Week of September 16th, 2016

Executive Summary

The focus this week has been on the rapidly changing chemistry of the November election as Clinton appears sicker than was previously seen. This hits at her ability to serve as president and also brings up questions about her honesty.

The Monitor analysis looks at both Clinton’s and Trump’s health. We also look at what may happen if Clinton dies or is unable to continue to running for president. We also look at possible candidates that the Democratic Party can turn to in case Clinton is no longer the nominee.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The CSIS opposes the bill that would allow victim families of 9-11 to sue Saudi Arabia. They note, “Saudi Arabia is also one of America’s most difficult strategic partners for Americans to understand, and its progress, reforms, and strategic importance are often badly understated. It is easier to focus on the fact it is an Islamic state at a time when extremist threats like ISIS, Al Qaida, and the Taliban are at top of mind, than to focus on the complicated security issues in the Gulf region and the fact the U.S. is critically dependent on Saudi Arabia both in dealing with Iran and in fighting terrorism in the region from which it draws most of its strength. This may help explain why the Congress passed a bill based so loosely on some 28 pages in a report that does not find the Saudi government to be guilty of anything, ignored the extent to which the legislation raised major issues international law and potentially opened the U.S up to suits against America, and did so without ever debating the bill on the floor of the Senate.”

Recent news of an American-Russian-brokered ceasefire has the Foreign Policy Research Institute ask about the future of Hezbollah. They conclude, “The military, financial, and political implications of Hezbollah’s decision to participate in the Syrian civil war will necessarily extend well beyond the still elusive end of hostilities. In the past few years, analysts have often warned that Assad’s victory or downfall could very well spell, respectively, Hezbollah’s triumph or decline. This prediction could be true (albeit a bit too simplified), but it is important to remember that the impact of the Syrian conflict on the group is broader than that. After five years, Hezbollah is a more regional, more sophisticated, broader, more sectarian, and more divisive organization. The legacy and long-term impact of these trends will be lasting and pervasive for Hezbollah no matter what.”

The Hudson Institute looks at how al Qaeda survived the ISIS Challenge. They note, “But rather than withering away, al-Qaeda has turned IS’s emergence into a strategic opportunity, pivoting off of IS’s brutality and doubling down on a more low-profile and sustainable approach to growth. Al-Qaeda has quietly, and yet relatively rapidly, gained ground in conflict zones across the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria and Yemen, where the group has seized territory and embedded itself within local communities. Al-Qaeda’s decision to become more covert and discrete in response to IS’s ostentatious successes may seem counterintuitive at first. Indeed, it is the opposite of what most analysts expected. But it worked. Al-Qaeda weathered the IS storm. This article tells the story of how al-Qaeda survived and thrived despite the IS challenge. It focuses on al-Qaeda’s response to three key developments over the past decade: al-Qaeda in Iraq’s defeat in 2007-09, the 2011 Arab uprisings, and IS’s rise. The group’s approaches to all three developments are inherently interlinked. The course al-Qaeda charted as these challenges and opportunities arose explains why al-Qaeda is stronger now than it was in 2014, and why it is far better positioned than IS to succeed in the long term.”

The Washington Institute notes that Russia has been militarily involved in Syria for a year and looks at what may happen in the second year. They predict, “Now that Russia has air and submarine bases just outside Latakia (Hmeimim and Jableh, respectively) to go with its naval base in Tartus, the coastal Alawite heartland appears to be its favored region. For their part, local Alawites need Moscow’s protection in the long run. Their population has been declining since the 1980s, and wartime deaths have accelerated the trend, so they will be in no position to resist future uprisings by the country’s Sunni majority; even an Alawite rump state would need Russia’s protection for demographic and other reasons. Russia appears to be nurturing a similar dependency among the Syrian Kurds in the north. It can also be expected to reinforce its presence in Palmyra, which is the ideal place to install a radar base covering all of the Middle East. To be sure, Saudi Arabia will keep pushing back on these goals, since it cannot tolerate an Iranian victory in Syria. Yet the efficiency of Saudi support to the rebels will depend on the behavior of Turkey, their main supply route, so the cards are seemingly in Erdogan and Putin’s hands. Will Ankara be satisfied with an area of influence in northwestern Syria, which has a significant Turkmen minority population? Or will it take a more active role in opposing a Russian-Iranian condominium?”

The Cato Institute says that no ground troops are needed in the fight against ISIS. They conclude, “Now, with ISIL’s losses mounting, some fear it will return to its roots, organizing or inspiring attacks in the region and beyond. That problem is best handled by the same approaches used against other terrorist organizations over the decades: applying persistent pressure on the group’s leaders, and attacking its ability to attract new recruits and raise funds. The U.S. military has a role to play here, but killing terrorists doesn’t require placing tens of thousands of U.S. troops into the middle of the Middle East’s ongoing civil wars.”


Is Hillary Clinton’s Medical Problem Changing the Election Dynamics?

Although it’s too early to say at this time; there is a solid chance that Clinton’s collapse at the 9-11 memorial event may become the turning point of the 2016 presidential election. Although Trump was tightening the race before Sunday, he has skyrocketed in the last few days, while Hillary has started to drop, while her perception as dishonest has gone dramatically up.

This medical event was on top of a speech made on Friday, where she called half of Trump’s supporters a “Basket of Deplorables.” One of the unspoken rules of American politics is that is okay to insult the opposition candidate, but to treat the voter with respect.

Democrats aren’t in full-on panic mode just yet, but they are worried that a race that had looked comfortable only a few weeks ago is now seriously competitive. And they expect to be on edge for much of the next week, until a full set of polls shows how Clinton’s battle medical problems are affecting the contest.

How bad are the optics of Clintons medical problems?   Boston University professor, Tobe Berkovitz, said the Clinton campaign to downplay the impact of Hillary’s 9-11 “medical episode” is a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most damaging.  As Berkovitz points out, no amount of spin from the Clinton camp can remove that moment of complete frailty from the minds of voters.

Berkovitz added: “No matter what you say and no matter how you say it, everyone sees the presidential nominee basically collapsing, almost on the street. When you are saying, ‘I want to be commander in chief and I have the toughness and the strength to lead America during trying times,’ well, you don’t want to see that person being carried into a van.”

But, as Berkovitz pointed out, on the upside, at least Hillary’s “medical episode” detracted attention from her “basket of deplorables” comment.  Unfortunately, that comment was made while she was completely conscious.

What is Wrong With Clinton?

Although the Clinton campaign has downplayed the event, by claiming first, it was just “overheating,” and then pneumonia, when the video went public, it is becoming clear that Clinton has more medical problems then she is willing to admit to.

Even her husband is having problems sticking with the “story.” During a speech in Las Vegas on Wednesday and days after the campaign said Hillary had pneumonia, Bill Clinton said she was returning to the campaign trail on Thursday after her bout with “the flu,” and then even made a sarcastic comment about her apparent illness.

This week, Clinton’s doctor released her latest “medical records.” CNN reported she was diagnosed with mild, non-contagious bacterial pneumonia, her doctor said, a step the campaign took after the candidate had to take three days off the campaign trail after nearly collapsing at an event on Sunday.

“Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton’s personal doctor and the chair of Internal Medicine at CareMount Medical in Mount Kisco, New York, said she evaluated Clinton multiple times in the last week — including Wednesday — and found that the Democratic nominee had a small right middle-lobe pneumonia.”

According to Bardack, “The remainder of her complete physical exam was normal and she is in excellent mental condition.”

However, this exam wasn’t “complete” and for those concerned about neurological issues, no comprehensive tests were taken. In fact, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the release of medical documents by Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is “certainly not a release of medical records by any means.” Gupta said, “This is not a — this is certainly not a release of medical records by any means. This is very similar in some ways to what we got July of last year.

NBC, which had downplayed rumors of Clinton’s health days before asked the Clinton Campaign several pointed questions about her health. Some of these questions were: Why hide the pneumonia diagnosis, Has Clinton been otherwise ill in recent days, and Does Clinton accept the obligation to inform the public about her health?

Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons Dr. Jane Orient, spoke to Breitbart News during a phone interview the day after Clinton had to leave the 9-11 memorial service. She said, “What I’m much more concerned about is her known past history of serious things like the concussion, the traumatic brain injury that can have long term consequences that it affects her memory — the ability to read or to think — or the blood clot in one of the main veins the transverse sinus that drains her head.”

Orient pointed to past videos showing Clinton with “odd facial expressions and so on,” suggesting the facial expressions raise questions about seizers, which she says can be a long-term consequence of traumatic brain injury.

Many medical experts think, based on the 9-11 event video and previous video imagery of Clinton, that she is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. However, in order to detect Parkinson’s disease, a neurological history and exam must take place because there are no standard tests to detect this disease (including CT scans). The doctor’s letter doesn’t indicate that such tests were taken.

Parkinson’s disease is a long term disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. The symptoms generally come on slowly over time, and in Clinton’s case, probably started around 2005. Early in the disease, the most obvious are shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking.   Thinking and behavioral problems may also occur.

In fact, the National Parkinson Foundation says that aspiration pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death in Parkinson’s sufferers, since people with the degenerative disease are less able to swallow.

A former Secret Service agent, who was part of the Clinton protection team from 1991 to 2003, says the behavior of Clinton’s team on Sunday indicates the problem is likely something like Parkinson’s instead of pneumonia. Agent Gary Byrne wrote in the Independent Journal Review, “By now, you have most likely seen the startling video of Hillary Clinton ‘fainting.’ Through the lens of my 29-year-career in The Service, I can see what a naked-eyed media pundit cannot: There is something seriously wrong with Mrs. Clinton. Pneumonia or overheating are highly suspect excuses and I’ll explain why.”

“Watch Clinton’s Secret Service’s detail in the video.” Their behavior is extremely professional and very telling…The bald agent, who I believe is the shift leader, knows what is going on with Mrs. Clinton and – this oddity is very telling.”

“Here’s what was very disturbing to me: after the medical episode, she went to her daughter’s apartment and not to an Emergency Room. Secret Service procedure for each detail dictates that everyone knows which hospital to go to depending on the event – heart failure, gunshot, you name it. It is very revealing that, whatever is wrong with her, she is being treated by her own private medical specialists in secret and, judging by the ballet-like reaction by her detail, they have dealt with this before.”

“Her detail knew that there was something very wrong with her and they were prepared.”

Trump Health

Although Trump has maintained a much more active campaign schedule than Clinton, some have questioned the health of a man who is 70 years old.

Trump in his deceptive style surprised the “Dr. Oz Show” studio audience this week by revealing the results of a recent physical exam. The physical was conducted by Dr. Harold N. Bornstein, the same doctor who previously said Trump would if elected be the healthiest president in history.

Trump admitted he was overweight by about 15 pounds.

Oz told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta in a text message. “Not knowing if we would see Mr. Trump’s medical records, I planned to do a full review of systems with Mr. Trump,” meaning the GOP nominee’s nervous system, cardiovascular health, family medical history, and other aspects of his health.”

“I did that as planned when he sat down with me. He answered all my questions.”

“We then discussed the need for transparency around both candidates’ medical records, at which point he produced a summary letter from his physician based on last week’s tests.”

A brief clip of Trump’s appearance released by the “Dr. Oz Show” Wednesday afternoon shows Oz asking Trump, “If your health is as strong as it seems from your systems, why not share your medical records?”

“Well, I really have no problem in doing it. I have it right here,” Trump asks the audience, “Should I do it? I don’t care, should I do it?” The audience applauds, and Trump hands Oz what he says are two letters regarding the physical.

Given Trump’s more exhausting campaign activity and his appearance on the “Dr. Oz Show,” Clinton will have a harder time overcoming voter suspicion and showing she is capable of physically filling the demanding role of president.

What Happens Next?

Although Clinton says she is in good shape now, many experts are asking what happens if Clinton dies or gets too sick to continue campaigning?

As Politico reports, former Democratic National Committee chairman, Don Fowler, who helmed the DNC from 1995 to 1997, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and has backed Hillary Clinton since her 2008 presidential bid, said that Obama and the Democratic party’s congressional leaders should immediately come up with a process to identify a potential successor candidate for Hillary Clinton “for the off-chance a health emergency forces her out of the race.”

Fowler continued, “Now is the time for all good political leaders to come to the aid of their party…I think the plan should be developed by 6 o’clock this afternoon.”

Fowler has experience with replacing candidates: at one of his first-ever DNC meetings, in 1972, he supported a decision to nominate Sargent Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, to replace Thomas Eagleton as George McGovern’s vice presidential nominee, the only time either major party has replaced one of its two national nominees. Though that transition was relatively seamless, he said, replacing Clinton would be much more acrimonious and could lead to intense lobbying by loyalists to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. That’s why, he argued, the party should be prepared.

“This is a different time, with a lot more people who like to express themselves and perhaps wrest control,” he said. “I’m sure some of the Sanders people would want to get into play and some of the Biden people. I think you’re likely to have at least discussions and perhaps controversy.”

“It’s something you would be a fool not to prepare for.” He added a note of caution, should Clinton attempt an expeditious return to the campaign trail. “She better get well before she gets back out there because if she gets back out there too soon, it might happen again,” he said.

At this point, it is up to a party nominee to step down, unless they die during the election. In either case, the national committee of either of the Democratic or Republican party can call a special to pick a new nominee.

There is another problem.   Most states have passed the deadline to change the names of candidates on their ballots, meaning Clinton’s name would likely be required to appear, short of court-ordered solutions or changes in state laws. However, this issue will be moot because it’s up to members of the Electoral College – typically loyal partisans – to cast formal ballots for president. If a replacement for Clinton were offered, those electors in states won by Democrats would almost certainly cast ballots for the party’s preferred nominee.

If the president or vice president elect dies between the election and the vote by the Electoral College vote, It is up to the electors to vote for a new person – probably the one chosen by the national committee. If the death of a president elect comes after the Electoral College vote, the US Constitution says the vice president elect becomes the president elect.

In the case where the vice president elect dies before the inauguration or the position of vice president is vacant because the vice president elect becomes the president elect, the new vice president is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

What is Likely to Happen?

Unless Clinton dies in the next 8 weeks (very unlikely), there is very little that the Democrats can do to change the ticket. She has wanted to be president since 2000, when her husband left the White House, and short of death or an irreversible coma, she will not willingly give up the dream.

However, if she – and the party’s poll numbers – continues to drop, the Democratic Party may try to induce her to withdraw.

The only person who can do that is Obama. And, there are few inducements that he can offer her if she does that. A withdrawal would mean the end of the Clinton influence within the Democratic Party and would also have an impact on the finances of the Clinton Foundation.

Of course, there are “under the table” offers. Several major Democratic donors could secretly donate many millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation in return for a withdrawal. However, that is probably very illegal and would come to the surface when the next Clinton Foundation annual reports are posted.

The other problem is that there is no clear potential candidate to immediately step in for Clinton at this time. As time grows short, the potential nominee would have to be well known, have strong fund raising ability, and be able to unite the various groups of the party.

Obviously Vice President Biden is an obvious choice. However, he is old (73) and has several problems that kept from winning the nomination in past presidential elections. And, as a man, he would definitely upset the feminist segment of the party (that would also include the choice of VP nominee Kaine).

There have been some whispers about picking Michelle Obama, since she would appeal both to feminists and Blacks. However, she hasn’t indicated any interest so far

Given these choices, the DNC is forced to stick with Clinton, while hoping she doesn’t have anymore medical incidents. That being the case, we can expect that she will keep her speaking schedule light, so as to limit any problems. We can also expect her campaign team to be much more careful to keep anyone with a camera away from Clinton when she isn’t on stage.




Ground Troops Not Required
By Christopher A. Preble
Cato Institute
September 12, 2016

It was never realistic to think that the United States could solve the political problems in Iraq and Syria that ISIL exploited in order to seize territory in the summer of 2014. The U.S. military couldn’t fix Iraq when it had 170,000 U.S. troops there. It can’t build a broken country from the air, either, or with a few thousand special operations forces on the ground. Lack of planning isn’t the issue. Some problems defy military solutions. The U.S. military can, however, wreak havoc on a group of individuals guilty of heinous acts against innocent civilians. And U.S. advisers can assist those on the ground who have the most to lose from ISIL’s continued existence. This approach is actually working. A number of ISIL leaders have been killed by U.S. airstrikes, and its control over territory in Iraq and Syria is slipping away.

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Saudi Arabia and the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act
By Anthony Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
September 14, 2016

President Obama has made it clear that he intends to veto the legislation the House passed on September 9, 2016 that would allow families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role its officials played in the terrorist attack. He should veto the bill and the Congress should pause and not override that veto. It is all too easy to understand anger the families and survivors of those who were victims on 9/11 feel, and the desire they have to find someone to punish and blame and for some compensation for their losses. It is equally easy to understand the mixed motives of a Congress caught up in the politics of tenth anniversary of the attack, an election year, and the desire not to seem soft on terrorism.

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How Does the Syrian Civil War End for Hezbollah?
By Benedetta Berti
Foreign Policy Research Institute
September 13, 2016

Recent news of an American-Russian-brokered ceasefire has rekindled hopes for a desperately-needed de-escalation in the bloody and prolonged civil war raging in Syria. Unfortunately, there are plenty of reasons to curb our collective enthusiasm when it comes to gauging the chances that this ceasefire will not only stick in the long term, but also lead to a credible political process and to the resolution of the conflict. At the same time, with the civil war well into its fifth year, it is necessary to reflect on the termination of hostilities as well as the enduring legacy of the conflict on some of the main parties on the ground. Much has been said about how Hezbollah’s direct participation in the war alongside Bashar al-Assad has impacted its relationships, strategies, and capabilities in the short term. A combination of self-interest, personal ties, and regional and geopolitical considerations led Hezbollah to identify the survival of Bashar al-Assad as one of its own key strategic interests—fearing that regime change would weaken its standing in Lebanon, undermine its regional influence and power projection, and cause significant trouble for its strategic partners in Tehran.

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How al-Qaeda Survived the Islamic State Challenge
By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Nathaniel Barr
Hudson Institute
August 30, 2016

The Islamic State’s (IS) emergence—with its control of territory, social media proficiency, and unprecedented ability to mobilize supporters—threatened al-Qaeda’s position of dominance within the global jihadist movement. For a time, the majority of analysts believed that IS would eclipse al-Qaeda, if it had not done so already, and that IS’s rise threatened to make al-Qaeda irrelevant or even defunct. The conventional wisdom held that al-Qaeda could only remain relevant by either carrying out terrorist attacks abroad or else trying to replicate IS’s brutality and ostentatious growth model. But al-Qaeda defied conventional wisdom. It not only survived the challenge posed by IS, but emerged stronger by pursuing a strategy of deliberate yet low-key growth. Al-Qaeda was able to “rebrand” itself by contrasting with IS’s over-the-top shows of brutality, and thus gain more room to operate within the region. This article maps the evolution of al-Qaeda’s model for growth over the past decade, and illustrates how the group has repeatedly overcome challenges through a combination of shrewd planning and strategic patience.

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What Will Year Two of Russia’s Syria Intervention Bring?
By Fabrice Balanche
Washington Institute
September 14, 2016
PolicyWatch 2688

When Moscow deployed forces to Syria last September, the move appeared to be part of its wider global policy of restoring Russian power outside the old Soviet sphere, rebalancing its international relations to America’s detriment, and increasing its presence in a region where the current U.S. administration seems eager to disengage. To succeed, this policy requires a military victory on the ground, which can only be obtained through collaboration with Iran and its proxies in Syria, negotiations with Turkey, and arrangements that limit the U.S. role in the war. Iran and Russia need each other in Syria. An August 30 article in the London Daily Mail cited claims by “activists” that Iran controls around 60,000 Shiite fighters in Syria; whatever their true numbers, these forces are indispensable for launching offensives because Syria’s regular army is worn out and unable to recruit effectively. Russia’s powerful air force plays a crucial role in supporting these ground forces. As the recent fighting in Aleppo showed, Shiite militias, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Russian air power complement each other well in helping Bashar al-Assad’s regime win battlefield victories.

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