Tag Archives: Syria

SYRIAN UPDATE

BLOG 450
November 11, 2019

putin

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

SYRIAN UPDATE

In the last blog, I noted that from the point of view of the Middle East, Trump’s actions in Syria have handed Putin his first three major objectives on a silver platter. Putin is now the king maker and controls Syria. America is out.

Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. Currently, they are struggling to exist.

In a recent article in The Jerusalem Post, Seth J. Frantzman noted that Turkey’s action in attempting to create a buffer zone with the Syrians by attacking the Kurds has re-written the rules of International Law. Declaring that the existence of a terrorist organization gives them the right to create a so-called safe zone or peace corridor, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has created a new doctrine with frightening implications for international affairs.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, Russian, and Egypt might conclude they can do the same if they want to make a grab for more territory. Declaring that they have a right (just as Turkey did) to expand their borders because some terrorist organization could be out, implies a new instability in establishing legal territorial boundaries. The silence in the international community seems to affirm the idea of invasion is acceptable simply because a country deems it necessary.

What is also implied in this action is the argument that more powerful states can assert their right to move across borders into less powerful countries that do not have the ability to protect themselves. Pakistan may now assert a need to grab parts of Afghanistan. Russia could say it can attack the border of Ukraine in the name of creating a “safe zone.” On and on the argument goes.

The abrupt action by President Trump in pulling American troops out of the border area has now left the impression America is no longer interested in such goals as religious freedom and stabilization. At one time America proclaimed an intention of reconstruction in some areas affected by the war with ISIS, but this now appears to be abandoned. The American assistance began in an effort to support the Kurds when ISIS moved to capture Kobani. ISIS was pushed out. Now five years later, America is walking away.

American soldiers have fought shoulder to shoulder with the Kurds and now the USA has abandoned them. If you care about people and their welfare, the implications are frightening!

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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TWO BIG STORIES!

BLOG 449
October 28, 2019

trumpy

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

TWO BIG STORIES!

STORY ONE:

If you’re not following what’s happened to the Kurds since President Trump arbitrarily pulled American troops and influence out of Syria, you should be. The Turks have been killing the Kurds in the same manner that ISIS did earlier. The slaughter of a once American Ally while the USA stands on the sidelines and watches will go down in history as not only one of the greatest blunders of recent years, but a betrayer of people who once thought we were their friends. Who would want to be an Ally of America when such arbitrary actions mean that our relationships mean nothing?

(Refer to last week’s blog for a listing of the objectives of Russia.) From the point of view of the Middle East, Trump’s actions have handed Putin his first three major objectives on a silver platter. Putin is now the king maker and controls Syria. America is out.

Who are the Kurds? Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. Currently, they are struggling to exist.

STORY TWO:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening announced he had failed to muster a coalition after almost four weeks of effort, and therefore returned the mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin. Netanyahu’s 28-day deadline for building a government was due to expire on Wednesday.

Rivlin is now expected, probably on Tuesday morning, to charge Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with the task of mustering a coalition that can win a Knesset majority. Blue and White said it was determined to build the “liberal unity government, led by Benny Gantz, that the people of Israel voted for.”

Gantz now has 28 days to try and do what Netanyahu could not accomplish. If he fails, any MK will have 21 days to obtain the support of a Knesset majority to form a government. If no one succeeds, elections will be initiated automatically — a third round inside a year after April’s and September’s inconclusive votes.

Like a predictable politician, Netanyahu blamed Gantz for his failure. The truth is that the criminal charges hanging over Netanyahu’s head have sunk his attempts to unite with other political groups needed to form the government.

Keep your eyes open for Story Three — yet to come.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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A NEW READ FOR YOU!

BLOG 297 April 4, 2016

My latest book, BIBLE LANDS: An Illustrated Guide to Scriptural places, will help you make important connections between today’s world and ancient times. Many of the current hot spots in the Middle East have a direct connection with biblical experiences. You’ll find new insights in today’s conflicts by studying where the ancient battles were fought.

BibleLands

For 46 years, I have walked down these paths that run from Israel to Egypt

Through Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. This book details these experiences.

Your local book store will have Bible Lands or the book is available through Amazon or Christianbook.com. When all else fails, you can order a copy through:

Robert L. Wise, PO Box 22716, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73123 for $14.95 that also covers postage.

REMEMBER!

TODAY’S ANSWERS CAN OFTEN BE FOUND

IN YESTERDAY’S EVENTS!

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THE END OF TIME?

            The possibilities of Armageddon, the angelic blast of the final trumpet, the clash of armies in Israel, and The End of it all fascinates Americans to no end. Many people believe they have the inside story from the Bible that no one else has found. One of my  friends believed the final battle would begin on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Didn’t happen. Then, he adjusted the date to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. No better results. He bet me a special expensive supper if he was wrong. After several years of buying meals, he threw in the towel. His number is legion.

A recent report by Lifewayresearch.com indicated that one-third of Americans believe that the war in Syria is part of the end time plan. One-fourth of the country holds the position that a U.S. strike in Syria would lead to Armageddon. They note that women are more likely to see a link between the Bible and the war in Syria than men (whatever that means). Southerners with a household income under $25,000 were the most likely to believe in such an outcome. Northeasterners with incomes of over $75,000 were the least like to accept these ideas. (I’d hate to think income determines your faith, but …)

When I was in college, Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth came out and people were grabbing copies by the arm load. No one knew quite what to think of his linking the headlines in the newspaper to the Bible. During the era of Sputnik, the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall, such a book was seen by many as a road map to the future and Armageddon. Sorry. Virtually nothing that Lindsey wrote turned out to be true, but he got rich through book sales.

Headlines from Syria continue to tell the ongoing story. Several rebel brigades including an affiliate of Al Qaeda seized one of Syria’s largest oil and gas fields. This decisive move will have a strong effect on the Syrian government as Assad needs these resources to stay solvent. The two and a half year war has seriously effected the Syrian government’s ability to have the income needed to function. At this point, it is not clear whether the rebels will be able to hold this oil rich area. Moreover, it remains to be seen if they will be able to resume production.

The government reconciliation minister Ali Haida barely escaped assassination when his convoy was attacked near the Mediterranean coast. The driver of his car was killed. No end in sight to the killing.

Serious doubts can be raised about the Syrian war being the end of time unless you are one of the participants. Then, the issue becomes the end of your time. Keep watching and don’t believe everything you hear.

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CARNAGE COINTINUES IN SYRIA

The story from Syria — another day –another bomb — other deaths. On and on it goes. The sun goes down. The sun comes up and more smoke fills the air.

While I refuse to surrender to hopelessness, the never ending civil war in Syria has got to be the symbol of  despair. With over 60,000 killed (by United Nations estimates), the mortality rates continue to climb. The latest report details an explosion inside a university campus in Aleppo, Syria. Walls were blown off dormitories and cars left blazing. At least 80 people were killed. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 83 died and more that 150 were injured and in critical condition. The blame game continues as each side says the other did it. However, the evidence points to the Assad regime firing rockets that hit the university. The large scale extend of the destruction points to more powerful rockets being used than the rebels are known to possess.

Because the Syrian government bars independent media from reporting, it makes gathering reliable data difficult. However, reports and pictures leaking out of the country offer scenes of a landscape that looks like the cities in German at the end of World War II. Like skulls with empty eye-sockets and gaping empty mouths, the concrete remains stand like the skeleton of a decaying cow. Chunks of broken, jagged concrete stand in piles with barbed wire sticking out of the debris. Years of toil will be required to rebuild cities that have for decades already tottered on the edge.

Several years ago, I was in Syria and stayed in the downtown business area of Damascus. Pictures of the father and son dictators hung everywhere, even in the bathrooms and taxis. When I tried to pay my hotel bill with a credit card, they sent me to a bank to obtain Syrian currency. I stood in a long line as people shouted and shoved. After eating supper in one of their best restaurants, I contacted food poisoning that laid me up for three days. Getting the picture? Yeah, I knew I was in a dictatorship and a third-world country. I can’t imagine what that area must look like today.

On Saturday, January 19. a petition from 58 nations requested an investigation of the Assad regime for war crimes. The United Nations top human rights official had already called for an International Criminal Court to investigate the Syrian situation. The Syrian government rejected these moves saying they had a right to protect the people from “terrorism imposed from abroad.” The Assad government always refers to the rebels as terrorists. What prompted the pointed and harsh criticism was the BBC report of a massacre in Al Haswiya, a working-class suburb of Homs. At least 100 Sunni Muslims had been killed. The United Nations has not come out of this conflict looking like heroes. Far from it! Navi Pilay, the United Nations commissioner for human right has expressed dismay over the lack of action by the Security Council over these killings and abuses. She said,

I firmly believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed, have been committed, and should be investigated. I am deeply concerned that there has been no concrete action to address the situation.” She strongly backed the call from the 58 countries.

Will there be any change? Probably not until Assad falls.

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THE HIGH COST OF WAR

The New York Times recently reported that the United States and Iran have agreed to private talks and negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. While this account was immediately denied, it suggests that back room discussions are going on. Certainly, Iran is feeling the squeeze and President Ahmadinejab is in big trouble over their economy. Merchants are screaming while America and its European allies continue to tighten the noose. It increasingly appears that Obama’s plan is working. We will see no clear indications of change until at least a week after the election process is completed.

The American move to settle the Iranian problem through sanctions and negotiations is not to be sheered at. The United States should be well aware of the high cost of war. The Korean war cost America dearly and Viet Nam proved worst. President Bush crusaded into Iraq and Afghanistan as if we could wrap up both struggles in a short time. The cost in lives is now off the scale. Two unpaid for wars have taken a staggering toll on the economy.

We must remember the painful, excruciating price wars exacts.

While America has withdrawn from Iraq, the killing has not stopped. Recently, a bomb detonated near playing children killed 18 people. Another blast in Baghdad near playground equipment killed four children, four adults, and wounding 25. Elsewhere, pilgrims were headed to a Muslim shrine when a bomb exploded under the bus. Five Shiites died and nine were wounded.  Meanwhile in the city of Mosul, gunmen attacked two houses, killing a boy and his parents in one as well as a mother and daughter in another. Just another day when Shiites and Sunnis disagreed.

Yes, the cost of war was enormous.

A recent report of Iraqi auditors reveals as much as $800 million American dollars were being drained illegally out of the country every week. Widespread money laundering also suggests that Iraq’s central bank as well as a former governor and top officials are involved. While customers are required to provide documentation, auditors found most transactions to be fraudulent. Iraq’s top auditor Abdul-Basit Turki expressed a deep concern about what he called a triangle of sectarianism, corruption, and violence that could threatened the existence of the nation.

In Syria at least 36,000 have been killed to date as both rebels and government troops kill indiscriminately. Mothers regularly rush their children down the steps into bomb shelters, hoping they will all survive, but knowing that the chances continue to diminish.

The survivors who have lost parents, children, spouses, and friends would instantly tell us the cost of war remains unbearable.

America rightly laments the victims of Hurricane Sandy on the eastern cost line. We have seen our tragedies, but none compare with the killing that goes on day after day in the Middle East. To avoid thinking, we can turn off our televisions or switch to a comedy sit.com. at the flip of a finger. How quickly we forget the horrendous cost of a war.

We must not.

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PROBING INSIDE THE SYRIAN SITUATION

 

 

Over 200 bodies were recently discovered in Daraya, a small town just outside of Damascus. The frightening unofficial suggestion is that Syrian troops committed these atrocities that may be the worst since the beginning of the Syrian rebellion over 18 months ago. Because of the ongoing war, the exact count could not be independently confirmed.

The Local Coordination Committee, an activist organization, found mass body dumps in the same region. Their video recorded charred bodies wrapped in blankets as well as victims lined up together and shot in a mosque. The violence fits a pattern that has emerged from raids by government forces in other suburbs of Damascus. When the military raided towns held by rebels, they left behind piles of bodies. Generally, the victims were young men, most shot in the head execution style.

The stories go on and on. I have been blogging about these murders for months, but nothing seems to put the brakes on the killing. One of the burning question is why the Russians continue to sustain such violence. As we discussed in an earlier blog, they are making huge profits out of this warfare. Certainly, profit motives keep the guns blazing. But there must be more to this story.

In the August 19, 2012 edition of The New York Times, Misha Friedman reported on the current situation in Russia under the heading For Russians, Corruption is Just a Way of Life. Friedman grew up in Moldova, then a part of the Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, her family immigrated to the United States. Since then, she has made a number of trips back to Russia. On each one of these trips, she observed growing corruption and lawlessness. Today, Misha Friedman reports that the country has become immersed in immoral and depraved behavior at every level of society.

Ms. Friedman reports that President Vladimir Putin’s system of running the country is hurling Russia back into a medieval mode when lawlessness trumps all rules. She noted that Russians who travel  outside the country often hide their nationality because of a fear of being compared to the country’s ruling elite. The Pussy Riot trial or the imprisonment of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky always comes up with embarrassing questions about what is transpiring inside the country. Friedman implies Putin’s government could care less about the consequences of their decisions as long as they prevail.

Syria would certainly be a case in point.

The author’s story states that corruption has become both a state of mind as well as a way of life. Citizens have become so accustomed to this decadence that they now accept it as the norm and view it as “Russia’s own special way.”

Friedman’s story leaves us with an obvious conclusion. If the Russian’s are making a buck, they care less about who is hurt. Obviously, I’m not indicting their entire society. Thousands marched in the streets to protest Putin’s election and how he runs the country. Unfortunately, they didn’t accomplish change. Nevertheless, as long as Russia’s military factories are kept busy, no one at the top will be calculating the cost.

So, the killing goes on in Syria while the rest of the world watches from the sidelines.

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TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH

U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

            Pictures of the Syrian Army’s air fleet always feature Russian Mi-25 Hinds. Russia has been supplying helicopters to Syria for years and continues to do so. Back in June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern to the Russians that they were shipping gun ships to the Assad regime in Syria.

Did her complain stop them?  No.

Herein is a strange little story and a big contradiction.

The United States continues to develop and maintain lucrative contracts with Rosoboronexport, a Russian arms firm that has the main role in supplying the Assad government with the arms to repress the rebels fighting the central government. What make this story particularly interesting is that Rosoboronexport is not a private business. Far from it, the company is a state corporation.  Since 2007, the organization has been the single state intermediary agency for arms shipments. The records of arms shipments made it clear that the port of Oktyabrsk in Southern Ukraine has been sending ship loads of armaments straight to Syria.

Get ready for an amazing and straight little twist in this tale. The US government is currently committed to a $375 million deal with Rosoboronexport for the purchase of 21 Mi-17 helicopters to be used by the Afghan Air Force. The latest transactions with the Russian company were made on November 3, 2011.

This particular contract didn’t go unnoticed. A letter from both Republican and democrat senators to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta demanded a cancellation of the contracts. Pentagon Under-Secretary James Miller rejected the senator’s letter, saying the helicopter acquisition was critical for the Afghan’s security.

Huh?

Doing business with the country propping up Syria is critical?  With millions of Americans out of work, we can’t built a comparable helicopter in America? Even if it is easier to train pilots on a Russian system, can this investment of American dollars be justified in today’s economy while we scream about Syrian atrocities created by this exact helicopter? Something’s definitely wrong with this picture.

By the way Rosoboronexport still sells weapons to Iran.

Back in 1982, Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek made a movie entitled Missing, based on a true story. A conservative business man goes to South America looking for his missing son, a left-wing journalist. The America ambassador expresses concern but the country has been in a revolution and no one is sure about what is happening. The punch line is that the CIA pulled off the revolution and killed Lemon’s movie son. The boy had been in a morgue while the American government lied to Lemon. Costa-Gravas (the director) left the audience wrung out as they realize the duplicity of the American system.

Sound familiar?

Are we getting the flim-flam treatment from government leaders? Afraid so. And we wonder why Israel doesn’t trust America’s dealings with Iran? Straight talk doesn’t often come for Washington because the conversation has traveled such a convoluted path under the table.

Why don’t we have more leverage with Russia? Might hurt business.

Question: This blog surprise you? What are you going to do about the problem?

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SYRIA’S STRUGGLE AND SUFFERING

It doesn’t take long to understand how complex Middle Eastern struggles actually are. For example, The American State Department came up with the idea of a multibillion-dollar Iraqi police training program that was to be the centerpiece of a hugely expanded civilian mission. Since October, $500 million has already been spent. Now it turns out the Iraqi government didn’t want it in the first place, but no one asked them until after the money had been allocated. Now that the military is gone, the Iraqi government is aggressively asserting its sovereignty. And the police force idea is going down the drain. Sorry, State Department. You obviously didn’t pay enough attention to the locals.
Granted that it is much more difficult to know exactly what’s going on in Syria, but similar confusion appears to be ruling the day. Insiders appear to agree that Bashar Al-Assad is slowly hemorrhaging to death, but that’s not certain. Turkey currently hosts around 23,000 Syrian refugees running from Assad. Some fighting has spilled over into Lebanon. As Senator John McCain noted, “What is obvious and indisputable is that the Kofi Annan plan has failed.” What the cease fire idea actually accomplished was buying more buy for the Syrian regime to continue killing the opposition and civilians. However, citizens appear to have not given up their struggle to oust Assad.
Recently, Turkey’s prime minister personally addressed thousands of cheering Syrian refugees who had crossed into camps in Turkey. He proclaimed that Assad’s grip was growing weaker by the day and that victory was close. Whether his statement is true or not requires more information. The complete truth remains to be seen.
The Syrian regime has currently proposed elections in the near future. A new constitution was adopted that would limit a Syrian president to two seven-year terms Of course, Assad and his father ruled Syria for over 42 years. The idea of a new election in the midst of a civil war obviously hasn’t sparked enthusiasm.
The opposition immediately responded that without reforms any election would be meaningless. Haytham Manna, head of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, rejected the idea as ludicrous. He noted there are no characteristics of a normal election exist during war and upheaval. Assad appears only to be attempting to buy time – once again.
So where are we? Key constituencies supporting Assad include religious minorities such as Christians and Alawites. Both groups fear what a takeover by Sunni Muslim’s would do to them. (Assad is a Alawite, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam.)
Russia and China continue to attempt to shield the regime from harsh diplomatic sanctions. In a former blog, I pointed out that Russia is making millions (probably billions) by supply military arms and equipment to Syria. War lines the Russian pockets with gold. Western powers, including Turkey, remain unwilling to use force against Syria. The result? Stalemate.
Turkey prime minister told the refugees, “Sooner or later, those who have oppressed our Syrian brothers will be accounted for before their nation. Your victory is close.”
Sorry. Not close enough! (518 words)
Question: How long do you think the Assad regime can endure? By the way, why doesn’t the American government pay better attention to the daily circumstances unfolding in these foreign governments?

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ANOTHER LOOK AT THE INTELLIGENCE PROBLEM AND THE MIDDLE EAST

ANOTHER LOOK AT THE INTELLIGENCE PROBLEM
AND THE MIDDLE EAST

Syria claimed to accept the cease-fire agreement proposed by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan, but the guns never stopped roaring. Assad said one thing to Kofi Annan, and another to his troops. “Okay,” to Kofi. “Sick ‘em” to the army. In response, Prince Saud al-Faisal called for the arming of the rebels and saw doing so to be “a duty.” Speaking for the opposition, Lt. Col. Qassim Saad al-Din indicated he wanted the truce, but the government continued to keep tanks and troops in the villages. For the freedom fighters to stop under these conditions would be a slaughter. Shouldn’t the world have known that Assad would not stop? Well, yes and no. No, if we base decisions on his previous behavior. Possibly yes, if we were aiming at insider information for his defense leaders. In an earlier blog, I noted that spying on Iran is tougher than ferreting information out of North Korea. Spying hasn’t proved easy in Syria. Why hasn’t the intelligence gathering been better? There are larger reasons for American reluctance.

A recent front page story from The New York Times noted that the ghosts of Iraq hang heavy around the CIA. Months after the war began, one of the CIA analysts had an emotional breakdown because he realized that he had misguided the Bush administration. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! The fear that the intelligence community might get it wrong again continues to spook current analysts and advisers. As shouts for military intervention increase, the Central Intelligence Agency knows that its credibility is on the line. They can not afford to be wrong again.

Charges are being made against the American spy system that range from sloppy work to reluctance to being blamed for sending the country down a dead end street again. Former agents point to murky information that is difficult to always understand. Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst on the Middle East, warns of overcompensation for past errors. At the same time, other authorities recognize that there are gaps in what we know. One of the previous problems was former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s frequent visits to CIA headquarters pressuring officials to document his concerns just before the Iraq war began. On the other hand, conversatives now claim the Obama administration may be doing the same thing. When there is top down pressure on intelligence gathering, the results have to become warped. One conservative critque accused the CIA of superficial information gathering in order to influence the coming election and political Thomas Fingar, former chairman of the National Ingelligence Council, added a thoughtful note. “Learning from past mistakes is imperative. Worrying about them is

As I try to pull together past mistakes and current concerns, I conclude its imperative to keep politics out of intelligence gathering. Keep the politicians of both parties up on Capital Hill and let the spies do their work in the dark. We don’t need politicians in the kitchen stirring the soup. As we attempt to discover what Assad’s next moves will be in this bloody campaign, let’s hope poor judgments about Iraq aren’t contaminating precise insights about the current Middle East situation.

Question: Can Americans trust the CIA if politicans continue to influence decisions? Do
we need a new approach to intelligence gathering?

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