Wednesday, April 24, 2019

How Much Are The Saudis Paying To Help Trump's Re-election Campaign?


Yesterday, Rebecca Kheel reported that most of the Democrats running for the 2020 nomination are advocating putting the U.S. back in the nuclear deal with Iran. Elizabeth Warren: "Our intelligence community told us again and again: The Iran Deal was working to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. If Iran continues to abide by the terms of the deal, you bet I will support returning to it." Instead, Trump is working at provoking Iran and making the situation even worse. On Monday he announced he will not renew sanctions waivers that allow our eight partners in the deal to continue buying Iranian oil. Netanyahu is strongly opposed to the deal and Trump "has signaled he intends to use his support for Israel as a wedge issue against any Democrat who runs against him next fall.

A Bernie aide told the news site Al-Monitor last month that the candidate would "rejoin" the Iran deal "and would also be prepared to talk to Iran on a range of other issues, which is what Trump should’ve done instead of simply walking away." Harris, hoping to have it both ways, told Al-Monitor she supports re-entering the deal "if the U.S. could verify Iran is not cheating." (International inspectors have repeatedly found Iran to be in compliance with the key aspects of the agreement.) McKensey Pete's and Beto's spokespersons said they'd rejoin the deal too, as would Julián Castro, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, Seth Moulton, Jay Inslee, John Delaney and Tulsi Gabbard. Biden is still focus group-testing the issue to see where he stands.

Trump’s decision to withdraw can be framed by Democrats as one of several moves that have alienated allies and "pander to a far-right political base. We just think this is a clear slam-dunk policy position for a Democrat. In May 2018 Morning Consult survey that found 68% of Democrats supported the deal.
Experts say bringing the U.S. back into the deal could be done simply and with executive action, and that it would not require votes in Congress.

The Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution in February calling on the U.S. to rejoin the agreement.

Experts say part of the reason Iran continues to follow the deal is because Tehran hopes Trump is a one-term president and that his successor rejoins the agreement.

But the Trump administration is putting increased pressure on Iran, most recently by ending the oil sanctions waivers. Trump also recently designated its Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization.”

U.S. allies in Europe strongly opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw, and they have been scrambling to save the pact.

As a workaround to Trump's sanctions, the European Union set up mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran. But no transactions have gone through it, leading to mounting frustration from Tehran, said Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.

“Clearly there are people in the administration and outside … who are trying to make it extremely difficult to return” to the deal, she said.

But Iran knows that if it leaves the deal it would be “falling into trap” set by the administration, Slavin said, adding that Trump’s withdrawal and Revolutionary Guard designation could likely be undone with executive action.

“I would expect that [returning to the deal] will be in the platform for the [Democratic National Convention], assuming Iran stays in the agreement,” she said. “Everything depends on Iran staying through the election. If it leaves the agreement, all bets are off.”
Yesterday Haaretz was kvetching that Israel is worried that the Democratic presidential candidates are promising to re-engage with Iran. Netanyahu's ambassador to Trump warned Democrats that re-entering the Iran Deal is "unacceptable." What is Israel going to do? Not accept the more than $3 billion in military aid it gets from the U.S. annually? Through itself into the arms of the Cossacks? Pull off another USS Liberty caper in the Mediterranean? Tell Jewish Democrats to vote for and contribute to Señor Trumpanzee? Abut you know what? If Israel is concerned, the Saudis and Emeratis are flipping out completely. How far will they go to defeat Democrats and bolster Trump?

Early yesterday, while Trump was tweeting up a storm against his enemies in the media, NBC News was reporting that a network of more than 5,000 pro-Trump Twitter bots railed against what Trump and his allies deceptively call the "Russiagate hoax" right after Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s report. NBC noted that "The network illustrates the ongoing challenge Twitter faces in persistent efforts to manipulate its platform. These bots, however, did not appear to come from Russia. Instead, the bots had ties to a social media operation that previously pushed messages backing the government of Saudi Arabia and were connected to a person who claimed to be a private social media consultant, according to internet domain and account registration records. The bots, which were created last November and December, were pulled down by Twitter on Sunday night for breaking the social network’s rules against “manipulation,” the company said.
As social media platforms continue to prepare for the 2020 election, efforts to spread disinformation and sow discord remain an ongoing issue. And while operations sponsored by foreign countries are still a threat, the rise of for-profit trolling operations, which may include the new bot network, have added a new element for companies to counter.

“The landscape has changed,” said Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who focuses on global disinformation campaigns. “Since 2016, everybody’s doing this. It’s trolling as a service. And since there are no consequences, the least sophisticated of all the actors are doing this.”

Almost all of the since-removed accounts, most of which only posted about 30 times each, attacked the press and lamented how the “Russiagate hoax” affected Trump’s presidency. Many of the accounts copied verbatim tweets from other pro-Trump accounts without attributing those tweets to the original poster.

The thousands of accounts are tied together by their frequent interactions-- including likes, retweets and copied tweets-- with a recently rebranded account called @TheGlobus, which posed as a news organization. Thousands of the accounts appeared to exist solely to “like” articles from @TheGlobus on Twitter, many only “liking” tweets from @TheGlobus and no other account.

Until its rebrand last month, @TheGlobus went by the username @ArabianVeritas and mostly posted positive news, policy initiatives and memes about Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It is unclear whether the accounts had any official connections to the government of Saudi Arabia.

“Whether this is a government or a pro-Saudi influence firm, it shows how easy it is to do and that there’s no cost or consequences for it,” Watts said. “These are made to influence Americans or Western audiences.”

Arabian Veritas called itself “an initiative that aims to spread the truth about Saudi Arabia and the Middle East through social media engagement” on its abandoned Instagram account. Despite rebranding as a news organization-- though it shows no evidence of employing journalists and its website is broken-- the account remained a “verified user” on Twitter.

The domain name for Arabian Veritas was registered to the name of Salah Faya, who listed himself as an “e-Services and e-Government Expert” and “software solutions consultant” for a ”confidential” firm in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on his Facebook page at the time of Arabian Veritas’ creation.

Saudi Arabia and contractors close to it have conducted extensive influence campaigns on Twitter in recent years to push positive news about the government and attack its enemies. One ally and former strategist of bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani, is known as the “Minister of the Flies” for hiring bot and troll armies that tend to swarm on detractors. It does not appear that al-Qahtani had any connections to the bot network that Twitter removed on Sunday.

In October, bots backing the Saudi Arabian government flooded Twitter with messages railing against Jamal Khashoggi, who had been assassinated a few days earlier in Turkey’s Saudi consulate by Saudi government agents. Twitter removed the botnet that same week.

Faya did not respond to requests for comment. “The Globus” and “Arabian Veritas” accounts also did not respond when asked for information.

Twitter suspended @TheGlobus on Monday night.

"We suspended a network of accounts and others associated with it for engaging in platform manipulation-- a violation of the Twitter Rules,” a Twitter spokesperson told NBC News. “While our investigations are ongoing, in cases such as this, attribution is difficult. If we do have reasonable evidence to support state-backed activity, we will disclose the accounts as part of our information operations archive."

The accounts did not go to great lengths to hide that they were automated. Most copied their biographies from other Twitter users. Some even used stock photos, replete with stock photo watermarks, as profile pictures.

Josh Russell, an independent misinformation researcher who has previously identified large bot networks, first spotted the accounts on Saturday. He called the network “weird,” and added that they sat dormant between their creation and last week.

“The bots were not directly retweeting the pro-Trump accounts,” Russell said. “I think they were probably attempting to generally boost the visibility of those partisan talking points on Twitter in places like search results.”

Watts, who is also an NBC News contributor, called this method of propaganda “influence seeding,” and said the quality of the post doesn’t much matter to those who run these kind of botnets for political influence operations.

“Strategically, it doesn’t matter if no one believes that one account,” Watts said. “This sort of network changes the volume of accounts for what trends and makes sure 'Russiagate' and negative tweets about it trend higher.”

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At 5:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now we have to rely upon feckless democraps to deal with this???

At 5:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the democrap vacuum of big money is indiscriminate about whose money it sucks up. It only remains for the sources of big money to determine what the democraps' price is.

But I'm sure the voters on the left will still believe that their PARTY is of/by/for people and not only money.

fuck we're stupid!

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Saudis will pay what it takes for a couple of nukes to "fall off the truck" into their hands.

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

by paying the DNC to nominate anyone but Bernie, they help get trump re-elected.
by their armies of social media bots, they help get trump re-elected.
by their direct and indirect fiscal support to trump, they help get trump re-elected.

But none would be possible if American voters could fog a mirror.


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