Russians reportedly bust al-Qaeda filming fake footage to blame Russia in Idlib – By SPUTNIK

nusra

© REUTERS / Ammar Abdullah

Militants from the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group Jabhat al-Nusra (also known as Tahrir al-Sham) are preparing false flag attacks in Syria, including fake footage of the civilians’ evacuation by militants and the restoration of buildings said to be destroyed by Russian and Syrian air strikes, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria reported.

“The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria received information about the upcoming Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist provocation by telephone from residents of Idlib Governorate. According to the Syrians, who spoke to the center’s officers, last Friday a film crew from the news agency of one of the Middle Eastern countries came to the province. This group, together with the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists, made fake videos about the evacuation of civilians to Alhelal al-Ahmar Hospital and the terrorists’ active “restoration” of civilian infrastructure, allegedly destroyed by Russian and Syrian air strikes,” the center’s statement says.

As the Russian Reconciliation Center specified, the film crew used for their footage residential buildings which had been destroyed during clashes between different militant groups in the area.

According to the information received by the center, the fake films were set to be released by some Arabian and Western media outlets and then blamed on Russia. The Russian reconciliation center concluded that this would also play into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists, helping them to receive funding from Western non-government organizations operating in Idlib.

Local residents cited by the center stated that the film crew had come to the province last Friday.

Various terrorist and militant factions operate in the Syrian province of Idlib, where one of the Syrian de-escalation zones is located. In particular, in April, militants from the Damascus neighborhood of Eastern Ghouta withdrew from the area and were transported to Idlib.

Comment: Given that the Syrians are in the opening stages of their offensive on Daraa, which will undoubtedly be successful (as have all their major offensives for the past year or so), we can probably expect another false flag from the Israel-U.S. camp and their proxy forces. It’s their way of lashing out at Syria and Russia for destroying the terrorists they spent so much time and money nurturing.

Serious truth tellers engage with a taboo topic – By Kevin Barrett (VT)

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Serious truth tellers engage with a taboo topic

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You can now watch the entire Deep Truth Conference on YouTube. Above is the final session. You can read the text of former CIA officer Philip Giraldi’s presentation here.

Kevin Barrett, Veterans Today Editor

Sunday, June 10 , 2:30-5:30pm EST
Zionism: Deconstructing the Power Paradigm

Moderator: Kevin Barrett

Kevin Barrett – Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Judeophobia: Let’s Define Our Terms
1:30 – 24:25 (YouTube)
There is much confusion and (mis)use by Zionists around the concept of anti-Semitism. Dr. Kevin Barrett will demonstrate that the cluster of slurs—“anti-Semite,” “anti-Semitic,” and “anti-Semitism”—are routinely used to denigrate critics of Zionism. But do critics of Jewish power on both the left and right really hate an entire group of people? While the term “anti-Semitism” once had specific meaning, Dr. Barrett posits that “anti-Zionism” describes those who deny the legitimacy of the state of Israel versus “Judeophobia,” the term he says more accurately defines those who are prejudiced against Jews. Dispensing with the loaded term “anti-Semitism” frees us up to evaluate the cultural and historical reasons why anti-Zionists who oppose Israel are not synonymous with Judeophobes who harbor anti-Jewish prejudices.

Philip Giraldi – ​How Jewish Power Sustains the Israel Narrative
25:45 – 39:15 (YouTube)
Israel’s ability to manipulate the U.S. political culture and to escape accountability for its many crimes against humanity is enabled by a vast and interlocking domestic lobby. To be sure, Israel finds support from so-called Christian Zionists and other Americans, but its ability to control the media and politicians comes from the financial and institutional clout of American Jews. Liberal Jews, who often are privately appalled by Israel’s behavior, frequently choose to remain silent so as not to break ranks with their more hardline co-religionists who are promoting the interests of the Jewish state even when they are aware that doing so does and will continue to do grave damage to the United States and all its citizens.

Gilad Atzmon – Truth, Truthfulness, and Palestine
40:35 – 1:05:15(YouTube)
In a healthy society truth doesn’t need a “movement.” In a society with a prospect of a future, truth is explored and celebrated in the open. Gilad Atzmon will delve into the strategies that are set to deviate us from truth and truthfulness. Primarily through the lens of Palestine and Neocon Wars, he will further explore how false dichotomies are manufactured and the means by which detachment and alienation are sustained. By now we are all Palestinians—and like the Palestinians, we are not allowed to utter the name of our oppressor, nor can we discuss the means that facilitate this oppression. Truth is our first step towards emancipation.

Alan Sabrosky – The Impact of Zionist Influence in the U.S.
1:07:05 – 2:01:30(YouTube)
Alan Sabrosky examines the process by which Zionists acting on behalf of Israel have gained significant control of the United States and its government. Starting gradually in the 1950s, Zionist Jews now hold a commanding influence in such sectors as finance, business, media (online and offline), the academy, the arts, and most obviously, politics. Through funding and other tactics, they effectively control both houses of Congress, leverage the Executive branch, and exert strong influence in nearly two dozen state governments. Regardless of what one thinks of 9/11, neocons (overwhelmingly “Israel Firster” Zionist Jews) are the driving force behind the 9/11 Wars. Without their hidden hand, the wars against Iraq, Libya, and Syria would not have happened, nor the hostilities with Iran and Russia. Incessant charges of “antisemitism” and “Holocaust denial” coercively keep Jews and non-Jews alike from questioning or challenging the dominant narratives.

Jeremy Rothe-Kushel – Talpiot and Unit 8200: The Global Cyber Agenda for Kill-Switch Domination
2:03:15 – 2:53:50 (YouTube)
The Talpiot Program, a long-term Israeli Military Intelligence strategic initiative to give the Israeli War State a permanent technological edge, was rolled out in 1979. Coincidentally or not, this was the same year the modern “War on Terror” had its public-policy birth at the infamous 1979 Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism. While the SECURITY and INTELLIGENCE results of Talpiot heightened the effectiveness of Unit 8200 (Israel’s NSA, co-producers of the Stuxnet industrial virus), the deep corporatist ECONOMIC impact only got super-charged in the wake of the 9/11 false-flag. Now we face “Crime Minister” Netanyahu’s claims for a next-generation “Samson Option” of “kill-switch DIPLOMACY,” powered by Talpiot to hold the world’s databases, hardware backdoors, and critical infrastructure hostage.

Q&A – Zionism: Deconstructing the Power Paradigm – 2:54:01 – 3:40:30 (YouTube)

 

Hassan Nasrallah: Israel Strives to Conceal Defeat in Syria, Final War to Liberate Palestine is Coming – By The Saker ( Speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah on June 8, 2018, on the occasion of the International Day of Al-Quds (Jerusalem). Translation: unz.com/sayedhasan)

Hassan Nasrallah: Israel Strives to Conceal Defeat in Syria, Final War to Liberate Palestine is Coming

Speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah on June 8, 2018, on the occasion of the International Day of Al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Translation: unz.com/sayedhasan

Transcript:

 

[…] Today, Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Palestine, as Imam Khomeini wanted when he instituted the (International) Day of Al-Quds, became a cause of (Islamic) dogma, a cause of faith, outside the (opportunistic) area of ​​politics and the political bazaar, they became a cause of dogma, faith, humanity, truth, values…

Young Palestinians (in Gaza) go out (demonstrating) with bare hands against live bullets, and in Sanaa (tens of thousands of Yemeni) demonstrated under the bombs, just like in Al-Foua and Kafraya (Syria), the besieged and starving population demonstrated (for this International Day of Al-Quds). And combatants and Resistance are ready to shed their blood on all fronts for this (inevitable) day where Al-Quds and Palestine will be returned to their people, their owners and their (Muslim) community.

Today, this is our generation, these are our people, and this is a point of strength. Today, the power of the Resistance Axis lies firstly and fundamentally in his generations, one generation, a second, a third… Those who count on the fact that these (new) generations… Some refer to them as the generations of the Internet, Facebook, etc. Do not count on the fact that these generations in our Arab and Muslim world will stay silent, collapse, abandon or withdraw from the battle. And it’s the same for countries.

I have two words to say about the countries.

First, Iran. Since the first day of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, it announced a resolute, radical and decisive stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue (“Israel is a cancerous tumor that must be wiped out”), and pays the price of this position. And I want to tell you quite simply that the Islamic Republic of Iran would never have seen any hostility from the United States, Israel and the Gulf if Imam Khomeini had said from the first day: “We, Iran, just overthrew a tyrannical regime, we have poverty in our country, needy, hunger, underdevelopment, unemployment, etc. What do we care about Palestine?” It was not necessary that he recognize Israel, it would have been enough for him to say that he did not care about Palestine, that it was a cause that didn’t concern them at all, and Imam Khomeini and Iran would not have suffered this hostility, this collusion and these huge plots.

But the Islamic Republic, with Imam Khomeini, Imam Khamenei and its noble people, for 39 years, confirmed its resolute, radical and decisive position, of the magnitude of (religious) dogma, at the side of Palestine and the Palestinian people, and its absolute position with regard to Israel and Israel’s existence (illegitimate entity doomed to extinction). And Iran suffers the consequences of that position. It is natural, my brothers and sisters, that all those who oppose Iran find themselves allies of Israel. Excuse me (to emphasize this truth), but it is a natural equation. The hostility to Iran leads to embrace Israel, and it is a service rendered to Israel.

Also today, our Arab and Islamic peoples have the responsibility not to allow the United States, Israel and some of their instruments in the region to turn Iran into an enemy. Israel must remain the enemy, Palestine must remain the cause and Iran must be regarded as the fundamental, powerful, honest and truthful support. And this is what was expressed by His Eminence Imam Khamenei in his last speech, despite all Trump’s intimidation and threats, his withdrawal from the nuclear deal, US sanctions. And the US Secretary of State said Iran will face sanctions unprecedented in history. But these sanctions and threats, have they led to hesitation in the position of His Eminence Imam Sayed the Leader (Khamenei), officials of the regime or the Iranian people? Absolutely not. Today’s demonstrations in the streets of Iran confirm it.

Therefore, in our (Resistance) Axis, we also have a State, a regime and a people… Iran is not only a State and a regime. Behind us in Iran, stand a leader, a plan, a State, a people, religious authorities and a major regional power who support the Resistance, support Al-Quds (Jerusalem), the Palestinian cause and Resistance movements, who persevered for 39 years and are determined to persevere (in this direction), refusing subservience, submission, surrender or abandonment of any of their rights. Therein lies (another) point of strength.

And to all those who, as it happened just a few months ago, are betting on the fall of the Islamic regime in Iran that would cause a substantial disruption of the strategic situation, I tell them that their hopes are illusions, mirages. These people do not follow the Iranian media. I want to give them proof, since yesterday was the last Night of Decree in Iran. If they had taken some time, or if they had asked their media to collect photos of the Night of Decree in Iran yesterday, in Mashhad, Qom, Tehran, in other cities, (they would have seen the fervor) of this people, who fasts during the day, and stays up all night until dawn, for three nights, and reads (for a long time). And listen to me, listen to me, they read the Quran in Arabic, while we Arabs read very little of the Quran. They read (long) invocations for hours in Arabic. We see it on television. They read for hours invocations in Arabic! And the father, mother, children and grandchildren (the whole family, all generations) go (to mosques) for these occasions. Can such a people abandon its religion? Can it abandon its Islam? Can it abandon its Imam? Can it abandon its Islamic regime that it established itself with the blood of hundreds of thousands of martyrs (during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war)? In what illusory world do you live? On what mirages do you base your hopes? This Iran, despite all the blockade that has been imposed, has become increasingly powerful, present and active, both inside and in the region. Even if people could manifest here and there (in Iran) because of such excuse or such problem, it was fixed and it will lead to nothing (this is not an uprising against the regime).

I declare to Palestine in the first place, and to all the Resistance movements in the Resistance Axis, and the (different) generations of our (Muslim) community, our Axis: this great regional country (Iran) is powerful, influential (and stands) with resolve and decisiveness (with you).

Second, the upheaval that took place in Iraq in recent years (is another point of strength for the Resistance). In 2016-2017, Iraq was in grave danger, under threat of ISIS, this ISIS created by the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabi thought. But Iraqis have overcome it, and today in Al-Quds Day 2018, armed demonstrations and military parades are held in Baghdad for the International Day of Al-Quds, organized by those who participated in the victorious struggle against ISIS.

The Iraqi people elect their deputies, and we know the choice of the people. The position of religious authorities in the holy city of Najaf on Al-Quds and Palestine is very old, going back well before 1948, intangible, from Imam Sayed Mohsin al-Hakim, God have mercy on him, up to Imam Al-Sayed Khu’i, God have mercy on him, up to the highly active current authorities, (all denunced Israel as illegitimate and supported Armed Resistance). This is a well-known historical position followed by all (the successive authorities). The political forces in Iraq, the Iraqi people (are also on the same Resistance line). I do not want to attribute an official position to the Iraqi government, but I know well, thanks to my information, my contacts and my meetings, the true position of these people, and I know where they will be when the great battle (against Israel) will be triggered in this region. I will return to this point in conclusion.

This great upheaval in Iraq favors the Resistance Axis and the armed forces of the Resistance. Iraq, which the United States wanted to see busy and submitted, has not been submitted and never will be.

(As for) Syria, pillar of the Resistance Axis… Please bear (my speech for) a few more minutes for Al-Quds’ (Jerusalem) sake. Syria, this essential country of the Resistance Axis, was subjected in recent years to great trials, a total war, world war. This country belongs to this Axis (par excellence). Unlimited amounts of money have been poured there from all sides, as well as all types of weapons and all means, and all the red lines have been crossed. Today we are in 2018, and by the Grace of God the Most Noble and the Almighty, the largest and most important parts of Syria have regained peace and security, and the State has restored its control and presence, (including) in Damascus and the Damascus suburbs. And it is clear that the enemy Axis is now trying (desperately) to achieve if only a few (tokens of) victory.

Let me (explain) as regards Israel. Since the beginning of the events in Syria, Israel… I do not have time to read it (all), but our young (Hezbollah members) have compiled for me statements by Israeli officials since 2011 to date: from the President, then Shimon Peres, to the head of the government, Netanyahu, to successive ministers of Defense, chiefs of the intelligence services and some experts. Since 2011 and until recently, what did they say? I’ll just read you the headlines.

All options are preferable to Assad‘.

Israel’s interest lies in the departure of Assad‘.

Nobody in Israel prefer Assad to jihadists‘.

The fall of Assad would be a clear victory for Israel‘.

Assad will fall within a few weeks‘, said Barak in 2011.

The decisions of the Arab League against Assad are courageous and important‘.

We do not want the defeat…‘ said who? The chief of Israeli intelligence in 2016, and we inflicted a defeat on ISIS with our entire Axis in 2017-2018: in 2016 (he said) ‘We do not want the defeat of ISIS in Syria‘.

The weakening of Assad and his government’s expulsion is in the direct interest of Israel‘, said Ya’alon (Chief of Staff of the Israeli forces) in 2013.

We must defeat the regime of Bashar al-Assad‘. Etc., etc.

And after (all these Israel hopes were dashed), see how they called the (alleged) battle. Allow me (to speak) a few (more) minutes. Now they have (changed the aim of the battle, which was toppling Assad), and called it (‘Kicking Iran and Hezbollah out of Syria‘). Rather than conceding defeat in Syria, and recognizing that their hopes in Syria, pinned on terrorist takfiri organizations, collapsed, (these very groups that) Israel supported with its media, (direct) assistance, through its airstrikes, by providing weapons, ammunition, and everything (they could provide them). Absolutely everything. Instead of declaring their failure and defeat in Syria, and (recognize) that the State will remain, as well as the President and the (Syrian) Army, and that the organizations they have supported in recent years are about to disappear, Israel wants to falsify the (real) meaning of the battle, and now, Netanyahu, Lieberman and other are discoursing day and night (pretending) that the battle in Syria aims to kick out Iran and Hezbollah from Syria.

We accept this battle. We accept it. But before turning the page and opening this new chapter, you should first acknowledge, O Zionists, that you have been defeated in Syria, you have failed to bring down the pillar of the Resistance camp in the region, your hopes on terrorist groups were scattered to the four winds. Acknowledge that, and then, we could open a new page for the (alleged) battle you have entitled ‘Kicking out Iran and Hezbollah from Syria‘. And some Gulf countries also regard this battle as their own today, looking forward to make this new achievement, imagining that Russia will cooperate with them to get Iran and Hezbollah out of Syria. And they have high hopes and (are) happy (at this perspective), and they are ready to celebrate their victory.

I also say to these Gulf countries and all this Axis which fought (against us) in Syria: if you acknowledge your defeat, good. If you want to start a new battle under a new title, we can talk about it. I do not have time to talk about it in detail now, but I want to say a word regarding Hezbollah, so nobody thinks that this (PR stunt) is a (true) battle they can win.

As for Hezbollah, my brothers and sisters, when we went to Syria, we went there for two reasons, or rather for a reason that has two aspects. The first is our vision, our understanding and faith in the fact that what is happening in Syria is a major plot targeting the Syrian people, the Syrian government and the Syrian entity, and the Resistance Axis, and that if Syria fell into the hands of its enemies, into the hands of takfiris, a catastrophe would ensue for Lebanon, for Palestine and for the Resistance. And that’s what we explained for the last 7 years. That’s the first aspect. And the second aspect (is that we did it) at the request and with the agreement of the Syrian leadership and the Syrian government. That’s what got us in Syria.

When we went to Syria, we had no particular project. (Some say) that Hezbollah went to fight in Syria in order to get a seat in the Syrian government, or the Syrian Assembly, or to interfere in Syrian internal affairs, politics, government, or whatnot, or to get a share of the Syrian economy, etc., etc., etc. Sincerely and honestly, we had no particular project in Syria, and now that we are in 2018, and that Syria celebrates its victories, I declare to the world, to enemies as well as friends, that Hezbollah has no particular project in Syria, absolutely not. We are present in Syria where we need to be, and where Syrian leaders have asked us to be based on developments on the ground. There is (no project) for Hezbollah – as for Iran, they can speak for themselves, I will not appoint me as their spokesperson, unless they ask me to translate their position in Arabic. I speak for Hezbollah. This battle is an imaginary battle.

Naturally, when the goal is achieved, we will consider that we have won, from the position of those who have contributed (to victory), on their scale – you know me well, I do not increase the actual proportions of things and I do not exaggerate. Anyone has the right to comment on numbers, but as for us, we are not divulging (in detail the extent of our presence in Syria). At our level, with our contribution, (we participated) to the great Syrian victory in the World War (which was imposed on it). When Syria will be safe, when the remnants of armed terrorist groups disappear, when those responsible for the project (of destruction of Syria) will despair of (their ability to achieve) their project, we will consider it as a great achievement. And what I say publicly now, we (clearly) told it before to President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian leadership. We have no problem. There is no problem.

At any time, anywhere, in any area where the Syrian leadership will consider, because of field data and national interests of Syria and the Syrian people, that Hezbollah should not be there, we will be grateful to them. We will not assume in any way that anyone inflicted a defeat us. O people, we will be glad and happy! Let Gulf countries know that. Let Israel know that. When we repatriate our youth (fighters), our people and our brothers to Lebanon, to their cities, to their homes and to their families, we will be happy and we will feel victorious, we will have the feeling of a mission accomplished. This is why we do not consider that there is any (real) battle in Syria aiming to have us stay or leave. What keeps us there is our duty and the Syrian leadership.

At the same time, I want to tell you something. At the same time, I want to tell you something. If the whole world formed a coalition… If the whole world formed a coalition to force us out of Syria, it would fail to make us leave. Even if the whole world gathered (against us). There is only one way (for us to leave), it is that the Syrian leadership tells us “Guys, God bless you, thank you…” They are grateful people and they thank us at every opportunity. “We are grateful and appreciate you, God bless you, the fighting has ended in this region and we won, you can go home.” How many fighters do we have (in order to) send troops to Syria (with no reason, our forces being limited)? Therefore, nobody should believe that there is a battle of this kind. Never. There is no battle here (these are lies of the enemy meant to allow him to save face). This whole issue concerns only the Syrian leadership, their estimate of the situation on the ground and their national security interests, and the current position of Syria against the great conspiracy which was hatched against it.

O my brothers and sisters! In Lebanon, we will bear all the pressure, (the designation as a) terrorist organization, etc. We have already talked a lot about the situation in Lebanon, the Israeli threats, I mentioned all these issues on May 25, and there is no need to evoke them again.

But on this International Day of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), I want to say to the Israelis, to the Palestinians and to the peoples of the world: just like we believe firmly, decisively and irrevocably, that Al-Quds and Palestine are just causes, we firmly believe, basing ourselves on our faith, on the Koran, on our doctrine, on the lessons, experiences and principles of History, and on our prediction of the future, that Al-Quds will be returned to its rightful owners, and that Palestine will be (completely) liberated. And Netanyahu’s sophistry will be to no avail.

Yesterday, Netanyahu said that Imam Khamenei wants to enrich uranium again in order to make a nuclear weapon and kill 6 million Jews in occupied Palestine. These are lies. First, Iran does not seek the nuclear bomb, and secondly, no one wants to kill 6 million Jews in occupied Palestine.

 

What we say, what the Palestinian people and the Arab and Muslim peoples say, and even what Islam says — I can say that this is the view of Islam — and what the Resistance says is this: we do not want to kill, we do not want to destroy, we do not want to throw (or drown) anyone in the sea. We tell you in a very civilized manner: embark in your ships, embark on your planes, and return to the countries from which you came. Regarding the (minority of) indigenous Jews, who are from Palestine, they are people of Palestine and they can stay there. As for the (Zionist) invaders, occupiers and settlers who came from all around the world, let them pack up their things and leave. This is the message of Islam, and this is the message of the Resistance. This is the message of the peoples of the region.

Contrary to what Netanyahu says, nobody wants to perpetrate another Holocaust or anything like that. But if you insist on perpetuating the occupation, then I assure you that the Day of the Great War in this region, whatever triggers it, is coming (fast). That day is close on which we will all pray in Al-Quds (Jerusalem).

We are awaiting that day, with a positive (active) expectation, getting ready for it, truly and faithfully. Fare well, and God’s peace be upon you and His mercy and blessings.

European Security Landscape Reshaped with New Alliances Emerging – By Peter KORZUN ( Strategic Cultural Foundation)

European Security Landscape Reshaped with New Alliances Emerging
Peter KORZUN | 23.06.2018 | WORLD / Europe

The bonds between European allies are not as strong today as they used to be. The well-known divisions within the EU are also the divisions within NATO as most European nations belong to both.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire believes that the EU is falling apart because its members cannot find compromises while they urgently need to tackle the migrants’ crisis as well as a whole host of other pressing problems. Some predict the demise of NATO for the same reason – the bloc’s inability to handle the issues of fundamental importance. This is the time of reshaping the Western security landscape. With the giant entities, such as NATO and the EU, facing the threat of partition, new smaller alliances are gradually forming instead.

On June 22, EU tariffs on US goods came into force to make Americans and Europeans opponents rather than friends and allies. Sharing what they call common values does not prevent disputes over fundamental issues and trade battles. We may witness a NATO burial at its Brussels summit on July 11-12 right after the EU’s actual partition at its top-level event on June 28-29.

With Brexit drawing near, the UK is still to carve out a new role for itself in the new security configuration. Its anti-Russia stance is a guide. The relationship with the US will always be special even if there is no chemistry between the leaders. But the dependence on America has its limits and the relationship may go through fluctuations. To be a power pole it needs to diversify the security ties. Forming a new defense pact with the EU is one of foreign policy directions. It will allow London to remain part of European defense deterrent after separation from the alliance’s political and economic structures. With NATO weakened, it’ll play an important role of go-between to link North America and the Old Continent. Its influence would be boosted if it joined a security entity it could lead. Moscow’s “irreconcilable enemies” are the right partners for a start.

On June 21, UK Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary visited Warsaw within the format of annual Quadriga talks. The aim was to strengthen security, defence, and cyber ties with Poland, the unrecognized leader of Eastern Europe, which is on the outs with Brussels striving to hold its own. The text of the final communiqué shows the mission was accomplished. In December 2017, the parties signed the Treaty on Defense and Security Cooperation. At the meeting they said the UK-Poland Defence Action Plan encompassing a range of military areas was being prepared for signature.

The steps to enhance defense cooperation are to be added by joint propaganda efforts to counter Russia. The parties agreed to establish what they call “a strategic communications project to support independent media in countries in Eastern Europe, to ensure a wider range of voices in the media, in order to strengthen resilience against disinformation.”

It’s worth mentioning that the UK stands out refusing to join other EU members in their criticism of Poland’s slide into authoritarianism while it is implementing its judicial reforms. PM Theresa May believes that the constitutional reform is an internal matter. Warsaw can use its burgeoning relationship with London as a bargaining chip in the relationship with Germany. Having left the EU, Great Britain can make a substantial contribution into recognizing the Poland’s status as the leader of Eastern Europe.

The hostility toward Russia is what formally unites them. On June 20, British General Mark Carleton-Smith, the newly appointed head of the British army, issued a warning over Britain threatened by Russia and called on the military to be prepared to “fight and win”. Poland is playing the American card against Russia as well as the EU. The country is to acquire a first strike capability to counter what it believes to be the Russian threat and applies efforts to make the US station substantial forces on its soil. Poland is in the focus of NATO infrastructure efforts. It hosts large-scale exercises preparing forces to conduct offensive operations against Russia. The military activities are closely coordinated with the Baltic States, which are also asking for larger US military presence. NATO has deployed four battalion-sized battle groups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The UK is among the nations that comprise the backbone of this force. Roughly 150 British servicemen are stationed in Poland. London and Warsaw join together supporting the “European aspirations” of the Western Balkan states. The UK is hosting the Western Balkans summit in London on July 9 and 10.

It’s normal that countries set up alliances while jockeying for influence and looking for benefits to reap. But it’s also a sign of NATO and the EU teetering on the edge. The emergence of other alliances is looming at the horizon.

In his London speech on June 21, NATO Secretary General said the bonds between Europe and North America are under strain and there’s no guarantee the trans-Atlantic alliance will survive. But the bonds between European allies are also not as strong today as they used to be. The well-known divisions within the EU are also the divisions within NATO as most European nations belong to both. It’s all intertwined. There are groups pursuing their own interests within the EU to give birth to the concept of a “multi-speed Europe”. It’s only natural that alliances within the alliance also emerge inside NATO under the circumstances and it’s a sign of weakness, not strength. This is a trend to partition. Add to it the EU efforts to create a defense deterrent of its own independent from the US. There is each and every reason to believe that many more signs of NATO losing its relevance will come into the open at the much-anticipated July summit.

Photo: The First News

Tags: NATO  France  Poland  UK 

Welcome to Hadar: A Village Under Siege by Syrian “Rebels” and Israeli Forces Alike – By Eva Bartlett @EvaKBartlett (Mint Press)

A Hadar resident stands outside of his shrapnel damaged home. Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

 

The village of Hadar, in Southern Syria, is buttressed on one side by Israeli watchtowers and walls – and endures deadly attacks from jihadist Syrian rebels from the other three.

 

 

HADAR, SYRIA — Situated in the northern part of Quneitra governorate, with the towering Jabal al-Sheikh (Mt. Hermon) overlooking it and the region, Hadar is in both a beautiful area of Syria and a dangerous one.

The roughly 10,000 defiant villagers of Hadar are isolated and under constant threat of attack. Until December 2017, Hadar was surrounded on three sides by terrorists and was attacked many times.

Positioned in a valley, with the al-Qaeda alliance until December 2017 occupying Beit Jinn and other villages to the east, Hadar also borders the ceasefire line of the occupied Syrian Golan, an area teeming with still more al-Qaeda terrorists. From their positions inside the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) zone of the occupied Syrian Golan, terrorists in Jubata al-Khashab (roughly 6 kilometers directly south of Hadar), Turunjah (roughly 5 kilometers south of Hadar), and Ufaniyah (further south than Jubata al-Khashab), have fired mortars, missiles, and other explosives on Hadar, something acknowledged even by the UN Secretary-General.

In his December 6, 2017 report, the Secretary-General noted that terrorist groups fighting in the UNDOF area of operation include “the listed terrorist group Jabhat Fath al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front) and Jaysh Khalid Ibn al-Walid, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”

The same report noted the attacks from the three villages towards Hadar were preceded by a “vehicle-borne improvised explosive device,” which killed nine people. In Hadar, I would learn that the car bomb didn’t just target “a pro-Syrian forces checkpoint in Hadar,” as per the UN report, but was headed towards the heart of the village when shot at by Hadar defenders. The vehicle exploded less than 100 meters from a school, at 9 a.m., according to Hadar resident Mahmoud Taweel. Had the village not been on alert, and families staying at home, the number killed would have surely been higher and included many children.

The road leading to the site of the deadly, Nov 2017 suicide car bomb. An Israeli observation post is visible atop in the mountain in the background. Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

Most recently, on June 16, Syrian state media, SANA, reported that terrorists in Jubata al Khashab, “set fire once again to a large area of agricultural lands in the vicinity of Hadar village,” burning acres of fruit orchards south of the village. SANA further reported that firefighters were unable to reach the area to quell the fire, devastating the farmland and depriving landowners of their prime source of income.

The support of Hadar villagers for their army and president is unsurprising, given these are the two bodies that have protected them and supported them against attacks from al-Qaeda and Israel, next door to Hadar.

According to a report by Syrian journalist Alaa Ebrahim, the last attack on Hadar was on November 3, 2017, “… a ground offensive in three different directions, in an attempt to take the last few kilometers the government still controls along the border with Israel.” The Syrian army, Ebrahim noted, controls only five kilometers of the border with Israel and is limited in the number of military units it can move to the area, under the disengagement agreement reached following the 1973 war with Israel.

Mr. Taweel explained that people of his town view Jabal al-Sheikh as a symbol of blessings. On top of that same mountain, Israeli observation posts oversee all activity. Hadar residents and Syrian soldiers believe that Israel has been coordinating with terrorist groups in their attacks on the village. Given that UNDOF forces themselves have documented Israeli soldiers interacting with terrorists in the occupied Syrian Golan, and given that Israel has attacked Syria on numerous occasions, the belief that the Israelis are aiding al-Qaeda terrorists in attacks on Hadar is more than reasonable.

The corporate media silence on Hadar, in spite of what the villagers have endured and continue to face, would be surprising if it wasn’t already clear that corporate media isn’t interested in highlighting these kinds of Syrians. Just as they dismiss narratives of Syrians who do not support any of the terrorist factions, so have they corporate media dismissed narratives of Syrians who are proud supporters of the Syrian army and the democratically-elected president and Syrians whose experiences defy outside claims of a “civil war,” “revolution,” or “sectarian conflict.”

 

“Our farmers can’t reach their land”

On May 4, in a hired taxi and with a translator, I headed for Hadar to meet with Mahmoud Taweel, an English teacher, who would also introduce me to other Hadar residents, to hear from them on the attacks they’ve endured and the threats they’ve fought off, along with the Syrian army — largely to the silence of corporate media.

Along the way, our taxi was joined by a car of four Syrian soldiers, who accompanied us both to show us the safest route to Hadar and also to protect us should terrorists in surrounding areas attack.

We drove along a road flanking a heavily fortified UN base for a brief period, then followed another road cutting through open fields, Jabal al-Sheikh in the distance, finally descending along a narrow road winding its way through endless fruit-tree orchards before entering Hadar.

In the town square, I chatted with a woman and man in a small shop until Mr. Taweel arrived. After a five minute walk, we reached his stone house, surrounded by fruit and other trees and adorned with yellow rose bushes.

Watch | Hadar resident Mahmoud Taweel on life under threat from terrorism

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I asked Mahmoud Taweel to speak about life in Hadar over the past years. He said, of the terrorists south of Hadar and those formerly east of the town:

They have been terrorizing us, by shelling, mortars. The most important thing is that they are depriving us of reaching our fertile farms. Ninety percent of our civilians depend on farming for their living. But our farmers can’t reach their land.”

I was struck by the similarity of the situation of Palestinian farmers and these Hadar villagers. In the case of Palestinians, it is Israeli illegal colonists and soldiers who violently prevent them from accessing their lands, whether in West Bank areas of occupied Palestine or in the tiny and all too familiar Gaza Strip.

According to Hadar resident, Mahmoud Taweel, farmers are prohibited from farming their land near Israel's 'security' fence. Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

Having worked for years with farmers in Gaza and also in the West Bank,  with the violent Israeli tactics of shooting live ammunition to harass farmers off their land. This harassment has killed dozens of farmers and maimed many more. The situation in Hadar isn’t much different, except al-Qaeda and other terrorists do the attacking, bombing and burning of farmland and killing of villagers.

 

Many maimed, many martyrs

Hadar has a population of around 10,000, according to Mahmoud Taweel. I asked him about those injured and killed by terrorist attacks. He replied:

Too many people were killed. At least 130 martyrs, and around 400 injuries and casualties. Some of them are hopeless cases: they can’t walk, speak, talk, and they need a very intensive health care on a daily basis.”

So I asked him whether there is a hospital in the town to provide the needed health care to the injured:

No hospital in Hadar, just a small mobile clinic with insufficient equipment. Ambulances took injured to Damascus, always under the threat of sniping from terrorists on either side.”

Additionally, Hadar has suffered periods of no electricity. “Three months with no power at all,” Mr. Taweel said. “And the moment that the government restores power, the terrorists shell and destroy it…to make us live in darkness.”

Mr. Taweel said Hadar village has two high schools, two primary, two intermediate, and one kindergarten. We drove to one of the schools, the one near to the site of the November 3, 2017, suicide car bombing just at the northern edge of Hadar. Mr. Taweel pointed to a deep rut in the road, now filled in with gravel, saying that was where the suicide bomber had detonated the explosives. Some meters away, the ruins of a small shop.

Zooming in on the Israeli observatories overlooking Hadar, I asked whether they believed Israel had a role in the attacks that day.

One of the two Israeli observation posts overlooking the Hadar, Syria. Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

“For sure,” Mr. Taweel replied, “The final battle on November 3 was schemed, planned, and supported by Israel.”  

In his November 5, 2017 report, Alaa Ebrahim interviewed a Syrian army official who said: “Militants and Israel prepared this assault for three months and were thwarted in two hours.”

By mid-December, Syrian army units recaptured areas to Hadar’s northeast that had been occupied by al-Nusra. By the end of December, following military operations by the Syrian army and local defenders, terrorists were evacuated from Beit Jinn (to Hadar’s east), part of a deal to restore peace to that area. By January 2018, families who had been displaced from Beit Jinn and surrounding areas were returning. The restoration of security to Beit Jinn and surrounding areas also, importantly, meant one less front from which terrorists could attack Hadar. Terrorists remain in areas south of the village, and continue their attacks.

 

Facing occupied land

Descending the winding road a few kilometers to the west of Hadar, the hills of Majdal Shams, in the occupied Syrian Golan, appeared. Between the hill I stood on and Majdal Shams, an Israeli road fortified by a fence sliced the two Syrian lands, securing the land Israel has stolen and illegally occupies.

The Syrian mission to the UN post on the occupied Syrian Golan reads:

…[T]he Golan was home to over 140,000 Syrians, most of whom were driven out of their homeland and into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) status. Till this day, almost 40 years later, the Syrian inhabitants of the Golan are still unable to return to their homes, towns and cities. Today these Syrians exceed 500,000 people. Some Syrians remained in the Occupied Syrian Golan and continue to live in small villages amounting to approximately 20,000 Syrians.

Most of the Syrian cities, towns and villages in the Golan were destroyed by Israeli occupation forces, who in turn have built over 40 illegal settlements despite all international condemnation. Israel continues not only to occupy the Syrian Golan but to also destroy its ancient ruins and geopolitical atmosphere for the sole purpose of cleansing the Golan of its Syrian people and their history.”

The hill I stood on, far lower than surrounding hills, was known as the Shouting Valley, because shouting by megaphones was for many years the sole means of communication between Syrians from Hadar and those in Israeli-occupied Majdal Shams.

As Israeli road, heavily fortified, cuts through Syrian land on both sides in the occupied Golan Heights. Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

A February 2014 article in al-Akhbar by Firas Choufi noted:

After the 1973 War, residents of liberated Hadar and occupied Majdal Shams were separated into ‘two banks,’ and since then, they would meet, converse, and share news and concerns by shouting in megaphones, giving the area its name.

…The villages of Majdal Shams, Baqaatha, Masaada, Ain Qanya, and al-Ghajar are in truth the only villages in the Golan still inhabited by their native residents. In the 1967 War, the Israeli occupation ethnically cleansed two cities and more than 300 villages and farms in the Golan, using systematic massacres, bombardment, demolition of homes, and arrests, completely leveling existing villages.

Today, around 23,000 Syrians live in the Golan Heights, and reject Israeli citizenship. They inhabit an area that is no bigger that 7 percent of the total area of the Golan Heights, which represents the primary source of water for occupied Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee).

Meanwhile, 10,000 Jewish Israeli settlers live in 45 settlements built atop the ruins of Syrian villages, the largest of which is the settlement of Katzrin, which was built on the ruins of the Syrian town of Qisrin. Recently, the Israeli government officially declared the settlement an Israeli city.”

In the valley to my right, between Jabal al-Sheikh and the hill I stood on, lay farmland belonging to residents living in occupied Majdal Shams. Mahmoud Taweel explained that since the owners can’t cross from occupied Majdal Shams, relatives tend the land for them. He also noted that the lush land roughly two hundred meters from the fence is not workable; it is prohibited. Yet, on the side occupied by Israel, houses and worked farmland extend right up to the fence.

I was again reminded of Gaza, where farmers can’t access fertile land within up to a kilometer along the fence with Israeli-occupied Palestine. This land, the former breadbasket of Gaza, has been forcibly rendered dry and wasted. Israel has systematically destroyed wells and cisterns to ensure that those brave farmers who try to work their land regardless of Israel’s unilaterally and illegally imposed restrictions will find it nearly impossible to grow wheat and vegetables. On the Israeli-occupied side of that Gaza fence, the land is lushly green, irrigated with modern equipment. The same Israeli double-standards apply around the occupied Syrian Golan.

 

UN condemns then collaborates

The United Nations’ Security Council and General Assembly have long-condemned Israel’s many violations of international law with respect to its occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, including Israel’s “failure to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981)…” That resolution included demanding that Israel rescind its “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.”

The UN General Assembly declared:

Israel’s decision of 14 December, 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights constitutes an act of aggression under the provisions of Article 39 of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 3314 … Israel’s decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and has no legal validity and/or effect whatsoever.”

The UN rightly views Israel’s occupation and annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights as a “continuing threat to international peace and security.”

That Israel essentially has gotten a carte blanche from most Western nations to illegally annex further Palestinian land, occupy Syrian and Lebanese land, and continue murdering Palestinians and attacking Syria is not terribly surprising given the Israeli-UN collaboration in the occupied Syrian Golan, a collaboration notably including al-Qaeda terrorists.

A photo from the Israel, Syrian border along the Golan Heights showing IDF soldiers conversing with Jabhat al Nusra fighters.

On December 22, 2014 Al Akhbar reported:

Observers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) confirmed in a report cooperation and coordination between the Israeli army and militant groups in Syria.

The UNDOF report said that observers witnessed several meetings between rebel leaders and Israeli army forces between December 2013 and March 2014, in addition to witnessing the transportation of hundreds of injured militants to Israeli hospitals following confrontations between the militants and the Syrian army near the occupied Golan border.”

Regarding the November 3, 2017 terrorist attacks on Hadar and surrounding Syrian areas, a UNSC report noted:

Armed groups launched an attack involving heavy machine gun, small arms and indirect fire from the tri-village area of Jubbata al-Khashab, Turunjah and Ufaniyah in the area of separation against pro-Government forces in the vicinity of Hadar, which is largely inhabited by members of the Druze community.

…Preceding the attack, open sources reported that a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device targeted a pro-Syrian forces checkpoint in Hadar, killing nine people.”

Two men, not specified which group of rebels, ride a motorcycle towards an abandoned UN base at Syria's Quneitra border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

But the role of the UN regarding Israel’s interaction with, and support of, terrorists doesn’t end with merely reporting on these facts. The UN also whitewashes the Israeli-al-Qaeda coordination and puts the blame on Syria for defending itself.

As I wrote previously:

In a November 2014 report, the Secretary-General mentioned the presence of al-Nusra and other terrorists in the ceasefire area ‘unloading weapons from a truck,’ as well as a ‘vehicle with a mounted anti-aircraft gun’ and Israeli ‘interactions’ with ‘armed gangs.’ Nonetheless, he went on to condemn strongly the Syrian army’s presence, offering no alternative solution to how to fight against those who fire on Syrian army and civilians from within the UNDOF-deserted area.”

 

The Syrian Mandela

In April 2017, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Dr. Bashar al-Ja’afari, speaking on Israel’s occupation of Syrian territory, also said:

We have to call on Israel to free Sedqi al-Maqt—who we call the Syrian Mandela—and others who are in Israeli prisons for taking pictures, taking photos that prove that Israel is cooperating with the al-Nusra Front in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

Maqt is a Syrian in his early 50s from the occupied Syrian Golan who was imprisoned 27 years in Israeli prisons for his resistance to the Israeli occupation of Syrian land. He was released in 2012. Later, Maqt began filming the “joint cooperation between,” as he stated, Israeli soldiers and al-Qaeda terrorists near the Quneitra crossing. He was re-arrested by Israeli secret police in February 2015.

Maqt also reported seeing Israeli forces supplying terrorists with weapons and munitions, and conveyed his feeling that the crossing had been turned into an operations room and safe shelter for terrorists attacking Syria, with the support and knowledge of the Israelis and the UN.

Sedqi al-Maqt was arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet for exposing collaboration between Syrian rebels and Israel.

In one of his reports, Maqt noted that, “the terrorists would move with complete freedom,” from the areas they occupied in the Syrian Golan to areas where UN and Israeli forces were present. He noted that when the Syrian army shelled them, al-Qaeda and other terrorists took cover in areas where the Israeli and UN forces were present.  

Prior to his 2015 arrest, Maqt also reported on the Israeli field hospitals that are treating terrorists, and reported that residents of the occupied Syrian Golan daily see Israeli ambulances transporting terrorists, and Israeli forces interacting with terrorists:

There’s no way you could bring these terrorists to this field hospital if there wasn’t a joint operations room and daily communication and coordination..between Israeli forces and terrorist commanders.”

Ironically, when Sedqi al-Maqt was arrested, Israel charged him with “terrorism offences.”

When I visited the last couple hundred meters of Syrian land before occupied Majdal Shams, the sight of the vacated UN post, just to my left and before the illegally annexed Majdal Shams, was a visible reminder that Israel — with over 70 UN resolutions condemning it for its genocidal, land-thieving, war-criminal behavior against Palestinians, also including attacks on Syria and Lebanon — continues to evade facing any proper justice, making a farce of the UN and international law.

 

Hadar villagers speak through tears of terrorism they’ve faced  

Just before the main square in Hadar, I met Atef Nakkour, sitting in his small shop. He welcomed me and spoke of Hadar’s defiance:

You are very welcome in Hadar, this resistant village that has provided the invaluable to defend its dignity and freedom, and the dignity of the motherland. We are clinging to our land regardless of who agrees or disagrees.”

He too mentioned at least 130 martyrs from the village, and spoke of Hadar’s gratitude to the Syrian army:

We wholeheartedly endorse our army and our leadership.”

Hadar’s former mukthar (mayor), Jawdat al-Taweel, “Abu Abdu,” is a towering, charismatic man. He is still a popular figure in Hadar, and now runs a clothes shop in town.

He gave me a tour of the destruction from terrorist attacks. We stopped first at an internally-gutted, one-level shop that used to sell dairy and other food products. The shop, run by a family of women, was shelled and its equipment and goods destroyed in September 2017. The women now have no income.

Watch | Jawdat al-Taweel, Hadar’s former mayor, shows damage to homes after terrorist’ shelling

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We continued, Abu Abdu pointing out scars of the shellings, in walls and roofs on either side. From around a corner, Atef Nakkour shouted for Abu Abdu to show me his own damaged home. We climbed onto a rooftop and walked to its edge. The former mayor pointed out more damage, the remnants of shelling, and called down to Nakkour, “Where were you standing when it happened?”

Nakkour, standing on the street below us, replied that he’d been standing in the same spot, that a shell landed on a car parked nearby, shrapnel exploding towards the second level, damaging his home. Largely repaired, pockets in the roof overhang evidence the shelling.

Walking down from the square and to a small home surrounded by a stone wall, bushes and flowers, an elderly man and his wife spoke of their murdered son and relative. Mr. Hassoun spoke slowly, and as he described losing his son, Minhal Ahmed Hassoun, both he and his wife next to him began to cry. Through tears, he began:

Yes we lost young men, but we invaded no one, and we had no intention to kill anyone. They came to us on our land, and wanted to kill us and to humiliate us, but our youth and our heroic men preferred martyrdom to humiliation.”

Mahmoud Taweel added that the village men had fought alongside the Syrian army, fighting the terrorists who attack Hadar.

Mr. Hassoun continued:

They [terrorists] came in large numbers, and Israel backed them with artillery, but our men refused to withdraw a meter from their trenches. When the hero Minhal was martyred, his brother was next to him. He closed Minhal’s eyes, and said to him: ‘Your blood is invaluable, and they will pay for what they did.’”

Minhal had been studying law at Damascus University, Mr. Hassoun said:

I told him, ‘My son, finish your studies and get your degree, these battles are long.’ He answered me, ‘My father, the degree dies the moment its holder dies, but martyrdom for the motherland never dies, it lasts for generations.’

He took his wife to Jaramana, to the hospital so that she could give birth. They told him that there were  still three or four days until it was her time, but he left his wife with his siblings, and said to her: ‘I  want to go, the elders [his parents] are there and I won’t leave them alone.’

He came back in the evening, left for the battle next morning, and was martyred at 8 a.m.”

The newborn baby was named after his martyred father, Minhal.

Watch | Abu Minhal speaks of his son, who was killed defending Hadar

Minhal’s mother, who had been quietly wiping away her tears, listed their losses:

My grandson was the first martyr, his name was Anas. Then after him my son was martyred, his name was Minhal. After him my nephew was martyred, his name was Ismaeel. After that two more nephews of mine were martyred: one was called Hamed and the other one Hasan.”

She finished with a stoic comment reflecting the resilience not only of Hadar but of Syrians in general:

Losing a feather wouldn’t make a bird nude. No matter how many we lose, it’s better than those dogs come here.”

Before leaving, Mr. Hassoun brought out his old rifle and said:

We are following our ancestors’ steps and will never give up our motherland as long as we are alive.”

The terrorist attacks on Hadar and its farmland continue to the shrugs of Western corporate media precisely because reporting on such devastation by what the same media sells us as “rebels” would once again shatter the myth of “moderates,” the myth of a “revolution,” and of a “civil war.”

In addition to Hadar’s strategic position, the people of Hadar are being attacked because they stand with their army and president. But after years of such attacks, and after over 130 martyrs, it is clear Hadar villagers have no intention of changing their stance, much like defiant Syrians throughout Syria.

Top Photo | A Hadar resident stands outside of his shrapnel damaged home. Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine. She is a recipient of the International Journalism Award for International Reporting. Visit her personal blog, In Gaza, and support her work on Patreon.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Britain in panic as Trump-Putin summit looms – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Britain alarmed as John Bolton travels to Moscow to prepare summitAlexander Mercouris

Days after I discussed rumours of an imminent Trump-Putin summit, seeming confirmation that such a summit is indeed in the works has been provided with the Kremlin’s confirmation that President Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton is travelling to Moscow next week apparently to discuss preparations for the summit.

The Kremlin’s confirmation of John Bolton’s visit was given today by President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov

As far as we know, such a visit is going to take place. This is all we can say for now.

Further suggestions that some sort of easing of tensions between Washington and Moscow may be in the works has been provided by confirmation that a group of US Republican Senators will shortly be visiting Moscow.

It seems that a combination of the collapse in the credibility of the Russiagate collusion allegations – which I suspect no Republican member of the House or Senate any longer believes – unease in the US at Russia’s breakthrough in hypersonic weapons technology (recently discussed by Alex Christoforou and myself in this video), and the failure of the recent sanctions the US Treasury announced against Rusal, has concentrated minds in Washington, and is giving President Trump the political space he needs to push for the easing of tensions with Russia which he is known to have long favoured.

One important European capital cannot conceal its dismay.

In a recent article for Consortium News I discussed the obsessive quality of the British establishment’s paranoia about Russia, and not surprisingly in light of it an article has appeared today in The Times of London which made clear the British government’s alarm as the prospect of a Trump-Putin summit looms.

As is often the way with articles in The Times of London, this article has now been “updated” beyond recognition.  However it still contains comments like these

Mr Trump called for Russia to be readmitted to the G8 this month, wrecking Mrs May’s efforts to further isolate Mr Putin after the Salisbury poisonings. Mr Trump then linked US funding of Nato to the trade dispute with the EU, singling out Germany for special criticism.

The prospect of a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Putin appals British officials. “It’s unclear if this meeting is after or before Nato and the UK visit,” a Whitehall official said. “Obviously after would be better for us. It adds another dynamic to an already colourful week.”….

A senior western diplomatic source said that a Trump-Putin meeting before the Nato summit would cause “dismay and alarm”, adding: “It would be a highly negative thing to do.”

Nato is due to discuss an escalation of measures to deter Russian aggression. “Everyone is perturbed by what is going on and is fearing for the future of the alliance,” a Whitehall source said.

I will here express my view that the Russiagate scandal was at least in part an attempt by some people in Britain to prevent a rapprochement between the US and Russia once it became clear that achieving such a rapprochement was a policy priority for Donald Trump.

In my article for Consortium News I discussed at length the size of the British footprint in the scandal, and the outsized role in it of various British or British connected individuals such as the ex British spy Christopher Steele who compiled the Trump Dossier, the former chief of Britain’s NSA equivalent GCHQ Robert Hannigan, the former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove, and the Cambridge based US academic Stefan Halper.

I would add that there are now rumours that Professor Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious London based Maltese Professor who also had a big role in the Russiagate affair, may also have had connections to British intelligence.

As this article in Zerohedge says, all roads in Russiagate lead to London, not, be it noted, Moscow.

A summit meeting between the US and Russian Presidents inaugurated an improvement in relations between the US and Russia is exactly the opposite outcome which some people in London want.

That however looks to be what they are facing.

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US Leaves UNHRC: Big Step to Isolation – By Arkady SAVITSKY (Strategic Culture Foundation)

US Leaves UNHRC: Big Step to Isolation
Arkady SAVITSKY | 21.06.2018 | WORLD / Americas

So, the US is leaving the 47-member Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made the announcement on June 19. The move followed criticism of the US immigration policy, especially the forced separation of alleged undocumented migrant parents from their children.

Formally, the reason is the bias against Israel, the failure to hold human rights abusers accountable and US calls for reforms remaining unheeded. Strange logic! Being a member, the US could protect its Middle East ally and attract world attention to violations of human rights. The premier intergovernmental human rights body may not be as effective as it could be but it is a platform to address the burning problems and a dialogue bridge.

The ambassador added that the council could be rejoined in the future if reforms were made. That’s the essence of Washington’s approach. Either the US has it its way or it quits, there is nothing in between: no compromise, no discussions, and no diplomacy. More and more often, the US demonstrates its “it’s my way or no way” approach to international problems.

The opposition to the withdrawal is strong, including US lawmakers and well-known NGOs, such as the Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Campaign, Save the Children, Freedom House and many others but their arguments have been ignored. Washington came under strong criticism internationally.

The pullout is a very decisive step conforming to the trend of the US stepping back from multilateral accords, international bodies and forums. Under the current administration, America has pulled out from the Paris climate accord, the UN educational, scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO) and the Iran nuclear deal. It also defied the world by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there. Its participation in UN activities has been curtailed recently. For instance, in January, the US announced the decision to cut funds for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. In March, Ambassador Haley said that UN peacekeeping operations will be axed. The idea to withdraw from the United Nations Organization has been reinvigorated recently in the US.

There are other reasons the US officials prefer not to mention. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is pressing ahead with the investigation of mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by British forces in 2003-2008. This is a warning for America. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was headed by the US without the approval by the UN Security Council. Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has mentioned alleged US violations to be investigated. She says the United States may have abused human rights in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The US strongly opposes the ICC, so it’s only natural for it to be against the UNHRC and the UN in general. Washington has not ratified various international human rights related agreements. The country still has death penalty. It has failed to cope with police brutality and is known to have the world’s largest prison population (about two million people).

In 2014, the UN Committee Against Torture released a report that deeply criticized the US for racial discrimination and other human rights abuses, including electronic surveillance, CIA interrogations, immigrant detentions, the failure to shut down the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay etc. In 2015, a UN report slammed America for being the only country in the world to imprison children for life without parole. According to the recent Human Rights Watch paper, the US moved backward on human rights at home and abroad last year.

On many occasions, the legality of using armed drones by the US military and the CIA has been questioned by the international community. Last December, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution calling on the US to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Washington threatened those who backed the document with retaliation. The US sanctions policy has been criticized by UN officials saying it constitutes the violation of human rights. Actually, Russia or any other country under sanctions could launch a complaint with the UN Human Rights committee in accordance with Article 41 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Nobody’s perfect. So is the UN. Still the organization remains a vital instrument of international governance. It has managed many conflicts preventing abuses and saving lives. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner as well as a half dozen core human rights treaties have played an important role to protect human rights. An extensive international criminal justice system exists under the UN auspices. The attempts to free America from the burden of international law and global commitments in a high-tech era are hardly implementable. With the UN jettisoned, the US would return to pre-Second World War isolationism but will it make it richer, stronger, or more influential? How does the concept of the whole world marching out of step benefit the United States?

True, the council has serious drawbacks but the US leaves for another reason. While lecturing others on human rights, values and freedom, the US is far from being lily-white but it wants no curbs on what it does and no criticism, objections and discussions. Looks like “America First” and “America Isolated” have a lot in common. 

Fanatic barbarians: Israeli settlers celebrate burning Palestinian baby, chant “Ali is on the grill!” – By Jonathan Ofir (Mondoweiss) (SOTT)

Hussein Dawabshe

Hussein Dawabshe, with his grandson Ahmad, in 2016.

There’s something particularly disturbing about celebrating the burning alive of a baby.

This is precisely what Israeli Jewish settlers were doing yesterday, outside the court in Lod. “‘Ali was burned, where is Ali? Ali is on the grill!”, they chanted, in reference to the 18-month old baby Ali Dawbsheh, who was burnt alive by Jewish terrorists in the West Bank town of Duma in 2015. Ali’s mother Riham and father Saad died of their wounds a few weeks later. Of the family of four, only 5-year-old Ahmad survived the arson with severe burns.

The terror-supporters were actually taunting Ali’s grandfather, Hussein Dawabshe, who was attending a preliminary hearing at which the court decided to indict one adult suspect who confessed to the murders, as well as a minor who was an accomplice. Hussein was accompanied by Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi. Tibi posted the video of the chanting, with policemen standing by doing nothing, and wrote:

“Where’s Ali? There’s no Ali. Ali is burned. On the fire. Ali is on the grill” – all this was thrown at our face – including at the grandfather Dawbsheh concerning his 18-month-old grandson by the riff raff of ‘price tag’. In front of us stood policemen and officers and did nothing. No words…

The terror supporters also referred to the other family members: “Where is Ali? Where is Riham? Where is Saad? It’s too bad Ahmed didn’t burn as well.”

This is certainly not the first time that the burning of this baby was celebrated. In December 2015, a video showing dozens of wedding guests celebrating the arson went public via Channel 10. The guests are seen dancing with Molotov cocktails, knives and guns, and stabbing a photo of baby Ali Dawabsheh. The wedding couple was said to be “very well known in the radical right”. Following widespread public outrage, Netanyahu distanced himself from the event, saying that these were “shocking images” which “show the true face of a group that constitutes a danger”, but he also provided the “many sides” narrative:

“That is not the proud religious Zionism that contributes to the state, and whose sons serve in the elite units in the army… It is also impossible to compare the scope of that terror with Arab terror. In the last month they [Arabs] carried out hundreds of attacks against us, and we saw just a few Jewish terrorist attacks.”

Comment: In fact, Israeli terror is comparably worse in practically every way.

A year later, 13 people from what became known as the “murder wedding” were indicted for incitement to terrorism.

Meanwhile, last month, in what was probably much less noticed, the Dawabsheh family home was torched once again:

“A group of settlers attacked my home at dawn today, breaking a window and throwing a Molotov cocktail inside before fleeing the scene,” Yasser Dawabsheh said. “We were lucky that I was able to hear them when they attacked, so I was able to evacuate all my family,” he said. “Fire crews reacted quickly and put out the fire before the whole house burnt down…”

So yesterday was a hearing in the court case concerning the original arson/murders. And the defense opened a can of worms concerning torture.

The defendants made an issue of their interrogations by Shin Bet officers, saying that they were tortured. In fact, the settlers had held a press conference to this effect at the very same hall in which the “murder wedding” was held.

The court announced at yesterday’s preliminary hearing that confessions obtained under torture by the Shin Bet interrogators would not be admissible, but that later confessions would be admissible. Haaretz note:

“If the confessions had been declared admissible, they probably would have ended in a conviction of the two suspects, legal experts had said. The rejection is a blow to the State Prosecutor’s Office as it will now be more difficult to obtain a conviction.”

Of course, Israel and the court refer to torture with euphemisms such as “moderate physical pressure” and “special methods”. But it’s torture – and the Haaretz coverage is clear about that, and even charts out some of the torture methods. The thing is, that torture (under whatever euphemism) is legal in Israel under certain circumstances, known as the “ticking bomb” scenario – where there is knowledge of other network members at large, who are bound to perpetrate an attack. Haaretz:

“Law enforcement agencies said the interrogation was justified because the two suspects had knowledge about a group that sought to perpetrate similar attacks. In the event, there were two failed attempts to commit similar attacks.”

So is the court now saying that torture is not permissible under any circumstance?

In 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that torture was permissible under those ‘special circumstances.’ The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) slammed it, saying the ruling was interpreted by the Shin Bet as a green light to torture almost every Palestinian detainee. “Today in Israel, there is no effective barrier – not legal and certainly not ethical – that stands in the way of using torture. A secret service organization such as the GSS (Shin Bet) decides independently to use torture and, afterwards, investigates itself as to whether the use of interrogation was justified,” the committee said.

Israel has effectively been permitting torture in various modes. In 1987 the Landau commission overtly legalized torture. This prompted the outspoken scientist Yeshayahu Leibowitz to call Supreme Court judge Moshe Landau a “Judeo-Nazi“. Israel has wandered back and forth with the legality and its more or less overt modes, but the practices have continued.

Comment: Only democracy in the Middle East? More like the Jewish Saudi Arabia.

Yet now the Lod court is effectively saying that confessions from such practices are simply inadmissible under any circumstances. Would this also apply to Palestinians? This is doubtfully the case. The court is only a District Court, and it is only relating to this particular case, which happens to involve Jewish – not Palestinian – terrorists.

Judge Ruth Lorach was particularly effusive in her appraisal of the “special methods.” She said, “These methods have hurt the basic rights of the defendants in a severe manner – rights concerning preservation of the wholeness of the body and soul, and they have hurt their dignity.”

(This quote is notably only to be found in the Hebrew version of the Haaretz coverage).

So how much “dignity” are Palestinians really going to get from all this?

The virulently hateful scenes outside the court yesterday did not bode well.

Ahmed Tibi told Ynet that he asked police officers to do something about those chanting and taunting, but that they responded with indifference.

“What would have happened had the situation been reversed?”, he asked. “If 20 Arab youths were shouting about a Jewish fatality ‘he’s on the grill, he’s burning’? How many of them would have gone home with broken legs? How many would have been arrested?” Tibi wondered. “Part of the reason it was horrifying was the police’s indifference, like nothing had happened,” he explained. “They (the police) could have at least removed them from the court. (No need) to break legs. Legs are only broken to Arabs in Haifa, not to Jews. But they could have at least removed them,” he added.

Comment: The evil of banality.

Tibi notes that there were expressions of disgust from across the political spectrum, but silence at its top:

“But lo and behold-not a single minister (said anything), not Miri Regev [minister of culture], not Yisrael Katz [minister of intelligence], not Ayelet Shaked [justice minister], not Naftali Bennett [education minister] and in particular not the prime minister, who knows how to retweet awful things. He remained quiet instead of condemning this sickening phenomenon”.

Comment: Because they’re just as sick in the head.


H/t Edith Breslauer

About Jonathan Ofir: Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

Comment: There’s a lot said about radical Muslims and their incompatibility with Western culture. Well, the same goes for these Jewish fanatics. Identity politics will do that.

As Trump and Xi Wage Trade Roar, Kim Sees Both Sides of His Bread Buttered – By Elliott Gabriel – (MINT PRESS)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, hosts North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Dalian, China in this undated photo released on May, 9 2018 by KCNA.
How Not to Win a Trade War

 

Donald Trump has backed himself into a corner with his tariff-imposed trade war with China, undercutting the most important lynchpin of peace with North Korea.

BEIJING – Tremendous; great, incredible and tremendous; very historic, and very, very comprehensive. Such were the terms U.S. President Donald Trump used to praise last Tuesday’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and he was far from alone in welcoming what appeared to be a major breakthrough in burying the memory of nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

A week later, Chinese President Xi Jinping also hailed the “positive” outcome of the meeting as he welcomed Kim to Beijing for a two-day trip, the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea chairman’s third visit to the Chinese capital in only three months.  

The Chinese leader has plenty of reason to hail the unfolding peace process, as it represents the triumph of the dual suspension or “double freeze” proposal China offered last year, which prescribed an end to the DPRK’s weapons’ tests in exchange for an end to U.S.-South Korea war games.

The process is also lifting the shroud of diplomatic and financial pressure from Beijing’s shoulders when dealing with its counterparts in Pyongyang, who are counting on China’s diplomatic and technical reinforcement as it introduces further market reforms and seeks reintegration with the global economy.

According to Chinese press reports, the two held a candid and in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations while agreeing to work closely together to further deepen ties, including joint efforts to denuclearize the peninsula.

“No matter the changes in the international and regional situation, China’s party and government’s resolute position on being dedicated to consolidating and developing Sino-North Korea relations will not change,” Chinese reports quoted Xi as saying.

The DPRK will require China’s assistance to ensure that the U.S. remains committed to fulfilling the security guarantees it gave to the country, rather than veering toward the so-called “Libya option” of disarming Pyongyang before proceeding to violently topple Kim.

While U.S.-DPRK negotiations have progressed at a stunning breakneck pace, they have also coincided with increasing strains in relations between Beijing and Washington, especially over the trade war Trump has launched against China.

 

Trade war heats up

As Chinese newspapers have brimmed over with quotes of officials hailing Trump’s U-turn on the Korean nuclear issue, the same media has spared no effort piling derision on the U.S. president’s successive introduction of tariffs on Chinese goods.

Just last week, Washington announced the introduction of a 25 percent tariff on up to $50 billion of Chinese goods, provoking Beijing’s retaliation in the form of its own tariffs on U.S. products. China’s reaction resulted in Trump demanding that the U.S. Trade Representative’s office compile a new list of $200 billion in goods that would be subject to a 10-percent tariff. The reality TV star noted that if China follows through on its threat to levy retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, the U.S. would introduce duties on yet another $200 billion in trade.

A giant TV screen broadcasting the meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, June 19, 2018. Andy Wong | AP

China has reacted furiously to what it sees as a blatant attempt at strong-arming it into accepting unfair trade terms, promising strong countermeasures to Trump’s “intimidation.” On Tuesday, a Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman noted:

Such practice of imposing extreme pressure and blackmailing is contrary to the consensus the two sides have reached through rounds of consultations, and disappoints the international community …The trade war waged by the United States is against both the law of the market and the development trend of today’s world. It undermines the interests of both Chinese and American people, the interests of companies and the interests of the people all over the world.”

The backdrop of fierce trade negotiations bordering on an all-out trade war between the two major powers may have led to the DPRK finding itself in the crosshairs of love-bombing attempts by both Washington and Beijing.

For the famously shrewd U.S. president, the prospect of disrupting the Chinese relationship with North Korea may be seen as a means of depriving China of leverage in trade talks. The former real-estate mogul may well believe that loud promises of glistening timeshares along Mount Paektu and Ritz Carlton hotels along the country’s east coast will entice Kim to drop his nukes and join the U.S. fold.

 

China-DPRK relations supported by the weight of modern history

Meanwhile, Beijing has pulled out all stops in feting Kim during his visits, which acclimates global public opinion to the idea that “Chairman Kim” isn’t some horrific dictator who should be treated as a pariah unless the U.S. says otherwise – no, he’s just the head of state in a nation seeking development.

In the meantime, the Communist Party of China and Workers’ Party of Korea have promoted a range of exchanges meant to promote the “all-round” fraternal relations and “mutually beneficial” alliance between the historically-intertwined organizations, whose ties date back to the 1930s, when first-generation leaders of their respective parties like Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, fought as comrades-in-arms as guerilla fighters versus the Japanese.

For the DPRK leadership, which spent the Cold War practicing a policy of equidistance between its mutually-opposed allies the Soviet Union and China, the position is comfortable and allows Kim to enjoy the benefits of amicable relations with both powers.

Reports have also emerged detailing how Chinese firms producing goods for the DPRK are resuming operations while North Korean laborers are being hired by clothing manufacturers in China, a sign that sanctions on the North are increasingly being shrugged off despite Washington’s unmet conditions for their relief.

“Although it seems there is a booming romance between Kim Jong-un and Trump, Kim understands the hierarchy. He knows that Xi is the Asian Godfather,” said Yanmei Xie, a China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, an economic research firm in Beijing. “[Kim] is making a pragmatic calculation that China can provide economic assistance to integrate North Korea diplomatically and economically into Northeast Asia.”

Now, with Xi’s go-ahead, the trade between the two countries could skyrocket in a manner that wipes away the foul taste of existing sanctions faced by Pyongyang, drastically undercutting Trump’s option of renewing the U.S.’s hostile policies toward a non-compliant DPRK.

Either way, war and pain are fast fading as prospects for the people of the Korean peninsula.

Top Photo | Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, hosts North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Dalian, China in this undated photo released on May, 9 2018 by KCNA.

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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Putin-Trump summit finally on the way? – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Moscow hints that a summit in Vienna is under discussion as rumours of a July summit persist

US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
 

In the aftermath of the successful Kim-Trump summit in Singapore there is again speculation about the prospects of a possible summit meeting between the US and Russian Presidents, with Vienna the likely host city.

The clearest discussion of these rumours and of what such a summit might look like and what it might achieve has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow.

On the indications that a summit is in the air Dr. Doctorow has this to say

I say that a summit in the near future look likely, in part because that is suggested in several articles appearing recently in the Washington Post, in The Wall Street Journal, in The New Yorkermaking reference to unidentified contacts in the administration.  In part, I base it on less obvious clues that speak to the vestigial Kremlinologist in me. One is the repeat broadcast this morning on Vesti/Rossiya-1 of an interview with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that took place just before Vladimir Putin’s state visit on 6 June. Vienna has been mentioned as a possible venue for any such summit, and the interview makes plain why the country would be so very suitable as the site of a summit – namely Kurz’s populist and Euro-skeptic policies that are so highly appreciated by both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

The Return of Henry Kissinger

Dr. Doctorow suggests that Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s former National Security Adviser who is now in Russia ostensibly to watch the World Cup, may be playing a crucial go-between role in setting up the summit.

One additional clue is that Henry Kissinger is said to be in Moscow right now, and Henry has been an adviser to Trump on policy to Russia ever since the 2016 campaign. He has been the voice urging an accommodation with Russia for a variety of geopolitical strategic reasons.

To which I would add that Henry Kissinger is not only known to be an adviser to Donald Trump; he is also known to have good contacts with senior officials in Moscow including Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Putin’s former Chief of Staff, who continues to be a member of Russia’s Security Council (Russia’s top policy making body) and who has in the past spoken of Kissinger in effusive terms.

A get to know you summit; not a detailed negotiation

As to what a summit between Trump and Putin might look like, Dr. Doctorow suggests that the Kim-Trump summit may provide a possible precedent.

The Kim-Trump summit took place with only minimal preparation and produced only a bland one page statement of intent.  However it has nonetheless managed to transform the international atmosphere.  Dr. Doctorow suggests a Trump-Putin summit would be similar

All accounts of the President’s decision to seek a meeting with Putin in July indicate that he is doing this over the objections of every one of his advisers.  Put another way, he would not appear to have many resources at hand at the moment for a solid preparation of the planned summit.

Normally, the Russians would not accept a meeting at the top without such preparation. However, in light of what just happened in the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, which also had close to no preparation and ended in a one-page, 4-point statement of intentions which was swallowed by the American establishment and media upon Trump’s return home, the Kremlin may well have decided that this is the only way forward with an American President under siege from his own administration not to mention the federal bureaucracy.

I can envision a Letter of Intent signed by Trump and Putin in Vienna that has three points. Two are the points sketched above. The third could be a quite unexceptional statement on Ukraine that would conceal a significant change in US policy given in verbal assurances that would change the dynamics in US-Russian relations. Namely the sides could agree to take measures to ensure that both Kiev and the breakaway republics begin at once to honor the Minsk Accords.  Behind this anodyne formula would be a US commitment to force the hand of Poroshenko or to have him removed and replaced by someone who will do what is necessary to achieve a political settlement with Donbass. In return, the Russians would ensure quick deployment of a UN or other reputable peace keeping force in the Donbass at the lines of separation of forces and at the Russian Ukrainian border.

The Letter of Intent would be a start, would give a new direction to the bilateral relations and would open the way to creation of working groups and restoration of lines of communication that Barack Obama foolishly severed following the tainted advice of his Neocon staff at the State Department.

The other three items which Dr. Doctorow envisages might be in the summit communique other than Ukraine relate to arms control and Syria.

On the subject of Syria Dr. Doctorow envisages an agreement along these lines

There have been rumors that the United States is seeking a de facto if not de jure partition of Syria whereby its control over the Kurdish territory east of the Euphrates River is recognized by the Russians. The logic for this U.S. interest may well be related more to containing Iran than to depriving the Assad government of territory, population and hydrocarbon resources.  Figuratively the American zone would be a bulwark against Iranian infiltration of Syria and Iran’s enjoying unchallenged military access to the Israeli border.  Considering the obvious understandings between Netanyahu and Putin over Iranian operations on Syrian soil, it is quite possible that Russia would agree to the US proposal as part of a bigger negotiation over improving bilateral relations.

On the subject of arms control, Dr. Doctorow puts it this way

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

Is any of this likely to be true?  Is a Trump-Putin summit of the sort envisaged by Dr. Doctorow really in the works?

Urgent need for a Trump-Putin summit

The first thing to say about such a summit is that it is sorely needed and that Trump and Putin should not be deterred from holding it simply because there has been only minimal preparation for it.

As a result of the phoney Russiagate scandal, whose absurdity grows by the day, we have a ridiculous situation where the two men who command the world’s two most powerful militaries can each meet one to one with every other world leader – including it turns out North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – but not apparently with each other.  The sooner this ridiculous and dangerous situation is ended the better.

Moreover, as Dr. Doctorow rightly says, such a summit meeting between Trump and Putin has a value that goes far beyond anything that the two men concretely agree with each other.

There mere fact that the leaders of the United States and Russia are finally talking to each other will transform the international atmosphere, and will hopefully bring to an end the climate of tension which has existed in the international system since the Western sponsored Maidan coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

As Dr. Doctorow also rightly says, it is actually better in this situation if Trump and Putin do not agree to anything specific with each other since in the present atmosphere anything they did agree with each other would almost certainly be misrepresented in the US by Donald Trump’s opponents as a betrayal.

Above all the subject of sanctions – as Dr. Doctorow rightly says – should certainly not be discussed, and no agreement to lift them should be reached.

Sanctions

However that does not mean that with respect to the sanctions a summit between the US and Russian Presidents would not be important.  The mere fact that the Presidents of the US and Russia were meeting would make the unrolling of further sanctions against Russia look increasingly unlikely.

Whilst the ugly blowback of the recent US sanctions against the Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska argues against further strong sanctions being imposed against Russia, such new sanctions as are from time to time announced do nonetheless have something of the quality of a sort of guerrilla campaign against Russia. For the Russians that is distracting, and as they focus increasingly on upgrading their economy they could well do without it.

Moreover a signal from the US – which a Trump-Putin summit would itself be – that further US sanctions against Russia are off the table would almost certainly be all the encouragement many international investors and businesspeople would need in order for them to start investing in Russia in a big way.

With Russian costs and assets now extremely cheap, and with the macroeconomic environment in Russia extremely stable and business friendly, the fear of further sanctions against Russia is now arguably the one thing which is discouraging international investors and businesspeople from piling into a Russia.  Here is how the Financial Times – normally a harsh critic of Russia – puts it

….the rouble has stabilised while investors have marked down the currencies of Argentina, Turkey, Brazil and other emerging market countries in the face of a resurgent dollar and rising Treasury yields. Because while they run large current account deficits, which need financing from capital flows, Russia runs a trade surplus.

Compared with other parts of emerging markets, “Russia is in a relatively comfortable position”, says Piotr Matys, EM strategist at Rabobank.

While a number of EM central banks have raised interest rates to counter the impact of the stronger dollar on their economies, the Central Bank of Russia is weighing a rate cut. And although investors have doubts about the credibility of some EM policymakers, they like CBR governor Elvira Nabiullina for bringing discipline and a consistent communication strategy to the central bank.

Inflation was raging at 15 per cent three years ago, but at 2.4 per cent is now below the CBR target of 4 per cent.

April’s sanctions prompted JPMorgan analysts to close long positions in the rouble, but they are now reintroducing them.

Nafez Zouk, macro strategist at Oxford Economics, says pressure on the rouble is “softening out given that the perception of geopolitical risks has faded”, and reckons the currency is undervalued on the basis of real exchange rate behaviour.

Russia may attract opprobrium on the world stage, but investors don’t mind holding their nose when opportunities arise.

Whilst a softening of the sanctions pressure will therefore almost certainly not be on the agenda of any summit between Trump and Putin, it would nonetheless be a consequence of it and would be an actual material benefit Russia would gain from a summit.

What of the US however, what might the US and Donald Trump gain from a summit with Vladimir Putin now?

Re-starting arms control

The answer to that has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

As my colleague Alex Christoforou and I have recently discussed in a video, Russia’s success in developing hypersonic missile technology has fundamentally changed the strategic military balance between the US and Russia.

Moreover this is happening at a time when the US’s Nuclear Posture Review was already making clear the US military’s growing dismay about the way the international military balance is shifting against the US.  Here is some of what I have previously said about the US Nuclear Posture Review in a previous article for The Duran

…..today – as was never the case during the Cold War – the aggregate economic, technological and especially industrial and raw material resources of Russia and China are greater than those of the US, calling into question the US’s long term ability to sustain an arms race which it insists on conducting simultaneously against both of them.

Already there is a marked build up of Russian conventional forces in eastern Europe, probably outmatching the size and power of the conventional forces the US currently has in Europe, whilst the Chinese aircraft carrier programme threatens US military dominance of the Pacific for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

At present the US still has the military forces to take on both the Russian army in Europe and the Chinese navy in the Pacific simultaneously.

However before long that will become impossible, at which point the US will find itself not only disastrously over-extended but facing a military commitments’ crisis….

The US Nuclear Posture Review is in fact a profoundly pessimistic document, more so than any other foreign policy or defence document the US government has published which I have read since the end of the Cold War.

Not only does it effectively admit what is now undeniable – that with the return of Great Power competition the ‘unipolar moment’ has passed – but it barely conceals its dismay that the US is once again locked into something which following the end of the Cold War it assumed it would never have to face again: a nuclear arms race…..

Indeed it is easy to see how the US’s overall military position is rapidly becoming worse than it was during the Cold War.

The Cold War was essentially a dual between two nuclear superpowers – the US and the USSR – which was fought out in a limited geographical area – north west Europe and the north Atlantic.

By contrast the challenges the US is now facing are becoming truly global: against Russia in Europe, against China in the Pacific, and potentially against North Korea and Iran in the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

Moreover, despite their differences there is a growing trend for three of these Powers – Russia, China and Iran – to work together with each other, with Russia and China de facto allies against the US, and Iran gradually becoming so.

It is only a question of time before the US finds that it does not have the conventional military forces to confront all these challenges simultaneously……

Dr. Doctorow claims that Henry Kissinger’s original reason for pressing Donald Trump to repair relations with Russia was precisely because of his alarm about the deterioration in the US’s global position caused by the US’s careless undoing of his 1970s diplomatic achievement of setting China and Russia off against each other

I have noted before that Kissinger’s advice to Trump during the electoral campaign to reach an accommodation with Moscow was aimed at decoupling the budding Russia-China strategic partnership that has undone all that Nixon and Kissinger achieved in the 1970s.  I have also noted that Putin rejected this conceptualization of the path to normalized relations with the US when Trump’s emissaries put it to him early in the spring of 2017. Putin is very loyal to his friends and would never turn on Chinese President Xi for the sake of an invitation to the White House. After that setback, Kissinger appeared to have disappeared from the Trump’s entourage.

In light of this the further deterioration of the US’s strategic military position highlighted by the Nuclear Posture Review and confirmed by the new generation of Russian hypersonic weapons unveiled in Putin’s March State of the Union Address  can only have given in Kissinger’s mind added urgency to the US’s need for a new arms limitation arrangement with Russia.

A ‘geostrategic ceasefire’?

This after all is the course I proposed in my discussion of the Nuclear Posture Review, and it is overwhelmingly likely that Kissinger – the nearest thing the US has to a foreign policy realist – shares it

In a rational world that ought to drive the US towards seeking some sort of rapprochement with either Russia or China or preferably with both of them.

Both countries are still overwhelmingly focused on their internal economic development, and for that reason they would probably be willing to come to some sort of ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ arrangement with the US if it were offered to them.

The brief detente era between the US and the USSR of the early 1970s offers a possible precedent, though given subsequent US behaviour the US now faces a massive trust deficit which it will struggle to overcome.

However that remains the rational approach for the US to be taking, and in my opinion if it took it, and committed itself to it seriously, it would probably despite all the trust issues achieve success given the overriding interest of both Russia and China in a peaceful and stable world situation at this time.  Certainly the view expressed in the Review that Russia and China are ‘revisionist’ powers is for the time being at least wrong.

If this is indeed the direction things are taking then it is completely unsurprising that Henry Kissinger – the individual most associated with the previous ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ between the US and Russia of the 1970s – is at the forefront negotiating it.

That ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ after all was also the product of an earlier US over-commitment crisis, with the US struggling to balance the competing demands of its strategic arms race with the USSR and the war in Vietnam.

Nixon and Kissinger responded to the 1970s US over-commitment crisis by coming to arms limitation agreements with the Soviets whilst simultaneously reaching out to China and scaling down the war in Vietnam.

It is just possible that Donald Trump on Kissinger’s advice is feeling his way to doing something similar now, and that some of his recent moves eg. the summit with Kim Jong-un and the talk of a summit with Putin now are the outward indications of it.

That would make sense of some of Donald Trump’s recent talk about Russia, which Dr. Doctorow describes in this way

Evidence of Kissinger’s return to favor came as recently as a week ago when Trump reportedly said behind closed doors at the G-7 meeting that Crimea is rightfully Russia’s.  That is half of the new equation for normalization of relations now being attributed to Kissinger by hearsay:  the other side of the equation being that in return Russia would withdraw its support to the rebellion in Donbass against the Ukrainian authorities.

Given the scale of the US’s pending over-commitment crisis, such a policy aiming at a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ with Russia might just possibly if it was explained properly even in time gain a measure of support in Washington.  Here is what Dr. Doctorow has to say about that

Such a one-page Letter of Intent could be sold to a skeptical or even hostile Congress if arms control heads the list.  The Open Letter to Rex Tillerson by four US Senators, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent (Bernie Sanders) in early March urging immediate arms control talks showed that Vladimir Putin’s speech of 1 March on how Russia has restored full nuclear parity with the United States could break through the otherwise blind partisanship on Capitol Hill when questions of national survival are on the table. (See http://usforeignpolicy.blogs.lalibre.be/archive/2018/03/10/gang-of-four-senators-call-for-tillerson-to-enter-into-arms-1164058.html )

However it is important to stress that what looks to be on the agenda at least for the moment is a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’, not a full scale rapprochement between the US and Russia.

The US and Russia would remain adversaries.  However sanctions pressure on Russia would ease, attracting external investors to Russia, whilst the Russians would be given time and space to give all their attention to their economy without being distracted by the constant pressure on them of the US.  The US for its part would be under less pressure to engage in an arms race with Russia and China which it now lacks the resources to win.

Donald Trump himself has at times gone further and has spoken of actual friendship between the US and Russia.  That is not however on the agenda in the foreseeable future.

What are the prospects of success?

No retreat by Russia on Ukraine, Crimea or Donbass

Firstly Dr. Doctorow is certainly right when he says that any idea of Russia abandoning the two People’s Republics of the Donbass to their fate in return for a ‘geopolitical ceasefire’ with the US can be firmly ruled out

To abandon Donbass to the not so tender mercy of Ukrainian nationalists and revanchists would be political suicide for Putin given the strength of feeling on the subject among his supporters

I would add that the Russians have also categorically ruled out the possibility of a peacekeeping force being deployed to the Donbass to which Dr. Doctorow gives more credence.  Here is what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently had to say about that

The topic of the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbass was discussed at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Normandy Four participants [Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France], Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

“Yes, UN peacekeepers were discussed,” the Russian minister said. “The Russian position is crystal clear. We have a proposal introduced last September to the UN Security Council and aimed at providing UN security for observers working through OSCE,” Lavrov said.

At the same time, Ukraine continues insisting on the US variant of the UN mission in Donbass, which ruins Minsk Agreements completely, Lavrov noted.

“We explained that ideas put forward by US and Ukrainian representatives to convert this peacekeeping mission into a sort of military-political commandant’s headquarters to take control over the whole territory of proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics and which will decide on its own, who will be elected and in what way, completely ruins Minsk Agreements,” the Russian minister said.

“It seems to me that the French and the German understand our logic,” he added.

Given the total lack of trust the Russians have in any peacekeeping force proposed by Ukraine and the Western powers, and given that the supporters of this proposal for a peacekeeping force make no secret that it is their intention to use it as a means to return the Donbass to Kiev’s control, I do not see the Russians ever agreeing to it.

Conversely, I don’t see Trump – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – ever agreeing to Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s removal to please Putin and I don’t see Putin requesting it; nor do I see Trump agreeing to increase pressure on Ukraine in order to get Ukraine to implement the Minsk Process, and I don’t see Putin requesting it from him either.

I suspect that the most one can hope for coming out of a Trump-Putin summit on the subject of Ukraine would be a public recommitment by the US and Russia to the Minsk Process – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – together with a private understanding between Trump and Putin to put the issues of Crimea and Ukraine to one side.

Frankly I don’t think Trump cares about either Crimea or Ukraine, and I suspect that he would be only too happy to leave them to their own devices if he thought that that would be the way to get Putin to come to some sort of understanding with him each on issues like arms control which he really cares about.

As for Putin, I think that would be almost the optimal position for him, leaving Ukraine in effect adrift.

A winding down of the conflict in Syria

As for Syria, again I strongly doubt that the Russians would ever agree to even an informal partition of Syria along the lines Dr. Doctorow suggests.

Far more likely is that Putin will pass on to Trump assurances the Russians appear to have been given by the Iranian and Syrian leaders that the Iranian presence in Syria is connected to the ongoing conflict in Syria and will be significantly scaled down once the Syrian conflict ends.

Unlike Crimea and Ukraine Iran’s role in Syria is something Trump does care about, but again I suspect he would probably accept assurances of this sort given him by Putin if he were to see in them the way forward to an agreement with Putin on even more pressing issues such as arms control.

There is no longer any possibility of regime change in Syria.  From Donald Trump’s point of view an implicit assurance that after the Syrian government’s final victory the Iranian presence in Syria will be scaled down is probably a more attractive option than maintaining a US military presence in Syria indefinitely.

Russian media discusses the summit

The basis of an understanding between Trump and Putin is therefore there, and as Dr. Doctorow says there are now straws in the wind which suggest that the two men may be working towards a summit as they feel their way towards that understanding.

Indeed, even as I have been writing this article, Russia’s official TASS news agency has published a summary of an article in the Russian newspaper Kommersant which also discusses the rumours that a summit may be pending.

Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are reportedly gearing up for a summit in July. Numerous media leaks about the two leaders’ meeting, which is expected to be held in one of the European capitals, and information provided by Kommersant’s sources, indicate that preparations for it are underway. However, the paper’s interlocutors warned many White House officials are opposed to the idea, arguing that for Trump the proposed meeting will only make sense in the event of a breakthrough agreement on at least one of the key issues on the Russian-US agenda.

This has been confirmed by former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and currently Director of the Center for Political Studies Andrei Fyodorov who cited his own US diplomatic sources.

Unsurprisingly the Kommersant article identifies Donald Trump’s perennially hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton as the primary opponent of the idea for the summit.

However, interestingly enough, Bolton’s opposition to the summit appears to be based not on an objection to a summit with Putin in principle, but rather to his concern that it might be difficult to sell the idea of such a summit to an implacably hostile US political establishment now

“Among the opponents of the July summit plans is National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bolton known for his critical attitude towards Russia insists that for Donald Trump such a meeting would only make sense if he could take credit for it, similarly to the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore,” Fyodorov explained. “At the moment, the White House is not certain Trump could present his summit with Vladimir Putin to his opponents as a foreign policy victory in the run-up to the November elections to the US Congress. For example, an agreement to revive the nuclear disarmament negotiation process and maintain strategic stability could be such a victory.”

Having said this, If it is merely questions of presentation that are holding the summit back, then it is likely to happen sooner or later as Donald Trump’s political position in the US grows steadily stronger.  Another Russian analyst quoted by Kommersant explains it correctly in this way

According to Yuri Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, “Trump shows consistency in fulfilling his election pledges, although he is not ready yet to fully iron out relations with Russia.” “As the alleged ‘Russian meddling’ probe is running out of steam, Trump is trying to achieve a reset in relations with Moscow. His remarks about making Russia a member of the global powers’ club again and turning the G7 into G8 was yet another reminder,” the expert stressed.

A return to Trump’s original ideas about Russia?

Shortly before Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States, but after his election as President, he gave an interview to The Times of London in which he spelled out his foreign policy ideas.

In that article he first floated the idea of trading sanctions on Russia for an arms control agreement

They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia.  For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.

At the time this suggestion was made it provoked widespread dismay in Washington and amongst the US’s European allies as it was seen – correctly – as in effect throwing Ukraine under a bus.

However it appears to correspond with the direction in which Trump – possibly on Henry Kissinger’s advice – is currently travelling.

Whether Trump will be able to follow it, and what the ultimate destination will be if he does, remains to be seen.

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