Latest Analysis and Commentary

Can We Win in the 'Gray Zone'?

by Richard Kemp  •  April 10, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • The gray zone is the space between peace and war involving coercive actions that fall outside normal geopolitical competition between states but do not reach the level of armed conflict.... They usually seek to avoid a significant military response, though are often designed to intimidate and deter a target state by threatening further escalation.

  • [B]ut do liberal democracies in the 21st Century have the political will to do the dirty work that is necessary to win?

  • Western nations have multiple pre-emptive and reactive options to respond to gray zone actions directed against them or their allies, most effectively involving multilateral coordination. The objective should be to frustrate or deter, avoiding escalation that might lead to all-out conflict. Broadly, options fall into four categories: diplomatic, informational, economic and military.

  • Democracies' fear of escalation is a significant deterrent against the use of violent military options in the gray zone, and that is exactly the fear that authoritarian states like Iran wish to instil.....[F]ear of escalation is not the greatest obstacle to the use of a military option — transparency is.

  • Deterrence is not down to the military option alone. Where possible, diplomatic, informational and economic actions are preferable in providing the necessary punishments. But gray zone opponents who are willing to use military action must also be confronted with a credible military jeopardy to them, and not just a paper capability which will quickly be seen for what it is.

  • How confident can we be that liberal democracies mean business in the gray zone? When British troops were being killed and maimed in large numbers in Iraq by Iranian proxies... more than a decade ago, the UK government would not even consider any form of gray zone military action, even non-lethal, against Iran, despite a clear capability to do so. Instead they relied on diplomatic démarches -- and the killings continued. The consequences of such weakness are still being played out in Iran's widespread gray zone aggression. If back then — in the face of the slaughter of dozens of their own troops — political leaders' fear of escalation and political fallout caused such paralysis, how likely is it that they will seriously contemplate violent gray zone operations today....

(Image source: iStock)

In March, US President Joe Biden issued his Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. Across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented the Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy to parliament. Both leaders expressed concern over the increasing challenges in the gray zone and promised measures to respond more effectively.

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Biden Administration to Support Palestinian Dictatorship

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  April 9, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • Sadly, while the Biden administration is talking about the "need to protect [Palestinian] civil society through the reduction of arrests of bloggers and dissidents," the Palestinian leadership is evidently moving in precisely the opposite direction.

  • While the Biden administration says it wants to strengthen Palestinian civil society organizations, the Palestinian leadership is working to tighten its grip on these organizations.

  • The elections are part of Abbas's attempt to curry favor with the Biden administration and present himself as a leader who cares about democracy and fair elections. The fact is that Abbas is desperate for US funding to preserve his regime and remain in power until his last day.

  • Abbas's punitive measures against [Nasser al-Kidwa, a former PA foreign minister] are aimed at sending a warning to these officials that they would meet the same fate should they run outside the Abbas-led list. Abbas is essentially announcing that anyone who challenges him will be expelled from Fatah and deprived of money and employment.

  • Instead of holding Abbas to account for his repressive measures, the Biden administration seems to be headed toward financially supporting his totalitarian regime.

  • According to the internal memo, the US is planning to resume unconditional financial aid to the Palestinians in late March or early April. This means propping up Abbas and his associates ahead of the elections and allowing them to step up their campaign of intimidation against any candidate who dares to demand reforms and an end to rampant corruption.

  • The Biden administration is about to pump millions of dollars into Abbas's coffers to help him cut off the emergence of new and young leaders and to help him maintain his authoritarian rule over the Palestinians. Once the bounty is paid, Abbas shows all signs of stepping up his repressive measures against his rivals and critics to ensure that he and his Fatah faction triumph in the elections.

The latest victim of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's effort to intimidate his critics ahead of elections is Nasser al-Kidwa (pictured), a former PA foreign minister and a nephew of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Earlier this month, Abbas expelled Kidwa from Fatah and suspended PA funding to the organization he heads: the Yasser Arafat Foundation. He later fired Kidwa from his job as chairman of the foundation and ordered the arrest of his bodyguard, Qadri Ataya. (Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration is reportedly planning to "reset" US relations with the Palestinians.

An internal memo presented to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 1 states: "As we reset US relations with the Palestinians, the Palestinian body politic is at an inflection point as it moves towards its first elections in 15 years."

The memo reintroduces some of the issues that the George W. Bush and the Barack Obama administrations pushed forward, such as the strengthening of Palestinian institutions, including civil society and media watchdogs.

The document, in addition, mentions the resumption of US financial aid to the Palestinians and "means to advance the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution."

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China Boycotts Western Companies Over Uyghurs

by Soeren Kern  •  April 8, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • Companies are being pressured to scrub from their websites language about corporate policies on human rights, reverse decisions to stop buying cotton produced in Xinjiang, and remove maps that depict Taiwan as an independent country.

  • In October 2020, the Geneva-based Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), an influential non-profit group that promotes sustainable cotton production, suspended licensing of Xinjiang cotton, citing allegations and "increasing risks" of forced labor. The statement has since been scrubbed from the BCI website, and, disturbingly, also is not accessible on the Internet Archive.

  • In March 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in a report, "Uyghurs for Sale," revealed that Uyghurs were working in factories — under conditions of forced labor — that are in the supply chains of more than 80 well-known global brands in the clothing, automotive and technology sectors.

  • "China's government, increasingly keen to punish critics of their Xinjiang policies, is forcing foreign companies to make a choice they have been studiously trying to avoid: support China or get out of the Chinese market.... The Communist Party views itself as increasingly able to exert economic pressure on others, using the 'powerful gravitational field' of the world's second-largest economy.... The choice between the lucrative Chinese market and the values firms profess in the rest of the world is becoming unavoidable...." — The Economist, March 27, 2021.

  • "German companies account for a good one-half of the EU's exports to China. The German export industry has little interest in tarnishing this balance sheet with moral zeal.... The economic dependence on China, however, further weakens the already low impact of moral arguments. As long as Europe, and in this case Germany in particular, is not prepared to reduce this dependency, complaints about human rights violations in China will, at best, continue to trigger sloppy defensive reactions from Beijing." — Die Welt, March 24, 2021.

The Chinese government is boycotting Western clothing retailers for expressing concerns about forced labor in China's Xinjiang region. The dispute revolves around allegations that China's government is forcing more than 500,000 Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic and religious minorities to pick cotton in Xinjiang, which produces 85% of China's cotton and one-fifth of the world's supply. Roughly 70% of the region's cotton fields are picked by hand. Pictured: Women harvest cotton by hand in Hami, Xinjiang on September 20, 2015. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chinese government is boycotting Western clothing retailers for expressing concerns about forced labor in Xinjiang, China's biggest region. The companies are being pressured to scrub from their websites language about corporate policies on human rights, reverse decisions to stop buying cotton produced in Xinjiang, and remove maps that depict Taiwan as an independent country.

The escalating fight comes after the European Union and the United Kingdom on March 22 joined the United States and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, a remote autonomous region in northwestern China.

Human rights experts say at least one million Muslims are being detained in up to 380 internment camps, where they are subject to torture, mass rapes, forced labor and sterilizations.

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Biden Is Determined to Create Jobs... in China

by Gordon G. Chang  •  April 7, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • For three principal reasons, his [Biden's] jobs plan will create full employment in China. First, Biden will create substantially more demand for Chinese materials to go into America's planned physical infrastructure improvements. Second, the large corporate tax increases he proposes will drive even more businesses out of the U.S. -- and across the Pacific. Third, Biden's "green energy" ideas will eliminate one of the crucial advantages American manufacturers now have: cheap energy.

  • "Unless we invest in the capacity to make the steel, cement, and the other materials that go into our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, we will always be at the mercy of China's Communist Party" — Jonathan Bass, CEO of Whom Home and onshoring advocate, in an interview with Gatestone Institute, April 2021.

  • "Domestic security, domestic economic security, is essential to international security. If we damage our economy... with all these tax hikes, including the corporate tax hikes, companies will be leaving, not coming here. We will lose jobs, not gain jobs. Our whole economy will suffer." — Larry Kudlow, former director of the National Economic Council, Fox Business, March 30, 2021.

  • So, do we really need the federal government to do anything? After all, industry is moving in a "green energy" direction on its own.

  • "We can't have a policy that sets us behind and still win a competition with China." — Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative 2017-2021, Fox Business, March 30, 2021.

President Joe Biden will, in his American Jobs Plan as it's formally called, create millions of good-paying jobs. Many of those jobs, however, will not be in America. For three principal reasons, his jobs plan will create full employment in China. Pictured: Qian'an steelworks of Shougang Corporation in Tangshan, China. Shougang Corporation is one of the largest steel enterprises in China. Last year, China made 56.5% of the world's crude steel. The U.S. accounted for 3.9%. (Photo by Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)

"It's the largest American jobs investment since World War II," President Joe Biden said on March 31 in Pittsburgh, as he announced his $2.3 trillion infrastructure program. "It will create millions of jobs, good-paying jobs."

He is correct. Biden will, in his American Jobs Plan as it's formally called, create millions of good-paying jobs. Many of those jobs, however, will not be in America,. For three principal reasons, his jobs plan will create full employment in China.

First, Biden will create substantially more demand for Chinese materials to go into America's planned physical infrastructure improvements. Second, the large corporate tax increases he proposes will drive even more businesses out of the U.S. -- and across the Pacific. Third, Biden's "green energy" ideas will eliminate one of the crucial advantages American manufacturers now have: cheap energy.

In Beijing, there must be, at the moment, great elation and anticipation.

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China's Exploitation of Western Academia

by Judith Bergman  •  April 7, 2021 at 4:00 am

  • "In many cases, these UK universities are unintentionally generating research that is sponsored by and may be of use to China's military conglomerates, including those with activities in the production of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as well as hypersonic missiles, in which China is involved in a new arms race and seeks 'massively destabilising' weaponry". — "Inadvertently Arming China? The Chinese military complex and its potential exploitation of scientific research at UK universities," a report by the British think tank Civitas, February 7, 2021.

  • "This report illustrates how 15 of the 24 Russell Group universities and many other UK academic bodies have productive research relationships with Chinese military-linked manufacturers and universities. Much of the research at the university centres and laboratories is also being sponsored by the UK taxpayer...." — "Inadvertently Arming China? The Chinese military complex and its potential exploitation of scientific research at UK universities," a report by the British think tank Civitas, February 7, 2021.

  • Australian analyst Alex Joske, in a submission to the Australian Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, "The Chinese Communist Party's Talent Recruitment Efforts in Australia," identified at least 325 participants from Australian research institutions, including government institutions, in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talent-recruitment programs, with as many as up to 600 academics possibly being involved.... Joske estimated that CCP talent recruitment activity in Australia may be associated with as much as AUD $280 million (USD $217 million) in grant fraud over the past two decades.

  • According to official statistics, China's talent-recruitment programs drew in almost 60,000 overseas professionals between 2008 and 2016," Joske wrote in his August 2020 report, "Hunting the phoenix - The Chinese Communist Party's global search for technology and talent". "These efforts lack transparency; are widely associated with misconduct, intellectual property theft or espionage; contribute to the People's Liberation Army's modernisation; and facilitate human rights abuses..... Over the long term, China's recruitment of overseas talent could shift the balance of power between it and countries such as the US."

  • China continues generously to fund Western universities. In the UK, for instance, the Chinese company Tencent funded post-doctoral research in the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University.... According to the CIA, Tencent was founded with financing from China's Ministry of State Security.

  • Oxford University has also received a generous donation from Tencent. Its prestigious Wykeham chair of physics, which was established in 1900, will now be known as the Tencent-Wykeham chair, in honor of the Chinese software giant's donation of £700,000 to the university.

  • Much of Chinese influence on British universities comes from the CCP's Confucius Institutes, of which there are at least 29 in the UK, according to a February 2019 report on the topic by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.

Almost 200 British academics from 20 unnamed UK universities are being investigated for possibly sharing British technology with China that could be used in the Chinese government's repression of minorities and dissidents. The revelation came shortly after the University of Manchester cancelled a research partnership with China Electronics Technology Group. Pictured: Chinese President Xi Jinping (second from right) visits the University of Manchester on October 23, 2015. (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/AFP via Getty Images)

Almost 200 British academics from 20 unnamed UK universities are being investigated for possibly sharing British technology with China that could be used in the Chinese government's repression of minorities and dissidents, according to a recent news report by The Times. The revelation came shortly after the University of Manchester cancelled a research partnership with China Electronics Technology Group (CETC).

The cancellation came after the university was warned that CETC is, "one of the main architects of the Chinese government's surveillance state in Xinjiang, China, providing both technology and infrastructure that is being used for the identity-based persecution of more than one million people, predominantly Uyghur Muslims". The university said their research collaboration with CETC aimed to "significantly advance the field of radio astronomy" and that it had been unaware of CETC's alleged role in the persecution of Uyghurs.

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Palestinians: US Taxpayer Money Going to Terrorists

by Bassam Tawil  •  April 6, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • The memo, however, does not specifically say that the renewed US funding would be conditioned on ending the Palestinians' "pay-to-slay" program. Instead, the Biden administration is only seeking a "commitment" from the Palestinian leadership to end the stipends.

  • It is likely that PA President Mahmoud Abbas may make such a "commitment" to the Biden administration. In reality, however, Abbas has announced over the past few years that he would never stop the payments to the imprisoned terrorists and the families of the "martyrs."

  • In the world of Abbas and the Palestinians, any Palestinian who is killed while carrying out a terror attack against Jews is a martyr and hero.

  • "We will not deduct or suspend the allowances. Even if we are left with one penny, we will spend it on the families of the prisoners and martyrs. We consider the martyrs and prisoners as our stars." — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Wafa.ps

  • The Palestinian leadership is now hoping that the Biden administration will turn a blind eye to the "pay-for-slay' program and allow them to continue funding terrorists and their families.

  • The Palestinians are letting the world know that the payments to the terrorists will absolutely continue, just not through the banks. The Palestinians are trying to make it look as if this is a problem related only to the method of payment, and not the fact that the money is going to reward terrorists for murdering, or attempting to murder, Jews.

  • It is clear that any Palestinian "commitment" to cease rewarding terrorists will not be worth the paper it is written on. Abbas and his henchmen are telling the Biden administration one thing in English and their people the opposite in Arabic. They have no intention whatsoever of stopping the blood-soaked payments. In order to ensure that they continue, the Palestinian leadership are funneling the terror funds through the Palestinian post offices.

  • If and when the Biden administration resumes financial aid to Abbas, those who will resume collecting US taxpayer dollars are the terrorists.

In the world of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians, any Palestinian who is killed while carrying out a terror attack against Jews is a martyr and hero. "Even if we are left with one penny, we will spend it on the families of the prisoners and martyrs. We consider the martyrs and prisoners as our stars," Abbas said. A non-public US State Department report revealed that the Palestinians distributed at least $151 million in 2019 on their "pay-to-slay" program, in which international aid dollars are spent to support imprisoned terrorists and their families. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

The Biden administration's decision to resume unconditional US financial aid to the Palestinians will allow the Palestinian Authority (PA) to continue rewarding terrorists who kill Jews, and sometimes, as "collateral damage," others.

Last week, the Biden administration reportedly confirmed to Congress that the PA has continued to use international aid money to reward terrorists and their families.

The Biden administration, however, emphasized that the PA's actions will not impact its plan to renew funding to the Palestinians.

A non-public State Department report revealed that the Palestinians distributed at least $151 million in 2019 on their "pay-to-slay" program, in which international aid dollars are spent to support imprisoned terrorists and their families. Financial statements also revealed that at least $191 million was lavished on "deceased Palestinians referred to as 'martyrs.'"

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Indoctrinated in Hate: 'This Is the Start of the New Caliphate'

by Raymond Ibrahim  •  April 6, 2021 at 4:00 am

  • Hate-filled indoctrination and training in violence is not limited to the "schools" of ISIS or Boko Haram. Public schools all around the Muslim world share elements of this indoctrination. Most recently, a March 2021 study exposed how the school curriculum of Turkey — for decades one of the Muslim world's most secular nations — is also increasingly full of jihadi propaganda.

  • "The Turkish curriculum has been significantly radicalized in recent years. Jihad war is introduced as a central value; martyrdom in battle is glorified.... Concepts such as "Turkish World Domination" ... are emphasized. The curriculum adopts an anti-American stance and displays sympathy toward the motivations of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.... Christians and Jews are characterized as infidels instead of People of the Book.... The curriculum demonizes Zionism and verges on anti-Semitic..." — "The Erdoğan Revolution in the Turkish Curriculum Textbooks," IMPACT-se, March 2021.

  • What will happen in a few decades when all these boys — those raised on absolute hate and violence and those raised on absolute tolerance and nonviolence — become the world's decision-makers?

Documentary filmmaker Alan Duncan recently visited the al-Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria. According to Duncan: "There are already training camps in there — they are training the ISIS ideologies to the kids... To hate the West... They are training them for future jihad... It's like walking in the caliphate." Pictured: Women displaced from Syria's Deir Ezzor province in the al-Hawl camp on April 18, 2019. (Photo by Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

While boys in the West are all but indoctrinated into becoming girls — if not surgically mutilated, at least spiritually emasculated — boys throughout the Muslim world are increasingly indoctrinated into becoming super jihadis: ISIS 2.0.

The news is coming in fast from a variety of sources.

A documentary filmmaker, Alan Duncan, for instance, recently made a brief video of his visit to al-Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria, run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Although 80% of the camp consists of women and (27,000) children, many of whom had fled ISIS, the camp is known as the "Womb of ISIS."

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Arabs' Real Enemies: Iran and Turkey

by Khaled Abu Toameh  •  April 5, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • The Arabs are warning the world that Turkey and Iran are funding and arming terrorists, that they a major threat to security and stability in the Middle East, and that they keep meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries.

  • The Arabs are also telling the world that the only way to deal with Turkey and Iran is by increasing political and economic pressure on them and holding them to account for their malign actions.

  • Turkey and Iran, in other words, are telling the Arabs that they can go to hell. They are also telling the Arabs that Turkey and Iran will continue to occupy Arab countries, meddle in their internal affairs, and unleash terrorist attacks to undermine their stability and security.

  • Veteran Saudi columnist Abdulrahman Al-Rashed warned that Iran's continued "military activities" in the region will likely lead to more chaos that will be increasingly difficult to control.

  • Al-Rashed also pointed out that the Houthi militia increased its missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia after the Biden administration revoked its designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

  • [T]he latest Arab warning concerning the Turkish and Iranian threats has gone almost unnoticed by the international community and media. They only pay a great deal of attention to the resolutions of the Arab League foreign ministers when they include -- as they frequently do -- a condemnation of Israel.

Turkey and Iran are telling the Arabs that they can go to hell. They are also telling the Arabs that Turkey and Iran will continue to occupy Arab countries, meddle in their internal affairs, and unleash terrorist attacks to undermine their stability and security. Pictured: Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (left) and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a joint press conference in Ankara, Turkey on April 4, 2018. (Photo by Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)

After decades of portraying Israel as their mortal enemy, the Arabs have finally woken up to the fact that it is two Islamic countries, Turkey and Iran, that are actually threatening their security and stability.

The Arabs are now seeking to draw the world's attention to these Turkish and Iranian threats.

The Arabs are warning the world that Turkey and Iran are funding and arming terrorists, that they a major threat to stability in the Middle East, and that they keep meddling in the affairs of Arab countries.

They are also telling the world -- in message directed mainly to the Biden Administration -- that the only way to deal with Turkey and Iran is by increasing political and economic pressure on them and holding them to account for their malign actions.

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Where Are the US and the EU on Iran's Human Rights Violations?

by Majid Rafizadeh  •  April 5, 2021 at 4:00 am

  • Although Iran ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, President Hassan Rouhani's government has made no effort to alter the country's Penal Code, which allows girls as young as nine to be executed.

  • "Iranian courts, and particularly revolutionary courts, regularly fall far short of providing fair trials and use confessions likely obtained under torture as evidence in court. Authorities have failed to meaningfully investigate numerous allegations of torture against detainees. Authorities routinely restrict detainees' access to legal counsel, particularly during the initial investigation period." — Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2021."

  • In rewarding Iran for malign behavior -- by again showering millions of dollars on the Iranian regime, lifting sanctions and reviving the nuclear deal -- the US and the EU are empowering the ruling clerics of Iran to further suppress and crack down on dissidents, torture and kill their citizens and expand their tyranny abroad.

The Iranian regime's suppression, torture and execution of political prisoners and those who protest against the theocratic establishment have reached an unprecedented level. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the Iranian regime is one of the world's leading executioners. (Image source: iStock)

While the Biden administration and the European Union are forging ahead to revive the Iran nuclear deal – which, by the way, Tehran never signed -- and lift sanctions on the Iranian regime, they are turning a blind eye on the regime's alarming and increasing human rights violations.

Human rights violations committed by the Iranian regime have become even more shattering and appalling. Unfortunately, Iran's leaders have been acting with full impunity. First, the suppression and execution of political prisoners and those who protest against Iran's theocratic establishment have reached an unprecedented level. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the Iranian regime is one of the world's leading executioners. In 2020, Iran's regime executed more than 230 people. These include individuals who committed their alleged crimes when they were children.

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Big Tech's Greatest Threat
"They leave no paper trail for authorities to trace. They are the perfect weapon for changing... the outcome of elections"

by Robert Epstein  •  April 4, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • "Ephemeral experiences": You might never have heard this phrase, but it's a very important concept. These are brief experiences you have online in which content appears briefly and then disappears, leaving no trace. Those are the kinds of experiences we have been preserving in our election monitoring projects. You can't see the search results that Google was showing you last month. They're not stored anywhere, so they leave no paper trail for authorities to trace. Ephemeral experiences are, it turns out, quite a powerful tool of manipulation.

  • Are people at companies like Google aware of the power they have? Absolutely...

  • In a national study we conducted in 2013, in one demographic group -- moderate Republicans -- we got a shift of 80% after just one search, so some people are especially trusting of search results, and Google knows this. The company can easily manipulate undecided voters using techniques like this....

  • We have shown in controlled experiments that biased search suggestions can turn a 50‑50 split among undecided voters into a 90‑10 split, with no one having the slightest idea they have been manipulated.

  • Unfortunately, people mistakenly believe that computer output must be impartial and objective. People especially trust Google to give them accurate results.... They have no idea that they may have been driven to that web page by highly biased search results that favor the candidate Google is supporting.

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower did not talk about his accomplishments in his famous farewell speech of 1961. Instead, he warned us about the rise of a "technological elite" who could control public policy without anyone knowing. He warned us about a future in which democracy would be meaningless. What I have to tell you is this: The technological elite are now in control. You just don't know it. Big Tech had the ability to shift 15 million votes in 2020 without anyone knowing that they did so and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace. Our calculations suggest that they actually shifted at least six million votes to President Biden without people knowing. This makes the free-and-fair election -- a cornerstone of democracy -- an illusion.

  • I am not a conservative, so I should be thrilled about what these companies are doing. But no one should be thrilled, no matter what one's politics. No private company should have this kind of power, even if, at the moment, they happen to be supporting your side.

  • Do these companies think they are in charge? Are they planning a future that only they know for all of us? Unfortunately, there are many indications that the answers to these questions are yes.

  • One of the items that leaked from Google in 2018 was an eight‑minute video called "The Selfish Ledger." This video was never meant to be seen outside of Google, and it is about the power that Google has to reshape humanity, to create computer software that "not only tracks our behavior but offers direction towards a desired result."

  • How do we protect ourselves from companies like this?... You might have heard the phrase "regulatory capture" -- an old practice in which a large company that is facing punishment from the government works with the government to come up with a regulatory plan that suits the company.

  • When you are talking about, for example, "breaking up" Google, all this means is that we will force them to sell off a couple of the hundreds of companies they have bought.... the major shareholders are enriched by billions of dollars, and the company still has the same power and poses the same threats it does today....

  • [W]e were, in effect, doing the same thing to them that they do to us and our children 24 hours a day. Imagine that we were, in effect, looking over the shoulders of thousands of real people (with their permission), just as the Nielsen Company does with its network of families to monitor their television watching.

  • Imagine if these tech companies knew that they were being monitored -- that even the answers they are giving people... were being monitored. Do you think they would risk sending out targeted vote reminders to members of just one political party? I doubt it very much, because we would catch them immediately and report their manipulation to authorities and the media.

  • What can we do? In my opinion, the solution to almost all the problems these companies present is to set up large‑scale monitoring systems and to make them permanent -- not just in the United States, but around the world. Because monitoring is technology, it can keep up with whatever the new tech companies are throwing at us, and however they are threatening us, we can get them to stop.

  • I am envisioning a new nonprofit organization that specializes in monitoring what the tech companies are showing to voters, families, and children -- protecting democracy and the autonomy and independence of all citizens. There might also be a for‑profit spinoff that could serve as a permanent funding source for the nonprofit. The for‑profit spinoff could provide commercial services to campaigns, law firms, candidates, researchers, and many others.

  • And there's another way to completely eliminate the threats that Google poses to democracy and humanity.... our government could quickly end Google's monopoly on search by declaring that the database Google uses to generate search results is a "public commons," accessible to all. It is a very old legal concept, and it is a light-touch form of regulation. It would rapidly lead to the creation of thousands of competing search platforms, each appealing to different audiences.

(Image source: iStock)

"Ephemeral experiences": You might never have heard this phrase, but it's a very important concept. These are brief experiences you have online in which content appears briefly and then disappears, leaving no trace. Those are the kinds of experiences we have been preserving in our election monitoring projects. You can't see the search results that Google was showing you last month. They're not stored anywhere, so they leave no paper trail for authorities to trace. Ephemeral experiences are, it turns out, quite a powerful tool of manipulation.

Are people at companies like Google aware of the power they have? Absolutely... In emails leaked from Google to the Wall Street Journal in 2018, one employee says to others, "How can we use ephemeral experiences to change people's views about Trump's travel ban?" There is that phrase, "ephemeral experiences."

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Between Despair and Presumption a Reporter's Dilemma

by Amir Taheri  •  April 4, 2021 at 4:00 am

  • Sheikh Mujib, as everyone called him, sent a battered Studebaker, vintage 1951, to fetch me to his home. This was a fairly modest villa by most standards, but at that moment looked like an oasis of tranquility and, because of a garden full of flowers, even of beauty. After endless cups of tea and half a dozen delicious but unidentifiable sweets, I concluded that far from being a troublemaker, Sheikh Mujib was a fantasist, for he spoke of his people's desire to assume control of their destiny which meant splitting Pakistan.

  • The energy that Mujib generated was truly amazing. The masses of the "walking skeletons" that I had seen were suddenly transformed into sizzling balls of fire. Yet, I had a feeling that all that was going to end in tragedy. And it did. Mujib won a majority in the Pakistan-wide election but was refused the right to form the government for a united Pakistan. The Pakistani leadership decided on a crackdown, which included prison for Mujib and martial law in East Pakistan.

  • Like most "developing nations," it is inflicted by corruption, mismanagement and injustice. But it is feeding its people and, having enjoyed growth rates of over 6 percent since 2005, its economy is now 40 percent larger than that of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. (It was 42 percent smaller before independence.) In fact, Bangladesh is one of only 20 "developing nations" in which all seven indices of human welfare, though still below the global average, are now positive.

Like most "developing nations," Bangladesh is inflicted by corruption, mismanagement and injustice. But it is feeding its people and, having enjoyed growth rates of over 6 percent since 2005, its economy is now 40 percent larger than that of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. (It was 42 percent smaller before independence.) In fact, Bangladesh is one of only 20 "developing nations" in which all seven indices of human welfare, though still below the global average, are now positive. Pictured: Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2017. (Image source: ASaber91/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons)

"Don't get emotionally involved!" This is one of the first lessons I was told to learn when, as a young reporter in the 1970s, I was sent to cover "events" in distant lands.

The euphemism covered wars, revolutions, ethnic-cleansing operations, famines, and in their less harmful version, military coups bringing jackboots with sunglasses to power. One of the first such "events" was the general election in what was then a united Pakistan. I arrived in Dhaka one early evening and was whisked to a hotel on the outskirts of the sprawling capital of what was then East Pakistan. After a brief shower, I came down to the lobby and asked for a taxi to take me to the city. My inquiry caused a sensation. I was told it was "perhaps inadvisable" to visit the city after sunset and that waiting until tomorrow was the best option.

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Biden Administration and Iran: Secret Deals and Appeasement Back on the Table?

by Majid Rafizadeh  •  April 3, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • "The Biden administration appears to be using loopholes when dealing with the Iranian regime. I am again asking direct, yes or no questions on the United States' involvement in facilitating a South Korean ransom payment to Iran. If the Biden administration is involved in transferring funds to Iran, Congress and the American people must be informed. Biden administration officials continue to deflect and refuse to answer questions from members of Congress regarding this issue." — Congressman Bryan Steil (R-WI), letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, March 25, 2021.

  • When President Biden was vice president during the Obama administration, the administration was all too eager to grant concessions to the Iranian regime and, it turns out, made multiple secret deals with the mullahs..... These secret deals meant that when sanctions against Iranian banks were lifted and permission given to the leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to resume conducting business, there was no longer any mechanism to check or stop Iran's illegal activities such as advancing its ballistic missile program.

  • The Obama administration also helped swiftly to lift all four rounds of UN sanctions against Iran -- sanctions it had taken decades to put in place. Iran's military sites also were exempted from inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency; other inspections were only to be at the times and places of Iran's choosing -- if ever.

  • Another concession, usually overlooked, is that Iran never even signed the JCPOA deal -- what sort of deal, then, is that?

  • Appeasement policies, secret deals and generous concessions to predatory regimes do not work, as history has repeatedly shown. They only empower and embolden leaders whose record reveals that they have no intention of honoring whatever they agreed to in the first place, and for whom commitments have been mainly a means of buying time to accomplish the goals they really want.

The Biden administration is ratcheting up its appeasement policies towards the Iranian regime in an apparent effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Appeasement policies, secret deals and generous concessions to predatory regimes do not work, as history has repeatedly shown. Pictured: Then US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2014, during negotiations that led to the drafting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). (Image source: US State Department)

The Biden administration is ratcheting up its appeasement policies towards the Iranian regime in an apparent effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal -- which by the way, Iran never signed.

US President Joe Biden made his intention to return to the nuclear deal public before he took office; after, he appointed as Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman -- a key negotiator in the talks which led to the nuclear deal in 2015 during the Obama administration. Biden actually publicized Sherman's professed accomplishment:

"She has successfully rallied the world to strengthen democracy and confront some of the biggest national security challenges of our time, including leading the U.S. negotiating team for the Iran Deal".

The administration proceeded to revoke the designation of the Houthis, an Iran-backed terror group, as an officially-designated terrorist organization.

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The European Union: From a Single Market to a Tragic Farce

by Drieu Godefridi  •  April 2, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • Five hundred years from now, when historians look back on the COVID era, they will say that America's "Operation Warp Speed," under President Donald J. Trump, was a triumph of science and logistics.

  • Many liberals have a short memory, but the EU has not always been the big, remote machine it has become.

  • The principle of equality of states and the principle of equality of citizens cannot be reconciled in the current EU setting of institutions, says Germany's Federal Constitutional Court.

  • Of course, EU institutions are dressed up with flowery language — such as "making the EU more democratic" — aimed at making people believe that EU institutions... are increasingly democratic and only waiting to become fully democratic.

  • This evolution consisted, first of all, in subverting European institutions to make them accomplish, in addition to their economic aims, missions that were foreign to them, such as a "common foreign policy" that was never anything than words. How could you have a foreign policy common to the UK, Austria and Portugal?

  • EU elites are weak, cowardly and pusillanimous because they know they do not represent anyone, in the true democratic sense of the word – they are not democratically elected, they are not transparent and they are not accountable to anyone. They are ultimately the playthings of governments that never agree with each other – but that do have the legitimacy of being truly democratic: elected, transparent, and accountable. There is also no mechanism for citizens to unelect anyone, should they wish to do so.

The European Union's vaccine management is a metonym for the EU: a tragic farce in the hands of ideologues as obtuse as they are inefficient. Pictured: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference, following a meeting about draft legislation on a common EU Covid-19 vaccination certificate, in Brussels on March 17, 2021. (Photo by John Thys/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Concerning the European Union, opinions are divided between those who consider it useless and costly, and those who believe it to be the future of Europe and a model for the human race.

What is the reality?

Before today's EU emerged, the construction of a European union was, at first, a tremendous success.

Many liberals have a short memory, but the EU has not always been the big, remote machine it has become. In the era of the more modestly named "European Communities" – entailing, for example, cooperation amongst multiple countries' economies; or within their coal, steel and nuclear industries – Europe achieved four freedoms of movement: those of people, capital, services and goods. Despite its flaws, shortcomings and innumerable imperfections (nothing human is perfect), this common – or single – market made a massive and substantial contribution to the freedom and prosperity of Europeans.

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Iran Still Hiding Key Parts of its Nuclear Programme, US Trying Bribery Again

by Con Coughlin  •  April 1, 2021 at 5:00 am

  • The latest evidence that Iran is continuing to conceal vital elements of its nuclear programme from the outside world suggest that, even if there is a resumption of negotiations on Tehran's nuclear programme, the regime has little genuine interest in complying with the terms of any future deal.

  • In another provocative move, Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has ordered the government to start limiting some inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear activities.

  • The move by the Iranian parliament comes after the IAEA published a report revealing that last summer inspectors found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to.

  • The Biden Administration has also apparently been trying to sidestep legally-required congressional approval to funnel more money to Iran and other dictatorships through a new International Monetary Fund programme, "special drawing rights" (SDRs). Through them, Iran would receive an additional $4.5 billion, usable in other currencies. According to the Wall Street Journal, which referred to the program as "Special Dollars for Dictators", Iran's leadership will most likely use these newfound billions to strengthen domestic repression, to intensify regional adventurism -- Iran's proxy Houthi rebels in Yemen have already targeted a "large Saudi oil field" -- and to escalate their nuclear programme still further.

Fresh evidence is emerging that Iran's regime is up to its old tricks by attempting to conceal key elements of the programme from UN inspectors. Pictured: The Isfahan uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan, Iran. (Photo by Getty Images)

With the Biden administration seemingly keen to recommence negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, fresh evidence is emerging that Iran's regime is up to its old tricks by attempting to conceal key elements of the programme from UN inspectors.

Iran has a long and undistinguished history of seeking to conceal the existence of key elements of its nuclear programme dating back to 2002, when a group of Iranian dissidents first revealed the existence of the Natanz nuclear enrichment site.

Enrichment is a crucial process in producing weapons-grade nuclear material, and the fact that Iran managed to build the massive underground facility about 100 miles to the south of Tehran in secret was the first major evidence that the regime was developing nuclear weapons.

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China Challenges the US on Iran

by Judith Bergman  •  April 1, 2021 at 4:00 am

  • According to a leaked draft of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, circulated last year, Iran will receive $400 billion dollars in Chinese investments over the next 25 years in key Iranian economic sectors, including energy, telecommunications, defense, infrastructure, banking, petrochemicals, railways and ports. According to the leaked draft, there will be also an expansion of military assistance, training and intelligence-sharing. Nearly 100 projects are cited in the draft. In return, Iran will commit to providing regular and heavily discounted oil, gas and possibly other natural resources to China.

  • "Strategically, the BRI is how China is seeking to collapse Western-American dominance in the region peacefully... the BRI is a sophisticated Chinese plan to transfer hegemony from the West and the U.S. to China without war or conflict". — Dr. Mordechai Chaziz, author of China's Middle East Diplomacy: The Belt and Road Strategic Partnership, thediplomat.com, March 10, 2021.

  • The timing seems hardly a coincidence, but rather an outcome of the Biden administration's appeasing overtures to Iran with its formal offer of restarting nuclear talks. The signing of the agreement itself can be seen as a Chinese-Iranian act of defiance against the US, undercutting sanctions against Iran by supplying the regime with an economic lifeline, while showing China off as an active global power that is able and willing to stand up to the US.

  • For China, Iran is a welcome counterbalance to US influence in the region, as the only large regional power that is not aligned with the US, in addition to having enormous oil and natural gas resources and providing a large market of more than 80 million citizens for Chinese goods.

  • "China is pivoting towards more autocratic regimes that represent greater stability for its supply lines than democracies that are, or may become, hostile to Beijing." — Verisk Maplecroft risk consultancy firm, March 17, 2021.

Pictured: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the signing of the China-Iran comprehensive strategic 25-year partnership agreement on economic and security cooperation, in Tehran, Iran on March 27, 2021. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

On March 27, China and Iran signed a comprehensive strategic 25-year partnership agreement on economic and security cooperation. The agreement was signed in Tehran, where China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi was visiting as part of his tour of the Middle East.

Details of the agreement were not immediately published. The Iranian Foreign Ministry communicated that it was a "roadmap for cooperation" and that no "contracts" were included in it. "Prospects for cooperation, whether economic, political, cultural or strategic, have not been quantified, therefore it does not include numbers on investment or financial and monetary resources," a statement of the Iranian Foreign Ministry reported.

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