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Netanyahu Could Be Indicted, Removed from Office

By David Rosenberg. Israeli lawmakers are taking seriously the possibility that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could be indicted in one of the investigations currently underway, a senior MK from the Shas party said.

With a new police investigation into claims the Prime Minister received gifts from media mogul Nuni Mozes joining allegations of possible conflicts of interest in the purchase of ballistic missile submarines from Germany and a series of other police inquiries targeting Netanyahu, political leaders are preparing for a potential resignation by Netanyahu, followed by new elections. (Read more from “Netanyahu Could Be Indicted, Removed from Office” HERE)

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MKs Castigate Netanyahu as New Details Emerge about Alleged Illegal Proposal to Publisher

By Arik Bender and Joy Bernard. Knesset memberss publicly slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday following the revelation of new details regarding the suspicious proposition the premier allegedly made in his secret meetings with media mogul and owner of Yedioth Aharonot, Arnon (Noni) Mozes.

MK Stav Shafir (Zionist Union) took to social media to express her criticism of the prime minister, posting on Facebook that “Netanyahu is holding on to his rule out of a passion for power and [because of] the perks the role brings with it, but not in order to use his power for the benefit of the country.”

In her post Shafir called Netanyahu “the first Israeli prime minister of the mafia” and added that “this is why he has decided to crash and run over all the mechanisms that might rein in his power or expose its injustices to the public.”

The criticism came not only from the direction of opposition members but also from ministers and Knesset members from Netanyahu’s party, the Likud. MK David Bitan, who is considered by many a close confidante of the prime minister and who is mockingly dubbed by the Israeli Left “Netanyahu’s puppet,” said in an interview to Channel 10 that “after the investigation ends, Netanyahu will have to give up his role as Communications Minister.” (Read more from “MKs Castigate Netanyahu as New Details Emerge about Alleged Illegal Proposal to Publisher” HERE)

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Favorite Bible Verses in 2016 from 88 Nations

An online Bible App says they’ve discovered the world’s favorite Bible verses, based on the number of highlights, bookmarks and shares for verses, according to Christianity Today. YouVersion announced that 2016 was the biggest year ever, with users installing their App on over 250 million devices. Based on their analysis, some surprising verses made it to the top of the favorites list.

Zechariah 14:9 was the favorite verse for two countries that could hardly be more different: Israel and Afghanistan. The verse says, “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” Other countries identifying with this verse were France, Finland, Sweden, Guadeloupe, Belgium, Martinique and Cyprus.

The most popular verse worldwide with nearly 550,000 shares was Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Another popular verse was Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” This verse was the top verse for 29 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Italy.

A complete chart of the most popular verses by country may be found here. (For more from the author of “Favorite Bible Verses in 2016 from 88 Nations” please click HERE)

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The Synagogues Are Burning Again in Germany

There is shocking news this week from Germany. Three Palestinian Muslims who torched a synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany have been given suspended sentences because their actions allegedly represented a justified criticism of Israel. A regional court has upheld the decision of a lower court, also agreeing that the actions of these Muslim men were not antisemitic. And to think that this happened in Germany, a nation that still bears the shame of the Holocaust.

According to many historians, the Holocaust began on the evening of Nov. 9, 1938, known today as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. On that fateful night, the Nazis set Jewish synagogues on fire and vandalized Jewish businesses, all while the public stood by and did nothing. This sent a message to the Nazi leaders: We will not stop your attacks on our Jewish neighbors and friends. You have a free hand.

Now, Muslims torch a synagogue and the courts look on and yawn. What message does this send to the Muslim world, especially to Muslims living in Germany? And what message does this send to German Jews, especially considering that, “The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Germans during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.” This is absolutely chilling.

The Growing Antisemitism

A 2013 survey revealed that 1 in 4 European Jews was afraid to wear a yarmulke (or kippah), the head-covering worn by religious Jews. In 2015, it was reported that the Central Council of Jews in Germany warned religious Jews not to wear a kippah for fear of their safety. And in 2016, in Berlin, “Unknown perpetrators kicked and beat a 21-year-old Jewish man wearing a kippah after slurring him with anti-Semitic insults.”

This represents a dangerous, unnerving trend, and the regional court’s decision to uphold the preposterous ruling of the lower court certainly sends a dangerous signal.

Given the efforts that Germany makes to distance itself from the Holocaust — including making it a crime to deny the Holocaust — one would think that if there was any act that would be promptly condemned by the German courts, it would be setting a synagogue on fire. Yet a synagogue that was originally burned by the Nazis in 1938 is torched by Muslims in 2014, and two courts say, “Not a big deal. We understand your frustration.”

With good reason Robert Spencer exclaimed, “Meet the new Germany, same as the old Germany. This ruling is the apotheosis of Islamopandering. Would a German court say that the attempted torching of a mosque was a justified criticism of jihad terror attacks? Of course not. Nor should it. But this ruling shows how desperate German authorities are to appease their rapidly growing and increasingly aggressive Muslim population.”

According to the first court’s ruling in 2015, the Palestinian attackers “wanted to draw ‘attention to the Gaza conflict’ with Israel. Moreover, “The court deemed the attack not to be motivated by antisemitism.” What kind of drivel is this?

These Muslims did not attack the Israeli embassy in Germany, which, in theory, could have served as an illegal protest of Israeli policies — in this case, Israel’s war on Hamas terrorists — without raising the charge of antisemitism. But they didn’t torch the embassy, nor did they specifically target Israelis, which, again, while being ugly and illegal, could have theoretically been directed as Israel in particular rather than at Jews in general.

But these Palestinian men attacked a Jewish synagogue in Wuppertal, thereby holding all Jews responsible for Israel’s actions, and thereby engaging in a blatant, antisemitic act. In that same spirit, when Israel previously waged war on Hamas in 2009, a female Muslim protester at a demonstration in Fort Lauderdale, FL, cried out, “Go back to the oven. You need a big oven, that’s what you need.”

Yes, those evil Jews deserve to be exterminated, and what Israel does, all Jews do. As Martin Luther King, Jr., reportedly said in 1968, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

While this dictum is not always true, it is quite often true, and in the case of Palestinian Muslims expressing their frustration with Israel by throwing Molotov cocktails at a synagogue, it is definitely true.

History Can Repeat Itself

The lesson of all this is clear: German Jews, along with European Jews in general, have no business thinking that history cannot repeat itself. Numerous articles document the steadily rising tide of antisemitism in Europe, and just as the handwriting was on the wall in Germany long before 1938, the handwriting is forming on the wall again. (Consider that the blatantly antisemitic Nuremburg laws, which “excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of ‘German or related blood’,” among other restrictions, were instituted in 1935.)

This recent court ruling, upholding the earlier court’s decision, should serve as a wake-up call to all Jews in Germany. It also should serve as a wake-up call to all people of conscience in Germany, especially professing Christians. Will you stand idly by, or will you take a stand with the Jewish people of your nation?

History is watching once again. (For more from the author of “The Synagogues Are Burning Again in Germany” please click HERE)

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Ukraine’s Former Top Spy Goes after a New Enemy: Corruption

Ukraine’s former top security official has gone from tracking down Russian spies to fighting what he perceives to be the country’s greatest threat—corruption.

“The question is, are we going to survive or not?” Valentyn Nalyvaichenko told The Daily Signal from his offices in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.

Nalyvaichenko, 50, is the former head of the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, which is Ukraine’s successor agency to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s branch of the KGB, the Soviet Union’s main security agency.

“At stake is survival of the country,” Nalyvaichenko said. “At stake is whether we’ll finally get rule of law and a functioning state instead of chaos, corruption, weakness, and [being] not capable to defend our territory and the country. So, at stake is the country, its independence.”

During his interview with The Daily Signal, Nalyvaichenko wore a well-appointed suit and tie. He spoke fluent English, evidence of his university degree in linguistics.

His affable demeanor and emotive manner of talking hinted more to his background as a diplomat and member of parliament than his years in charge of Ukraine’s successor agency to the KGB.

Nalyvaichenko led the SBU for the first time from 2006 to 2010. He took over the security agency for a second time on Feb. 24, 2014, two days after deposed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in the closing days of the revolution.

Nalyvaichenko has also served as a member of parliament and as Ukraine’s deputy minister of foreign affairs.

Nalyvaichenko’s 2015 departure from the SBU was controversial. In June 2015, while the security agency was investigating high-level Ukrainian officials for financial crimes, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sacked Nalyvaichenko from his leadership post at the SBU.

Today, Nalyvaichenko is the leader of two upstart anti-corruption political platforms: the Justice Civil-Political Movement, and the Nalyvaichenko Anti-Corruption Movement.

“Our people, our common people, are suffering because of corruption, corruption at the top,” Nalyvaichenko said, pounding his fist on the table for emphasis.

“I really like what [Winston] Churchill said in the Second World War,” Nalyvaichenko said. “‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ If we’re corrupt it doesn’t mean we have to say, ‘OK, we’re a failed state.’ No, it’s not true.”

Purge

True to his diplomatic roots, Nalyvaichenko recently traveled to Washington to present evidence to Congress about Russia’s involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine and to press for U.S. assistance in anti-corruption efforts.

As part of his anti-corruption platform, Nalyvaichenko has called for the FBI to investigate the financial crimes of Ukraine’s current and former political leaders.

He also wants U.S. and EU prosecutors to oversee the adjudication of corruption investigations, and for the U.S. to press Ukrainian officials to make Ukraine’s newly minted National Anti-Corruption Bureau independent from the executive and judicial branches.

Nalyvaichenko said Ukraine has a chance to “show for the whole world, especially to the Russian people, that there is an opportunity, there is a plan B, to such nations after the Soviet Union time to be democratic, to be not corrupt, to live in a not corrupt state, to be independent.”

“Ukraine belongs to the Western world,” he added.

Nalyvaichenko added that Ukraine has “several months, two or three months” to show real progress in anti-corruption measures before Western partners begin to break ranks on measures such as maintaining punitive sanctions against Russia.

“It will be no tolerance from the new administration in the United States,” Nalyvaichenko said. And next year, “there might be many changes in the European Union,” he said. “That’s, I think, what is at stake when we’re talking about the European Union and the United States.”

Within Ukraine, Nalyvaichenko’s strategy is to reach out to civil society leaders working at the grassroots level. He wants to convince Ukrainians to believe in the democratic process, despite a quarter-century of oligarchic thug rule after the fall of the Soviet Union.

To that end, Nalyvaichenko’s two anti-corruption organizations—which comprise 10,000 activists across Ukraine—have provided pro bono legal assistance to more than 3,000 Ukrainian citizens involved in court cases against allegedly corrupt government officials.

Nalyvaichenko’s groups have also given free medical care to more than 9,000 civilians in the war zone.

“If you would like to stop Russian aggression, if you would like to get back not only territories but people … we have to show them what?” Nalyvaichenko said. “Believe me, not Kalashnikovs and not tanks. We have to show them a better life.”

Lifestyle

That better life has not yet materialized for many Ukrainians.

For one, the hryvnia, Ukraine’s national currency, is currently less than one-third its value against the dollar from before the revolution. Wages have not concurrently risen to match the falling currency, dramatically reducing Ukrainians’ spending power.

Also, corruption still taints almost every aspect of Ukrainian life. University students in Kyiv, as an example, say it’s still common practice to pay their professors a bribe to pass exams.

According to an October 2016 public opinion poll conducted by the International Republican Institute, and funded by the government of Canada, 30 percent of Ukrainians surveyed who had visited a doctor in the previous 12 months said they paid a bribe for service.

Among those who interacted with the police, 25 percent said they paid a bribe.

A large part of Ukraine’s economy is off the books—what Ukrainians refer to as the “shadow economy.” Ukraine’s Economic Development and Trade Ministry said the shadow economy was 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2015.

This black market economy robs the government of valuable tax revenue. It also leaves many returning combat veterans, many of whom were drafted, no legal recourse to recover their jobs at the conclusion of their military service.

Many veterans previously worked off the books and were paid in cash so their employers could skirt payroll taxes.

According to the 2016 International Republican Institute study, 72 percent of Ukrainians surveyed said the country was moving in the wrong direction, while 11 percent said the country was on the right track.

As a point of comparison, a year prior to the revolution in May 2013, 69 percent of Ukrainians surveyed said the country was moving in the wrong direction, and 15 percent said the country was moving in the right direction.

According to the same poll, 73 percent of Ukrainians disapprove of Poroshenko’s performance as president, and 87 percent of Ukrainians have an unfavorable opinion of their parliament.

Nalyvaichenko said he no longer has faith in Poroshenko.

“For me this is not personal,” he said. “Whoever becomes president or prime minister is immediately part of a corrupt and not transparent system. Immediately they are reproducing the same Soviet or simply corrupt practices and environment … So, to get rid of that, to dismantle, to change the system, to reboot the country [we need to] get new people with absolutely different minds and mentality into the governmental offices.”

A New Fight

Nalyvaichenko is among a new breed of Ukrainian reformers who have emerged after the 2014 revolution.

Among Nalyvaichenko’s allies is former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who resigned as governor of Ukraine’s Odesa Oblast in November. The move was a protest against what Saakashvili claimed was stonewalling by Poroshenko and the majority of Ukraine’s political class in implementing anti-corruption reforms.

Saakashvili has since launched his own anti-corruption, opposition party called Wave.

“We had a revolution with lots of casualties,” Saakashvili told The Daily Signal in an earlier interview. “And every time a revolution happens, people have a right to expect revolutionary changes.”

One bright spot for Ukraine is its budding civil society. Across the country, political activists and humanitarian workers, including many millennials, have enabled the spread of democratic norms and are pushing for government accountability at the grassroots level.

“Across the country there is real willingness at the local level, at the grassroots level to stop corruption,” Nalyvaichenko said. “Fifteen or 20 years ago it was unimaginable that Ukraine would have such a powerful civil society.”

He continued:

I remember my parents and how modest the family used to be. How we young, young kids in Zaporizhia and other regions dreamed about another life. And to really have a chance with a free market, with the rule of law … for our children to create a new country with more opportunities. Our better future is here, and we should fight for that. I will not take no for an answer—from anyone.

Sacked

As head of the SBU, Nalyvaichenko endeavored to purge the security agency of its Soviet KGB past. He booted many personnel who had served in the SBU when it was the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s branch of the KGB.

Nalyvaichenko spearheaded an effort to open up the SBU’s KGB archives, launching fresh investigations into Soviet crimes in Ukraine, including Joseph Stalin’s organized mass famine in the 1930s known as the Holodomor.

He also hunted down and expelled Russian spies in Ukraine who were working for Russia’s successor agency to the KGB, the Federal Security Service of Russia, or FSB.

“With SBU, what I started with was to stop KGB practices,” Nalyvaichenko said. “I was the first and only chief of the SBU who actually started to detain FSB officers in Ukraine.”

The intent of Nalyvaichenko’s personnel scrub at the SBU went beyond security concerns. He wanted to shed the agency of its “Soviet mindset.”

To fill out the SBU’s thinned ranks, Nalyvaichenko tapped young political activists and reformers who had no living memory of life in the Soviet Union.

“That is my approach and my understanding of how it could be done in all the country,” Nalyvaichenko said, explaining how his SBU scrub could be used as a model for nationwide reforms.

The solution to beating corruption in Ukraine, according to Nalyvaichenko, is to elevate a new generation of political and business leaders.

“Let the generation shift happen in Ukraine,” Nalyvaichenko said. “For the new generation to be in the offices, to let them finally rule the country … it’s high time to finally stop with old practices.”

Nalyvaichenko’s second term as head of the SBU came at a tumultuous time for Ukraine. In the months following the February 2014 revolution, Russia launched a hybrid invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, ultimately annexing the territory.

Russia followed up the seizure of Crimea with a proxy war in the Donbas. A combined force of pro-Russian separatists and Russian regulars was on the march in eastern Ukraine in 2014, and there were worries then that Ukraine could be cleaved in two, or that Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s borders might stage a large-scale invasion.

In Kyiv, the post-revolution government was at the time trying to establish its legitimacy and follow through on the pro-democratic promise of the revolution.

Meanwhile, officials were piecing together a military campaign out of the remnants of Ukraine’s armed forces, which had been gutted by decades of corruption and purposeful neglect.

Amid all of this, Nalyvaichenko pushed to prosecute corrupt government officials.

A New Fight

In Ukraine, opinions diverge about the hierarchy of threats facing the country.

A nearly three-year-old war between Ukrainian troops and a combined force of pro-Russian separatists and Russian regulars continues to simmer in the Donbas, Ukraine’s embattled eastern territory on the border with Russia.

About 10,000 Ukrainians have so far died in the conflict, which has also displaced about 1.7 million people. The war cost Ukraine an equivalent 20 percent of its gross national product in 2015, according to a 2016 report by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

The February 2015 cease-fire has failed. Military and civilian casualties still occur almost every day from landmines, artillery fire, rocket attacks, and small arms gun battles.

Ukraine’s military has rebuilt itself since 2014, but many front-line soldiers complain that after nearly three years of combat, they still aren’t getting basic supplies.

Despite the war’s cost in blood and treasure, Nalyvaichenko said the greatest threat facing Ukraine today is not on the battlefields of the Donbas, but within Kyiv’s government halls.

“If you don’t understand how deep and how destroying the corruption is, you’ll never win the war,” Nalyvaichenko said. “This system, as I understand it, is not workable anymore. And because of war, because of Russian aggression, we now understand why. We simply, as a country, as a nation, have no time and no space anymore to continue with such corrupt practices.”

There is, however, a countervailing, quieter faction, particularly among Ukraine’s military brass, which says the war effort should take priority over any anti-corruption crusades.

Ukrainian military officials who spoke to The Daily Signal on background cautioned against ambitious anti-corruption agendas while the country is still at war.

And, according to the October 2016 International Republican Institute poll, most Ukrainians consider the war to be the biggest threat to the country.

Of the Ukrainians surveyed in the poll, 53 percent said the war in the Donbas was the country’s most important issue, compared with 38 percent who singled out corruption as the top issue.

“The tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, tanks, and artillery sitting along Ukraine’s southern and eastern borders are Ukraine’s sole existential threat,” Alexander Motyl, professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark, wrote in OZY. “If [Russian President] Vladimir Putin gives the command, they could invade and possibly destroy large parts of the country. Corruption, by comparison, could eviscerate Ukraine’s institutions, but only in the long term.”

Outsider

As SBU chief, Nalyvaichenko spearheaded an investigation into a June 8, 2015, fire at an oil depot near Vasylkiv, Ukraine. The investigation allegedly implicated government officials in financial crimes, according to Nalyvaichenko’s account of events.

The investigation also revealed the undisclosed involvement of a Russian company in the oil depot.

Nalyvaichenko said he personally presented Poroshenko with the evidence and pushed for the issuance of arrest warrants.

Then, on June 15, 2015, Poroshenko fired Nalyvaichenko as head of the SBU. And three days later, Ukraine’s parliament voted to approve Nalyvaichenko’s ouster.

“That’s why I decided to be outside the government,” Nalyvaichenko said. “I really understood and understand for sure that to be subordinated and to fight the corruption, which is above you, is impossible. You become a part of this corrupt group of people, or you are outside. Here’s a red line. For me it was a clear decision.”

The Poroshenko administration declined a request for comment for this article. But, in an emailed statement to The Daily Signal, the SBU defended its track record of investigating and prosecuting corrupt officials.

“After the Revolution of Dignity, state leadership gave a clear indication to law enforcement authorities to begin the real fight against corruption, regardless of position, party affiliation, and the number of stars on one’s epaulets,” the SBU wrote in its statement to The Daily Signal.

According to the SBU, the security agency investigated 673 Ukrainian officials for corruption in 2016, compared with 545 in 2015, and 359 in 2014. The SBU said its investigations led to 256 convictions in 2016, an increase from 184 in 2015, and 181 in 2014.

“This suggests an increase in the intensity of the intelligence agencies in this cause,” the SBU said in its statement.

Nalyvaichenko acknowledged that Ukraine has made some progress in fighting corruption, but he said the past few years of investigations have largely targeted mid- and low-level government officials.

“The worst thing, I think, is that no single person from the top of the previous government [has been] prosecuted,” Nalyvaichenko said. “No single trial, or public hearings, or other procedures were organized by this government, by these officials. That’s I think the worst thing for the country and for Ukrainians.” (For more from the author of “Ukraine’s Former Top Spy Goes after a New Enemy: Corruption” please click HERE)

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Iran Says It Will Not Renegotiate Nuclear Deal

Iran will not renegotiate its nuclear agreement with world powers, even if it faces new U.S. sanctions after Donald Trump becomes president, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday.

Trump, who will take office on Friday, has threatened to either scrap the agreement, which curbs Iran’s nuclear program and lifts sanctions against it, or seek a better deal.

“There will be no renegotiation and the (agreement) will not be reopened,” said Araqchi, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator at the talks that led to the agreement in 2015, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.

“We and many analysts believe that the (agreement) is consolidated. The new U.S. administration will not be able to abandon it,” Araqchi told a news conference in Tehran, held a year after the deal took effect.

“Nuclear talks with America are over and we have nothing else to discuss,” he added. (Read more from “Iran Says It Will Not Renegotiate Nuclear Deal” HERE)

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Watch List: Islamic Extremism the Cause of Persecution for Christians in 35 out of 50 Most Persecuted Countries

Open Doors USA released its 25th annual World Watch List (WWL), a ranking of the top 50 countries “where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith”, noting that “Islamic extremism is the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of 50 countries on the list.”

Communist North Korea topped the list for the 16th consecutive year because of the regime’s extreme oppression of Christians. The other nine countries in the top 10 are listed as having either Islamic extremism or Islamic oppression as a main cause of persecution.

The watch list’s top 10 countries for the most Christian persecution are, in order: North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea.

Pakistan, which placed fourth on the list, had “the most all-pervasive violence recorded” in the WWL 2017 recording period from November 2015 to October 2016. The 2016 Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore, which killed 74 and injured 320, is one example of the violence Christians have seen in Pakistan over the past year.

World Watch Research also noted in its summary of the Watch List’s major trends that “Islamic militancy is gaining ground in many more sectors of society” in Somalia since, “especially with generous Saudi funding – they are building new networks of extremist schools in Somalia, Kenya, Niger and Burkina Faso, and then targeting local government cadres, asking for concessions to build mosques and sponsoring those who are running for office.” (Read more from “Watch List: Islamic Extremism the Cause of Persecution for Christians in 35 out of 50 Most Persecuted Countries” HERE)

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Opening Plenary of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009: Vladimir Putin

Pentagon Nominee James Mattis Warns of Russian Attempts to ‘Break NATO’

Russia is the principal threat facing the United States, and the new administration should increase support to allies in the face of the Kremlin’s attempts to “break the North Atlantic alliance,” Donald Trump’s choice for defense secretary testified Thursday.

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, speaking at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. and its NATO partners must strengthen the mutual defense alliance.

“NATO from my perspective is the most successful military alliance in modern world history—maybe ever,” Mattis, 66, testified. “My view is nations with allies thrive and nations without allies don’t. If we did not have NATO today, we would need to create it. It is vital to the security of the United States and vital to the protection of the democracies we are allied with.”

Trump said during the campaign that under his administration, American military support for NATO could be conditional on whether member states have met their financial obligations to the alliance.

Mattis tried to assuage concerns that the U.S. would not commit to the alliance, telling senators he is “confident the president-elect expects us to live up to our word with Article 5” of the NATO treaty, which enshrines the principle that an attack against one member is an attack against all.

To underline that point, Mattis said he supports a permanent U.S. military presence in the Baltic nations to deter Russian aggression.

In a moment where Russia is under fire for interfering in the U.S. election, and the Kremlin’s fingerprints are all over some of the world’s dominant conflicts, including the war in Syria, Mattis urged caution on working with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I am all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to,” Mattis said. “He [Putin] has chosen to be both a strategic competitor and adversary in key areas. I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin.”

Mattis is known and admired as “Mad Dog” in the military, though it is a nickname he says he loathes because it doesn’t fit the sober-mindedness with which he views the use of military force.

His forecasting of world challenges, and his proposed approach to them, seemed to impress members of both parties on the Armed Services Committee.

After the hearing, the Senate quickly voted 81-to-17 to grant Mattis a waiver to run the Pentagon, an action required because he retired from the military only four years ago.

Under federal law, defense secretaries must have been retired from military service for seven years, unless Congress grants a waiver.

The House must still vote on the waiver before the Senate votes on formally confirming Mattis.

Senators who questioned Mattis said they hoped he would take seriously the doctrine of civilian control of the military. Mattis was careful in describing how he would use America’s military might, saying he views force to be a “last resort” that the U.S. can avoid by deterring adversaries with strong alliances and diplomatic leadership:

America has two fundamental powers. One is the power of intimidation. America will defend itself and this experiment in democracy. And the other power that perhaps we have used less in recent years is the power of inspiration. That has to be deployed at times just as strongly.

Central to that power, Mattis said, is adequately funding the military so that it has the best equipment and weaponry.

Mattis warned that because of spending cuts mandated by a budget device known as sequestration, the U.S. may lack the military strength to easily confront Russia and other adversaries, and to manage conflicts such as the war in Afghanistan and the military campaign against the Islamic State terrorist group, or ISIS, in Syria and Iraq.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, which set spending caps, cut a projected $487 billion from defense spending over a decade.

Yet at the same time, Mattis concurred with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who asked whether Mattis agrees the national debt is the greatest threat to national security.

“I understand the need for solvency and security. No nation has maintained its military power if it did not maintain its fiscal house,” Mattis said, adding:

At the same time, this country needs to be prepared to defend itself. I believe we can afford survival. I don’t believe in a mathematical calculus that makes Congress spectators as salami-slice cuts come in and you [Congress] don’t have control of it.

Here are other highlights from Mattis’ confirmation hearing, in which the retired four-star Marine general described his policy vision on issues he would encounter as defense secretary:

Iran Nuclear Deal

Mattis reportedly left his last job as leader of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, because he disagreed with the Obama administration on how hawkishly to approach Iran.

In the past, Mattis has said Iran is a greater threat than terrorist groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda.

But in the confirmation hearing, Mattis did not advocate canceling the nuclear deal the Obama administration and other foreign powers negotiated with Iran.

“I think it is imperfect arms control agreement—it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives its word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Bolstering relations with Israel, Mattis said, could help settle a turbulent Middle East.

“We have to restore a better relationship with Israel and Arab allies,” Mattis said. “There is a sense on their part we are indifferent to the security situation they face.”

Mattis said he favors a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and he did not commit to Trump’s campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Women in the Military

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., pressed Mattis on whether he supports Obama administration decisions to open combat positions to women and to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

While stressing that having the most “lethal” fighting force would be his priority, Mattis said he would not try to roll back Defense Department policies in those areas.

“I have never come into any job with an agenda of changing anything,” Mattis said. “I come in assuming the people before me deserve respect for the job they did and decisions they made. I believe military service is a touchstone for people of every stripe.”

Defeating ISIS

Mattis said he is confident in ongoing U.S.-assisted military operations to take back from ISIS the major cities of Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.

But he said he would undertake a more “accelerated campaign” to defeat ISIS, understanding that the military effort is only part of the battle.

“There has to be a military defeat, but it has to be a broader approach,” Mattis said. “You need to go after recruiting and fundraising as well. The most important thing to know when you get into a shooting war is how you want it to end.” (For more from the author of “Pentagon Nominee James Mattis Warns of Russian Attempts to ‘Break NATO'” please click HERE)

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Report: Russia Obtained Compromising Personal, Financial Information on Trump

Donald Trump was presented classified documents last week containing allegations that Russian operatives obtained compromising personal and financial information on the president-elect, according to a new report by CNN.

Included in the documents were allegations that there was communication between Trump surrogates and Russian government intermediaries during the campaign.

The allegations were presented in a two-page appendix to the report on the alleged Russian campaign aimed at influencing the U.S. presidential election.

The four most senior U.S. intelligence officials — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers — briefed both Trump and President Obama on the findings.

Top congressional leaders and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees were also briefed on the allegations.

The allegations presented to the president and president-elect did not originate from the American intelligence community — rather, they came from a former British intelligence agent, CNN reported.

According to the report, the former MI6 agent was originally commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans to perform opposition research during the primaries, and was later funded by Democrats.

CNN reported that soon after the former British intelligence agent began researching Trump’s business ties, he came across questionable information about Trump’s businesses in Russia. He then took the findings to an FBI colleague, and they eventually made their way to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

McCain personally delivered the findings to FBI Director James Comey after becoming “sufficiently disturbed” by the allegations, the report said.

The former MI6 agent has a reputation within the intelligence community and is considered to be a reliable source, according to CNN. That said, the FBI is still reviewing the findings to establish their veracity.

The rather unprecedented decision to present the unconfirmed findings to the president-elect was to make Trump aware that intelligence agencies and senior congressional officials are circulating allegations involving him personally.

The senior intelligence officials also wanted to demonstrate to Trump that Russia had compiled harmful information about both parties, but only released damaging information about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. (For more from the author of “Report: Russia Obtained Compromising Personal, Financial Information on Trump” please click HERE)

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Netanyahu Is Sounding the Alarm on Obama’s Anti-Israel Terrorist Collusion

While most politically-minded Americans were keeping up with the confirmation hearings Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was busy lambasting the Obama administration for colluding with terrorists to pass an “anti-Israel resolution” in the United Nations.

Netanyahu corrected the suggestion some have made that the U.N. Security Council’s decision, which ruled that Israel is illegally “occupying” its own land, follows the policies of previous United States administrations.

Netanyahu’s announcement came after Israeli news outlets reported Tuesday that the United States embassy could remain in Tel Aviv during Donald Trump’s presidency, breaking from the president-elect’s pledge to relocate to Jerusalem.

Other reports, however, stated that the Trump administration will move ahead with the relocation, despite liberals’ concerns that the decision would only lead to more violence in the Middle East. If Trump remains true to his campaign promise, it will send a clear message to Israel that America’s terrible foreign relations track record under Obama has come to an end. If he doesn’t, Bibi will surely take notice. (For more from the author of “Netanyahu Is Sounding the Alarm on Obama’s Anti-Israel Terrorist Collusion” please click HERE)

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Israeli Soldiers: Hand of God Protected Them Through Pillar of Cloud During Battle With ISIS

Israeli soldiers captured on video a pillar of cloud that strangely hovered over the boundary between Syria and Israel, protecting the soldiers from ISIS during a battle.

The Israeli soldiers videotaped the phenomenon that occurred during a battle with ISIS in the Golan Heights. The men called the pillar of cloud the “hand of Hashem,” or the hand of God, which protected them.

According to Israel News Online, the cloud was comprised of dust, cloud and rain and “did NOT cross the border fence into Israel. It sat like a barrier between ISIS and Israel.” Israelis have called the storm “divine intervention,” reported Israel Today.

“Huge miracle! Notice how God stopped this enormous storm exactly on the border,” Yifat Romano posted on Israel News Online‘s Facebook page. “Thank you, Father!”

Nissim Nahoum wrote, “The Creator of the world is protecting us.”

When asked about how the cloud protected the soldiers, Israel News Online responded, “Well there have been no ISIS attacks since then. I wonder what they thought of it. That may be the case if the cloud was there or not as we retaliated at the time. Impossible to say for sure.”

Here is the video, which was captured by an Israeli soldier:

(For more from the author of “Israeli Soldiers: Hand of God Protected Them Through Pillar of Cloud During Battle With ISIS” please click HERE)

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