Biden says he wants a two-state solution. Why is he silent on Israeli settlements?

“Severe setbacks for the two-state solution have made US policy seem far-fetched at this point.

That reality came across in Biden’s remarks. “We’ll discuss my continued support — even though I know it’s not in the near term — a two-state solution,” he said upon his arrival this week. He conceded that such an outcome was elusive, while still clinging to it.

A number of factors have contributed to the declining prospects for an independent Palestinian state. Not enough US diplomatic muscle has been put into making the deal happen. The recently disbanded Israeli government didn’t even agree to it as policy (and the previous prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t really, either). Divisions between the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza have detracted from the Palestine Liberation Organization’s authority and legitimacy as a negotiating partner. And wealthy Arab states, like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have prioritized normalizing relationships with Israel — which come with economic and tech cooperation, defense business, and weapons sales — at the expense of Palestinian rights.

But the largest by far is the rampant expansion of settlements in the West Bank that has precluded Palestinians from living there.”

After the latest clash with Israel, Gazans’ struggle continues

“Israeli forces launched a preemptive strike against PIJ targets on August 5, Reuters reported, after one of the group’s leaders, Bassam al-Saadi, was arrested in the Occupied West Bank. Israel claims to have hit a number of PIJ targets. However, several civilians, including 17 children, were killed in the clashes, both by Israeli weapons and possibly by errant PIJ rockets intended for Israeli targets. A ceasefire brokered by Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, the US, the UN, and the Palestinian Authority between Israel and the PIJ last Sunday has thus far held; however, an attack on worshipers in Jerusalem’s Old City late on Sunday could portend more violence. At least eight people, including US citizens, were injured in the attack, which was allegedly carried out by a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, according to Israeli authorities. They have not yet released his name, and there is no indication that he is affiliated with any larger group, according to Reuters.

Despite the ceasefire, the aftermath of even short-term hostilities in Gaza goes far beyond active bombardments and shelling; the combination of years of violence, a brutal blockade, and state repression has created an enduring crisis. What’s more, there’s little chance to recover before violence breaks out again.

According to initial UN reporting, 360 Palestinians have been injured in the fighting, and Gazans experienced a tightened Israeli blockade of goods and services that led to 20-plus-hour rolling blackouts each day. There were no Israeli deaths or serious injuries, the Associated Press reported”

“The Gaza strip is home to around 2 million Palestinians and has been governed by Hamas since 2007, when the group took control from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank. The two groups have had no success in creating a unity government over the past 15 years, despite repeated attempts, weakening the Palestinian resistance and further disenfranchising ordinary Palestinians. Although Fatah and Hamas agreed to hold elections in 2021, which would be the first since 2006, those elections have been postponed indefinitely.”

Why Turkey unblocked NATO enlargement at the last minute, what it means, and how Erdogan was persuaded

“Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main formal claim to Sweden and Finland was their loyalty to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized in Turkey as a terrorist organization, as well as to the “Gulenists” – Ankara has been raiding for many years those it considers followers of the preacher Fethullah Gulen and accuses them of organizing a coup attempt in 2016. About 100,000 Kurdish refugees have found refuge in Sweden.”

“Clarifying the wording of the compromise memorandum between the three countries, UK newspaper the Guardian noted that Finland and Sweden have promised not to “support” the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) and the Kurdish People’s Self-Defense Forces (YPG). And according to the Turkish pro-government daily newspaper the Daily Sabah, the memorandum also states that “Finland and Sweden commit to preventing activities of the PKK and all other terrorist organizations and their extensions, as well as activities by individuals in affiliated and inspired groups or networks linked to these terrorist organizations.””

Is Biden Ignoring a Key Tool to Combat Violent Extremists?

“many in law enforcement are opposed to designations, but not because they don’t think there’s a problem. Former FBI agent Tom O’Connor, who worked domestic terrorism cases for 20 years before retiring in 2019, said he is opposed for First Amendment reasons, but he believes it is vital for the U.S. to implement its own domestic terrorism statute. Without a statute, O’Connor said, it is much harder for law enforcement to track domestic terrorism and assign resources to fight it.

“You can’t tell me how many incidents of domestic terrorism have taken place in United States, because you would have to review every act of violence, to tell me if there was a political agenda behind that violence,” O’Connor said. “Because people have been charged with gun charges, other violent actions, but they’re not charged as domestic terrorists, it is almost impossible to correlate that information into a system that can tell you what the problem actually is.””

Strikes on U.S. Troops Show the Need To Withdraw From Iraq and Syria

“Just days into 2022, multiple military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria came under attack. Two drones carrying explosives were destroyed last Tuesday as they headed toward U.S. troops in western Iraq. The next day, rockets and indirect fire hit bases in western Iraq and eastern Syria. And last Monday, two armed drones were shot down as they approached a facility housing American advisers at the airport in Baghdad.

Though there were no casualties, the Iran-backed militias behind the attacks have made clear that they will continue. That alone should encourage the Biden administration to get American soldiers out of harm’s way”

US forces raid house in Syria, civilians reported killed

“U.S. special forces carried out what the Pentagon said was a large-scale counterterrorism raid in northwestern Syria early Thursday. First responders at the scene reported 13 people were killed, including six children and four women.

Residents said helicopters flew overhead and U.S. forces clashed with gunmen for more than two hours around a two-story house surrounded by olive trees. They described continuous gunfire and explosions that jolted the sleepy village of Atmeh near the Turkish border, an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria’s civil war.

The Pentagon did not identify the target of the raid. “The mission was successful,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a brief statement. “There were no U.S. casualties. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”

A journalist on assignment for The Associated Press and several residents said they saw body parts scattered near the site of the raid, a house in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province. Most residents spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

It was the largest raid in the province since the 2019 Trump-era U.S. assault that killed the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

Jan. 6 Didn’t Set Off A Wave of Right-Wing Terrorism. Here’s What Happened Instead.

“Rather than a spate of attacks by organized groups — largely what the Biden administration has prepared for — instead we have seen a massive expansion of the broader ecosystem of far-right extremism. I study terrorism and regularly monitor the rhetoric traversing Telegram and other platforms frequented by far-right extremists. Over the past year, it’s become clear that the violence underpinning the Capitol rioters’ ideology has seeped into mainstream culture and politics. As a result, many more people can — and do — engage in extremist thoughts and actions, not just members of groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. This raises risks of violence by radicalized “lone wolves,” who are much harder to track and thwart.”

“Remarkably for a year that started off with an unprecedented display of political violence, 2021 saw zero major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, nor did we experience anything resembling the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. One reason is that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has artificially suppressed terrorism plots and attacks that we might have seen otherwise. At the same time, lockdowns, isolation and stress have exacerbated many of the underlying factors that contribute to extremism, while also making mental health matters more acute. Meanwhile, 2020 and 2021 were record years for the sale of weapons and ammunition. Americans are anxious, angry and well-armed — a combustible combination.

Another reason for fewer incidents of domestic terrorism during 2021 is that far-right extremists, both individuals and formal organizations, have likely been cowed by an aggressive law enforcement response to Jan. 6. To date, more than 700 individuals have been charged with federal crimes for their role in the insurrection. The city of Washington, D.C., has sued the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, seeking severe financial penalties. Given how paranoid many far-right extremist groups are about being infiltrated by law enforcement, many have gone underground and attempted to drop off the grid to avoid further entanglement with the authorities.

However, it would be a mistake to conclude that the problem has faded away. Though we haven’t seen the most visible signs of growing extremism, a more extreme climate is permeating our society, culture and politics. Far-right talking points about election interference and comparisons of public health officials to Nazis are now part of mainstream political dialogue among Republicans.”

“Trump’s unique role in sending extremism mainstream helps explain the most salient domestic terrorism we face in 2022: political violence by those who are convinced the 2020 election was stolen. Many of the calls for violence I’ve observed denigrate Biden’s presidency as illegitimate and refer directly to the falsehood that his victory was “rigged.” A University of Massachusetts Amherst poll revealed that nearly 71 percent of Republican voters still contest the 2020 election results, falling victim to Trump’s “Big Lie.” When almost three-quarters of a political party believe an election was stolen, and that party’s leader continuously reinforces the belief, it lowers the bar for violence.”

“To date, the vast majority of those charged with crimes stemming from the Jan. 6 insurrection, approximately 87 percent, do not belong to formal organizations. In fact, although these groups were busy organizing in the weeks before Jan. 6, the makeup of the rioters on the actual day was far broader. This means there is a massive throng of “free agents,” the most radicalized of whom have the potential to become “lone wolves,” while others may seek to join existing groups or opt to form new ones.”

“Perhaps the most notorious lone wolf terrorist is Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. McVeigh was the product of the far-right ecosystem of the 1990s, which was far smaller and less radicalized than the equivalent today. It’s certainly plausible that the next McVeigh (or McVeighs) could emerge from the murky online extremist landscape that is increasingly blending with mainstream politics.”

Will America’s Military Reckon with the Reckless Murders Perpetuated by Its Drone Wars?

“Throughout America’s War on Terror, whistleblowers have been warning that drone strikes have frequently killed people who were neither terrorists nor insurgents, just innocent civilians trying to survive in a war zone.

Over the weekend, in a detailed, heavily reported two-part story, The New York Times documented how Washington’s “precision drone strikes” have been anything but precise. Not only did they repeatedly kill innocents, including children, but more often than not the military failed to examine adequately why these mistakes were made, failed to correct its procedures, and failed to hold anybody accountable.

When an ill-advised August drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed aid worker Zamari Ahmadi and nine of members of his family (including seven children), military officials first insisted the strike had hit terrorists plotting to attack the airport as American troops were leaving the country. Only after the media began investigating the strike did the truth came out. Yet last week, the Pentagon announced that no troops involved in the misbegotten strike would be disciplined. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, “What we saw here was a breakdown in process, and execution in procedural events, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership.”

An alternative way to read that quote, based on the massive Times report from the weekend, is that what happened to Ahmadi and his family was an example of how America’s drone program actually works. It has not, in fact, operated as a tool to surgically take out ISIS terrorist leaders and destroy individual cells, as Americans have been told again and again. The military will admit to killing at least 1,300 civilians in these strikes. That’s just the number of civilians documented in Pentagon reports the Times analyzed. The actual (uncertain) number of civilian deaths due to drone strikes is much higher—between 22,000 and 48,000.”

‘Trust was gone’: Former Afghan official recounts his government’s collapse

“Afghanistan’s government lost trust in the United States because of the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban and the Biden administration’s insistence on withdrawing its forces, a former Afghan official said Sunday in describing his government’s collapse earlier this year.”

“Mohib told Brennan the decision was made to leave when it became clear that the military had largely melted away and the police had not shown up for work. “We had to make a decision that was right for Afghanistan,” Mohib said.
For his part, Mohib said the Afghan government expected more from the United States, but that his country was betrayed by the U.S. government negotiating with the Taliban independently.

“What happened was the rug was pulled under the Afghans’ feet,” he said, adding: “The decision to talk directly and engage the Taliban and make a deal with the Taliban that didn’t include the Afghan government was protested.””

Islamic extremists sidestep Facebook’s content police

“Photos of beheadings, extremist propaganda and violent hate speech related to Islamic State and the Taliban were shared for months within Facebook groups over the past year despite the social networking giant’s claims it had increased efforts to remove such content.

The posts — some tagged as “insightful” and “engaging” via new Facebook tools to promote community interactions — championed the Islamic extremists’ violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, including videos of suicide bombings and calls to attack rivals across the region and in the West, according to a review of social media activity between April and December. At least one of the groups contained more than 100,000 members.

In several Facebook groups, competing Sunni and Shia militia trolled each other by posting pornographic images and other obscene photos into rival groups in the hope Facebook would remove those communities.

In others, Islamic State supporters openly shared links to websites with reams of online terrorist propaganda, while pro-Taliban Facebook users posted regular updates about how the group took over Afghanistan during much of 2021”

“Facebook said it had invested heavily in artificial intelligence tools to automatically remove extremist content and hate speech in more than 50 languages. Since early 2021, the company told POLITICO it had added more Pashto and Dari speakers — the main languages spoken in Afghanistan — but declined to provide numbers of the staffing increases.

Yet the scores of Islamic State and Taliban content still on the platform show those efforts have failed to stop extremists from exploiting the platform.”