Palestinian Presidency Rejects Pompeo’s Comments on Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinian Presidency Rejects Pompeo’s Comments on Settlements

Monday, 15 April, 2019 – 08:45
A Palestinian laborer stands on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem, on November 21, 2010. Baz Ratner/Reuters
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that all forms of settlement on Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 were illegal, in line with the resolutions of international legitimacy.

His comments came in response to recent statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements would not hurt the US ‘deal of the century.’

“These statements are unacceptable and irresponsible,” Abu Rudaineh said. “They contravene international law and provoke the Palestinian people, who will remain steadfast in their legitimate rights, foremost of which is Jerusalem and its holy sites, and its right to freedom, independence and the establishment of an independent state on all its national soil.”

He stressed that such rhetoric would only lead to more tension in the region and the world, reiterating the Palestinian people’s rejection of the ‘deal of the century.’

“Those who believe the deal will pass are mistaken,” the Palestinian spokesman emphasized.

In a televised interview with CNN last week, Pompeo said Netanyahu’s comments on annexing some Israeli settlements in the West Bank “don’t harm the United States’ peace plan.”

He went on to say: “I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used.”

“We have had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FACTCHECK.ORG’)

 

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrongly stated that Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria.” Middle East experts tell us that Assad controls a majority of Syria’s land and population.

Pompeo made his remarks during an April 8 interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Pompeo urged the Cuban government to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — telling Baier that Maduro’s “days are numbered” — when in an aside the secretary also remarked about Assad’s power in Syria.

Pompeo, April 8: I might add, Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today. The work that the Trump administration has done to deny Assad the capacity to rebuild his nation — this is the guy who believes he won, but the truth is the Middle East is in a much more stable, much better place today than it was when President Obama was running the joint in Syria.

“Pompeo’s comment is false,” Steven Heydemann, director of Middle East Studies at Smith College, told us in an email. “The Assad regime controls about 60% of Syrian territory, including the entire western ‘spine’ of the country that includes all its major cities and a large majority of its population.”

The civil war in Syria started in March 2011, and, at its weakest point in 2015, Assad’s government held less than a fifth of Syria. “However, the Asad government — backed by Russia and Iran — has reasserted control over much of western Syria since 2015, and appears poised to claim victory in the conflict,” according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

CRS, March 25: The collapse of IS [Islamic State] and opposition territorial control in most of Syria since 2015 has been matched by significant military and territorial gains by the Syrian government. The U.S. intelligence community’s 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment stated in February 2018 that, “The conflict has decisively shifted in the Syrian regime’s favor, enabling Russia and Iran to further entrench themselves inside the country.”

Jan. 14 Bloomberg News article on the various forces still fighting in Syria includes a map that shows the Assad regime controls about two-thirds of Syria — nearly all of the land southwest of the Euphrates River, which serves as a natural barrier between the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Russia-backed Syrian military.

“The Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, comprising about a quarter of the country, are the largest remaining areas outside of Syrian government control,” the CRS report said. “Asad has stated that his government intends to recover these areas, whether by negotiations or military force.”

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution, agreed that Pompeo’s statement was “not correct.” In an email, he told us that “in terms of population, Assad controls a substantially higher percentage of the densely populated regions of the country.”

“The main cities under government control are: Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Palmyra, Albu Kamal,” according to a March 13 Al-Jazeera article headlined “Syria’s War: Who Control What?” Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, followed by Damascus and Homs, according to the World Atlas.

“The regime is not in control of two important areas: parts of northwest Syria from north of Homs up to the border with Turkey. This area includes the city and province of Idlib and areas under Turkish control,” Heydemann said. “In addition, the regime is not in control of a large part of Syria’s northeast, which is dominated by Kurdish forces that are supported by the U.S.”

Idlib province has been under rebel control since 2015. It is the “the most significant zone remaining outside of government control in western Syria” — “the final opposition stronghold,” according to CRS. Idlib is strategically important to the Assad regime because it allows direct transit from government-control areas in the south to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, according to CRS.

The area in the northeast that is under control of Kurdish forces is strategically important because that’s where “most of Syria’s major oil production facilities” are located, Heydemann said. “However,” he added, “the PYD – the most powerful Kurdish political party in the northeast – has entered into agreements to provide the Assad regime with oil from the areas it controls.”

The Wall Street Journal, in a Feb. 8 article, said the decision by the Kurdish forces to sell oil to the Assad regime “represent[s] a new challenge to U.S. efforts to starve the Syrian government of oil.”

Clearly, Assad doesn’t have full control of Syria as he did before the civil war. But he controls more than “a small fraction” of it, contrary to what Pompeo said.

We asked the State Department to clarify Pompeo’s remarks, but did not receive a response. We will update this article if we do.

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Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today.”

Saudi Arabia transfers $100 million to US amid crisis over Khashoggi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Saudi Arabia ‘Coincidentally’ Wires $100 Million To U.S. Amid Khashoggi Controversy

The payment, which the Saudis had committed to in August, reportedly arrived on the same day that Pompeo landed in Riyadh.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the disappearance and presumed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That same day, the U.S. government received a $100 million payment from the oil-rich kingdom, The New York Times and Washington Post reported — an amount that had earlier been promised to the Trump administration to support its stabilization efforts in Syria.

Trump officials have insisted the timing of the hefty transfer was pure coincidence. But some Middle Eastern experts say they aren’t so sure.

“In all probability, the Saudis want Trump to know that his cooperation in covering for the Khashoggi affair is important to the Saudi monarch,” Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center of Middle East Studies, told the Post. “Much of its financial promises to the U.S. will be contingent on this cooperation.”

One U.S. official involved in Syria policy was blunter. “The timing of this is no coincidence,” the official told the Times.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, has maintained, however, that the Saudi payment had no connection whatsoever to Pompeo’s meeting with the Crown Prince or Khashoggi’s alleged murder.

Saudi Arabia had publicly committed the money in August, he said, adding that “the specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit.”

Saudi Arabia transfers $100 million to US amid crisis over Khashoggi

Reports have connected the alleged murder and dismemberment of the journalist with people from the Crown Prince’s inner circle. Yet both the president and Pompeo said this week that the Saudis should be given more time to investigate the situation and should be assumed innocent until proven guilty.

Trump and Pompeo also stressed America’s close ties to the Saudis ― and the massive amounts of money that the U.S. receives from the kingdom.

Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday that “we need to make sure we are mindful” of the important business and government ties with Saudi Arabia as the U.S. considers next steps regarding the Khashoggi case.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keep in their mind that we have lots of important relationships ― financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, things we work on together all across the world, the efforts to [counter Iran],” Pompeo said, according to CNN.

When asked about Khashoggi’s disappearance last Thursday, Trump said that while “we don’t like it even a little bit,” it wouldn’t be “acceptable” to him to stop selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to Riyadh.

“We don’t like it even a little bit. But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing they have four or five alternatives, two very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me,” the president said, referring to an arms deal that experts have called hugely exaggerated.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo: WikiLeaks Is A ‘Hostile Intelligence Service’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

CIA director Mike Pompeo: WikiLeaks is a ‘hostile intelligence service’

Story highlights

  • Pompeo made a public appearance and blasted WikiLeaks
  • “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is”
  • He also offered his take on threats from Iran and North Korea

Washington (CNN) CIA director Mike Pompeo gave a speech Thursday, railing against WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service.”

His appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, among his first forays into the public eye since being confirmed, came several months after WikiLeaks’ publishing stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta as well as the Democratic National Committee and just over a month since WikiLeaks published a trove of files it said were from the CIA. The CIA has neither confirmed nor denied their veracity.
In his Thursday speech, Pompeo accused WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, a former contractor who leaked NSA documents to journalists, of disseminating classified information to “make a name for themselves.”
Pompeo has in the past called for Snowden to receive the death penalty.
He said people at the CIA found praise for WikiLeaks “both perplexing and deeply troubling.”
“As long as they make a splash, they care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security,” Pompeo said. “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors, like Russia.”
During the question and answer portion of the event, Pompeo said because Assange was not a US citizen and lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, he “has no First Amendment freedoms.”
Although WikiLeaks describes itself as a media organization exposing powerful governments and companies, Pompeo said he viewed this as false.
“These are not reporters doing good work,” Pompeo said. “These are people who are actively recruiting agents.”
Pompeo said past administrations had been “squeamish” about going after people who published secrets he considered harmful to the US.
During the campaign rally in October, Trump said he loved WikiLeaks and regularly touted their disclosures. For a time before taking office, Trump did not endorse a report from the US intelligence community accusing Russia of being behind the hacks and using WikiLeaks to disseminate them in order to hurt the Clinton campaign.
Russia has denied any wrongdoing, and Assange has said WikiLeaks’ source was not Russia.
WikiLeaks responded to Pompeo’s comments in part by referencing a now deleted tweet he sent during the campaign referencing WikiLeaks’ DNC trove.

Iran and North Korea

Until Trump tapped him to lead the CIA, Pompeo was a Republican member of Congress from Kansas. He was an outspoken critic of the Obama administration and the US nuclear agreement with Iran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.
As CIA director speaking at CSIS on Thursday, he was considerably less outspoken about his issues with the Iran deal, but did say Iranians were “on the march” and cited missile launches, their support of the Houthis in Yemen and military involvement in Iraq in the past two years.
“The list of Iranian transgressions has increased dramatically since the date that the JCPOA was signed,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he viewed working with both European and Middle Eastern allies as integral to countering Iran, but also said the US’ recent cruise missile strike on Syria likely sent a message of US strength to Iran.
“What I mean by that is, this was a decision-making process that was decisive, thoughtful and truly based on a factual understanding of the geopolitical importance of the things that are facing our nation today.”
He went on to say the Iranians “ought to take note of the fact that this administration” is willing to take different measures than past administrations.
Pompeo also spoke about nuclear proliferation in North Korea and the potential of another nuclear weapons test in the coming days.
“Multiple administrations have tried to deal with the threat of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of putting a nuclear warhead into the United States, and we’re simply closer now than we have ever been at any time in North Korea’s history,” he said. “As the knowledge base increases and the capacity to deliver that increases and draws closer, it both reduces the option set to prevent it and makes more likely that you get a bad decision on a tough day from the leader of North Korea.”
Like Trump, Pompeo said China was of utmost importance to solving the issue.
Asked if there was hope China could turn back or end the North Korean nuclear weapons program, Pompeo said, “I’m counting on it.”