Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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All politics is local

When President Donald Trump at 12:50 on a Thursday afternoon tweeted it was “time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the average world citizen said a collective “huh?” Israel captured two-thirds of the strategic plateau from Syria in 1967 during the Six-Day War—and no one has seriously contested its control in more than 50 years. Syria’s minister of defense, the father of current President Bashar al-Assad, gave his troops an order no Israeli has likely forgotten: “Strike the enemy’s settlements, turn them into dust, pave the Arab roads with the skulls of the Jews.” Unlike then-foes Egypt and Jordan, Syria has never made peace with Israel. The barrier is made more necessary now eight years into a war inside Syria that Assad also has refused to end through a negotiated peace process. Groves of mangoes and avocados compete with orchards of apples and pears. Hothouses vie for hillsides with vineyards making some of Israel’s best wines. Securing Trump’s endorsement of stepped-up control over the Golan could secure votes. Netanyahu lobbied first National Security Adviser John Bolton, then Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his Middle East trip in March. During a March 18 phone briefing with Pompeo and about a half-dozen reporters I attended, Pompeo was vague in response to questions about the Golan Heights. Israel more firmly in control of Syria’s southern border takes attention away from Turkey’s problematic control at Syria’s northern border. That same frailty, he said, has fed the current war in Syria.

As U.S. Tightens Iran Sanctions, Militant Groups and Political Allies Feel the Pain

Iran’s financial crisis, exacerbated by American sanctions, appears to be undermining its support for militant groups and political allies who bolster Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. But Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, acknowledged the difficulties created by the American sanctions, criticizing them this month as “a form of war” and calling on the movement’s fund-raising arm “to provide the opportunity for jihad with money and also to help with this ongoing battle.” The Trump administration says the strains show that the sanctions are effective. Last year, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions, hoping to undermine Iran’s ability to fund its network of alliances. In an interview in Beirut, a Hezbollah official denied that the group had not paid salaries and that the American sanctions had undermined its core mission. But he acknowledged that the group was reorganizing its finances to cut costs. During Mr. Pompeo’s visit to Beirut, his anti-Hezbollah stance faced staunch pushback from top Lebanese officials, including the president, the speaker of Parliament and the foreign minister. The United States is not, nor are its local partners. Iran’s deepest involvement is in Iraq, where financial pressures at home have pushed it to pursue stronger economic ties. Iran also maintains allies across Iraq’s political spectrum who promote Iranian interests, recently by challenging the United States’ military presence in the country. “When you try to push Iran out of the region by sanctioning it,” said Mr. Shabani of Al Monitor, “you are forcing it to get involved in the region even more.”
CNN gets exclusive video on the front lines against ISIS

CNN gets exclusive video on the front lines against ISIS

CNN international correspondent Ben Wedeman, producer Kareem Khadder, cameraman Scott McWhinnie and team member Adam Dobby cover the battle to reclaim the last sliver of ISIS territory in Syria as shots ring out nearby. #CNN #News
CNN team near crossfire in eastern Syria

CNN team near crossfire in eastern Syria

CNN's Ben Wedeman traveled with a convoy of 700 Baghouz residents leaving their location after heavy crossfire and explosions can be heard and seen nearby in Eastern Syria. In exclusive video, an ISIS counter attack caused SDF troops to pull…
Sen. Paul on Trump's decision to withdraw from Middle East

Sen. Paul on Trump’s decision to withdraw from Middle East

Senate approves a non-binding amendment opposing President Trump's plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan; reaction from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees. FOX News Channel (FNC) is a 24-hour…

On Politics: Virginia Governor’s Racist Yearbook Photo Revealed

Good Monday morning. Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today. _____________________ • A racist photograph was discovered on the yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia. • Since President Trump’s election, Democrats are speaking far more bluntly about issues of race and identity. • The concept of “Medicare for all” has become popular with Democrats. But voters may be resistant to surrendering the insurance they are used to. It’s a conflict Democrats running in 2020 are keenly aware of. • Mr. Trump plans to keep United States troops in Iraq to monitor and maintain pressure on neighboring Iran, committing to an American military presence in the region’s war zones even as he moves to withdraw forces from Syria and Afghanistan. • In his first State of the Union address last year, Mr. Trump outlined his vision for an “America first” approach to overhauling the immigration system, revitalizing manufacturing and prioritizing national interests abroad.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah uses Syrian war gains to increase political clout

BEIRUT - Hezbollah’s bigger role in Lebanon’s new unity government points to a growing appetite to shape state affairs and builds on unprecedented military clout the group is wielding after helping turn the tide in Syria’s war. The most significant portfolio under Hezbollah control is the Health Ministry, the first time Hezbollah has controlled a ministry with a big budget, though the Shiite doctor it picked for the job is not a party member. More broadly, Hezbollah and its political allies from across Lebanon’s sectarian spectrum have emerged with more than half of the Cabinet’s 30 seats, reflecting a May parliamentary election that the group declared a victory. Salem Zahran, an analyst with links to Hezbollah leaders, said the government would go down in its history as the “first big shift and the first step along a long road” toward more influence in government. But Hariri’s Sunni dominance was shaken by the May election in which he lost more than one-third of his seats in parliament, many of them to Hezbollah-allied Sunnis. Hezbollah managed to secure a Cabinet seat for one of its Sunni allies. As Hezbollah’s clout has grown, Saudi Arabia has turned its focus away from Lebanon to other parts of the region, weakening Hezbollah’s opponents, who had benefited from its backing. Hariri’s ally, the staunchly anti-Hezbollah Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party, was forced to cede significant ground during nine months of political wrangling over government portfolios, though it gained seats in parliament. This poses questions for the United States, whose Lebanon policy twins military aid to the Lebanese Army and support for Hariri with growing pressure on Hezbollah through sanctions. The United States has imposed new sanctions on Hezbollah as part of its strategy to counter Iran.

On Politics: Trump Says Border Talks Are a ‘Waste of Time’

Good Friday morning. Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today. _____________________ • In a lengthy Oval Office interview, President Trump told The New York Times that negotiating with Congress over his long-sought border wall was a “waste of time” and that he would probably take action on it himself. He also spoke about the Russia investigation and the 2020 election. • The Senate, in a stinging bipartisan rebuke to Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, advanced legislation to express strong opposition to his decision to pull troops from Syria and Afghanistan. • Mr. Trump said trade negotiations with China were going well but that no final agreement would be reached until he met with President Xi Jinping. He also warned that he was prepared to move ahead with higher tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing did not accede to America’s demands. • Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign reported raising $21 million in the final three months of 2018. Three out of every four dollars came from small donors, a contrast to many Republican midterm congressional campaigns, which relied more on wealthy contributors. • The top American diplomat on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, signaled that the United States might soften its demand that North Korea list all its nuclear assets as a first step toward denuclearization.
Live: Senate debates Trump's policy in the Middle East

Live: Senate debates Trump’s policy in the Middle East

LIVE from the Senate floor: Senators weigh a formal condemnation of President Trump's actions in Afghanistan and Syria. The motion was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. FOX News Channel (FNC) is a 24-hour all-encompassing news service dedicated to…
Intel Chiefs Split With President Donald Trump On Russia, ISIS, North Korea | MTP Daily | MSNBC

Intel Chiefs Split With President Donald Trump On Russia, ISIS, North Korea | MTP...

Trump's own intelligence chiefs seem to have a radically different worldview than him. » Subscribe to MSNBC: MSNBC delivers breaking news and in-depth analysis of the headlines, as well as informed perspectives. Find video clips and segments from The…