airlines and American Airlines flights, and Anthem health insurer’s breach of 80 million patient medical records.China has denied any involvement. “The Chinese government firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of hacking activities,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during a press conference after meeting with intelligence officials Friday. “The issue of cybersecurity [should] become one area of cooperation rather than a source of friction between China and the U.S…some people from the U.S. should stop their unfounded accusations against the Chinese side and carry out dialogue and cooperation based on mutual respect and trust.”Before the UN’s General Assembly and last week’s cyber talks, the Obama administration weighedthe possibility of sanctioning China for the numerous attacks on U.S. systems. If carried out, the sanctions would be a public display of intolerance of cyberthreats felt over decades. Obama promised to discuss cyber concerns during Jinping’s visit later this month.
Hillary Clinton pledges to tackle campus sexual assault Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a “Women for Hillary” meeting in Milwaukee, Sept. 10, 2015. (Photo: Darren Hauck/Reuters) Hillary Clinton pledged to tackle campus sexual assault during a speech at the University of Northern Iowa on Monday.“Rape is a crime wherever it happens,” Clinton said, addressing the issue for the first time since launching her 2016 campaign. “Schools have an obligation — a legal obligation and a moral obligation — to protect every student’s right to get an education free from discrimination, free from fear.”Over the past couple of years, a number of high-profile cases have made campus sexual assault the subject of unprecedented media attention, revealing a widespread, deeply complicated issue and prompting a variety of responses from school administrators and state lawmakers to Congress and the White House. The proposals Clinton outlined — including more comprehensive on-campus resources for survivors, fairer investigative and disciplinary processes for both accusers and the accused, and increased preventive education — echo those outlined by President Obama as well as Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and others who support the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA).CASA supporters, such as the nonprofit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, praised Clinton’s commitment to the kinds of policy changes included in the pending legislation.“We are pleased that Secretary Clinton also supports increasing survivors’ access to care, requiring fair campus adjudication, and strengthening programs that educate students and prevent violence on campuses,” Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN’s Vice President for Public Policy, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We encourage Congress to pass CASA and to help ensure that survivors of sexual assault find justice.”Clinton is the first 2016 contender to talk about the issue on the campaign trail, but she might not be the only one for long. Vice President Joe Biden, who has recently been teasing a last-minute run for the Democratic nomination, joined President Obama last year in calling for increased awareness and condemnation of campus sexual assault with the “It’s On Us” campaign. The author of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, Biden has long been an outspoken advocate for better practices in investigating and prosecuting cases of rape and sexual assault. Last week, he and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a $79 million collaborationbetween the federal government and New York City to process untested rape kits nationwide, and he’s slated to talkabout the “It’s On Us” campaign at an upcoming event in Ohio. Clinton was scheduled to attend two Iowa events on Monday given by “Women for Hillary,” billed as a grassroots organization of female supporters representing each of the state’s 99 counties. The campus sexual assault pledge follows the unveiling of Clinton’s $10 billion plan to combat drug and, specifically, heroin abuse — another widespread problem that impacts families but is often considered uncomfortable and even painful to discuss.“It’s not enough to condemn campus sexual assault,” Clinton said Monday. “We need to end campus sexual assault.”
We are witnessing ‘the most significant new Russian military foothold in the Middle East in decades’ By Pamela Engel11 hours ago(REUTERS/Host Photo Agency/RIA Novosti) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) greets the commanders of units, participants of the Victory Day parade at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015. Russia is taking a more active role in propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, expanding its physical footprint in the Middle East.American officials admitted to The New York Times that Russia is now using an air corridor over Iran and Iraq to transport military equipment and personnel to Syria despite US attempts to guard this airspace.And Russian advisors have taken over the main airport near the capital, positioning tanks anddirecting flights.Russia is reportedly transporting marines, pre-fabricated housing for at least 1,000 people, a portable air traffic control system, and other items that could be used to create an air base for air combat operations to northwest Syria, according to CBS News.This constitutes „the most significant new Russian military foothold in the Middle East in decades,” American officials told the Times. Continued Russian military buildup in Syria could „greatly enhance [Russia’s] ability to project power in Syria and neighboring states,” according to the Times.”This is the most important Russian power projection in the region in decades and it will enhance Russia’s influence throughout the Levant,” Stephen Blank, a Russian military expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, told the Times.Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, told CBS News last week that flying over Iran and Iraq was Russia’s last viable option for transporting the material and personnel to Russia after Turkey and Bulgaria refused to let Russia use its airspace for flights to Syria.(CBS News) Iran has already agreed to let Russia run flights over the country, which leaves it up to Iraq to decide whether to stop the flights. The US has objected to the Syria flights, but Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said they would continue, according to the Times.”There’s only one thing we can really do, which is try to stop the flow of these arms [to Syria],” Morell said. „… I think the diplomatic focus is now going to be on Iraq and the US is going to put tremendous pressure on Iraq to stop those flights.”But this might not be easy for Iraq to do.”Neutrality is the best Washington can hope for in Baghdad,” Ramzy Mardini, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told the Times. „Iraq is not a dictatorial state like many of the U.S. allies in the Middle East.”Iraq is still a fragile state whose leaders are exposed to politics. In the discourse of Iraqi politics, forcing Abadi to side with the US against Assad is like realigning him with the Sunni axis against the Shia one.”(ICUA) Russia, one of Assad’s primary backers along with Iran, had initially said that it was only sending „military experts” to Syria to help government forces learn how to use Russian military equipment. But the Israeli defense minister and Reuters have since confirmed that the Russians are taking part in the fighting on behalf of Assad and building up their military presence in the western coastal province of Latakia.The increased support from Russia comes as Assad is doing everything he can to hold onto power amid a bitter civil war that has created a massive refugee crisis as millions of Syrians flee their country. Assad has dropped steel barrels full of shrapnel and explosives on civilian areas and used chemical weapons against Syrians in an effort to retain his control over key territories.Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.NOW WATCH: Inside the dangerous life of Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’
VOICE This Satellite Image Leaves No Doubt That Russia Is Throwing Troops and Aircraft Into Syria It also shows just how screwed America’s Syria policy is.BY SEPTEMBER 14, 2015Over the past year, evidence has steadily emerged of a growing Russian military presence in Syria. As Bashar al-Assad’s armies have failed him in the field, he has increasingly relied on outside help. Initially, that help came from Hezbollah and Iran, but now it appears to be Moscow’s turn. And Washington may finally be waking up to what looks like a substantial Russian intervention in Syria.New satellite images, obtained by Foreign Policy, of construction at an air base near Latakia leave little doubt that U.S. policy toward ending the conflict in Syria, such as it is, is now in total disarray. As they say, seeing is believing.Admittedly, there has long been a Russian military presence in Syria. When opposition forces overran a Syrian listening post in October last year, the images revealed that it was staffed by the Russian military. More recently, analysts have noted pictures and videos that seem to confirm the presence of Russian combat forces fighting in Syria. Russian military vehicles have been sighted, while Russian soldiers have posted images and comments on Russian social media sites like VKontakte and the California-based LiveJournal, detailing their service in the war-torn country. (Some of the bestopen-source analysis has been on Bellingcat’s website.)It is very strange world we live in, one marked both by the “little green men” of Russia’s “hybrid” warfare who Moscow can disavow and by data ubiquity that allows analysts to mock those disavowals.Still, there has always been a question about how extensive Russia’s support for the Syrian regime has been the past four years. Are those even Russians inside the Moscow-supplied combat vehicles? Open-source analysts have been quite enterprising in suggesting the answer is yes, hearing snippets of Russian in between bursts from the vehicle’s gun. But the Russians claim any Slavic accents are merely those of a very small number of trainers or advisors. Nothing to see here; please move along.That is now very hard to believe. On Sept. 4, the New York Times published an article suggesting that Russia had shipped prefabricated housing and a transportable air traffic control station to an airfield near Latakia. It was a great scoop, but I was pretty baffled that the New York Times didn’t bother to purchase a satellite image of the facility. Had they done so, they would have realized that they buried the lede.Above, an image of the air base near Latakia, taken from Google Earth. (Click to enlarge) Above, a recent satellite image from the same airbase. (Click to enlarge)The satellite image shows far more than prefabricated housing and an air traffic control station. It shows extensive construction of what appears to be a military canton at Bassel al-Assad International Airport (named for Bashar’s elder brother, who died in a car accident in 1994). This canton appears designed to support Russian combat air operations from the base and may serve as a logistical hub for Russian combat forces.In recent days, using aircraft tracking sites, a number of analysts have begun to document the near-daily arrival of Russian transport planes to the base. The Russians are also sending ships to Syria, though the ships often declare for a nearby non-Syrian port, like Port Said in Egypt, and then take a wrong turn at Albuquerque, so to speak.The White House, according to Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin, scheduled a National Security Council meeting last week to discuss the construction.What is at stake is how to deal with a situation in which Vladimir Putin is going all-in on behalf of the Assad government while our policy is in tatters.What is at stake is how to deal with a situation in which Vladimir Putin is going all-in on behalf of the Assad government while our policy is in tatters.Rogin reports that U.S. officials believe Russia will base combat aircraft at the site. That is easy to confirm from the satellite image. In recent weeks, construction crews have completed a taxiway that connects the runway to the construction area. That means aircraft shelters for Russian aircraft.The scale of the construction goes even further. A large area of ground has been cleared in many different parts of the air base. There are pallets and crates everywhere. Trucks are visible driving into the site. (We’ve annotated the image, but I highly recommend following @finriswolf on Twitter.) The image drives home the implication of all those flights and shipments heading to Syria: Russia is substantially expanding its involvement.There is now little hope of establishing a no-fly zone over Syria, unless Washington wants to be in the business of shooting down Russian aircraft. From a broader perspective, U.S. efforts to arm the opposition to Assad mean fighting a proxy war with Moscow, either by trying to down the Russian planes or helping Syrian opposition forces kill Russian combat troops on the ground. That seems a much tougher task than fighting a proxy war with Iran and Hezbollah.But beyond this narrow question of whether the United States wants to directly support combat operations against Russian forces in Syria, Moscow’s apparent commitment to Damascus raises fundamental questions about what U.S. strategy, if any, can succeed. I have long been opposed to collaborating with Assad. I don’t believe that he is committed to fighting the Islamic State; he only seems interested in attacking those opposition forces that threaten him directly. (In fact, by writing off parts of Syria to the Islamic State, he creates a second front for his opponents.) Nor do I believe he will ever command enough support to reestablish government control in Syria. If there is any hope of uniting Syrians, Assad must leave.What Russia has done, however, is make it clear that it will not let Assad fall. He can’t win, but Russia won’t let him lose. That dooms Syria to what looks like endless war, as Assad fights to the last man. There are those who see Syria as a quagmire for Putin, a kind of matched pair to our own folly in Iraq; just as Washington collectively saw Afghanistan as payback for Vietnam. I am not so sanguine.While Charlie Wilson’s war helped popularize the idea of bleeding Moscow, I don’t think that can be the basis of U.S. policy either. The moral cost is far too high. Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old boy whose corpse washed up on a Turkish beach, was fleeing Syria’s civil war, as are hundreds of thousands of the refugees now in Europe. More than half of Syria’s 17 million people have been displaced. Bleeding Moscow means bleeding these people. It may sound strategic in a Pentagon war room, but not when children’s bodies wash up on shore.Columns are supposed to have a simple solution. An op-ed should have five paragraphs wrapped up in a neat little bow that explains how to fix the problem outlined in the first paragraph. One of my favorite professors (andFP colleague), Kori Schake, used to liken it to the answer in a beauty pageant. She was right, but for the life of me I can’t come up with one. It seems that, sometimes, the world’s pain can’t be solved in a few hundred words of sage advice.So this column does not have a neat and tidy ending. And that is because I am not sure that it is now possible to save Syria. There is no path to resurrect a state that is failing, not so long as Putin has decided to do whatever it takes to preserve Assad’s awful regime and condemn Syria to endless conflict. We can, of course, make it difficult for Russia to resupply its forces in Syria. Already, some NATO allies, like Bulgaria and Turkey, have denied Russian aircraft over-flight rights. Iraq, too, appears to have turned back at least one aircraft.And there is surely more we can do to shelter the millions of refugees now fleeing the conflict. Having helped create this mess with the invasion of Iraq and subsequent failure to stop the bloodshed in Syria, the United States and its European allies have an obligation to assist these people. This is especially true of those countries that were the loudest supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Coalition of the Still Willing, right? That includes you, Hungary.But these measures won’t replace Bashar al-Assad with a figure who could rally moderate Syrians to restore a stable government, let alone stop the bloodshed. At best, they are only an expression of empathy and contrition. Putin has to be convinced to tell Assad it is time to go. Until then, and as long as Moscow is flooding Syria with military assistance, the country’s misery will continue.
Jordan king warns Israel against Jerusalem ‘provocation’ 10 hours agoView photoJordan’s King Abdullah II, seen in Berlin on May 13, 2015, warned Israel that any further „provocation” in Jerusalem, where Israeli police have clashed with Muslims at Al-Aqsa mosque, would damage ties between the two countries (AFP Photo/Adam Berry)Related Stories
Amman (AFP) – Jordan’s king warned Israel on Monday that any further „provocation” in Jerusalem where Israeli police have clashed with Muslims at Al-Aqsa mosque would damage ties between the two countries.”Any more provocation in Jerusalem will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel” which have a 1994 peace accord, said King Abdullah II following a second day of clashes at the flashpoint holy site in annexed east Jerusalem.”Jordan will not have a choice but to take actions, unfortunately,” he told journalists in English after talks with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron.The kingdom, which has custodian rights over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, on Sunday condemned what it described as an Israeli army assault on the site.Muslims and Israeli police clashed for a second day Monday as Jews celebrated their new year and protesters vowed to protect Islam’s third-holiest site.As on Sunday, Israeli security forces entered the compound to prevent Muslim youths from harassing visiting Jews, police said.Muslims have barricaded themselves inside Al-Aqsa amid protests over access to the site, venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount.Israel seized east Jerusalem, taking it over from Jordanian administration, in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
Iran’s President Rouhani sends message for Jewish new year By BY NASSER KARIMI16 hours ago FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 file photo, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani waves to reporters at the conclusion of his press conference in Tehran, Iran. Rouhani sent greetings to the Jewish people on the occasion of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Early Monday morning, Sept. 14, 2015, Rouhani’s Twitter account posted the message, „May our shared Abrahamic roots deepen respect and bring peace and mutual understanding. L’Shanah Tovah.” (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)Related Stories
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani sent greetings to the Jewish people on the occasion of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.Early Monday morning, Rouhani’s Twitter account posted the message, „May our shared Abrahamic roots deepen respect and bring peace and mutual understanding. L’Shanah Tovah.”The comment did not appear on the Farsi version of Rouhani’s account, suggesting the Iranian president was targeting his comments toward an international audience at a time when the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers faces ratification amid strong Israeli opposition.Rouhani posted a similar Rosh Hashana greeting via Twitter in 2013, shortly after he took office. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has sent similar messages via Twitter in recent years.Iran’s Jewish community dates back nearly 3,000 years. Many Iranian Jews fled the country after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but an estimated 20,000 native-born Jews remain in Iran.Tensions with Iranian Jews grew under hardline former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeatedly called the Holocaust „a myth” and even sponsored an international conference in 2006 to debate whether the Holocaust ever really took place. Then-Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi once accused Jews as a whole of being drug dealers.Since Rouhani took office, his government agreed to allow Jewish schools to be closed on Saturdays to mark Shabbat, the day of rest. Rouhani also allocated the equivalent of $400,000 to a Jewish charity hospital in Tehran and invited the country’s only Jewish lawmaker to accompany him to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2013.However Iran does not yet recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Hungary taking migrants straight to Austria border: UN By Peter Murphy10 hours agoBudapest (AFP) – Hungary has effectively stopped registering thousands of migrants crossing the border from Serbia and is transporting them straight to the Austrian frontier, the UN refugee agency said Monday.Related Stories
Rights group Migration Aid said meanwhile that about 8,000 people were transported from the Hungarian village of Roszke near the Serbian border in the early hours of Monday morning, in an apparent attempt to empty Hungary of migrants.”Our information is that special trains are taking migrants from Roszke (train) station direct without stopping to the Austrian border,” Erno Simon, a Hungary spokesman for the UNHCR Regional Representation for Central Europe, told AFP.He said this was „approximately a four-hour journey. Yesterday (Sunday) three such trains left carrying at least 2,000 people. During the night our colleagues saw police waking people up at the border collection point.”Migration Aid spokeswoman Zsuzsanna Zsohar said on Monday that the 8,000 people were taken from two camps and a collection point at Roszke by train or bus, probably to the Austrian border or other camps near the Hungarian border.”It began around 3:00 am (0100 GMT) and by midday the only people in the collection point were the newcomers, coming in groups of 10 people,” Zsohar said.Prime Minister Viktor „Orban’s plan is going well, Hungary is now almost empty of migrants, all the camps are almost empty, everyone is going to the border from the camps, there are maybe a few thousand left in the entire country,” she said.Police stand in front of migrants waiting to board buses at a former truck customs station at the Hu …- Frontline -EU member Hungary is on the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis, with almost 200,000 people travelling up from Greece through the western Balkans and entering the country this year.On Sunday, police said a record 5,809 people entering Hungary, smashing the previous day’s record of 4,330, and despite rolls of razorwire being placed all along the Serbian border.By around midday (1000 GMT) on Monday, another 5,353 people had been intercepted, police said.The sharp increase came ahead of harsh new Hungarian laws coming into force Tuesday under which people entering the EU country illegally can be jailed for up to three years.Later on Monday Hungary also intends to close off a gap in the razor-wire barrier — where this is a train line — where large numbers of migrants pass through.In addition to the new laws, Hungary is also building a controversial four-metre high (13-feet) fence all along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia that it intends to complete by the end of October or early November.A government spokesman said Monday that Hungary is „fulfilling all its international and European obligations, including registration.”The spokesman added that „at the same time we are trying to ease the pressure on Roszke, therefore the protocol is being followed at those locations… where we provide shelter for migrants.”The migrants, mostly Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis, seek to travel onwards to Austria and then western Europe, particularly Germany and Sweden.On Sunday, however, Germany reimposed border controls. Austria and Slovakia said Monday that they will follow suit, with Vienna planning to deploy around 2,200 military personnel.Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leiter said in Brussels that there were currently around 18,000 migrants in Austria.There were also traffic jams in Austria near the German border, including one 20 kilometres (12 miles) long.