Why Obama is destroying relations with Russia and Israeli before leaving office ?!
US abstains as UN demands end to Israeli settlements
The United States on Friday allowed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction to be adopted, defying extraordinary pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in alliance with President-elect Donald Trump.
The Security Council approved the resolution with 14 votes, with the US abstaining. There was applause in the chamber following the vote, which represented perhaps the final bitter chapter in the years of antagonism between President Barack Obama’s administration and Netanyahu’s government.
In an intense flurry of diplomacy that unfolded in the two days before the vote, a senior Israeli official had accused the United States of abandoning the Jewish state with its refusal to block the resolution with a veto.
Trump had also inserted himself in the diplomatic drama, in defiance of the convention that the United States has only one president at a time, by calling on the Obama administration to wield its Security Council veto.
Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, reacted angrily to the vote and issued a sharp parting shot at the Obama administration’s role.
“It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution. I have no doubt that the new US administration and the incoming UN Secretary General will usher in a new era in terms of the UN’s relationship with Israel,” he said.
In a statement, Netanyahu’s office accused the Obama administration of “colluding” with the UN and said it looked forward to working with Trump, as well as Israel-friendly members of Congress, “to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”
The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, raised her hand to abstain in the chamber when the resolution was put to a vote.
Power argued after the vote that opposing settlement expansion was consistent with the bipartisan consensus accepted by every single US president of both parties since Ronald Reagan, in comments that could be seen as a criticism of Trump’s position.
“This resolution reflects trends that will permanent destroy the two state solution if they continue on their current course,” Power said in a speech before the chamber.
“Our vote today does not in any way diminish the United States’ steadfast and unparalleled commitment to the security of Israel,” Power said.
The Palestinians were delighted by their rare diplomatic coup.
“This is a victory for the people and for the cause, and it opens doors wide for the demand of sanctions on settlements,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian leader.
“This is a bias towards justice and international law.”
But Trump — who has vowed to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and has nominated an ambassador in David Friedman who is supportive of settlers — pledged that the Palestinians would no longer have a platform at the UN when he is inaugurated next month.
“As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “The big loss yesterday for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad, but we will get it done anyway!”
The United States and most other nations consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as an obstacle to the hopes of a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Obama administration, which mounted two failed efforts to broker Middle East peace, became increasingly angry about continued Israeli settlement expansion over its eight years in the White House. The Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to establish facts on the ground by building on land they view as part of their future state.
“Today, the United States acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two state solution, which every US administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,”
Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement, adding that the US does not “agree with every aspect” of the resolution.
He added: “We cannot in good conscience stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.”
US sanctions Russia over hacking, expels 35 officials
The Obama administration on Thursday announced an array of retaliatory measures against Russia in response to a hacking campaign geared at interfering in the U.S. presidential election.
The measures include a slate of economic sanctions, diplomatic censure, and public “naming and shaming.” The president also hinted at possible covert cyber measures but did not provide details.
The president also announced that the State Department will expel 35 Russian intelligence operatives and shutter two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used by Russia for intelligence purposes.
The sanctions target two of Russia’s main intelligence organizations — the GRU and the FSB — four individual GRU officers and three companies who provided support to the GRU.
To levy the sanctions, Obama broadened a 2015 executive order giving the president the authority to punish foreign actors who carry out cyberattacks against the U.S.
The order allows the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of individuals or entities who used digital means to damage U.S. critical infrastructure or engage in economic espionage.
The changes expanded the order to allow Treasury to sanction individuals and entities “responsible for tampering, altering, or causing the misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.”
Further, Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security and FBI would declassify “technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity” to help networks defend against “Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.” That report was released Thursday afternoon.
The president also signaled that the U.S. will undertake some covert action against Russia.
“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” Obama said in a statement. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized.”
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country will likely take retaliatory measures against the United States.
“You realize, of course, reciprocal steps will be made and the U.S. embassy in Moscow and, quite possibly, the consulates will be cut down to size as well,” Vladimir Dzhabarov, the deputy chairman of the foreign policy committee in the Russian Duma, told Tass News News Agency.
Obama has been under pressure to respond to Russia over the intelligence community’s assessment that the Kremlin was behind the theft and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and other Democratic political organizations.
The two intelligence agencies targeted by the sanctions, the FSB and the GRU, are believed to have carried out the attacks.
The Federal Security Service, or FSB, is the main successor to the KGB — once headed by Putin.
The FSB is thought to be behind the hacking group known as “Cozy Bear.” A more traditional, long-range intelligence agency, the FSB lurked on the DNC systems for over a year.
The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, is thought to be behind the second group that infiltrated the DNC, known as “Fancy Bear.” Fancy Bear is also believed to have breached Podesta’s emails.
Despite their overlapping targets, the two agencies have different missions in the cyber realm.
Fancy Bear is thought to be the group responsible for “doxxing” the DNC and Podesta by allegedly providing the stolen missives to WikiLeaks to publish.
Putin has denied any involvement in the hacks, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he did not obtain his documents from Russia.
Among the individuals named in Obama’s sanctions order Thursday are Lieutenant General Igor Korobov, who heads the GRU, and three deputies: deputy chief Sergey Gizunov and first deputy chiefs Igor Kostyukov and Vladimir Alekseyev.
Two other individuals, Alekseyevich Belan and Evgeniy Bogachev, were sanctioned over unrelated crimes, including using cyber tools to misappropriate funds and personal information.
Bogachev is the at-large mastermind behind a massive botnet known as GameOver Zeus taken down by the FBI in 2014.
The intelligence community in October made an official announcement blaming Russia for “interfering” in the U.S. election, but the administration took no other public action. Subsequent leaks from anonymous officials have said that the CIA believes the campaign was an explicit attempt by Putin to ensure President-elect Donald Trump’s victory.
Despite calls from all corners to establish a firm deterrent to the kind of influence campaign undertaken by Moscow, the White House moved cautiously.
“The debate, I think, within the [Obama] administration has always been: Will steps risk too much of an escalation?” the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), said in an interview with The Atlantic earlier this week.
The U.S. throughout the fall was engaged in tense, fragile cease-fire talks with Russia over Syria.
But critics have characterized Russia’s attempt to meddle in the election as an “unprecedented” attack on American democracy — one that demanded a response.
Cyber policy experts have argued that covert cyber actions would not be enough. The U.S. needed to respond to Russia publicly to signal to other nations that interfering in the U.S democratic process carries a high risk.
Some — like Schiff — say Obama was too cautious.
“I think the process of sanctioning Russia should have begun far earlier, and we should have worked with our European allies to impose costs on Russia,” Schiff said in the interview Tuesday. “That would have also telegraphed to the American people how serious this was.
“The impact has been inviting too much Russian interference because there hasn’t been enough of a pushback. I think [the Obama administration] have erred too much on the side of caution. And that has ended up costing us.”
Democrats had urged Obama to respond before he cedes the White House to Trump on Jan. 20, fearing that the president-elect would take no action. Trump has famously praised Putin and expressed a desire for warmer relations with the Kremlin.
Some Republicans, meanwhile, also called for retaliation, but have argued the response should come from the new administration.
“Let the new Congress and the new president deal with Russia, pass new sanctions, much tougher than the ones we already have,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday, arguing, “You need to hit Russia in a sustained fashion.”
Democrats and some Republicans quickly praised news of the sanctions.
“I hope the incoming Trump administration, which has been far too close to Russia throughout the campaign and transition, won’t think for one second about weakening these new sanctions or our existing regime,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Similarly, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called Obama’s action “overdue” and “appropriate,” though he slammed Obama as having an “ineffective foreign policy.”
Ryan added that “Russia does not share America’s interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world.”
President-elect Trump has continued to deny Russian involvement in the election, treating any suggestion to that effect as an attack on the legitimacy of his forthcoming presidency.
Obama has similarly been under pressure to provide documentation backing up the intelligence community’s claims that Russia was involved.
“If the CIA director, [John] Brennan, and others at the top are serious about turning over evidence … they should do that,” Trump aide Kellyanne Conway said earlier this month. “They should not be leaking to the media. If there’s evidence, let’s see it.”