Europe/Americas update: November 16-17 2017

EUROPE

RUSSIA

The Atlantic Council has compiled a list of European political parties believed to be in cahoots with Vladimir Putin in his evil plan to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox steal hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bearer bonds from the main vault in Nakatomi Plaza send an unstoppable cyborg back in time to kill John Connor’s mother before she can give birth to him uhh, to do various evil things. If you’d like to know which European parties to cite as justification when you’re arrested for cracking open your neighbor’s head and feasting on the goo inside, the Washington Post has helpfully digested the report, so at least you won’t have to do so much reading to build your defense.

GERMANY

Negotiations between the CDU/CSU coalition, the Greens, and the Free Democrats on forming a governing coalition blew through a Thursday deadline and now look like they’ll continue through the weekend at least. Which I guess is a positive sign–if there was no progress being made then the parties probably would’ve packed it in on Thursday and scrambled for a plan B. But unsurprisingly it’s been difficult to get conservatives, libertarians, and lefties on the same page on, well, almost anything. The parties may find some motivation in desperation–failure to form a coalition means either a minority government led by Merkel, which would be a first in post-war German history, or snap elections, in which German voters could decide to punish all three of them for their failure and further strengthen the Nazi-adjacent Alternative for Germany party.

SPAIN

Well this is kind of interesting:

An imam who masterminded the August terrorist attacks in Barcelona and a seaside resort that killed 16 people had provided information to the Spanish secret service while he was in prison in 2014, a secret service official said Friday.

 

The secret service contacted the imam, Abdelbaki Essati, while he was serving a sentence on narcotics charges, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter.

 

The official said that the imam was not a formal informant, but instead one of the contacts that the secret service, the National Intelligence Center, or CNI, cultivated to learn more about radical Islamist groups operating in Spain.

All the questions that surfaced in August about why Spanish authorities failed to detect this cell before it acted could come bubbling back to the surface just as Catalonia gets ready to elect a new regional government and maybe make an electoral statement about Catalan independence. It’s hard to plead total ignorance of a terror cell’s very existence when the leader of that cell is one of your own intelligence assets.

UNITED KINGDOM

The European Union has told British Prime Minister Theresa May that she has two weeks to up Britain’s divorce payment to Brussels and figure out how to deal with the post-Brexit Irish border if she wants the EU to move on starting trade negotiations before the end of the year. EU Council President Donald Tusk says he needs clarity on these issues before he can recommend to the council that it’s time to start the second phase of Brexit talks. Meanwhile, the Dutch parliament’s European Affairs committee says the Netherlands must prepare for Brexit without a trade deal, so they don’t seem to be too optimistic about the way things are going at the moment. The size of the divorce payment is believed to be the biggest and most immovable sticking point, but the Irish border is going to be nearly as difficult to figure out and Ireland seems inclined to take a pretty hard line on letting the talks move forward.

Even if Britain does get the EU to move on to trade relationship talks, those are likely to be a big disappointment to London:

Brussels views its free-trade agreement with Canada as the only realistic model for post-Brexit trade with the U.K., scotching British Prime Minister Theresa May’s hopes of a far broader bespoke deal.

 

According to framework documents from EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier seen by POLITICO, London’s insistence on quitting the single market and customs union means that a basic EU-Canada-style deal is the only option.

 

Sliding back onto a Canada-style trading relationship would be a big failure for May, who has acknowledged that the Brussels-Ottawa arrangement is greatly inferior to Britain’s current position in the EU’s single market.

Know-nothing dipshits like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove assured people during the Brexit campaign that of course the EU would agree to give Britain everything it wanted, which was all the perks of membership with none of the responsibilities. They were either outright lying or they haven’t figured out that this is no longer the middle of the 19th century and Britain is no longer a great world power. Either way, they seem to be on the cusp of a very public awakening.

AMERICAS

UNITED STATES

At the New York Times, reporter Azmat Khan and researcher Anand Gopal have dug into American claims about the civilian casualties caused by our air campaign. Their findings are stunning and lead to the conclusion that the failure by American military officials to keep track of the civilians we’re killing, and to obfuscate those deaths whenever possible, is deliberate:

Our own reporting, conducted over 18 months, shows that the air war has been significantly less precise than the coalition claims. Between April 2016 and June 2017, we visited the sites of nearly 150 airstrikes across northern Iraq, not long after ISIS was evicted from them. We toured the wreckage; we interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants and local officials; we photographed bomb fragments, scoured local news sources, identified ISIS targets in the vicinity and mapped the destruction through satellite imagery. We also visited the American air base in Qatar where the coalition directs the air campaign. There, we were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers and civilian-casualty assessment experts. We provided their analysts with the coordinates and date ranges of every airstrike — 103 in all — in three ISIS-controlled areas and examined their responses. The result is the first systematic, ground-based sample of airstrikes in Iraq since this latest military action began in 2014.

 

We found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition. It is at such a distance from official claims that, in terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history. Our reporting, moreover, revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all. While some of the civilian deaths we documented were a result of proximity to a legitimate ISIS target, many others appear to be the result simply of flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants. In this system, Iraqis are considered guilty until proved innocent. Those who survive the strikes, people like Basim Razzo, remain marked as possible ISIS sympathizers, with no discernible path to clear their names.

Finally, I give you another contribution from the NYT. Here, Russia analyst David Klion does what I think is a credible job of making the case that the Russia-Trump investigation is relevant even to leftists who don’t buy the “Russia got Trump elected” framework. Myself, I think the election interference matters even if I have very little patience for attempts to use it to excuse every one of the Democratic Party’s myriad failures. But even if you don’t give a shit about 2016, Klion argues that the Mueller investigation is helping to shed light on another very important story, the inner workings of the global oligarchy:

But as the investigation led by Robert Mueller closes in on more Trump associates like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, it seems clear that the Russia story is only going to get bigger. Rather than downplay or deny it, the left should embrace it. Mr. Trump’s Russia ties illustrate the dangers of inequality and elite corruption — and point to the need for radical solutions.

 

The release this month of millions of leaked documents known as the Paradise Papers establishes what leftists have argued for years: The United States-led push for free trade and a globalized economy has resulted in vast, unaccountable flows of untaxed offshore wealth. The policies of the post-Cold War Washington consensus have enriched the 1 percent and offered new ways to shelter and launder money across borders. A transnational oligarchy has arisen, with secretive business partnerships tying, for instance, Wilbur Ross, Mr. Trump’s commerce secretary, to the family of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Far from undermining left-wing arguments, discussing these arrangements perfectly demonstrates the failings of contemporary capitalism.

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