Sweden: New Government, Old Policies

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On January 18, more than four months after Sweden’s September elections, Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven became prime minister for a second term, when he won the backing of the Swedish parliament: 115 parliamentarians from his own party and its coalition partner (the environmentalist Green Party) voted for his proposed government coalition, while 77 parliamentarians abstained and 153 voted against. There are 349 seats in the parliament.

Under Swedish parliamentary rules, a prospective prime minister can form a government even if he has not secured a majority of votes, as long as there is not a majority against him in parliament. Löfven was far from winning a majority of votes, prompting the question whether, despite becoming prime minister for a second term, he actually won the election.

The question is actually debatable: Löfven’s Social Democratic party experienced its worst election result ever, gaining only 28.3 % of the vote. It is the first time the party has ever received less than 30% of the vote; its government coalition partner, the Green Party, barely made it above the electoral threshhold, with only 4.4 % of the vote. (The electoral threshhold is 4%).

via Sweden: New Government, Old Policies

Israeli PM Cautions Visiting UN Diplomats Over Growing Iranian Influence in Lebanon

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a visiting delegation of UN ambassadors in Jerusalem, Feb. 3, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned a visiting delegation of UN ambassadors on Sunday over growing Iranian influence in Lebanon, where a new national unity government — including a bolstered Hezbollah role — was formed this week.

“A great shift has taken place in the Middle East,” Netanyahu told the diplomats in a briefing before they toured Israel’s northern border. “That shift is the rise of the aggressive theocracy of Iran that seeks to conquer the Middle East, eliminate Israel and dominate many other parts of the world.”

“Iran has proxies,” he noted. “One of them is Hezbollah. Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer; they actually control the government of Lebanon. It means that Iran controls the government of Lebanon.”

“It’s important to send this very powerful message just as we stop the terror tunnels coming into Israel, we will stop all the aggression — from Lebanon or from Syria or from Iran itself,” Netanyahu went on to say. “We are committed to preventing this aggression, and in so doing we’re not only protecting Israel itself, but also protecting our neighbors and world peace.”

via Israeli PM Cautions Visiting UN Diplomats Over Growing Iranian Influence in Lebanon

Echoes of another border invasion

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When President Trump called the Central American migrant “caravan” an “invasion”, this was promptly denounced as yet more evidence of his racism.

Of course.

But of course it was an invasion, as is now plain. Yesterday, US Customs and Border Protection agents shut down the San Ysidro port of entry, among the largest border crossings between San Diego and Tijuana, after hundreds of migrants tried to breach the US-Mexico border fence and threw rocks and other projectiles at border police.

Trump ordered up thousands of troops to repel them. Tear gas and smoke pellets did so. Yet for some people, defending a nation’s borders against thousands of people setting out to overcome border controls by sheer force of numbers is further proof of… well, that nation’s racism and inhumanity.

What’s more, by some ideological alchemy defence becomes attack. One tweet I saw yesterday screamed hysterically that the US was “invading Mexico”. But the US was firing tear gas from inside the US border in order to defend itself against invasion.

The claim that these are asylum seekers was contradicted on CNN by Rodney Scott, the chief Border Patrol agent of San Diego.

via Echoes of another border invasion

Israel’s Red Lines in Lebanon and Syria

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The “War Between Wars” is an ongoing Israeli military and intelligence effort to disrupt the force build-up of the Iranian-Shiite axis throughout the Middle East. This campaign, which has evolved into an entire force activation doctrine, has seen the Israeli defense establishment employ an approach that differentiates between Syria and Lebanon.

Israel’s low-profile military campaign against the Iranian-Shiite axis in Syria is continuing despite changes in the geo-strategic environment. But the use of Israeli air power to disrupt enemy force build-up has yet to cross into Lebanon. It is possible that this could represent one of the most significant regional escalation scenarios in the near future.

The “War Between Wars” is an ongoing Israeli military and intelligence effort to disrupt the force build-up of the Iranian-Shiite axis throughout the Middle East. This campaign, which has evolved into an entire force activation doctrine, has seen the Israeli defense establishment employ an approach that differentiates between Syria and Lebanon.

via Israel’s Red Lines in Lebanon and Syria

UAE Forum Promotes Dubious Islamic Peace (Part II)

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“This is not a PR campaign; this is not to make us look good,” declared the American Muslim convert Sheikh Hamza Yusuf at the December 5-7, 2018, Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies (FPPMS) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Yet the British Muslim academic Usaama al-Azami has decried the FPPMS as precisely “another cynical PR initiative” by the UAE that masks controversial realities behind FPPMS’ previously analyzed interfaith rhetoric.

During his opening address to the forum, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownbeck contextualized the UAE-based FPPMS and its annual conference as reflecting a progressive UAE. He praised the UAE as a “secure, economically prosperous country that is home to people of many faiths.” He also noted his first speech as ambassador his “second day on the job” at the “auspicious occasion” of the February 5-7, 2018, Washington, DC, conference that launched the FPPMS’ Alliance of Virtue.

There FPPMS’ founder, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, had similarly lauded the UAE. Its capital Abu Dhabi “is home to many peace initiatives and is a place where all constructive and innovative ideas that promote a culture of tolerance and coexistence are welcomed.” Meanwhile, his FPPMS partner Yusuf drew scorn from human rights activists for stating at the 2018 forum that UAE is a “country that is committed to tolerance” and “civil society.”

via UAE Forum Promotes Dubious Islamic Peace (Part II)