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By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

BEIRUT — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi received fresh pledges from the United States and its allies Tuesday to expedite arms deliveries to Iraq, stem the flow of foreign fighters into the country, and cut off the financial pipeline of Islamic State militants.

Abadi had complained at a security conference in Paris that the global response had been inadequate at a time when the extremists were seizing territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

“I think this is a failure on the part of the world,” Abadi told reporters before the start of the conference, which included the United States and about two dozen allied nations. “There is a lot of talk of support for Iraq, (but) there is very little on the ground.”

Recent Islamic State advances in Iraq’s Anbar province and in Syria have raised grave doubts about the effectiveness of the current strategy to defeat the Qaida breakaway faction. Islamic State arose from the tumult of the Syrian war and last year advanced across vast stretches of Iraq.

As the conference wrapped up Tuesday, Abadi appeared with U.S. and French representatives at a news conference and assumed a conciliatory tone. The Iraqi leader, who came to office last year with strong U.S. backing, said he had been assured that international allies “are determined to continue to help Iraq.”

Abadi had urged his allies to take more steps to choke off Islamic State’s major income sources — including black market sales of oil and looted antiquities. He also called for more stringent steps to curb the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq. Most militant recruits enter Syria from Turkey and then cross into Iraq, security officials say.

The United States vowed to “keep the pressure” on Islamic State and pledged to expedite deliveries to Iraq of antitank rockets, cut Islamic State’s funding streams and reduce the flow of foreign fighters, said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The moves outlined were not bold new steps but rather a continuation of the strategy in Iraq.

Neither the United States nor its allies are keen to send combat troops to Iraq. Many Iraqis also reject the presence of foreign forces.

At the Paris session, Western diplomats also backed Iraq’s plan to retake Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the capital. Islamic State occupies much of the province, considered the nation’s Sunni heartland. Last month, the extremists overran Ramadi, the provincial seat, in a humiliating blow for Abadi’s government.

The Iraqi blueprint to retake Anbar “is the right plan both militarily and politically for Iraq,” said Blinken, who was sitting in for Secretary of State John F. Kerry as Kerry recovered from a bicycling accident.

Baghdad says thousands of Sunni tribal fighters will take part in the announced offensive to retake Ramadi. Still, highly motivated and predominantly Shiite militias known as popular mobilization forces are expected to take the lead in the Ramadi counteroffensive, a fact that has led to fears of inflaming sectarian tensions.

While pledging to aid Iraq, the allies offered no remedy publicly to one of Abadi’s major complaints — that Iraq has been thwarted in efforts to buy arms from Iran and Russia because of Western-led economic sanctions against the two nations.

Neither Russia nor Iran is part of the U.S.-led alliance in Iraq; neither nation was represented in the Paris conference. Nor was the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, a close ally of Iran and Russia.

The United States says it does not coordinate with the Iranian or Syrian governments, both of which are also involved in the campaign against Islamic State. The Baghdad government, however, lauds military and other aid from Iran as a crucial component in its battle against Islamic State.

A U.S.-led coalition has conducted more than 4,100 aerial bombing raids targeting Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria. The United States and its allies have also stepped up arms supplies to the Iraqi government and are engaged in a large-scale training program for Iraqi security forces. But the effort remains far from achieving President Barack Obama’s goal to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State.

“It is a long battle that we are waging in Iraq,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

File photo: A flag of the Islamic State (IS) is seen in Rashad, Iraq, on September 11, 2014


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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