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THE “COMPETENT,” OBAMA-ERA SYRIA POLICY: CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed ones in Syria.

TWO TAKES ON THE SYRIA DECISION THAT DISAGREE WITH THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: (1) Security Studies Group: The Syria Decision.

As we warned at the time, the American position was much more exposed and much less tenable than was commonly understood. . . .

Just as allowing Iran to run wild hurts China much more than it hurts the United States, China is harmed by our allowing the Turks to provoke an insurgency that will bedevil the stability of the very region where China intends its massive investments. The wars that China’s own allies are starting are going to be the biggest tax on China’s growing power and influence, which means it will become China’s problem — and not America’s — to stop those wars. That means that China and Turkey, and not America, will end up paying the cost of Middle Eastern security. The danger they face is that they will overextend themselves, and provoke fights they cannot walk away from in the process. It may be a bigger burden than Erdogan or Xi imagine that they are taking on here.

It is unlikely that President Trump thinks so strategically or so ruthlessly. More likely he is simply convinced that these wars drain American blood and treasure in an unacceptable way, and he just intends to stop doing it whatever it costs.

(2) Trump’s Syria withdrawal bravely puts America First, the establishment last. “His decision will stop risking American lives and wasting taxpayer dollars on policing Middle East politics. This is long overdue, seeing as our security goals in Syria have already been accomplished. To recap, the U.S. military first intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2014. Our goal was to destroy the Islamic State Caliphate, as the terrorist group had built up territorial control of much of the conflict-ridden region. Mission accomplished.”

Well, I’m fine on reducing our commitments to the region. Trump’s diplomatic approach has the Arab world allied with Israel, and Saudi Arabia liberalizing internally. And thanks to fracking, the mideast isn’t that important to us anymore. On the other hand, the Kurds are good people, and I don’t like leaving them hanging, which is what this looks like to me. On that point, I’m in general agreement with Tom Rogan: “We relied upon the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and other Kurdish militias in order to substantially degrade ISIS. Yes, Western special operations played a crucial role in this effort. But the Kurds took the brunt of the casualties. And the Kurds kept fighting alongside us even after their northern heartlands had been retaken. Their tenacious courage saved American lives by denying ISIS the space and time to plot attacks against Western homelands.”

UPDATE: Two more: Walter Russell Mead: Trump’s Jacksonian Syria Withdrawal.

Explaining his decision to pull U.S. troops away from the Turkish-Syrian border at the cost of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and open the way for Turkish forces to create what Ankara calls a “safety zone,” President Trump tweeted early Monday that “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.” . . .

Mr. Trump isn’t the first U.S. president to try to hold America back from a Middle East conflict. President Obama made a similar, and similarly hasty, decision in 2013 when he chose not to respond to Syria’s violation of his chemical weapons “red line” with a military strike. Many of the same people criticizing Mr. Trump today criticized Mr. Obama then, and the subsequent course of the Syrian war underlined both the humanitarian and the strategic case against Mr. Obama’s decision. Mr. Trump’s Syria decision may also prove to be a mistake, but it should give the establishment pause that two presidents as different as Messrs. Obama and Trump reached similar conclusions about the political risks in the Middle East.

The U.S. may be the most powerful actor in the region, but it can’t resolve the economic and social conflicts that destabilize the Middle East. As long as this is the case, those who want presidents to commit to long-term military engagements, however limited and however advantageous, must expect a skeptical hearing in the Oval Office.

Plus: Syria Could Be Turkey’s Vietnam. “Erdoğan may talk about a terror threat emanating from northern Syria, but he has yet to prove that one exists. Quite the contrary: Not only were Syrian Kurds the most effective indigenous fighting force against the Islamic State, there is also overwhelming evidence that Turkey cooperated, profited from, and at times coordinated with Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State. . . . Erdoğan may be cocky, but he could be falling into a trap. Turkey’s drones may give it a qualitative military edge in mountains and rural regions but may be of substantially less utility in the northern Syrian cities if limiting collateral damage is any concerns. The Kurds have extensive experience fighting on the ground. Meanwhile, recent political purges of the Turkish military make the Turkish Army a shell of its former self. With Kurdish insurgents voluntarily going into Syria at Turkey’s request as part of the previous peace agreement, Syrian Kurds simply have no place to go. A century ago, Turkish forces slaughtered the Armenians by marching them into the desert to their deaths; the Kurds refuse to be the sequel. Turkish invasion and ethnic cleansing—Turkey’s stated purpose is to settle a couple million Arabs in the region—will spark insurgency in northeastern Syria and across Turkey.”

Things have changed in the mideast, but when your decisions about Syria are compared to Obama’s, it’s not a good sign.

Plus, it’s a NATO thing.

I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members.

Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions. The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them.

That’s because, aside from its technological advantage, the Turkish army is a mess. Most of its best officers and even pilots have been in prison since the failed coup attempt in 2016, and it’s now being run by commanders chosen by political loyalty instead of competence. Rojava’s defenders, in contrast, are seasoned veterans.

Plus:

IT JUST GETS BETTER: Elizabeth Warren a Direct Descendant of Militia ‘Indian Fighter’ Who Fought Seminole Tribe.

RANDY BARNETT ON FLIGHT 93: “Saved by the Militia.”

2002 FLASHBACK:

MARK STEYN ON the triumph of American values:

Unlike those on the earlier flights, the hostages on 93 understood they were aboard a flying bomb intended to kill thousands of their fellow citizens. They knew there would be no happy ending. So they gave us the next best thing, a hopeful ending. Todd Beamer couldn’t get through to anyone except a telephone company operator, Lisa Jefferson. She told him about the planes that had smashed into the World Trade Center. Mr Beamer said they had a plan to jump the guys and asked her if she would pray with him, so they recited the 23rd Psalm: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me….’

Then he and the others rushed the hijackers. At 9.58 a.m., the plane crashed, not into the White House, but in some pasture outside Pittsburgh. As UPI’s James Robbins wrote, ‘The Era of Osama lasted about an hour and half or so, from the time the first plane hit the tower to the moment the General Militia of Flight 93 reported for duty.’

Exactly. The most significant development of 11 September is that it marks the day America began to fight back: 9/11 is not just Pearl Harbor but also the Doolittle Raid, all wrapped up in 90 minutes. No one will ever again hijack an American airliner with boxcutters, or, I’ll bet, with anything else — not because of predictably idiotic new Federal regulations, but because of the example of Todd Beamer’s ad hoc platoon. Faced with a novel and unprecedented form of terror, American technology (cellphones) combined with the oldest American virtue (self-reliance) to stop it cold in little more than an hour.

Yep. And that still bothers a lot of people, who as Steyn points out have spent the last year trying to return to September 10.

Related: Brad Todd: 109 Minutes.

At 8:48 a.m. Mohammed Atta took a jet headlong into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Eighteen minutes later and accomplice did the same to the south tower.

When Jeremy Glick called his wife, his first question was an attempt to confirm something another passenger had heard on his spousal call: was the World Trade Center story true?

Lizzy Glick paused, thought for a minute, swallowed hard, and told him the truth. Yes, they had. Moments later, still on the line with her husband, Lizzy Glick saw that another plane had run into the Pentagon. She passed that information on as well to her husband, who relayed it to the other passengers.

Jeremy Glick then told her that the passengers were about to take a vote and decide if they should rush the hijackers and attempt to foul up whatever evil plans they had.

He put down the phone and a commotion was heard by those on the other end of the line. Then nothing. A dead line. An aborted missile launch against the town where I live.

That was 10:37 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11… just 109 minutes after Mohammed Atta rammed the first plane into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Just 109 minutes after a new form of terrorism — the most deadly yet invented — came into use, it was rendered, if not obsolete, at least decidedly less effective.

Deconstructed, unengineered, thwarted, and put into the dust bin of history. By Americans. In 109 minutes.

And in retrospect, they did it in the most American of ways. They used a credit card to rent a fancy cell phone to get information just minutes old, courtesy of the ubiquitous 24-hour news phenomenon. Then they took a vote. When the vote called for sacrifice to protect country and others, there apparently wasn’t a shortage of volunteers. Their action was swift. It was decisive. And it was effective.

United Flight 93 did not hit a building. It did not kill anyone on the ground. It did not terrorize a city, despite the best drawn plans of the world’s most innovative madmen. Why? Because it had informed Americans on board who’d had 109 minutes to come up with a counteraction.

And the next time a hijacker full of hate pulls the same stunt with a single knife, he’ll get the same treatment and meet the same result as those on United Flight 93. Dead, yes. Murderous, yes. But successful? No.

If George W. Bush had been a better, braver, man, he would have recognized that new reality instead of creating the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security. But both the Democrats and the establishment Republicans are heavily invested in making ordinary Americans feel powerless and helpless. And their worst nightmare is that it hasn’t really worked.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN IRAQ:

Reuters reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a decree on Monday heavily curbing the powers of mostly Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias and forcing them to integrate more closely into the formal armed forces.

The militias, which helped Iraqi and U.S.-led international coalition forces to drive out occupying Islamic State militants under an umbrella grouping known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have broad influence in Iraqi politics.

An electoral alliance made up of militia leaders and fighters came second in a 2018 parliamentary election.

It appears the Iraqi national government finally feels strong enough to confront Iran’s proxies.

StrategyPage.com’s latest Iraq update (published June 26) has useful background on the Iraqi government and Iranian-backed militias.

Sample:

Iran and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) are, in effect, working together to keep Iraq chaotic and mired in violence and corruption. While Iran and ISIL seem like separate problems, they are, in practice, intertwined.

Read the update’s first section, from the June 26 dateline to the June 25 entry.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Venezuela’s Teachers And Students Skip School For Survival.

School staff are resigning in droves. Legions of students and teachers are among the 4 million Venezuelans who have fled the country in recent years. Those still going to school in the country often find that classes have been canceled due to power outages, water shortages and other breakdowns.

Some school buildings are falling apart, have been taken over by homeless squatters or are used by pro-government militias for training, says Nancy Hernández, a founder and board member of FENASOPADRES, a national association of PTAs.

In 2016, the last year the Venezuelan government released enrollment figures, about 8.5 million Venezuelan children were attending K-12 schools. Now, that figure may have dropped to about 6.5 million, according to rough estimates provided by Hernández.

One independent education group in Aragua state, just west of Caracas, reported that at the start of the current school year more than half of all students were no longer going to classes.

In a TV interview in May, Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz acknowledged problems but blamed them on U.S. economic sanctions and pointed out that, in spite of the government’s challenges, public school remains free.

Just like medical care in Cuba: It’s free, if you can get it.

RELIGION OF PEACE UPDATE: Catholic Nun Beheaded By Muslim Militia.

The ongoing purge of Christians and Jews from the non-Israeli parts of the Middle East (ie, almost the whole region) is a story for some reason the press just isn’t much interested in reporting.

PHILIPPINES COAST GUARD AND U.S. COAST GUARD CONDUCT SEARCH AND RESCUE TRAINING: From Seapower Magazine, a look at joint exercises in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) and vessels from the Philippine coast guard conducted joint search-and-rescue exercises May 14 in the South China Sea west of Manila, the Coast Guard Pacific Area said in a release.

The Bertholf, a 418-foot national security cutter based in Alameda, California, worked together with the Philippine coast guard vessels Batangas and Kalanggaman on small-boat search-and-rescue tactics to conduct the mock rescue of a person in the water. The Bertholf is in the midst of a Western Pacific deployment under the tactical control of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet.

In training with and learning alongside partners in the Philippines on search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and small-boat tactics, Bertholf’s crew enjoys the benefits of the strong, often personal ties between the countries, the release said.

Note maritime law enforcement. Sounds relatively peaceful, except when confronting China’s “cabbage strategy” and naval militia swarm tactics.

RELATED: Latest Philippines situation update. It’s two weeks old but it provides a useful sketch of how China employs its economic power to bully its neighbors (yes, trade power) and how Beijing uses its “naval militia” fishing boats as weapons against the Filipinos in the Pagasa Island crisis. The update also illustrates why Manila desperately wants American backup.

VERY RELATED: StrategyTalk’s latest podcast looks at the Philippines domestic political situation and its long-term struggle with China. Also consider subscribing to StrategyTalk.

CONGO’S GLOBAL EPIDEMIC WAR: The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia is a militant Islamist jihadist outfit that now links to the Islamic State. It is attacking Ebola clinics in eastern Congo.

VOA’S IMAGE ESSAY ON LIBYA’S LATEST STRONGMAN: 46 seconds long, images and text, no voice over. Most of VOA’s quick takes hit the essential details. This one strikes me as a reasonably quick intro to Libyan General Khalifa Haftar. His forces are now preparing to attack Tripoli.

RELATED: StrategyPages’ April 11 update on the looming battle for Tripoli. Note StrategyPage uses the spelling “Hiftar.”

A few of the complexities to ponder:

The LNA (Libyan National Army) and its commander Khalifa Hiftar are on the verge of taking the capital and ending eight years of factional fighting that has left Libya broke and chaotic. Haftar has the support of most Libyans along with Russia, most Arab states (especially Egypt and the UAE) and a growing number of European countries. The UN opposes Hiftar, as does ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), the Moslem Brotherhood and pro-brotherhood nations like Turkey, Qatar and Iran.

Another:

There have been two rival governments in Libya since 2015. The GNA (Government of National Accord) has since late 2018 become more amenable to working with Hiftar. But the many militias the GNA presides over wanted nothing to do with losing their power to a unified government.

Possible collusion?

Hiftar had been an early supporter of Kaddafi and was a colonel in the Libyan army when, in the late 1980s, he and Kaddafi became enemies and Hiftar was declared a traitor. Hiftar got support from the CIA to form an opposition force (the first LNA) but no African nations were willing to host it for long and by 1990 Hiftar was living in the U.S. and seeking citizenship. Hiftar spent 20 years living in the West before returning to Libya after Kaddafi was overthrown in 2011.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Hillary and Obama’s record on Libya: From “Responsibility to Protect” to Slave Markets.

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND: Sudan’s military has toppled longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir. Bashir is now under arrest. Bashir seized power in a military coup in 1989. Despite his arrest the nation-wide protests against the government continue. Why? It’s a new military dictatorship, not a democratically elected civilian government.

The BBC makes this point in the linked report:

But demonstrators say the military council is part of the same regime.

The fresh stand-off has raised fears of a violent confrontation between protesters and the army.

There is also a real danger that different elements of the security forces and militia could turn their guns on each other, BBC World Service Africa editor Will Ross says.

StrategyPage published its latest Sudan update on April 5. (Full disclosure: I wrote 90 percent of it.) The update sketches events since December 19, 2018 when the demonstrations began. The update’s titled “Sudan Slides Towards Civil War.” Note the BBC says the security forces and government militias may start shooting at one another. That classifies as civil war.

From the April 5 StrategyPage update:

The protests began December 19, 2018. Initially, public anger at government reductions in food and fuel subsidies sparked the unrest but Sudan’s weak economy and president-for-life Bashir’s misrule (especially corruption) are the real sources of disgust. The economy has suffered considerably because of the loss of revenue from South Sudan’s oil fields (courtesy of South Sudan’s independence). Some protestors have focused on the Bashir’s huge spending on the military and security services while neglecting basic government services. President Bashir also faces indictments by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Little wonder removing Bashir has become the demonstrators’ principal demand.

Note the March 13 entry regarding “the government’s harsh crackdown on street protestors, journalists and opposition political leaders.” (Scroll down.)

On February 22 Bashir “imposed a year-long state of national emergency. During the national emergency, public demonstrations are banned.” But the demonstrations continued. More people joined the protests. (See this March 11 update for details on the state of emergency and expanding protests.) On March 11 Bashir still retained the loyalty of the army. A month later that had changed.

This update has background on Bashir (February 1 entry):

He seized power in 1989 in a military coup and the military remains his base of power. Bashir continues to face arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in western Sudan (Darfur).

Bashir’s government hosted some of the world’s most notorious terrorists, Carlos “the Jackal” and Osama bin Laden among them. Abu Nidal also had a Khartoum address. Allegedly Lords Resistance Army commander and mass murderer Joseph Kony hides out in one of Sudan’s far corners.

On January 12 local observers believed the political opposition was “too fractured” to topple Bashir.

Stay tuned.

ARMY OF GEEKS: Ohio Seeks to Create a Civilian Cyber Militia to Protect Elections.

It’s Glenn’s world — we just live in it.

COLD WAR II: Xi’s South China Sea ‘fishermen’ risk hooking US into conflict.

Tensions are also rising to the west, around the Paracel Islands. Two days before Wang’s comments, a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near Discovery Reef in the Paracels, according to Hanoi. The Paracels are home to overlapping claims by Vietnam, China and Taiwan. The five fishermen on the Vietnamese boat were eventually rescued, Hanoi said.

In early March, Philippine media reported that China had effectively asserted control over sandbars near the Philippine-administered Thitu Island, in the Spratlys. The sandbars, which are adjacent to bountiful fish stocks, had previously been frequented by Philippine fishing boats, which are now being turned away by what are effectively Chinese paramilitary boats posing as fishing vessels.

Worries in the Philippines over the fate of Thitu are growing. The mayor of the town of Kalayaan, which is responsible for Thitu told local media he personally witnessed a Chinese helicopter fly over the island before returning to Subi Reef in late January. In 2012, China dislodged the Philippines from Subi Reef, just 24 km away, subsequently militarizing it and building a runway there.

Filipino defense officials “are naturally wary of the Chinese fishing vessels around Pag-asa Island,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea in Manila. “The possibility that China might seize control of the island through unarmed militiamen has been on their minds.”

Those Chinese “fishing vessels” are engaging in acts of war, despite not flying navy colors, which fits the legal definition of terrorism.

GOOD IDEA, BUT I’D INCREASE THE AGE RANGE CONSIDERABLY: Missouri lawmaker proposes mandatory ownership of AR-15.

Related: It Takes a Militia: A Communitarian Case for Compulsory Arms Bearing.

(Update, from Charlie:) What is it Glenn says? If only someone had thought of that before?

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Army of Geeks: Ohio Seeks to Create a Civilian Cyber Militia to Protect Elections.

HARD BREXIT > BRINO: The great Dan Mitchell sums up why a “hard” Brexit (I prefer “clean” Brexit myself) would be better than Brexit In Name Only. Of course, the New York Times is desperately trying to persuade its readers that prosperous Britain is already worse than Venezuela:

The scene that met Cockburn’s eyes upon exiting the terminal at Heathrow reminded him of his days as a foreign correspondent during the Lebanese civil war, or a night out in south London. A dog was eating the innards of a corpse, because supplies of Romanian dog food have broken down. A naked fat man had carved off a slice of his own buttock and was roasting it over a burning tyre, because imports of Bulgarian lamb are held up at Calais. A woman offered to prostitute herself for an avocado, and to sell both of her blank-eyed children for a packet of French butter. There were no black taxis either, because London’s notoriously pro-Brexit taxi drivers had all joined one nationalist militia or other. Finally, a black-market cheese dealer with a rocket launcher affixed to the back of his pickup agreed to take Cockburn into the city. They bribed their way through the checkpoints with wedges of brie. Or not.

All right, that was actually a Spectator columnist satirizing the Times’ coverage. But it’s not far off…

Trump phases Arab forces into Syria vs Iran ahead of US pullout. Egyptian/UAE officers on the scene.

When Sen. Lindsay Graham said Monday, Dec. 31: “I think we are slowing things [exit from Syria] down in a smart way,” he confirmed DEBKAfile’s Dec. 22 report: “US troops will leave eastern and northern Syria, but America is not deserting this part of the country and will continue to maintain a presence after the pullout.” On Monday, the Republican Senator, who sharply criticized President Donald Trump for the troop withdrawal as a “huge Obama-like mistake,” stated: “The president assured me he is going to make sure he gets the job done.”

Our sources can now reveal the nature of that presence and the process afoot for the gradual US withdrawal. In the last few days, Egyptian and UAE military officers visited the contested north Syrian town of Manbij. They toured the town and its outskirts, checked out the locations of US and Kurdish YPG militia positions, and took notes on how to deploy their own troops as replacements. On the diplomatic side, the White House is in continuous conversation with the UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammed Bin Ziyad (MbZ) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. The deal Trump is offering, is that they take over US positions in Manbij, where the Kurds have sought protection against a Turkish invasion, and American air cover will be assured against Russian, Syrian or Turkish attack.

Trump’s decision has been played in the media and Official Washington as the most reckless act since Napoleon decided to march on Moscow, but if Debka has the story right, this is a measured and responsible move. It’s certainly much more measured and responsible than President Obama’s “red line” fecklessness which got us into Syria in the first place. But that’s not a story that you’ll get from the media or Official Washington.

ALLIES: Erdogan says Turkish troops to march into northeast Syria.

“We will start the operation to clear the east of the Euphrates from separatist terrorists in a few days,” Erdogan told a conference of arms manufacturers in the capital Tuesday. He said Turkish forces would not attack the US military, which has some 2,000 troops in Syria.

But he poured scorn on US support for the Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Washington regards as an important ally in the battle against militants of the Islamic State (IS). The YPG is a sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers Party, a Turkish insurgent group classified as terrorist by the United States and the European Union.

In a bid to protect its Syrian Kurdish allies, the US military in northeast Syria has conducted joint patrols with the Syrian Defense Forces, an umbrella group that consists largely of YPG fighters, and erected US-staffed observation towers along the Syrian-Turkish border.

“Our strategic partners (US) are cooperating with the extension of the PKK in Syria. We are saying they are terrorists, but they (US) deny it.” Erdogan said.

While there are Kurds who are terrorists, by and large the Kurdish-run semiautonomous regions of Syria and Iraq are decently run by regional standards, and generally supportive of the United States. When Edrogan speaks of Kurdish terrorists, what he mostly means is the ethnic and ethnographic threat they pose to his regime.

CHINA’S INTERNET ARMY: This post begins with a discussion of the October 2018 U.S. indictment of nine Chinese citizens on charges of “Internet-based espionage.” The nine worked with an Internet hacking operation based in China’s Jiansu Province. The group targeted “technical data on high-performance jet engines.” But the post also discusses the origins of China’s enormous “Internet Army.”

Internal and external espionage is one of the main reasons the Chinese government took an interest in the Internet back in the 1990s. This resulted in nearly two decades of effort to mobilize the Chinese people as an Internet army. It was in the late 1990s that the Chinese Defense Ministry established the “NET Force.” This was initially a research organization, which was to measure China’s vulnerability to attacks via the Internet. Soon this led to examining the vulnerability of other countries, especially the United States, Japan, and South Korea (all nations that were heavy Internet users). NET Force has continued to grow, aided by plenty of volunteers.

In 1999, NET Force organized an irregular civilian militia, the “Red Hackers Union” (RHU). These are several hundred thousand patriotic Chinese programmers and Internet engineers who wished to assist the motherland and put the hurt, via the Internet, on those who threaten or insult China.

Read the whole thing.

MIDDLE EAST MUDDLE: How Saudi and Qatar are competing over Iraq.

A Qatari delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani visited the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Nov. 7, where he met with the Iraqi president, prime minister and parliament speaker to “discuss the ties between the two countries.”

Three days after the Qatari delegation’s visit, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia Khalid Al-Falih visited Baghdad and met with as many figures as did the Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs. This happened in light of the tense relationship that has governed Saudi-Qatari ties since June 2017.

While in Baghdad, Falih met with Iran-backed leaders of the Popular Mobilization Units that Saudi Arabia categorizes as “lawless militias,” and he invited them to visit Doha. These meetings confirm that Doha is trying to compete with Riyadh and even sabotage its ties with Iraq by building a relationship with Saudi enemies in Iraq.

Given the polarization between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the region, each of them is trying to attain a rapprochement with Iraq. Meanwhile, as Iraq is trying to cut off energy imports from Iran due to US pressure after the reimposition of sanctions against Iran, both Riyadh and Doha could replace Tehran in this issue. This is also a chance to win over Baghdad’s new government.

Moreover, some Iraqi Sunni blocks that are funded and backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia are competing for the minister of defense position in new Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government. It is therefore likely that the two countries of the Gulf are also competing at this level.

Maybe Joe Biden was right about partition. Three governments with fewer factions to manage might do better than one impossibly corrupt government in an impossible situation.

WELL, GOOD: With rising US pressure, Iran worries about losing ground in Iraq.

The United States is trying to pressure Iraq on all levels to distance itself from Iran and curb Iranian influence in the country. It also gave Iraq 45 days to stop importing gas and electricity from Iran. Iraqi officials revealed to Reuters that Iraq plans on submitting a proposal to the United States to continue importing gas and energy supplies in exchange for medication and foodstuff.

In line with US pressure and sanctions, Iraqi Minister of Oil Thaer al-Ghadban asserted during his first press conference that Iraq will put its national interest first in regards to sanctions on Iran. He said Iraq will stop exporting oil from Kirkuk fields to Iran, estimated at less than 30,000 barrels a day.

Iraq is also gradually looking to Turkey to bridge the gap stemming from reducing its dealings with Iran.

Keep up the pressure. Although I can’t help thinking that if Bush had given Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a well-earned bloody nose back in 2004 or ’05, when they started blowing up US troops in Iraq, there’d be a lot less Iranian influence everywhere today. Of course, you could say something similar about every American President going back to Carter.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Fight Against Last Vestige of ISIS in Syria Stalls, to Dismay of U.S.

Booby traps, land mines and a militant counterstrike during a fierce sandstorm after the campaign began in September have knocked the coalition back on its heels.

And last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that is fighting the Islamic State with American help, suspended operations after Kurdish positions farther north were shelled by Turkey — not far from United States advisers.

American diplomats and generals rushed to ease tensions with the Turks, who consider Kurdish fighters terrorists despite their partnership with the United States.

But the episode underscores the shifting nature of the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, a still-potent threat as it pivots from its battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria to directing guerrilla insurgencies in the Middle East and beyond.

Trump made remarkable progress against ISIS almost from the moment he was sworn in, but the terror group was given ample opportunity to grow and dig in under Obama.

DAVID HARSANYI: The New York Times Botches America’s History With The Gun. “Over the past 50 years, a wide-ranging, well-funded political, cultural, and legal revisionism effort has been undertaken to erase much of the United States’ history and culture of the gun and the Second Amendment. The New York Times’s Nick Kristof’s recent column, ‘It’s Time To Talk About The NRA’ (because no one’s been talking about them!) is a good example of this trend.”

The right to defend your property, life and liberty girds the entire American project. Not a single Founder ever challenged the notion of individual firearm ownership. Most celebrated it. Individual ownership of firearms was so omnipresent in colonial days—and beyond—that Americans saw no more need to debate its existence. Debates over the Second Amendment involved a disagreement over who should control the militia: state or federal government.

Second, the idea that “Gun control laws were ubiquitous” in the 19th century is the work of politically motivated historians who cobble together every minor local restriction they can find in an attempt to create the impression that gun control was the norm. If this were true, Kristof wouldn’t need to jump to 1879 to offer his first specific case.

Read the whole thing.

THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC HAS BEEN AT WAR WITH US SINCE 1979: Declassified Interrogation Reports Show How Much Iran Shaped Iraq War.

Iran and the U.S. have been vying for influence in Iraq. Throughout the Iraq war, Iran sought to influence the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, often to the detriment of the Sunni minority.

Iran also provided arms and training to Shiite militias, U.S. officials say, so they could attack U.S. forces and pressure them to leave the country. U.S. forces left in 2011 after President Barack Obama and then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to reach an accord to allow American troops to stay.

According to a June 18, 2007, interrogation report, Mr. Khazali said the training was carried out by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at three bases near Tehran, including the Imam Khomeini base, which Mr. Khazali said he had visited.

“There are Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah conducting the training at these bases,” the report said, based on interrogation. “The Iranians are experts in full scale warfare while the Lebanese are experts in urban or guerrilla warfare.”

Bush’s failure to deal sharply with Tehran when it first became known they were killing Coalition forces has led to all kinds of nasty ripple effects ever since.

SMALL WARS JOURNAL: Time for America to Leave Afghanistan.

Richard A. Carrick:

There are specific reasons why the latest U.S. strategy used to defeat Isis in Iraq/Syria is not transferable to the Afghan conflict. Three of the important strategic elements that made it work are missing in Afghanistan. In Iraq/Syria ISIS was defending a series of fixed positions located mostly in large cities and towns. These locations offered excellent targets for aerial attacks by U.S. planes, drones and missiles with maximum cost effectiveness. Heavy artillery directed by U.S. advisors was also successfully used against these fixed targets. Additionally, Russia periodically applied devastating aerial bombardment in Syria, although not always against ISIS.

In the Afghan war the U.S. military is in the reverse situation with the Afghan/ U.S. forces defending fixed positions in cities and bases. It is the Taliban that is effectively attacking these positions, frequently with suicide bombers. The new U.S. strategy of increasing the aerial bombardment of widely dispersed Taliban positions in rural locations cannot replicate the success of bombing ISIS held cities like Mosul and Raqqa. Although increased U.S. air attacks will reduce opium production, a source of funding to the Taliban, it will not be decisive because the lost revenue will be made up by their covert allies that are increasing their assistance.

The second missing factor is an effective ground force. No matter how destructive an air war, ground forces are needed to take and hold territory. In Iraq/Syria there were large numbers of trained and highly motived local ground forces. These included the Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Shite militia and Hezbollah (with Iranian advisors) that conducted successful campaigns to recapture the cities and destroy ISIS. The presence of these forces required only limited use of U.S. troops resulting in few casualties. These local forces were motivated not by abstract Western ideas of universal values, but rather their own strong sectarian beliefs and interests.

In Afghanistan, however, after seventeen years of training and assistance by the U.S., most government troops are ineffective even when supported by U.S. advisors and air power.

You can’t get people to fight for an imaginary country. And as I’ve been writing here and elsewhere for years, Afghanistan isn’t a country — it’s a hole in the map where neighboring countries aren’t.

COLD WAR II: Laser Attacks Against U.S. Forces Spread to the Pacific. “The laser strikes follow reported incidents in Djibouti by Chinese military personnel.”

China has been accused of developing and marketing anti-eye lasers, weapons whose use in wartime would constitute a violation of international law. These weapons include the BBQ-905 Laser Dazzler Weapon, the WJG-2002 Laser Gun, the PY132A Blinding Laser Weapon, and the PY131A Blinding Laser Weapon.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command confirmed to AvWeek that the laser strikes are taking place both from shore and fishing vessels. It’s not clear where the shore attacks are taking place, but China trains and offers subsidies to fishing boat crews to act as what observers call China’s “maritime militia.” Fleets of fishing boats often sail into territory claimed by China as a precursor to China’s claiming the region for itself, to hassle other fishermen and local coast guards, and to act as the eyes and ears of the Chinese military.

Pointing lasers at low-flying American planes would fall in line with the maritime militia’s duties, allowing the Chinese government to demonstrate that U.S. forces aren’t welcome in an area without using official Chinese military or coast guard forces.

The increasing sophistication of these lasers implies Chinese state support for the laser attacks.

Ya think?

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Blackouts, hyperinflation, hunger: Maduro faces reelection as Venezuela deteriorates.

Since Maduro took over from Hugo Chávez — his mentor, who died in 2013 — Venezuela’s crisis has steadily intensified as a result of lower oil prices, corruption and a socialist system plagued with mismanagement. But as Maduro has sought to further consolidate power in the past 12 months, the economy, public services, security and health care have all but collapsed.

Armed gangs and Colombian guerrilla groups are operating unchecked on Venezuela’s borders. Pro-government militias are terrorizing urban areas, while police stand accused of extrajudicial killings. Four of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world are now in Venezuela, according to a 2017 study by the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think tank that studies violence.

Hundreds if not thousands of members of the armed forces are deserting, in part because of meager rations, according to military analysts. Power and water grids and the transportation systems are breaking down. In just the first three months of the year, Venezuela suffered 7,778 blackouts.

Saddled with a soaring inflation rate that has put food out of reach, Venezuelans, weakened and thin, are getting extraordinarily sick. Doctors say cases of diseases once thought largely eradicated — malaria, diphtheria, measles and tuberculosis — are not only resurfacing but surging.

In a nation that lives off oil, production is collapsing as plants break down and the bankrupt government cannot fix equipment. Venezuela’s unpaid creditors are beginning to tighten the financial noose, going after the country’s offshore assets.

[The Venezuelan oil industry is on a cliff’s edge. Trump could tip it over.]

At the state oil giant, 25,000 workers — more than a quarter of its staff — quit last year in a mass exodus. Fleeing workers are joining a flood of humanity, at least 5,000 people a day, exiting the country. The outflow has left schools without teachers, hospitals without doctors and nurses, and utilities without electricians and engineers.

“A failed state is one that cannot meet the most basic functions of government,” said Jean Paul Leidenz, an economist at Ecoanalítica, a Caracas-based analytical firm. “Venezuela now certainly has that characteristic.”

Unexpectedly.

And without comment from Bernie Sanders, Sean Penn, Michael Moore, et al.

The media seem finally to be taking serious note, usually framed around the upcoming election. One suspects they want to see Maduro go because he’s making Leftism look so bad.

DIRTY MONEY: U.S. Sanctions Iran’s Central Bank Governor, Alleges Hezbollah Ties.

The Treasury Department said that Valiollah Seif, the governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, sent the funds to Hezbollah through an Iraqi bank, the al-Bilad Islamic Bank. The funds were sent on behalf of Iran’s Quds Force, an Iranian paramilitary organization fighting in Syria along with Hezbollah to support President Bashar al-Assad.

The sanctions are part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to preclude the Quds Force from using the international banking system.

Iran has long been involved in the Syria conflict and has supplied missiles and other weapons to Hezbollah, which is widely regarded as its proxy in the region. The Trump administration is trying to pressure Iran to curtail that support. But it has stopped short of taking military action against Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias in Syria while defending Israel’s military strikes there.

In the sanctions announced Tuesday, Mr. Seif and Ali Tarzali, the assistant director of the international department at the bank, were named as “specially designated global terrorists.”

The Mullahs Regime is both a criminal and terrorist organization.

YUGE, IF TRUE:

In the next tweet they explain, “Iran’s Shahid Bagheri Missile Industries Company & other companies connected to Iranian Defense Industries Organization were dependent on NorthKorea to design & develop their short & intermediate range ballistic missiles for IRGC. Now North Korea has left them.”

Hat tip to Flight 93 Militia, but that’s all I’ve been able to find on this story so far. If this is real, none of the major news outlets have caught wind of it yet — or they aren’t bothering to report it.

GUNSHIPS BATTLING JAMMING IN SYRIA:

The electronic jamming signals affecting AC-130 gunships over Syria may have crews checking and cross-checking their data, including target information, before they lock on with their cannons, according to a top commander here.

“Whether that’s being man-made, or maybe it’s a mistake inside the airplane, it’s hard to say sometimes, but the process is, as you see those things pop up, the safety for the people on the ground is the primary concern,” said Col. Tom Palenske, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing…

More:

“We’re not going to kill ourselves out of this war. And the way you do that is you make sure you’re as precise as possible, only targeting the guys we’ve validated as bad guys,” Palenske said, referring to operations in the Middle East where the gunships have flown countless missions, often with danger-close strikes.

“When you’re going to put lethal fires down in either enemy position or to protect friendlies, you’re concerned about the innocents around both our guys in uniform and civilians,” he said. “And when there’s some glitch being put out there by trons that threatens the accuracy of that, then the [AC-130 crews] have got to make sure they do no harm.”…Palenske did not say what kind of electronic warfare equipment adversaries are using, nor who the adversaries are, even though Islamic State fighters, Iranian-backed militia and Russian troops are in country.

The enemy electronic jammers are trying to jink the AC-130s into killing civilians (generating atrocity headlines) or fire on U.S. and allied forces. Syria’s civil war has echoes of the Spanish Civil War. The belligerents are testing new weapons and experimenting with new tactics and techniques.

ALLIES: Turkey says France could become ‘target’ for backing Syria Kurds.

Turkey said on Friday that a French pledge to help stabilize a region of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish-dominated forces amounted to support for terrorism and could make France a “target of Turkey”.

French backing for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has angered Ankara at a time when it is fighting the YPG in northern Syria and considers it a terrorist organization.

President Tayyip Erdogan said France had taken a “completely wrong approach” on Syria, adding that he exchanged heated words with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, last week.

The split with France is the latest rift between Turkey under Erdogan and its NATO allies in the West.

Erdogan has accomplished in just a few years what the Soviets couldn’t manage to do over decades: Pull the rug out from under NATO’s southern tier.

DAVID HARSANYI: You Can Try To Repeal The Second Amendment, But You Can’t Repeal History.

Whether repeal of the Second Amendment is feasible or not, historical revisionism is meant to mangle its meaning into irrelevancy. [Former Justice John Paul] Stevens claims that his conception of gun rights is “uniformly understood,” yet offers no legal precedent to back the contention up. Stevens claims the Second Amendment’s explicit mention of “the right of the people” does not create an “individual right” despite the inconvenient fact that other times the term is mentioned — in the Fourth, Ninth, and 10th Amendments — they have been found to do exactly that.

Now, I’m not a legal scholar, but the idea, as the former justice argues, that the Founders wanted no limits on the ability of federal or state authorities to take weapons from law-abiding citizens conflicts with the historical record. Never once in the founding debate did a lawmaker rise to argue that gun ownership should be limited. Most state constitutions already featured language to protect that right. A number states demanded that the national constitution include such a provision, as well.

The debate over the Second Amendment centered on a dispute over who should control the militia, the federal or state governments. Everyone understood that a militia consisted of free individuals who would almost always grab their own firearms — the ones they used in their everyday existence — to engage in concerted efforts to protect themselves, their community, or their country (sometimes from their own government.)

This might surprise some, but the Minutemen did not return their muskets after Lexington.

Well, yeah — Lexington was fought over an attempted gun grab by the British, and the Minutemen were no dummies.

And former Justice Stevens is counting on the historical ignorance of his fellow Americans.

YES. NEXT QUESTION? Are Israel and Iran Stuck on a Collision Course?

With respect to Israel, the Islamic Republic until recently maintained a policy of having sticks along Israel’s borders to poke at Israel (such as Hezbollah and Hamas) in order to deter Israel from ever considering an attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons plants at home. Now, the Revolutionary Guard appears to have become more ambitious, and is building a transnational Shia militia group in Syria and across the Middle East along with military installations, precision missile factories and Shia proxy forces that are answerable directly to the Revolutionary Guard and not to Assad. Their ambitions are to have Shia militias on Israel’s borders with thousands of precision missiles aimed at Israeli critical infrastructure. Just like North Korea has thousands of missiles threatening South Korea, Iran through its proxies can similarly try to threaten Israel.

The Islamic Republic has supplemented its moves on the ground with rhetoric calling for the liquidation of the state of Israel in 25 years. Iran leads the “Resistance” against Israel, a movement that includes Hezbollah, Hamas and growing numbers of foreign and local militias in Syria. Israeli leaders worry that the Islamic Republic has a long-term goal to surround Israel’s borders: in the north, Hezbollah and now Syria; in the east, Hamas joined by some disillusioned Fatah members in the West Bank (and maybe someday a post-Hashemite pro-Iran Jordan); in the south, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

At the moment, the Revolutionary Guard is riding high after its successes in Syria and elsewhere, which is stoking the fears of Sunni Arab states and Israel. But extrapolating current successes into the future is highly uncertain.

Incoming National Security Advisor John Bolton had a few bold things to say about Iran back in August.

NEO-OTTOMAN EMPIRE: Turkish Forces Seize Syrian City of Afrin.

Turkey’s offensive against Afrin began on January 20th, and the Associated Press reports it slowly pushed the Kurdish militia and civilians into the town center. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says nearly 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days, and cites witnesses who say intense clashes between Turkish-backed forces and YPG Syrian Kurdish fighters are ongoing. A Kurdish official told the AP YPG fighters have evacuated remaining civilians “because of massacres” by Turkish and allied forces.

The Turkish government says the Kurdish forces in Afrin are tied to an insurgent group that has fought for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey. The AP reports that Turkey “fears the establishment of a Kurdish self-ruled zone in Syria that could inspire its own Kurdish minority to press for greater autonomy.” While the Turkish government sees the YPG as a “terrorist army,” the militia has been an important ally to the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State group.

According to the BBC’s Mark Lowen, “President Erdogan has achieved his twin objectives: to remove a key area under YPG control and to rally the vast majority of Turks behind their commander-in-chief. The jingoism here has been breathtaking. Targeting Turkey’s age-old enemy of the Kurdish militants is a rare uniting force in a polarised country.”

Plus: “The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says nearly 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days.”

That’s mission accomplished for Erdogan.

FAR LEFT WATCH: Communist militia leader arrested on weapons charges.

MICHAEL TOTTEN: The Russian Attack Against America You Didn’t Hear About.

You probably didn’t hear this because few media organizations have even mentioned it, but Russia committed an act of war against the United States a little more than a week ago. No, this is not about more social media and election shenanigans. Russia mounted an armed assault against American soldiers and our allies in Syria, including Kurdish security forces affiliated with the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, at a military base in the city of Deir Ezzor, the largest in eastern Syria. Russian combatants fought alongside Assad regime fighters and Shia militias armed, funded and directed by Iran.

Both the Pentagon and the Kremlin are going out of their way to keep this as quiet as possible. If you only read the New York Times story about the incident on February 13, you’d have to squint and zero in on the subtext. After the United States used air and drone strikes to obliterate incoming assailants, including dozens of Russians, American military spokespeople assured the press in calm tones that there was never any chance that Russian and American forces would clash directly in Deir Ezzor or anywhere else. The Kremlin, for its part, said any Russians who might have participated in the assault were mercenaries unaffiliated with the Russian armed forces.

The problem with the Kremlin statement is that Russian mercenaries in Syria are employed by the Wagner Group, which works for the Russian government, and specifically for Russia’s Ministry of Defense, not for the Syrian or Iranian governments. And the problem with the American statement is that the Pentagon is asking us to assume that dozens of Russians were killed not by the bombs it had just dropped but by somebody else…or perhaps by spontaneous heart attacks or a catastrophic series of vehicle accidents.

Read the whole thing.

PITY THE KURDS: Turkey’s president says Turkish troops involved in an offensive to drive out Syrian Kurdish militiamen from a Syrian enclave will soon begin a siege of the city of Afrin.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his ruling party’s legislators on Tuesday that the month-long offensive into the northwester enclave of Afrin has so far been progressing slowly.

He says Turkey is not there “to burn and destroy” the enclave but to ensure it becomes a “safe and livable place.”

Erdogan said that, however, “in the coming days, the siege of Afrin city center will commence at a more rapid pace.”

Turkey launched its offensive to clear Afrin of the Syrian Kurdish militia it considers a “terrorist” organization and an extension to its own outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting within Turkey.

Turkish troops have so far seized border regions encircling Afrin, including strategic hills.

The fate of Syria’s Kurds is the Levant’s next humanitarian crisis — on top of all the others.

HMM: With Nowhere Else to Turn, Syrian Kurds Will Have to Embrace Assad’s Army.

With the understanding that they don’t really have anyone to rely on in their struggle against the Turkish forces that invaded northern Syria’s Afrin district in January, the Syrian Kurds will have to do a back flip and embrace the Syrian military. The army forces and those Syrian militias that have been helping President Bashar Assad’s regime are prepared to go into the Afrin district and even into the city itself to restore the regime’s control over the area, erect a defensive wall against the Turkish forces and perhaps later even expand Assad’s control over the other Kurdish districts in northern Syria.

The leadership of the Afrin district, one of the three autonomous Kurdish districts, denies it has reached any agreement with the regime, but judging by the movements of the regime’s army and the vague responses of the Kurds, this will be the next move. If indeed the Syrian military takes control of the district and positions military outposts along the Turkish border, it would be an important achievement for Assad that could have crucial consequences for the diplomatic process aiming to resolve the Syrian crisis.

Related: Turkey has warned the Syrian government not to help Kurds fighting against Turkish forces in northern Syria.

And: Moscow calls on US not to play with fire in Syria.

So we have US friends teaming up with a regime the US wants gone to stop a US ally from killing US friends while the Russians accuse the US of messing things up in the Middle East.

Sounds about par.

MEDIA SWALLOWS MILITIA LEADER’S CLAIM SCHOOL SHOOTER WAS CONNECTED TO WHITE SUPREMACISTS.

As one wag tweeted this afternoon when the story was originally circulating, “‘We’re letting dudes with the name ‘Cruz’ in now??’ – Other members of this white nationalist organization.”

ALLIES: Turkish military enters Syrian province after days of airstrikes.

Turkish officials said the troops entered the Afrin area a day after Turkish jets pounded targets there in an attempt to drive US-allied Kurdish militia from the area. “Operation Olive Branch is ongoing as planned and the ground operation has started,” the Turkish armed forces said in a statement.

The land operation comes hours after Turkish jets targeted US-backed, Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia in the area, killing at least eight people and injuring 13, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces General Command.

The military incursion is likely to raise tensions between Turkey and the United States, which supports and openly arms Kurdish militias fighting ISIS.

Turkey said it launched what it dubbed Operation Olive Branch on Saturday to target “terrorist organizations” including YPG forces.

Operation Olive Branch?

OUCH: Europe’s High Representative for Appeasement. “Iran, Cuba, North Korea and Russia have a friend in Brussels.”

Eli Lake:

If Federica Mogherini didn’t exist, the world’s autocrats would be trying to invent her.

As the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, she is a tireless advocate for engaging rogue states. Few diplomats though have pursued this kind of engagement with such moralizing puffery. In Mogherini’s world, diplomacy with dictators should not aim to transition these countries to open societies, but rather to prevent conflicts at all costs.

Just consider her trip last week to Cuba, a plantation masquerading as a nation-state. Did Mogherini use her visit to call attention to the struggle of human rights activists or to comfort the families of political prisoners? No, Mogherini was in Cuba to reassure a regime that Europe will not go along with America’s trade embargo.

And:

While Mogherini found her voice in Havana about Cuba’s “isolation,” she was mute on the popular uprising in Iran. She waited six days to say anything about the demonstrations there. When she finally did, it was a mix of ingratiation and neutrality. “In the spirit of openness and respect that is at the root of our relationship,” she said, “we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and to guarantee freedom of expression.”

It’s as if Mogherini believes that Iranian demonstrators are arresting and silencing members of the state Basij militia, and not the other way around.

European diplomats have long been the masters of doing business with nasty regimes while accusing Americans of crass commercialism.

NOBODY’S REALLY SURPRISED BY THIS: Finally, Newsweek finds an armed militia it really likes, because they’re communists. Its always who/whom with these people.

FLASHBACK: Matt Welch: The Media’s Hypocrisy About Gary Johnson.

Is Gary Johnson qualified to run for president? Let’s talk about that, but first let’s talk about this:
Two weeks ago, the foreign affairs select committee of the British House of Commons released a detailed, damning report about one of Hillary Clinton’s signature achievements as secretary of state: The 2011 US/UK/French-led military intervention into Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya, which was sold as a necessity to prevent (in President Barack Obama’s words) “a massacre that would have reverberated across the region.”

“This policy,” the conservative-led committee concluded, “was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the [British] Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-(Gadhafi) Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of (Gadhafi) regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”

You might think that a deeply sourced report from an allied government about trumped-up intelligence leading to yet another destabilizing Middle East war might make some headlines in the country where the administration’s leading proponent of said intervention is poised to become the next leader of the free world. . . .

Ah, yes, but did you hear the one about Gary Johnson not being able to come up on the spot with the name of his favorite foreign leader? Disqualifying! And also, oddly, nearly ubiquitous in the same media that couldn’t be bothered to reexamine a Hillary Clinton policy that has adversely affected countless human lives.

But she’s the Smartest Woman Ever.

Related: Africans are being sold at Libyan slave markets. Thanks, Hillary Clinton.

CIVIL RIGHTS UPDATE: House Votes To Allow Concealed Carry Across State Lines. Some people are arguing that Congress lacks the power to do this under the Commerce Clause, though I’d be prepared to argue that it’s Heart of Atlanta Motel for guns, where the issue is opening up travel against state barriers. But Congress also has the power to provide for the arming of the militia, and this should qualify under that. Perhaps I’ll write a longer treatment of that topic, but for now I leave fleshing it out as an exercise for the reader.

HOLMAN JENKINS: How Free Speech Lost in Charlottesville: An unflinching report on the failure of police to control ‘antifascist’ protesters.

To avoid giving left-wing counterprotesters the impression the police were ready for a fight, officers were denied permission to don riot gear. A proposal that local militants be asked to sign statements forswearing violence was rejected. A proposal to close the whole of downtown to vehicle traffic was rejected. A petition from local businesses to cancel the event was rejected. A single officer was assigned to the intersection where Heather Heyer would later be killed in a vehicular homicide—a lightly-equipped “school resource officer” who would be withdrawn when events, as expected, “went south.”

Instead—and this is a bit hard to believe—the local police chief’s plan was to let the violence at the Aug. 12 event get out of hand and then declare an unlawful assembly to justify unleashing a Virginia State Police riot force to disperse the crowd.

A name familiar to readers of this column will be Pam Starsia, a left-wing leader in Charlottesville who consistently resisted police efforts to protect peace and property as a manifestation of “white supremacy.” . . .

As the report details, the armed militias that featured so heavily in press coverage at the time, and were wrongly assumed to be aligned with the white nationalists, closed in to give the officer cover while he intervened and generally acted to protect members of the public regardless of affiliation.

Two officers were recorded discussing the incident on their body-cam mikes: “I like those militia guys,” said one. His colleague replied, “Yeah, they’re doing a good job.”

When the militia groups are outperforming the police, there’s a problem.

WHAT A MESS: U.S. Admits Possible Role in Arming Iranian-Backed Militants in Iraq.

U.S. lawmakers and military insiders are concerned by what they described as the American government’s continued arming and training of Iranian-backed fighters in Iraq, an ongoing policy that multiple sources described to the Washington Free Beacon as one of the U.S.’s chief foreign policy failures in the region.

Top lawmakers and others have begun to present evidence showing that the State Department continues to provide widespread support for Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, a program that first begun under the Obama administration.

This has helped solidify Iran’s presence in key Iraqi territories and appears to directly conflict with the Trump administration’s newly outlined push to combat the Islamic Republic’s regional military efforts, which have included targeting U.S. forces in Syria and other locations.

Multiple sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon both on and off the record accused the State Department of making “common cause” with the IRGC, which they say has benefited from ongoing American efforts to arm and train Iraqi militia groups, many of which have direct ties to Iran.

These sources pointed to the continued presence of senior Obama administration officials in government as one of the primary drivers of this ongoing policy.

Rex Tillerson needs to get serious about State’s serious personnel problem, but after almost a year in office shows zero interest in doing so.

CLIFFORD D. MAY: The Kurdish test. “Iran’s mullahs are betting that Trump, like Obama, will choose appeasement.”

Now the Kurds are imperiled. Here’s what’s happened: On Oct. 13, President Trump announced his Iran strategy. He declined to recertify the nuclear arms deal concluded by his predecessor. Among the reasons: Iran’s compliance cannot be verified so long as international inspectors are barred from the regime’s military facilities.

The president also is unwilling to turn a blind eye to Iran’s continuing development of missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads, the “sunset” clauses that legitimize the mullah’s nuclear weapons program over time, and the terrorism that those mullahs sponsor. Notably, he designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

The Iranian response has been more than merely rhetorical. On Oct. 16, Iraqi forces, over which Iran’s rulers now exercise considerable influence, and Shia militias, many of them Iranian-backed, drove Kurdish troops out of oil-rich Kirkuk. According to credible reports, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of foreign operations for the IRGC, was on hand to personally coordinate the operation.

Though Kirkuk is beyond the de facto borders of the KRG, Kurds have long viewed it as the Jerusalem of their homeland. It was a Kurdish-majority city until the Saddam regime determined to “Arabize” it, not least through population transfers.

In 2014, however, when the Islamic State was on the march, Iraqi government forces abandoned Kirkuk. The Peshmerga quickly filled the vacuum, defending the city and holding it ever since.

By orchestrating the taking of Kirkuk, Iran’s rulers are testing Mr. Trump. They are betting that, despite the tough talk, he won’t have the stomach to do what is necessary to frustrate their neo-imperialist ambitions.

Lending full material support to the Kurds is the best and fastest way to check Iran’s territorial ambitions.

MUST PACK HEAT: The Case For Mandating Gun Ownership.

Brannon Denning and I wrote about this some time ago: It Takes a Militia: A Communitarian Case for Compulsory Arms Bearing.

AS BENGHAZI’S PORT RE-OPENS WARRING LIBYAN FACTIONS START TO TALK: Libya is a mess. However, Tobruk government (eastern government) forces have been defeating opposition Islamist militias and consolidating control in their region. Fighting shut down commercial operations in Benghazi’s port for three years. A few days ago it re-opened. So, stay tuned.

SPENGLER: Washington’s despicable hypocrisy towards the Kurds.

Since September 11, 2001, we’ve been told that America has to ally with moderate Muslims against “extremism.” There are in fact moderate Muslims in the world. The Kurds are “moderate Muslims.” The Kurds do not persecute nonbelievers. They don’t hate Jews and Christians. They don’t forbid women to leave the house without a male relative; in fact, their militias are the only effective fighting force in the world that includes women in front-line combat units. They protect Iraqi Christians against ISIS, and Iraq’s Christians in turn support Kurdish independence. They have excellent and long-standing relations with the State of Israel. Jewish life is flourishing in the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the north of Iraq.

Most of all, Kurdish fighters are the spearhead of American-backed ground forces fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq. They do not only act the way we say we want Muslims to act, protecting Christians and Jews and promoting the equality of women. They shed blood for what they believe in.

The Kurds are everything that George W. Bush and Barack Obama told us we should find in the Islamic world, and more. They want nothing but friendship with the United States of America. And we have thrown them under the bus. There isn’t an Appalachian outhouse that stinks worse than our foreign policy Establishment.

It’s difficult to decide which our foreign policy establishment lacks most: Backbone or imagination.

And do read the whole thing.

THIS BIT FROM ROBERT SHIBLEY’S PIECE ON CHARLOTTESVILLE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT FAILURE IS WORTH BREAKING OUT:

This must stop. Freedom of expression is what gives us the ability to hash out societal issues through argument instead of physical conflict, but it is only meaningful when people are reasonably confident that they will be physically safe while they speak and listen. When the authorities simply stand by and let political violence occur, even in the hope of the conflict somehow “de-escalating” itself, they send the message that both sides have a free hand to violently attack their opponents. This makes a mockery of the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.

After the riot that successfully prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at the University of California, Berkeley, in February, many reported on the conspicuous lack of police involvement despite the injuries and destruction. I personally spoke to a woman who had come to see the speech. Having been pepper-sprayed and nearly blinded by a violent protester, she told me she crawled over three layers of crowd barriers to reach a building with dozens of police inside. Yet when she reached the door, the police refused her entry.

Likewise, CNN reported that in Charlottesville, “both sides agree that one group didn’t do enough to prevent the violence as the crowds grew and tensions flared: the police.” The organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally complained that “police purposefully created the catastrophe that led to a melee in the streets of Charlottesville,” while a Black Lives Matter leader attending the counter-protest remarked, “It’s almost as if they wanted us to fight each other.”

It’s hard to think of a more thankless task than riot policing. But when authorities fail at the basic task of preventing mob violence, both political and policy questions need to be asked. When the Huffington Post reports that “Several times, a group of assault-rifle-toting militia members from New York State … played a more active role in breaking up fights” than the police, law enforcement’s response needs serious rethinking.

There is one group of people who have so far consistently benefitted when political violence has been allowed to take place: the politicians who lead our localities and the de facto politicians who run our campuses. They avoid the political fallout from images of police confronting violent protesters (who may also be their supporters), they get to blame whichever side they like less for causing the violence, and get to pretend to fulfill their responsibility to keep people “safe” by making it harder for controversial viewpoints to be expressed.

And they allow people to be injured — or in this case killed — by their opportunism. As I’ve said, the DOJ should closely investigate the timeline here.

WAIT, I THOUGHT WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BLAME GEORGE W. BUSH FOR THOSE: No, New York Times, Trump is not responsible for Obama’s Russia mistakes.

Facing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, former President Barack Obama first reacted with boredom, then with mild sanctions, then with moderate sanctions. As Russia systematically broke its cease-fire agreements and expanded its control over Eastern Ukraine, Obama did even less than that. When the Russians then shot down a passenger airliner, killing 298 people, Obama did nothing.

Humility amidst failure? Not Obama. Just a month prior to the downing of MH-17, Obama gave a particularly ludicrous Ben Rhodes-written speech at West Point in which he praised himself for his Ukraine policy.

“Because of American leadership,” he said, “the world immediately condemned Russian actions; Europe and the G7 joined us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies … And this mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks.”

The rotting bodies of MH-17 render judgment on those words.

As do the bodies that followed. After all, Obama’s sustained weakness gave Putin confidence to turn Syria into rubble. Obama was the leader who allowed Russia to send repeated Trojan Horses against the American-led international order.

Then, when it came to Russia’s sustained attack on American democracy, Obama’s response was worse than nothing.

Yeah, nowadays it’s almost like Obama was never President at all.

ALLIES: Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria.

The list published by the Anadolu news agency points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles. The Anadolu news agency even listed the number of U.S. troops in several locations and in two instances stipulated the presence of French special forces.

Turkey has openly criticized the Trump administration—and the Obama administration before it—for relying in the battle against ISIS on a militia led by Kurds affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. A separatist movement now at war with Turkey, the PKK has been listed by the U.S., EU, and Turkey as a terror organization.

To avoid the appearance of allying with such a group, the U.S. military set up the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have a large component of Arab recruits. But they are led by officers from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK.

Although Turkey’s powerful president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, regularly vents his anger at the U.S., it is still highly unusual for a NATO ally to reveal details of a U.S. military deployment during active operations in a war zone.

Ya think?

ALLIES: Turkey Begins Bombing US-Backed YPG Positions In Syria.

Tensions between Turkish forces and the YPG have been mounting in the Afrin region in recent weeks: Turkey’s military, which launched an incursion last August into part of northern Syria which lies between Afrin and a larger Kurdish-controlled area further east, has said that it has returned fire against members of YPG militia near Afrin several times in the last few weeks.

Furthermore, last month the Turkish defence ministry slammed the Pentagon decision to arm theYPF, and mocking Washington’s assurances that it would retrieve weapons provided to the YPG after Islamic State fighters were defeated: “There has never been an incident where a group in the Middle East has been armed, and they returned the weapons,” Kurtulmus said. The United States “have formed more than a terrorist organisation there, they formed a small-scale army.”

Then overnight, Ilnur Cevik, a senior adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke to Bloomberg and said that while Turkey has no immediate plans for an operation in the Syrian Kurdish-run region of Afrin, its army is preparing for action and the military buildup on the border is “serious.”

Independent Kurdistan should have been the price for Ankara’s intransigence in 2003. That certainly would have been messy, but not nearly as messy as the current situation.

CLAIM: U.S. will take weapons from Kurds after Islamic State defeat.

The United States has told Turkey it will take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria after the defeat of Islamic State, Ankara said on Thursday, seeking to address Turkish concerns about arming Kurds on its border.

Turkish defense ministry sources said U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also promised his Turkish counterpart to provide a monthly list of weapons handed to the YPG, saying the first inventory had already been sent to Ankara.

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdish PKK, which has been waging an insurgency in the country’s southeast since the mid-1980s. It has said supplies to the YPG have in the past ended up in PKK hands, and described any weapon given to the force as a threat to its security.

What’s the Kurdish for “molon labe?”

WHY TRUMP GOT ELECTED, PART 1,322,217. “‘Far Cry 5’ Is About Living Under Fear in America. The game will put the player up against a Montana based cult and militia that has plenty of real world analogues:”

Dan Hay, creative director and executive producer of Far Cry 5, is standing in front of a TV displaying the word pressure, written out in all caps. PRESSURE. He’s telling a room of games journalists about the game he’s wanted to make since the 2008 recession, one that engaged with the rise of rural, American militias during Obama’s presidency. What if, Hay said, one of these groups so dedicated to preparing for the end days of America decided to actively push for it, instead.

But he couldn’t find enough support for the game: the core premise seemed “unrealistic.” After all, the world—the western world, it is implied—was “a global village.”

* * * * * * * *

Though the game’s “key art” and first teaser trailer focus only on the cult, Hay’s presentation (and many of the assets that Ubisoft sent to the games press for today’s embargo lift) additionally evoke a more mundane, almost idyllic Hope County: Bait shops. Main street bars. Little league fields. Two bedroom homes with flags out front. Taken alone, these parts of the FC5 press blast read like a love letter to the “fly over states” like Montana.

Responses to that key art over the past few days has been mixed, including arguments that FC5 will simply be about killing stereotypical, white “rednecks.” This response (and Far Cry’s own history) shows why this focus on “everyday” Montana is necessary. Far Cry as a series has always labored over transforming beautiful, distant places into chaotic playgrounds—these are even the words Hay uses to describe the series, “beauty and chaos”—and it has often done so with limited or mishandled interest in the inhabitants of these places.

Hat tip, Kathy Shaidle, who adds, “No word on when the same company will be doing a video game about Muslim terrorists.”

That’s different because shut up and maybe they’ll all go away.

Related: 7 Virtue-Signaling Celebrities Silent on Massacre of Coptic Christians.

IT’S COMPLICATED: Trump to Arm Syrian Kurds, Even as Turkey Strongly Objects.

American military commanders have long argued that arming the Y.P.G., a Kurdish militia fighting alongside Syrian Arab forces against the Islamic State, is the fastest way to seize Raqqa, the capital of the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate.

And Mr. Trump, who made fighting Islamist militants a priority during his campaign, again showed the high regard he has for Pentagon generals by endorsing their advice when faced with a policy dilemma.

Turkey has objected vociferously to such a move, raising fears of a backlash that could prompt the Turks to curtail their cooperation with Washington in the struggle against the Islamic State.

A high-level delegation of Turkish officials was informed of the decision by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, when they visited the White House on Monday, and the Pentagon announced the move on Tuesday.

Ankara objects to armed Kurds under most any circumstance, and anyway has recently been more cooperative with Moscow than with Washington.

UH-OH: U.S. Firm in Iraq Overlooks Smuggling, Security for F-16s.

Robert Cole and Kristie King were in Iraq working as investigators for Sallyport Global, a U.S. company that was paid nearly $700 million in federal contracts to secure Balad Air Base, home to a squadron of F-16 fighter jets as part of the U.S.-led coalition to annihilate the Islamic State.

Cole and King had spent more than a year together in Iraq investigating all manner of misconduct at Balad and beyond.

They’d uncovered evidence that Sallyport employees were involved in sex trafficking , they said. Staff on base routinely flew in smuggled alcohol in such high volumes that a plane once seesawed on the tarmac under the weight. Rogue militia stole enormous generators off the base using flatbed trucks and a 60-foot crane, driving past Sallyport security guards.

Managers repeatedly shut down Cole and King’s investigations and failed to report their findings to the U.S. government that was footing the bill, the investigators said.

Right before they were fired, Cole and King had opened an investigation into allegations of timesheet fraud among Sallyport employees. In a call with Sallyport lawyers, they said, they were advised to keep two sets of books about potential crimes and contract violations.

“One for the government to see and one for the government not to see,” King told The Associated Press.

There’s nowhere the swamp doesn’t need to be drained.

POLITICO: Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway.

Obama, the senior official and other administration representatives weren’t telling the whole story on Jan. 17, 2016, in their highly choreographed rollout of the prisoner swap and simultaneous implementation of the six-party nuclear deal, according to a POLITICO investigation.

In his Sunday morning address to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”

In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran.

And in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives. The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the U.S. “also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.”

And this:

Three of the fugitives allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.

A fifth, Amin Ravan, was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. U.S. authorities also believe he was part of a procurement network providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED used by Shiite militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq.

The biggest fish, though, was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.

Release the full details of the nuclear deal, President Trump.

OBAMA’S LEGACY: 21 arrested as hundreds of Trump supporters and counter-protesters clash at Berkeley rally. And the Antifa folks may have met their match:

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers, said he came from Montana with about 50 others to protect Trump supporters. They were joined by bikers and others who vowed to fight members of an anti-fascist group if they crossed police barricades.

“I don’t mind hitting” the counter-demonstrators, Rhodes said. “In fact, I would kind of enjoy it.”

See, it’s better if everyone respects everyone else’s free speech. If that’s not the norm, then axe handles are a fashion accessory.

Related:

The Antifa goons were so thoroughly outclassed, they were chased down and given wedgies.

ALLIES: Tillerson and Turks fail to agree on next moves in fight against Islamic State in Syria.

Washington and Ankara disagree sharply over how to wage war against Islamic State militants in Syria, with the U.S. backing Kurdish militias whom the Turks disdain as terrorists.

Although Tillerson sought to put the best face possible after the day’s drawn-out talks, it was clear no agreement was reached. He acknowledged that “difficult choices have to be made.”

“Let there be no mistake,” Tillerson told reporters after more than two hours behind closed doors with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “There is no space between Turkey and the United States in our commitment to defeat [Islamic State]. …

“There is more discussion yet to be had regarding the way forward,” Tillerson added. “They are difficult options, let me be very frank. These are not easy decisions.”

Tillerson is saying the things a SecState needs to say in a situation like this one, but really there is a great deal of space between Turkey and the United States — filled with Kurds whom Ankara would like to kill and whom we see as our strongest MidEast allies outside of Israel.

SHOULD WE DISSOLVE THE INDIAN RESERVATIONS?

Whiteclay, Nebraska is the putative home of the Nebraska Guitar Militia, but the song about Whiteclay itself, “The Town That Booze Built,” isn’t online. Though, like Margaritaville, it’s also a town that lives in a lot of people’s heads. And I really need to put all this stuff up in one place on Soundcloud or something.

Meanwhile, here’s “Ghost Town,” which isn’t bad. Like all the Militia songs, I mostly wrote the lyrics and my brother Jonathan mostly did the music, but there was a good deal of back-and-forth. Songwriting involved a guitar, a yellow legal pad, and copious amounts of beer.

AMERICAN OFFICIAL ABDUCTED IN CONGO:

An American UN official has been kidnapped by militia while travelling through the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Michael Sharp, 34, was among a team riding through the central African country by motorcycle on Sunday when they were abducted by the Kamwina Nsapu militia group, according to officials.

Fellow UN official Zaida Catalan, of Swedish nationality, and four Congolese were also taken near the near the village of Ngombe in the Kasai Central province.

‘The ambush took place in a bush where there is neither the police nor the army,’ said Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, deputy prime minister in charge of the Interior, according to Jeune Afrique.

The Democratic Republic of Congo isn’t democratic and it isn’t a republic. It is a very dangerous place.

BACKGROUND: StrategyPage’s latest Congo update, titled “My Way Or Else.”

CHANGE: U.S.-led coalition confirms Marines deploy to Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State confirmed on Thursday the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Syria to accelerate the defeat of Islamic State in its Syrian base of operations at Raqqa city.

Coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional forces would be working with local partners in Syria – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition – and would not have a frontline role.

The SDF includes the Kurdish YPG militia.

The additional forces that had arrived in “the last few days” comprised a Marines artillery unit and Army Rangers.

“We are talking about an additional 400 or so forces in total, and they will be there for a temporary period,” Dorrian said by telephone. The deployment was on top of an existing 500 U.S. forces already in Syria, he said.

Look for headlines with the words “quagmire” and “grim milestone” in five… four… three…

More seriously, Reuters headlined their writeup with “Turkey’s Syria plans face setbacks as Kurds see more U.S. support.” That seems like the smart — and right — thing to do.

Erdogan’s ambitions are now getting squeezed by Washington from one side and by Moscow from the other.

POWER BROKER: Putin sends a clear message to Turkey on Syria. “Russia is openly working with the Kurds to obstruct Erdogan’s buffer-zone, reminding him that the Kremlin, rather than Ankarra, is calling the shots in war-torn country.”

The Turks struck back by proxy, attacking a Russian position in the deserts of the ancient city of Palmyra, killing four Russian soldiers, and letting their allies in the countryside of Aleppo fire rockets at the city, debunking all claims by Russian and Syrian media that the city had been “freed completely” from rebel presence.

They were sending a message to Putin that they remain strongly entrenched in the city’s suburbs and can attack at will, if Moscow continues to hamper the expansion of the Turkish buffer zone.

Taking the confrontation to new heights, the Russians hammered out an agreement with the Manbij Military Council, a branch of the SDF, whereby the Kurdish militia would hand over control of several villages west of Manbij to the Syrian Army. They called it the “transferred defence of the frontline,” to halt “Turkey’s invasion plan”, referring to the Turks as “gangs” in their official communiqué, and to the Syrian troops as “state forces,” driving Erdogan extremely mad.

Erdogan had spoken on the telephone with President Donald Trump, asking for US cover to prevent Kurdish advances on Al Raqqa or continued US presence in Manbij. Not only did Trump refuse to commit, but provided the SDF, at their request, with anti-tank weapons, mine detectors and other military equipment.

Erdogan doesn’t seem to have any friends left, which shouldn’t shock anybody.

HE HAS A PEN AND A PHONE: Proposed Executive Order Designating Certain Rifles for ‘Militia Purposes.’

EVEN THOUGH I WROTE IT, until my brother reminded me I had forgotten that this 2000 Nebraska Guitar Militia song anticipated the Hillary Clinton / Donald Trump election. “All you politicians won’t know which way to jump! Watch out, Hillary Clinton! Watch out, Donald Trump!” Right about 1:40. And note the pre-Tech-Bubble-bursting preach at the end: “No condition is permanent.”

However, while I’m strolling through memory lane, I think these lyrics are the best I ever wrote. Which may not be setting the bar all that high, but it’s what I’ve got.

BOGUS NUMBERS FROM A BOGUS OUTFIT: The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Counting Extremists Again. ” I see that the SPLC is no longer counting the Moorish Science Temple among the ‘Patriot’ groups—a wise decision—but the list still has separate entries for both WorldNetDaily and WorldNetDaily’s book imprint. What on earth could justify that? There’s also the matter of where you draw the line between an ‘extremist’ group and some plain old constitutionalist conservatives. I understand why the Patriot roster includes militias and III%ers, but do they really need to list every Eagle Forum chapter in the land?”

THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS ALSO MY ENEMY: Battle to Retake Syrian City Turns Into a Geopolitical Test of the War.

The complication is that the advancing forces — the Syrian Army and pro-government militias backed by Russia, and Syrian rebels backed by Turkey — are sworn enemies.

Their simultaneous race to seize the city, Al Bab, has turned into a test of how a global realignment of powers supporting Syria’s antagonists could help reshape or end the nearly six-year-old conflict.

Al Bab, which had roughly 100,000 people when the war began in 2011, is the last urban area held by the Islamic State west of its proclaimed capital, Raqqa, where the group remains entrenched.

Russia and Turkey have swerved in recent months from outright hostility to working more closely in a diplomatic effort aimed at resolving the conflict, after fitful and repeated failures led by the United Nations and the United States.

But in the battle for Al Bab, Russia and Turkey must transform their newfound understanding into results on the ground, with the ambitious goal of pushing their Syrian partners into de facto military cooperation. Otherwise they risk creating a new flash point.

The coming days will show if the Syrian foes, who do not always obey their patrons, will work together for the first time against the Islamic State, or drive out the extremists and then try to kill one another.

The smart money should go on the latter rather than the former.

UNKNOWN INDIVIDUALS ATTACK MOSUL HOME OF ISLAMIC STATE SENIOR LEADER: Can’t vouch for the source or its accuracy.

Unidentified individuals attacked the house of an Islamic State’s senior leader, north of the city of Mosul, a local source told Shafaaq News on Sunday.

The source said, “Unidentified individuals attacked the house of Omran Abu Mariam, the Islamic State’s leader in Diwan al-Harb (War Council), in al-Arabi neighborhood, north of Mosul, using hand grenades.”

“No casualties were reported so far, but the terrorist group started to lose its control over many areas in Mosul,” the source added on condition of anonymity.

A militia action? Who knows. The long house-to-house city fight for Mosul continues.

NOAH ROTHMAN: Obama’s Iran Is Trump’s Dilemma.

Questions abound as to how Trump will prosecute the conflict in Iraq against ISIS when some of America’s chief allies in that conflict are the Iran-backed Shiite militias. Thousands of members of those militia groups are in the fight to retake Mosul from ISIS, and some of them have been accused of crimes against humanity. While U.S. brass has praised the discipline of some of these forces, American military officials have nothing glowing to say about Iran’s conduct in Syria. Iranian air and ground forces began streaming into Syria as early as 2012, and Tehran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war has only deepened over the last four years.

While Trump administration has made it clear he desires rapprochement with Russia, Moscow is working hand-in-hand with Damascus and Tehran to ensure Bashar al-Assad emerges victorious. The Trump administration’s desire to see Iran punished for its provocations against the United States is going to slam into its preference for a thaw in Russo-American relations, particularly considering that the company with which Vladimir Putin surrounds himself have hands that as soaked in American blood as were Rafsanjani’s. If the Trump administration hopes to see the Middle East revert to a sort of status quo ante, in which Tehran is again relegated to the role of local pariah, the Trump White House is going to have to reconcile its contradictory attitudes toward Moscow.

And Putin’s Kremlin is going to have to decide if it’s worth enabling potentially nuclear-armed terrorists in order to defeat terrorists armed with garbage trucks.

PUNCHING BACK TWICE AS HARD IN MEXICO:

Vigilantes in a Mexican village have seized the mother of a local gang leader and proposed swapping her for a kidnap victim taken on Monday.

After seizing alleged collaborators of the gang, including the mother of the leader “El Tequilero”, the locals have recorded video messages for the gang.

“In return for my husband’s life, I will deliver your mother,” says the kidnap victim’s wife in one video, which has been broadcast on local TV.

Read the entire article.

This BBC report uses “vigilantes” to describe villagers and townspeople who take up arms to defend themselves and communities against drug gangs. “Vigilantes” is the term preferred by the Mexican government. Many villagers prefer other descriptions like local defense force, community defense force or volunteer community militia.

RED LINES: Facing Reprisals, Aleppo Civilians Plea for International Help.

Antigovernment activists and Aleppo residents said at least 80 people have been killed since Monday, most of them either caught in the regime’s advance or discovered hiding in their homes. Regime firing squads killed most of them, they said.

“The Assad militias are maybe 300 meters away, no place now to go, it’s the last place,” Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher, said in a live video feed early Tuesday morning.

“I hope that you can do something for Aleppo people, for my daughter, for the other children. I hope you can do something to stop the expected massacres,” he said.

The United Nations called again Tuesday for an end to the fighting and the establishment of humanitarian corridors to allow people to flee safely. “Thousands with no part in the violence have literally nowhere safe to run,” the International Committee of the Red Cross also said.

Activist group Aleppo24, which has a network of contacts in the city, said regime forces had burned more than 15 women and children alive. Another group, the Halab News Network, alleged that regime forces were killing all wounded patients left in field hospitals.

As I’ve been writing for a year or two now, “If you think the Syrian Civil War is bad, just wait for the reprisals.”

And here they come.

Also in today’s WSJ is this tangentially related report by Gerald Seib:

If you happened to be listening carefully, Donald Trump told us something important a few days ago about the profoundly different approach he intends to take toward the Middle East and the threat of Islamic extremism.

The president-elect’s message was largely overlooked because it came in the middle of a typically raucous and rambling “thank you” rally in Cincinnati. News reports focused on his announcement that he would nominate as secretary of defense Gen. James Mattis—“Mad Dog Mattis” as he seems destined to be called by his new boss.

In a separate passage, one in which Mr. Trump clearly was following a script rather than freelancing, he said: “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.”

After wasting “$6 trillion” in Middle East fights, he said, “our goal is stability not chaos.”

He added: “We will partner with any nation that is willing to join us in the effort to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism…In our dealings with other countries, we will seek shared interest wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding and goodwill.”

“Peace, understanding and goodwill” are all likely to run face first into Middle Eastern realities, but the rest has the potential for a healthy dose of realpolitik.

OUR ALLIES THE TURKS: Turkey Is Bombing Anti-ISIS Fighters in Iraq, Syria.

On Wednesday, Turkey launched one of its biggest airstrikes in decades — bombing 18 positions in northern Syria and killing an estimated 200 fighters.

But the strikes north of Aleppo didn’t involve President Bashar al-Assad’s army, or any of the main groups fighting his government like the Free Syrian Army, the Jihadi militia Jabhat Fatah al Sham, or even ISIS.

Instead, Turkey bombed People’s Protection Units, or YPG — Kurdish militia the U.S. considers the most effective force against ISIS in Syria.

Turkey has sent 2,000 troops into Iraq, where they are watching the massive military operation aimed at recapturing Mosul from the extremists. Baghdad maintains Turkey has violated its sovereignty and on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for an ex-Mosul governor who allegedly “invited” in the troops.

These latest in a series of military moves reveal how the government of President Tayyip Erdogan is reasserting its historic territorial claims while also trying to crush the country’s mortal enemies — Kurdish separatists.

If Erdogan’s aim was to occupy the Syrian- and Iraqi-owned Kurdish territories in order to permanently solve “the Kurdish problem,” what would he be doing any differently?

SIRTE NEIGHBORHOOD UPDATE: In mid-September the Libyan military reported that its militia coalition had taken the city of Sirte — with the exception of one neighborhood. Islamic State fighters were surrounded in the neighborhood. The neighborhood has proved to be one big bunker.

Abandoned houses have revealed some of their defenses: Household fridges packed with earth act as reinforcements, and bunkers dug under foundations offer protection from air strikes. Last week, Misrata forces (pro-Libyan government militia) found improvised tunnels and a makeshift field hospital. A Reuters witness said that in one house graffiti on the walls indicated a quick escape route for the next fighter to use that hideout.

The Reuters report has some casualty figures for the pro-government Misrata brigades.

MOLON LABE: NPR Reporter Has No Idea What ‘Come And Take It’ Means.

Sunday marked the 181st anniversary of the Battle of Gonzales, the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution, when Texian militiamen, responding to Mexican soldiers demanding the surrender of a small brass cannon, coined the now-famous battle cry, “Come and Take It!”

An NPR reporter decided to mark this anniversary with a story about how the phrase has been stolen by Second Amendment activists, “with no appreciation of its origins.” Some local residents of modern-day Gonzales, we’re told, “think it’s been cheapened—and they want it back.”

But neither the hapless NPR reporter nor the several anti-gun residents of Gonzales interviewed for the story know the actual origin of the phrase, or why its application to the ongoing national debate about gun control and the Second Amendment is entirely appropriate—and historically accurate.

They are blissfully unaware that “Come and take it” is a quote from King Leonidas I of Thermopylae.

“Blissfully unaware” is too kind. There’s scant evidence that there’s anyone in the field of journalism with a deep understanding of guns or gun rights, or with any willingness to learn.

MATT WELCH: The Media’s Hypocrisy On Gary Johnson.

Is Gary Johnson qualified to run for president? Let’s talk about that, but first let’s talk about this:

Two weeks ago, the foreign affairs select committee of the British House of Commons released a detailed, damning report about one of Hillary Clinton’s signature achievements as secretary of state: The 2011 US/UK/French-led military intervention into Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya, which was sold as a necessity to prevent (in President Barack Obama’s words) “a massacre that would have reverberated across the region.”

“This policy,” the conservative-led committee concluded, “was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the [British] Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-(Gadhafi) Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of (Gadhafi) regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”
You might think that a deeply sourced report from an allied government about trumped-up intelligence leading to yet another destabilizing Middle East war might make some headlines in the country where the administration’s leading proponent of said intervention is poised to become the next leader of the free world.

But you would be wrong.

Aside from a handful of mostly ideological outlets, the US news media declined to even note that the Democratic presidential nominee suffered a comprehensive rebuke to her oft-repeated assertion that Libya represented American “smart power at its best.” As The Atlantic delicately put it, “The British public has been engaged in a debate about war that has been largely absent from the U.S. presidential election.”

Ah, yes, but did you hear the one about Gary Johnson not being able to come up on the spot with the name of his favorite foreign leader? Disqualifying! And also, oddly, nearly ubiquitous in the same media that couldn’t be bothered to reexamine a Hillary Clinton policy that has adversely affected countless human lives.

Well, once it became clear that he takes more votes from Hillary than Trump, this was inevitable.

SYRIA CEASEFIRE UPDATE: Turkey to Clear ‘Corridor of Terror’ at Border.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country is determined to eliminate the “corridor of terror” along its border with Syria by clearing the Islamic State group and Syrian Kurdish fighters from the area.

Addressing a group of local administrators on Thursday, Erdogan reiterated that a secure no-fly zone which Turkey would like established in Syria would help end the flow of refugees to Turkey and beyond.

Turkey last month sent troops and tanks into Syria to help Syrian opposition rebels re-take IS strongholds near the Turkish border and curb the advance of Syrian Kurdish militia, which are affiliated with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish rebels.

Erdogan sees no practical difference between ISIS and the Kurds.

ANOTHER JAYVEE TEAM? Mali’s President at the UN: We’ve Still Got a Colossal Jihadist Problem.

UN peacekeepers’ incentives are just as perverse as those of the condottieri, the Italian mercenaries Machiavelli once wrote off as “useless and dangerous.” Like the condottieri of old, UN peacekeepers are paid for an input measure—a fee per soldier—not for an output measure, such as actually keeping the peace. The UN reimburses peacekeeping at a rate of $1,332 per soldier per month, making peacekeeping a lucrative endeavor for major contributors like Bangladesh where soldiers are paid roughly 1/20th that amount. Well-paid, professional militaries like those of the U.S. and the U.K. commit far fewer forces to peacekeeping; for those they do contribute, the UN reimbursement does not come close to covering the cost.
Professional militaries have a difficult time implementing counter-insurgency strategy (COIN) effectively, so it’s no surprise that UN peacekeepers are struggling against the jihadist onslaught. As we’re seeing in South Sudan—where peacekeepers are turning a blind eye to mass rapes and otherwise failing to protect the civilians—the peacekeepers’ main objective is to avoid casualties, not to complete the mission.

Keeping ISIS and Al Qaeda at bay in Mali requires détente between two historically opposed forces: the Malian central government in Bamako and the nomadic Tuareg people, who fiercely defend their independence and cross Mali’s porous Saharan borders with ease. These “blue men of the desert” are known for their indigo turbans and their spirited resistance against central authorities—first the French and then the Malians. Even if the Malian state will never win the love the Tuareg, it must work to placate them and to isolate Islamist Tuareg militias like Ansar Dine, driving a wedge between apolitical Tuaregs and jihadist groups that might otherwise be inclined to join together against the state under the logic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Here’s the thing about terrorists in Mali: we’ll hear nothing about them and nothing about them and then suddenly everything will be about them. The geography of the Sahara makes it possible for groups to lie in wait, regroup, and plan their next moves. UN peacekeepers are useless against them. Jihadists in Mali don’t just complicate the regional security situation—they threaten European security as well. We ignore Mali’s terror problem at our peril.

Well, that’s comforting.

JAYVEE: Islamic State launches chemical attack against U.S., Iraqi forces, Pentagon confirms.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee “mustard blister agent” was released in the vicinity of a military airfield in the western part of al Qayyara, about 40 miles south of Mosul, in northern Iraq.

The airbase has been designated by Iraqi and American commanders as the main logistics hub to support a series of firebases that will serve as jumping-off points for 14 Iraqi Army brigades and thousands of peshmerga and militia fightersfor the eventual siege of Mosul.

If ISIS had been dealt with seriously three years ago, they wouldn’t be holding dress rehearsals with chemical weapons today.

FIVE YEARS, WHAT A SURPRISE: Obama Administration Considers Arming Syrian Kurds Against ISIS.

Deciding whether to arm the Syrian Kurds is a difficult decision for Mr. Obama, who is caught in the middle trying to balance the territorial and political ambitions of Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, two warring American allies that Washington needs to combat the Islamic insurgency.

Directly providing weapons for the first time to the Syrian Kurds, whom American commanders view as their most effective ground partner against the Islamic State, would help build momentum for the assault on Raqqa. But arming them would also aggravate Mr. Obama’s already tense relations with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey sharply disagree over Syria’s Kurdish militias, which Turkey sees as its main enemy in Syria.

Independent Kurdistan should have been the price President Bush made Turkey pay for their intransigence in 2003. And Kurdistan would have been, as Ralph Peters noted, “the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan.”

It still could be.

WELL, GOOD: Turkey Ejects Islamic State Forces From Segment of Syrian Border.

The breakthrough victory deprives Islamic State of direct access to the areas that had been vital to its ability to resupply itself with foreign fighters and bomb-making materials. Losing access to that stretch of the border will likely make it harder for the group to preserve its self-declared caliphate and export terrorism around the world.

But:

Turkey and the U.S. have accused Syrian Kurdish fighters of breaking promises not to seize more land along the border area. Turkey views those Kurdish militias as an offshoot of its own Kurdish insurgent group—the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK—and fears the Syrian Kurds want to create an autonomous Kurdish state in the border region.

Syria remains a multinational powderkeg.

REUTERS OWES US A NEW TITLE TO THIS STORY: Currently it’s titled Special Report: Massacre reports show U.S. inability to curb Iraq militias. Here’s the historically correct title: Special Report: Massacre reports show the Obama Administration’s inability to curb Iraq militias. By historically correct, I refer to the titles of media reports of massacre and mayhem during the Bush Administration. Obama Administration strategy shaped the Fallujah operation the report analyzes. It’s almost like Obama’s not president, isn’t it?

BREAKING: Agence France Presse: French minister calls all willing citizens to become reservists.

UPDATE: Story here:

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Saturday called on citizens to become reservists and help boost security forces in the wake of the country’s latest terror attack.

France’s “operational reservists” include French citizens with or without military experience as well as former soldiers.

“I want to call on all French patriots who wish to do so, to join this operational reserve,” said Cazeneuve.

His call comes after the government has been criticised for not doing more to stop attacks.

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that reservists would be called upon to boost the ranks of police and gendarmes.

The operational reserve is currently made up of 12,000 volunteers, 9,000 of whom are within the paramilitary police and 3,000 in the regular police force, said Cazeneuve.

Related: “If a well-regulated militia is ‘necessary to the security of a free state,’ then it follows, presumably, that a state lacking such a militia is either insecure or unfree.”

SOMALIA: The Cellphone Effect.

The cell phone is itself a key player in the two decades of civil war in Somalia. By 2000 clan militias and warlords had created enough stability to enable growth in commercial activity. For example, by 2004 three cell phone companies competed to provide service ($10 a month for free local calls, 50 cents a minute for international calls and 50 cents an hour to get on the Internet.) Each new cell phone transmitter installed required that the local clan chief or warlord get a payment. Everyone recognizes the value of the new phone service, after having gone without for years after the old government run phone company was looted and destroyed. As a result, phone company equipment really is protected by the clans and warlords, who do not want to lose their dial tone. The new phone service is cheaper and more reliable than the old government owned landline phone network. This is because there is competition, no government bureaucracy and no taxes (other than the necessary bribes and security payments). There is some fear that if a new government gets established well enough regulations and taxes will greatly increase the cost of service, and reduce reliability. Not yet and for years all of Somalia had better, and cheaper, phone service than any of the other nations in the region. But that’s another story. Even al Shabaab had to respect the cell phone network, even though they tried to shut down cell towers some of the time to avoid detection. Al Shabaab lost that battle. Cell phone service became one of the things nearly all Somalis would fight for.

Heh.

CHANGE: The Great Arab Implosion and Its Consequences.

A no less and possibly more significant player is Iran, which ever since 1979, under its own Shiite brand of populist Islamism, has repositioned itself as a main contender for regional domination. Carefully cultivating downtrodden Shiite populations across the Middle East, Iran has successfully replaced their former Arab allegiances with a Shiite sectarian one. A pointed illustration of this shift is the recent report that Iran-supported Iraqi Shiite militiamen assaulting the IS-held Sunni Arab city of Fallujah had plastered their artillery shells with the name of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the prominent Shiite Saudi cleric executed earlier this year by the Saudi regime.

Today, the Iranian regime’s tentacles are to be seen everywhere from Yemen’s Houthis (who actually belong to a different Shiite sub-sect) to Sunni populist organizations like Hamas, which it assists in anti-Israeli aggression. But the main Iranian effort has been directed at establishing Shiite hegemony in Iraq and Lebanon. If successful, this, combined with a strategic alliance with Alawite-controlled Syria, would indeed create the “Shiite Crescent” across Mesopotamia and the Levant feared by Jordan’s King Abdullah, driving a stake through the heart of the Arab world and establishing Tehran’s undisputed dominion from the Indian Ocean to the shores of the Mediterranean.

And success is by no means impossible: Iran’s military buildup, including its growing nuclear-threshold infrastructure, is today abetted by Russia—and, if opposed by the U.S. at all, only in the most desultory fashion.

Read the whole thing.

I’M GUESSING IT’S BECAUSE, AS IN SAN JOSE, THE AUTHORITIES WANTED THE LEFT TO BEAT UP ITS OPPONENTS UNMOLESTED: Why weren’t neo-Nazis, anti-fascists kept apart at Capitol?

Journalists across the Sacramento region describe last Sunday’s riot at Capitol Park as among the most violent events they’ve covered.

The final tally was 10 people injured, five stabbed. The out-of-control protesters were photographed and caught on video attacking KCRA’s Mike Luery and videographer John Breedlove, as well as random passers-by. They used sticks the heft of baseball bats, knives and chunks of concrete. The Bee’s Paul Kitagaki Jr. barely avoided two concrete chunks and was caught in pepper spray, as was Frances Wang of Channel 10 (KXTV).

It was a melee between neo-Nazis – who had been given a permit for a rally on Capitol grounds – and a loosely organized group of self-identified anti-fascists, or “Antifa,” who came armed to shut down the rally. We have yet to hear satisfying answers to questions we’ve asked in the aftermath, particularly from the CHP: Why did officers appear to hang back as the initially quiet crowd erupted into violence? And why were no arrests made before protesters were allowed to leave? . . .

Kitagaki and Stanton are experienced journalists who have covered chaotic events. Kitagaki covered the 1999 Seattle riots protesting the WTO, which resulted in much destruction, and rioting in the 1980s in Berkeley. Stanton covered the violent copper mining strike riots in Arizona in the 1980s and numerous events involving white supremacist groups and militias. Through all of it, Stanton said, “I can’t recall ever walking into a situation where police were standing back while participants were swinging and charging at each other without cops reacting.”

“Nobody’s seen a police response like this,” he said. “It was just strange.”

People are assumed to intend the natural and probable results of their actions. I assume that this is what they wanted to happen.

THE ENEMY DOESN’T COORDINATE WITH YOUR NARRATIVE. Richard Fernandez on Benghazi and its aftermath:

Basically, the Benghazi consulate was overrun because the administration had established an embassy beyond the wire and outside the artillery fan. They had deceived themselves into thinking it was tenable. They entrusted its defense to unreliable militias. When it was attacked, they had no forces within practical range of relief. To explain the resulting disaster, they peddled a fairy tale which even they did not believe.  It was all wishful thinking from beginning to end and beyond. We are now in that beyond.

And the Secretary of State on duty when the attack occurred is likely to be our next president, in the ultimate example of failing upward.

Read the whole thing.

KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON: Democrats Abandon Due Process.

It’s this part on the Second Amendment however you might find most informative:

The bearing of arms is a sign of citizenship, which is to say, of being a full participant in government who acts through it, as opposed to subjectship, the state of being a passive being who does not act through government but who is acted upon. In that sense, it is like the ability to vote or to be eligible for service in government. Frederick Douglass understood this linkage perfectly, inasmuch as these ideas were much better understood in those more literate days. “A man’s rights rest in three boxes,” he said. “The ballot box, jury box, and the cartridge box. Let no man be kept from the ballot box because of his color. Let no woman be kept from the ballot box because of her sex.” The militias contemplated by the Second Amendment were armed citizen volunteers who could act to use the force of arms to keep the peace in an emergency; they are entitled to act in the peacekeeping role generally reserved for the state because, being the citizens of a republic, they are the state, the very seat of its sovereignty.

Read the whole thing, and never forget where much of Washington thinks sovereignty does or ought to reside.

FALLUJAH: The Iraq Victory That Could Lose the War.

For now, the Iraqi government has buoyed its chances at short-term survival by more or less ending ISIS’s presence in Fallujah, which Baghdad’s politicians connected to a series of bombings in Sadr City that harmed the Iraqi government’s reputation for providing security.

Even so, the Shia militias’ military autonomy and sectarian abuses in addition to the Iraqi Security Forces’ tacit cooperation with them to enter Fallujah should raise serious concerns in Baghdad and Washington.

“Obviously, the Shia militias’ offensive against Fallujah complicates things in important ways,” Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former CIA intelligence analyst, said in an email. “They don’t fully respond to the Iraqi government. They frighten the Sunnis, largely because they have participated in ethnic cleansing.”

The long-awaited effort to retake Mosul was put on hold to retake Fallujah instead — almost certainly to please Iran. That the offensive has bolstered Tehran-backed Shia militias is a feature, not a bug.

THIRD BATTLE OF FALLUJAH: Shiite militias allied with the government seize two districts on the city’s outskirts, commander says.

Iraqi forces backed by airstrikes from a U.S.-led international coalition pounded Fallujah from the ground and the air Monday, marking the start of a bid to retake one of Islamic State’s last major urban strongholds in the country.

Iraq’s army and counterterrorism forces, police, tribal fighters and the Popular Mobilization Forces joined in the assault, the military’s Joint Operations Command said.

Fallujah, about 40 miles west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been held by Islamic State since the Sunni Muslim extremist group captured it in early 2014.

The tragedy is that this city — hard won by Coalition forces led by US Marines in 2004 — was largely at peace before President Obama abandoned Iraq in 2011. Three years later, Obama dismissed ISIS as the “jayvee” days after the group had taken Fallujah. The people there have suffered under ISIS rule since, and now find themselves once again in the middle of a war zone.

This morning, the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt wrote that “it does not require hindsight to appreciate the recklessness of his decision” to leave Iraq.

Hindsight is preferable to remaining blind, I suppose.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE UPDATE: Coalition In-Fighting Threatens the War Against ISIS in Iraq

Hostilities broke out over the weekend between two groups considered critical components of the ground war. Troops from the predominantly Shiite Muslim militias – known as the popular mobilization units or PMUs – reportedly attacked the home of an officer with the Kurdish fighting force known as the peshmerga, according to media reports. The militiamen claimed they were retaliating against an unprovoked peshmerga attack.

Fighting escalated into Sunday as peshmerga troops launched mortars and Shiite militias lit two of the Kurdish unit’s tanks on fire. Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. described the incidents as unfortunate and in an area “where longstanding fault lines exist.”

An uneasy truce took hold Wednesday, but concern remains.

The rival forces provide the backbone to an Iraqi army that has proved less than capable in battle so far, and their continued clashes come on the eve of the U.S.-led coalition’s biggest challenge to date: the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The right time for a swift, US-led reaction against ISIS was three years ago.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE UPDATE: CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed ones in Syria. “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter 5-year-old civil war.”

Good thing we have Really Smart People in charge now, instead of that dumb cowboy Bush.

DON’T DO STUPID SH*T: U.S. Allies Now Fighting CIA-Backed Rebels

Iraqi militias who once fought ISIS with U.S. help are now working with Russian and Iranian forces to crush American-backed rebels in the strategic Syrian city of Aleppo, two defense officials have told The Daily Beast.

At least three Shia militias involved in successful battles against ISIS in Iraq—the Badr Brigade, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and the League of the Righteous—have acknowledged taking casualties in fighting in south and southeast Aleppo province. U.S. defense officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that they believe “at least one” unit of the Badr Brigade is fighting in southern Aleppo alongside other Iraqi militia groups. Those groups are backed by Russian airpower and Iranian troops—and all of whom are bolstering President Bashar al Assad’s Syrian Arab Army.

It’s almost as if nobody over there trusts us anymore.

MUSIC: Aux 88 Member Keith Tucker’s Guide To Detroit Electro. (Via the Detroit Techno Militia on Facebook).

DECIMATED AND ON THE RUN: al Qaeda seizes town in southern Yemen.

Azzan is a major commercial hub of about 70,000 people in an arid and mountainous region and was controlled by al Qaeda for around a year until the group was ejected in 2012 by an alliance of tribesmen and armed residents loyal to Yemen’s since ousted central government.

“Dozens of al Qaeda gunmen arrived in the early hours of the morning and set up checkpoints at the entrances to the town and in its streets. They planted their black flag on government buildings,” one resident who declined to be named told Reuters by telephone.

“They faced no resistance or clashes,” the resident said, adding that tribal militia forces quit the area as it was being taken over.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has expanded during Yemen’s civil war, which triggered a military intervention by a Gulf Arab coalition last March, and also controls the major port of Mukalla in a neighboring province.

The Saudi-led coalition had been making headway against al Qaeda, but currently finds itself battling the UN over its airstrikes in Yemen.

POPEHAT’S KEN WHITE: How the government is charging Ammon Bundy and his self-styled Oregon militia members.

After debacles like Waco and Ruby Ridge, it seems the federal government has finally learned how to handle self-styled insurrection. If the rebels extend an invitation to a violent, headline-grabbing siege, politely decline. If they frame the dispute as a fight between liberty and tyranny, brush your shoulders off.

Just as the arrest was cautious, so is the charge. In the federal criminal complaint – which the FBI didn’t obtain until after the arrests – the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon charges the eight defendants with a single count of conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States. That federal criminal statute doesn’t see much use, and it’s not one of the Justice Department’s big guns: Its maximum penalty is only six years. To prosecutors, the virtue of such conspiracy charges are their flexibility: The government need only prove that two or more of the defendants agreed to prevent some federal employee from discharging his or her duty by force, intimidation or threat. Prosecutors don’t have to prove they were successful.

It used to be hard to prove what defendants agreed to do: You had to infer it from their actions, or find a snitch to repeat their conversations, or wiretap them. But this is 2016, and we arrange our affairs in the open. The government’s 31-page affidavit in support of the complaint against the eight occupiers is chock-full of their own words: statements in press interviews, statements in videos posted to YouTube, statements in widely distributed emails. It’s enough to make a defense attorney weep.

If you’re a serious revolutionary, this sort of behavior should be avoided.

#OREGONSTANDOFF ENDS: Massive Government Convoy Descends on Refuge; Militiamen Taken Away (Photos).