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Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

Israel's loyalty oath: Discriminatory by design | Editorial | Comment is free | The Gua... - 1 views

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    As one might expect, this robust (provocative?) editorial has a particularly lively comment thread...
Ed Webb

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands... - 0 views

  • In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.
  • the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all
  • Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
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  • In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade
  • The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
  • One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
  • many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala
  • According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
  • The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
  • a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
  • a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
  • The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.” Write A Comment
  • What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.
Ed Webb

A forgotten chapter in the history of Egypt and Jews | Egypt Independent - 0 views

  • It is a tale of history that is a decline. A fraying of social fabric, as mistrust enters into the interactions between neighbors. From a way of living where to be Jewish was inconsequential to social relations, to the way that being Jewish became an accusation.
  • The story of Jews in the Middle East does not fold smoothly into a Jewish narrative of oppression, and many Egyptian Jews can trace their families’ arrival in Egypt to an escape from persecution, whether from pogroms or the Spanish Inquisition. The history of the Jews in Europe has been told such that it becomes the history of all Jews, and it is a deeply politicized narrative, its folds influenced by Zionism, such that the history of the Jews without a homeland is simply one of persecution, and that Israel offers a solution to that perennial condition. The Jews of Egypt tell a different story. So different was this story that, even for those who did not oppose Israel for political reasons, it simply did not resonate or speak to them. As a French journalist, the daughter of an Egyptian Jew, says: “It did not occur to the family to go to Israel. That was a place for oppressed Jews, so it wasn’t for us.”
  • “Laila Mourad,” a man says near the start of the film, “she was great.” But on hearing that she was Jewish, he takes his praise back. There is only one comment of this sort in the film; it is not an exploration of contemporary Egyptian perceptions of Jews. Rather, this comment acts as a pointer to contemporary reality, and in a sense, because it is so near the start, the rest of the film is a kind of answer or a rejoinder to it.
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  • The stories become darker. There’s the story of the officer who arrives at night, giving an entire family a number of days within which to leave their country. And these are stories also of resilience — the man who says to the officer, “I am more Egyptian than you,” the one who challenges the officer at his door not to “challenge the patriotism standing before him,” or the one who answers the officer’s suggestion that he leave to Israel with, “No, why don’t you go to Israel.”
  • The film offers a tale characterized by warm memories, but also a tale of how friendships, work relationships and neighborly interminglings can become poisoned by the machinations of a regime and its propaganda machine. It is a tale of how it is easier to poison than it is to get the poison out.
Ed Webb

BURAK BEKDİL - What the collective Turkish memory refuses to recall - 0 views

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    Comments quite illuminating (at time of bookmarking, anyway)
Ed Webb

Welcome to the Syrian Jihad - By Marc Lynch | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • in today's Arab world, there is nothing particularly distinctive about his comments at all. For many months, Arab and Muslim figures of all stripes have been loudly calling for support to the predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels, as have many Arab governments (and the United States and its allies, of course). The Muslim Brotherhood's branches have strongly supported the Syrian opposition -- acquiring too much power along the way, in the minds of some. Egyptian Salafis have described providing arms and funds to the Syrian rebels as "a form of worship" and killing Assad as a religious obligation. As the killing and destruction has escalated, such support for Syria's rebels has rapidly morphed into extreme anti-Shiite and anti-Alawi rhetoric
  • In January 2007, for example, he tried to use his influence to rein in spiraling sectarian rage following the execution of Saddam Hussein. At that time, Qaradawi was only weeks past a controversial appearance at a Doha conference on Sunni-Shiite relations, in which he had made a number of controversial remarks viewed by many as overly provocative toward the Shiite. But at that crucial moment, Qaradawi invited former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani on al-Jazeera to push back against the rabid sectarianism then roiling the Middle East.
  • Qaradawi has long been described as among the most influential clerics in the Sunni world. A savvy political opportunist, he has long been one of the best barometers for the mood of a major swathe of the Arab mainstream, uncannily attuned to shifts in the political mood. He cleverly triangulated Arab politics, adopting populist positions on foreign policy while pushing for democratic reforms across the region and advancing a "centrist" Islamist ideology. In recent years, the Egyptian-born cleric has strongly supported most of the Arab uprisings, including a controversial late February 2011 appeal to Libya's army to kill Muammar al-Qaddafi.  In Egypt, he was welcomed the Friday following Mubarak's fall to lead prayer and deliver a pro-revolutionary speech in Tahrir. But he disappointed many observers by describing Bahrain's uprising as "sectarian," in line with the Arab Gulf country's collective stance intended to delegitimize it.
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  • Team Saudi is now celebrating Qaradawi's capitulation to their own anti-Hezbollah, anti-Shiite prejudices. No words could have been sweeter to Qaradawi's Saudi critics than his recent reversal on Hezbollah: "I defended the so-called Nasrallah and his party, the party of tyranny... in front of clerics in Saudi Arabia. It seems that the clerics of Saudi Arabia were more mature than me."
  • Qaradawi's alignment with the Saudi position has less to do with his theology or his personal views on the Shiites than with his calculation of regional political trends
  • His core doctrine of wasatiyya was always better understood as "centrism" than as "moderation" (whatever that might mean)
  • like it or not, his broad themes -- such as support for "resistance" from Palestine to Iraq, criticism of al Qaeda, calls for democracy, denunciations of most Arab regimes, and conservative social values -- generally seemed to reflect mainstream Arab political views.
  • Like al-Jazeera, Qaradawi's stances now seem to more closely follow Qatari foreign policy, and his influence has waned along with his host station and Qatar itself, which has experienced a regional backlash
  • Qaradawi now finds himself speaking to a narrower, more partisan audience. What does it say about his influence that his preferred candidate in Egypt's presidential election, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader and Islamist reformist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, won less than 20 percent of the vote?
  • Qaradawi can no longer claim to speak to a broadly unified Arab public because such a creature no longer exists
  • The proliferation of media outlets and assertive new voices that define the new Arab public sphere tend to undermine any efforts to claim the center ground
  • Qaradawi has opted to join the bandwagon rather than try to pull Sunni-Shiite relations back toward coexistence. He clearly calculates that anti-Shiite sectarianism in support of the Syrian insurgency is both strategically useful and a political winner.  And those in the Gulf and in the West eager for any opportunity to hurt Iran seem happy to go along
Ed Webb

Adviser says Trump won't rip up Iran deal, signals he may not move embassy | The Times ... - 1 views

  • adviser to President-elect Donald Trump said the new US leader will “review” the Iran nuclear agreement, but will stop short of ripping up the landmark international pact.
  • signaled that Trump might not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem immediately and indicated he would make negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a priority right off the bat.
  • “He will take the agreement, review it, send it to Congress, demand from the Iranians to restore a few issues or change a few issues, and there will be a discussion,” Phares added. “It could be a tense discussion but the agreement as is right now — $750 billion to the Iranian regime without receiving much in return and increasing intervention in four countries — that is not going to be accepted by the Trump administration.”
    • Ed Webb
       
      Note that it is a multilateral deal, so five other powers would also have to agree, as well as Iran itself.
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  • appeared to represent a break with some comments made by other Trump advisers and the president-elect himself, and highlighted persisting confusion over what the contours of a Trump administration’s foreign policy may look like
  • Phares also told the BBC that while Trump was committed to moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as other presidential candidates have vowed, he would not do so unilaterally. “Many presidents of the United States have committed to do that, and he said as well that he will do that, but he will do it under consensus,”
  • Toner said if Trump pulls out of the agreement, it could fall apart and lead to Iran restarting work toward a bomb
  • State Department spokesman Mark Toner warned that nothing was stopping Trump from tearing up the agreement, rebuffing comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the pact was enshrined by the United Nations Security Council and could therefore not be canceled by one party
  • Phares did not elaborate on what consensus would be sought for such a move, which would break with decades of precedent and put Washington at odds with nearly all United Nations member states.
  • Earlier Thursday, Trump Israel adviser Jason Dov Greenblatt told Israel’s Army Radio that the president-elect would make good on his promise. “I think if he said it, he’s going to do it,” Greenblatt said. “He is different for Israel than any recent president there has been, and I think he’s a man who keeps his word.
  • Phares also indicated efforts for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be a top agenda item for Trump, casting doubt on a claim by Greenblatt that Trump would not necessarily prioritize trying to push the Israelis and Palestinians into peace negotiations.
  • “He will make it a priority if the Israelis and Palestinians want to make it a priority,” Greenblatt said. “He’s not going to force peace upon them, it will have to come from them.”
  • The gap in signals coming out of Trump’s camp is consistent with frustration some have pointed to in trying to demystify what Trump’s foreign policy will be.
  • Tzachi Hanegbi, a minister-without-portfolio who is a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Thursday that the Iran nuclear deal and construction over the Green Line — the two most contentious topics between the Obama administration and Netanyahu — will no longer be a source of tension between Israel and the United States under a Trump presidency.
Sana Usman

Foreign office rejects the allegations about Hafiz Saeed & Al-Zawahri - 0 views

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    Ministry of Foreign affairs rejects the allegations about Hafiz Saeed and Aiyman Al-Zawahri, Pakistan's foreign office today answered U.S. Secretary of State Miss Hillary Clinton's comments that it had not ended enough against the 2008 Mumbai massacre attacks organizer Hafiz Saeed saying if there any indication against him should be communal with Pakistan so that it can be examined by the courts.
Ed Webb

Tunisian Government Reacts to US Ambassador's Comments Regarding Persepolis Trial : Tun... - 0 views

  • The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs response stated that the ambassador’s declarations represent an “interference in the internal affairs of the Tunisian judiciary,” and asserted that the Tunisian government conforms to international norms and respects the independence of the judiciary in forming its own conclusion.   The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also reiterated its commitment to strengthening relations with the United States, but also stressed that bilateral relations should be built on mutual understanding and respect of the sovereignty of the two countries.
Ed Webb

IDF general: Goldstone 'nothing' compared to next Lebanon clash - 0 views

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    What is the effect of such rhetoric? Is it simply a deterrent, responding to the political realities, as one comment suggests? Does it have the desired deterrent effect?
Ed Webb

Turkey rebuffs Iranian invitation to NAM summit - 1 views

  • Turkey, whose relations with Iran have recently become strained, is not expected to attend the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran later this month, neither at the presidential nor ministerial level, Turkish diplomatic sources told Today's Zaman.
  • Iran perceives the summit as an important opportunity to portray itself as part of the international scene despite concerted efforts by the United States and the European Union to isolate it diplomatically and economically over its disputed nuclear program
  • According to the Now Lebanon News Agency, Iran will submit a proposal to NAM to end the conflict taking place on the soil of it close ally, Syria, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in comments published on Friday. "[Iran] has a proposal regarding Syria, which it will discuss with countries taking part in the NAM summit," the Fars News Agency and Mehr News Agency quoted Salehi as saying in comments to state television
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  • Iran has temporarily suspended visa-free travel with Turkey. Iran has explained this decision as part of security precautions it is taking in connection with the summit in Tehran, which currently holds the three-year rotating NAM presidency
  • Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Cuban leader Raul Castro, Armenian President Serzh Sarksian and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected to attend the summit. Also, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman are expected. Yet, there is no signal that Iran's close ally, Syria, will attend
  • Israel on Thursday warned Ban and other world leaders not to fall into an Iranian propaganda "trap" when they attend the summit
Ed Webb

Morsi signed death warrant for contact group: Syria - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online - 1 views

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    Morsi's "latest comments signed the death warrant" of an Egyptian proposal for a regional contact group : Syria http://t.co/L8rRFokF
Ed Webb

New Islamist Bloc Declares Opposition to National Coalition and US Strategy - Syria Com... - 0 views

  • Abdelaziz Salame, the highest political leader of the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo, has issued a statement online where he claims to speak for 13 different rebel factions. You can see the video or read it in Arabic here. The statement is titled “communiqué number one” – making it slightly ominous right off the bat – and what it purports to do is to gut Western strategy on Syria and put an end to the exiled opposition.
  • All military and civilian forces should unify their ranks in an “Islamic framwork” which is based on “the rule of sharia and making it the sole source of legislation”. The undersigned feel that they can only be represented by those who lived and sacrificed for the revolution. Therefore, they say, they are not represented by the exile groups. They go on to specify that this applies to the National Coalition and the planned exile government of Ahmed Touma, stressing that these groups “do not represent them” and they “do not recognize them”. In closing, the undersigned call on everyone to unite and avoid conflict, and so on, and so on.
  • if the statement proves to accurately represent the groups mentioned and they do not immediately fall apart again, it is a very big deal. It represents the rebellion of a large part of the “mainstream FSA” against its purported political leadership, and openly aligns these factions with more hardline Islamist forces.
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  • The alleged signatories make up a major part of the northern rebel force, plus big chunks also of the Homs and Damascus rebel scene, as well as a bit of it elsewhere. Some of them are among the biggest armed groups in the country, and I’m thinking now mostly of numbers one through five. All together, they control at least a few tens of thousand fighters, and if you trust their own estimates (don’t) it must be way above 50,000 fighters.
  • all of these groups now formally state that they do not recognize the opposition leadership that has been molded and promoted by the USA, Turkey, France, Great Britain, other EU countries, Qatar, and – especially, as of late – Saudi Arabia
  • Bottom line, they were all Islamist anyway. And, of course, they can still mean different things when they talk about sharia.
  • Dozens or hundreds of small and local groups are missing from this alliance, just like they’ve been missing from every other alliance before it. Some really big groups are also not in there, like the Farouq Battalions or the Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigades, both of them quite closely aligned with the SMC and the National Coalition.
  • Most notably, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – Syria’s most querulous al-Qaida faction – is absent from the list. Given the recent surge in tension between the Islamic State and other factions, that seems significant. Does it mean the new coalition is in fact aimed at isolating the Islamic State, while also upping its own Islamist credentials? Striking a kind of third way between the Western-backed SMC and its al-Qaida rival? Maybe. The question then remains, what should we make of Jabhat al-Nosra being included, which is also an al-Qaida group.
  • the Northern Storm Brigade – which was routed by the Islamic State in its home town of Aazaz just recently – has quickly expressed support for the new coalition. In a statement posted online, they fell over themselves to explain how they’ve always been all about implementing sharia law. This is of course, how shall I put it, not true. The Northern Storm Brigade leaders are, or so the story goes, a bunch of ex-smugglers from Aazaz, with no particularly clear ideological agenda. They’ve allied with the West to the point of hosting John McCain for a photo op – and as we know, he waltzed out of that meeting firmly convinced that the rebels are all proponents of secular democracy. No: the reason that the Northern Storm Brigade has suddenly gone all Islamist is that they desperately seek protection from Tawhid, after being beaten up by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Perhaps they also figure that this alliance might be the only thing big and mean enough to actually crush the Islamic State. Size, money and momentum are the things to look for in Syrian insurgent politics – ideology comes fourth, if even that.
  • There’s always good reason to be cautious about Syria’s notoriously unstable opposition politics. Things like these will shift quicker than you can say يسقط بشار. The wind could easily turn again, signatory groups could drop out, foreign funders could put the squeeze on groups that have not grasped the magnitude of what they just said.
Ed Webb

Russia, Syria, and the Costs of Inaction in Ukraine | Duck of Minerva - 2 views

  • The ominous Russian military buildup in Syria represents the most significant projection of force beyond the territory of the former Soviet Union since the old Cold War. It will allow Russia to keep the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria, effectively negating the new diplomatic path toward resolution of the regional sectarian war that has been opened up by the Iran nuclear deal
  • By not confronting Putin and Russia sufficiently over its illegal and unwarranted invasion and occupation of Ukraine, the U.S. and its western allies effectively gave Putin a green light to project force in other key geostrategic hot spots.
  • The West did do a better job deterring Russian incursions into other parts of Europe. The U.S. fairly rapidly provided security assurances to Poland and the rest of East-Central Europe, building up deterrence against Russia forcibly pushing into these former Soviet satellites in the process. But it blatantly failed to deter Russia from going much further in its invasion and destabilization of Ukraine. The most fundamental pillar of international law and civilization—nonviolation of sovereign borders–was torn down in the process.
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  • Once depleted, deterrence is decidedly difficult to build back up. Deterrence is even more crucial to sustain in the context of asymmetrical interests by opposing parties. In this instance Russia has a stronger set of interests involving Syria and the Assad regime compared to the U.S. (and Europe). Thus, as it is less likely to intervene directly, deterrence is even more vital for the U.S. to establish and maintain. It is both strategically effective and cost-effective, but it is difficult to establish and maintain and quite simple to lose.  At such junctures when the U.S. is either less able or less inclined to intervene in a given crisis, deterrence is at a premium.
  • The seeds of this buildup were sown when Putin deftly inserted himself into the Syria equation over two years ago when the U.S., UK, and France failed to enforce their no-use-of-chemical-weapons red line.
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    Read the comment by HorstMohammed also, for reasonable counterpoints and questions.
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