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Foreign Agents Registration Act Marked by History of Politicization, Selective Enforcement

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Though it garnered renewed interest thanks to Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration and the rise of “Russiagate” hysteria, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 has been irregularly enforced over the course of its 79-year history. Despite nearly eight decades on the books, the law has resulted in only a handful of prosecutions and a single conviction, suggesting that the government’s enforcement of the law has been lax — to say the least. 

Originally intended to counter pro-Nazi lobbyists active in the United States in the lead-up to World War II, FARA requires that all agents operating domestically on behalf of a “foreign principal” — that is, a non-U.S. entity operating abroad — must register with the U.S. Department of Justice. Those who register must disclose all of their activities and finances to the federal government, including confidential data and the personal information of employees.

There are, however, many exceptions to those who must register, such as diplomats, artists, priests, and “any news or press service organized under the laws of the United States.” In other words, a law firm lobbying for a foreign government or company must register while news services funded by foreign governments — like Al Jazeera, France24, BBC or Deutsche Welle — are — generally — off the hook.

This last exception is why the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement on Thursday that the TV news channel Russia Today (RT), which receives its funding from the Russian government and a consortium of Russian banks, must register as a foreign agentcame as a surprise to many. RT, which has been active in the U.S. since 2005, is suddenly being asked to register as a foreign agent under FARA, only after political pressure against Russian entities and perceived state actors reached a boiling point.
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US Allows Saudi Arabia To Plant Wahhabi Seed In Raqqa Rubble

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The fight to free the Syrian city of Raqqa from Daesh (ISIS) — by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by U.S. special forces — has all but ended. With Raqqa now under SDF control, the question has become how to rebuild the former Daesh stronghold. The reconstruction of Raqqa will undoubtedly last longer than the siege to free it, as thousands of U.S. air and artillery strikes pounded much of the city into rubble. During August alone, a U.S. coalition bomb, missile or artillery round was fired into Raqqa on average every eight minutes.

Unable to deny its role in the city’s rather destructive “liberation,” the U.S. government has claimed that it will lead the way in clearing the rubble it created and restore basic services, such as water and electricity that were cut off during the bombardment. Last Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters, “We will assist and take, essentially, the lead in bringing back the water, electricity and all of that.”

“But eventually the governance of the country of Syria is something that I think all nations remain very interested in,” Nauert added, alluding to the fact that the SDF and its U.S. backers have no plans to return Raqqa to Syrian government control, having instead passed the city’s governance to a “local council.”

However, Raqqa’s council along with other groups of Syrian Kurds recently agreed to negotiate with the Syrian government after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem told the Kurds last month that the Syrian government was open to granting the Kurds “some form of self-administration.”
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Eager To Kill Iran Deal, Trump Finds Allies In Iraq WMD Peddling Neocons

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With the memory of the saber-rattling prelude to the US’ 2003 invasion of Iraq largely faded, many of that war’s biggest proponents have recently found themselves uniting behind a new cause – the dissolution of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In recent weeks, their calls for destroying the deal have grown — especially as President Donald Trump, who has long criticized the deal, seems determined to make a decision on deal’s ultimate fate within the coming month. While the dissolution of an international agreement may hardly seem as imminently dangerous as the invasion – and destruction – of another country, the end-game for those seeking to annul the agreement is ultimately the same.

Take, for instance, the recent rhetoric of John Bolton, former Bush-era State Department official and ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, now a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, recently argued in the Wall Street Journal that JCPOA was not worth saving, stating that Iran’s compliance and certification are not the issue. The issue instead, he states, is “whether we will protect US interests and shatter the illusion that Mr. Obama’s deal is achieving its stated goals, or instead timidly hope for the best while trading with the enemy, as the Europeans are doing.”

Bolton’s op-ed essentially calls for a rejection of diplomacy – something the Trump administration has already done in North Korea’s case – and resurrects “weapons of mass destruction” claims targeting the Iranian government. For instance, Bolton makes the bizarre speculative assertion that “even US intelligence could be in the dark if Iran is renting a uranium enrichment facility under a North Korean mountain.” In other words, Bolton asserts that – deal or no deal, monitoring or no monitoring – the Iranians cannot be trusted.
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Oil, Gas, Geopolitics Guide US Hand In Playing The Rohingya Crisis

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In recent years, Myanmar (formerly Burma) has only rarely been in the news. The quiet treatment owed much to the assumption that the country’s fledgling democracy was in “good hands” once the U.S-backed 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi gained renewed political prominence after the 2015 elections and assumed the office of state counselor a year later. However, the tide of international public opinion has been turning sharply against Suu Kyi as human rights activists, the United Nations and several other Nobel laureates have strongly criticized her handling of what has now become known as the “Rohingya crisis.”
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