British police identify 2 attackers in Saturday rampage as residents of east London

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

British police identify 2 attackers in Saturday rampage as residents of east London

Three men in a speeding van mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before getting out and stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants on June 3. (The Washington Post)
June 5 at 2:22 PM
Police on Monday named two of the three attackers who killed seven people during a rampage through central London, saying that both had lived only miles away from the scene of the carnage and that one had been on the radar of security services.London’s Metropolitan Police identified the assailants as 27-year-old Khuram Shazad Butt, a British citizen who was born in Pakistan, and 30-year-old Rachid Redouane, who had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan.

Both lived in the Barking area of east London, only a half-hour’s drive from London Bridge and Borough Market — the two adjacent areas where victims were targeted Saturday night. Police did not identify the third attacker, saying efforts to confirm his identity are ongoing.

One of the attackers had been investigated in 2015, but police said they had no warning of a plot and the investigation had been dropped to a lower priority.

“Khuram Shazad Butt was known to the police and MI5,” police said in a statement, referring to Britain’s main domestic intelligence agency. “However, there was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned and the investigation had been prioritized accordingly. The other named man, Rachid Redouane, was not known.”

Butt had been known as an extremist in his east London neighborhood and was featured last year in a documentary on Britain’s Channel 4 called “The Jihadis Next Door.”

The police say they have 500 ongoing terrorism investigations and are keeping tabs on 3,000 individuals suspected of extremism. Investigations involving known plots, authorities say, take up the bulk of the security services’ resources.

Both of the assailants behind earlier attacks in Britain this spring also had attracted notice from authorities. But, like Butt, they were considered peripheral figures.

All three assailants in Saturday night’s attack were fatally shot by police within eight minutes of the first emergency calls.

Monday’s identifications came as the police investigation intensified, with raids in Barking and Newham, another east London neighborhood, and as politicians officially resumed campaigning ahead of an unpredictable election that will be held in just three days. As of late Monday afternoon, 11 people were in custody, with police probing possible connections to the attackers.

Saturday night’s attack injured dozens, including four police officers. Eighteen people remain in critical condition.

Speaking on the BBC, Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick said the majority of recent attacks have had a “domestic center of gravity,” although with some of them, there are “undoubtedly international dimensions.”

In an indication of the continuing threat, morning commuters on three major Thames River crossings found newly erected barriers Monday that separated roadways from walkways. The structures appeared designed to thwart the sort of attack in which assailants use vehicles to swerve into pedestrians — a tactic that has been used twice in three months.

Christine Archibald, 30, a Canadian from the western province of British Columbia, was the first victim of the Saturday attack to be named. The 30-year-old had worked at a homeless shelter in Calgary before moving to Europe to live with her fiance.

“Please honor her by making your community a better place. Volunteer your time and labor or donate to a homeless shelter. Tell them Chrissy sent you,” her family said in a statement.

At a news briefing from the area of the attack, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “furious” that the attackers used Islam as justification for their actions.

“I’m angry and furious that these three men are seeking to justify their actions by using the faith that I belong to,” said Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor and the West’s most prominent Muslim politician. “The ideology they follow is perverse, and it is poisonous.”

Later on Monday, President Trump escalated an attack on Khan that he began Sunday. Trump had chided the mayor for attempting to calm the public by assuring that there was “no need to be alarmed.”

Khan’s comments were in reference to an intensified police presence on London streets. But Trump incorrectly implied that they were a comment about the attack itself.

On Monday, Trump tweeted: “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement.”

Khan’s spokesman said the mayor was focused on the city’s response to the attack and would not have any comment on Trump. On Sunday, the mayor’s office said Khan “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet.”

Trump’s tweets were widely mocked in Britain, where the overwhelming mood was one of unity against terrorism and praise for security services.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, accused the U.S. president of lacking both “grace” and “sense.”

Prime Minister Theresa May, who has gone to great lengths to cultivate ties with Trump, defended Khan on Sunday while carefully avoiding any criticism of the U.S. president. Under repeated questioning from British journalists Monday, she said Khan was “doing a good job, and it’s wrong to say anything else.”

On Sunday night, tens of thousands attended an Ariana Grande benefit concert   that was originally intended to honor the victims of last month’s suicide bombing at the singer’s concert in Manchester but was expanded to recognize the victims in London.

Following the May 22 attack in Manchester, Saturday night’s van-and-knife rampage was the second mass-casualty attack to intrude on the homestretch of a parliamentary campaign that was once thought certain to end in a landslide for May and the Conservatives. The race has tightened in recent weeks, and terrorism has introduced an unexpected variable.

Rival party leaders lashed out at one another Monday over whether more police officers or more police powers are needed to combat terrorism.

During a speech in central London, May repeatedly refused to say that she regretted cutting police numbers during her time as home secretary. Instead, she said the Conservative Party had given police and security services enhanced powers to fight terrorism.

“We’ve given increased powers to be able to deal with terrorists, powers that Jeremy Corbyn has boasted he has always opposed,” she said.

Corbyn shot back, telling ITV that “we should never have cut the police numbers.”

Asked whether he would support calls for May to resign over the police cuts, Corbyn said, “Indeed I would,” before amending his comments to suggest that Thursday’s election is “perhaps the best opportunity to deal with it.”

Khan, a member of the Labour Party, also took aim at May’s cuts, noting in an appearance at Borough Market that the Metropolitan Police had had its budget slashed by 600 million pounds — about $775 million — with more cuts planned.

The department, he noted, not only has to combat terrorism, it also has to prepare for major international events and high-profile visitors. “Some welcome, some less so,” Khan noted in a subtle dig at Trump, who’s due in Britain for a state visit later this year.

Dick, the police chief, declined to be drawn into the debate, saying that “any police leader would always want more resources” but not directly addressing calls for greater funding.

With her premiership on the line, May took an aggressive and combative tone Sunday, telling the nation that “enough is enough” and insisting that there is “far too much tolerance for extremism in our country.”

“Things need to change,” she said in a speech outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street.

She blamed the attack on the “evil ideology of Islamist extremism,” called for a thorough review of the nation’s counterterrorism policies and suggested that she will take a much tougher line if she wins Thursday’s vote.

May’s comments were welcomed Monday by the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella organization that represents Muslim communities. Harun Khan, secretary general of the group, said in a statement that he was angry about the attack and that the council was determined to confront extremism.

“That is why we agree with the prime minister that things must change. Enough is enough,” he said. “We are ready to have those difficult conversations, as equal citizens with an equal stake in this fight.”

Investigators were focused on the likelihood that the attack had been inspired, if not directed, by the Islamic State. The militant group on Sunday asserted responsibility for the rampage and again called on its followers to carry out attacks in the West, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

But the group did not provide any details to prove its involvement in the Saturday assault. Similar claims in the past have been shown to be unreliable.

Saturday’s killings were eerily similar in style to a March attack. In that attack, a man rammed pedestrians on a different Thames River crossing and fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates of Parliament.

The three recent attacks were not connected, May said. But she described them as “a new trend” in which terrorists are “copying one another and often using the crudest means of attack.”

The Latest: UAE, Egypt cut diplomatic ties to Qatar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Latest: UAE, Egypt cut diplomatic ties to Qatar

June 4 at 11:17 PM
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Latest on the Gulf Arab dispute with Qatar (all times local):7:10 a.m.

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties to Qatar.

The two countries have joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting ties to Qatar amid a growing Arab diplomatic dispute with the small, gas-rich nation.

Both the UAE and Egypt made the announcement on their state-run news agencies within minutes of each other.

Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiraled since.

___

7 a.m.

Saudi Arabia says it is cutting diplomatic ties to Qatar and it has pulled all Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia made the announcement via its state-run Saudi Press Agency early Monday. It appeared to be timed in concert with an earlier announcement by Bahrain similarly cutting ties.

Qatar had no immediate comment.

The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiraled since.

___

6:50 a.m.

Bahrain says it is cutting diplomatic ties to Qatar amid a deepening rift between Gulf Arab nations.

Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it would withdraw its diplomatic mission from the Qatari capital of Doha within 48 hours and that all Qatari diplomats should leave Bahrain within the same period.

The ministry’s statement said Qatari citizens needed to leave Bahrain within two weeks and that air and sea traffic between the two countries would be halted. It wasn’t immediately clear how that would affect Qatar Airways, one of the region’s major long-haul carriers.

Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain” for its decision.

Qatar had no immediate comment.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Terrorist Attacks In City Center Of London England

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Van and knife attack leaves trail of casualties in ‘terrorist incidents’ on London Bridge and in nearby market

London police respond to ‘incident’ on London Bridge
Police respond to an ‘incident’ on London Bridge after a van reported to hit pedestrians on June 3. (The Washington Post)
June 3 at 8:19 PM
A van driving at high speed mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday night before the occupants got out and began stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants, witnesses said in an attack that police described as terrorism.Police said at least one person had been killed. Witnesses described a trail of serious injuries on the bridge and in the adjacent Borough Market.

The attacks set off scenes of panic in the heart of London on a cool June evening as the city’s streets were filled with people heading home from dinner or out for a drink. In packed pubs — normally scenes of Saturday night revelry and merriment — patrons threw chairs at the attackers as the assailants used long knives to slash their way through crowds.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the attacks were being treated as “terrorist incidents.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who returned to 10 Downing Street for emergency meetings with security officials, had earlier described the “terrible incidents” as “a potential act of terrorism.”

As of 2 a.m. Sunday, it was unclear whether the assailants remained at large, but police urged the public to remain vigilant and to avoid the area.

If confirmed as terrorism, Saturday would mark the third major attack in Britain in as many months. The evening’s carnage carried grim echoes of a similar incident in late March, when a driver swerved into pedestrians on another Thames crossing, killing four, and then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament.

May had lowered the nation’s threat level only days ago — from “critical” to “severe” — after having raised it following a bombing last month at a Manchester pop music concert that killed 22.

But even with the lower threat level, the nation’s intelligence services had continued to judge that another attack was likely.

Witnesses reported that a white van was traveling fast — approximately 50 miles per hour — when it mounted the sidewalk and plowed into a group of people crossing the Thames River on foot around 10:30 p.m..

Witnesses speaking to the BBC said the van collided with a guardrail, and three occupants got out. They then began attacking people on the bridge with knives before making their way to Borough Market.

London’s Metropolitan Police later confirmed an attack at Borough Market, an area packed with popular restaurants that is located just south of the bridge. Police said that armed officers were responding to the scene, that there were reports of injuries from knife attacks and that shots had been fired — though it was unclear by who.

“I heard many gunshots and I heard people running away,” said Joe Dillon, 23, who was near London Bridge when the incident occurred. “Police officers were shouting: ‘Get out of here, you need to go!’ I heard at least eight rounds of gunshots, but I’m not sure who was shooting. When I arrived a second after I had heard the screams and the shots, I saw five or six officers running toward the van.”

Cell phone video from a restaurant in the market showed people diving under tables amid the sound of breaking glass as officers rushed in and ordered patrons to stay down.

Tamara Alcolea, 24, who works as a bartender in a pub called Southwark Rooms, which is near the bridge, said the first indication that something was wrong was when she heard that someone had been stabbed. in the proximity of London Bridge.

“Then we heard gunshots and people started to hide beneath the tables,” Alcolea said. “We locked ourselves in the office. From the window, I could see an injured person being treated by emergency personnel. Then the police came in and told us to run. Everyone was panicking.”

As Alcolea recounted her story, she saw two friends who she had lost track of during the melee. She cried and hugged them as they reunited outside a police cordon.

Chris Jacobs, 52, and his wife Kavita Jacobs, 49, were woken up by police officers banging on their door on the third floor of an apartment building at Borough Market.

“I heard gunshots as we left the building,” said Chris Jacobs, who stood next to a petrol station outside the cordon, with no shoes on and holding his dog.

Alex Shellum, an eyewitness, told the BBC he was at the Mudlark pub in the London Bridge area when at around 10 p.m. “a woman probably in her early 20s staggered into the pub and she was bleeding heavily from the neck and from her mouth. It appeared to myself and my friends that her throat had been cut.”

Police said they were responding to a third potential incident in the Vauxhall area, which is about a mile from the scene of the first two incidents. The subway station at Vauxhall was briefly closed, but later reopened. Police later clarified that the Vauxhall incident was unrelated.

Dozens of police cars sped to London Bridge, with helicopters hovering overhead. Police closed the bridge and urged the public to avoid the area.

The incident caused chaos in the heart of London in an area normally bustling on a Saturday night. Pedestrians near the bridge said they were ordered by police to run. Video footage showed people fleeing in a panic. Two hours after the incidents began, police were still widening cordons and pushing bystanders further back from the scenes.

Members of the public were escorted away from the bridge with hands on their heads.

British leaders scrambled to respond to the attacks.

May, who had been out campaigning ahead of an election slated for Thursday, returned to Downing Street and was being briefed by security officials.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter: “Brutal and shocking incidents reported in London. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Thank you to the emergency services.”

President Trump was briefed on the incident, and immediately took to Twitter to say: “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

After taking criticism online for trying to use the attack to advance a policy goal that is now under review in the courts, he sent a follow up tweet minutes later: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a statement thanking emergency responders, and condemning “a deliberate and cowardly attack on innocent Londoners and visitors to our city enjoying their Saturday night.’

Why are Republicans getting so little done? Because their agenda is deeply unpopular.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why are Republicans getting so little done? Because their agenda is deeply unpopular.

June 2 at 2:30 PM
‘Enjoy the health-care win, Republicans. It’s the last one you’ll have in a while.’
As President Trump and Republicans celebrate the passage of the GOP health-care bill in the House, The Post’s Jonathan Capehart offers this piece of advice: Enjoy it while you can. (Video: Adriana Usero,Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Every new president tries to claim a mandate for his agenda, that because he won the election that means the public supports everything he wants to do. But ask yourself this: Is there anything — anything — on the agenda of the Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress that enjoys the support of the majority of the public?

Let’s look at a couple of examples from the biggest items on their agenda, starting with health care. The latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that an incredible 84 percent of Americans say that it’s important that any replacement of the Affordable Care Act maintains the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. Even 71 percent of Republicans said so. Which is a problem for the GOP, because rolling back the Medicaid expansion is the centerpiece of the Republican repeal plan. Republicans are arguing among themselves about whether it should be done slowly or quickly, but the whole point of the exercise is to undo that expansion so that they can fund a large tax that mostly goes to the wealthy.

The Senate is right now tying itself in knots trying to figure out how to pass something that satisfies the GOP’s conservative principles but that the public won’t despise, and it may be slowly realizing that this is impossible. “I don’t see a comprehensive health-care plan this year,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said yesterday, and he’s probably right.

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Let’s move on to taxes. At yesterday’s speech announcing his pullout from the Paris climate agreement, President Trump made this little digression:

Our tax bill is moving along in Congress, and I believe it’s doing very well. I think a lot of people will be very pleasantly surprised. The Republicans are working very, very hard. We’d love to have support from the Democrats, but we may have to go it alone. But it’s going very well.

It was certainly interesting to hear that the tax bill is moving along in Congress, because there is no tax bill, neither moving along, standing still or spinning in circles. The administration has produced nothing more than a one-page list of bullet points on taxes, and congressional Republicans haven’t written a bill, either. There have been no hearings, no committee votes, nothing. This is one of those moments when it’s hard to figure out if Trump is lying or genuinely doesn’t realize what’s going on; earlier this week he tweeted:

The massive TAX CUTS/REFORM that I have submitted is moving along in the process very well, actually ahead of schedule. Big benefits to all!

Yet nothing has been submitted, nothing is moving along and nothing is ahead of schedule.

 

That’s partly because there are some substantive differences among Republicans about what tax reform should include, but it’s also because they know that whatever bill they come up with is going to be hammered by Democrats for being an enormous giveaway to the wealthy. They could solve that problem by not making it an enormous giveaway to the wealthy, but then what would be the point?

So they realize that it’s not going to be very popular. In other circumstances, that might be less of a problem — they could say, “That’s okay, it’s important to us, so we’ll just push it through.” George W. Bush passed two big tax cuts that were largely similar to what Republicans want to do now, didn’t he? But there’s a difference. When Bush signed his first tax cut in June 2001, his approval rating was at around 55 percent. When he passed his second tax cut in May 2003, his approval was around 65 percent (it was early in the Iraq War, when everything seemed to be going well). Right now Trump is at around or below 40 percent in many polls, so neither he nor Congress is getting the benefit of the doubt.

Are there other Republican initiatives that the public is behind? If there are, they’re awfully hard to find. The Paris accord is extremely popular, so Trump’s decision to pull out probably won’t go over well. The overwhelming majority of the public opposes ongoing GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. There’s little support for the drastic cuts in government spending Republicans advocate. They’re about to start a push to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in a remarkably shameless bit of Orwellian spin, characterizes as a way to stop indulging Wall Street. But Americans aren’t exactly demanding that the nation’s beleaguered bankers be liberated from their crushing burden of government oversight.

The deep unpopularity of this agenda goes a long way toward explaining why Congress has gotten almost nothing done this year, despite the fact that Republicans control both houses and have a president happy to sign whatever they put on his desk. All Republicans feel nervous these days — their president is unpopular, so is their party, and there’s the real possibility of a Democratic wave in 2018 that sweeps many of them from office. That’s enough to make a lawmaker skittish about doing anything that might make the voters even more disgusted. So the legislative process gets dragged out for longer and longer.

Congressional Republicans complain that all the drama and scandals in the White House suck the air out of Washington and make it harder for them to focus on their agenda, which is true to a degree. But the real problem is that the public just doesn’t want to buy what they’re selling.

 

China’s Leadership Doesn’t Know Whether To Laugh Or Cry At Trumps Idiocy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

June 2 at 6:55 AM
Japan’s environment minister is angry, Indians are outraged but China’s nationalist state media isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord was a “huge setback” in the global battle against climate change, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Friday, calling it a retreat from the “common aspiration of mankind for a low-carbon future.”The dismay from Asia carried additional sting as nations such as China and India — once scorned as runaway polluters — now portray themselves as responsible global citizens and leaders in trying to limit climate change.But if there was regret in Beijing, it was mixed with not a little gloating.

Citing environmentalists, Xinhua news agency called Trump “reckless and foolish,” and said he was isolating the United States. China Daily denounced the “single action of just one man” that can change the course of the world, drawing a direct parallel with former president George W. Bush and decisions taken in the name of the war on terror.

Fact Check: President Trump’s remarks on leaving the Paris climate accord
Fact Checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Lee examine several of President Trump’s claims from his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord on Thursday.(Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/The Washington Post)

In Tokyo, the Japanese government issued a diplomatic statement calling the American decision “regrettable” and vowed to work with the other signatories to implement the treaty.

But Koichi Yamamoto, the environment minister, didn’t mince his words. “The decision made by American President Trump amounts to turning their backs on the wisdom of humanity. I’m not just disappointed, I’m angry,” he told reporters.

But the clearest denunciation came, as it often does, from nationalist Chinese tabloid Global Times, a state-owned paper whose editorials don’t represent official policy but do often represent a strain of thinking within the Communist Party.

Hours before Trump made his announcement, it said America’s “selfishness and irresponsibility will be made clear to the world, crippling the country’s world leadership.”

Pointing out that the United States joined only Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting the accord, it argued that “the Trump administration doesn’t care about putting the U.S.’s reputation at risk.”

There is a certain irony in the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gases rounding on the United States for turning its back on a climate change accord, especially when China’s promises under that accord are not particularly ambitious — while U.S. emissions are already falling.

Play Video 2:02
Nine reactions to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal
Former president Barack Obama on June 1 said President Trump’s administration “joins a small handful of nations that reject the future” by withdrawing from the Paris climate deal.(Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

As Trump himself pointed out in an attempt to justify his decision, China has only promised to cap carbon emissions by 2030, giving it theoretical carte blanche to raise its emissions levels every year for the next 13 years.

Yet Trump also failed to mention other important points: that Western nations are historically much more culpable than developing nations for global carbon emissions, and on a per capita basis continues to be by far the worst offenders.

He also failed to mention that China’s emissions have been stable or falling since 2013, and are forecast to fall by around 1 percent this year. Coal consumption fell by around 1.3 percent last year, the third annual fall in a row, while China is “smashing records” for solar panel installations, installing enough panels to cover three football pitches every single hour of the year, according to Greenpeace.

It is a dramatic development that has helped halt the rise of global CO2 emissions for the first time since a global climate change treaty was first signed almost three decades ago, the environmental advocacy group said.

It is also the sort of record that has prompted some environmentalists to talk of China taking over a leadership role vacated by the United States.

In Europe this week, Premier Li Keqiang appears to be grasping that challenge — or exploiting that vacuum.

He will join with the European Union on Friday in a commitment to cut back on fossil fuels, develop more green technology and help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut their emissions, Reuters reported.

There are parallels as well to China’s attempt to portray itself as a champion of economic globalization, with President Xi Jinping attempting to seize that mantle in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January as the United States threatened to become more protectionist.

Yet talk of China as a leader in trade and globalization overlooks one massive contradiction: its own increasingly protectionist attitude at home. Similarly, talk of Beijing as a leader in climate change also overlooks some uncomfortable facts.

As Greenpeace clean air campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta pointed out in a series of tweets on Thursday, leadership can involve taking action at home, symbolic or rhetorical steps, provision of finance to drive carbon cuts or diplomatic efforts.

“China has merits on all aspects but is no means a saint,” he tweeted.

China has been vocal in defending the Paris accord, and has become the world’s number one manufacturer, developer and exporter of renewable energy. But it remains by far the world’s leading polluter, has one of the world’s most CO2-intensive economic models, and continues to subsidize “dirty” sectors.

And it is building dozens of polluting, subsidized coal plants in other countries, that could lock them into a dirty development path, Myllyvirta said.

During his speech, Trump also railed against India, which he claimed was making its participation in the pact “contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.”

The Times of India called it an “epic rant” with “hyperbolic falsehoods,” arguing in a piece by their Washington correspondent that U.S. aid to India is set to be whittled down to $34 million in 2018.

Experts from the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research’s “Initiative on Climate Energy and Environment” called Trump’s remarks on the climate pack “baffling” and said he displayed “a disturbing lack of knowledge” on how the climate pact works.

“India’s pledge does make a partial link between implementation and financial support from the global community, but does not state that India would only make an effort to limit carbon if international support is available,” senior fellow Navroz K. Dubash said in an interview.

More important, Dubash said, is to see what India has done since — shifting in a big way to renewable energy, so that it is likely to meet or exceed its pledge of make 40 percent of its electricity capacity fossil-fuel-free by 2030.

“Trump is hiding behind India’s poor who, meanwhile, are already making the transition to clean energy that Mr. Trump scorns as unviable,” he said.

In a commentary piece, China’s Xinhua argued that Trump’s decision to quit the Paris accord would “leave a fairly big shoe for a single country to fill,” while the Global Times claimed that China is “not interested in discussions about the leadership of fighting climate change.”

Under President Obama, cooperation between the world’s two largest polluters had been widely seen as a major achievement and a bright spot in relations between the two countries. This week, it is more likely to be seen as contest, and a point of friction.

Yet seeing climate change largely in geopolitical terms, as a battle for supremacy between American and Chinese leadership, could be missing the point.

“We don’t need one perfect leader, need lots of countries, states, firms to step up, laud progress and expose unhelpful policies,” Greenpeace’s Myllyvirta tweeted.

Annie Gowen in New Delhi, Anna Fifield in Tokyo and Shirley Feng in Beijing contributed to this report.

Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud: Trump keeps Proving His Ignorance To The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud

May 30 at 5:20 PM
President Trump escalated his feud with Berlin on Tuesday, even as Germany’s leader and Trump’s own spokesman tried to defuse the conflict, which has sent tremors through Washington’s core postwar alliances.Before the presidential tweets began flying early Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the importance of Germany’s ties to the United States. But she pointedly did not back down from earlier comments about Europe’s need to rely on itself rather than its friends.

The dispute started as Trump sped through meetings in Europe last week and appeared to leave a trail of bruises in his wake. It heated up after Merkel did little over the weekend to hide her disappointment with Trump’s refusal to commit Washington to the climate change treaty. And it was further inflamed Tuesday at 6:40 a.m. Washington time when Trump fired a white-hot shot straight at Berlin’s glass-and-concrete chancellery.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” Trump wrote in his early-morning tweet.

The fight has had few obvious practical consequences so far. But Merkel’s meetings this week — first a chummy meeting with India’s leader on Tuesday and then a sit-down with the Chinese prime minister on Wednesday — were bracing reminders of the trade ties being forged outside the United States as Washington moves toward a sharply more nationalist and protectionist agenda.

Play Video 1:15
White House says Trump and Merkel’s relationship is ‘fairly unbelievable’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel “get along very well,” during a press briefing on May 30, and said her comments about increased European independence are “what the president called for.”(Reuters)

Merkel refused to give ground Tuesday, even as she sought to ease the dispute with a rhetorical hug.

“Transatlantic relations are of paramount importance,” Merkel said alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin. “What I did was merely to point out that in light of the present situation, there are yet more reasons that we have to take our destiny in Europe into our own hands.”

The Modi meeting was planned long before the dust-up with Trump. But the cheerful body language between the two leaders was difficult to miss.

“We are meant for each other,” Modi said to Merkel, smiling widely, as both leaders made positive comments about a European Union-India trade deal in the works.

German officials — who say that the United States remains Germany’s most important international ally and an important partner whose friendship they want to maintain — feel that Trump has prioritized relations with authoritarian nations such as Saudi Arabia instead of democratic allies. Many were shocked when Trump declared in Riyadh that “we are not here to lecture” the mostly unelected assembled leaders — and then blasted European allies in Brussels for not spending enough on defense.

That led Merkel to conclude that she needs to advocate a sharply more pro-European agenda at home ahead of September elections, one ally said. She said Sunday at a beer-hall political rally that Europe can no longer fully rely on others, a message clearly about Washington, even if it was aimed largely at her own voters.

“It was mostly to say we have to strengthen Europe. It was not anti-Trump,” said Norbert Röttgen, a close Merkel ally who is the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of Germany’s Parliament.

“You have to explain to your voters what we make of the experience of the last days,” Röttgen said. “Trump, he is an unprecedented president. He calls into question by the way of his behavior, by what he is saying, by what he is not saying, the foundation of this alliance, and you have to give an answer to that. And the answer of the chancellor is that we have to bring into this alliance, not against this alliance, but into this alliance, a stronger German hand.”

With Germany’s elections drawing closer, Merkel has been forced to turn her attention to her own voters — most of whom loathe Trump and staunchly oppose increasing defense spending, one of his key demands. She is seeking a fourth term in office and has rejected most of Trump’s criticisms as baseless.

Even before Trump’s victory last year, Merkel was increasing defense spending, pushing up the budget by $27 billion over the next three years. That would almost double current levels — but it would still be dwarfed by the $664 billion the United States spends every year.

Now Merkel needs to convince German voters that defense increases are in their own interest, rather than a response to Trump. In a preview of election-season arguments, leading Social Democrats said Monday that Merkel should have openly opposed Trump from the start rather than trying to work with him at first.

“Merkel needs to put some distance between herself and Trump, who is exceptionally unpopular in Germany,” said Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in northern Germany.

But there are practical limits to any German split from Washington, Dirsus said. Germany is not militarily independent and is far from becoming so. And the United States remains an important trade partner.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that there was no dispute between Trump and Merkel.

“I think the relationship that the president has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable,” Spicer said.

But Europeans are growing weary of the message gap between Trump and the rest of his circle. They are still searching for which side to give greater weight — and last week’s trip tipped the balance toward the president.

“Europeans think they are now being treated worse by Trump than countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia,” said Stephan Bierling, an expert on transatlantic relations at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

The bilateral strains mean that the United States has, to some extent, lost the trust of one of Europe’s most pro-American leaders. The German chancellor, the most powerful politician in Europe, grew up in East Germany, and her upbringing there has long been credited for her staunch support for closer European-U.S. ties.

“Given her experience with the Cold War, Merkel has long upheld and defended American ideals. But the belief in shared values has been shattered by the Trump administration,” Bierling said.

Noack reported from Berlin.

Trump: The Habitual Fraud And Habitual Liar Can’t Keep His Lies Straight One Day Too Another

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

Spicer dodges questions on why Trump cited anonymous Fox report after decrying anonymous sources

Sean SpicerSean Spicer. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

White House press secretary Sean Spicer ducked a series of questions on Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s promotion of a Fox News story based on a single anonymous source just days after blasting such stories as “made up.”

The Monday Fox News report that Trump retweeted lays blame on the Russians, rather than Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Kushner, for discussing the possibility of a communications back channel between the Trump administration and Moscow. The Fox report cited “a source familiar with the matter.”

That report followed a Friday report in The Washington Post that said Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told Moscow that Kushner was the one who wanted a secret communications channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin. The Post’s story cited US officials who had been briefed on intelligence reports.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that “whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names … it is very possibly that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers.”

Both the Post and Fox relied on anonymous sources for their stories. Trump tried discrediting such sourcing in a series of Sunday-morning tweets, but retweeted the Fox News story anyway on Tuesday.

Spicer said during Tuesday’s press briefing — his first time back at the podium in weeks — that questions from a Post reporter about what Trump knew of the back channel discussion “assumes a lot,” adding that what the “question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are so far being leaked out.”

“Your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed,” he said.

Another reporter asked if Trump’s retweet of the Fox News story confirmed any of the facts that Spicer said had not been confirmed. The reporter then listed some of the main points from the Fox News story.

“Was the president not confirming that there was an effort in the facts that I just said?” she asked. “He retweeted that.”

“I think what I just said speaks for itself,” Spicer responded.

The reporter noted that Spicer was attempting to discredited the Post’s anonymous sources while Trump was at the same time promoting a Fox story based off a single anonymous source.

“Why are those sources, or this source rather, that they used, more credible than the ones in the Washington Post article?” she asked.

Spicer dodged the question and pivoted to talking about a statement provided by Kushner’s attorney that he had already referenced in the briefing and then mentioning the “dossier,” a document prepared by an ex-British spy that contained unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia.

“So again, I’m not going to get into confirming stuff,” Spicer said. “There is an ongoing investigation.”

The reports about the December meeting between Russians and Trump officials in Trump Tower, which had already been under scrutiny from investigators, have thrust Kushner into the center of the ongoing Russia investigations. The FBI is investigating whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier this month, Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was overseeing that investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.

Fake News Comes From Within The White House, Mostly From The Fake/Fraud In The Oval Office

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The fake news comes from within the White House

May 29 at 7:30 AM

To believe Donald Trump, you must believe two largely contradictory things.

You must believe that there are a slew of leakers in the executive branch who are providing damning details to the press illegally, and who must be rooted out and punished. (See tweets here, here, here, here and here.)

You must also believe that the press makes up imaginary leakers simply to slowly and incrementally report false stories that are tangentially embarrassing to the president. The most recent examples of Trump making that case came on Sunday (“Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names,” he said on Twitter, “it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”), but he’s been railing against this idea that some media sources are not real since the campaign. (See tweets here and here.)

The result is that we end up with a president who at 8:33 a.m. says that it’s his opinion “that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” and then at 10:43 a.m. says that the prime minister of the United Kingdom was mad about information that was leaked.

Trump, unlike most politicians and, frankly, most people, will nonchalantly argue two logically inconsistent points at the same time. On the campaign trail, he mastered the art of vague assurance that he stood for whatever his audience stood for, and, in office, that skill doesn’t seem to have faded. If it is best that people think a leak was made up by the media — like The Post’s report that Jared Kushner asked Russia to help set up a secure communication system with the Trump team — then Trump will argue that the media made it up. (We didn’t.) If the leak is incidental to him or if he’d like to put the heat on someone else, he’ll argue that the leakers need to be caught.

As Trump knows, though, there are many reasons for someone to provide information without wanting to be identified. Trump himself used to call news outlets pretending to be his own publicist so that he could share details without revealing the source. And while Trump administration officials often speak on the record to the media, they nearly as often speak only on background as so-called “senior administration officials,” faceless voices praising Trump without being able to be held accountable for what they said. It happens so often that the abbreviation “SAO” is understood immediately by the press.

Here, for example, are a number of things that the White House has provided to the White House press corps using sources who refused to be named. (All quotes are from pool reports filed by members of the media.)

Remember, don’t believe “sources said” by the VERY dishonest media. If they don’t name the sources, the sources don’t exist.

Jan. 28: About the immigration ban.

The official said that Trump advisers had been in contact for many weeks with key State Department and Department of Homeland Security officials about Friday’s executive order. “Everyone who needed to know was informed,” the official said.

When the administration was forced to craft a second attempt at the ban a month after this, press secretary Sean Spicer told press that the first attempt was flawed by not having enough people in place to vet it.

The official said green-card holders from one of the seven affected countries who are currently outside the United States will need a case by case waiver to return to the United States, according to the official. Those green-card holders in the United States will have to meet with a consular officer before leaving the country, the official said.

Jan. 29: Immigration ban.

The SAO said there was no “advance notice” of the order going out for clear reasons that he did not explicitly outline. “I think everybody here can use their imagination to imagine 25 reasons why that wouldn’t make sense from a security standpoint,” SAO said.

The SAO said that “the guidance from the beginning” has been that legal permanent residents (LPRs) were exempt from the immigration EO, although there was some discussion about that in the room.

Notice that the comment about LPRs contradicts the statement from the previous day about green-card holders.

SAO praised the implementation of the order as having been done “seamlessly” and with “extraordinary professionalism.”

A common thread: Praise for whatever the administration is doing.

Feb. 14: On peace in the Middle East.

The official said a possible meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians would be part of the discussions tomorrow. “He’s hopeful to bring the two sides together to discuss peace,” the official said of the president. How quickly would he like to get a Middle East peace process going? “I do think it’s a very high priority for the administration,” the official said, who would not be pinned down on timeline.

Feb. 24: A response to reports that the White House had tried to get intelligence officials to deny reports about FBI investigations.

[FBI assistant director] Andrew McCabe said ‘I want you to know story in NYT (in FBI investigating contacts between Trump campaign people and Russian intel) is BS.’ (Some question whether he said bullshit or simply BS although officials best recollection is ‘bullsh-t.’) Preibus asked ‘what can we do about this?’ McCabe demurs and says he’ll get back to Preibus. Preibus’ can concern is he’s ‘getting crushed’ on the story. ‘What an I supposed to do?’

An unnamed official relaying a conversation held within the White House is the sort of thing that Trump in other contexts has harshly criticized.

Mar. 10: Conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

President Trump has been “heartened” by what he has heard from Berlin about devoting more resources to the annual NATO military budget. POTUS intends to talk with Merkel about her government crafting a “concrete plan,” the senior official said. POTUS is “very interested” to get Merkel’s insights about working with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the senior official said.

As is an unnamed person offering insight into Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders.

Apr. 12: Trump had a good week.

The main theme was that this has been a successful week or so for Potus on the international stage, including the retaliation against Syria, the summit with President Xi and today’s U.N. vote. “It’s difficult to portray this as anything but a really great week” for the United States.

May 23; From the early part of Trump’s first foreign trip.

So I think this trip was a big success because it was unexpected. It went in the heart of one of the, I always say that the president is always at his best when he’s doing big things that are unexpected. … He was able to really go into Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the holy mosques, and then Donald Trump united the entire Muslim world in a way that it really hasn’t been in many years. So it really was very historic in that regard.

The official then talked about peace in the Middle East again.

You can’t just walk in on Day One and sign a deal that no one has gotten done in 35 years but we thought it was very essential to look at the work over the last 100-odd days and this trip is to do a lot of listening, build very strong relationships with all the different people, not just the parties involves, but all the people in the neighborhood.

May 25: The trip, continued.

This official continued, “What Trump’s doing really is increasing NATO’s ability to deter any kind of aggression on its borders, including from Russia.”

May 27: The end of the trip.

I feel more than comfortable to say that the President had built an extraordinary rapport with the other leaders. He developed great friendships. It was extremely productive. … This trip has left no one with any doubt about who America’s friends are and who America’s allies are, and our resolution in determining the course of our future based upon upholding those alliances and friendships. But ultimately, we also formed new partnerships and new friendships, and have created a growing consensus around the world about the need to combat the shared threat of terrorism.

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The SAO offered a summary.

I’ll just implore you all, whether you’re talking about our successes on trade and migration in the G-7 or summit in Saudi Arabia, to tell the story back home about what an unprecedentedly and historically successful trip this was by an incredible leader and an amazing man who has done extraordinary things in a very short time for the country he loves and the people of America that he serves so faithfully.

Again, these are the anonymous comments of senior officials reported by the press, precisely what happens in situations that lead to stories Trump doesn’t like. But since Trump doesn’t like those stories, those anonymous sources are decried as criminals or imaginary. The guys telling the press how well Trump’s trip went? They’re just regular old unnamed senior officials, and their word is unimpeachable.

Couple those SAOs with Trump’s hundreds — literally — of untrue statementssince he came into office and his tendency to have staff make claims that he later undercuts (something he himself admits), it seems pretty clear where the fake news originates, if Trump is to be believed.

Incidentally, for those curious about why Trump might think that someone would create a fictitious source to make a ridiculous claim, we return to the same well we’ve visited so many times before: His tweets.

An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.

Is Iran is moving toward moderation?

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Iran is moving toward moderation

May 28 at 7:11 PM
Charles Krauthammer’s May 26 op-ed, “Why Middle East peace starts in Saudi Arabia,” omitted a crucial detail: the recent elections in Iran. By entrusting President Hassan Rouhani with another four-year term, the Iranian people soundly rejected extremist alternatives. By demonizing the Iranian people in order to take a shot at the Obama administration, Mr. Krauthammer seated himself firmly in the camp known as “part of the problem.” The elections in Austria, the Netherlands, France and now Iran showed that the people of the world are rejecting Mr. Krauthammer’s worldview and are instead reaching toward peace, with or without the catastrophe that is today’s so-called American foreign policy.Ben Hayes, Washington

Charles Krauthammer’s assertion that the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran amounted to “appeasement” was a gross misrepresentation. The policy’s primary objective was to block Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. It was Iran that conceded ground on this, not the United States.

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Mr. Krauthammer also was wrong to claim that this agreement has failed to encourage more moderate Iranian behavior. In the recent presidential election, the Iranian people overwhelmingly rejected the conservative candidate. And the moderate victor immediately reached out to the West.

Mr. Krauthammer accused Iran of “worldwide support for terrorism.” However, as Fareed Zakaria reported the same day, Saudi-inspired Sunni jihadists are responsible for more than 94 percent of the deaths caused by Islamic terrorism since 2001.

Robin Broadfield, Washington

Bin Laden’s son steps into father’s shoes as al-Qaeda attempts a comeback

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Bin Laden’s son steps into father’s shoes as al-Qaeda attempts a comeback

May 27 at 6:10 PM
The voice is that of a soft-spoken 28-year-old, but the message is vintage Osama bin Laden, giving orders to kill. When the audio recording began turning up on jihadist websites two weeks ago, it was as if the dead terrorist was channeling himself through his favorite son.“Prepare diligently to inflict crippling losses on those who have disbelieved,” Hamza bin Laden, scion of the Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind, says in a thin baritone that eerily echoes his father. “Follow in the footsteps of martyrdom-seekers before you.”

The recording, first aired May 13, is one in a string of recent pronouncements by the man who many terrorism experts regard as the crown prince of al-Qaeda’s global network. Posted just two weeks before Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester, England, the message includes a specific call for attacks on European and North American cities to avenge the deaths of Syrian children killed in airstrikes.

The recording provides fresh evidence of ominous changes underway within the embattled organization that declared war against the West nearly two decades ago, according to U.S., European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials and terrorism experts. Decimated by U.S. military strikes and overshadowed for years by its terrorist rival, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda appears to be signaling the start of a violent new chapter in the group’s history, led by a new bin Laden — one who has vowed to seek revenge for his father’s death.

Encouraged by the Islamic State’s setbacks in Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda is making a play for the allegiance of the Islamic State’s disaffected followers as well as legions of sympathizers around the world, analysts say. The promotion of a youthful figurehead with an iconic family name appears to be a key element in a rebranding effort that includes a shift to Islamic State-style terrorist attacks against adversaries across the Middle East, Europe and North America.

“Al-Qaeda is trying to use the moment — [with] Daesh being under attack — to offer jihadists a new alternative,” said a Middle Eastern security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss counterterrorism assessments and using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “And what could be more effective than a bin Laden?”

Hamza bin Laden is hardly new to the Islamist militant world. His coronation as a terrorist figurehead has been underway since at least 2015, when longtime al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri introduced him in a video message as a “lion from the den” of bin Laden’s terrorist network. But in recent months, he has been promoted as a rising star on pro-al-Qaeda websites, with audio recordings from him urging followers to carry out attacks or commenting on current events. Longtime terrorism analysts say the promotion of Hamza bin Laden appears calculated to appeal to young Islamist militants who still admire Osama bin Laden but see al-Qaeda as outdated or irrelevant.

“Hamza is the most charismatic and potent individual in the next generation of jihadis simply because of his lineage and history,” said Bruce Riedel, who spent 30 years in the CIA and is now director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project. “At a time when Zawahiri and al-Baghdadi seem to be fading, Hamza is the heir apparent.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the Islamic State’s leader.

But Hamza bin Laden is not advocating his father’s style of jihad. Osama bin Laden was notorious for his ambitious, carefully planned terrorist operations, directed by al-Qaeda’s generals and aimed at strategic targets. His son, by contrast, urges followers to seize any opportunity to strike at Jewish interests, Americans, Europeans and pro-Western Muslims, using whatever weapon happens to be available.

“It is not necessary that it should be a military tool,” he says in the May 13 recording. “If you are able to pick a firearm, well and good; if not, the options are many.”

The faceless man

Strikingly, for a man who aspires to be the jihadist world’s next rock star, Hamza bin Laden insists on keeping most of his personal details hidden from public view. Even his face.

No confirmed photographs exist of the young terrorist since his boyhood, when he was portrayed multiple times as an adoring son posing with his famous father. He is believed to be married, with at least two children, and he lived for a time in the tribal region of northwestern Pakistan, although his whereabouts are unknown.

His refusal to allow his image to be published may reflect a well-founded concern about his personal safety, but it complicates the militants’ task of making him a terrorist icon, said Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that monitors Islamist militancy on social media.

“People loyal to al-Qaeda and against the Islamic State are looking for inspiration, and they realize that he can provide it,” Stalinsky said. “But for today’s youth, you need more than audio and an old photograph.”

What is known about Hamza bin Laden comes from his numerous recordings as well as intelligence reports and scores of documents seized during the 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALS on Osama bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Included in the document trove were personal letters from Hamza to his father, as well as written instructions from the elder bin Laden to his aides on how Hamza was to be educated and provided for.

The documents reveal a special bond between Hamza bin Laden and his father that persisted despite long periods of separation. The 15th of Osama bin Laden’s estimated 20 children, Hamza was the only son born to the terrorist’s third wife, and by some accounts his favorite, Khairiah Sabar, a Saudi woman whose family traces its lineage to the prophet Muhammad.

He spent his early childhood years with his parents, first in Saudi Arabia and later in Sudan and Afghanistan, where his father began to assemble the pieces of his worldwide terrorism network. A family friend who knew Hamza bin Laden as a child said he showed both promise and early flashes of ambition.

“He was a very intelligent and smart boy, very fond of horseback riding, like his father,” said the friend, a longtime associate of the al-Qaeda network, contacted through a social-media chat service. “While his parents wanted him to stay away from battlefields, he had arguments with them about it.”

Then came the 9/11 attacks, which brought the bin Ladens international notoriety and made Hamza’s father the world’s most wanted man. As U.S.-backed Afghan militias closed in on al-Qaeda’s mountain redoubt at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden dispatched several of his wives and children to Iran, believing that the Islamic republic’s leaders could offer protection from U.S. airstrikes.

Hamza rarely, if ever, saw his father after that. He was still in Iran in his early 20s, living under a kind of house arrest, when he wrote a long missive to his father complaining about his life “behind iron bars” and expressing a longing to join his father as a mujahid, or holy warrior, in his fight against the West, according to a copy of the letter found in bin Laden’s safe house.

“What truly makes me sad,” he wrote in 2009, “is the mujahideen legions have marched and I have not joined them.”

Iran allowed the bin Laden clan to leave the country the following year, and by the time of the 2011 Navy SEAL raid, Hamza’s mother and other family members were living at the elder terrorist’s Pakistan hideout. Notably absent from the Abbottabad compound was Hamza. On Osama bin Laden’s orders, aides had kept him in a separate hideout with the intention of sending him to Qatar to be educated, according to U.S. and Pakistani counterterrorism officials. Already, the patriarch was beginning to see his son as a future al-Qaeda leader, judging from the letters he wrote to his aides shortly before his death.

“Hamza is one of the mujahideen, and he bears their thoughts and worries,” Osama bin Laden wrote in one such letter. “And at the same time, he can interact with the [Muslim] nation.”

Jihadist royalty

Hamza bin Laden’s sense of personal destiny only deepened with the death of his father and half brother Khalid at the hands of U.S. commandos.

By 2015, when Zawahiri introduced Hamza to the world as an al-Qaeda “lion,” the then-26-year-old already had the voice of a veteran Islamist militant, urging followers in an audio recording to inflict the “highest number of painful attacks” on Western cities, from Washington to Paris.

A year later, he delivered a more personal message intended as a tribute to his dead father. Titled “We are all Osama,” the 21-minute spoken essay included a vow for vengeance.

“If you think that the crime you perpetrated in Abbottabad has gone by with no reckoning, you are wrong,” he said. “Yours will be a harsh reckoning. We are a nation that does not rest over injustice.”

Terrorism analysts have noted several recurring themes in Hamza bin Laden’s audio postings that distinguish his Islamist militant philosophy from the views expressed by both his father and putative al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri. One difference: Unlike Zawahiri, Hamza bin Laden has eschewed overt criticism of the Islamic State, perhaps to avoid antagonizing any followers of that terrorist group who might be inclined to shift to al-Qaeda.

The bin Laden family friend suggested that the omission is deliberate, part of an effort to position Hamza bin Laden as a unifying figure for Islamist militants. The associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment freely, noted that Hamza bin Laden enjoys multiple advantages in this regard, as he can claim to be both a descendant of the prophet as well a son of jihadist royalty.

“The calculation is that it will be very difficult for the Daesh leadership to denounce Hamza, given who he is,” the family friend said.

The other distinction is Hamza bin Laden’s persistent calls for self-directed, lone-wolf attacks against a wide array of targets. Here, he appears to be borrowing directly from the playbook of the Islamic State, which has fostered a kind of Everyman’s jihad that does not depend on instructions or permission from higher-ups. His Internet postings have lauded Army psychiatrist and convicted Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 people in a rampage on the base in Texas in 2009; as well as the two Britons of Ni­ger­ian descent who hacked British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a street outside his London barracks in 2013.

None of those assailants were known al-Qaeda members. Yet, by applauding such attacks, Hamza bin Laden appears to associate himself with a more aggressive style of terrorism that appeals to young Islamist militants, analysts and experts said. Such messages also convey an impression of a terrorist network that, while battered, is far from defeated, said Bruce Hoffman, a former U.S. adviser on counterterrorism and director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

“He brings assurance that, even though al-Qaeda has been hammered in recent years, it’s still in good hands, with a junior bin Laden who is ideally situated to carry on the struggle,” Hoffman said. “Since a very young age, Hamza bin Laden wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. And from al-Qaeda’s perspective, now is the critical time for him to come of age and assume the reins of authority.”

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