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An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws March 17, 2015 – Written by: Rob Marsh

An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws

I recently wrote a rather long article on the potential dangers of new metadata retention laws to the fabric of our society and the functioning of our democracy. There is no issue I feel more passionate about in our society today, as it affects literally every one of us. We are witnessing the creation of the greatest weapon of oppression in the history of man, to quote Edward Snowden, and as individuals, citizens of a democracy, and human beings, we owe it to ourselves and each other to do what little we can to stall and hopefully stop this legislation from passing into law.

To that end, I’ve prepared an open letter to the politicians of this country outlining the failings of the legislation and other relevant information around metadata collection and the relation thereof to human rights.

Please send this to as many members of parliament as you can, and please share this template on your social media walls and any political groups you may be a part of. The more people that know that this is happening and that recognise that they are personally implicated in it, the more chance we have of stopping this draconian imposition on the freedoms of all Australians, rich and poor, powerless and powerful, male and female, old and young.

With your help, I sincerely believe we can make a positive difference.



An Open Letter to the Politicians of Australia on the Potential Adverse Effects of Proposed Metadata Retention Legislation on Human Rights and the Functioning of Our Democracy

This letter contains many references to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, where there is a number or text enclosed in brackets like so: (5.17), refer to the appropriate section of the report.

[Politician’s name],

I am writing to you to express my deep and sincere concern with regards to the proposed Metadata Retention legislation that the government wishes to pass by the 27th of March 2015.

This legislation represents, contrary to the claims of those with vested interests in seeing the legislation pass, a grave threat to the right to privacy, freedom of speech and association that is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy.

You may not be aware of what the legislation addresses, or what the “telecommunications data” it refers to actually entails.

Nicola Roxon, in a statement to the Attorney General, describes telecommunications data as: “Telecommunications data is information about the process of communication, as distinct from its content. It includes information about the identity of the sending and receiving parties and related subscriber details, account identifying information collected by the telecommunications carrier or ISP to establish the account, and information such as the time and date of the communication, its duration, location and type of communication. (5.7)

The proposed legislation, based on the definitions above, would give the Australian government unprecedented access to nearly every aspect of the online activity of it’s citizens, and the ability to infer a disturbingly accurate “pattern of life” from the collected data.

For example, you may have your cellphone’s GPS services enabled to use Google Maps. That data, in conjunction with your phone records and timestamps on the above data could clue in a security agency as to your most likely whereabouts on any given day. This poses an enormous risk to freedom of the press, as governments could use these capabilities to track journalists and their sources to frequented meeting places, limiting concerned parties’ abilities to bring sensitive information to the public for democratic review.

“The database will contain every page they accessed – every article they’ve read on a newspaper site, any online political activity, any purchases on ebay, books bought from amazon, Facebook pages visited etc.” – Ian Quick

In the words of former NSA/CIA Director Michael Hayden:

“We kill people based on metadata.”

Fears about the above stated powers and the implications thereof have been echoed by several EU countries.

The Romanian Court, with regards to local metadata retention, held that a “continuous legal obligation” to retain all traffic data for six months was incompatible with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. (5.26)

In Germany, the Constitutional Court described metadata retention as a “serious restriction of the right to privacy” and stated that a “retention period of six months [was] at the upper limit of what should be considered proportionate”. (5.27)

The Czech Constitutional Court, in analogous statements, described misgivings about the potential abuses of these powers: “Individual citizens had insufficient guarantees against possible abuses of power by public authorities.” (5.28)

The EU Court of Justice found that the 2006 European Data Retention Directive violated citizens “fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data”.

With such strident international condemnation, it seems to go without saying that any committee responsible for review of similar legislation would be given express access to details of the proposed changes and sufficient resources to complete a sincere and detailed examination of the material. Oddly enough, these criteria were not met: “Having commenced the inquiry at the beginning of July 2012, the Committee was asked to report if at all possible by the end of the calendar year. This afforded the Committee a highly compressed and unachievable time frame of less than six months to examine what is an extensive list of potential reforms, some of which are far reaching.” (Introduction, Page 3)

It seems that the government also failed to provide the committee with the relevant draft legislation, leaving those involved to rely on speculation and inference rather than an appraisal of the raw data: “The Government sought the Committee’s views on a mandatory data retention regime. The Committee did not have access to draft legislation. Furthermore, the inadequate description of data retention in the terms of reference and discussion paper also impaired both the public discussion and the Committee’s consideration of the data retention issue.” (1.29)

The question of how efficacious metadata retention is in solving and preventing crime is a raging debate.

Electronic Freedom Australia noted that it was “highly questionable” whether data retention would aid in the investigation of terrorism, organised crime or other serious illegal activities:

“It is worth noting that determined criminals will have little difficulty disguising or anonymising their communications. There are many relatively simple and effective tools available that allow for the protection of communications from surveillance.” (5.167)

This is an excellent point. The proposed legislation is no secret. Those in the criminal world will have no doubt heard of the potential for their activities to be monitored and have likely already taken steps to anonymise their online behaviour. Even in the event that the scope of the metadata retention reforms is so broad that it includes tools for opening encrypted chats and messaging services, it is not unlikely that tech savvy individuals on the wrong side of the law will be developing tools to combat this unwanted intrusion, rendering the legislation effectively useless in dealing with its raison d’être: combating terrorism and serious crime.

An unintended consequence of the introduction of metadata retention could be the opposite of what it is designed to achieve: a progressive opacification of the internet, with more and more users turning to encrypted browsing and communication, thereby shrinking the usable pool of data.

“Why do we imagine that the criminals of the greatest concern to our security agencies will not be able to use any of numerous available means to anonymise their communications or indeed choose new services that are not captured by legislated data retention rules?”

This quote from Communications Minister Macolm Turnbull, in addition to his recently revealed use of the messaging app Wickr, which provides a platform for anyone to send and receive self-deleting encrypted messages, seems to indicate that the reforms are likely to bring about little change in the positive ability of law enforcement agencies to stop criminal activity.

Add to this comments made by Blueprints for Free Speech, indicating that “there is no evidence to suggest data retention would assist with the prevention of crime or terrorism. A 2011 study of Germany’s Data Retention Directive found it had no impact on either the effectiveness of criminal investigation or the crime rate. Further, the study specifically found that countries without data retention laws are not more vulnerable to crime.”

Make no bones about it, metadata retention is mass surveillance. It can be used to form a dataset, a pattern of life indicating your movements, interests, affiliations and beliefs. You will be paying for this intrusion of privacy through rises in service bills, a kind of “tele screen tax” if you will. You will be at a higher risk of identity theft through the creation of ‘honeypots’ of data, irresistible to organised criminals and foreign actors. Your basic rights to privacy, to freedom of speech, to live as a dignified human person, are being infringed upon in ways that do not preclude a broadening of the scope of these abuses.

Even the supporters of the legislation don’t buy into their own rhetoric, with members of the Liberal party using Wickr on a daily basis, showing the world that privacy is of the utmost importance even to those who adamantly maintain that it isn’t.

With unanimous condemnation from leading human rights groups around the world, with a public backlash on a scale almost never witnessed, with the potential for so much to go horribly wrong, we simply must put a stop to this.

Tony Abbott has made statements that he wants a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation to be scrapped. I think it’s our responsibility as members of our democracy to ask why anyone would want a piece of legislation with so many potential avenues for abuse to pass without appropriate scrutiny.

I implore you, with the utmost sincerity and urgency, to do whatever is within your power to oppose this legislation at the very least until it is put before an independent NGO and reviewed in depth, with all the aspects of the legislation made available for public review and scrutiny.

Thank you for your time and your consideration, I hope that we, together, can make history and bring our society forward into an age of social egalitarianism, where the ideals of freedom of speech and thought, freedom of association and transparency of government are enshrined as they once were, as the foundations of a working democracy.

Sincerely,

______

For more information on the legislation you can refer to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, which you can find here: http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=pjcis/nsl2012/report.htm

An independent summary/opinion piece on the legislation can be found here: https://wideeyedandhopefullywild.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/metadata-and-you/

——

For the sender of this email: you can find the contact addresses of your parliamentarians at these links:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members

http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/03%20Senators%20and%20Members/32%20Members/Lists/MemList.pdf

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West eyes recolonization of Africa by endless war; removing Gaddafi was just first step – By Dan Glazebrook

Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
 
West eyes recolonization of Africa by endless war; removing Gaddafi was just first step
Exactly six years ago, on October 20th, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was murdered, joining a long list of African revolutionaries martyred by the West for daring to dream of continental independence.

Earlier that day, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had been occupied by Western-backed militias, following a month-long battle during which NATO and its ‘rebel’ allies pounded the city’s hospitals and homes with artillery, cut off its water and electricity, and publicly proclaimed their desire to ‘starve [the city] into submission’. The last defenders of the city, including Gaddafi, fled Sirte that morning, but their convoy was tracked and strafed by NATO jets, killing 95 people. Gaddafi escaped the wreckage but was captured shortly afterward. I will spare you the gruesome details, which the Western media gloatingly broadcast across the world as a triumphant snuff movie, suffice to say that he was tortured and eventually shot dead.

We now know, if testimony from NATO’s key Libyan ally Mahmoud Jibril is to be believed, it was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet. His death was the culmination of not only seven months of NATO aggression, but of a campaign against Gaddafi and his movement, the West had been waging for over three decades.

Yet it was also the opening salvo in a new war – a war for the militarily recolonization of Africa.

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China overtook the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second because Gaddafi was elected president of the African Union.

The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. While Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China – or indeed Libya – for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The response from the West, of course, was a military one. Economic dependence on the West – rapidly being shattered by Libya and China – would be replaced by a new military dependence. If African countries would no longer come begging for Western loans, export markets, and investment finance, they would have to be put in a position where they would come begging for Western military aid.

To this end, AFRICOM – the US army’s new ‘African command’ – had been launched the previous year, but humiliatingly for George W. Bush, not a single African country would agree to host its HQ; instead, it was forced to open shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM, as exasperated US diplomatic memos later revealed by WikiLeaks made clear. And US pleas to African leaders to embrace AFRICOM in the ‘fight against terrorism’ fell on deaf ears.

After all, as Mutassim Gaddafi, head of Libyan security, had explained to Hillary Clinton in 2009, North Africa already had an effective security system in place, through the African Union’s ‘standby forces,’ on the one hand, and CEN-SAD on the other. CEN-SAD was a regional security organization of Sahel and Saharan states, with a well-functioning security system, with Libya as the lynchpin. The sophisticated Libyan-led counter-terror structure meant there was simply no need for a US military presence. The job of Western planners, then, was to create such a need.

NATO’s destruction of Libya simultaneously achieved three strategic goals for the West’s plans for military expansion in Africa. Most obviously, it removed the biggest obstacle and opponent of such expansion, Gaddafi himself. With Gaddafi gone, and with a quiescent pro-NATO puppet government in charge of Libya, there was no longer any chance that Libya would act as a powerful force against Western militarism. Quite the contrary – Libya’s new government was utterly dependent on such militarism and knew it.
Secondly, NATO’s aggression served to bring about a total collapse of the delicate but effective North African security system, which had been underpinned by Libya. And finally, NATO’s annihilation of the Libyan state effectively turned the country over to the region’s death squads and terror groups. These groups were then able to loot Libya’s military arsenals and set up training camps at their leisure, using these to expand operations right across the region.

It is no coincidence that almost all of the recent terror attacks in North Africa – not to mention Manchester – have been either prepared in Libya or perpetrated by fighters trained in Libya. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.

By ensuring the spread of terror groups across the region, the Western powers had magically created a demand for their military assistance which hitherto did not exist. They had literally created a protection racket for Africa.

In an excellent piece of research published last year, Nick Turse wrote how the increase in AFRICOM operations across the continent has correlated precisely with the rise in terror threats. Its growth, he said, has been accompanied by “increasing numbers of lethal terror attacks across the continent including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia.

In fact, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland shows that attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007, just before it became an independent command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the number reached nearly 2,000. By AFRICOM’s own official standards, of course, this is a demonstration of a massive failure. Viewed from the perspective of the protection racket, however, it is a resounding success, with US military power smoothly reproducing the conditions for its own expansion.

This is the Africa policy Trump has now inherited. But because this policy has rarely been understood as the protection racket it really is, many commentators have, as with so many of Trump’s policies, mistakenly believed he is somehow ‘ignoring’ or ‘reversing’ the approach of his predecessors. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, Trump is escalating it with relish.

What the Trump administration is doing, as it is doing in pretty much every policy area, is stripping the previous policy of its ‘soft power’ niceties to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been in the driving seat all along. Trump, with his open disdain for Africa, has effectively ended US development aid for Africa – slashing overall African aid levels by one third, and transferring responsibility for much of the rest from the Agency for International Development to the Pentagon – while openly tying aid to the advancement of “US national security objectives.”

In other words, the US has made a strategic decision to drop the carrot in favor of the stick. Given the overwhelming superiority of Chinese development assistance, this is unsurprising. The US has decided to stop trying to compete in this area, and instead to ruthlessly and unambiguously pursue the military approach which the Bush and Obama administrations had already mapped out.

To this end, Trump has stepped up drone attacks, removing the (limited) restrictions that had been in place during the Obama era. The result has been a ramping up of civilian casualties, and consequently of the resentment and hatred which fuels militant recruitment. It is unlikely to be a coincidence, for example, that the al Shabaab truck bombing that killed over 300 people in Mogadishu last weekend was carried out by a man from a town in which had suffered a major drone attack on civilians, including women and children, in August.

Indeed, a detailed study by the United Nations recently concluded that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa.” Of more than 500 former members of militant organizations interviewed for the report, 71 percent pointed to “government action,” including “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group. And so the cycle continues: drone attacks breed recruitment, which produces further terror attacks, which leaves the states involved more dependent on US military support. Thus does the West create the demand for its own ‘products.’

It does so in another way as well. Alexander Cockburn, in his book ‘Kill Chain,’ explains how the policy of ‘targeted killings’ – another Obama policy ramped up under Trump – also increases the militancy of insurgent groups. Cockburn, reporting on a discussion with US soldiers about the efficacy of targeted killings, wrote that: “When the topic of conversation came round to ways of defeating the [roadside] bombs, everyone was in agreement. They would have charts up on the wall showing the insurgent cells they were facing, often with the names and pictures of the guys running them,” Rivolo remembers. “When we asked about going after the high-value individuals and what effect it was having, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we killed that guy last month, and we’re getting more IEDs than ever.’ They all said the same thing, point blank: ‘[O]nce you knock them off, a day later you have a new guy who’s smarter, younger, more aggressive and is out for revenge.”’

Alex de Waal has written how this is certainly true in Somalia, where, he says, “each dead leader is followed by a more radical deputy. After a failed attempt in January 2007, the US killed Al Shabaab’s commander, Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, in a May 2008 air strike. Ayro’s successor, Ahmed Abdi Godane (alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair), was worse, affiliating the organization with Al-Qaeda. The US succeeded in assassinating Godane in September 2014. In turn, Godane was succeeded by an even more determined extremist, Ahmad Omar (Abu Ubaidah). It was presumably Omar who ordered the recent attack in Mogadishu, the worst in the country’s recent history. If targeted killing remains a central strategy of the War on Terror”, De Waal wrote, “it is set to be an endless war.”

But endless war is the whole point. For not only does it force African countries, finally freeing themselves from dependence on the IMF, into dependence on AFRICOM; it also undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.

Chinese trade and investment in Africa continues to grow apace. According to the China-Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Chinese FDI stocks in Africa had risen from just two percent of the value of US stocks in 2003 to 55 percent in 2015, when they totaled $35 billion. This proportion is likely to rapidly increase, given that “Between 2009 and 2012, China’s direct investment in Africa grew at an annual rate of 20.5 percent, while levels of US FDI flows to Africa declined by $8 billion in the wake of the global financial crisis”. Chinese-African trade, meanwhile, topped $200 billion in 2015.

China’s signature ‘One Belt One Road’ policy – to which President Xi Jinping has pledged $124 billion to create global trade routes designed to facilitate $2 trillion worth of annual trade – will also help to improve African links with China. Trump’s policy toward the project was summarised by Steve Bannon, his ideological mentor, and former national security advisor, in just eight words: “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.” The West’s deeply destabilizing Africa policy – of simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive while offering protection against them – goes some way toward realizing this ambitious goal. Removing Gaddafi was just the first step.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

What the Future Has in Store for World: Putin’s Valdai Club Speech Highlights – Sputnik/ Grigoriy Sisoev

© Sputnik/ Grigoriy Sisoev
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While delivering his speech at the 14th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club Vladimir Putin raised a wide range of issues including the technological revolution, global security, nuclear and chemical disarmament, and the reform of the UN. The president underscored the necessity to team up to solve the burning international issues.

“There is less security in the world. Instead of progress and democracy, we see radical elements, extremist groups that deny civilization itself, seek to plunge it into archaism and into chaos, into barbarism,” Putin told the 14th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club on Thursday.

“One may take a look at what happened in the Middle East, which some players have tried to reformat, imposing a borrowed model of development through an externally orchestrated coups d’état or even by the direct use of military force,” he noted, adding that instead of teaming up with the international community some forces are trying maintain permanent chaos, apparently believing that they are capable of managing it.

Still, according to the Russian president there is an alternative to this opinionated and destructive policy, namely, the one demonstrated by Russia in Syria. He emphasized that Russia is working with all participants of the Syrian reconciliation process and is taking their interests into account.

“Russia is fighting against terrorists along with the legitimate Syrian government and other regional states, acting based on international law… And I would like to say that these actions and positive moves are not easy for us. There are many contradictions in the region. But we are patient and with this patience we are working with all participants of this [reconciliation] process very carefully, respecting their interests,” Putin said.

In this Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 file photo, a Russian soldier guards as a military helicopter flies over Palmyra, Syria
© AP Photo/
In this Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 file photo, a Russian soldier guards as a military helicopter flies over Palmyra, Syria

North Korea Should Not Be Driven ‘Into Corner’

Putin reiterated Russia’s condemnation of nuclear tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea and called attention to the fact that Moscow continues to implement all the decisions adopted by the UN Security Council related to the North Korean problem.

At the same time he warned the international community against driving Pyongyang into a corner, emphasizing that whether one likes the country’s government or not, North Korea remains a sovereign state.

“Any contradictions must be resolved in a civilized manner. Russia has always been in favor of this approach. We are firmly convinced that even the most complex ‘knots,’ whether the crises in Syria or Libya, on the Korean peninsula or, say, in Ukraine, must be untangled, not cut,” Putin said.

When European Disintegration Process Actually Started

The fragility of peace and stability was vividly demonstrated by the political crisis in Catalonia following the October 1 referendum on independence, President Putin remarked.

“Russia’s position here is known: everything that is happening is a domestic affair of Spain, and should be settled within the framework of Spanish law in accordance with democratic traditions,” he said.

Putin noted that actually the genie of European internal division was let out of the bottle much earlier, in the end of the 20th century, adding that Europe “had to think in advance” when disintegration processes only started to take shape on the continent. “They knew, did they not? However, at one time they basically welcomed the disintegration of a number of states in Europe, without hiding their joy on this matter,” the Russian leader noted referring to the dismemberment of the Warsaw Pact countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Why should the secession of Kosovo have been so thoughtlessly and unconditionally supported, based on the current political situation and the desire to please the elder brother from Washington,  provoking similar processes in other regions of Europe and in the world?” the president asked, denouncing the double standards adopted by the US and EU toward Crimea, which unified with Russia in 2014 as a result of the democratically organized referendum.

Barcelona residents wait for the Parliament to announce the results of the referendum on the independence of Catalonia
© Sputnik/ Javier Luengo
Barcelona residents wait for the Parliament to announce the results of the referendum on the independence of Catalonia

Anti-Russian Sanctions Violate Global Market Principles

The Russian president recalled that the proponents of globalization had repeatedly claimed that international economic ties would bring world players together, helping resolve the most burning political issues.

In reality politics is increasingly often interfering in economic affairs, with some actors openly promoting their commercial interests via political means, Putin said.

“Not so long ago it was said that it is impossible, counterproductive and should not be allowed. Now, those who said it are doing exactly that. Some are not even hiding that they are using political pretexts and reasons to promote their own, purely commercial, interests.”

To illustrate his point Putin referred to the latest package of sanctions recently adopted by the US Congress and signed by US President Donald Trump into law, which are “obviously aiming to expel Russia from European energy markets.”

He underscored that the attempts to disrupt the building of new energy routes from Russia to Europe are dealing a blow to European economic interests and its security.

“In the modern world, strategic gains cannot be made at the expense of others,” he stressed.

‘Brave New World’: What are the Prospects of Technological Revolution?

Vladimir Putin emphasized the importance of the scientific and technological development, technological revolution and the role of robotization and artificial intelligence (AI).

“Previously, assessing the role and influence of a state one referred to the importance of the geopolitical factors, the size of the territory, the military power, and natural resources… However, today scientific and technological progress emerges as one of the most important and its significance will only increase,” Putin said.

He emphasized that the harmonious future will be impossible without social responsibility, freedom, and justice, without the respect toward traditional ethical values, human’s dignity.

“Otherwise instead of prosperity and opportunity for everyone, the ‘brave new world’ may lead to totalitarianism, a caste society, conflicts and growing contradictions,” he warned.

October Revolution of 1917 Had ‘Complex’ Results

“Today, I want to draw attention to the lessons of the events that happened a hundred years ago, to the Russian revolution of 1917. We see that its results were complex. We see how tightly knitted the negative (results) are with, one has to admit, the positive consequences of these events,” the Russian president noted.He emphasized that “revolution is always a consequence of a deficit in responsibility.”

“Was it not possible to develop not through revolution, but via the road of evolution, without paying the price of destroying statehood and the ruthless breaking of millions of human lives but via the road of gradual, consistent moving forward?” Putin asked rhetorically.

What Happened to US Weapons-Grade Plutonium?

Speaking on the issue of Russo-American cooperation in the field of nuclear disarmament, the Russian president drew attention to the fact that had Washington demonstrated strange hesitancy and apparent negligence while fulfilling its obligations under nuclear and chemical weapons treaties.

He noted that despite Russia’s calls for cooperation and its openness in the sphere of nuclear disarmament following the collapse of the USSR, the United States had demonstrated a “selfishness” that had seen Russia’s national interests ignored.

The president expressed deep concerns over Washington’s approach to the implementation of the agreement on weapons-grade plutonium under the Russo-American Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) signed in 2000.

He noted that Washington’s decision to dispose of plutonium by dilution and geological burial does not guarantee the impossibility of getting back weapons-grade material,” Putin emphasized, stressing that the Russian Federation has fulfilled its obligations under the US-Russian deal.

At the same time, the US still has to fulfill its vow to destroy its chemical weapons: “The country remains the sole and most powerful possessor of that type [of weapons] of mass destruction. Moreover, the US moved the deadline for the destruction of its chemical weapons from 2007 to 2023.”

For a state proclaiming itself to be a champion in nonproliferation and arms control, it is inappropriate,” he said, adding that Western media paid almost no attention to the fact that Russia has completely destroyed its chemical weapons a month earlier.

‘No Alternative to the UN’

In the final part of his speech, the Russian president underlined the role of the United Nations, as an organization tasked to create and maintain international stability and order.

According to Putin, there is no alternative to the institution with its universal legitimacy. He stressed that the organization must remain in the center of the international system.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been taking steps aimed at reforming the international organization. In September a US-sponsored meeting to discuss the reform of the institution was held at the United Nations.

Putin said that the organization needs reform, but stressed that they must be gradual.

“Reform is needed, perfecting the system of the United Nations is needed. But reform can only be gradual, evolutionary, and of course must me supported by the overwhelming majority of the actors of the international process, by a wide consensus,” Putin explained.

China Launches Ruble-Yuan Payment System – By Tyler Durden

Russia and China are continuing to shift away from dollar-based trade

The monetary regimes of China and Russia, two of the world’s most resource-rich nations, are drawing closer with every passing day.

In the latest push for convergence, China has established a payment versus payment (PVP) system for Chinese yuan and Russian ruble transactions in a move to reduce risks and improve the efficiency of its foreign exchange transactions.

The PVP system for yuan and ruble transactions, designed to streamline commerce and currency transactions between the two nations, was launched on Monday after receiving approval from China’s central bank, according to a statement by the country’s foreign exchange trading system.

It marks the first time a PVP system has been established for trading the yuan and foreign currencies, said the statement, which was posted on Wednesday on the website of the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS). PVP systems allow simultaneous settlement of transactions in two different currencies.

According to CFETS, the system would reduce settlement risk as well as the risk of transactions taking place in different time zones, and improve foreign exchange market efficiency. Of course, if the two countries had a blockchain-based settlement system, they would already have all this and much more.CFETS said it plans to introduce PVP systems for yuan transactions with other currencies based on China’s Belt and Road initiative, and complying with the process of renminbi internationalization. Russia, however, is a top priority: the world’s biggest oil producer recently became the largest source of oil for China, the world’s top energy consumer.

To be sure, the monetary convergence between Beijing and Moscow is hardly new.

The most notable recent development took place in April, when the Russian central bank opened its first overseas office in Beijing on March 14, marking a step forward in forging a Beijing-Moscow alliance to bypass the US dollar in the global monetary system, and to phase-in a gold-backed standard of trade.

As the South China Morning Post reported at the time, the new office was part of agreements made between the two neighbours “to seek stronger economic ties” since the West brought in sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis and the oil-price slump hit the Russian economy.

At the time, Vladimir Shapovalov, a senior official at the Russian central bank, said the two central banks were drafting a memorandum of understanding to solve technical issues around China’s gold imports from Russia, and that details would be released soon, to which we said that If Russia – the world’s fourth largest gold producer after China, Japan and the US – is indeed set to become a major supplier of gold to China, the probability of a scenario hinted by many over the years, namely that Beijing is preparing to eventually unroll a gold-backed currency, increases by orders of magnitude.

Furthermore, also around the same time, as the Russian central bank was getting closer to China, China was responding in kind with the establishment of a clearing bank in Moscow for handling transactions in Chinese yuan.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) officially started operating as a Chinese renminbi clearing bank in Russia on Wednesday this past Wednesday

“The financial regulatory authorities of China and Russia have signed a series of major agreements, which marks a new level of financial cooperation,” Dmitry Skobelkin, the abovementioned deputy head of the Russian Central Bank, said. “The launching of renminbi clearing services in Russia will further expand local settlement business and promote financial cooperation between the two countries,” he added according to.

Irina Rogova, a Russian financial analyst told the Russian magazine Expert that the clearing center could become a large financial hub for countries in the Eurasian Economic Union.

* * *The creation of the clearing center, and the launch of PVP systems enables the two countries to further increase bilateral trade and investment while decreasing their dependence on the US dollar. It will create a pool of yuan liquidity in Russia that enables transactions for trade and financial operations to run smoothly.

In expanding the use of national currencies for transactions, it could also potentially reduce the volatility of yuan and ruble exchange rates.

The clearing center is one of a range of measures the People’s Bank of China and the Russian Central Bank have been looking at to deepen their co-operation, Sputnik reported.

But one of the most significant measures under consideration is the previously reported push for joint organization of trade in gold.

In recent years, China and Russia have been the world’s most active buyers of the precious metal. On a visit to China last year, the deputy head of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov said that the two countries want to facilitate more transactions in gold between the two countries.

“We discussed the question of trade in gold. BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is conducted in Shanghai, in Russia it is in Moscow. 

Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets,”

First Deputy Governor of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov told Russia’s TASS news agency.

In other words, China and Russia are continuing to shift away from dollar-based trade, to commerce which will eventually be backstopped by gold, or what is gradually emerging as an Eastern gold standard, one shared between Russia and China, and which may day backstop their respective currencies.

Meanwhile, the price of gold continues to reflect none of these potentially tectonic strategic shifts, just as China – which has been the biggest accumulator of gold in recent years – likes it.


Source: Zero Hedge

Donald Trump ‘decertifies’ Iran; US foreign policy becomes irrational – By Alexander Mercouris

‘Decertifying’ Iran despite its compliance with JCPOA is further example of a US foreign policy which is becoming ever more erratic and which has lost touch with reality

 

“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”.

The above quote – often misattributed to Euripides – came to me irresistibly as I listened to Donald Trump’s speech on Iran, the complete text of which can be found here.

Suffice to say that in many years of following US Presidential addresses (some of them very weird) I have never heard or read any other speech from a US President on an important foreign policy issue which was so completely detached from reality or so frankly bizarre (the only one which comes close is George W. Bush’s address given on the eve of his invasion of Iraq).

I do not propose to analyse the speech in any detail since this has already been done thoroughly and excellently by my colleague Adam Garrie.

I would however draw attention to three particular statements in Donald Trump’s speech which seemed to me especially surreaI

“Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to its extremist rule.”

(bold italics added)

Opinions on the Iranian Revolution of 1979 differ but I do not know a single person well-informed about recent Iranian history who would recognise this description of it.

The reality – as I remember very well, having observed the Iranian Revolution closely when it was actually happening – is that in 1979 support for the Shah of Iran – a dictator of doubtful legitimacy, whose father was a Persian Cossack officer who became Iran’s Shah as a result of a coup, and who was himself installed by the US as Iran’s ruler following a CIA organised coup which overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government – had completely collapsed, so that Iranian society was almost completely united against him.

Far from Iran’s Islamic republic having been “forced on a proud people” by a faction that “seized power” – Trump presumably means illegally – it was what the overwhelming majority of people in Iran in 1979 wanted, and what they had gone onto the streets in their millions – risking death in confrontations with the Shah’s soldiers – to demand.

The idea that Iran’s current system of government lacks legitimacy is a fundamental error – shared by many people in the US and the West, not just by Donald Trump – which completely misunderstands its origins as well as recent Iranian history and contemporary Iranian society.

Unfortunately, it is an error which leads directly to the second of Donald Trump’s statements which I found surreal

…….the previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. This deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA……The nuclear deal threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline, providing urgently needed relief from the intense domestic pressure the sanctions had created.

(bold italics added)

I do not know a single credible analyst who believes that in 2015 – on the eve of the JCPOA being signed – the ‘Iranian regime’ was on the brink of total collapse.  On the contrary the situation in Iran was then – as it is now – politically stable, with the country holding in an orderly and peaceful way a contested Presidential election just two years before.

As for the sanctions, though they were undoubtedly the cause of real hardship, the evidence suggests that it was the US who the Iranian people blamed for them rather than their own government.

The idea that in 2015 Iran’s Islamic republic – which had by then endured years of US hostility and a terrible war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – was on the brink of collapse is a fantasy.

I would add that it is not merely a fantasy. It is actually the reverse of the truth.  Far from “throwing a collapsing regime a lifeline” the reason the Obama administration very grudgingly agreed to the JCPOA was because international support for the sanctions regime against Iran was collapsing, with the US intelligence community continuing to report since 2007 that Iran was not working towards a nuclear weapons capability, with the Russians on the brink of agreeing  a massive ‘goods-for-oil’ barter deal with Iran, and – most importantly – with the US’s own European allies becoming increasingly disenchanted with the sanctions policy, and hinting that they might pull out of it.

All of this was made crystal clear in August 2015 by Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry in a highly revealing interview he gave to Reuters where he said this about why the US agreed to the JCPOA,

But if everybody thinks, “Oh, no, we’re just tough; the United States of America, we have our secondary sanctions; we can force people to do what we want.” I actually heard that argument on television this morning. I’ve heard it from a number of the organisations that are working that are opposed to this agreement. They’re spreading the word, “America is strong enough, our banks are tough enough; we can just bring the hammer down and force our friends to do what we want them to.”

Well, look – a lot of business people in this room. Are you kidding me? The United States is going to start sanctioning our allies and their banks and their businesses because we walked away from a deal and we’re going to force them to do what we want them to do even though they agreed to the deal we came to? Are you kidding?

That is a recipe quickly, my friends, for them to walk away from Ukraine, where they are already very dicey and ready to say, “Well, we’ve done our bit.” They were ready in many cases to say, “Well, we’re the ones paying the price for your sanctions.” We – it was Obama who went out and actually put together a sanctions regime that had an impact. By – I went to China. We persuaded China, “Don’t buy more oil.” We persuaded India and other countries to step back.

Can you imagine trying to sanction them after persuading them to put in phased sanctions to bring Iran to the negotiating table, and when they have not only come to the table but they made a deal, we turn around and nix the deal and then tell them you’re going to have to obey our rules on the sanctions anyway? 

That is a recipe very quickly, my friends, businesspeople here, for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world – which is already bubbling out there…..

(bold italics added)

In other words the US was pushed into the JCPOA somewhat against its will at the insistence of its European allies, who were considering lifting sanctions on Iran unilaterally if the US rejected the deal which was on offer.  The US submitted to their demands because it feared that the alternative – threatening economic war on its European allies by imposing sanctions on them – would have hastened the ending of the reserve currency status of the US dollar.

It is rare to say the least for US officials to contemplate in public the possibility of the US dollar losing its reserve currency status.  The fact that in August 2015 Secretary of State Kerry actually did so shows the pressure that the US was under.

In other words far from the Iranian ‘regime’ being on the brink of collapse, in 2015 it was the sanctions regime imposed on Iran which was about to collapse, which was why the US grudgingly agreed to the deal.

Many people including my colleague Adam Garrie have pointed to the absurdity of the third of the statements Donald Trump made in his speech – the one about Iran’s alleged support for terrorism – which seemed bizarre to me.  I need therefore say little about it.

The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks.

(bold italics added)

Suffice to say that Al-Qaeda is a militant sectarian Sunni Salafi terrorist organisation deeply antithetical to Shia Iran.  From time to time Al-Qaeda’s central leadership (“Al-Qaeda Central”) has for tactical reasons attempted to rein in the pathological anti-Shia sectarianism of its followers.  Whenever it has done so it has however failed.  In Iraq its fighters – grouped in the organisation originally called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” and originally led by the psychotic anti-Shia sectarian Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi – eventually morphed into ISIS, whose attitude to Iran and the Shia can be described as frankly genocidal.  In Syria Al-Qaeda’s fighters under the various names they have used (Jabhat Al-Nusra being the most famous) have also been pathologically murderous anti-Shia sectarians.

The idea that Iran could in any way support or patronise such an organisation is simply preposterous, and the fact that a number of Al-Qaeda operatives may – as Donald Trump claims – have following 9/11 passed through Iran does not (if it is even true) change that fact.

As for the Taliban, in 1998 – following the murder by the Taliban of 11 Iranian diplomats and journalists in the northern Afghan town of Mazar-i-Sharif – Iran and the Taliban almost went to war, with Iran mobilising 70,000 troops on its border with Afghanistan in preparation for an attack on the Taliban until concessions to Iran by the Taliban and UN mediation caused the crisis to be defused.

Subsequently, during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Iran cooperated with the US to defeat the Taliban, with US and Iranian Special Forces even working together to liberate the important Afghan city of Herat from them.

To suggest therefore that Iran and the Taliban – also incidentally a sectarian Sunni organisation, though not an international terrorist organisation like Al-Qaeda – are in alliance with each other is quite simply preposterous.

These three absurd statements in Donald Trump’s speech are in fact only the most absurd in a speech filled with absurdity.  What for example is one to make of this comment about the notional connections between Iran and North Korea?

There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea. I am going to instruct our intelligence agencies to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.

(bold italics added)

What is this if not an admission that the US does not actually possess any knowledge that Iran is in fact dealing with North Korea?  If the US does not have any knowledge that Iran is dealing with North Korea why is this comment even in Donald Trump’s speech?

What makes this statement especially bizarre is that though the US has no knowledge that Iran is dealing with North Korea, it does have knowledge – or at least information – that its ally Ukraine is.

I discussed all this at length in an article I wrote for The Duran on 20th August 2017.  Subsequently, I noticed this comment on this same subject in an article on the North Korean nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programme published by the Guardian on 11th September 2017

There is a growing consensus that former Soviet missile engines acquired on the black market in Ukraine have enabled Kim’s scientists to take the strides seen this year.

(bold italics added)

Why does Donald Trump not order US intelligence to investigate the dealings between North Korea and Ukraine about which a “growing consensus” exists, instead of wasting their time by ordering them to investigate dealings between North Korea and Iran about which the US has no knowledge?

The central absurdity of the whole speech is however that Donald Trump is unable to point to any single major breach by Iran of the JCPOA such as would justify his decision to decertify it.   The various breaches he does refer to – all denied by Iran – are minor.

In other words Trump is decertifying Iran and encouraging Congress to punish it notwithstanding that Iran is in compliance with the deal it made with the US, and is doing nothing wrong other than conduct in the Middle East a foreign policy the US doesn’t like.

As to that, the fact that the US and Iran are at the present time adversaries in the Middle East is a fact of life, a reality which any responsible statesman would accept and work around.

Many states at many times in history have found themselves in adversarial relationships with each other.  Acting to tear up a critical international agreement which is being successfully implemented and is working simply because two states don’t get on with each other is not an act of statesmanship or a master-stroke of policy.  It is an act of childish petulance, a teenage tantrum, unworthy of a country which still likes to think of itself as the world’s foremost Great Power.

Unfortunately this pattern of behaviour goes far beyond Donald Trump.  Thus over the course of the last year the whole foreign policy of the US has been held hostage to a concocted scandal based on a farfetched conspiracy theory which any reasonable person can see is preposterous.  Matters have reached the point where it is now being suggested – apparently in all seriousness – that this conspiracy involved ‘weaponising’ Pokemon Go.

Moreover in December the US imposed sanctions on Russia purportedly because of this scandal.  Then – despite Russia having done nothing more that would justify more sanctions – in August the US imposed more sanctions on Russia for the same reason, all over again.

In relation to the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme the US has reneged on agreements it previously made with North Korea, cannot decide whether it wants to talk with North Korea or not, and piles on sanctions against North Korea, despite two decades of evidence that this only makes the North Koreans more determined to press ahead with their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme, as the Chinese and the Russians repeatedly point out to them.

In relation to the so-called “War on Terror”, the US purports to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but has been de facto in alliance with Al-Qaeda in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

In Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria the US has worked to undermine and overthrow secular governments which were the region’s major bulwark against the very Jihadi terrorism which the US says it opposes.

This increasingly erratic behaviour has now reached a new level with this latest speech of Donald Trump’s.

Like most people I believe that the immediate damage done by this speech is limited.  Though I am sure that the US Congress will impose further sanctions on Iran – I cannot think of a single case where Congress has been invited to impose sanctions on another country and has failed to do so – I believe that international support for the JCPOA is too strong, and Iran is too sensible, to cause it to unravel.

Like most people I also believe that the very same US Deep State which has made Donald Trump’s life miserable in relation to Russia, will now act as a restraint on him.  Apparently it was the cabal of generals who now all but run the US government – Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, along with General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – who along with Secretary of State Tillerson managed to talk Trump out of pulling out of the JCPOA completely as he apparently wanted to do.

This was not because they have any love of Iran or of the JCPOA.  Rather it was because they were acting in the classic tradition of the US military: always willing to attack without hesitation a state which is unable to resist or hit back; but balking at attacking states like Russia, North Korea or Iran, which not only can hit back, but which are able to put up a determined resistance if they are attacked.

The damage done by Trump’s speech is not to Iran or (probably) to the JCPOA.  It is to the international perception of the US, which is conducting itself ever more irrationally, so that one administration sets out to undermine an agreement reached by a previous administration, even when doing so is contrary to US interests, so that no one can put any trust in the US’s word any more.

After the huge damage done to the US’s international reputation by George W. Bush’s incompetence and belligerence and by Barack Obama’s arrogance and narrow-mindedness, many governments around the world welcomed the new Trump administration which came with – apparently – fresh ideas, and – seemingly – a willingness to turn a new leaf in international relations.

At a blistering pace they are all becoming increasingly disillusioned as they face the reality of another disastrous US Presidency, functioning against a backdrop of a US political system which has been exposed as hopelessly dysfunctional and increasingly irrational, offering no promise of things ever getting better at any time in the future.

Truly in the lunatic asylum, which is what the once great American Republic has become, the inmates have taken over.

 
 

What do you think?

Russian Subs Incinerate ISIS Fighters With Cruise Missiles From Mediterranean – By RI STAFF

They can hit targets accurately a remarkable 3000 miles away – twice the range of the best American missiles

20 hours ago
|

Yesterday we published an article which generated a lot of interest explaining the huge strategic significance of these subs – the range of their cruise missiles (5000 km, 3000 miles) is twice that of their American opponents, and the Russians are more precise.  Russian Missiles Have 2X the Range of US’s – It’s a Big Deal in Syria.

The article points out how effective they were in wiping out ISIS fighters, who are being aided and abetted by good old Uncle Sam.

This Russian news report is from 2 weeks ago, but it is still highly relevant to the ongoing and highly dangerous US – Russia standoff in Syria 

Excellent footage of the Russian military in action – this time as part of the Syrian war effort.

 

It serves as a reminder that there is a real war going on in the Middle East, and that the Russians are real combatants.  The US is also on the ground – but for some reason US media doesn’t give this a lot of coverage the way Russian media does.Russian media is sometimes just fascinating to watch

(Full transcript follows below)


Anchor:

Russian Kalibrs destroyed essential ISIS object near Deir-ez-Zor. Two cruise missiles were launched yesterday from the Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino submarines. It took place in the Mediterranean.

Weapon warehouses, commanding posts, and a large equipment warehouse were destroyed. This is how Russia supports the last Syrian combat onto the last ISIS foothold by the Euphrates river.

Mikhail Fedotov reports from the military ship.

Sailor:

Combat alert. Prepare the ship for attack.

Reporter:

Combat alert has been declared on the Pytlivy patrol boat.  Sailors, midshipmen, and officers shut the hatches, the troops go to the artillery.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, the frigate guards two Russian submarines, Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino.

The boat must strike ISIS militant positions. The distance to the submarine is about 1.5 km. The Kalibr missile launches and goes towards the terrorists in Syria.

Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino are the newest diesel-electric boats from the Varshavyanka-2 project. They were launched in the water last year. Torpedoes, mines, AA armament, and the main Kalibr- cruise missiles.

The ships can aim at 300 meters and can be deployed autonomously for 45 days. The shooting was successful, and the submarines appeared over the water surface.

This is a unique and rare opportunity to see the most modern boats of the Russian Navy. Besides Pytlivy, the submarines are also accompanied by the NATO ships.

On the horizon, you can see the frigate of the French Navy. However, this wasn’t a surprise for the crew.

Nikolay Grebnev, deputy commander of Pytlivy:

“The lighting station of the boat allows to detect aerial targets and water vessels. It allows the operator to detect an on-water subject, like they did today with the French frigate, long before it’s visual on the horizon.”

Reporter:

A few minutes after the launches, there’s info on successful hits. In the Deir-ez-Zor province, Kalibrs have incinerated, and in the NATO scale they actually call them Incinerators, ISIS control posts, ammo and equipment warehouses.

Igor Konashenkov, Russian Defense ministry rep:

“Strikes on international terrorists by Mayadin are made to support the successful combat for the Syrian Army to facilitate their destruction of ISIS footholds in Deir-ez-Zor.”

The submarines were only on the surface for half an hour. After that, another immersion. Black holes, as NATO calls them for silent operation went into unknown directions, dissolved in the Mediterranean.

Mikhail Fedotov, Azat Atagonov, Pavel Vetrinsky. Vesti, from the Pytlivy patrol boat.

 

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A hero and leader in a time of madness – Documentary on Putin, the world’s best President – By Sott.net

Image

© Matt Dunham/WPA Pool/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a press conference on the second day of the G8 summit venue of Lough Erne on June 18, 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

The folks of Vox Populi Evo have pulled through again, providing an English translation and subtitles for Rossiya-1’s latest documentary, PRESIDENT, hosted by Russian TV presenter Vladimir Solovyov and which first aired in Russia on April 26. VPE had previously made Crimea: The Way Back Home available for English viewers, and we recommend that readers check that one out too.

The film contains never-seen-before footage from some of the biggest highlights of Putin’s career, and of Russia’s history for the last decade and a half: the war in Chechnya, the battle with the oligarchs, the Kursk submarine tragedy, Beslan, the 2008 crisis. Among the revelations Putin makes in his interview sections is the admission of direct involvement of Western intelligence agencies in supporting Islamic terrorism in Chechnya. While it’s no surprise to the alternative media, it’s the first time Putin has officially confirmed such involvement. Nothing has changed since the CIA created the mujaheddin to battle the Soviets in Afghanistan.

The Russiagate scandal descends into total absurdity – By Alexander Mercouris

US government paralysed as frantic searches for evidence to prove scandal true fail one by one

 

Even as the Trump administration disintegrates – with the President publicly quarrelling with his Secretary of State, and his Chief of Staff forced to deny he is about to resign – the scandal which more than anything else has defined this Presidency has disintegrated into total lunacy.

Consider these facts

(1) The Mueller investigation

Just a few weeks ago the media was full of reports of how Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation was “closing in” on the President and his campaign team.  The focus of media interest was on an early morning search in July of the house of Paul Manafort, the campaign professional who at one time acted as the Trump campaign’s chairman, with lurid headlines that he was about to be indicted, though it was never made clear for what.

Since then there has been nothing, a clear sign that the search of Manafort’s house has come up with nothing, and that the pressure to get Manafort to talk by dangling threats of indictment in front of him have resulted in nothing.

In all other respects a curtain of silence has fallen on Mueller’s investigation, a strong sign that after its failure to “break” Manafort it no longer has a clear strategy of what to do.

(2) The Senate Intelligence Committee

This held a portentous press conference recently to announce the findings of its nine month investigation into the Russiagate allegations.  As a result of that press conference we learnt that

…….the committee and its staff have conducted more than 100 interviews, comprising 250 hours of testimony and resulting in 4,000 pages of transcripts, and reviewed more than 100,000 documents relevant to Russiagate. The staff, said Warner, has collectively spent a total of 57 hours per day, seven days a week, since the committee opened its inquiry, going through documents and transcripts, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing both classified and unclassified material.

The result of all this impressive activity?  Precisely nothing.  Here is what Senator Richard Burr, its Republican chairman, had to say

There are concerns that we continue to pursue. Collusion?  The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion. Now, I’m not going to even discuss any initial findings because we haven’t any

(bold italics added)

The position has been summed up perfectly by President Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders

MS. SANDERS: I think more importantly than the President being frustrated, I think the American people are frustrated. The Senate Intel Committee told us yesterday that, after nearly nine months of investigated — that’s included more than 100 interviews, over more than 250 hours, 4,000 pages of transcripts, 100,000 pages of documents, interviewing officials in the intelligence community who wrote the report on Russian election meddling, interviewing relevant Obama administration officials, and talking to every Trump campaign official they’ve requested — it’s literally found zero evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

I think that the American people would like them to focus on some other things. I know that we certainly have said this all along, and we’re glad that as they continue this process they’re coming to the same conclusion.

(bold italics added)

Notwithstanding this urging “to focus on some other things”, Senator Burr continues to insist that the question of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – the heart of the Russiagate scandal – is “still open”.  One wonders how much more money, time and work it will need before he finally accepts that it should be closed?

(3) Social media

Relentless pressure on the leading social media platforms – Facebook, Google and Twitter – from people like the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Deputy Chair Senator Warner has unearthed a tiny number of advertisements and comments costing in aggregate substantially less than a million dollars which are ‘assessed’ to have ‘some’ unspecified connection to Russia.

Most of these advertisements and comments did not appear during last year’s US Presidential election and were not about it.  Some of those which did were pro-Hillary Clinton and anti-Donald Trump.  There is however no rhyme or reason to these advertisements and comments, many of which were on non-political subjects, including such momentous matters as puppies.

A reasonable person would conclude that this small number of advertisements and comments could have had no bearing or influence on last year’s US Presidential election, and that they were not intended to have any.

A reasonable person would also conclude that the tiny number of these advertisements and comments – unearthed after frantic and relentless searches by the social media platforms after they were put under intense pressure from the politicians to come up with something – their vague and contradictory material, and their nebulous connection to Russia, in fact proves that there was NO sinister Russian plot to swing last year’s election to Donald Trump by using social media, or even a Russian plot via social media to create doubts about it.

There is however nothing remotely reasonable about the true believers of the Russiagate scandal.  On the contrary they have latched onto this material – whose lack of substance in fact proves the absurdity of their claims – not as disproving their claims but rather as vindication that what they have been saying all along about “Russian meddling in the election” has now been proved to be true.  A whole stream of strange articles (see for example this one in the Financial Times) has appeared in the establishment media which all but say this.

To which one can only say that when evidence of the non-existence of a conspiracy is taken as proof of its existence it becomes clear that all connection to reality and indeed to sanity has been lost.

(4) Attempted Russian hacking of state voting systems

In some ways this was the most bizarre recent claim of all.  It has been thoroughly discussed by Glenn Greenwald and to his commentary I have little to add.

What makes this episode bizarre is that the claim that the Russians hacked or attempted to hack the voting systems of US states is one which has been made repeatedly over the course of the scandal, only to be invariably and repeatedly proved to be false.

The latest iteration of this claim was in an article in USA Today sourced from the Department of Homeland Security which claimed that the Russians had attempted to hack the voting systems of 21 states.

Needless to say the claim was immediately picked up and repeated with enthusiasm by all sorts of people until two of the states involved – Wisconsin and California – categorically denied it, upon which the Department of Homeland Security was forced to issue a retraction.

To which one can only ask: how often does this story have to be refuted before it is accepted as false?

Overall one senses a scandalous story of nefarious collusion and double-dealing between the Trump campaign and Russia which now rests on nothing but hot air as all attempts to prove it true fail one by one.

In the meantime the American public and even parts of the media are losing interest, as shown by the fact that the scandal hardly comes up in White House news conferences any more.

Serious damage however continues to be done.

The scandal has paralysed the foreign policy of the US government as Donald Trump’s signature policy upon which he was elected – rapprochement with Russia – has been blocked because of a concocted scandal with no substance behind it.

The result unsurprisingly is an angry President, resentful at how his signature policy has been blocked, who having no clear idea what to do, is hitting out in all directions, sometimes by behaving spitefully towards his own staff.

Moreover, as the disintegration of the scandal makes it all but impossible for the President to be removed from office through his impeachment (the original intention of those who concocted it), this chaotic and unhappy state of affairs looks likely to continue indefinitely.

 
 

What do you think?

Russia’s Aerospace Forces kill over 30 terrorist ringleaders in Syria since early October – By TASS (Military & Defense)

October 13, 17:00 UTC+3

Less than eight percent of Syria’s territory are still controlled by Islamic State, according to Russia’s General Staff

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© Russian Defense Ministry’s Press and Information Department/TASS

MOSCOW, October 13. /TASS/. Russia’s Aerospace Forces have killed more than 30 terrorist ringleaders since the beginning of October, the chief of the Main Operations Department of Russia’s General Staff, Sergey Rudskoy, said.

“Special attention was paid to destroying the heads of armed groups. Since early October, 31 of them have been killed,” the general said.

According to the general, on October 3, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, was seriously wounded, and its security chief Ahmad al-Gizai and several field commanders were killed.

Rudskoi also said that Russian Aerospace Force had made 383 sorties near Deir ez-Zor over the past week and destroyed 993 targets of so-called Islamic State (a terrorist group banned in Russia).

“Over the past week, only near Deir ez-Zor warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Force have made 383 combat sorties and destroyed 993 targets of ISIS terrorists [former name of Islamic State – TASS],” he said.

Rudskoy added that three intensive missile and air strikes had hit terrorists’ vital facilities with air-to-surface cruise missiles Kh-101 launched from a TU-95 strategic bomber and Kalibr cruise missiles launched from submarines.

“Long-range precision weapons destroyed 37 targets, namely munitions depots, areas with a high concentration of militants and vehicles along with terrorists’ communication units and command centers,” he added.

According to Rudskoi, less than eight percent of Syria’s territory are still controlled by Islamic State.

“As of today, an area of 14,800 square kilometers, or less than eight percent of the Syrian territory, is under control of Islamic State,” he said.

The Russia air force will continue its operation against militants of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups until they are completely eliminated, the general said.

Attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra

The Russian General Staff does not rule out repeated attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra (a terror organization outlawed in Russia) militants over the city of Hama, and appropriate measures are being taken.

He noted that after a September 19 attack by Jabhat al-Nusra militants over positions of the government forces near Hama, the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone was stabilized. “Today, deployment of ceasefire control forces has started directly in the zone,” Rudskoy said.

However, the general noted, “Jabhat al-Nusra groups and gangs beholden to it are being deployed from the northern districts of the Idlib Governorate to the south and the southeast.” “Repeated attacks by militants over the city of Hama are possible,” Rudskoy said.

“Syria’s forces and aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces are taking all measures to prevent spread of armed groups from the given de-escalation zone,” the general stressed.

He reiterated that on September 19 Jabhat al-Nusra attacked positions of the Syrian forces north and northeast of Hama. The offensive was brought to a halt and terrorists pushed back to their release points. Terrorists incurred substantial damages: the government forces killed 2,400 militants and destroyed 27 tanks, 21 multiple rocket launchers, 14 infantry fighting vehicles, 160 pickup trucks and 25 mortars.

Syrian army’s success

The Syrian government troops were able to repel the attacks by 3,000 terrorists in late September and break the blockade of the road to Es Sukhne, according to Rudskoi.

“In late September, the chieftains of the ISIL [the former name of the Islamic State] made the attempt of a large-scale counter-offensive into the depth of the Syrian territory, which involved about 3,000 militants. This grouping was created also through the re-deployment of detachments from Iraq,” Rudskoi said.

“Currently, the operation to liberate the city and free the road has been completed and all the terrorist formations have been eliminated,” the Russian general said.

According to Rudskoi, “over a thousand terrorists with tanks, multiple launch rocket systems and artillery crossed the Syrian border near the town of Abu Kamal from the Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Nineveh where the operation of the US-led coalition is under way” while another 450 IS militants attacked the government troops’ positions from the area near the community of Al Tanf.

Separate terrorist groups were still able to blockade the Es Sukhne – Deir ez-Zor road and also advance towards the town of al-Karatain, the general said.

“As a result of decisive operations by the government troops with the support of the Russian air task force, the terrorists failed to achieve their goals and the ISIL counter-offensive was thwarted while the terrorists’ main forces were eliminated,” the head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Department said.

The Syrian government troops are expanding the bridgehead on the east bank of the Euphrates, successfully developing their offensive in the north and the south of the river, according to Rudskoi.

“The bridgehead on the east bank of the Euphrates River is being expanded. The offensive in the north and the south of the river is developing successfully,” the general said.

The engineer units of the Syrian army have laid out three pontoon and one bridge ferries across the Euphrates with the help of Russian military specialists to provide for the uninterrupted logistics supplies of the grouping and deliver humanitarian aid to civilians, the Russian general said.

The general also said that Syria’s government forces had entered Mayadin, the largest city under control of the Islamic State.

“Over the past 10 days, the units of General Hassan Sukhel have entered Mayadin, which remains the major settlement that is under control of ISIL (former name of IS),” Rudskoy said.

In Mayadin, in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor Governorate, the terrorists planned to set up a powerful fortified region and pulled in their most combat-effective forces. “Currently, the city is fully seized and the operation to liberate its central quarters is about to be completed,” he said.

Syrian government troops have also completely eliminated Islamic State units near the city of Akerbat. In all, militants have been driven out of 57 populated localities over the past month, Rudskoi said.

“In central Syria, government troops have completely eliminated Islamic State units besieged near the city of Akerbat. Over the past month, Islamic State terrorists have been driven out of 57 populated localities,” he said, adding that government control has been established over an area of 236 square kilometers.

Apart from that, de-escalation zones continue to function in southern Syria, in Eastern Ghouta and ion the north of the province of Homs, and near Tell Rifaat. “Russian military police officers are ensuring the observance of the ceasefire in these zones,” Rudskoi said.

More:
http://tass.com/defense/970549

The Telltale Signs the Western Oligarchs Are Doomed – By Phil Butler

Author: Phil Butler

 

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Everyone hates sore losers, so why do the globalists and their puppet media still exist? Reading today’s headlines, listening to failed politicians sputtering and stuttering around the world, I’m constantly dismayed by the apathy and ignorance of the world’s populations. Isn’t it abundantly clear by now, Vladimir Putin and Russia hold the winning cards?

Before I go on, let’s get something straight. I am a patriotic American who loves his country and her people. Nobody on God’s Earth can prove otherwise. Now that this is settled, let me make something else abundantly clear. America has no positive future without the kinship and partnership of Russia. If the globalists elite who’ve admittedly set themselves up as the new world order (See leaders from Obama to Trump admitting same) remain on the present geo-policy course, then war or certain economic collapse will ensue. Many of the world’s leaders already know this and are making moves to side with Russia should the inevitable happen suddenly. But before I go on, let’s look at some sore loser media headlines.

The western world’s most famous “fake news” tabloid these days, Newsweek continues its unending tabloid Russophobia with “Putin’s Birthday: Protests Call for his Exit as he Hits Retirement Age Under Russian Law”. I’ll not get into how or why Newsweek became a media whore for the globalists, this Pew Research analysis of the magazine industry should explain this succinctly. The fact there is virtually no dissent aimed at Vladimir Putin inside Russia shows once again the Russian leader’s winning ways. I can almost hear the average Newsweek policy genius reader glowing with agreement, “Hey, that’s right, it’s illegal for Putin to be president anymore!” As if the universe will turn over, and America will elect Hillary Clinton and become truly great again of Putin is gone!

Next in the sequence of news delivered by Google, I guess the Washington Post and the New York Times bombardment this morning was not harsh enough for the NSA’s favorite tool, and AFP bit parroted by The Times of India was highlighted for me. “Russia is not Putin’s says Pussy Riot’s Alekhina” stands out as a total waste of digital news space. Once again, the mainstream and the elites running media in the west lost – this woman is a nobody, and nobody cares. Another desperation grab at attention, that´s all AFP is trying to do here. Enter what we know about CNN and admitted traffic sensationalism. The typical Times of India readr chimes in in broken English, “Oooh, who, who, dat pooseee riot is a riot man! Dey some crazeee beaches” Give the world a break AFP.

Over at CNN the news network most in need of viewers even let’s US President Donald Trump off the hook for a day to paint a picture of Russia’s Putin alongside North Korean’s Kim wringing their hands at America’s most recent tragedy, which Trump is supposed to be distracted by. “As Trump deals with tragedy, Putin and Kim regroup” is a fabrication, a propaganda tidbit meant for total idiots, and insult to intelligent life forms. The story attempts to cement together all America’s justifiable and unreasonable fears into one comfortable globalist narrative – everything is Putin’s fault, and anything that is not can be solved by bombing North Korea to hell. Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock ends up aiding and abetting evil tyrants Putin and Kim in this fairytale.

Finally, the grand mucky muck of news, financial “go to” Bloomberg proclaims, “As Putin Turns 65, His Power is Slowly Waning”. I had to take a moment or two to stop laughing at seeing the ultimate loser, nobody Russian blogger Alexei Navalny in the feature photograph of this major Bloomberg story. If this nincompoop western oligarch patsy is the best the Rothschilds and the American deep state can come up with to foil Vladimir Putin, they need to pack up and run for their lives. The typical big chested banker idiot reading Bloomberg chimes in, “Thank God Putin’s on the way out, maybe my energy stocks can finally split when Israel annexes the West Bank for good!” Yeah, American investors don’t give a damn about dead soldiers or babies. ROI is the name of the Wall Street game.

I could go on and on, but the point of this report is to show the mediocrity I reveal in my upcoming book on this media war, the pitiful essence of failed democracy and capitalism – or the bred mediocrity of the elites who’ve lost the Great Game. The bas sportsmanship and loser ethics you see in news against Putin every day, play out in my work “Putin’s Praetorians: The Top Kremlin Trolls Confess”, which is out this month. The reason for my plug here is to frame the reality that Vladimir Putin has won at every turn not simply because of his or his team’s genius, but because of the losers they have faced. Let’s take a brief look at what Vladimir Putin has done versus this elite world order and its trillion dollar media machine.

Even if we examine Putin’s efforts the last few years from a western globalist’s perspective, his strategies seems flawless. When the EU and NATO threatened Russia’s doorstep Ukraine, the Russian leader simply secured the frontiers by ensuring the naval base at Sevastopol remained secure, and that the Donbass would serve as a literal “no man’s land” should Kiev choose to arm up with NATO. Take note, this is not actually what Putin did, but from the Washington think tank and Pentagon perspective, the event amount to a win for Putin. Next, in a bid to weaken Putin and Russia, the western oligarchs imposed massive sanctions that only ended up making Putin’s country and his position stronger. Again, a win for Putin without hardly trying. In the meanwhile, as western media and politicians turned up the heat on the Russian leader, American and its coalition elevated the proxy war in Syria to thwart and Israeli enemy, and to cut off Putin’s South Stream pipeline plan. Turkey was leveraged to shoot down Russia’s airmen, and the west threatened with a wider regional conflict. Again, Putin outmaneuvered western strategists and ended up in full alliance with Erdogan and Turkey. Through the efficient use of military force against ISIL and “moderate” terrorists propped up by the US, the Saudis, and Israel, Russia’s leader made absolute fools of Washington and its satraps in London, Brussels, and Berlin.

As it stands now, with the mediocre losers in the west pounding out the same idiotic tune in media, Vladimir Putin is on the cusp of creating a grand coalition of his own, one that could end US dominance on the world stage forever. Putin’s recent meetings with Turkey’s Erdogan, with the Saudi King, and with Iran’s leadership show a polar shift in global influence. For me, the inevitable emergence of Russia as a leader on the global stage is happening no matter what. While Trump stomps about threatening at the UN, Putin does not even waste the time attending. Instead, Russia’s leader leverages wins in Syria and elsewhere, along with the trend away from dollar dominance, to forge new friendships and possibilities. The “loser” mentality American and European dinosaurs have adopted, it leaves them looking like fools who simply scramble to keep up, or to keep afloat at all. And the “loser” narrative in their media is the clearest indicator. Look at what Washington is trying to do to Russia’s RT in America. It’s pitiful to see a tiny by comparison media effort, so feared by the trillion dollar ad network the western oligarchs created. Now they have Google, Twitter, Facebook, the US Senate, cyberwarfare companies, the technocrats, universities, and God knows who else – all attempting to mitigate the tiny voices of dissent. It’s pitiful.

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
https://journal-neo.org/2017/10/11/the-telltale-signs-the-western-oligarchs-are-doomed/

The writing’s on the wall – Empire destroying wars are coming to America under Trump – By Michael Krieger – Liberty Blitzkrieg

There are a variety of reasons Trump supporters voted the way they did in November, but one clear message many found attractive was the idea his administration would be driven by an “America First” doctrine.

America first meant a lot of things to a lot of different people, running the gamut from economic populism and immigration, to an avoidance of barbaric and costly overseas wars. The economic populism part was the biggest ruse from day one, a betrayal which (as we had seen under Obama) became undeniable as soon as he started appointing lifelong swamp-dwelling billionaires and Goldman Sachs partners to run his administration.

Irrespective of who you elect, Wall Street runs the empire, as Trump proved once again.

The coming massive pivot when it comes to destructive wars abroad will take a little longer, but the writing’s been on the wall for months. I’ve published several posts on the topic, with the most popular one titled, Prepare for Impact – This is the Beginning of the End for U.S. Empire. Here’s an excerpt:

This is not the sort of thing you see in a confident, brave, and civilized nation, it’s the sort of stuff you’d expect to see toward the end. It’s the stuff of craven war-mongers, of dishonest cowards, of a totally deranged and very dangerous media. The signs are everywhere; imperial decline is set to accelerate rapidly in the coming years…

Expect more of all the above as the U.S. empire enters its most devastating phase of collapse. Think about what it might mean for you and your family and prepare accordingly.

When I compare who Trump currently has advising him and who he’s getting closer to, the future looks increasingly ominous. This is especially true when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal. Irrespective of what you think of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, these two look like a couple of the most sane humans on earth compared to some of the others Trump’s cozying up to. I alluded to this earlier today on Twitter.

The key event I believe will set the groundwork for a coming disastrous confrontation with Iran, is Trump’s highly anticipated announcement that the Iran nuclear agreement is against U.S. interests. This wouldn’t immediately end the deal or lead to new U.S. sanctions, but it would represent the first step in heading in that direction. A direction I believe will ultimately lead to US aggression against Iran in a similar fashion as Iraq, except this miscalculation will have even more disastrous consequences for the American empire.

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand what’s going on with regard to Iran and who now has Trump’s ear on foreign policy. Let’s start with some color from a recent New York Times article:

President Trump is expected to overrule his top national security advisers and decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, according to people who have been briefed on the matter, a decision that would reopen a volatile political debate on Iran but is likely to leave in place the landmark deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

By declining to certify Iran’s compliance, Mr. Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. Even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now.

If Trump isn’t listening to Tillerson or Mattis, who is he listening to?

Congress will have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions, which could sink the deal, or use the prospect of that to force Iran – and the other parties to the deal – back to the negotiating table to make changes in the agreement.

That is the approach favored by Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, who has emerged as a leading hard-liner on Iran and is working closely with the White House to devise its strategy. On Thursday, Mr. Cotton met with Mr. Trump to discuss Iran and other issues.

“Congress and the president, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face,” Mr. Cotton said in a speech on Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. Reimposing sanctions, he said, would be a “backward-looking step.”

The deal is also contentious inside the administration. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have both urged Mr. Trump not to back out of it, in part because that would free Iran to begin producing uranium and reprocessing plutonium immediately, not after 13 years, as is stipulated in the agreement.

But Mr. Trump, after twice certifying the deal, has warned his aides that he would not do so again. As a result, the administration is looking for ways to claim Iran is in violation of the “spirit” of the accord, even if it has complied with inspection criteria. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Iran was in compliance; when it has found minor violations, they have been quickly fixed.

Tom Cotton is as dangerous a war hawk as exists in America today. In fact, the guy’s such a total lunatic, I’ve been warning followers on Twitter about him for years. Since most of you probably aren’t caught up on him, definitely take a moment to read the following article published by Alternet in 2015, 10 Horrifying Facts About GOP Senator Tom Cotton.

We should probably go ahead and update this list as it didn’t even mention how Cotton claims the U.S. has an “under-incarceration” problem even though it has only 5% of the world’s population, yet 25% of its prisoners. Seems like a swell guy.

Jokes aside, Tom Cotton might actually be the most dangerous person in the entire U.S. Senate (which is saying a lot), so the fact he’s become so cozy with Trump on foreign policy is extremely dangerous. Indeed, he’s become so influential, Politico recently conducted an in-depth interview with him where he made his positions quite clear. Here are a few highlights:

This is a moment of truth for President Trump’s national security team. He is set to overrule both his secretaries of State and Defense on the Iran nuclear deal this week, declaring it no longer in the U.S. “national interest” in explicit contradiction to their public position. And if they don’t like it, Senator Tom Cotton says, then they should get out.

Cotton, who has personally advised Trump in recent days about the new Iran strategy he is set to release this week, stopped short of saying either embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or Defense Secretary Jim Mattis should in fact resign. But his comments were nonetheless a striking acknowledgement of the giant rift that has opened up in the midst of the Trump team over foreign policy.

The interview with Cotton took place before this latest explosive twist, but even then it was clear a new rift of significance was opening up inside the Republican foreign policy world. I spoke with Cotton Thursday, the day after Tillerson’s unusual press conference to deny press reports he was considering quitting, and just a couple hours after Cotton was summoned to the White House for a private Oval Office meeting with Trump to discuss the Iran strategy. In the interview, Cotton did not really try to paper over the rift or offer the usual assurances that it would all be papered over. Instead, when I asked him directly whether there would be resignations, Cotton did not say there wouldn’t be, only that he did not believe they were “imminent.”

Because Cotton today is one of the few Senate Republicans who pay close attention to foreign policy who is still out there making Corker’s initial case for engagement with Trump, and he insists it’s paying off with substantive shifts in Trump’s thinking on subjects as varied as how to deal with Russia and the continuation of the war in Afghanistan.

Until now, Trump has shied away from outright confrontation with the experienced hands he’s hired to oversee his national security policy. But the Iran deal now seems to have finally forced a public rupture.

Cotton, who has repeatedly consulted with Trump and other top White House officials in recent days, appears to be on the winning side, pushing Trump to adopt the formula his administration has now settled on of refusing to re-certify the Iran deal to Congress but holding off – for now – asking Congress to blow it up by imposing new sanctions. Iran “is on the president’s mind right now, probably more than anything,” Cotton says, and he says he believes Trump will take the step of not certifying as a way to send “a very important signal to Congress and to our E.U. plus three partners and to Iran that this president is not going to abide by a disastrous nuclear deal.”

Cotton gave a lengthy address at the Council on Foreign Relations the same day as Mattis’ testimony taking the opposite view – and a link to it was soon tweeted out approvingly by an Iran deal hardliner inside the administration, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

I’m glad Nikki Haley came up, as she’s a certified grade-A maniac and bloodthirsty neocon. While she’s dangerous enough at the U.N., there’s talk that she could ultimately replace Tillerson as Secretary of State. Any combination of Cotton and Haley moving into increased prominence within the Trump circle of influence effectively guarantees more disastrous war in the Middle East.

The writing’s on the wall and you can feel free to ignore it at your own risk. Beyond what I outlined in this piece, a key question is how will Trump sell the coming conflicts to his base, and what will the ultimate implications of the coming wars be? I plan to address both those things in tomorrow’s post.

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