23 February 2018   Leave a comment

On 15 February I posted a short note on an attack on US and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) by Syrian government forces supported by what were suspected to be Russian mercenaries.  The Washington Post has published an article which provides significantly more information about the attack.  Apparently, the Russian mercenaries are under the control of a close friend of Russian President Putin, a fellow named Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who, according to intercepted communications with the Kremlin, received permission to attack the base on the eastern side of the Euphrates which is the agreed-upon dividing line between Russian-backed and American-backed forces.   Russian and American military leaders are in daily communication about their operations in the area in order to avoid accidental contact.

If this information is accurate then it suggests a deliberate attack by Russian-controlled forces on American troops, something which actually never happened during the Cold War (that we know of).  But the more accurate way to interpret this information is to assume that Prigozhin was acting on behalf of his own interests:

“According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Prigozhin owns a Russian company called Evro Polis, which, according to the Russian news site Fontanka, struck a deal in 2016 with the Syrian government to receive a 25 percent share of oil and natural gas produced on territory recaptured from the Islamic State. Most of those fields are on the eastern side of the Euphrates, where SDF fighters, accompanied by U.S. forces, have been advancing on the militants.

“The Prigozhin-linked mercenary company Wagner apparently provides the ground forces to help achieve that goal, working under contract with the Syrian government.”

Prigozhin is definitely a seedy character.  He is also implicated in the Russian intervention in the US Presidential election in 2016:

“Prigozhin made front-page headlines last week when he was indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on charges of bankrolling and guiding a long-running Russian scheme to conduct “information warfare” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.”

Yevgeniy Prigozhin

 

The US is considering a rather remarkable and unprecedented offer from Sheldon Adelson, a Republican donor, to pay for some of the costs of building the US Embassy in Jerusalem.   Adelson is a long-time support of Israel and contributed $43,523,100 to primarily Republican candidates in 2016.  The State Department is reviewing the legality of private funds to build an official governmental building, but the fact that the offer is being considered is astonishing to me.  Moreover, that the offer is being made to support the highly controversial decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv (where every other government has its diplomatic presence) to Jerusalem makes it even more troubling.  We know that Ambassadorships are often granted as rewards to campaign contributors, but that the physical building–which would be present for years to come no matter who was President–should not be something up for sale.

 

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has changed its mission statement in a highly significant manner.  It has decided to drop the phrase that characterizes the US as a “nation of immigrants”.  The original mission statement read:

“USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”

The mission statement will now read:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”

The change reflects the dramatically different attitude toward immigration and immigrants in the Trump Administration.  In a cruel and inexplicable twist of irony, it turns out that the Director of USCIS, Lee Francis Cissna, is himself the son of an immigrant who apparently speaks only Spanish to his children at home.  When Cissna’s nomination was submitted to the Congress for approval, ProPublica, published an article on his views about immigration which were quite negative.

Posted February 23, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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