Not so fast

Cartoon by John Darkow

On Kavanaugh, a Changed America Debates an Explosive Charge

The New York Times: It was 36 years ago. The accusation: There was a party, alcohol. A 17-year-old boy was drunk and started groping a 15-year-old girl, pinning her down and covering her mouth so she couldn’t scream. Today, she doesn’t remember some of the details. He insists it didn’t happen at all.

It was 36 years ago. The culture: What 15-year-old girl would tell her parents she had been at a party where kids had been drinking, much less that a boy had attacked her?

It was 36 years ago. The country: Ronald Reagan was president. The Supreme Court had only one female associate justice, its first, Sandra Day O’Connor. It was nine years before the Clarence Thomas hearings, where the spectacle of an all-male Senate panel casting doubt upon Anita Hill would provoke the outrage that drove a record number of women to run for — and win — congressional office.

A very different United States is now deep into a debate over how long-ago allegations involving teenagers and alcohol should be regarded and treated in the confirmation process of the accused, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, in his nomination to the Supreme Court.

It’s unclear where the confrontation is headed: The Senate Judiciary Committee has called both Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, to testify before the Senate Monday, but she has not committed to appearing.

Both Democrats and Republicans have to carefully consider how their response affects their strategy just seven weeks before a midterm election where women are crucial voters. Democrats have to worry about older women and those who have raised teenagers, who may be skeptical that an allegation from adolescence should doom a person as an adult, no matter what they think of this pick by President Trump. Republicans have to be mindful of the generational shift that has made the country far more vigilant on matters of sexual misconduct, and of the women demanding that the allegations made by Dr. Blasey, now a research psychologist in Northern California, be taken seriously.

No matter their differing viewpoints, scholars, advocates for women’s rights, politicians and others see enormous consequence in reckoning with adolescent behavior during a high court fight in an unusually combustible election year.

“This is going to come back to bite women, I promise you,” said Kay Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, and the author of “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.” “Teenage girls do crazy, stupid things also. Even if they have not attempted a rape, they will have done other stupid things. There’s a lot of confusion about what we expect of kids, boys and girls, when it comes to sex.”

Others argued that while it is reasonable to put the allegations in context — if they are true, he was just a teenager, that argument goes — Judge Kavanaugh is not up for an ordinary job >>>

Trump Policy

Cartoon by Osama Hajjaj

In Big Win for Trump, U.S. Sanctions Cripple Iranian Oil Exports

Bloomberg: Aggressive and undiplomatic, certainly, but also extremely effective. With nearly 50 days to go before new U.S. oil sanctions against Iran enter into force, President Donald Trump has already managed to crush the country’s petroleum exports, dealing severe economic damage to Tehran.

Iranian oil exports have plunged about 35 percent since April, the month before Trump ripped up the diplomatic deal that Barack Obama negotiated to curtail Tehran’s nuclear program and announced new oil sanctions.

"Iranian oil exports are coming down pretty hard," said Roger Diwan, a veteran oil analyst at consultant IHS Markit Ltd.

The bigger-than-expected reduction, with more to come, is a win for Trump, who made a tougher stance on Iran a cornerstone of his foreign policy and imposed the sanctions despite opposition in Europe and open hostility from China and India, the top buyers of Iranian crude. When the sanctions were first announced, their unilateral nature prompted many in the oil market to question their effectiveness.

Oil accounts for nearly 80 percent of Iran’s tax revenue, according to the International Monetary Fund, making petroleum the regime’s economic lifeblood. As oil exports have plunged, Iran’s currency -- the rial -- has dived 60 percent on the unofficial market, pushing up inflation.

While the success of sanctions will help Trump put pressure on Iran, there may be a less welcome side effect: higher oil prices for U.S. consumers in the run-up to November’s mid-term elections.

The sanctions are reverberating through the global oil market, pushing benchmark Brent oil above $80 a barrel last week. Even though Russia and Saudi Arabia, which have cooperated closely in oil over the last two years, have offset some of the impact by boosting their own output, traders are betting it won’t be sufficient to replace all the losses from Iran.

"The physical market has clearly tightened, reinforcing the bullish narrative on geopolitical and supply risks," said Thibaut Remoundos, founder of Commodities Trading Corporation Ltd. who’s been trading oil for more than 20 years.

It’s not just the headline oil price that shows the market impact of U.S. sanctions. As oil refiners from China to France scramble to find alternative supplies, they are pushing up the prices of crudes that can substitute for lost Iranian shipments.

Russia’s Urals blend, for example, is trading at its highest premium to the Brent benchmark since the beginning of the year. Chinese refiners recently bought large amounts of Urals from the port of Rotterdam, an unusually long voyage. Oman crude is also unusually expensive, and Basrah Light of Iraq is selling better than usual.

The unilateral American sanctions, which formally only take effect on Nov 4., have scared buyers in Europe and Asia, including Japan and India. In the first two weeks of September, Iran sold an average of 1.6 million barrels a day, down from 2.5 million barrels a day in April, according to Bloomberg tanker tracking.

A group of oil-market analysts predicted in April that sanctions wouldn’t cut exports by more than 800,000 barrels a day.

Even though European countries opposed Trump’s actions, and have reassured Iran’s government that they want the nuclear deal to continue, European refiners have had little choice but to comply with sanctions. Washington can cut off access to the U.S. financial system for any company judged to be doing business with Iran.

With early indications that European nations and Japan will stop buying Iranian crude altogether next month, the country’s exports can easily drop another 350,000 barrels a day by November, down to about 1.3 million barrels a day. South Korea, a major importer of Iranian crude in the past, hasn’t shipped any oil from Iran for 75 days.

South Korea isn't buying any more Iranian crude, and Japan and India have slowed down their purchases significantly ahead of the November 4 sanctions deadline.

Iran isn’t just losing customers for its crude, like it did under earlier sanctions from 2012 to 2015, but also for condensate, a form of super-light oil used mostly in the petrochemical industry. With South Korea not buying any, total Iranian exports of condensate dropped in the first half of September to 175,000 barrels a day, down more than 40 percent from April.

The earlier-than-expected decline in both crude and condensate exports appears to be a reaction to U.S. banking and shipping insurance sanctions that went into effect over the summer.

"The first wave of sanctions in August sent the message to the market that the U.S. was serious, and I think has resulted in these early cuts to Iranian exports ahead of the Nov. 4 implementation of oil sanctions," said Joe McMonigle, energy analyst at Hedgeye Risk Management LLC and a former senior official at the U.S. Energy Department.

Iran has tried to offset some of the impact by offering China and India, two countries likely to keep buying at least some oil, to ship the crude using its own tankers at no extra cost, effectively giving New Delhi and Beijing a small discount. So far, it doesn’t appear to be working: in the first two weeks of September, India has loaded just 240,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil, less than half the usual amount >>>

Gone with the Wind

Shahrokh Heydari

“Childhood Gone with the Wind” cartoon by Shahrokh Heidari. Children need our love & protection. Lack of children's rights & culture of rights has made for rampant abuse under Islamic Republic.

Crazy War

Cartoon by Marian Kamensky

Trump is unshackling America's drones thanks to Obama's weakness

Brett Max Kaufman, ACLU

The Guardian: For more than a decade, the worst-kept secret in the world has been the fact that the Central Intelligence Agency owns and operates lethal drones outside of recognized battlefields abroad. Newspapers blare it from their headlines. Legislators discuss it on television. Foreign governments protest it through press releases. And, of course, human beings witness it through the death and destruction foist upon their communities.

Still, according to the US government and the federal courts, the CIA’s operation of drones to hunt and kill terrorism suspects – a campaign that has killed thousands of people, including hundreds of children, in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia – remains an official secret.

Toward the end of the Obama administration, the president moderately circumscribed the agency’s role in executing lethal strikes abroad, in part to increase public transparency. Compared to the US military (which also uses lethal force abroad), the CIA is relatively less accountable to policy makers, members of Congress, and the American public. With a diminished role in targeted killings, it appeared then that the CIA’s official secrecy was becoming less important to the overall drone program. But as critics warned could happen, President Trump quickly lifted many of the late-Obama-era limits while ramping up the government’s use of lethal drones abroad and reportedly putting the CIA back in the drone business.

For the world’s most notorious spy agency, official secrecy – what Obama’s own stymied Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, called a “fiction of deniability” in a 2013 case concerning drone transparency and the CIA – is exceedingly convenient. By both law and custom, “covert actions” taken by the CIA are not generally acknowledged by government officials after they happen. And without such acknowledgment, the public is left without meaningful information concerning what the government is up to, even when those actions are documented to have taken innocent lives.                                              

All of this has made the agency an attractive vehicle, to those so inclined, for carrying out legally and morally questionable programs in the name of “national security.” Some of the agency’s greatest hits include helping to spark a coup against a democratic government in Iran, supporting torture and assassinations through the Phoenix Program in wartime Vietnam, and domestically spying on Americans involved in the peace movement during the 1960s.

Considering that history, it is no accident that when President Bush decided to carry out a campaign of extraordinary rendition and torture at “black sites” around the globe, he looked to the CIA. The same goes for President Obama, who inherited a targeted killing program from the prior administration, then vastly expanded it. The Bush administration carried out roughly 50 attacks that killed around 500 people; under Obama, the government conducted more than 500 strikes that killed more than 3,000.

With the help of then–chief counterterrorism advisor (and newly anointed Resistance hero) John Brennan, Obama not only ramped up the use of drones for targeted killings but effectively institutionalized them, channeling what had been mostly ad hoc decisions about who to kill and where into a systematized process, complete with Orwellian nomenclature like “disposition matrix” (ie, “kill list”) and “direct action” procedures.

Obama’s effort to impose rules and procedures upon the drone program included the enactment, by executive decree, of standards very loosely analogous to international law requirements that apply in war time to lethal strikes. Those standards were vague, and the ones upon which they were based were never meant to apply in countries in which the US is not at war. In addition, how the government actually applied the standards, and what evidence was required to satisfy them, was shrouded in secrecy. Indeed, it refused to release the standards until litigation brought by the ACLU forced their release in 2016.

After Brennan became CIA Director, according to reports, Obama reportedly shifted at least some authority for carrying out many drone strikes away from the CIA to the military, both to make targeted killing strikes more centralized and accountable internally, and to permit the government to defend strikes that came under scrutiny from foreign allies, the media, and rights organizations.

But all of Obama’s changes were, in one critical way, fundamentally deficient. Because all of them were imposed through executive orders, they would do little to bind his successors. Lo and behold, President Trump promptly loosened the killing rules and exempted certain geographic regions from their coverage. He also quickly gave the CIA renewed authority to conduct strikes against suspected terrorists without the involvement of the Pentagon. Now, he has apparently determined to further reassert CIA control over lethal drones by establishing the agency’s own drone base in Niger, broadening the agency’s lethal reach into Libya and other parts of Africa.

That decision is an ominous reversal of the agency’s formerly declining role in targeted killings abroad. Because the CIA tries to shield information about its covert actions, including through the egregious use of blanket “can neither confirm nor deny” responses to public records requests, the re-expansion of the CIA drone program will lead to even greater secrecy at a critical moment. Strikes in Somalia and Yemen have increased threefold under President Trump. These strikes are already destabilizing an important part of the world, and they are causing more civilian deaths for which the government will refuse to answer. The CIA’s authority to reach into new regions is sure to cause even more.

Trump’s move is, moreover, a crucial reminder that lasting restraints on presidential power must come from Congress and the courts, not executive promises that can easily be undone. Critics of Obama’s use of drones asked his supporters, who were often silent about targeted killings carried out under his watch, to consider whether they would trust his successor with the same awesome, lethal powers over targeted killings abroad. Trump’s most recent moves have made those warnings all too prescient – with devastating consequences for civilians, and America’s moral standing, around the world.

Brett Max Kaufman is a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, where he works on issues related to national security, surveillance, privacy and technology.

Execution Republic

Reza Delrish

The worst of Syrian war

Cartoon by Rainer Hachfeld

Idlib conflict shaping up to be the worst of Syrian war

The Financial Times: The battle for Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s more than seven-year-long civil war, is about to start. The war is all but over. Salvaged by Russia and Iran, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime has won. An initially broad-based rebellion against tyranny that was hijacked by jihadi extremists has lost. With Idlib it looks like this conflict — already a catalogue of horror — has saved the worst for last.

Idlib, in north-west Syria, was one of the first cities to rise up against the Assads. Taken by the regime in 2012, it was captured in 2015 by a potent alliance of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra front and Ahrar al-Sham, an Islamist group supported by Turkey.

Last year it became one of four “de-escalation zones” devised by Russia in co-ordination with Iran and Turkey. Resistance in these areas was still strong and the Assad regime, short of manpower, needed breathing space. The zones then became a diplomatic figleaf to cover the regime’s renewed advances alongside Iranian-supplied militia on the ground and the Russian air force in the sky.

The pro-Assad coalition, far from de-escalating, recaptured Deraa in the south, where the rebellion began, and eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Surviving fighters and civilian refugees from these ruins were driven north to Idlib, corralled into what Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, calls the “last hotbed of terrorists” in Syria — now ripe for eradication.

Estimates vary wildly but there are thought to be between 30,000 and 70,000 fighters in Idlib province. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the rebranded Nusra front, is probably the most powerful group, having forcibly taken over much of the Turkish-allied Ahrar al-Sham. Ankara has regrouped its Syrian proxies into a newly minted National Liberation Front, as a counterweight to HTS, alongside 12 Turkish army “observation posts” in Idlib that are supposed to separate the warring parties.

But there are also more than 3m civilians in the area, half of them refugees from other rebel enclaves, crammed into less than 1,500 sq km. They have run out of de-escalation zones to flee to.

Those who have been displaced before will recognise the signals that preceded the offensives against their previous homes: episodic air strikes to test world opinion; targeting of hospitals and markets; the pre-emptive denunciation of jihadist provocateurs supposedly preparing chemical attacks to blame on the Syrian government (which used gas at Douma in the Ghouta offensive).

In Tehran last Friday, a summit of Russia, Turkey and Iran could not agree on a formula to spare Idlib and its desperate people from being pulverised. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s leader, publicly disagreed.

Ankara wants the offensive put on hold. A humanitarian disaster will trigger a massive new surge of refugees. Turkey, which already hosts 3.5m Syrian exiles, has closed its borders. But that will simply displace the flows into already teeming areas it controls in north-west Syria, Afrin and Jarablus. Mr Erdogan’s seizure of these territories over the past two years was allowed by Mr Putin, but on the understanding Turkey dealt with the jihadi menace in Idlib. Now Moscow plans to liquidate this threat, including large numbers of Uzbek and Chechen fighters that might blow back into Russia.

Where, at this point, are the western powers that willed the downfall of the Assads without providing Syria’s rebels with the means to achieve it, muttering it was just all too complicated?

US forces are dislodging Isis — the jihadist spawn of western recklessness in Iraq and fecklessness in Syria — from its remaining toeholds in the Euphrates valley south-east of Idlib. President Donald Trump found time to tweet that it would be “a grave humanitarian mistake” for Russia and Iran to abet a bloodbath.

European powers are busily trying to disengage from and, where possible, ignore Syria. It does not look like they are well braced for the coming refugee crisis that threatens to revive the “migrant” hysteria that seized Europe in 2015-16. Russia has been telling Germany and France it can facilitate the return of some 6m Syrian refugees, if only the EU and the US reconcile with Assad rule in the interests of stability and cough up the funds to resurrect Syria from the rubble. This is a delusion.

The Assads will never allow the re-creation of a demographic balance — a prewar population with a 70 per cent Sunni majority — that almost brought their minority regime down. The regime is preventing the return of Sunni Arab men and boys of fighting age. It has also passed decrees — notably the infamous Law 10 or Absentee Property Law — to expropriate the homes and assets of refugees.

Russia has leverage against Europe, which fears a new refugee scare. But Europeans have something Mr Putin wants: the power to normalise relations with Syria and the money to reconstruct it. Somewhere in the tangle of this mutual blackmail may lie the material for a diplomatic thrust to restrain the Idlib offensive.

What is certain is that Syria cannot be wished away. Idlib is about to put the conflict back on the international agenda — in what is shaping up to be a horrendous fashion.

Thwart Iran, Save Idlib

Cartoon by Vasco Gargalo

To Thwart Iran, Save Idlib

By Bret Stephens, Opinion Columnist

The New York Times: The Trump administration has made clear that its top priority in the Middle East is to thwart Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions. So why is it so reluctant to lift a finger against Tehran’s most audacious gambit in Syria?

That gambit is the reconquest, by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies, of Idlib Province, the last major rebel holdout in western Syria and home to about three million people. A humanitarian catastrophe is expected to follow, entailing mass casualties and another tidal wave of refugees.

By now, the strategic consequences should also be obvious. Iran will have succeeded in consolidating a Shiite crescent stretching from Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Russia will have succeeded in reasserting itself as a Mideast military victor and diplomatic power broker. Hezbollah, already the dominant political player in Lebanon, will further extend its influence in Syria.

As for Assad, he will have shown that the community of civilized nations will, in fact, let you get away with murder. And with using prohibited chemical weapons. And with decimating your own people by means of barrel bombs, mass torture and food blockades.

The losers in this equation: Turkey, already groaning under the pressure of millions of Syrian refugees and a crumbling economy; Israel, whose repeated strikes against Iranian targets in Syria have dented but not denied Tehran’s ambitions; Europe, which could face yet another refugee crisis even as the effects of the last are felt in the resurgence of the far right; and the Syrian people, terrorized witnesses to the marriage of wickedness and indifference.

And then there’s the United States, where two administrations have now allowed the Syrian crisis to become depressing testimony to the worthlessness of our word, the fickleness of our friendship and hollowness of our values. Donald Trump, loudly billing himself as Barack Obama’s opposite in every respect, has effectively adopted his predecessor’s worst foreign policy mistake.

At least the Obama administration could privately justify a weak Syria policy as being consonant with their desire to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. Trump’s Syria policy lacks that dubious coherence: It seems to have no broader rationale other than the president’s knee-jerk isolationism, his deference to Vladimir Putin, his apparent belief that the only vital U.S. interest in Syria is the defeat of ISIS, and his occasional need to look tough by ordering minimally effective airstrikes.

Even John Bolton’s latest threat to hit Assad harder if he uses chemical weapons in Idlib doesn’t rise to the level of meaningful policy. Punishing the use of chemical weapons without exacting a devastating price on the user is just the sort of feckless gesture the national security adviser would gleefully have mocked when he was out of government.

What would be a serious policy? Trump warned — in a tweet! — that Assad “must not recklessly attack Idlib Province.” Such an attack should be the administration’s red line, regardless of whether the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons. If Assad crosses it, the U.S. can destroy everything that remains of the Syrian Air Force and crater the runways Iran uses to supply its own forces in Syria. If Assad continues to move, his presidential palaces should be next.

After that, Assad himself. By then he will have been fairly warned.

The larger goal is to establish that the U.S. has the ability and will to achieve core foreign policy objectives at a relatively reasonable price. Those objectives are to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe; exact an increasingly heavy toll on Assad and his allies for prosecuting their offensive; create leverage for future diplomacy; and demonstrate to regional allies that we can be an effective, engaged and reliable partner, provided they’re willing to do their share.

What the objective is not is to dictate Syria’s future or solve its problems, much less get into the weeds of sorting out Idlib’s bad rebels from the more moderate ones. Down that road lies Iraq II.

But American policymakers desperately need to learn how to find the middle road between overreaction and inaction; between a missionary zeal to solve other people’s agonies and the illusion that we can remain aloof from them. The Obama administration thought it could largely wash its hands of Syria. It ended up acting as a bystander to genocide, to borrow Samantha Power’s famous phrase.

The Trump administration might still think it can fire off a few cruise missiles and the odd tweet in the face of Assad’s depredations. If so, it will wind up as a midwife to the mullahs’ ambitions, however many sanctions the president might otherwise slap on Tehran.

The countdown for the siege of Idlib has begun. America’s enemies know the stakes. Do we?


John Bolton threatens war crimes court

Cartoon by Joep Bertrams

John Bolton threatens war crimes court with sanctions in virulent attack 

The Guardian: John Bolton, the hawkish US national security adviser, has threatened the international criminal court (ICC) with sanctions and made an excoriating attack on the institution in a speech in Washington.

Bolton pushed for sanctions over an ICC investigation into alleged American war crimes in Afghanistan. He also announced on Monday the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington because of its calls for an ICC inquiry into Israel.
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“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton said.

He said the Trump administration would “fight back” and impose sanctions – even seeking to criminally prosecute ICC officials – if the court formally proceeded with opening an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by US military and intelligence staff during the war in Afghanistan or pursued any investigation into Israel or other US allies.

Bolton vowed that the United States would retaliate by banning ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the US, imposing sanctions on any funds they had in the States and prosecuting them in the American court system.

“If the court comes after us, Israel, or other US allies we will not sit quietly,” he said, also threatening to impose the same sanctions on any country that aided the investigation.

He condemned the inquiry into war crimes in Afghanistan as an “utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation” and the court as illegitimate.

“We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead,” Bolton said.

He said the US would negotiate more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit countries from surrendering Americans to the court in The Hague.

David Scheffer, who established the ICC on behalf of the US and served as the country’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said: “The Bolton speech today isolates the United States from international criminal justice and severely undermines our leadership in bringing perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice elsewhere in the world.

“The double standard set forth in his speech will likely play well with authoritarian regimes, which will resist accountability for atrocity crimes and ignore international efforts to advance the rule of law. This was a speech soaked in fear and Bolton sounded the message, once again, that the United States is intimidated by international law and multilateral organizations. I saw not strength but weakness conveyed today by the Trump Administration.”

The senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed that a US official had notified the Palestinian leadership that its diplomatic mission in Washington DC would be closed.

The move follows a year of US action seen as detrimental to Palestinians, most recently the slashing of hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance. Trump has said the cuts were to pressure the Palestinians to make a peace deal, although his administration has not announced any specific efforts.

Erekat said: “This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people.” He added that Palestinian authorities were taking “necessary measures to protect the rights of our citizens living in the United States to access their consular services”.

“We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying and that we will continue our legitimate struggle for freedom, justice, and independence, including by all political and legal means possible,” he said.

The UN-backed ICC’s remit is to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The US did not ratify the Rome treaty that established the court in 2002. The then president George W Bush was strongly opposed to the court. President Barack Obama subsequently took measures to improve cooperation with it.

“We will consider taking steps in the UN security council to constrain the court’s sweeping powers, including to ensure that the ICC does not exercise jurisdiction over Americans and the nationals of our allies that have not ratified the Rome statute,” Bolton said.

In May, Trump opened a US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, ending decades of consensus that the contested city’s status should be decided in future negotiations, as Palestinians claim its eastern parts while Israel claims the entire city as its capital.

The embassy opening prompted the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to reject Washington’s traditional role as a mediator, recalling his envoy to the US and stopping communication.

Days later, the Palestinian foreign minister asked the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to open an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, and apartheid. The referral came during a period of heightened bloodshed in Gaza as Israeli snipers shot hundreds of people attending weekly protests.

Israel is not a signatory to the ICC and has said the body lacks jurisdiction. The ICC launched a preliminary examination in 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Palestinian territories. However, the court has not opened a full investigation that could ultimately lead to indictments.

“We will not allow the ICC or any other organisation to constrain Israel’s right to self-defence,” Bolton said on Monday.

A spokesman for the ICC said earlier on Monday: “The international criminal court is aware of media reports of the speech scheduled to be delivered by US national security adviser, Mr John Bolton, later today concerning the ICC.

“The Rome statute, the court’s founding treaty, today benefits from the membership of 123 states parties representing all regions of the world. The ICC, as a judicial institution, acts strictly within the legal framework of the Rome statute and is committed to the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate.”

17 years later

Behnam Mohammadi

Longest War

Cartoon by Joel Pett

The US has spent $1.5 trillion on war since Sept 11 attacks

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNBC) — The collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.5 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report.

The current U.S. military operations, designated Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan, Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq, and Operation Noble Eagle for homeland security missions in the U.S. and Canada, have accounted for $185.5 billion of that sum.

Of the three current operations, Freedom Sentinel takes the lion's share of costs at $134.3 billion, followed by Noble Eagle at $27.7 billion, and Inherent Resolve at $23.5 billion. According to the report, the money goes toward training, equipment, maintenance as well as food, clothing, medical services and pay for troops.

Ahead of an announced trip to Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters traveling with him that he was hopeful peace talks with the Taliban would signal an end to America's longest war. The fight in Afghanistan has been ongoing for the last 17 years.

"Right now, we have more indications that reconciliation is no longer just a shimmer out there, no longer just a mirage," Mattis said.

"It now has some framework, there's some open lines of communication," Mattis added.

Over the summer, a top U.S. State Department official met Taliban officials in Qatar to try to lay the ground work for broader peace talks.

The visit is Mattis' fourth time in the country since becoming Defense secretary, and it's part of a larger trip including stops in San Diego and India.

A U.S. service member was killed and another wounded Monday in "an apparent insider attack" in eastern Afghanistan, according to a statement from the Resolute Support, the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, 20 people were killed in twin bomb attacks in Kabul. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Currently there are approximately 14,000 Americans in Afghanistan.