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BLOWBACK? 100,000 Person Force That Helped Defeat ISIS May Turn Against Us

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(Via The Daily Wire)

A 100,000-member force with close ties to Iran says that now that they have helped U.S.-led coalition troops fight and defeat ISIS, they may have a new target: American troops.

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), aka Hashd al-Shaabi, fought on both sides in Iraq but now they want Americans out of the country. Saif Ali, a member of the PMF’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba paramilitary, told Fox News, “America should only be here for embassy, any military presence and we will target them. I fought the Americans after 2003, and the British in southern Iraq, and I am happy about that. I don’t hate the American people, only hate the U.S. military, and I have killed many of them.”

Fox News reports, “Ali is one of thousands of PMF members who also took advantage of Iran-supplied weapons and ammunition to take the lives of hundreds of U.S. troops during the insurgency that followed the invasion of Iraq.”

The PMF, a Shiite-created entity, originally was comprised of 40 different militia groups. After they fought against ISIS, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made them part of the Baghdad government’s security forces in November 2016.

In July 2017, Sayyid al-Shuhada, a member of the Hashd al-Shaabi forces, said a “large number” of troops were killed and wounded in U.S. airstrikes in Anbar province near the Iraq-Syria border. The group released a statement saying, “We will not be silent in the face of this incident.” The Baghdad-based spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, Army Col. Ryan Dillon, dismissed the allegation.

Mohand al-Eqqaby, the PMF spokesman, said, “Our stand is clear. America was not there at the beginning of this ISIS crisis when we needed them most. We are strong now, and as long as we are fighting, Iraq does not need Americans on our land.”

In addition, the PMF may win seats in Iraq’s parliament, and there is genuine concern that their primary loyalty would be to Iran. Many of their members have joined Syria’s army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah forces which is troubling to some U.S. officials.

In November, CIA chief Mike Pompeo contacted Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassam Soleimani, warning him that troops loyal to Iran might attack American forces. Pompeo stated that the U.S. would hold Iran accountable for “any attacks on American interests.”

James Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation, said, “Now that ISIS is not much of a threat, the PMF is likely to plan attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq that would be carried out as soon as Tehran gives the orders. This is a major concern, given that tensions between Iran and the U.S. are likely to grow in the future.”

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Economy

China Pressuring Wall Street To Stop Trump On Trade War

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(Via Zerohedge)

If anyone still doubted President Trump’s determination to slap tariffs on all – or even more than all – Chinese goods flowing into the US, they probably don’t anymore. So far this week, the president has taken to twitter to trash his own Treasury Secretary’s efforts to restart talks with the Chinese, before Trump publicly declared on Friday that he intends to move ahead with plans to slap 25% tariffs on another $200 billion worth of goods.

Given the president’s unflinching resolve in pursuing his trade agenda, it’s understandable why a shrewd businessmen would go to great lengths to avoid getting in the middle of what looks to be a protracted geopolitical dogfight.

But unfortunately for top Wall Street firms, many of which harbor ambitions of expanding their business in China, that may no longer be an option. Because while the Trump administration has largely left them alone, the Chinese are now trying to use whatever leverage they can (i.e. preferential access to the world’s second-largest economy) to push America’s top bankers to intervene on Beijing’s behalf.

Reuters reported Friday that top Chinese officials have hastily organized an investment conference in Beijing and requested the presence of several top Wall Street firms. The conference will be chaired by former PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan and ex-Goldman Sachs President John Thornton, and feature an appearance by Chinese vice-president Wang Qishan. Dubbed “the firefighter” by the Chinese people, Quishan, in addition to being the most powerful of China’s vice presidents, is also one of the senior Communist officials involved in managing the trade dispute.

While market liberalization is certainly a priority for the Chinese, it’s difficult to imagine that these top officials are planning to attend this conference – especially with so much else going on – just to brainstorm ideas about how China can proceed with opening up its financial sector.

The subtext here is obvious: China wants to figure out who in the US financial services community can help them get through to Trump and help stop this conflict before losses in China’s currency and stock market spiral out of control. And if the carrot of access doesn’t work, China has already proven adept at leveraging the stick.

(Full Article Here)

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Economy

America vs China: $200 Billion in New Tariffs Coming Soon?

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(Via Zerohedge)

In the latest installment of the story that just won’t go away, the WSJ reported on Saturday that – as Bloomberg reported first yesterday – the Trump administration plans to announce new tariffs on up to $200 billion in Chinese goods as soon as Monday and otherwise “within days”, in a move that will likely render moot the high-level, U.S.-China talks set for later this month, will prompt an immediate retaliation from China, and may lead to a sharply lower futures open on Sunday night.

The silver lining in the imminent announcement is that while previously Trump had said he would proceed with a 25% tariff level, the WSJ reports that the US will start with tariffs of “around 10%.” The level was lowered “following extensive public hearings and the submission of written comments where importers and others complained of the possible impact of the duties” as well as to try to reduce the bite on American consumers ahead of the year-end holiday shopping season, these people said.

But the people familiar said that the tariff level could be raised back to 25% if Mr. Trump concludes that Beijing doesn’t soon show signs that it is acceding to U.S. demands to change its economic policies.

Furthermore, WSJ sources said that while details were still being completed over the weekend, the tariff level could change, or that Trump could change his mind entirely. As of Saturday, an announcement was planned for Monday or Tuesday.

(Full Article Here)

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Tech

Google & China Have A Program Linking Phone Numbers To Searches

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(Via Zerohedge)

A prototype of Google’s censored search engine for China links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, “thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries,” reports The Intercept.

The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, revolves around the Android platform and is designed to remove content deemed by government officials to be sensitive or offensive – such as information about protests, free speech, political dissidents, democracy and human rights violations.

Sources familiar with the project said that prototypes of the search engine linked the search app on a user’s Android smartphone with their phone number. This means individual people’s searches could be easily tracked – and any user seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google.

the search platform also appeared to have been tailored to replace weather and air pollution data with information provided directly by an unnamed source in Beijing. The Chinese government has a record of manipulating details about pollution in the country’s cities. One Google source said the company had built a system, integrated as part of Dragonfly, that was “essentially hardcoded to force their [Chinese-provided] data.” -The Intercept

“This is very problematic from a privacy point of view, because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people’s behavior,” says Human Rights Watch senior internet research Cynthia Wong. “Linking searches to a phone number would make it much harder for people to avoid the kind of overreaching government surveillance that is pervasive in China.”

Human rights groups have slammed Dragonfly, insisting that it could result in Google “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.”

(Full Article Here)

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