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‘Bitter and unemployed’ officer under Saddam Hussein drew up Islamic State master plan

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An ex-intelligence officer under the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was “the strategic head” behind the Islamic State group and drew up the blueprints for the jihadists’ capture of northern Syria, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday.

Former colonel Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, who was better known as Haji Bakr and was killed by Syrian rebels in January 2014, “had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years”, according to the magazine.

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The weekly said it had been given exclusive access to 31 documents by Bakr, including handwritten lists and charts, after lengthy negotiations with a rebel group in Aleppo, northern Syria, which came in possession of the pages after IS fled the area.

The trove “was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover”, according to Spiegel, detailing the creation of a caliphate in northern Syria, complete with meticulous instructions for espionage activities, murder and kidnapping.

The magazine said Bakr was “bitter and unemployed” after the American decision to dissolve the Iraqi army in 2003. Between 2006 and 2008 he was held in the US military’s Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib prison.

In the years that followed his influence grew in jihadist circles, Spiegel reported, and in 2010 Bakr and a group of other former Iraqi intelligence officers placed cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the head of the Islamic State group.

The move was reportedly designed to give the group a religious dimension.

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The weekly quotes an Iraqi journalist as saying career officer Bakr was himself “a nationalist, not an Islamist”.

The IS group, notorious for horrific acts of violence including rape, torture and beheadings, declared a caliphate in June 2014 that straddles large parts of Iraq and Syria under its control.

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2020 Election

If Democrats fight right-wing ‘fake news’ fire with fire, we all lose

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Democrats are increasingly worried about losing the 2020 presidential election to Donald Trump. The party is in seeming disarray from the botched Iowa caucuses and the failure of an "electable" frontrunner to emerge early in the primary season. Trump's fundraising and digital operations are humming, buoyed in part by his acquittal at the Senate trial which refused to remove him from office for soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 elections and obstructing the House's investigation of it.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Soledad O’Brien shames 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey team for photo-op with Trump while wearing MAGA hats

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In an early Sunday morning tweet, award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien expressed her dismay with members of the 1980 Gold Medal-winning Olympic hockey team for celebrating their historic win over the then-Soviet Union -- dubbed the "Miracle on Ice" -- with Donald Trump while wearing "Make America Great Again" hats.

According to O'Brien, seeing them hand Trump a photo-op filled her with "disappointment."

Taking to Twitter, she wrote, " Ugh.... so disappointed by the @1980MiracleTeam . I loved watching that game as a kid with my dad. Loved watching the movie with my kids. To see them on a stage, in maga hats—kinda crushing I have to say."

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2020 Election

‘Nice deflection, Mr President’: Adam Schiff busts Trump for trying to blame him for his leaky administration

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) took a shot at President Donald Trump on Sunday morning after the president tried to blame him for the leak describing a classified meeting lawmakers had with an intelligence official who warned the bipartisan group that the Kremlin is trying to help the president get re-elected.

As the president prepared to leave the White House for India, he told reporters that Schiff was to blame for the leaked meeting story, with the president insisting he personally had not been briefed on the report explosive report.

Responding to a 'Meet the Press" clip of the president making his accusation, Schiff tweeted back: "Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one. You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020. Now you fired your intel chief for briefing Congress about it. You’ve betrayed America. Again."

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