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The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history – to Israel – was a win for both sides.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8bn – a 22 per cent increase – for a decade starting in 2019.

Mr Netanyahu has presented this as a rebuff to those who accuse him of jeopardising Israeli security interests with his government’s repeated affronts to the White House.

In the past weeks alone, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has compared last year’s nuclear deal between Washington and Iran with the 1938 Munich pact, which bolstered Hitler; and Mr Netanyahu has implied that US opposition to settlement expansion is the same as support for the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews.

American president Barack Obama, meanwhile, hopes to stifle his own critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel. The deal should serve as a fillip too for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s candidate to succeed Mr Obama in November’s election.

In reality, however, the Obama administration has quietly punished Mr Netanyahu for his misbehaviour. Israeli expectations of a $4.5bn-a-year deal were whittled down after Mr Netanyahu stalled negotiations last year as he sought to recruit Congress to his battle against the Iran deal.

In fact, Israel already receives roughly $3.8bn – if Congress’s assistance on developing missile defence programmes is factored in. Notably, Israel has been forced to promise not to approach Congress for extra funds.

The deal takes into account neither inflation nor the dollar’s depreciation against the shekel.

A bigger blow still is the White House’s demand to phase out a special exemption that allowed Israel to spend nearly 40 per cent of aid locally on weapon and fuel purchases. Israel will soon have to buy all its armaments from the US, ending what amounted to a subsidy to its own arms industry.

Nonetheless, Washington’s renewed military largesse – in the face of almost continual insults – inevitably fuels claims that the Israeli tail is wagging the US dog. Even The New York Times has described the aid package as “too big”.

Since the 1973 war, Israel has received at least $100bn in military aid, with more assistance hidden from view. Back in the 1970s, Washington paid half of Israel’s military budget. Today it still foots a fifth of the bill, despite Israel’s economic success.

But the US expects a return on its massive investment. As the late Israeli politician-general Ariel Sharon once observed, ­Israel has been a US “aircraft carrier” in the Middle East, acting as the regional bully and carrying out operations that benefit Washington.

Almost no one blames the US for Israeli attacks that wiped out Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear programmes. A nuclear-armed Iraq or Syria would have deterred later US-backed moves at regime overthrow, as well as countering the strategic advantage Israel derives from its own nuclear arsenal.

In addition, Israel’s US-sponsored military prowess is a triple boon to the US weapons industry, the country’s most powerful lobby. Public funds are siphoned off to let Israel buy goodies from American arms makers. That, in turn, serves as a shop window for other customers and spurs an endless and lucrative game of catch-up in the rest of the Middle East.

The first F-35 fighter jets to arrive in Israel in December – their various components produced in 46 US states – will increase the clamour for the cutting-edge warplane.

Israel is also a “front-line laboratory”, as former Israeli army negotiator Eival Gilady admitted at the weekend, that develops and field-tests new technology Washington can later use itself.

The US is planning to buy back the missile interception system Iron Dome – which neutralises battlefield threats of retaliation – it largely paid for. Israel works closely too with the US in developing cyber­warfare, such as the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran’s civilian nuclear programme.

But the clearest message from Israel’s new aid package is one delivered to the Palestinians: Washington sees no pressing strategic interest in ending the occupation. It stood up to Mr Netanyahu over the Iran deal but will not risk a damaging clash over Palestinian statehood.

Some believe that Mr Obama signed the aid package to win the credibility necessary to overcome his domestic Israel lobby and pull a rabbit from the hat: an initiative, unveiled shortly before he leaves office, that corners Mr Netanyahu into making peace.

Hopes have been raised by an expected meeting at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday. But their first talks in 10 months are planned only to demonstrate unity to confound critics of the aid deal.

If Mr Obama really wanted to pressure Mr Netanyahu, he would have used the aid agreement as leverage. Now Mr Netanyahu need not fear US financial retaliation, even as he intensifies effective annexation of the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu has drawn the right lesson from the aid deal – he can act against the Palestinians with continuing US impunity.

- See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2016-09-19/palestinians-lose-in-us-military-aid-deal-with-israel/#sthash.fL4Eq28N.dpuf

Trump's Pick for CIA Director, Could Take the Agency Back to its Darkest Days

By Jennifer Williams

November 19, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "Vox" -  President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas to head the Central Intelligence Agency, putting a hawkish lawmaker who favors brutally interrogating detainees and expanding the American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in charge of America’s premier spy agency.

Pompeo may be an unfamiliar name to many Americans, but he is well-known — and apparently generally well-respected — among intelligence professionals and well-liked by his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

The 52-year-old third-term Congress member serves on the House Intelligence Committee and played a prominent role the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which investigated Hillary Clinton for her role in the deaths of four Americans at the hands of Islamist terrorists in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Pompeo was particularly harsh on Clinton during the hearings, and in a report afterward accused her of having “put politics ahead of people” and “focusing more on spin and media narrative before an election than securing American lives under attack by terrorists.”

As a member of Congress with experience working closely with — and at times strongly defending — the intelligence community, Pompeo’s nomination as CIA chief could bode well for the future relationship between the CIA and Congress, which has deteriorated in recent years over the CIA’s detainee program and feuds with its nominal overseers on Capitol Hill.

But Pompeo’s extremely hawkish views on critical national security issues, such as his support for keeping open the US prison at Guantanamo Bay; his defense of brutal CIA interrogation practices like waterboarding and “rectal feeding”; and his overwhelming focus on the dire threat of “radical Islamic terrorism” — all positions closely aligned with those of President-elect Trump and his new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — suggest he is not likely to be a particularly sobering or restraining force on the president-elect, particularly when it comes to controversial policies like torture and drone strikes.

Pompeo’s hawkish stance toward Russia, on the other hand, could be a major source of tension between him and the president-elect, who, along Flynn, seeks to develop closer ties with Russia, particularly in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

Army officer, lawyer, businessman, and politician

Pompeo is a graduate of West Point and served as a cavalry officer in the US Army. After his military service, he attended Harvard Law School and worked for two and a half years as a lawyer doing mostly tax litigation at the Washington, DC, law firm of Williams & Connolly before going into the world of business.

Pompeo founded Thayer Aerospace in 1996, where he “served as CEO for more than a decade providing components for commercial and military aircraft,” according to his biography on his congressional website. After selling his stake in the company in 2006, he became president of Sentry International, which he describes on his website as an “oilfield equipment manufacturing, distribution, and service company.”

In 2010, Pompeo ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives representing Kansas's Fourth District, successfully defeating incumbent Todd Tiahrt with the backing of the Tea Party and the Koch Industries political action committee, KochPAC. Now in his third term, Pompeo serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which oversees energy, health care, manufacturing, and telecommunications, in addition to the House Intelligence Committee.

Meet Trump’s new CIA, same as Bush’s old CIA

Trump said during the campaign that he would not only “bring back waterboarding,” which he considers a “minor form” of torture, but that he’d also bring back “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding."

And as I’ve written elsewhere, that’s something Trump could theoretically do if he wanted to. One of the few things that could potentially prevent that from happening would be if the CIA director refused to carry out an order to reinstate practices like waterboarding and other forms of torture, which the CIA had previously used on detainees under President George W. Bush.

As current CIA Director John Brennan explained at an event at the Brookings Institution think tank back in April, “If a president were to order the agency to carry out waterboarding or something else, it’ll be up to the director of CIA and others within CIA to decide whether or not that direction and order is something that they can carry out in good conscience,” he said.

“As long as I’m director of CIA, irrespective of what the president says, I’m not going to be the director of CIA who gives that order. They’ll have to find another director,” Brennan added.

But Brennan isn’t going to be CIA director anymore; Pompeo is. And Pompeo strongly defended the CIA against its critics in Congress following the 2014 release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, declaring, “These men and women are not torturers, they are patriots,” and, “The programs being used were within the law, within the constitution.”

Trump also said on the campaign trail that he would keep open the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and “load it up with bad guys.” President Obama's efforts to close down have been stymied by fierce Congressional opposition, and the prison still contained 60 detainees as of October 21, 2016, according to Human Rights First. The advocacy group says 56 of the detainees have been imprisoned there for more than 10 years without trial.

Here again, Trump will find a supporter in Pompeo. In a 2013 congressional hearing on whether to close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Pompeo described the prison as “critical to national security” and said that closing it would create the “potential for endless litigation and rights expanded well beyond those afforded to enemy combatants.”

Pompeo has also criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the terrorism threat, which Pompeo, much like Trump and Flynn, sees as one of the most critical threats currently facing the United States.

“The challenge that this administration has refused to take on is that there is a very real call in the west to defeat and destroy the threat from radical Islamic terrorism, whether it fights under the name of Al Quaeda [sic] … or Boko Haram or ISIS or any of the other dozens of groups that are founded on the central principle of the destruction of the West and the imposition of Sharia law,” Pompeo said in an October interview with the Wichita Eagle newspaper.

“And this administration has refused to acknowledge that,” he added. “They have simply treated these as ordinary criminals and so they have attempted to apply a criminal law model to a threat, which is not that. And as a result the threat to the west is far greater today than it was seven and half years ago.”

The CIA under Obama and Brennan has also moved away from the Bush administration’s counterterrorism approach of capturing, detaining, and interrogating terrorist suspects, instead preferring to use targeted drone strikes to just kill the individuals outright.

But given both Trump and Pompeo’s statements about terrorism and Guantanamo — Pompeo once said that the prison “has been a goldmine of intelligence about radical Islamic terrorism” — it’s entirely possible that the CIA under the Trump administration may pivot back toward a policy of detaining and potentially even torturing suspected terrorists once again.

In other words, the CIA could be heading back toward a time that many Americans — including some within the CIA itself — believed to be some of the darkest days in CIA, and American, history.

But unlike Trump and Flynn, Pompeo is also hawkish on Russia, putting him much more in sync with most of the nation’s top military brass who see Russia as America’s top national security threat, but potentially at odds with his new boss.

Trump has expressed a desire to work with Russia in Syria to fight ISIS. But Pompeo has called the notion that Russia’s goal in Syria is to defeat ISIS “a fundamentally false narrative” and suggested that Russia’s real goal is trying to establish a foothold in the Middle East. Speaking at a foreign policy forum in Washington in October 2015, Pompeo said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “heck bent on changing the geopolitical future,” and criticized the Obama administration for not being tougher on Russia.

Jeff Sessions’ Nomination as Attorney General Alarms Civil Libertarians: He’s an advocate for surveillance and an enemy of encryption; an opponent of criminal justice reform; and a hardliner on immigration.

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