Russia joins Damascus’ offensive on terrorist-held East Ghouta – pulverizes defenses with heavy air raids – By Andrew Illingworth -Al Masdar News (SOTT)

russian jet

The Russian air grouping in Syria has officially joined the Syrian Army’s looming East Ghouta offensive, backing up heavy raids conducted by government warplanes against militant position across the region on Monday with many of its own strikes.

Military-affiliated sources report that Russian airpower conducted heavy precision strikes across multiple rebel-held districts east of Damascus city targeting militant tactical positions, gatherings and movements.

As of the last reports two hours ago, Russian jets were still carrying-out raids over East Ghouta.

In particular, it is believed that the Russian combat aircraft have placed considerable emphasis on striking rebel fire support positions (such as anti-tank missile dug-outs and heavy machine gun nests) with precision weapons.

During the past couple of days, opposition sources have claimed that Russian warplanes raided East Ghouta, however all such reports are untrue and it is not until around midnight on Monday to Tuesday that Russian jets started to conduct strikes against militant targets throughout the region.

Comment: As usual, the U.S. is not pleased that Syria and Russia are obliterating terrorist forces in Syria, calling for an “immediate cessation” of the “regime’s” “violations”. In U.S.-speak, killing terrorists is a violation… of something. The U.S. will only ever be pleased if Syria gives up and subjects itself to the rule of fanatic terrorists. Thankfully, that’s not going to happen. Thanks to Russia.

 

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The US Empire’s disastrous role in Syria has to end – By Jeffrey D. Sachs – Project Syndicate (SOTT)

syria destruction

America’s official narrative has sought to conceal the scale and calamitous consequences of US efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. That is understandable, because US efforts are in blatant violation of international law, which bars UN member states from supporting military action to overthrow other members’ governments.

Much of the carnage that has ravaged Syria during the past seven years is due to the actions of the United States and its allies in the Middle East. Now, faced with an alarming risk of a renewed escalation of fighting, it’s time for the United Nations Security Council to step in to end the bloodshed, based on a new framework agreed by the Council’s permanent members.

Here are the basics. In 2011, in the context of the Arab Spring, the US government, in conjunction with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel, decided to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, even though overthrowing another country’s government amounts to a blatant violation of international law. We know that in 2012, if not earlier, President Barack Obama authorized the CIA to work with America’s allies in providing support to rebel forces composed of disaffected Syrians as well as non-Syrian fighters. US policymakers evidently expected Assad to fall quickly, as had occurred with the governments of Tunisia and Egypt in the early months of the Arab Spring.

The Assad regime is led by the minority Alawi Shia sect in a country where Alawites account for just 10% of the population, Sunni Muslims account for 75%, Christians make up 10%, and 5% are others, including Druze. The regional powers behind Assad’s regime include Iran and Russia, which has a naval base on Syria’s Mediterranean coastline.

Whereas America’s goal in seeking to topple Assad was mainly to undercut Iranian and Russian influence, Turkey’s motive was to expand its influence in former Ottoman lands and, more recently, to counter Kurdish ambitions for territorial autonomy, if not statehood, in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia wanted to undermine Iran’s influence in Syria while expanding its own, while Israel, too, aimed to counter Iran, which threatens Israel through Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria near the Golan Heights, and Hamas in Gaza. Qatar, meanwhile, wanted to bring a Sunni Islamist regime to power.

The armed groups supported by the US and allies since 2011 were assembled under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. In fact, there was no single army, but rather competing armed groups with distinct backers, ideologies, and goals. The fighters ranged from dissident Syrians and autonomy-seeking Kurds to Sunni jihadists backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

While vast resources were devoted to overthrowing Assad, the effort ultimately failed, but not before causing massive bloodshed and displacing millions of Syrians. Many fled to Europe, fomenting Europe’s refugee crisis and a surge in political support for Europe’s anti-immigrant extreme right.

There were four main reasons for the failure to overthrow Assad. First, Assad’s regime had backing among not only Alawites, but also Syrian Christians and other minorities who feared a repressive Sunni Islamist regime. Second, the US-led coalition was countered by Iran and Russia. Third, when a splinter group of jihadists split away to form the Islamic State (ISIS), the US diverted significant resources to defeating it, rather than to toppling Assad. Finally, the anti-Assad forces have been deeply and chronically divided; for example, Turkey is in open conflict with the Kurdish fighters backed by the US.

All of these reasons for failure remain valid today. The war is at a stalemate. Only the bloodshed continues.

America’s official narrative has sought to conceal the scale and calamitous consequences of US efforts – in defiance of international law and the UN Charter – to overthrow Assad. While the US vehemently complains about Russian and Iranian influence in Syria, America and its allies have repeatedly violated Syrian sovereignty. The US government mischaracterizes the war as a civil war among Syrians, rather than a proxy war involving the US, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar.

In July 2017, US President Donald Trump announced the end of CIA support for the Syrian rebels. In practice, though, US engagement continues, though now it is apparently aimed more at weakening Assad than overthrowing him. As part of America’s continued war-making, the Pentagon announced in December that US forces would remain indefinitely in Syria, ostensibly to support anti-Assad rebel forces in areas captured from ISIS, and of course without the assent of the Syrian government.

The war is in fact at risk of a new round of escalation. When Assad’s regime recently attacked anti-Assad rebels, the US coalition launched airstrikes that killed around 100 Syrian troops and an unknown number of Russian fighters. Following this show of force, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis disingenuously stated that, “Obviously, we are not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war.” In addition, Israel recently attacked Iranian positions in Syria.

The US and its allies should face reality and accept the persistence of Assad’s regime, despicable as it may be.

Comment: The Assad regime is not despicable. Assad has long held the majority support of the Syrian people for the good that he brings to the country. If he were despicable, he would have long ago sold out his country to American imperialists and its corporate overlords and allowed Syria to become another vassal state of the US to have its natural resources taken and its wealth confiscated. That he did not do that shows Assad’s quality as a Syrian leader. The author should be ashamed of calling such a person despicable.

The UN Security Council, backed by the US, Russia, and the other major powers, should step in with peacekeepers to restore Syrian sovereignty and urgent public services, while blocking attempts at vengeance by the Assad regime against former rebels or their civilian supporters.

Comment: Assad has allowed, many times over the years, for terrorists to surrender and face no consequences. There is no reason to be concerned about the Assad government taking vengenance on anyone, especially innocent civilians. It’s rather strange that the author would even consider it necessary to suggest such a thing.

Yes, the Assad regime would remain in power, and Iran and Russia would maintain their influence in Syria. But the US official delusion that America can call the shots in Syria by choosing who rules, and with which allies, would end. It’s long past time for a far more realistic approach, in which the Security Council pushes Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, and Israel into a pragmatic peace that ends the bloodshed and allows the Syrian people to resume their lives and livelihoods.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, is Director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development and of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. His books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth, The Age of Sustainable Development, and, most recently, Building the New American Economy.

All eyes on the Middle East as all-out war between Israel and Iran becomes a greater possibility – By Darius Shahtahmasebi (The Anti-Media) (SOTT)

Middle East war

Over the weekend, Israel used the long-standing adversarial threat of Iran as a pretext to launch a barrage of attacks against targets in Syrian territory. According to the Israeli side, an Iranian drone launched from Syria flew deep into Israeli airspace, which prompted Israel to not only down the drone, but to also target the base the drone was allegedly launched from in Syria.

In turn, Syria activated its air defenses, which saw Israel lose one of its fighter jets soon after. Unhappy with this result, Israel launched a number of retaliatory strikes against Syria’s air defenses, including bases allegedly staffed with Iranian personnel as opposed to Iran’s mere proxy forces. Israel claimed it successfully destroyed half of Syria’s air defenses, and because this is allegedly the first time Israel has actually struck Iranian targets as opposed to Iranian proxies, the weekend’s developments undoubtedly represent an escalation.

We are seeing a renegotiation of the rules of the game with regard to the kind of military activity that each side tolerates in the other,” said Ofer Zalzberg, the senior analyst for Israel/Palestine at the International Crisis Group. “We will see more and more friction between the parties, given that we are seeing more and more this sense that Assad has the upper hand [against Syrian rebels]”, he added.

It’s worth noting that Tehran denied it launched the drone in the first place, stating its forces are in Syria in an advise-and-assist capacity only, yet western media has taken Israel’s claim at face value. Perhaps a drone did violate Israeli territory, but the implication that Iran launched it still requires further proof given the drone almost certainly came from Syria, which has a government and military of its own. Further, a pertinent question worth examining is why Iran would launch a drone into Israeli territory in the first place. As the Atlantic observed:

“The story may well be true. But in the absence of further information, including forensic evidence from the wreckage, one must wonder what would compel Iran to make such an incursion at a time when some in the country are trying to persuade the European signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal to stand by its side and not cave to the Trump administration’s attempt to torpedo it. This would seem an inopportune moment for provocation.”

Israel has already admitted to bombing Syria well over 100 times since the conflict in Syria began in 2011, and that point alone is enough to turn this debate on its head: Why is it okay for Israel to violate Syria (and Lebanon’s) airspace over 100 times over the course of half a decade while it remains largely unacceptable for Syria to do the same a single time? Surely this double standard cannot sustain a workable and civil international community.

Further, the drone itself was reportedly a surveillance drone. It posed no immediate threat to Israeli life compared to, say, Israel’s sophisticated bombers, which routinely violate Lebanon’s (and now Jordan’s) airspace to take out targets in Syria.

In light of the fact that Anti-Media has warned about rising tensions between Israel, Syria, Iran, and Lebanon multiple times, examining what’s still to come has become a necessity.

“Winter is coming from the north where we have a concrete threat,” Orit Perlov, a social media analyst for the Institute for National Security Studies, told the Jerusalem Post in an interview just days before the Israeli jet was downed in Syria.

VICE believes the situation did not escalate even further following the weekend’s activities primarily because of Russia’s diplomatic intervention, which was aimed at de-escalating tensions between the two rival nations. Haaretz observed that the effect of Russia’s intervention showed “once again who’s the real boss in the Middle East.” Even the Atlantic is calling on Russia to broker the peace between the two countries, stating:

“Moscow may be reluctant to assume a political role it has shown little capacity for playing. But as the dominant power in Syria that controls the skies, it has no choice. Unlike any other actor, moreover, it enjoys good relations with all the main actors: Israel, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime. There is no reasonable alternative to Russia as balancing power and mediator.”

However, the New York Times noted that even though Russia controls Syrian airspace, Israel received no warning regarding the alleged drone activity.

Despite Trump’s diehard pro-Israeli rhetoric, the U.S. is nowhere to be seen at a time when Israelis would probably value its American counterpart the most. In an op-ed published on Sunday in Haaretz, Barack Obama’s former ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro noted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was taking a trip through Jordan, Turkey (which is also currently violating Syrian territory), Egypt, Kuwait and even Lebanon – but not Israel.

This reality alone should give some of us hope that at the end of the day, an outright conflict cannot erupt between Iran and Israel without reckoning first with Russia on some level. According to Haaretz, Vladimir Putin intervened during the recent spat and, in a phone call, asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid moves that could lead to “a new round of dangerous consequences for the region.”

Haaretz also believes Russia is concerned about the proximity of the Israeli bombings on sites where Russian soldiers are currently stationed. Given reports are emerging that U.S. airstrikes may have killed a significant number of Russian operatives on the ground in Syria, Russia may be much more irked by the recent developments than first imagined.

Right now, Israel sees the conflict differently. Haaretz stated that Israeli airstrikes were part of what the IDF referred to as the “war between the wars,” designed to undermine Hezbollah’s attempts to empower itself. But the added risk now is the fact that Syria and/or Iran believe they can challenge Israeli airstrikes in the future, meaning one wrong move could catapult the tit-for-tat attacks into something far more extensive.

“We need to prepare ourselves operationally and intelligence-wise for the mounting threat,” Brig Gen Amit Fisher, the Israel Defense Forces chief responsible for the Syrian frontier, told troops on Sunday, according to the Guardian. “The big test will be the test of war.”

The Guardian also noted that the IDF has enhanced its defenses in northern Israel, close to the Syrian border, while the Jerusalem Post cited witnesses who claimed a convoy of missile-defense batteries had moved north.

“That’s the price of war. My assessment is that the incident isn’t over and that we’re now only in a timeout,” Maj. Gen Amiram Levin also told a local radio station, according to the Guardian.

Iran, for its part, has issued equally stern threats.

“The Syrian nation proved this time that it will respond to any act of aggression, as the era of hit and run is over,” Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council said.

“Iran can create a hell for the Zionists,” Hossein Salami, the deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also allegedly said.

Right now, the concern for Israel is that the Syrian government might try to reclaim the Syrian side of the disputed Golan Heights region, a former part of Syria that was seized and then occupied by Israel. After the conflict erupted in 2011, Syria lost its side of the Golan Heights to armed rebel groups, which have effectively operated under free air support from Israel – but this might change in the not-too-distant future. However, this would put Israel in a worse off position than it was in prior to the conflict, as the over-extension of Assad’s forces means he may have to rely on Iranian proxies like Hezbollah to retake the area for him. If that happens, it is almost certain that we will see Israel further widen its involvement in Syria to combat this alleged threat.

Whether or not this will eventually lead to an all-out war with Iran is still unclear. Last year, a top Israeli general tasked with writing his country’s defense policy admitted that Israel could not take on Iran’s military alone and would have to rely on assistance from the U.S.

According to Ofer Zalsberg, the risk of “full-fledged war, conventional war, between Israel and Iran, is still very low.” Instead, the real risk is that a war between Israel and Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy on the ground, is “increasing by the day,” according to Zalsberg.

The recent spats came at a time immediately after U.S. troops had arrived in Israel for joint military exercises aimed at preparing to defend Israel from a Hezbollah rocket attack.

In September of last year, Israel held its largest military drill in 20 years. It was specifically designed to simulate an invasion of Lebanon to combat Hezbollah.

Darius Shahtahmasebi has completed a Double Degree in Law and Japanese from the University of Otago, with an interest in human rights, international law and journalism. He’s a fully qualified lawyer in two separate jurisdictions, and writes about foreign policy for Anti-Media. Contact Darius: darius.shahtahmasebi@theantimedia.org. Support Darius’ work on Patreon: patreon.com/thetvsleaking

Tehran’s retaliation will ‘level Tel Aviv to the ground,’ Iranian official warns Israel – By RT

Tehran’s retaliation will ‘level Tel Aviv to the ground,’ Iranian official warns Israel
Israel’s capital will be leveled “to the ground” by an immediate retaliatory strike if Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on his threat to attack the Islamic Republic, an Iranian politician has threatened.

Waving a piece of an Iranian drone, allegedly downed over northern Israel last week, the Israeli Prime Minister last Sunday warned Tehran against testing Israel’s resolve. “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself,” Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Munich Security Conference, after Israeli forces conducted a massive cross-border intrusion into Syria to strike Iranian targets.

The threat seems to have struck a nerve in Tehran. Iranian conservative politician, Mohsen Rezaee, who is also secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, warned that the Islamic Republic stands ready to retaliate and strike Tel Aviv before the Israeli PM even gets a chance to flee the capital.

“About Netanyahu’s unwise words, I should say that if they carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground and will not give any opportunity to Netanyahu to flee,” Rezaee told al-Manar news channel on Monday, according to Fars News Agency. “The US and Israeli leaders don’t know Iran and don’t understand the power of resistance and therefore, they continuously face defeat.”

READ MORE: Israel threatens to ‘bite hard’ after downing of its fighter jet in Syria

Tel Aviv has repeatedly warned Iran against meddling in Israeli affairs by supplying advanced missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel also remains very concerned over the foothold the Islamic Republic has in Syria. Netanyahu, who branded the milestone nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers a “historic mistake” and a threat to Israel’s survival, also continues to argue that that the deal is flawed and allows Iran to potentially produce hundreds of nuclear weapons that can strike Israel.

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In-depth analysis: US protecting ISIS to weaken rivals, justify and expand indefinite US occupation of Syria – By Steven Chovanec(Insurge Intelligence) (SOTT)

manbij fighters

Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council, in Manbij, of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Syrian Democratic Forces recently captured the al-Omar oil fields of Deir Ezzor with support from ISIS

The dominant view of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), Operation Inherent Resolve, is that its fundamental goal is the defeat of ISIS.

And so, in the wake of the routing of ISIS from Iraq and Syria, the core justification for an ongoing US military presence in Syria is ensuring that no post-mortem ISIS insurgency arises.

That the US is unequivocally opposed to ISIS is simply taken for granted.

Yet a closer look at the history of US involvement shows that counterterrorism has been a lesser concern relative to geopolitical and strategic goals. Whenever the goals of expanding territorial control or weakening rivals conflicts with the goal of opposing ISIS, the entity was either ignored or even empowered in pursuit of these more paramount concerns.

In some ways, by providing a pretext for extended military operations on foreign soil, and by helping to diminish the military might of the Syrian regime and its allies, some coalition officials have seen the Islamic State as a potentially beneficial phenomenon to the wider ends of weakening the Syrian state and opposing Iranian influence in the Levant.

Leveraging the Caliphate

In 2015, ISIS executed an unprecedented advance in Syria.

Audio leaks would later surface of then Secretary of State John Kerry explaining that the Obama administration saw this expansion as beneficial to the US position.

Seeing that this could be used to pressure Assad, the threat of state-collapse was something to be “watched” and “managed,” rather than deterred. “We were watching,” Kerry said:

“… and we know that this was growing… We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage – that Assad would then negotiate.”

Yet this was not simply a case of exploiting events that were entirely out of control. At this time, Obama’s regional allies had been conducting major influxes of support to jihadist factions among the rebels, including ISIS, for years in their bid to oust Assad.

US intelligence oversaw and was well aware of these policies. As Kerry’s observations suggest, the motive was that with “Daesh growing in strength”, the US military would be able to “manage” this development while the expansion of ISIS would mean that “Assad would then negotiate.”

This all changed when Russia, in response to the expanding ISIS movement, intervened. With Russia in the game, regime-change looked like an increasingly dwindling prospect.

Awkwardly, Russia was “carrying out more sorties in a day in Syria than the US-led coalition has done in a month,” while also targeting ISIS oil tankers, something the US-led coalition was reluctant to do – to the point that large convoys of oil trucks carrying ISIS oil were able to operate efficiently and in broad daylight.

The embarrassing contradictions of the “anti-ISIS” campaign were becoming difficult to explain away. Instead of being “degraded” or “destroyed”, ISIS was actually expanding during the bulk of the anti-ISIS campaign.

Durham University’s Dr. Christopher Davidson, one of the world’s leading scholars in Middle East affairs, has explained that:

“… the Islamic State was effectively on the same side as the West, especially in Syria, and in all its other warzones was certainly in the same camp as the West’s regional allies.”

Moreover, “on a strategic level, its big gains had made it by far the best battlefield asset to those who sought the permanent dismemberment of Syria and the removal of [the Iran-leaning] Nouri Maliki in Iraq.”

Therefore, the trick for the West was “trying to find the right balance between being seen to take action but yet still allowing the Islamic State to prosper.”

Citing a prophetic 2008 RAND Corporation report, Davidson explains that the “illusory campaign that would eventually need to be waged against the Islamic State” would therefore mainly consist of “the establishment of certain red lines” along a “contain and react approach.” This would “involve deploying perimeters around areas where there are concentrations of transnational jihadists,” while making sure to limit any action to only “periodically launching air/missile strikes against high-value targets.”

In other words, Russia’s intervention essentially called Washington’s bluff. Seeing this, and also seeing Syria increasingly in a position to reclaim those territories that ISIS had been so effective at denying them, it appeared that it was time to start getting serious about putting an end to the Caliphate.

Bombing Syria… Again

In terms of its proven effectiveness at weakening the militaries of Syria and Hezbollah, and of draining the resources of Syria’s sponsors, gaining maximum strategic benefit from Islamic State’s eradication would depend not only upon handing over administration of retaken territories to proxies on the ground, but also on ensuring that its guns were primarily being pointed towards Syria and Iran.

While ISIS was indeed fought on certain fronts where it sat upon lucrative energy resources and vital infrastructure, its fighters frequently operated away from allies and toward the front-lines of rivals.

For example, during ISIS’ 2015 surge, whose “threat” towards the Syrian Army (SAA) was to be “managed” by the US as leverage, they successfully encircled and besieged Syrian forces in Deir Ezzor.

deir ezzor map

© Newsweek
Figure 1. Map of Syria showing siege of Deir Ezzor (circled in blue) as of August 2015.

Deir Ezzor is important strategically because of its concentration of energy resources, housing the country’s single largest oil deposit, the al-Omar fields.

The only effective force fighting ISIS for the West was the Kurdish YPG militias, also called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who were concentrated along the country’s northern borders. Therefore, the US “sphere-of-influence” that was to be carved from ISIS’ decline was geographically limited to the territory adjacent to this region.

Since the important Deir Ezzor resources were therefore “in-reach”, it was imperative that the Syrian Army did not persevere against the Islamic State and find themselves in a position to take them before the US-backed SDF were able to.

rojova manbij map

© Daily Kos
Figure 2. Map of US-backed SDF advances vs. ISIS (yellow) in Syria, from September 2015 to March 2016.

It is perhaps not very surprising that an apparent coalition attack on SAA positions in Deir Ezzor occurred only months after ISIS began besieging the city, killing three soldiers and wounding another thirteen. The US-led coalition bombings effectively assisted the ISIS advance at the expense of Assad’s forces.

While the US vehemently denied responsibility for the attack, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a pro-opposition monitoring group that receives funding from Western governments, the jets that carried out the attack were “likely to be from the coalition.”

While this could admittedly be chalked up to a one-off mistake, it was not the only attack of its kind.

Almost a year later, as the Syrian government was still holding out against the siege, US-led coalition warplanes launched a much larger and sustained attack, dropping over a dozen airstrikes that reportedly killed dozens of Syrian soldiers while wounding at least a hundred others.

The attack was a major boost to the besieging Islamic State, as one British journalist described it: “in the immediate aftermath, Isis swarmed forward and cut the city in half,” further tightening the noose around the SAA while directly threatening their airborne supply-line.

With the facts this time undeniable, and eager to distance themselves from the obvious strategic advantage received, the US admitted culpability but denied it was anything more than a mistake. The media quickly accepted these denials, overlooking major inconsistencies that remained.

For instance, the official report revealed that the US had misled the Russians about the location of the intended strike, ignored intelligence reports saying Syrian soldiers were being targeted, and circumvented normal targeting procedures before the action was taken, downgrading the intelligence requirements needed to launch the strike.

As veteran journalist Gareth Porter pointed out, the “irregularities in decision-making [were] consistent with a deliberate targeting of Syrian forces.”

Another possible explanation pointed towards the open hostility that top Pentagon officials had expressed towards a joint US-Russia ceasefire deal agreed upon days earlier, which collapsed in the wake of the attack. The officials were specifically antagonistic towards requirements of cooperation with the Russian military, therefore displaying motive and ability.

A further possible explanation was provided by the director of Human Rights Watch. Using language not so different than John Kerry’s, and seemingly in agreement with such a strategy, he wrote on his Twitter handle asking: “As US kills 80 Syrian soldiers, is it sending Assad a signal for his deadly intransigence?”

What is certain is that for those committed to weakening Syria’s progress against ISIS in the much coveted northeastern “sphere-of-influence,” the coalition bombings securely tipped the balance of forces against the Syrian Army, who only managed to survive due to Russian air-power.

The strategic dimension of this is that as long as most of Deir Ezzor was occupied by ISIS, and not Syria, the option to retake it remained open. If Syria reestablished its control, taking the area would not be possible for the US-led coalition without a full declaration of war. Within this political dynamic then, the only way to make sure that the area remained “in-reach” of the coalition was by ensuring that the Islamic State remained in control and prevented further Syrian expansion.

And while conventional pundits would routinely dismiss the occurrence of such strategic considerations, they plainly did take place.

The US defense establishment thought-process was best described by the former director of the CIA, Michael Morell. Echoing Kerry’s mindset, Morell said the United States needed “to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria, we need to make the Russians pay a price,” specifically advocating the killing of Iranians and Russians operating in the country to do so. “I want to put pressure on [Assad],” he continued, “I want to put pressure on the Iranians, I want to put pressure on the Russians,” in order to make them “come to that diplomatic settlement.” Importantly, however, this was to be done “covertly,” he said, “so you don’t tell the world about it, right? You don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say, ‘we did this,’ but you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.”

Indeed, these were the very possibilities being discussed among the highest policy-planning bodies within the administration.

John Kerry himself requested on multiple occasions that the US launch missiles at “specific regime targets”, in order to “send a message” to Assad to “negotiate peace.” Like Morell, Kerry suggested the US would not have to acknowledge the attacks, but that Assad “would surely know the missiles’ return address”.

Live to Fight Another Day

The strategic benefits afforded from ISIS were perhaps best described by Thomas Friedman. Writing in the New York Times, he explained that:

“America’s goal in Syria is to create enough pressure on Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah so they will negotiate a power-sharing accord… that would also ease Assad out of power.”

Therefore, since the Islamic States’ “goal is to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria – plus its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies… we could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad.”

His assessment was that the US did not want to defeat ISIS straight away, because “if we defeat territorial ISIS in Syria now, we will only reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah.”

One way was to leave an open corridor for ISIS fighters to escape through, in areas where US-backed forces were battling the group.

This under-reported aspect of Obama’s official policy toward ISIS has quietly been kept in place during the Trump administration.

Prior to the battle in Mosul, top ISIS leaders were reportedly able to flee the city and find their way into Syria. As the battle was waged, regular ISIS units also apparently had open access to a similar escape route.

Sources described seeing hundreds of fighters fleeing Mosul and entering into Syria, heading towards Deir Ezzor and Raqqa. The strategic rationale was alluded to by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, when he told the media “if Daesh were forced out of Mosul, they were likely to go on to Syria.”

The Iraqi commander in charge of the operation would confirm that this indeed had happened. Citing intelligence information he received, the commander said that militants “were fleeing Mosul to Syria along with their families.”

Not long after this, ISIS launched an offensive in Deir Ezzor. The Guardian reported that the fighters breaking through government defenses were “primarily reinforcements coming over the border from Iraq’s Anbar province,” who then “broke through government lines, splitting its territory in half and taking control of the area where the WFP’s [World Food Program] airdrops landed.”

A year later, now during President Trump’s administration, the campaign against ISIS in Tal Afar, Iraq, ended in little over a week. Heralded as a testament to the strength of ISIS’ enemies, it soon became clear that the victory was only made possible by a major ISIS retreat.

In a direct reference to the ‘open corridor’ policy, the Iraqi commander helming the battle told reporters that “significant numbers of fighters were able to slip through a security cordon” and escape. More worryingly, this was made possible because “There was an agreement” with ISIS, according to Major General Najim al-Jobori, between the militant group and Iraqi Kurdish forces. Some of those retreating turned themselves in, while others “fled to Turkey and Syria.”

nyt article

© NYT

The report is notable given evidence, previously reported by INSURGE, that elements of Iraqi Kurdish authorities had ties to ISIS in relation to the facilitation of oil sales.

Later in Syria, the situation came to a head when the Syrian Army marched eastward and finally broke the three-year-long siege in Deir Ezzor, placing the surrounding oil-fields within their reach at a time when the US-backed SDF were also marching closer.

The New York Times would describe how “a complex confrontation is unfolding, with far more geopolitical import and risk…

“The Islamic State is expected to make its last stand not in Raqqa but in an area that encompasses the borders with Iraq and Jordan and much of Syria’s modest oil reserves, making it important in stabilizing Syria and influencing its neighboring countries. Whoever lays claim to the sparsely populated area in this 21st-century version of the Great Game not only will take credit for seizing what is likely to be the Islamic State’s last patch of a territorial caliphate in Syria, but also will play an important role in determining Syria’s future and the postwar dynamics of the region.”

It was within this context that another agreement was struck ending the battle for Raqqa. The SOHR said it:

“… received information from Knowledgeable and independent sources confirming reaching a deal between the International Coalition and the Syria Democratic Forces in one hand; and the ‘Islamic State’ organization in the other hand, and the deal stated the exit of the remaining members of the ‘Islamic State’ organization out of Al-Raqqah city.”

The SOHR “confirms that this agreement has happened.”

It was later revealed that the agreement included some 50 trucks, 13 buses, 4,000 evacuees and all of the fighters’ weapons and ammunition.

Further information came to light when a high-level participant in the negotiations blew the whistle.

Brigadier General Talal Silo, a former SDF commander who acted as the spokesman for the US’ leading partner in the fight against ISIS, and who has since defected to Turkey, explained that an “agreement was reached for the terrorists to leave, about 4,000 people, them and their families,” all but five-hundred of whom were fighters. He said that a US official had “approved the deal at a meeting with an SDF commander.”

Even more damning, and apparently confirming that specific end-destinations were included within these kinds of agreements, the commander:

“… came back with the agreement of the US administration for those terrorists to head to Deir al-Zor.”

The ISIS evacuees protected under the US-approved agreement were to head towards ISIS-controlled areas “where the Syrian army and forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad were gaining ground.” Here, they would “prevent the regimes advance.” The BBC corroborated this, tracking the convoy to one of these very areas.

Reuters also reported that the front being fought by the Syrian government in Deir Ezzor had “turned into a major base for Daesh militants after the US-backed offensive drove them out of Raqqa.” The deal, in short, directly “boosted the US fight against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” as Newsweek observed.

“According to the Americans,” Brig. Gen. Silo continued, “the regime army could reach Deir ez-Zor in six weeks” at first, “but when the regime army proceeded faster than expected, the US wanted the SDF to begin negotiations with Daesh.” The deal was then endorsed because the US “wanted a swift end to the Raqqa battle so the SDF could move on towards Deir al-Zor.”

Silo also claimed that the US and the SDF had made similar deals on at least 2 other occasions, corroborating a Syrian dissident and human rights activist who earlier claimed that a similar agreement had been reached during the battle for Mosul.

In terms of providing “a swift end to the Raqqa battle” and allowing the SDF to “move on towards Deir Ezzor”, the US-brokered deal proved a success. Just days later the SDF captured the al-Omar fields, the largest and most lucrative Syrian oil deposit.

But according to Elijah Magnier, journalist and war correspondent for the Kuwait-based Al Rai newspaper, after “the United States preceded Russia to the oil and gas Omar oilfield… ISIS then delivered [it] to the Kurds without any resistance.”

Validating this, an SDF spokesperson described how “our forces managed to liberate the fields without notable damages.”

Indeed, according to the SOHR, the “advancement achieved by the Syria Democratic Forces, in which they entered Al-Omar oilfield and took the control of it,” had occurred only “after a counter attack by ISIS [against the SAA], that kept the regime forces away of the outskirts and the vicinity of the field.” It was a tight race though, as “government forces were 2 miles away from the fields” at the time.

The remaining oil-fields and surrounding countryside east of the Euphrates were swept up by the SDF along similar lines, with ISIS voluntarily agreeing to evacuate the areas. SOHR’s sources further clarified “that ISIS prefer[s] handing over the organization-held areas to the SDF instead of handing them over to ‘the Shiite Militia’, in order to prevent the regime forces from advancing towards these area[s].”

As Elijah Magnier reported at the time that:

“US-backed forces advanced in north-eastern areas under ISIS control, with little or no military engagement: ISIS pulled out from more than 28 villages and oil and gas fields east of the Euphrates River, surrendering these to the Kurdish-US forces following an understanding these reached with the terrorist group.”

Furthermore, “this deal was an effective way to prevent the control by the Syrian army” given that “the United States seems determined to hold on to part of the Syrian territory, allowing the Syrian Kurds to control northeast Syria, especially those areas rich in oil and gas.”

Protecting the Pretext

The lines between Russia and the United States were therefore cut in two by the Euphrates; the SDF to the east, the Syrian Army to the west.

As ISIS’ Caliphate reached its final demise, the US established new rules of engagement, announcing it would not allow Syria or its allies to cross into its zone of control.

The US also announced it would continue its occupation of northeastern Syria indefinitely, even after ISIS is gone. The US currently has at least ten small scale military bases set up within the country.

sfd syria map

© mediafire.com/convkey
Figure 3. Map of Northeast Syria showing government-control (red) and SDF-control (light green) as of December 2017.

The overall strategy, according to an analysis by Joshua Landis, a highly-regarded Syria expert and professor at the University of Oklahoma, is aimed at thwarting economic recovery and interconnection within the region, in an attempt “to hurt Iran and Assad.”

The United States’ “main instrument in gaining leverage,” Landis said, are “the Syrian Democratic Forces” and the areas they have conquered in “Northern Syria.” By “denying the Damascus access to North Syria” and by “controlling half of Syria’s energy resources, the Euphrates dam at Tabqa, as well as much of Syria’s best agricultural land, the US will be able to keep Syria poor and under-resourced…

“Keeping Syria poor and unable to finance reconstruction suits short-term US objectives because it protects Israel and will serve as a drain on Iranian resources, on which Syria must rely as it struggles to reestablish state services and rebuild as the war winds down.”

Therefore, by “promoting Kurdish nationalism in Syria,” the US “hopes to deny Iran and Russia the fruits of their victory,” while “keeping Damascus weak and divided.” The US position “serves no purpose other than to stop trade and prohibit a possible land route from Iran to Lebanon,” and to “beggar Assad and keep Syria divided, weak and poor.”

Yet with such an approach in mind, the defeat of ISIS posed a dilemma.

Battling ISIS was the fig leaf under international law that the US relied on to legitimize its military operations on foreign soil without Syria’s consent. With ISIS gone, even this shaky argument does not hold. The US administration was therefore caught between a rock and a hard place.

It is perhaps not a surprise then that the US has, for months, been effectively safeguarding an ISIS contingent pocketed within SDF controlled areas along the northern border with Iraq.

Indeed, the official OIR reports register that virtually no airstrikes have been conducted in this area since at least mid-November 2017, only elsewhere along the eastern banks of the Euphrates, “near Abu Kamal” (see here for easier viewing).

By preventing Russia and Syria from crossing the Euphrates to finish fighting ISIS, and by refusing to attack it in these areas, the US presence has essentially protected the Islamic State from a full territorial defeat in Syria.

In that sense, it is extremely worrying that Defense Secretary Mattis has told reporters that the US will plan to stay in Syria and “keep fighting as long as they [ISIS] want to fight,” because “the enemy hasn’t declared that they’re done with the area yet.”

eir ezzor map

© mediafire.com/convkey
Figure 4. Close-up of ISIS contingent east of the Euphrates (black) not being attacked by US coalition, as of December 2017.

There is also another incentive. Much like the ‘open corridor’ policy, the US has announced “it will not carry out strikes against the militants’ last remaining fighters as they move into areas held by the Assad regime in western Syria.”

This has prompted even US-backed opposition fighters to suspect that:

“… their own side could be allowing small Isis pockets to survive so they can attack and weaken the regime and its main backer in the region, Iran.”

In closing, all of these polices have in one way or another been justified under the need to “protect civilians.”

Yet even within the bounds of official narratives, even if all of what has been presented here is disregarded, this is still problematic, given what Charles J. Dunlap Jr., professor of law at Duke University, has called “the moral hazard of inaction.” Since the end result of these US policies allows ISIS to survive, the notion that they “save civilians” isn’t really valid, since “the ISIS fighters who might have been killed lived on to butcher civilians” at a later time.

Unfortunately, thanks to the evolution of US military strategy, ISIS will continue to have the opportunity to do so.

Steven Chovanec is an independent journalist and analyst based in Chicago, Illinois. He has a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Sociology from Roosevelt University, and has written for numerous outlets such as The Hill, TeleSur, Consortium News, and others. Follow him on Twitter @stevechovanec

Disastrous Winter Olympics For the USA, May Lose South Korea to Peace – By Niall Bradley (Sott.net)

mike pence winter olympics

‘You have good time, Mike?’… ‘I’d rather be in Israel.’

I must confess some measure of schadenfreude at the sight of beady-eyed US Vice-president Mike Pence squirming through his ‘protocol headache‘ at the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics in South Korea last week. There he was, the distinguished emissary of South Korea’s ‘protector’, a representative of the Exceptional Nation, eclipsed by the surprise inclusion of a representative of ‘the enemy’. And at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, no less! Who politicizes sporting and cultural events like that? It’s outrageous!

The irony, no doubt, was completely lost on the Americans. After provoking Russia into responding to a military attack launched by that nutcase Saakashvili during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, then trying their level best to scare people away from participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, then pressuring international sporting bodies to ban Russian athletes from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, then doing likewise to cast Russians as untermensch at the current winter games, there’s some poetic justice in seeing the US deep state’s manipulation of the cultural sphere bite it in the rear.

Pro-Trump pundits lambasted the US ‘liberal media’ for its allegedly fawning coverage of ‘the Communist dictator’s photogenic sister’. While the coverage was somewhat reasonable towards the North Korean regime – after all, how could media, globally, fail to notice this turn of events after the past year’s bellicose rhetoric? – it was far from ‘doing Kim’s propaganda for him’, and it’s doubtful that US coverage was motivated by ‘making the Trump administration look bad’.

For example, that preeminent ultra-liberal outlet, The Guardian, disparaged the peaceful overture with this headline: ‘‘Humble’ Kim Yo-jong has charmed the media, but the glow is unlikely to last‘. The notion that coverage of the event was ‘partisan’ is also betrayed by this statement in a January New York Times op-ed from Obama’s State Department Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David R. Russell:

“It is fine for the South Koreans to take the lead, but if they don’t have the US behind them, they won’t get far with North Korea. And if the South Koreans are viewed as running off the leash, it will exacerbate tensions within the alliance.”

The obnoxious ‘leash’ Russell refers to is the one Korean-American historian Leo Chang Soon says, “South Korea has been under since Syngman Rhee flew into Korea on General Douglas MacArthur’s plane to become the first president of South Korea on September 2, 1945.”

So Trump, Pence, and the whole US government indeed appear foolish given that any protests they may raise against the two Koreas symbolically uniting under one Olympic flag amounts to the suggestion that North Korea had conspired to do so in order to ‘drive a wedge between South Korea and the US’.

Things went from bad to worst-possible-scenario for the US when South Korean president Moon Jae-In subsequently hosted Kim Yo-jong at the presidential ‘Blue House’ in Seoul, the first such visit by a member of the Kim dynasty since the Korean War ended, and during which she handed him a formal invitation to meet with her brother in Pyongyang ‘ASAP’.

Kim Yo Jong Moon Jae-In

Deep State warning lights all blinked red when this happened: Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, formally invites South Korean president Moon Jae-In to Pyongyang.

What some seem to have forgotten (more likely, never even considered) is that the only reason Trump has spent the past year in a dangerous war of words with Kim is because that is what the Deep State needed to happen. The shock that produced a president Trump – the Clintons’ fall in early November 2016 – came at exactly the same time that an apparently separate shock brought down South Korean president Park Geun-hye: the eruption of mass demonstrations in late October 2016 following the exposure that she had effectively handed the reins of power to a Rasputin-like psychic running an extortion racket with government funds.

In the fallout that followed (think Hillary’s Emails + Benghazi-gate + Uranium One… except that people actually went to jail), South Korean aides and ministers were arrested from November 2016 all the way through late March 2017, when Park herself was indicted. So the US Deep State was on notice that voters were about to swing ‘left’, which in the South Korean context meant electing a party that would be markedly less antagonistic towards its northern neighbor, which always increases the risk of peace breaking out on the Korean peninsula, and thus increases the risk of rendering the US’ massive military presence redundant.

With South Korean elections coming up in May 2017, and likely to bring in – for the first time in over a decade – a pro-unification government in favor of engaging with the North Koreans rather than threatening to bomb them back to the stone age (again), US War Chief James Mattis set off on a ‘reassurance’ tour of East Asian vassals and tributaries. Landing in South Korea on February 2nd 2017, Mattis pushed for the installation of THAAD missile systems before the new future government could, inevitably, object to new ‘facts on the ground’. Rex Tillerson followed suit with a civilian version of the tour, landing first in Japan on March 15th.

From February 11th, 2017 onward, North Korea began the first of 16 missile test launches that year – the most it has ever conducted in one year. This was almost certainly done with one eye on the political upheaval in both South Korea and Washington, and the US Deep State’s efforts to contain the fallout of both.

Trump then declared on April 2nd 2017 that the US “would be willing to go it alone to restrain North Korea’s nuclear weapons program should China fail to change the situation,” which began the tit-for-tat insults between him and Kim, and the UN resolutions (further) sanctioning North Korea, thus generating the overall atmosphere of imminent Armageddon. If the ostensible strategic purpose of publicly bellowing ‘fire and fury’ at North Korea was meant to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons capable of reaching the US, then it apparently failed.

Then again, sabre-rattling over North Korea has always been a means to the end of surrounding China with US missile batteries, hence the need for an enduring ‘crisis’ over North Korea and serious US aversion to any moves towards a peaceful and unified Korea.

Remember that Trump started down this route just two days before reversing position on Syria and announcing that it had ‘crossed the chemical weapons red line’, which cemented the US strategy of doubling down on ‘Plan B’ by carving a piece out of Syria. The coincidental timing only underscores the political compromise Trump had to make; ‘yield on foreign policy if you want to live, much less see through the end of your term and implement any of your election promises’.

At the time I wondered if Kim was indeed crazy – not because he might actually start nuking people, but because from a PR point of view he appeared to be hurting his chances of success with the incoming pro-peace government in Seoul. But actually, he was applying the rule that all countries must eventually grasp; that in this world any sovereign nation-state seeking to protect or advance its interests must acquire the credible threat of violence to make diplomacy successful. When everyone learns to ‘speak softly, but carry a big stick’, then, maybe, we can have something approximating world peace.

North Korea would of course lose in any serious conflict with the US, but not before thousands of US soldiers and possibly millions of US citizens, died too. It’s doubtful whether any US politician, nor even its Deep Staters, would be willing to risk taking that kind of a hit to America’s status as the Exceptional Nation, particularly given the US’ chronically polarized political climate.

South Korea doesn’t have that ‘luxury’: conflict on the peninsula is for her an existential matter. It’s only by demonstrating just how much firepower North Korea has, and how far it is willing to go in using it, that South Korea is taking its northern neighbor seriously. Hence the friendly smiles in PyeongChang.

South Korean President Moon better watch out though – while it may be difficult for the CIA to get to Kim in the North, it would be a cakewalk for them to get to him.

Kim Yo Jong korea olympics

South Korean president Moon Jae-In, second left, talks with North Korea’s president of the People’s Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, second right, during a performance of North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra at the National Theater in Seoul. To the left of Kim Yong Nam is Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister. This photo was shared with the media by the SOUTH Korean government, not the North.

Niall Bradley (Profile)

Niall Bradley has a background in political science and media consulting, and has been an editor and contributing writer at SOTT.net for 8 years. His articles are cross-posted on his personal blog, NiallBradley.net. Niall is co-host of the ‘Behind the Headlines’ radio show on the Sott Radio Network and co-authored Manufactured Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings, Sandy Hook, Aurora Shooting and Other False-Flag Terror Attacks with Joe Quinn.

 

SYRIAN ARMY TO ENTER AFREEN; GEARING UP FOR WAR; U.S. IN THE CROSSHAIRS – by David Fadel

SYRIANCITIES

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s able foreign minister, has formally accused the U.S. of supporting Jabhat Al-Nusra (Alqaeda), an organization considered terrorist by every nation on earth except the Zionist Apartheid Entity.  Not only does the UN consider Nusra a terrorist organization, but, also, the American Department of State.  Lavrov stated that it was obvious the U.S. was not willing to fight Nusra in Syria based on their inaction whenever opportunities arose to strike that terrorist group.  Just as the U.S. created Alqaeda, so did the U.S. create Nusra.  Remember some of my old articles about this subject:  Nusra which means “assistance” in Arabic was created by Robert Ford and Bandar bin Sultaan when they realized that the Syrian Army was not falling apart – that there were insufficient deserters to fight the Syrian Arab Army, and, thus, there was a need for assistance.  Nusra is plain and simple Saudi Arabia.  To what extent Muhammad bin Salmaan, the reigning clown prince,  is willing to continue to finance that organization is anybody’s guess at this stage.  Notwithstanding the finance issue, it appears clear that the U.S. is prepared to do all that is necessary to preserve the terrorism in Syria through the offices of Nusra.  This is a shameful day in American history.

The Tiger Division, led by Maj. Gen. Suhayl Al-Hassan, is massing at the borders of the East Ghouta.  I have been informed that the division comprised of over 11,000 soldiers which also fields improved T-72 tanks with Saraab 2 anti missile equipment is preparing for the last push to eradicate Jaysh Al-Islam, Nusra and Faylaq Al-Sham once and for all.  The battle could start at any moment.  I suspect that once Jaysh Al-Islam has been vanquished, General Al-Hassan will be tasked with wiping out Nusra and allied terrorists in Idlib.  How the U.S.will help Nusra will be most indicative of Washington’s dirty hands.

Syria’s vaunted Popular Defense militia is entering ‘Afreen as I write.  The Turks, who have no experienced field commanders, (Erdoghan having jailed or cashiered almost all of them) have threatened to strike Syria’s pro-government militias since, by Turkish logic,  they will be protecting PKK fighters.  This is an interesting development seeing ‘Afreen is Syrian territory.  Now we will see how Russia reacts if Syrian forces are hit by the Turk army.  Of interest also is how Iran, which has a mutual defense pact with Syria, will respond if the Turks trigger the pact.  So far, Iran has been extremely critical of Ankara’s actions in the north of Syria.  We at SyrPer do not believe the Turks have the muscle for a new war to their south.  While we have deep suspicions about the Kurds, they are, after all, Syrian citizens who look to Damascus for help and protection.

It is a virtual certainty that Donald Trump has no idea about what is going on in Syria or Iraq, for that matter.  He is consumed by a narcissistic obsession with how he is perceived globally.  As of today, the CIA is running foreign relations for the United States without any involvement by Rex Tillerson who seems clueless, rudderless, at sea.  These are the same CIA spooks who bet their world on overthrowing Dr. Assad.  They are now back with even more vitriol, pushing a Zionist neo-con agenda despite the radical changes on the ground.

The United States, as I wrote before, is in a fallback position in Syria.  With a large number of special operations soldiers helping the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, they are especially vulnerable today.  Planning in Moscow and Damascus has shifted substantially from fighting a defeated ISIS to now extirpating U.S. forces from the country.  A lot will depend on Iraq’s cooperation with Damascus.  If the Iraqis deny the U.S. rights to fly over its territory, Washington will have to scrub any agreements with the Kurds in order to use Incirlik in Turkey.  It’s a mess.  The only other alternative, is the Zionist Terrorist State’s airbases which will bring about a potential WWIII or something truly horrible.  The U.S. has cornered itself.  It is trapped between a rock and a hard place with no perceivable way out.  Just as Afghanistan is sucking American energy, so will this latest adventure in Syria.  And it’s just beginning.

________________________________________________
NEWS AND COMMENT:

Mattis appears to be honest. Get this from my friend, Marcos Cruz Garcia:

https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-finally-admits-no-evidence-assad-used-sarin-gas/237615/

John Esq. sent me this great article from Newsweek, of all places, casting doubt about Syrian government’s use of CW:

http://www.newsweek.com/wheres-evidence-assad-used-sarin-gas-his-people-810123

Another fabulous article sent by John Esq. regarding the details of the encounter with the Zionist F-16:

 

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Here’s how Mueller’s latest indictment further discredits the Trump Dossier – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Trump Dossier alleges collusion between Trump Campaign and Russia but fails to report events which actually took place

As the days since Mueller’s latest indictment have passed, the failure of his investigation to make any claim of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has begun to sink in, even amongst some of Donald Trump’s most bitter enemies.

Even the Guardian – arguably the most fervid of Donald Trump’s British media critics, and the most vocal supporter of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – has grudgingly admitted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has “once again failed to nail Donald Trump”

There will be understandable disappointment in many quarters that the latest indictments delivered by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, once again failed to nail Donald Trump. Although the charges levelled against 13 Russians and three Russian entities are extraordinarily serious, they do not directly support the central claim that Trump and senior campaign aides colluded with Moscow to rig the vote.

The Times of London meanwhile has admitted that the latest indictment contains “no smoking gun”

The Department of Justice, however, offered no confirmation to those still smarting from the election in Nov­em­ber 2016, who believe that, in the absence of Russian interference, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House today. Friday’s allegations offered no evidence that the outcome had been affected. Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, said yesterday that Donald Trump’s victories in the key swing states were his own.

There was further comfort for Mr Trump, which he was quick to celebrate with a tweet. The investigation uncovered no evidence “that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity”. That includes, so far, anybody involved in the Trump campaign. If there is a smoking gun it has yet to emerge, though Robert Mueller’s investigation will grind on. Presi­dent Vladimir Putin is a malign and dangerous mischief maker. It has not been proved that he is an evil genius with the ability to swing a US election.

In fact the latest indictment when considered properly is a further huge nail in the coffin of the Russiagate conspiracy theory and in the already disintegrating credibility of the Trump Dossier, which is the foundation document for that theory.

Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the Russiagate conspiracy theory is laid out in its most classic form in the Trump Dossier, and it is the Trump Dossier which remains the primary and indeed so far the only ‘evidence’ for it

This theory holds that Donald Trump was compromised by the Russians in 2013 when he was filmed by Russian intelligence performing an orgy in a hotel room in Moscow, and he and his associates Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Cohen subsequently engaged in a massive criminal conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the election from Hillary Clinton by having John Podesta’s and the DNC’s emails stolen by Russian intelligence and passed on by them for publication by Wikileaks.

Belief in this conspiracy dies hard, and an interesting article in the Financial Times by Edward Luce provides a fascinating example of the dogged determination of some people to believe in it.  Writing about Mueller’s latest indictment Luce has this to say

……Mr Mueller’s report hints at more dramatic possibilities by corroborating contents of the “Steele dossier”, which was compiled in mid-2016 by the former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele — long before the US intelligence agencies warned of Russian interference. Mr Steele, who is in hiding, alleged that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee. Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms that account.

……Likewise, Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms the Steele dossier’s claim that Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups. Among the entities run by the IRA were groups with names such as “Secured Borders”, “Blacktivists”, “United Muslims of America” and “Army of Jesus”.

What is fascinating about these words is that none of them are true.

Christopher Steele is not in hiding.

The actual Trump Dossier does not allege “that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee”.

Bernie Sanders is mentioned by the Trump Dossier only in passing.  By the time the Trump Dossier’s first entries were written Bernie Sanders’s campaign was all but over and it was already clear that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the Presidency.

Jill Stein is mentioned – again in passing – only once, in a brief mention which refers to her now infamous visit to Russia where she attended the same dinner with President Putin as Michael Flynn.

Nor does the Trump Dossier anywhere claim that “Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups”.

On the contrary the Trump Dossier is focused – exclusively and obsessively – on documenting at fantastic length the alleged conspiracy between the Russian government and the campaign of the supposedly compromised Donald Trump to get him elected US President.

Supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory need to start facing up to the hard truth about the Trump Dossier.

At the time the Trump Dossier was published in January 2017 little was known publicly about the contacts which actually took place between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and tranisiton teams and the Russians during and after the election.

Today – a full year later and after months of exhaustive investigation – we know far more about those contacts.

What Is striking about those contacts is how ignorant the supposedly high level Russian sources of the Trump Dossier were about them.

Thus the Trump Dossier never mentions Jeff Sessions’s two meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak, or the various conversations Michael Flynn is known to have had with Russian ambassador Kislyak, some of which apparently took place before Donald Trump won the election.

The Trump Dossier never mentions Jared Kushner’s four conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak, including the famous meeting between Kislyak and Kushner in Trump Tower on 1st December 2016 (which Michael Flynn also attended) over the course of which the setting up of a backchannel to discuss the crisis in Syria is supposed to have been discussed (Kushner denies that it was).

The last entry of the Trump Dossier is dated 13th December 2016 ie. twelve days after this meeting took place, and given its high level a genuinely well-informed Russian source familiar with the private ongoing discussions in the Kremlin might have been expected to know about it.

Nor does the Trump Dossier mention the now famous meeting in Trump Tower between the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior – which Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner also attended – which took place on 9th June 2016.

This despite the fact that the Trump Dossier’s first entry is dated 20th June 2016 i.e. eleven days later, so that if this meeting really was intended to set the stage for collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – as believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory insist – a well informed Russian source with access to information from the Kremlin would be expected to know about it.

Nor does the Trump Dossier have anything to say about George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign aide who had the most extensive contacts with the Russians, and whose drunken bragging in a London bar is now claimed by the FBI to have been its reason for starting the Russiagate inquiry.

In fact George Papadopoulos is not mentioned in the Trump Dossier at all.

This despite the fact that members of Russia’s high powered Valdai Discussion Club were Papadopoulos’s main interlocutors in his discussions with the Russians, and Igor Ivanov – Russia’s former foreign minister, and a senior albeit retired official genuinely known to Putin – was informed about the discussions also, making it at least possible that high level people in the Russian Foreign Ministry and conceivably in the Russian government and in the Kremlin were kept informed about the discussions with Papadopoulos, so that a genuinely well-informed Russian source might be expected to know about them.

By contrast none of the secret meetings between Carter Page and Michael Cohen and the Russians discussed at such extraordinary length in the Trump Dossier have ever been proved to have taken place.

Now Special Counsel Mueller has provided further details in his latest indictment of actual albeit unknowing contacts between members of the Trump campaign and various Russian employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency, LLC, apparently both in person and online.

The Trump Dossier has however nothing to say about these contacts either, just as it has nothing to say about the Internet Research Agency, LLC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, or the entire social media campaign set out in such painstaking detail by Special Counsel Mueller in his indictment.

The only conclusion possible is that if the Trump Dossier’s Russian sources actually exist (about which I am starting to have doubts) then they were extraordinarily ignorant of what was actually going on.

That of course is consistent with the fact – recently revealed in the heavily redacted memorandum sent to the Justice Department by Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham – that many of the sources of the Trump Dossier were not actually Russian but were American.

John Helmer – the most experienced journalist covering Russia, and a person who has a genuine and profound knowledge of the country – made that very point – that many of the Trump Dossier’s sources were American rather than Russian – in an article he published on 18th January 2017, ie. just days after the Trump Dossier was published.

In that same article Helmer also made this very valid point about the Trump Dossier’s compiler Christopher Steele

Steele’s career in Russian intelligence at MI6 had hit the rocks in 2006, and never recovered. That was the year in which the Russian Security Service (FSB) publicly exposed an MI6 operation in Moscow. Russian informants recruited by the British were passed messages and money, and dropped their information in containers fabricated to look like fake rocks in a public park.   Steele was on the MI6 desk in London when the operation was blown. Although the FSB announcement was denied in London at the time, the British prime ministry confirmed its veracity in 2012.Read more on Steele’s fake rock operation here, and the attempt by the Financial Times to cover it up by blaming Putin for fabricating the story.

Given that Steele was outed by Russian intelligence in 2006, with his intelligence operation in Russia dismantled by the FSB that year, it beggars belief that ten years later in 2016 he still had access to high level secrets in the Kremlin.

What we now know in fact proves that he did not.

I only remembered Helmer’s 18th January 2017 article about the Trump Dossier after I wrote my article about Senator Grassley’s and Senator Lindsey Graham’s memorandum to the Justice Department on 6th February 2018.

This is most unfortunate, not only because Grassley’s and Lindsey Graham’s memorandum resoundingly vindicates Helmer’s reporting, but because it shows that a genuine expert about Russia like Helmer was able to spot immediately the holes in the Trump Dossier, which only now – a whole year and months of exhaustive investigations later – are starting to be officially admitted.

For my part I owe Helmer an apology for not referencing his 18th January 2017 article in my article of 6th February 2018.  I should have done so and I am very sorry that I didn’t.

I have spent some time discussing the Trump Dossier because despite denials it remains the lynchpin of the whole Russiagate scandal and of the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Heroic efforts to elevate Papadopoulos’s case and the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya into ‘evidence’ of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which exists supposedly independently of the Trump Dossier fail because as I have discussed extensively elsewhere (see here and here) they in fact do no such thing.

Despite Edward Luce’s desperate efforts to argue otherwise, Mueller’s latest indictment far from corroborating the Trump Dossier, has done the opposite.

With the Trump Dossier – the lynchpin of the whole collusion case – not just unverified and discredited but proved repeatedly to have been completely uninformed about events which were actually going on, why do some people persist in pretending that there is still a collusion case to investigate?

The Duran

 

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Russian senators list 100 examples of US meddling in foreign nations’ affairs – by RT

Russian senators list 100 examples of US meddling in foreign nations’ affairs
A Russian parliamentary commission has prepared a report that lists over 100 cases of US interference in other nations’ internal affairs since the end of World War Two.

We have counted approximately 100, about 101 or 102 absolutely verified and recorded facts of American involvement in the sovereign affairs of over 60 UN member-nations since the approval of this organizations’ charter that bans any such involvement – since 1946 till this day,” the head of the upper house Commission for Protection of State Sovereignty, Senator Andrey Klimov, was quoted as saying on Monday by TASS.

The senator named one particular example from the list – the 1973 coup d’état in Chile that installed Augusto Pinochet as a military dictator and as a result of which the country’s parliament was dissolved and numerous human rights violations were committed. “Every such fact has a multitude of episodes of the US interference,” he noted.

Klimov told TASS that the annual report would be finalized and released at the end of the month, and added that senators were preparing a different edition which would be distributed among a “closed circle of persons” and which would not be released to the wider public in the foreseeable future.

At the same time, Klimov noted that not all cases of US involvement in other nations’ affairs could be formally described as such and thus were not included in the report. As an example, he named Donald Trump’s inauguration speech, in which the US president said that Washington was constantly meddling in other nations’ affairs and called for an end to such practices. “And these were the words of an inaugurated president, the commander-in-chief of the US military forces, who had been briefed through all files,” he said.

Another example was the 2003 speech of George W. Bush in which the then-US president urged change in political regimes in between 40 and 50 foreign countries.

The upper house commission for monitoring and countering foreign nations’ attempts to influence internal Russian politics was formed in mid-2017. Back then, upper house Speaker Valentina Matvienko said that attempts to meddle in Russia’s internal affairs had been ongoing for years and that up to $100 billion was sent to Russia from abroad annually to sponsor “political activities.” “We know the consequences of such meddling… and will not allow anyone to threaten Russia’s sovereignty,” she said.

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Arrogance: Former CIA chief Woolsey says US meddles in election of other countries ‘for their own good’ (Video) – By Alex Christoforou – The Duran (SOTT)

James Woolsey

© Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI
Former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, Jr.

The hubris is amazing.

Former CIA chief James Woolsey was on Fox News to discuss how those devilish Russians meddled in America’s democracy by posting messages on Twitter and Facebook, forgetting about all the CIA coups, false flags, and election meddlings he oversaw when running the CIA.

The hypocrisy was so thick that when Laura Ingraham asked Woolsey if the US ever meddled in elections, the response (and laughter from both of them) was telling…

Comment: The neocons had Woolsey planted near Trump a the beginning of his term, but he didn’t stick. More Woolsey gems:

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