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White House posts video of bishop saying 'demonic spirit' is behind homosexuality during sermon attended by Mike Pence

White House posts video of bishop saying 'demonic spirit' is behind homosexuality during sermon attended by Mike Pence The White House has live-streamed a church service which saw the US vice-president speak and a bishop claim ”the devil” causes homosexuality.After Mike Pence addressed the congregation in Tennessee, the preacher took to the pulpit to talk about same-sex relations in a sermon still available on the administration's Youtube channel.


Sanders on Clinton's 'nobody likes him' claim: 'On a good day, my wife likes me'

Sanders on Clinton's 'nobody likes him' claim: 'On a good day, my wife likes me' * Clinton made criticisms in documentary to be aired in March * Opinion: Relax, Democrats: you’ll beat Trump in the MidwestBernie Sanders has responded to Hillary Clinton’s claim that “nobody likes him”, saying: “On a good day, my wife likes me, so let’s clear the air on that one.”Clinton made her remarks in a forthcoming Hulu documentary, which was quoted by the Hollywood Reporter.Sanders first issued a statement saying he was concentrating on the impeachment of Donald Trump. But later on Tuesday, as Trump’s Senate trial began in earnest, he spoke to an NBC reporter.Asked why he thought Clinton was still talking about the 2016 election, Sanders said: “That’s a good question. You should ask her.”Clinton did not hold back.“He was in Congress for years [and] had one senator support him,” she said in the released excerpts from the Hulu documentary. She also called Sanders “a career politician” whose claim to represent American workers was “just baloney”.“I feel so bad that people got sucked into it,” Clinton said.Clinton also criticised the senator’s “leadership team” and “prominent supporters … his online Bernie bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women.”Asked by the Reporter about Sanders’ alleged comment to Elizabeth Warren, another candidate this year, that no woman could beat Trump in 2020, Clinton said: “I think [that] is untrue, which we should all say loudly.“I mean, I did get more votes both in the primary, by about 4 million, and in the general election, by about 3 million.”Sanders has denied making the comment but Warren confronted him about it at the Democratic debate in Iowa last week, saying: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.”Clinton said: “I think that both the press and the public have to really hold everybody running accountable for what they say and what their campaign says and does. That’s particularly true with what’s going on right now with the Bernie campaign having gone after Elizabeth with a very personal attack on her.“Then this argument about whether or not or when he did or didn’t say that a woman couldn’t be elected, it’s part of a pattern. If it were a one-off, you might say, ‘OK, fine.’ But he said I was unqualified. I had a lot more experience than he did, and got a lot more done than he had, but that was his attack on me.”In the Hulu documentary, Clinton also declined to commit to endorsing Sanders, saying: “I’m not going to go there yet. We’re still in a very vigorous primary season.”In the event, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state went there on Tuesday evening, tweeting: “I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views! But to be serious, the No 1 priority for our country and world is retiring Trump, and, as I always have, I will do whatever I can to support our nominee.”Sanders endorsed Clinton after she won the nomination – but many Clinton supporters think he did not support her to the best of his abilities. Clinton told the radio host Howard Stern in December: “He hurt me. There’s no doubt about it. He hurt me.”It is a view shared by some of Clinton’s traditional opponents. In an interview with the Guardian this month, the Republican consultant turned Trump critic Rick Wilson said Clinton “beat [Bernie] fair and square, he took his ball and went home”.Many on Sanders’ side of the Democratic ledger would counter that the rules of the 2016 primary were not fair and square. Trump has delighted in prodding that sore, tweeting on Wednesday morning: “They are taking the nomination away from Bernie for a second time. Rigged!”Less than two weeks out from the Iowa caucuses, Sanders leads many polls in that state. He is also polling well in New Hampshire and nationally, although the website fivethirtyeight.com still predicts Joe Biden will win the contest overall.On Monday, CBS broadcast an apology from Sanders for a Guardian column by the Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, which said Biden had a problem with corruption.“It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way,” Sanders said. “And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared.”


Indonesia detains American journalist over visa regulations

Indonesia detains American journalist over visa regulations An American journalist is facing up to five years in an Indonesian jail and a fine on charges of violating immigration regulations, a lawyer and officials said Wednesday. Philip Jacobson of California was detained Tuesday in Palangkaraya city on Borneo island. The government has promised to ease visa restrictions for international media since President Joko Widodo took office in 2014.


Confused, Iran Scrambles to Figure Out Trump

Confused, Iran Scrambles to Figure Out Trump In the wake of the U.S. killing of General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran is scrambling to figure out how to respond to President Trump. Throughout 2019, Iran ratcheted up threats and tensions, targeting oil tankers in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and U.S. troops in Iraq via proxies, testing Washington’s response. The decision to kill Soleimani, who arrived at Baghdad International Airport without any apparent suspicion of his impending death, threw down a gauntlet to Tehran that left the Ayatollah and the IRGC grasping for response options. This is a lesson to be learned from the recent Iran tensions: The U.S. can strike back at Iran and its allies without a major war resulting, so long as Iran is surprised or confused by the U.S. response.Iran, in response, fired ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq because it didn’t know what else to do. Ballistic missiles enabled Iran to strike without risking its own casualties and to showcase a technology that it has and that the U.S. lacked defenses against in Iraq. But the strike was limited in scope, and Iran hoped that at worst the U.S. would respond with cruise missiles or some similar kind of missile strike. How do we know this? Iran didn’t put its whole country on a war footing when it fired the missiles. It did down a civilian Ukrainian Airlines flight by mistake, showing that it expected some kind of aerial retaliation.Iran tries to project an image of itself as massively powerful and cunning, sending its constantly smiling foreign minister, Javad Zarif, abroad to demonstrate its ability to open doors from Europe to Asia. Closer to home, Iran pushes relations with Turkey, Qatar, India, Oman, and other countries. Iran boasts of massive revenge for its losses. All last year, Iranian media featured articles about its military technological achievements, such as new drones, missiles, and warships. But behind the facade of strength and boasting, Iran prefers long-term incremental achievements and influence entrenchment in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.Take the Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq throughout 2019 as an example. Iran can read U.S. media and official statements to gauge U.S. response. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Iraq in May to warn of possible Iranian escalation. From that moment Iran did escalate, attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and downing a U.S. drone in June. In Iraq, rockets were fired at bases where U.S. forces are located. Pompeo warned in December that “Iran’s proxies have recently conducted several attacks” in Iraq and that the U.S. would respond directly if Iran harmed U.S. personnel. David Schenker, State Department assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, said that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq were shelling Iraqi bases where U.S. forces are located.Iran didn’t expect the U.S. to carry through with a powerful response because it could read U.S. responses to the June drone downing and knew that Trump had refrained from a strike on Iran. Whether by mistake or intention, a rocket attack by Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah in late December killed a U.S. contractor near Kirkuk. Five Kataib Hezbollah sites were hit with U.S. airstrikes in response, and dozens were killed. Iran predicted that a show of force at the U.S. embassy would embarrass Washington and show the U.S. who is boss in Iraq. On Twitter on December 31, Pompeo singled out Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Iran, and other Iraqi proxies of Iran as responsible for the attack on the U.S. embassy. Tehran’s leaders could have read that tweet as the threat that it was. Instead, Muhandis met Soleimani at the airport in Baghdad two days later, without fear that he was being followed by a U.S. drone that would soon turn his SUV into a smoldering wreck.The decision to go off script and strike directly at Soleimani and Muhandis has been termed “regime disruption,” a purposeful attempt to confuse Tehran by doing something unprecedented. Iran’s initial reaction was muted despite is boasts of “hard revenge,” because it doesn’t know what to do. It wants to keep an open account with the U.S., as a threat to do more. But Tehran’s usual attempt to control the tempo of conflict in the Middle East has been blunted.Lesson learned: Iran does best when it gets to set the narrative through its good-cop/bad-cop strategy of military bluster and political sweet talk, played by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. But what does Iran do when it faces complex challenges? In Syria, Israel has carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian targets, and Iran has responded with desultory rocket fire. The attacks appear to have reached a point where Iran expects them and shrugs them off, because, as with Soleimani, it doesn’t know how to respond to Israel. It has provided Hezbollah with a massive arsenal of rockets and wants to equip them with precision guidance, but Tehran must know that you get to use this massive arsenal only once before you provoke a war with Israel. That means that Hezbollah has one shot and that Iran must preserve that threat for a rainy day.Where Iran succeeds in its incrementalism is in the Gulf and in dealings with Europe over the Iran deal. Iran has walked away from key aspects of the deal over the past year, giving Europe 60-day warnings. Iran did the same in the Gulf, judging that Saudi Arabia would not respond to a drone and cruise-missile attack in September against its Abaiq refinery. Typically, when 25 drones and nine cruise missiles strike a massive refinery, the country would go to war in response. But Iran knows that Saudi Arabia can’t afford a real war that would destabilize the Gulf and oil exports. Riyadh and its wealthy Gulf neighbors have more to lose than Iran does in such a scenario.Iran expects its adversaries to follow a script, and it has a ready-made tit-for-tat response. The U.S. left the Iran deal and struck Soleimani and Muhandis, surprising Tehran. Killing another IRGC commander would have diminishing returns, just as sanctions seem to no longer surprise Tehran. This is a challenge for American strategists: Devise a strategy whose core is to do the opposite of what the enemy expects. A combination of Seinfeld’s George and Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The more Iran has to focus on what the U.S. might do next, the less Iran can plan on how to attack the U.S. and its allies, including Israel.


Menendez and Graham Partner Up to Craft a New Iran Deal

Menendez and Graham Partner Up to Craft a New Iran Deal Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have teamed up to work on drafting potential contours for negotiations with Tehran over the country’s nuclear programming and a roadmap for a new deal, according to Graham and two other congressional aides familiar with the matter.“I’ve been working with Senator Menendez on this for some time,” Graham told The Daily Beast in an interview last week. “We need a new way forward. And I’ve been trying to think of alternatives.”Graham told The Daily Beast in an interview in August that he was working with senior Trump administration officials on an alternative to the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal. Part of that effort included fielding ideas from outside actors, including foreign officials. Since then, Graham has met with Menendez—although only a few times—on how to kickstart a bipartisan congressional effort to reform the administration’s Iran policy.According to sources individuals familiar with the Graham-Menendez partnership, the two senators have largely talked about constructing an actionable plan to present to other lawmakers and to the White House. But the two sides have yet to agree on exactly how to get the ball rolling, according to those sources. One individual said Menendez wanted to work with Graham because the South Carolina lawmaker had gained the president’s ear on Iran over the last year.Although the duo has spoken about teaming up for some time, sources say the lawmakers are focused now more than ever on crafting a new deal following the killing of Iran’s top military leader, Qassem Soleimani. Following the strike, Democrats in the Senate, including Menendez, called out senior officials in the Trump administration for not offering proper intelligence briefings to Congress on what led to the strike. Menendez told MSNBC earlier this month that the administration suggested in briefings there was an imminent threat to American interests but that there was “no clear definition of what they consider imminent.”The senator also called on the administration to declassify the official notification provided to Congress about the Soleimani strike.Graham, on the other hand, applauded President Trump and told The Daily Beast that the administration should continue to keep the military option on the table if Iran were to continue to threaten American interests in the Middle East. Graham suggested the U.S. strike Iranian oil assets in the country, pointing to refineries in particular. Menendez, on the other hand, has urged the administration to up its diplomatic outreach following the strike rather than continue to rely on its military might.Despite their division on Trump’s decision to strike Soleimani, both lawmakers opposed the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.“I have looked into my own soul, and my devotion to principle may once again lead me to an unpopular course, but if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it,” Menendez said in a 2015 speech. “It is for these reasons that I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto.”At the time of the deal’s proposal in 2015, Menendez advocated that the Obama administration continue to levy sanctions on Iran in order to change Tehran’s behavior and keep it from eventually obtaining a nuclear weapon. Although Graham’s and Menendez’s public statements on Iran have varied, both lawmakers seem to agree on one point: The Trump administration’s strategy isn’t working.Since Trump took office, Menendez has criticized the Trump administration’s Iran strategy as only emboldening Tehran. And while Graham tends to support Trump publicly, the South Carolina lawmaker has been openly critical of how the White House responds to Iran’s malign activities in the region.In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Graham said the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign—meant to cripple Iran’s economy with sanctions—was working but needed to be harsher and combined with military deterrence. Team Trump Thought It Could Contain Iran With ‘Maximum Pressure.’ The Attacks Got Worse.Before the Soleimani strike, Iran policy experts, some of whom worked with the Obama administration, said Tehran would not engage in talks about a revised nuclear deal unless the U.S. rolled back at least some of its sanctions on the country. Now those experts say Tehran, having rolled back its commitments under the former deal, is not likely to engage in any meaningful conversation with the U.S. on nuclear power, at least in the short term.Meanwhile, two officials in the Treasury Department say their unit is continuously drawing up additional sanctions for Iran on the chance Trump wants to hit the country with additional punishments in the near future.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Virus exposes Beijing campaign to isolate Taiwan on global bodies

Virus exposes Beijing campaign to isolate Taiwan on global bodies The emergence of a deadly new virus in China has ignited fresh anger in neighbouring Taiwan about how the island has been squeezed out of international bodies, including the World Health Organization. Modern Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation for the last seven decades and has emerged as one of Asia's most progressive democracies. Taiwan has been denied access to the World Health Assembly (WHA) -- the WHO's main meeting -- since 2017 under pressure from Beijing which loathes the island's current president Tsai Ing-wen, who won a landslide second term earlier this month.


Masked gunmen kill local commander of Iran's security forces

Masked gunmen kill local commander of Iran's security forces Masked gunmen on Wednesday ambushed and killed the local commander of a paramilitary security force in southwestern Iran, an associate of Iran's top general recently killed in an American drone strike in Baghdad, the official IRNA news agency reported. The slain commander, Abdolhossein Mojaddami, headed the Basij forces, a paramilitary wing of the Revolutionary Guard used for internal security and other tasks, in the town of Darkhoein.


Are North Korea's Vaunted Submarines Actually Any Good?

Are North Korea's Vaunted Submarines Actually Any Good? Let's take a look.


After rejecting amendments, Senate adopts impeachment trial rules

After rejecting amendments, Senate adopts impeachment trial rules After a marathon debate session that began on Tuesday afternoon and ended early Wednesday morning, the Senate approved the ground rules for President Trump's impeachment trial.The vote was 53 to 47, along party lines. Under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) resolution, House impeachment managers and Trump's legal team will both have up to 24 hours over three days to argue their cases. Senators will have 16 hours to ask questions, and then they will revisit the matter of calling witnesses and subpoenating other evidence in the trial.Before the final vote, the Senate rejected along party lines several Democratic amendments proposed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), including subpoenaing former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The Senate is now adjourned until 1 p.m. ET.More stories from theweek.com Trump says he'd 'love' to show up at his Senate impeachment trial and 'stare in their corrupt faces' Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77 New CNN poll suggests a Bernie-Biden race for the Democratic nomination



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France's Macron cool to Israeli request to criticize ICC

France's Macron cool to Israeli request to criticize ICC French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday gave a lukewarm reception to an Israeli request to criticize the International Criminal Court, saying he would study the matter. Macron's response dealt a setback to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hopes for a strong backlash against the ICC by world leaders gathering in Jerusalem for a memorial service marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. The court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said last month that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in Gaza as well as settlement construction in the West Bank.


Soleimani killing adds dangerous new dimension to Iraq unrest

Soleimani killing adds dangerous new dimension to Iraq unrest Iranian-backed Shi'ite factions have exhorted Iraqis to turn out for a "million-strong" march on Friday aimed at whipping up anti-American sentiment as the United States' struggle with Iran plays out on the streets of Baghdad. It is likely to end up at the gates of the U.S. Embassy, the seat of U.S. power in Iraq and the scene of violent clashes last month when militia supporters tried to storm the compound. The U.S. killing of Iranian military mastermind General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad this month has given renewed impetus to Iran's allies in Iraq.


UN calls for investigation into alleged Saudi hacking of Jeff Bezos

UN calls for investigation into alleged Saudi hacking of Jeff Bezos The United Nations is joining the chorus of those concerned about allegations Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in hacking Jeff Bezos' phone. UN experts have issued a statement calling for an "immediate investigation" into claims the Crown Prince's account was used for a WhatsApp hack as well as his reported "continuous, multi-year, direct and personal" role in efforts to target opponents. These allegations are particularly "relevant" in light of looks into the Saudi royal's role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the UN experts said.


UN calls for investigation after Saudis linked to Bezos phone hack

UN calls for investigation after Saudis linked to Bezos phone hack United Nations experts are calling for an investigation after a forensic report said Saudi officials "most likely" used a mobile hacking tool built by the NSO Group to hack into the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' phone. Remarks made by U.N. human rights experts on Wednesday said the Israeli spyware maker's flagship Pegasus mobile spyware was likely used to exfiltrate gigabytes of data from Bezos' phone in May 2018, about six months after the Saudi government first obtained the spyware. It comes a day after news emerged, citing a forensics report commissioned to examine the Amazon founder's phone, that the malware was delivered from a number belonging to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.


US bars Iranian investors from certain types of visas

US bars Iranian investors from certain types of visas The Trump administration is barring Iranian investors and business people from entering or staying in the United States on certain types of visas. In new regulations published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said Iranians and their families are no longer eligible to apply for or extend what are known as E-1 and E-2 visas. The ban will take effect on Thursday, according to the notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


U.S. officials were reportedly frustrated by Kenyan security forces after clash with al-Shabab that killed 3 Americans

U.S. officials were reportedly frustrated by Kenyan security forces after clash with al-Shabab that killed 3 Americans An attack on a U.S. military base in Kenya by al-Shabab fighters that killed three Americans earlier this month mostly flew under the radar amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. But it's now raising questions about the effectiveness of the U.S. military's presence on the African continent, The New York Times reports.There's still a lot that's unclear about al-Shabab's breach of the base, and the military's Africa Command has remained tight-lipped in the aftermath. Nobody is sure why the base — which is home to valuable surveillance aircraft — wasn't better protected, and there's also been some criticism of the Kenyan security forces who are being trained by the deployed U.S. troops.At the Manda Bay base, the Kenyan forces are relied upon heavily to protect the airfield since there aren't enough American forces to stand perimeter security, a Defense Department official told the Times. But their performance during the skirmish with al-Shabab reportedly frustrated American officials. For example, the Kenyan forces announced they captured six of the attackers, all of whom were released after it turned out they were bystanders.Some have taken their speculation a bit further. One person briefed on an inquiry into the attack told the Times that investigators are looking into the possibility that the al-Shabab fighters received aid from Kenyan staff on the base, although one American official said the attackers likely made their move after patiently observing the routines of American soldiers. Read more at The New York Times.More stories from theweek.com Trump says he'd 'love' to show up at his Senate impeachment trial and 'stare in their corrupt faces' Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77 New CNN poll suggests a Bernie-Biden race for the Democratic nomination


Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince

Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The most astonishing revelation in reports about the hacking of Jeff Bezos’s cellphone is that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have played a direct, personal role. Bloomberg News reports that two people familiar with the breach say Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, known as MBS, started the process by sending the Amazon.com Inc. chief a WhatsApp message containing hidden malware, which gave the Saudis access to the billionaire’s phone.More damning still, independent United Nations experts say they have information suggesting MBS's involvement in the hack. “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” wrote independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, in a statement Wednesday.How the prince responds will reveal whether he has learned any lessons from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and its fallout.The message to Bezos preceded the grisly murder of the journalist, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, by five months. The UN investigation into the killing said MBS “has a responsibility in relationship to the killing” and the CIA believes he gave the order. The Saudi government denies this, and went through a form of judicial proceedings to affix blame on people it claims were involved.This saga has done little to dispel the cloud over MBS’s reputation. As I wrote on the anniversary of the murder, the ghost of Khashoggi haunts the prince’s every step. It even attended, Banquo-like, the banquet for bankers that was the Aramco IPO.The story about the hacking of the Washington Post’s owner has the potential to attract as much attention as the killing of the newspaper’s columnist.The allegation that the prince was personally involved is especially damaging, and will lower even further his international standing. In the U.S., it will harden the resolve of many in Congress to hold MBS to account for the murder, despite President Trump’s best efforts to shield him.It won’t end there. That the target was one of the world’s richest men will invite closer scrutiny of other incidents involving less prominent figures — such as the reported hacking of phones belonging to Saudi dissidents, threats against other critics, and the charge that Twitter employees spied for the kingdom.   The first response from the Saudis was true to form. The Saudi embassy in Washington has characterized the reports of the Bezos hack as “absurd,” reprising the posture it adopted in dismissing first reports that Khashoggi was murdered on orders from Riyadh.The wiser course would be to allow a transparent investigation into the hack with a broader mandate than the UN probe — to find out who ordered it as well as who executed it. After the opaque process surrounding the Khashoggi killing, any investigation by Saudi authorities will inevitably give the impression of a cover-up. The best way to avert that reasonable suspicion would be to allow international supervision of the process.If such a probe concludes that the first breach of Bezos’s phone came from MBS’s WhatsApp message, then the prince must make a clear breast of it: a real mea culpa, and not the caveat-laden acknowledgment he belatedly allowed in the Khashoggi affair. Better still, he should forswear the use of such tactics against critics.MBS’s admirers and defenders often point out that the prince has a long reign ahead of him: He could be king for 50 years. That era will go easier without more ghosts and scandals dogging him.To contact the author of this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a columnist and member of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince

Bezos Hack Rekindles Fears About Saudi Crown Prince (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The most astonishing revelation in reports about the hacking of Jeff Bezos’s cellphone is that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have played a direct, personal role. Bloomberg News reports that two people familiar with the breach say Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, known as MBS, started the process by sending the Amazon.com Inc. chief a WhatsApp message containing hidden malware, which gave the Saudis access to the billionaire’s phone.More damning still, independent United Nations experts say they have information suggesting MBS's involvement in the hack. “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” wrote independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, in a statement Wednesday.How the prince responds will reveal whether he has learned any lessons from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and its fallout.The message to Bezos preceded the grisly murder of the journalist, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, by five months. The UN investigation into the killing said MBS “has a responsibility in relationship to the killing” and the CIA believes he gave the order. The Saudi government denies this, and went through a form of judicial proceedings to affix blame on people it claims were involved.This saga has done little to dispel the cloud over MBS’s reputation. As I wrote on the anniversary of the murder, the ghost of Khashoggi haunts the prince’s every step. It even attended, Banquo-like, the banquet for bankers that was the Aramco IPO.The story about the hacking of the Washington Post’s owner has the potential to attract as much attention as the killing of the newspaper’s columnist.The allegation that the prince was personally involved is especially damaging, and will lower even further his international standing. In the U.S., it will harden the resolve of many in Congress to hold MBS to account for the murder, despite President Trump’s best efforts to shield him.It won’t end there. That the target was one of the world’s richest men will invite closer scrutiny of other incidents involving less prominent figures — such as the reported hacking of phones belonging to Saudi dissidents, threats against other critics, and the charge that Twitter employees spied for the kingdom.   The first response from the Saudis was true to form. The Saudi embassy in Washington has characterized the reports of the Bezos hack as “absurd,” reprising the posture it adopted in dismissing first reports that Khashoggi was murdered on orders from Riyadh.The wiser course would be to allow a transparent investigation into the hack with a broader mandate than the UN probe — to find out who ordered it as well as who executed it. After the opaque process surrounding the Khashoggi killing, any investigation by Saudi authorities will inevitably give the impression of a cover-up. The best way to avert that reasonable suspicion would be to allow international supervision of the process.If such a probe concludes that the first breach of Bezos’s phone came from MBS’s WhatsApp message, then the prince must make a clear breast of it: a real mea culpa, and not the caveat-laden acknowledgment he belatedly allowed in the Khashoggi affair. Better still, he should forswear the use of such tactics against critics.MBS’s admirers and defenders often point out that the prince has a long reign ahead of him: He could be king for 50 years. That era will go easier without more ghosts and scandals dogging him.To contact the author of this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a columnist and member of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Iraq Sunni leaders spooked by possible US troop pullout

Iraq Sunni leaders spooked by possible US troop pullout Sunni Iraqi leaders who spearheaded a bloody insurgency against the 2003 US-led invasion are now the most nervous about a possible withdrawal of American troops, considered a counterweight to Iran. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have boiled over onto Iraqi soil this month, with the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad and Iran striking back at an Iraqi base hosting American soldiers. Furious at the US hit, Iraq's parliament held a vote on January 5 to oust all foreign troops, including some 5,200 American soldiers deployed alongside local forces.


Saudi Prince Taunted Jeff Bezos Over Secret Affair Before Enquirer Exposé

Saudi Prince Taunted Jeff Bezos Over Secret Affair Before Enquirer Exposé Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Jeff Bezos a photograph of woman resembling the one he was having an affair with months before the National Enquirer published a report exposing the liaison, according to a United Nations investigation.Two United Nations special rapporteurs released a statement Wednesday detailing forensic evidence linking MBS to the Bezos hack, which suggests the future king of Saudi Arabia may have been threatening the owner of The Washington Post and founder and CEO of Amazon.Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night denied allegations of a politically motivated hack when it emerged that the UN was expected to formally request a response to the extraordinary claim that malware was sent from MBS’ personal WhatsApp account to Bezos.The alleged hack took place in May 2018, a few months after Jamal Khashoggi began writing columns critical of the Saudi regime for the Post. Four months later, Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside a Saudi consulate. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered his assassination.Two UN special rapporteurs released a statement Wednesday laying out forensic evidence personally linking MBS to the hack on Bezos, which would later lead to a special edition of the National Enquirer dedicated to discrediting the newspaper boss.Bezos Investigation Finds the Saudis Obtained His Private DataThe statement was drafted by Agnes Callamard, a UN expert on extrajudicial killings who has been probing the murder of Khashoggi, and David Kaye, who has been investigating violations of press freedom.They wrote: “Mr. Bezos was subjected to intrusive surveillance via hacking of his phone as a result of actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” In a detailed timeline of the hack, the UN report says MBS messaged Bezos on Nov. 8, 2018, weeks after the murder of his columnist Khashoggi.“A single photograph is texted to Mr. Bezos from the Crown Prince’s WhatsApp account, along with a sardonic caption. It is an image of a woman resembling the woman with whom Bezos is having an affair, months before the Bezos affair was known publicly,” the report read.Bezos’ phone appears to have been compromised on the day that an encrypted video file was sent from the prince’s WhatsApp account to Bezos in May 2018.The two men had been chatting on the messaging app after they met at a dinner in Los Angeles and exchanged numbers. Almost immediately after Bezos opened the video file, the report says, “a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’ phone began, continuing and escalating for months.”While they were not able to identify the exact malware used, the UN report concludes: “Experts advised that the most likely explanation for the anomalous data egress was use of mobile spyware such as NSO Group’s Pegasus or, less likely, Hacking Team’s Galileo, that can hook into legitimate applications to bypass detection and obfuscate activity.”The Bezos hack came to light after private texts showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship were published by the National Enquirer. In response, the world’s richest man set out to uncover how the tabloid magazine had gotten access to the most private messages on his phone.American Media Inc. (AMI), which owns the National Enquirer, publicly stated that its source was Michael Sanchez, the estranged brother of the woman dating Bezos, but last March, Bezos’ experienced security consultant Gavin de Becker wrote an op-ed in The Daily Beast explaining that his investigation had found that the Saudi government had obtained access to the phone.Not only that, AMI had threatened to release a trove of embarrassing photos of Bezos—also taken from his phone—unless he agreed to make a public statement claiming that the report about his affair was not “instigated, dictated, or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.”The media company was trying to strong-arm Bezos into shutting down reports that the Saudis were somehow involved.“I’ve seen a lot. And yet, I’ve recently seen things that have surprised even me, such as the National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, being in league with a foreign nation that’s been actively trying to harm American citizens and companies, including the owner of The Washington Post,” De Becker wrote in The Daily Beast.After the bombshell op-ed, AMI doubled down on its claim that Michael Sanchez, an associate of Trumpworld insiders including Roger Stone and Carter Page, had been the “single source” of their midweek special edition, which exposed Bezos’ relationship with the TV host Lauren Sanchez.The targeting of Bezos and The Washington Post fits into a pattern of Saudi aggression against critics, which includes blackmailing, discrediting, and even killing those who speak out against the regime.Iyad El-Baghdadi, founder of the Kawaakibi Foundation and editor in chief of the Arab Tyrant Manual, who lives in exile in Norway, wrote in The Daily Beast early last year that MBS had been targeting Bezos. “There’s mounting evidence that the de facto ruler of the kingdom has been trying to punish Bezos for the fierce coverage by his newspaper, The Washington Post,” he wrote.The UN experts examined a report on the hacking drawn up by Anthony Ferrante, a cybersecurity expert at FTI Consulting who conducted a forensic analysis of Bezos’ phone. That investigation concluded with “medium to high confidence” that MBS’ personal WhatsApp account was responsible for compromising Bezos’ phone, according to the Financial Times, which had seen the full report.After The Guardian and the Financial Times reported Tuesday night that MBS’ phone was implicated, Saudi Arabia’s U.S. embassy said reports “that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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April 9th, 2012

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