April 29, 2016

2002 Saudi Initiative Offered Israel Peace with the Arab World in Exchange for a Full Withdrawal from All Territories Captured in the 1967 Mideast War

What they don't report is that highly lucrative oil deposits were found in the Golan Heights. Which is one of the real reasons for overthrowing Assad. A Syria in chaos would be less likely to object to Israel annexing the Golan heights permanently and then reaping a huge financial windfall from the oil.

"Large amounts of oil have been found on the Golan Heights. Estimates are that the amount of oil discovered will make Israel self sufficient for very many years to come. Three drilling sites on the Golan have uncovered what is potentially billions of barrels of oil, enough to fulfill the Israeli market’s 270,000-barrel-per-day consumption for a very long time. Israel was not going to give the Golan Heights back anyway but now that will clearly never happen." [NextBigFuture, October 17, 2015] Always follow the money!

Israel treads carefully with claim to Golan

April 29, 2016

Associated Press - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sparked a new diplomatic brushfire by declaring that the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war, is and should remain "under Israel's sovereignty permanently."

But following tough international criticism, Israeli officials said Netanyahu's statements had been misconstrued and that a 1981 decision to apply Israeli law to the strategic plateau fell short of annexation.

The debate offers a window into a more nuanced Israeli perspective that, despite statements from the country's hard-line political leadership, continues to leave the door open, just barely, to a peace deal when Syria's civil war finally winds down.

For now, the debate is largely academic. Syria has been engulfed in civil war for nearly five years, and there is no end in sight. With Syria, and the Syrian side of the Golan, divided between Syrian troops and various rebel forces, there is nobody to talk to, even if Israel decided to open negotiations.

But the Golan remains central to any future peace deal with Syria, and its fate is a key part of a 2002 Saudi initiative that offered Israel peace with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war. While that offer is usually connected to areas sought by the Palestinians, the Golan is also considered occupied land by the international community. Past Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu himself, have held talks with Syria about control of the Golan.

So when Netanyahu convened his Cabinet for a first-ever meeting in the Golan on April 17, he triggered an international uproar by calling it "sovereign" Israeli territory.
"The Golan Heights will forever remain in Israel's hands," he declared. "After 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel's sovereignty permanently."
The U.S., Israel's closest ally, quickly criticized Netanyahu, saying the Golan is "not part of Israel." Germany and the European Union also rejected his statement, as did the Arab League, 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Syrian government. And early this week, the U.N. Security Council took issue with him.
"Council members expressed their deep concern over recent Israeli statements about the Golan and stressed that the status of the Golan remains unchanged," said Council President Liu Jieyi, China's ambassador to the U.N.
He noted a previous 1981 resolution that said Israel's decision to impose Israeli law on the Golan is "null and void."

Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry, said the parliamentary decision to impose Israeli law back in 1981 was "merely a means of governing" the territory. He said that previously, Syria had deferred to the local Druse population, whose secretive religion and customs were difficult to apply after Israel took over.

He said Israel was careful not to annex the territory — a decision that would require additional parliamentary action — in order not to "prejudice" future border negotiations with Syria.
"Israel has never claimed the Golan to be part of its sovereign jurisdiction," said Baker. "That's why in my opinion, the statement that was made was somewhat ill-advised."
In reality, Israel has in effect already annexed the territory and any thought of returning it to Syria is deeply unpopular with Israelis. More than 20,000 Israeli settlers now live in settlements on the Golan, according to official Israeli statistics.

The territory, with its rugged terrain, open spaces and sweeping vistas of Syria and northern Israel, is a popular tourism spot that is home to high-end wineries, rustic restaurants and cattle farms. The native Druse population, who also number about 20,000 people, mingle freely with Israeli Jews and are eligible for Israeli citizenship.

The system in the Golan is part of a legal kaleidoscope that Israel has created since the 1967 war. Shortly after the war, it annexed east Jerusalem, home to the city's most important holy sites, in a move that also has not been internationally recognized. Under interim peace accords, military rulings and special stipulations, West Bank settlements are subject to Israeli jurisdiction, while Palestinians are subject to a combination of their own municipal and family laws, as well as Israeli military law for security offenses.
In a statement this week, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon accused the Security Council of "ignoring reality" with its criticism.
"With whom is Israel supposed to negotiate the future of the Golan — Islamic State? Al-Qaida? Hezbollah? The Iranian and Syrian forces that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people?" he said. "The suggestion that Israel will withdraw from the Golan is not reasonable."
Still, he acknowledged that the Golan Heights is not part of "Israel proper," even if Israeli law is enforced there.

April 28, 2016

Kroger Retirees May Be Trapped in a Pension Plan That is About to Cut Their Benefits Dramatically and Still Faces Likely Insolvency

Kroger employees sue over pension plan

Cincinnati Business Courier - A group of Kroger employees and retirees is suing an Illinois-based pension fund, claiming their retirement money has been mismanaged.

The lawsuit involves an underfunded pension plan called Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund that holds about 5,000 current and retired Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) employees’ retirement funds, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Illinois. The outside plan has lost assets over the years as fewer members contribute and thanks to investment losses. Kroger employees want out of the plan.

The 11 employees and retirees who filed the lawsuit call the pension plan “massively underfunded” and say it’s projected to be insolvent by 2026, according to the lawsuit. The plan has $17.8 billion in assets and $35 billion in promised investments.

The plaintiffs in the case live in Indiana, Michigan and Kansas. They worked at Kroger for decades. Many are retired but have gotten jobs to make up for lost pension benefits or are expecting to get jobs during their retirement.

One example of the pension plan’s reduction program would cut participants’ benefits by 31 percent to 71 percent.

The plan’s board filed an application with the U.S. Treasury Department in September to get approval to reduce benefits. The plan’s participants “face an imminent threat of draconian reductions in the future, followed eventually by the plan’s complete collapse,” the Kroger employees said in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are all current or former Kroger employees who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Teamsters negotiated a plan to move Kroger participants to a new plan. It joined Kroger in asking Central State to shift the Kroger employees' and retirees' pensions out of the plan. The Kroger employees’ money makes up about 2.5 percent of the pension plan.

The pension plan’s trustees rejected the proposal within five days, the lawsuit said. The plaintiffs said that indicated they didn’t give it serious consideration. They want an independent outsider to consider their request – which they call “urgent” – to pull out of the plan. The proposal indicates that after June 15, Kroger and the Teamsters won’t be obligated to go ahead with the proposal.

“The Kroger participants will be trapped in a plan that is about to cut their benefits dramatically and still faces likely insolvency” if their pension benefits are not transferred elsewhere before then, they said in a news release.
“Kroger and the Teamsters are continuing to work together to address this situation,” Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey told me. “Kroger and the Teamsters have met and corresponded with Central States many times over the last 12 months. They have indicated a willingness to modify the transfer proposal if Central States does not think it is sufficient to protect the remaining non-Kroger participants. Thus far, Central States has not discussed any possible modifications with Kroger or the IBT.
“The best course for everyone would be for Central States to agree to the requested transfer. Kroger and the (Teamsters) continue to hope Central States Pension Fund trustees will consider it seriously. It fully protects pension benefits of our Kroger associates and it leaves the Central States Pension Fund no worse off.”
Some of Kroger’s employees got involved in the pension plan through a deal with the Teamsters that goes back to the 1970s, Dailey told me. Most Kroger retirees have pensions with dozens of other plans, many of which are sponsored by the Cincinnati-based supermarket giant.

The plan has been in decline over the years. In 1980 it had more than 11,000 employers. Now it has about 1,500. Much of that decline followed deregulation of the trucking industry, the lawsuit said. It also suffered $7.6 billion in investment losses in 2008 from the financial crisis.

U.S. to Boast Military Aid to Israel from $3 Billion Annually to $5 Billion

The US may offer Israel the ‘largest single pledge’ of military assistance in US history

Amid a push by a large majority of senators to increase foreign aid to Israel, a White House official told Reuters:
“We are prepared to sign an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with Israel that would constitute the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.”
The official said discussions with Israel were ongoing on a memorandum of understanding that would increase US military aid to Israel for the next 10 years, due to be renewed before 2018.

More than 80 of the 100 sitting US senators signed a letter Monday calling on President Barack Obama to increase aid to Israel and immediately sign an agreement on a new defense package. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is not one of the 83 signatories.
“In light of Israel’s dramatically rising defense challenges, we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and preserve its qualitative military edge,” said the letter, which was seen by Reuters.
Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons were behind the letter, which was signed by 51 Republican and 32 Democratic senators.

Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz was one of the signatories, while Sanders was not.

Due to expire in 2018, the current aid package stands at $3 billion annually, and, according to reports, Israel wants to up the amount to $5 billion annually. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted he may wait to negotiate with Obama’s successor to try and secure a better deal.

Israel welcomed the reports but did not comment on the status of talks over the deal.

Speaking to The Times of Israel last month, chairman of the Senate’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Lindsey Graham vowed to “do everything I can to squeeze some money out of a tight budget to help increase funding for Israel.”
“Israel has to decide what to do and when to do it. But I can say this: we’ll have more money this year than potentially next year, because sequestration kicks back in,” he explained, referring to spending cuts the US federal government enacted in 2013.

April 27, 2016

Member of UK Parliament Resigns After Saying Israel Should Be 'Relocated' to the US; in 2000, Nick Rockefeller Suggested the Same Thing to Aaron Russo

"He [Nick Rockefeller] even mentioned to me once that they were having a real problem trying to solve the Israel-Palestinian problem. And he talked to me once about [that] they were playing with the idea of bringing Israel to Arizona, and taking all the people from Israel and giving everybody a million dollars and setting up Israel in the State of Arizona to end that problem. That's a problem that they're not in charge of, in a sense. They're not controlling that problem." - Aaron Russo on His Conversations with Nick Rockefeller About the the Council on Foreign Relations and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (first 41 seconds of the video above; full transcript is at the end of this blog post).

Labour MP Naz Shah has resigned after saying Israel should be 'relocated' to the US

April 26, 2016

IB Times UK - Labour MP Naz Shah has resigned from the post of aide to the shadow chancellor after it emerged she had shared a post suggesting Israel should be "relocated" to the US.

The Bradford West MP had earlier apologised for the post, which she made in 2014 prior to winning George Galloway's seat in the 2015 election, and said in a statement that she was sorry for any offence caused.

She had shared a post on Facebook that suggested moving Middle Eastern Jewish people to the US, stating: 
"The transportation costs would be less than three years of defence spending," to which Shah added "problem solved".
The MP also offered to contact Barack Obama and share the post, which said it had the 'solution' to the Middle East conflict.

naz shah 
The post appeared on Shah's Facebook page.

But after her controversial comments were shared by political blogger Guido Fawkes and a subsequent backlash, Shah announced she had quit her role working for shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Prince Talked About Chemtrails and Dick Gregory

Prince Talks About Chemtrails and the New World Order in This Video

According to the Oxford Geoengineering Programme, “Geoengineering is the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change.”

Essentially, scientists put chemicals in the sky (chemtrails) to help control the weather. However, some people believe that these chemicals also negatively affect the psychological, mental, and physical health of humans and other life on our planet.

Chemtrails are real. (Click here to see a document that discusses how chemtrails have been used in the U.S. for weather modification.) Some chemicals found in chemtrails include barium, nano aluminum-coated fiberglass (CHAFF), radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, yellow fungal mycotoxins, and ethylene dibromide.

What are these chemicals doing to our communities?

Dick Gregory, civil rights activist, social critic, writer, and entrepreneur, has a lot to say about these chemicals. He said during the 2008 State of the Black Union:
“You know, when I was a kid, I used to see these trails in the sky all the time. So that’s cool, a jet just went over. And then you started to see a whole bunch of them, and next thing you know everybody in your neighborhood was fighting and arguing and you didn’t know why, okay, and you really didn’t know why, I mean, everybody was fighting.”
These words really made Prince think about how the New World Order seeks to control the world, and the people in it, with the use of chemicals or any other means available.
Prince spent a great deal of his life fighting record companies for freedom of creativity and the rights to his creations. It makes sense that he would also speak out about public safety and health.

Check out his strong words in the video below! (There is also a section included that shows Dick Gregory’s anti-chemical speech.)
Tavis Smiley's guest Prince talks about chemtrails, Obama (2:40 mark)

April 21, 2016

Obama Has Pledged $3 Billion to the UN's Green Climate Fund

April 20, 2016

CNS News - President Obama has pledged $3 billion to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) Green Climate Fund over four years. The first $500 million of that pledged amount was transferred on March 7, 2016. The U.N. serves as depository for the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol; and the UNFCCC secretariat’s headquarters is located in the U.N. complex in the German city of Bonn. UNFCCC’s landmark climate change agreement was negotiated in Paris in 2015.

Many Republican lawmakers also oppose the administration’s domestic and international actions on climate change, including its efforts to circumvent Congress in committing the U.S. to the Paris agreement.

When the administration transferred the first $500 million instalment of the promised $3 billion to the GCF last month, Barrasso questioned how what he called the “handout to foreign bureaucrats” could be justified in the current economic climate.

Challenging a State Department official during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Barrasso also noted that Congress had not authorized or appropriated any funding for the GCF, and charged that the payment violates legislation which prohibits federal agencies from spending federal funds in advance or in excess of an appropriation.

Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom said in response the department had “reviewed our authorities and made a determination that we can make this payment to the Green Climate Fund.”

Kerry, who has championed the climate change issue for decades, said after the Paris accord was struck that he did not believe Americans would ever elect as president a candidate who did not support the international climate change effort.

“I don’t think they’re going to accept as a genuine leader someone who doesn’t understand the science of climate change and isn’t willing to do something about it,” he said.


Israel Warns That Any Future Crisis with Hezbollah Will Unleash Full-scale War on Lebanon

Israeli general warns of 'devastating war' with Hezbollah

April 20, 2016

A top Israeli military leader on Wednesday issued a stern warning to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, saying any future war between the two enemies will unleash "devastating" damage on Lebanon.

Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, Israel's deputy chief of staff, told foreign journalists that Hezbollah has developed capabilities that present "unprecedented" threats to Israel. Israel estimates the group has over 100,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal.

Golan said any future war will be "much harsher" than anything experienced in the past 20 years.
"In any future crisis, they are not going to see a small war in Lebanon. It's going to be decisive. It's going to be full-scale war," he said.

"That could create devastating damage to Lebanon," including in civilian areas, where he said Hezbollah hides and operates. "There is no other way to take out this threat without ... creating large damage to the Lebanese infrastructure, to Lebanese houses and other civilian facilities."
Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in the summer of 2006 that ended in a stalemate.

The fighting killed about 1,200 Lebanese, including hundreds of civilians, and about 160 Israelis. Israeli airstrikes caused heavy damage to Lebanon's infrastructure, while Lebanon fired several thousand rockets into Israel. Israeli officials say Hezbollah's improved missile arsenal is now capable of striking virtually anywhere in the country.

April 20, 2016

One of the Nation's Largest Multi-employer Pension Plans Could Cut Pensions by 50 Percent

One of the nation’s largest pension funds could soon cut benefits for retirees

Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and their supporters attend a rally outside the Capitol in Washington on April 14. The demonstrators protested a plan by the Central States Pension Fund to reduce payments to retirees. (Drew Angerer/Bloomberg)

April 20, 2016

Washington Post - More than a quarter of a million truckers, retirees and their families could soon see their pension benefits severely cut — even though their pension fund is still years away from running out of money.

Within the next few weeks, the Treasury Department is expected to announce a crucial decision on whether it will approve reductions to one of the country’s largest multi-employer pension plans.

The potential cuts are possible under legislation passed by Congress in 2014 that for the first time allowed financially distressed multi-employer plans to reduce benefits for retirees if it would improve the solvency of the fund. The law weakened federal protections that for more than 40 years shielded one of the last remaining pillars that workers could rely on for financial security in retirement.

For many workers, the promise of a guaranteed income stream for life — a benefit now nearly extinct for younger generations — was at times strong enough to convince them to sacrifice pay raises or other job opportunities. But after decades of challenges that left many pension funds in tough financial straits, some people are learning in retirement that the promises made to them may have to be broken.

The Central States Pension Fund, which handles the retirement benefits for current and former Teamster union truck drivers across various states including Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, New York and Minnesota, was the first plan to apply for reductions under the new law.

Consumer advocates watching the case say the move could encourage dozens of other pension plans across the country that are facing financial struggles to make similar cuts.
“This is going to be a national crisis for hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of retirees and their families,” said Karen Friedman, executive vice president of the Pension Rights Center.
Like many other pension plans, the Central States Pension Fund suffered heavy investment losses during the financial crisis that cut into the pool of money available to pay out benefits. While the stock market has recovered since then, the improvements were not enough to make up for the shortfall that grew as the number of companies contributing to the plan declined and the number of people retiring and collecting benefits increased, said Thomas Nyhan, executive director of the Central States Pension Fund.

That imbalance left the fund paying out $3.46 in pension benefits for every $1 it received from employers. The shortfall has resulted in the fund paying out $2 billion more in benefits than it receives in employer contributions each year.

If nothing is done, the fund could become insolvent by 2025, said Nyhan. And because of its size, the plan could overwhelm the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the insurance agency meant to shore up private pension funds, if it went under, Nyhan said.

The Central States Pension Fund pays out $2.8 billion a year in benefits, which would be reduced if the plan became insolvent. By comparison, the PBGC fund that backs multi-employer plans has roughly $2 billion in assets and is also projected to be insolvent by 2025.
“This was a very hard decision, a gut-wrenching decision,” Nyhan said, adding that he feared not taking any action could leave retirees with no pension at all. “It’s not a question of if there are going to be cuts. The question is where and when.”
If Treasury approves the fund’s proposal, then retirees could see their paychecks shrink by July 1. The move would give the fund at least a 50 percent chance of lasting for another 30 years as opposed to running out of cash in 10 years if no changes are made, Nyhan said. A decision is expected by May 7.

But opponents say there may be some negative consequences if the cuts are approved.
“It’s going to open the floodgates for other cuts,” said Friedman of the Pension Rights Center.
Out of the 10 million workers and retirees covered by multi-employer pension plans, roughly 1 million people are in plans that could run out of money over the next two decades, according to estimates from the PBGC. Already, three other pension plans that pay benefits to truck drivers and ironworkers have applied to the Treasury to have their pension benefits reduced.
The proposal introduced in September by Central States would cut benefits for current workers and retirees by 23 percent on average, though exact amounts would vary based on people’s age, health status and where they worked.
For many retirees, the losses may be much steeper.

April 4, 2016

Malheur County, Oregon Sheriff’s Deputies Caught on Tape Engaging in Illegal Activities

Malheur County Sheriff’s Department exposed — again

March 1, 2016

INTELLIHUB - Things are not looking so good for county officials who already overtly botched the response to the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, led by Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan, and LaVoy Finicum, who was killed by the FBI during an ambush.

Additionally officials failed to redress grievances of local ranchers regarding ongoing corruption taking place amongst the Bureau of Land Management and and other corrupt government and non-government agencies, possibly in an attempt to push through a major uranium mining deal which I exposed on Jan. 23, in an article titled,Clinton Foundation took massive payoffs, promised Hammond Ranch and other publicly owned lands to Russians along with one-fifth of our uranium ore.”

Now a video has resurfaced that shows Malheur County Sheriff’s Deputies engaging in illegal activities — and it was all caught on tape.

On May 19, 2013, a man by the name of Steve Hindi was “illegally stopped” by “bad cops” at the Malheur County Sheriff’s deputies while driving a rental car.

Hindi said he was stopped by the cops to make him illegally identify himself. During the stop the deputies even took the vin number” from Hindi’s vehicle.

Hindi wrote in the video’s description:
Oregon’s Malheur County Sheriff’s Deputies will apparently do anything to protect the cruel Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo. The sheriff’s department raises money at the rodeo, and sheriff’s deputies sit on the rodeo board.
The sheriff’s department will even make illegal traffic stops, and openly talk about what they are doing. Too bad they forgot about that cruiser camera, which recorded every word.
After the stop, Hindi eventually obtained the original Sheriff’s Department dashcam footage which paints the entire picture.

On the video, one of the deputies can be heard saying, “Let’s write that vin number down, that’s a personal car I’m guessing,” in an attempt to acquire more information about their target.

The cops could then be heard saying, “He’s already going to get lawyers […] this guy’s the real deal.”

“Here’s the problem, they didn’t trespass him when we were there […] they asked him to leave.”

The other cop responds, ” Well, even so, we were going off what we were told […] I don’t want to stop the man. We are going to get sued.”

“We are going to be in a world of hurt.”

Hindi says this all has to do with the Jordan Valley Big Loop, and Sheriff Brian Wolfe’s love for the rodeo.

Hindi also said the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department has even previously been caught issuing “false police reports,” displaying the level of corruption.

Turkey Charged Two Journalists with Treason for Publishing Footage Showing Intelligence Agency Shipping Truckloads of Weapons to Opposition Fighters in Syria in Early 2014

Turkey's Erdogan says Obama spoke 'behind my back' on press freedom

April 3, 2016

Reuters - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused U.S. counterpart Barack Obama of going behind his back for criticizing Turkey's press freedom record and linked it to efforts to "divide" Turkey, media reports said on Sunday.

Obama said on Friday after meeting Erdogan on the sidelines of a nuclear summit in Washington that he was troubled by curbs on the press in Turkey and said he had urged Erdogan not to repress democratic debate in his country.

Turkey has drawn international condemnation for charging two journalists with treason for publishing footage that purportedly showed the intelligence agency shipping truckloads of weapons to opposition fighters in Syria in early 2014. Can Dundar and Erdem Gul of Cumhuriyet face life in prison.
"I was saddened to hear that statement made behind my back. During my talk with Obama, those issues did not come up," Erdogan told reporters, according to Hurriyet daily.
He returned to Turkey after a five-day trip to Washington on Sunday.
"You cannot consider insults and threats press freedom or criticism," Erdogan said.
Turkey has seized control of opposition newspapers and TV channels and cut the satellite feed of a pro-Kurdish channel, accusing them of terrorism-related activities. Erdogan has personally brought more than 1,800 criminal suits against individuals, including journalists and children, for insulting him since becoming president in 2014.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 13 journalists are in jail for their coverage and described a "massive crackdown" that includes self-censorship and harassment of media-business owners.
Criticism of Turkey's press record seeks to "divide, shatter and if they could, swallow up Turkey," he said. "This is what I mean by mastermind. A mastermind is playing games over Turkey.
Erdogan and his supporters occasionally refer to a shadowy foreign "mastermind" that seeks to destabilize Turkey, a NATO member that shares borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

April 3, 2016

U.S. is Conducting Another Program in Turkey to Train Syrian Opposition Fighters; the 2015 Training Effort in Turkey, a Country That Covertly Supports ISIS, Failed

The US military is now training dozens of Syrian fighters to stare down ISIS

Training for the first group of recruits includes how to identify targets for U.S.-led coalition airstrikes to allow coalition aircraft to better strike Islamic State from the air.
"That allows us to bring significantly more fires into play in any of these skirmishes, battles, and firefights that are taking place throughout Syria," said U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.
Warren said no Syrian fighters had yet graduated from the program.

The Pentagon has declined to say where the training is being conducted, but U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told Reuters it is in Turkey.

The failure of the original program, which sought to train thousands of fighters, has been a concern for President Barack Obama, whose strategy depends on local partners combating Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

The 2015 program was problematic from the start, with some of the first class of Syrian fighters being attacked by al Qaeda's Syria wing, Nusra Front, in their battlefield debut. At one point, a group of U.S.-trained rebels handed over ammunition and equipment to Nusra Front.

Instead of trying to pull entire units from the fight for training, as the Pentagon sought to do last year, the new program will take small groups of fighters from the front-lines for training.
"If it works we'll do more. And if it doesn't, we'll shift again," Warren said.
The U.S. strategy against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where the Sunni militant group has carved out a self-declared caliphate, aims to force the collapse of its two major power centers of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

April 2, 2016

What If Israel Didn't Have Nuclear Weapons?

What If Israel Didn't Have Nuclear Weapons?

April 2, 2016

The National Interest - Since the early 1970s, Israel has informally maintained a nuclear deterrent. In order to prevent the activation of a variety of legal instruments that would disrupt Israeli relations with the United States and Europe, Israel has not acknowledged the program. It remains, however, the worst-kept secret in international politics.

But a country always has options. What if Israel had never developed these nukes? What impact would a different decision have had on Israel’s security, and on regional politics more broadly?

Origins of the program

Israel started research into nuclear weapons in the late 1940s, under the belief that only a nuclear deterrent could prevent national destruction. Israel was hardly alone in this conviction; at the time, many analysts expected the wide proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. Copious French assistance made the program possible, along with covert funding from groups in the United States. Great Britain also periodically delivered supplies necessary to the program. Washington helped mainly by looking away.

As Israel’s security dilemma became more stark in the 1950s and 1960s, the program accelerated. The Israel Defense Forces won stunning victories in 1948, 1956, and again in 1967, but with only a thin margin of error; the hostility and growing strength of Soviet client states in Syria, Iraq and Egypt made the future uncertain.

Israel probably constructed its first nuclear device around 1966, with an arsenal of usable weapons available by the early 1970s. The first delivery systems were fighter-bombers (reports vary as to whether Mirage IIIs, F-4 Phantoms, or A-4 Skyhawks bore the primary burden), supplemented before long by ballistic missiles.

Impact on regional politics

As with every other nuclear power since 1945, Israel has refrained from using its weapons in combat. However, the presence of nukes can have wide-ranging political effects (indeed, this is half the point of building them). Israeli nuclear weapons may have deterred regional rivals, but may also have driven regional proliferation. How plausible are these claims?

There are two problems with the claim that Israeli nukes have deterred regional adversaries. The first problem is that Israeli conventional dominance, established in 1967 and 1973 and expanded since, may have been enough. The second problem is that Israel has come under attack on multiple occasions since the 1970s from foes without nuclear weapons. Indeed, in 1973 Israel suffered a massive conventional assault from Syria and Egypt, finally prevailing through armored maneuver on both fronts. Israel considered using nuclear weapons in 1973, but the tactical situation developed in a way that made the “Samson Option” unnecessary.

With respect to proliferation, at least three states in Israel’s immediate neighborhood have pursued their own nuclear programs since the 1970s. Iranian interest in nuclear weapons began in the mid-1970s, with the program advancing in fits and starts until the present day. The Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, and the recent nuclear deal with the United States have slowed progress or brought it to a halt. For its part, Iraq pursued a nuclear weapons program through the 1980s, briefly interrupted by the Israeli attack on the Osirak reactor and then pursued with redoubled enthusiasm. The program ended, for all intents and purposes, with the Gulf War of 1991. Israeli fighter-bombers disposed of Syria’s nascent nuclear program in 2007.

Iran, Iraq and Syria each had good reasons to pursue nuclear weapons completely apart from the existence of the Israeli deterrent. Rhetoric notwithstanding, Iran and Iraq faced a greater threat from one another than from Israel. Syria, bordering on Israel and having lost territory in 1967, faced a more complex decision. However, the threat posed by the United States may have had a greater impact on Syrian decision-making than the long-standing Israeli deterrent. Thus, the Israeli nuclear program has not driven regional nuclear proliferation in any meaningful sense. The wealthiest states (Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia) have refrained, while the proliferators have developed programs largely for reasons other than Israel.