The Saudi Royals: Not People to Do Business With

Robin Lustig   |   January 31, 2015   12:00 AM ET

I wonder what was going through David Cameron's mind as he cleared his diary to rush off to the funeral of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. (I'm not too bothered about what went through Prince Charles's mind - going to foreign funerals is what he's paid for.)

By most people's standards, the Saudi monarch was a brutal tyrant. Or, if we're feeling generous, he presided over a tyrannical regime. If he was, as so many commentators insisted, a reformer at heart, he was a remarkably unsuccessful one.

I understand the need for diplomatic niceties to be observed. That's why when a royal head of state dies, I'm perfectly happy for one of our royals to attend the funeral. But why on earth do we have to send the prime minister as well?

Perhaps you think it's because we still need their oil. Well, no, in fact - only 4% of the UK's imported oil comes from Saudi Arabia - most of it comes from Norway (42%), Algeria (14%) and Nigeria (13%).

No. The real answer is that the Saudis buy obscene quantities of UK armaments. So British policy towards Saudi Arabia can best be represented by a single symbol: a great big dollar sign. Moreover, in a region that becomes ever more violent and unstable (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon), Saudi Arabia appears - repeat appears - to be a rare island of relative tranquillity. These days, for Western leaders worried about where the next jihadi outrage will strike, that's worth a lot.

It is also woefully short-sighted. Because the truth is that the motivating ideology that infects the jihadi killers on the streets of Europe's capitals comes directly from the very same city where Mr Cameron, Prince Charles and the rest of them congregated to pay their respects to the departed Saudi monarch.

My heart sinks as I write the word "respects". Respects to an absolute monarch in a kingdom that publicly beheads miscreants, publicly flogs bloggers, and still forbids women from driving or travelling without the permission of a male guardian? Does realpolitik know no boundaries at all? Would they genuflect to Kim Jong-un of North Korea as well if he bought enough of our weapons?

There are nearly as many strands in Islam as there are in Christianity. Most of them pose no greater threat to non-Muslims than the Quakers do to non-Christians. But it is the world's great misfortune that the strand espoused by the richest and most reactionary rulers in the Muslim world is also the most ruthlessly exported. Visit almost any country on earth where there are Muslims and there you will find mosques built and financed by Saudi cash.

These days, the Saudis profess to be as worried about jihadi murderers as everyone else, but whether that anxiety is matched by effective action against the propagandists, financiers and others who back the most extreme elements in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere remains open to doubt.

What is not in doubt is that the Saudi royals are deeply concerned at the spread of Iranian-backed Shi'ism in the region - and even more concerned at the prospect of Iran finally doing a deal over its nuclear research programme and being re-admitted into what we fondly refer to as the "international community". The Saudis have always regarded themselves as the rightful rulers of the whole of the Islamic world; after all, their country is where the prophet Mohammad was born and lived, and where their religion was created. Iran, and Shi'ism, which Saudi clerics regard much as Pope Leo X regarded Martin Luther in the 16th century, threaten Saudi hegemony.

President Obama, who was accompanied in Riyadh by Mrs Obama and a host of US dignatories, wants to keep the Saudis onside. No one in Washington has forgotten, or will ever forget, that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 11 September 2001 came from Saudi Arabia.

And if you've been following the entirely specious "row" over why Mrs Obama didn't cover her head during their visit (a wonderful demonstration of feminist courage, according to her supporters; a disgraceful demonstration of disrespect to a key ally, according to her Republican critics), you may be interested to know that she was in good company. On previous visits to the desert kingdom, former First Lady Laura Bush, ex-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and German chancellor Angela Merkel have all appeared bare-headed.

I've even come across a 30-year-old photo of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, also bare-headed on a visit to Saudi. And she wasn't exactly one of the world's most outspoken feminists, or one to disrespect a valued ally, especially as it was she who signed the UK's most lucrative arms contract ever with the Saudis: the al-Yamamah deal, worth something like £40 billion to the British defence firm BAE.

The Saudi royal family are not the kind of people we should be doing business with. The only reason to stay on speaking terms with them is that if they are overthrown, they could well be followed by something even worse.

Still, wouldn't it be nice if, like Germany, we could halt our arms sales to what is undoubtedly one of the nastiest regimes on the planet. And when the new king dies - he's already 79 - perhaps we could send Prince Charles on his own. I'm sure he'd manage just fine.

Obama's Middle East Challenge - The Stakes Couldn't Be Higher

Jon-Christopher Bua   |   January 28, 2015    1:28 AM ET

Over four years ago on December 17, 2010 Mohamed Bouaziz a Tuisian street vendor set himself on fire as the first defiant act of what we now know as the Arab Spring.

That January in 2011 protests arose in Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Morocco.

On February 11, 2011 after thousands protested in Tahrir Square in Cairo President Hosni Mubarak resigned. He is now being held in a military hospital.

On February 15, 2011 protests broke out against Libya Leader Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Gaddafi was brutally murderer by rebel fighters in the street and his regime was overthrown in August of 2011.

The conflict in Syria between its President Bashar al Assad and those opposing his ruthless regime intensified in 2011 and has ripened into a full blown civil war which continues today with no end in sight.

On June 3, 2011 the President of Yemen Ali Abudallah Saleh was injured in an assassination attempt. In a move that was to be temporary, he made his Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi the Acting President of Yemen. On February 3, 2012, President Saleh officially resigned, and Hadi became Yemen's President.

Fast forward - Just last week, President Hadi of Yemen resigned and his entire government collapsed when confronted by Shia backed Houthi rebels.

This latest event has further complicated Middle East foreign policy for President Obama and all the other Western leaders.

Needless to say, the Middle East has always been a challenge for US Presidents.

At the end of WW II the US and its closest ally Great Britain did not see eye to eye on the future of the Middle East.

Great Britain along with France had gained economic spheres of influence in this region from the Sykes Picot Treaty in 1916 before the Armistice ending the Great War and they were not interested in relinquishing or sharing any of their prizes.

It was at the end of World War II while on his way home from Yalta, where he had just met with Winston Churchill and Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin, that Franklin Roosevelt surprised Churchill by arranging to meet with King Saud of Saudi Arabia, King Farouk of Egypt and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

This region has always been extremely challenging for the US, requiring a delicate diplomatic balancing act as presidents in succession have tried to maintain friendships with these many nations who in fact do not get along with one another.

At the heart of this perplexing problem for the West is the fact that the Middle East represents the place where the US and its allies' economic interests and their support for so-called democratic principles collide.

US dependence on oil and its desire for stability in this region have meant that US-Middle East foreign policy has always been something of a contortionist act.

This explains why the US has supported or propped up oppressive leaders like Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and others.

Since the end of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War between the Israelis and its Arab neighbors in Egypt, Jordan and Syria, starting with Jimmy Carter, six presidents have tried and failed at negotiating a lasting Middle East Peace Agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

This vexing conflict along with the US support of some of the most oppressive leaders has fueled anti-American sentiment among so many of the people in this region.

Unfortunately, The Arab Spring has turned from a hopeful movement of opportunity and democracy for so many of the people living under oppression into a full-blown religious war and power struggle between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Was there one act or one moment where the US and its Allies missed the opportunity to tip the balance toward peace and democracy and away from chaos and calamity?

That will have to be left to the historians to decide.

This battle has become something of proxy war for regional influence and domination between Iran and its Shia allies and Saudi Arabia and its Sunni sphere of influence.

More recently al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIL both initially Sunni aligned extreme terrorist operations are now horrifically engaged in competition for the title of "Most Vile".

Once again, as in Vietnam, the US is being dragged into the middle of a religious conflict as it tries to sort and balance its interests while these competing groups vie for dominance.

The US and the West are reactively responding to the latest series of unfolding events without understanding what is at stake for them or without a clear overall plan as to where they want to end up - if and when the battle is ever over.

Now both Israel and Saudi Arabia, two of the closest US Allies - some say 'allies of convenience' or necessity - find themselves in increasingly hostile neighborhoods and in some ways on the same side of the Iran issue for completely different reasons.

Since the Arab Spring, Israel has found itself surrounded by even more instability than before -with Egypt a country in chaos, Jordan being destabilized by refugees from Syria, Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah and Syria's raging civil war.

Israel's war this summer in Gaza with Hamas added more fuel to the fire making negotiating a peace agreement in the Middle East a Herculean task.

Things are not much rosier for Saudi Arabia - the other powerful close Ally of the US - a Sunni lead Arab nation now surrounded by potentially unfriendly Shia supported governments in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq - and now Yemen to the south.

The only neighboring countries not posing a problem for them at the moment are Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE.

This is of course not a surprise since Saudi Arabia has sent $12billion in assistance to President Sisi's government in Egypt and they are also financially propping up Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq - and supporting Saudi friendly factions in Libya and Tunisia.

The Saudi Royal Family also supports Oman and Bahrain along with help from the other oil-rich nations of UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

It is against this backdrop that President Obama has chosen to personally pay his respects to the Saud family on the passing of King Abdullah - leading an impressive however hastily cobbled together delegation of past and present US leaders and operatives - and personally meet with King Salaman, the late King's half-brother, former Minister of Defense and ascendant to the family throne.

The former King died on Friday, weeks after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection.

Clearly, with such an important array of competing players in this region paying their respects, President Obama decided he must indeed go in person.

Dignitaries including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, HRH Prince Charles, President Francois Hollande of France, King Felipe VI of Spain and Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik have all paid their respects in person.

Gulf leaders, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the funeral on Friday, the day of the King's passing which is Islamic tradition.

Iran represented by its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarifm offered his condolences in person as well.

Saudi Arabia has lost its leader and a new leader must now decided how to best secure his people's future for years to come.

In this region nothing is simple and US efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran not only has the Saudis on edge - but the Israelis are also opposed to this idea.

The sands of their security are literally shifting around them at an alarming rate.

Syria, Lebanon and Yemen may now all be under Shia control supported by Iran's Shia leaders.

Clearly over the past several months Iran has provided material support to the Houthis in Yemen. Whether Iran is directing the present activities of the Houthis seems not as clear to this Administration.

It is in the best interest of both Saudi Arabia and Israel that Iran remains weak, under sanctions and that no deal on its ability to have nuclear technology is reached.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that the US efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran has domestic political implications as well as international ones.

So as President Obama made his plans to head off to India for several days, House Speaker John Boehner invited Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel to address Congress on the Israeli concerns relating to a nuclear deal with Iran.

The Obama Administration took this as something of a personal affront - despite the fact that they had invited PM David Cameron to the US the week before and allowed him to lobby Congress on their behalf to avoid additional sanctions while negotiations were still underway with Iran.

The White House also announced that it would not be meeting with PM Netanyahu while he is here in US "in an effort not to influence the Israeli Election" coming up in March.

By refusing to meet with PM Netanyahu are they not in fact sending a message to the Israeli voting public?

The Obama Administration has made no secret of their disagreement with PM Netanyahu when it comes to a nuclear deal with Iran. Although just like the Middle East Peace Process many other American presidents have tried and failed to reach a verifiable nuclear deal with Iran.

In the background while all of this is going on, the dropping price of oil on the world markets is also having an effect. With global production currently outstripping demand, oil has dramatically fallen in price. This will put more financial pressure on Iran without Congress doing anything.

At its current price of $45 a barrel Iran is estimated to lose another $11billion on top of the estimated $40billion it is currently losing due to existing sanctions. Worsening economic conditions might mean that the Iranian Regime could fall to pressures from within.

Russia another key player in the region and supporter of Syria, is also feeling economic pressure from falling oil prices.

Although Russia is reported to have approximately $240billion in ex-Soviet reserves, prior to the fall in oil prices it took 35 rubles to buy a dollar it now takes 65 rubles to purchase a dollar - and just this week their credit rating has been reduced to "junk" debt status by Standard & Poors.

Although falling oil prices are not good for Saudi Arabia either they do have approximately $900billion in reserves, so for the short term they can weather the storm.

It is often difficult to identify an historic opportunity and seize the moment, however the US and its Allies may realize that it could be time to focus on forging an agreement for peaceful co-existence and cooperation even among 'unfriendly nations' that share a more important common goal - fighting terrorism and total chaos.

Never have the stakes been quite so high for the US, its Allies and the people in the Middle East.

As the US President Meets the Prime Minister of India - Are Leaders who Love Themselves Good for You?

Dr Raj Persaud   |   January 27, 2015    2:49 PM ET

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, it has been revealed, has his own name sewn into his suit pinstripe, so there has been negative reaction from political opponents on whether this reveals extreme narcissism in his personality.

But maybe we shouldn't be too surprised that our leaders are more narcissistic than the rest of us?

The way psychologists Kaileigh Byrne and Darrell Worthy put the dilemma, in their recent study, was to point out narcissists are self-loving, centres of the universe, arrogant egomaniacs relentlessly searching for ways to flaunt their abilities and demonstrate their superiority.

So, their research investigated, maybe that also renders them fatally flawed when it comes to making good decisions?

Narcissism or greater self-belief and confidence - is required to rise up the ranks to prominence in a competitive world, plus the conviction that you are better than others is needed for the aggressive self-projection now required much more in the media age.

While psychological research has found that US Presidents (Narendra Modi was meeting the US President when the photos were taken which revealed the Indian Prime Minister's gold pinstripe in his suit spelling his name) are more narcissistic that the general population - it has also confirmed that while leaders can vary - some are ultra-narcissistic - yet others are just a bit more in love with themselves.

Instead the key question surely is does excessively high narcissism predict what kind of leader they are going to be - and - in particular whether they are going to make better decisions or not?
Narcissism is generally linked with overconfident decision making, deceit, and failing to learn from errors.

Although the press has focused on the suit that the Indian Prime Minister wore when shaking the hand of President Obama, psychological research suggests the US President may give the Indian Prime Minister a close run for his money on narcissism scores.

A study entitled 'The Double-Edged Sword of Grandiose Narcissism: Implications for Successful and Unsuccessful Leadership Among U.S. Presidents' published in academic journal, 'Psychological Science', in 2013, from Emory University, University of Georgia and Foundation for the Study of Personality in History, Houston, Texas, found that 42 U.S. presidents up to and including George W. Bush were assessed as being greater Presidents (by independent assessment) if they scored higher on narcissism.

This investigation, conducted by Ashley Watts , Scott Lilienfeld, Sarah Smith, Joshua Miller, Keith Campbell , Irwin Waldman, Steven Rubenzer, and Thomas Faschingbauer, found higher narcissism in personality was also positively associated with better public persuasiveness, improved crisis management, superior agenda setting, winning more of the popular vote, and initiating more legislation.

But grandiose narcissism was also associated with several negative outcomes, including congressional impeachment resolutions and unethical behaviours.

The study found that US Presidents exhibit elevated levels of grandiose narcissism compared with the general population, and that presidents' grandiose narcissism has been rising over time.

The relentless increases in extraversion and narcissism in US Presidents through history, which this study found, could stem, the authors speculate, from the heightened demands on political figures to be publicly charismatic and flamboyant, as media coverage gets more intense.

However, the authors conclude that grandiose narcissism may be a double-edged sword in the leadership domain.

In a study published in 2013 in the journal 'Personality and Individual Differences', entitled 'Do narcissists make better decisions? An investigation of narcissism and dynamic decision-making performance', Kaileigh Byrne and DarrellWorthy from Texas A&M University, United States, found that narcissist do make better decisions in situations where there is misleading information provided aimed to distract you into poorer judgment.

This result came as a bit of a surprise, as the authors point out there is an irony to narcissists' confidence in their abilities - self-lovers tend to over-rate their overall intelligence and overestimate how well they are liked by others.

One possibility to explain these results that narcissists were better decision makers in certain situations, is that it could be that those in love with themselves focus more on particular tasks because they expect themselves to do well. They may be more motivated to reach the goal because they view the task as an opportunity for self-enhancement. Because of their increased effort, they figure out the best strategy faster.

Narcissists, the authors point out, are continuously searching for ways to flaunt their abilities and demonstrate their superiority. So leaders who are in the public eye, will naturally attract those actively pursuing self-enhancing situations. They expect to excel in tasks with the potential for self-glory.

As voters, perhaps we end up choosing narcissists because their over-confidence in their ability to solve problems is much more appealing and vote-catching, than those who are more tentative and more realistic about themselves, and the problems societies face.

All this research would suggest you, as a voter, may prefer narcissists, but indeed it seems you may even be better off having a narcissistic leader, in particular circumstances, and to some extent it's even inevitable.

But given their proclivities, you should keep a very close eye on them, don't trust them an inch and always be prepared to disabuse them of how wonderful they are, by giving them a good kicking in the ballot box.

London Anti-Extremism Conference Must Challenge the Role of Iran

Lord Maginnis   |   January 26, 2015    4:55 PM ET

On Thursday, London hosted a major conference to discuss the ISIS threat and strategies for confronting Islamic extremism around the globe. Unfortunately, this conference took place about a week after Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama together expressed support for Obama's commitment to oppose congressional efforts to define new economic sanctions that would be triggered if Iran's Islamic theocracy continue to frustrate international efforts to reach a comprehensive deal over its nuclear programme.

Naturally, Prime Minister Cameron's and President Obama's meeting also focused on the broader issue of Islamic extremism, especially in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris during the previous week. But the two leaders' joint commitment to some watered-down conciliation suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the root causes of the growth of extremism in the Middle East and beyond. One can only hope that last week's conference will have corrected some of the faults in the UK government's policies; but if previous attempts are anything to go by, they are unlikely to have done other than give further encouragement to the incorrigible Mullahs' regime.

Concurrently, the Global Diplomatic Forum leaps on the bandwagon with its one-day Conference entitled "Iran's Re-Engagement with the International Community and its impact on Geopolitics in the Middle East". Apparently no preconditions, no current assessments - just well-intentioned public figures with a dangerously narrow-minded view of the Middle-East.

So what needs to happen if these two conferences are to lead to a comprehensive solution? First and foremost, they need to truly focus on the problem of extremism as a whole, not solely on the ISIS threat as the most prominent example of it. ISIS is a symptom; it is not the disease. And if the participants in these conferences fail to understand that they run the risk of prescribing a solution that alleviates one symptom while exacerbating another.

Both Leaders, in the US and the UK, have, apparently, decided that as long as the headline-grabbing ISIS militants are defeated, virtually any partnership or strategy is justified. Iran is, despite its outrageous interventions in Iraq during the Nouri al-Maliki term in Government, viewed by some as a militarily asset that can oppose the establishment of a Sunni caliphate in its neighbourhood.

But that is only true if Western powers are merely standing against that one specific entity, and not against the overall threat of violent Islamic extremism. If the latter is our true opponent, as last week's conference in London underscored, then it does us no good to dislodge one extremist threat - a Sunni one - by strengthening the position of its Shiite competitor.

Iran's Shiite influence on Iraq and Syria has already been well recognised. In the past month, at least three high-ranking officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been killed there. These are representatives of a hard-line paramilitary organisation that has virtually taken control of the war against ISIS by relying on volunteer forces and Shiite militias, impelling them to commit human rights abuses that rival those committed by ISIS.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reports that there are some thousands IRGC forces active in Iraq today. There should be no doubt that their influence is deepening the sectarian dimensions of the current conflict, and that this is as effective as anything else at driving recruitment for extremists not just within ISIS, but on both sides of the divide.

It would be extremely naïve to think that the broader problem will go away simply when ISIS is destroyed. A significant ISIS threat did not even exist in Iraq until Iran's support allowed the government of Nouri al-Maliki to consolidate power into the hands of a Shiite Cabal, alienating Sunnis from public life and driving some of them into the arms of extremist groups. If someday ISIS ceases to be an option, these same people will find another outlet for their defiance. The best outcome we can hope for, then, is one in which an inclusive, secular Iraqi government provides a safe, workable administration for Iraqis of every shade and complexion.

This may seem like a difficult thing to achieve, but strategy conferences like the one in London last week could have helped to outline the way forward. Yet, they will only serve that purpose if they do not begin from the faulty premise or misunderstanding of the problem. An inclusive Iraqi society is simply impossible so long as Tehran, a Shiite theocracy and leading exporter of sectarian conflict and terrorism, remains as an influential participant in the ongoing conflict. Therefore, one of the first stated goals of Western policy against extremism in the Middle East must be to expel the Iranian regime from Iraq, and from Syria as well.

Allowing Iran to continue to meddle and systematically advance its position in these countries will only exacerbate the sectarian aspects of these civil wars in Iraq and Syria. And by cooperating with Iran and refusing to rein it in, Western powers have effectively tied the hands of moderating influences in the region like the Free Syrian Army and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). By so doing, they have not only failed to resolve the sectarian conflict, they have illogically suppressed those alternative ideologies that can make sectarianism and extremism less attractive within Muslim societies.

Ryan Barrell   |   January 22, 2015    5:06 PM ET

Well this is awkward.

It seems they're not such great bros after all - US President Barack Obama doesn't follow our Prime Minister on Twitter.

To give him some credit, he appears to have tried.

He doesn't follow @David_Cameron, but does follow @davidcameron, who isn't a Prime Minister. He's just a regular bloke.

The keen folks at The Next Web found this out while they played with DoesFollow, a tool which allows you to check if two specific people are following each other.


Obama isn't the only one who makes that mistake though. @davidcameron has been heartily sitting on his Twitter handle for 6 years, despite a torrent of abuse from people who think he's the Tory leader.

In thousands of years, when the history books speak of the US/UK Cold War, it will begin with this. Then a subtweet, then eventually it will escalate into a scathing Tumblr post or a violently frank Reddit AMA.

Louise Ridley   |   January 21, 2015    8:45 AM ET

US Republican governor Bobby Jindal tried to provide some snarky commentary on President Obama's 2015 State Of The Union speech, by quipping he could sum it up in a single tweet.

Unfortunately, the Louisiana governor's attempt to get one over on the president was completely undermined by a big fat grammar mistake.

In his post mocking that he could "save you 45 mins" by boiling down Obama's address to several flippant points, he added "your welcome", instead of the grammatically correct "you're welcome".

The error was swiftly picked up by critics online, including news website Bipartisan Report which highlighted the fact that one of Obama's "free" initiatives that Jindal slammed in the tweet is free community college - something Jindal's English skills suggest he could make use of himself.

Jindal's tweet was retweeted nearly 2,000 times, as commenters wasted no time correcting the mistake.

Jindal is the same politician who was in London this week insisting that Britain is full of "no-go zones" where non-Muslims never go.

The Republican, who is considering running for president himself in 2016, said in a speech in London this week that some immigrants are seeking “to colonise Western countries, because setting up your own enclave and demanding recognition of a no-go zone are exactly that.”

Republican Bobby Jindal INSISTS Britain Is Teeming With No-Go Zones
Last Night's State Of The Union Boiled Down To 10 Key Moments

Jindal is no stranger to commenting on the President's annual address. In 2009 he provided the official Republican video response, which has just been named by USA Today as one of the five worst State of the Union responses in recent years.

Watch his not-to-be-copied performance below:

  |   January 16, 2015   10:14 PM ET

President Barack Obama argued on Friday that a resurgent fear of terrorism across Europe and the United States should not lead countries to overreact and shed privacy protections, even as British Prime Minister David Cameron pressed for more government access to encrypted communications used by US companies.

Obama and Cameron met at the White House just over a week after terror attacks in France left 17 people dead and stirred anxieties on both sides of the Atlantic. In the wake of the attacks, Cameron has redoubled efforts to get more access to online information, while the French government plans to present new anti-terrorism measures next week that would allow for more phone-tapping and other surveillance.

"As technology develops, as the world moves on, we should try to avoid the safe havens that could otherwise be created for terrorists to talk to each other," Cameron said in a joint news conference with Obama.


President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

The response to the Paris attacks could reinvigorate the debate over balancing privacy and security, even as governments and companies still grapple with the backlash against surveillance that followed the 2013 disclosures from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. With some in France calling the attacks their country's Sept. 11, there are also fears that the government could respond with laws akin to the sweeping USA Patriot Act that the American Congress quickly approved after the 2001 attacks.

Obama avoided taking a public position on Cameron's call for US-based technology companies like Google, Facebook and Apple to give governments more access to encrypted communications. He urged caution, saying he did not believe the threat level was so great that the "pendulum needs to swing" toward more invasive security measures.

Still, Obama agreed with his British counterpart that governments need to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology. He said that if having a phone number or email address of a potential terrorist isn't enough to disrupt a plot, "that's a problem."

Last fall, FBI Director James Comey complained that new, locked-down operating systems for smartphones made by Apple and Google could hinder law enforcement's ability to investigate and prosecute crime, pointing to cases in which police would have had their hands tied had the phones been encrypted.

Leading American Internet companies expanded their encryption programs in an effort to protect customers' communications in the wake of Snowden's revelations.

The disclosures, contained in top-secret government documents leaked to news organizations, showed the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, were collecting digital communications records from millions of citizens not suspected of a crime.

The prospect of authorized eavesdropping on encrypted communications raised alarms from civil liberties groups, as well as practical concerns that weakening encryption could also put users at risk of hacking.

"There's no way to design a service so that it's secure from North Korea and China while also allowing the British and US governments to gain access," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's either secure or it's insecure."

The head of the Internet Association, a group that counts Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and Netflix among its members, said any government access to consumers' data must be "rule-bound, transparent and tailored."

"Just as governments have a duty to protect the public from threats, Internet services have a duty to our users to ensure the security and privacy of their data," association President Michael Beckerman said in a statement.


The pair arrive for their joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

US and European intelligence agencies are still piecing together the motivations and associations of those responsible for the attacks in Paris on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery. Three gunmen who carried out the attacks and were killed by police claimed links to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

A leader of Yemen's al-Qaida branch claimed responsibility for the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, although intelligence officials say they lean toward an assessment that the Paris terror attacks were inspired by al-Qaida but not directly supervised by the group.

Still, Cameron was blistering in his description of those responsible, calling them part of a "poisonous, fanatical death cult." The attacks spurred Cameron's government to become more vocal in pursuing policies to prevent encryption technologies from keeping Britain's security services from being able to monitor terrorist cells.

Leaders in Washington and in European capitals have grown increasingly concerned about homegrown extremism and threats from foreign fighters with Western passports. However, Obama said the US had an advantage over Europe in combatting Islamic extremism because "our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans."

"There are parts of Europe in which that's not the case," he said. "It's important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems."

Paul Vale   |   January 16, 2015    6:04 PM ET

Barack Obama gave David Cameron’s team a pre-election boost with a high-profile endorsement at a joint press conference at the White House on Friday. Using words that will delight the PM's team, the president gave a glowing tribute to Cameron before the pair detailed issues of joint concern, from cybersecurity to the fight against the Islamic State.

Addressing a recent admission from Cameron that Obama occasionally calls him “bro”, the president joked that commentators had got into a "tizzy" about the term.

"Put simply, David is a great friend. He is one of my closest and most trusted partners in the world," the President said. "On many of the most pressing challenges that we face we see the world the same way. Great Britain is our indispensable partner, and David has been personally an outstanding partner - and I thank you for your friendship."

obama cameron

US President Barack Obama and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron hold a press conference in the East Room of the White House on January 16, 2015, in Washington, DC

In a statement published before the press conference it was revealed that Britain and the United States are to establish a new joint group to counter the rise of violent extremism in the wake of the Paris terror attacks and they remained determined to confront the "poisonous and fanatical ideology" of the extremists wherever it occurred.

He said the new UK-US group would look at what more they could do to identify and counter the threat in their own countries while learning from each other's experience. At the same time, Britain is to step up its support to Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State terrorists with the deployment of additional intelligence and surveillance assets.

"Britain and America both face threats to our national security from people who hate what our countries stand for and are determined to do us harm," Cameron told the press conference. "In recent weeks, we have seen appalling attacks in Paris, in Peshawar, in Nigeria. The world is sickened by this terrorism.

obama cameron

Cameron: 'Britain and America both face threats to our national security from people who hate what our countries stand for and are determined to do us harm'

"So we will not be standing alone in this fight. We know what we are up against. And we know how we will win. We face a poisonous and fanatical ideology that wants to pervert one of the world's major religions - Islam - and create conflict, terror and death. With our allies we will confront it wherever it appears. But, most important of all, we must also fight this poisonous ideology, starting at home."

Obama said that the Paris attacks, which left 17 people dead, underlined the continuing threat from terrorist groups. "We will continue to do everything in our power to help France to seek the justice that is needed. All our countries are working together seamlessly to prevent attacks and defeat these terrorist networks," he said.

"The Paris attacks underscored again how terrorist groups like al Qaida and Isil are actively trying to inspire and support people within our own countries to engage in terrorism. We both recognise that intelligence and military force alone is not going to solve this problem so we are also going to keep working together on strategies to counter violent extremism that radicalises, recruits and mobilises people, especially young people, to engage in terrorism. "

Jessica Elgot   |   January 16, 2015    7:29 AM ET


The video seems, for the first few seconds, like one of the now ubiquitous jihadist recruit videos from one of the terror-aligned groups in Iraq - professionally shot, calling for recruits, and extremely violent.

But then the video's message begins to change. "Come to the Islamic State and learn new skills, like blowing up mosques, crucifying and executing Muslims. Travel is inexpensive, because you won't need a return ticket." The message is accompanied by gruesome images of a suicide bombing in a mosque, crucifixions and bloodied dead fighters. It is the project of an American government initiatives 'Think Again, Turn Away' which aims to win back some of the territory on the internet battleground where the jihadists have been comprehensively winning.

Now the fight is going to the second front, cyber terrorism, and Britain will play a crucial role.

obama cameron

US President Barack Obama (R) walks with British Prime Minister David Cameron through the colonnade as they are on their way for a working dinner at the Blue Room of the White House

A cyber cell of British and American intelligence and security agents is being created to defeat online attacks in an "unprecedented" deal to be struck by David Cameron and Barack Obama in talks at the White House today.

A rolling programme of war games will be staged across the Atlantic starting with attacks on the City and Wall Street to test their resilience.

It comes as a report by government listening post GCHQ warns the computer networks of British companies are under attack on a daily basis by hackers, criminal gangs, commercial rivals and foreign intelligence services.

The US Central Command's had its Twitter and YouTube hacked this week with the perpertrators claiming to have valuable documents about service personnel, though that was later disputed. President Obama is also toughening up the American response in the wake of the embarrassing and damaging North Korean hack on Sony Pictures and the infiltration of Pentagon Twitter and YouTube sites.

Ahead of a meeting in the Oval Office, Cameron said: "Just as we have worked with our closest ally, the US, to protect our people and our countries from traditional threats, so we must work together to defend ourselves from new threats like cyber attacks.

"This is an evolving threat which poses a real risk to our businesses and that's why we're taking our cooperation with the US to an unprecedented level. This is about pooling our effort so we stay one step ahead of those who seek to attack us.

"The joint exercises and training of our next generation of cyber experts will help to ensure that we have the capability we need to protect critical sectors like our energy, transport and financial infrastructure from emerging threats."

Under the plans GCHQ and MI5 will join forces with NSA and FBI to turn an American cyber cell into a transatlantic operation, to improve information sharing about threats.

Simulated attacks will be carried out to test systems, with institutions in the financial sector, including the Bank of England and a number of commercial banks being put to the test later this year.

A new generation of cyber agents will be trained up and a new Fulbright Cyber Security Award created to allow the most talented researchers to carry out research placements for up to six months.

Cameron has pledged to give security services more powers to monitor online exchanges between terror suspects and will raise the problem of terrorists using social media firms to plot in today's talks.

He told reporters that potential police murders had been spotted and prevented through use of communications data.

"Lots of attacks have been prevented," he told ITN. "We've had, since I've been Prime Minister, a major attack stopped every year. In the last few months a whole series of more minor attacks, the potential murders of police officers have been spotted. And on many occasions either communications data - who was calling who from where and when - has been vital or an intercept itself has been vital."

The Prime Minister said there was a broad agreement between Britain and the US over the powers needed to deal with terrorists communicating online. "We face the same challenge in Britain and in America," he told Sky News. "There is a broad agreement that we need to have the powers, in extremis, to intercept communications between terrorists. That is what America does today. It is what Britain does today.

"We share the intelligence and information between us and this has saved countless lives, not just in Britain and America but in other countries as well."

Cameron said the British system had "huge safeguards against intrusion" into privacy. He added: "I believe the British public will back me when I say that we shouldn't allow terrorists to talk to each without being able, in extremis, with a warrant from the Home Secretary signed personally by her, to intercept those calls."

Everyone Hates Mitt Romney

Paul Vale   |   January 16, 2015   12:00 AM ET

Everyone hates Mitt Romney. Everyone. Not just the 47% of Americans he dismissed as welfare takers during his slapstick presidential charge in 2012, and not just the workers he said he "loves to fire" during the same burlesque campaign.

Absolutely everyone hates him. Democrats, Republicans, the Tea Party... even the British, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson, who rounded on the former governor after the then-candidate suggested the country was ill-prepared to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

That'll be the same Olympics that were globally hailed as the best in decades, though in Mitt's defense he did enter a dancing horse with a Twitter account as compensation...

This week, backpedaling on assurances that after two failed presidential bids he would not run again, Romney announced to donors that he was thinking of running again.

Adding levity to the proposal, the multi-millionaire corporate raider, who once disdained social welfare programs and made fun of poor people for wearing plastic ponchos, leaked that he was going to run as the poverty candidate -- as in the Republican candidate most concerned about the poor.

Even Romney can spot that inequality is the current cause célèbre. However shoehorning a man who once said "corporations are people" into Russell Brand's "doyen of the downtrodden" plimsolls will be a Sisyphean task. It would be easier for Donald Trump to run as an African-American, or Hillary as a man.

Yet antipathy for Romney is not just bubbling up from the hoi polloi. Rupert Murdoch, another who thinks that wealth and politics are perfectly good bedfellows, called Romney a "terrible candidate" this week, adding that the 67-year-old had "had his chance".

Trump too, speaking on MSNBC, said that Romney "blew it" in 2012, the bewigged birther dismissing his fellow businessman as "a dealmaker that couldn't close the deal".

Even Sarah Palin, a woman whose political opinion has not evolved beyond the unlettered populism responsible for her preposterous tilt at the VP's job in 2008, pushed for "new energy... new blood... and new ideas".

Following the leak of Romney's intention, the other likely presidential candidates formed a firing squad. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took aim, saying, "I think it's difficult to make an argument about moving forward when you're arguing about things from the past," while Kentucky Senator Rand Paul pulled the trigger, calling Romney "yesterday's news".

Another desirous of the Oval Office is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who returned to his oft-quoted line from Ronald Reagan demanding "bold colours" (Cruz) not "pale pastels" (Romney). According to Republican mythology, the long-dead Gipper currently sits on the right hand of God (receiving a pedicure from Ayn Rand) so Cruz's dismissal carried all the weight of scripture.

So everyone hates Mitt. Except, it seems, the business executives and donors who are pushing for Romney round three, along with his loyal spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, who like Cruz invoked the divine to defend his client. "Reagan ran three times," said Fehrnstrom this week, "Mitt learns from experience. If he does run, he will run his strongest campaign yet."

Romney leads several polls, mainly due to his name recognition from 2012, and the fact that no other candidate has officially thrown their Stetson into the ring. Yet the most relevant poll was taken in 2012, when Obama secured a second term at Romney's expense when a Republican victory seemed very achievable. After that defeat, Romney 2016 seems impossible.

As Jonathan Chait put it in New York Magazine this week, "Nothing could convince me that Romney will actually run for president, not even Romney taking the oath of office."

Prosperity Can Save the World

Joana Alfaiate   |   January 15, 2015    5:38 PM ET

Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama have come together to champion prosperity. The two leaders highlight the importance of economic growth - but they define prosperity as being also the rule of law, peace and freedom. These Western values have become a matter of life and death: Obama and Cameron explicitly urge their citizens to defend them from those who claim our way of life is 'decadent' and must be crushed. The leaders have an unlikely ally in Ed Balls, who has also made an appeal for 'inclusive prosperity'.

Obama, Cameron and Balls are behind the curve. The Legatum Prosperity Index™ has been working for the last eight years on defining prosperity as wealth and wellbeing in all-encompassing terms: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, security, freedom and community. The Index ranks 142 countries based on these indicators, - covering 96% of the world's population and 99% of global GDP -, putting them together to reach an overall prosperity rank. For the Legatum Institute, "prosperity" is the term that embodies the true achievement of a better life, one where living standards are high, countries are peaceful and safe, and people are healthy, educated and free.

When Cameron and Obama talk of the threats to 'our' way of life - they mean the atrocities in Paris by al-Qaeda, the violent video killings of Islamic State, the murderous pillaging of Boko Haram, the attacks on the school in Peshawar, and to Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine. Security and freedom is under threat; prosperity stands between these values and violence, repression, and impunity.

The US and the UK may not have an unblemished record when it comes to true prosperity. Neither is the freest country in the world, (the US ranks 21st in Personal Freedom in the 2014 Prosperity Index, placing it below Uruguay, Costa Rica, Malta or Portugal). But in terms of other variables, like rule of law, tolerance, and social capital, these two nations enjoy a high level of overall prosperity -- the US ranks 10th of 142 countries in 2014 for its good overall performance; while the UK ranks 13th. This lends the leaders of these two nations the authority to urge others to follow suit: only if governments can secure such all-important values for their citizens can they protect ordinary people from the violence of extremists.

Chris York   |   January 12, 2015    1:30 PM ET

Britain First have kissed goodbye any chance they could ever be seen as even a remotely credible political force after posting what could be their most bizarre Facebook update to date.

In response to the absence of a United States contingent at the huge solidarity march in Paris on Sunday, the pseudo-political group joined the ranks of fully signed up conspiracy theorists with an explanation that would make Donald Trump blush:

Latching on to a conspiracy theory more than a decade after it was debunked, Britain First appeared to suggest that Barack Obama had sympathy with the Islamists behind the Paris attacks.

The US president has been dogged by false rumours of his "true" religion ever since he campaigned for the US senate in 2004.


Despite repeated denials and the assertion that visiting Indonesia or having the middle name "Hussein" doesn't automatically make you a terrorist, the gossip has persisted.

Other bastions of right-wing lunacy who also believe Barack Obama is a Muslim include...



pamela geller

So, they're in good company.

Sorcerers, Apprentices, Broomsticks: The US Has Not Done Enough to Support Democracy in Pakistan, Peace With India

Catriona Luke   |   January 9, 2015   11:26 AM ET

Writing sensitive diplomatic documents is probably the world's second oldest profession. A mountainous, inaccessible central Asian country with immense strategic importance, causes a regional governor to urgently dispatch a memo to the equivalent of the State department. This country, he writes, autonomously governed 'ruled on theocratic lines, is likely to be a stronger guarantee against Soviet advance to the borders of India than any resumption of effective [he mentions a large neighbouring state] control'.

'This country' might have been Afghanistan, but the memo sent by Sir Olaf Caroe, governor of North West Frontier, in June 1935 concerned Tibet, at that time a semi-British protectorate in a 37-year reprieve from Chinese rule that has marked its porous history from the 18th century.

Olaf Caroe as well as being a 'Forward policy man' to his fingertips, was a proponent of the creation of Pakistan not only because he had a sentimental attachment to the Pathans, but because like many of his Indian Civil Service generation he was obsessed by the Soviet threat. After 1947 and as a regular visitor to Washington he influenced the Americans on the 'uncertain vestibule' of buffer states between the Soviet Union, the subcontinent and the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

His geopolitical treatise Wells of Power: the oilfields of south west Asia (1951) and his role in the formation of the 1955 Baghdad Pact, modelled on Nato, for the US, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq, allowed him to persuade Allen W. Dulles, the first civilian director of the CIA, that the imperial lessons of military hardware and a tight hand on the geo-political tiller was necessary to keep them aligned to the west. It was complemented by Seato, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation, founded in 1954 to prevent communism from gaining ground in the region. Pakistan was a member and hence a recipiant of US military aid.

In the 1950s Dulles modelled the fledgling CIA on British imperial lines, and staffed it with Ivy Leaguers. Within seven years the great games division of the CIA had a) deposed Mossadeq and backed the return of the shah in Iran on the slightest of rumours that the Soviets had an eye on Iran oil; b) overthrown the elected leftist prime minister (Jacobo Arbenz) in Guatemala to replace him with a military junta; c) begun the long process of pouring military aid into Pakistan (see Kamran Shafi's excellent article for Tribune Pakistan, "A gentle reminder", 2011) which culminated in the backing of Ayub Khan's military coup in 1958 and the decision to build a new capital at Islamabad suspiciously close to Rawalpindi GHQ.

Washington's reasoning on this was to do with India. Nehru's relationship with Moscow (five years plans, massive state nationalisation) which deepened under the successive governments of his daughter Indira Gandhi. The second volume of Christopher Andrew's and Vasili Mitrokhin's The Mitrokhin Archives shows how effectively the Soviet Union penetrated and bought India from the 1960s - their most successful client state outside Europe - in a combined policy of stagnation of its economy and repression of its political structures. It threw up a flurry of counterweight alliances - the US with Pakistan, China with Pakistan and from the 1970s Saudi Arabia with Pakistan, all of which came to benefit and inflate Pakistan's military and consequently make it almost impossible for democracy to take root.

As ever it was the decisions made in remote capitals that had the most devastating effects. At the time of the fall of East Pakistan in 1971 as Gary J Bass, professor of politics at Princeton, has shown in "The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide," disgraceful White House diplomacy attended the birth of Bangladesh. Washington gave the Pakistan military carte blanche to murder 300,000 Bengalis, most of whom were Hindus, and forced 10 million to flee to India. The cause: that Nixon and Kissinger in wanting to extract the US from Vietnam in a face-saving way - and obsessed as ever with the Soviets - opened a channel to split Moscow and Beijing with the help of Pakistan's military leader Yahya Khan. Yahya was Nixon's intermediary to Chou Enlai and he later helped prepare the ground for Kissinger and then Nixon to visit China.

If it sounds like the pragmatism of geo-politics to safeguard "the free world", The Blood Telegram also shows in the age of 'Reds under the Beds' Nixon and Kissinger to be stupid and vulgar especially in their attitudes toward the Indian administration, which they regarded in its pro-Soviet alignment as repulsive and shifty, and especially in their opinion of Indira Gandhi. "The old bitch," Nixon called her. "I don't know why the hell anybody would reproduce in that damn country but they do."

So it is not too difficult to imagine the scenes in the White House when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the civilian prime minister, sat down on a sofa with Mrs Gandhi at Shimla in July 1972 and talked about peace and the Line of Control. The meeting, the news got about in Foggy Bottom, was brokered from Moscow.

Kissinger made repeated efforts to warn Bhutto off, ostensibly on the grounds of Pakistan's nuclear programme (which they equally turned a blind eye to in the 1980s) but the reality is that Washington found Zulfikar Ali impossible to control - in contrast to the military establishments that Washington favoured - and they wanted him out.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, US-Pakistan policy was not so far removed from Caroe's 'theocratic lines'. Combined aid from the US and Saudi Arabia poured into Afghanistan to fund the mujahideen. Arnold Raphael, the serving US ambassador, who went down in the Bahawalpur plane crash with Zia and Pakistan's top military and ISI brass, in August 1988, was known to have lobbied Washington to have the hard-line director of ISI, General Hamid Gul with his links to the fundamentalist, acid-throwing Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Afghan Alliance, to take over from a failing Zia in Pakistan.

This may have been too much even for Washington. But the sideways consequence was the vast re-arming of the Pakistan military through the 1980s and the increase of the ISI from a staff of 2000 in 1978 to 40,000 (with a $1 billion budget) a decade later. Anatol Lieven notes that "Zia used the ISI to channel US and Arab aid to the mujahedin. A good deal of this money stuck to the ISI's fingers." With joint funding streams from Washington and the Gulf, the ISI /military was now able to direct foreign policy, influence media coverage in Pakistan, blackmail elected governments and undermine the democratic process. By the end of the 1980s the ISI enjoyed a position of status quo that even today is only slowly being eroded.

In this, most foolishly, the west was complicit: Christopher Andrew, the Cambridge intelligence academic noted in the chapter on Pakistan in The Mitrokhin Archives: The World, during the 1980s Zia's rule from a western perspective, provided near ideal conditions of stability.

For a great part of the first decade of this century it was said in the western media that the US-Pak relationship is one of mutual need. More accurately, it may also be read as one of mutual responsibility for Pakistan not being able over six decades to reach its economic, democratic and social development potential, and at times has been prevented from coming to peace with its neighbour India.

That is not to say that the geo-politics practised in and around the subcontinent by other states - Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, China have been any better. The Russian occupation of Afghanistan 1978-87 resulted in 876,825 deaths.

But with Washington seemingly once again turning a blind eye to democratic struggles once again in Pakistan in 2015, you might once again wonder at their under-used capacity to propel India and Pakistan to peace.

In the last week of January Barack Obama will be the state guest at India's annual Republic Day celebrations. He will be the first US head of state to have visited India twice, and it will be the second summit-level meeting between Obama and Modi in four months.

The issue, after 60 years, might be whether this is once again in response to the shifting geo-political alliances of the region, or whether Obama has his head screwed on the right way and might actually move US policy in favour of peace between India and Pakistan. That would be a first.

Paul Vale   |   January 8, 2015    4:46 PM ET

NEW YORK -- President Obama is under pressure from a bi-partisan group in Congress that is demanding the infamous 28 pages of redactions in the official 9/11 report be declassified.

Former Senator Bob Graham, who penned the report into the attacks in 2001, has joined a growing chorus of voices demanding the redacted pages, which detail links between the terrorists and the Saudi Arabian government, be made public.

Entitled the Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001, the original report was published in December 2002, however President Bush demanded that 28 pages of the 828-page dossier were blacked out in an effort to protect America’s relationship with the Saudis.

twin towers

The north tower of the World Trade Center burns after s hijacked airplane hit it September 11, 2001 in New York City

Speaking to ABC News, Democratic Graham said on Wednesday: "The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11 and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier. The position of the United States government has been to protect Saudi Arabia.

"At virtually every step of the judicial process, when the United States government was called upon to take a position, it has been a position adverse to the interests of United States citizens seeking justice and protective of the government which, in my judgment, was the most responsible for that network of support."

Graham, along with fellow Democrat Stephen Lynch and Republican Walter Jones, are now pushing for legislation forcing Obama to declassify the documents. Should a link between Saudi Arabia and the attackers be revealed, families of the victims could sue the Saudi Kingdom through the American courts.

Reported by ABC News, Terry Strada, of the group 9/11 Families United for Justice, whose husband died in the attack, demanded the pages be published. She said: "Where is the outrage, I want to know that Saudi Arabia, a country, our supposed ally, not only bankrolled al Qaeda and the worst terror attack on US soil, but was also instrumental in implementing an intricate web of operatives in numerous places around the world."


Below are pictures from the opening of the 9/11 memorial in 2014: