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

russian jet

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

syria destruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkish shells explode behind reporter covering pro-Syrian govt deployment in Afrin (VIDEO) – By RT

 
 
Turkish forces have attempted to prevent the convoy of pro-government Syrian militias from entering the Kurdish-held Afrin, unleashing a barrage of artillery fire which hit close to media covering the deployment.

A reporter, apparently working for Al Mayadeen pan-Arabist satellite television channel, has narrowly escaped being struck by a shell that landed a few hundred meters down the road from the crew’s position. The video, obtained by RT’s Ruptly video agency, show the correspondent reporting live on camera as a projectile narrowly misses his position.

“Turkish forces targeted with artillery the locations of the popular forces upon their arrival in the area of Afrin, in addition to targeting media delegations that are covering the arrival of the forces,” Syrian SANA news agency’s reporter in Afrin confirmed.

While SANA reports that the “popular forces” comprised of Shia militias have established themselves in the region to support the Kurds against terrorists and the “Turkish aggression,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday claimed that the Syrian forces’ advance into Afrin was thwarted. “They were forced to go back after artillery shooting,” the Turkish President said, noting that “Afrin city center will be besieged in the coming days.” Earlier, Turkey said they it fired “warning shots” at Syria pro-regime forces in Afrin, claiming that militias were forced to fall at least ten kilometers back.

Turkey, which has been conducting the so-called operation Olive Branch in Afrin since January 20, insists that the offensive is solely aimed at wiping out Kurdish “terrorist” fighters along its borders, denying allegations that it has targeted civilians. Medical sources at Afrin Hospital, however, told Syrian media that at least 175 civilians were killed and more than 450 wounded since the launch of the Turkish operation in northern Syria.

Ankara’s operation, which aims to create a 30km “secure zone” within Syrian territory, has repeatedly been denounced by Damascus as a blatant attack on its sovereignty. Seeking protection, the Kurdish authorities in Afrin called on the government to send troops to help defend the border from Turks.

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Pro-govt Syrian fighters begin entering Kurdish Afrin despite Turkish threats – Syrian TV (VIDEO) – By RT

Pro-govt Syrian fighters begin entering Kurdish Afrin despite Turkish threats – Syrian TV (VIDEO)
A convoy of fighters waving Syrian flags has apparently entered the northern Kurdish-held region of Afrin, which Turkey is targeting in a cross-border operation, footage on Syrian state TV shows.

The pro-government fighters were filmed entering the village of Nubul in some 20 pickup trucks. An RT source on the ground has confirmed the movement of troops to Afrin.

A reporter at the scene for Syrian state agency SANA said that the area where the fighters arrived has already been targeted by an attack from the Turkish side.

 
 

Turkish media later reported that an artillery attack on the convoy forced it to retreat.

The deployment comes after a reported deal between Damascus and Kurdish authorities, which sought the involvement of the central government amid a continued fight against Turkey and the militias supported by Ankara.

READ MORE: Turkey will lay siege to Syria’s Afrin in coming days — Erdogan

Turkish officials earlier warned that their forces would lay siege to the city of Afrin if pro-Damascus fighters show up there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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US must immediately leave area it controls in southern Syria — Lavrov – By RT

US must immediately leave area it controls in southern Syria — Lavrov
US troops must immediately shut down their zone of control in southern Syria in the area of Al-Tanf, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested when asked what should be done to help the Syrian peace settlement.

Lavrov was referring to an area on Syria’s border with Jordan and Iraq, which the US declared to be under its protection last year. Among other things, it contains the Rukban refugee camp. The facility is apparently used by radical militants, including members of UN-designated terrorist group best known by its former name Al-Nusra Front, to recover and raid other parts of Syria, Lavrov said at the Valdai Club conference on the Middle East in Moscow. The US is turning a blind eye to such abuses of its protection, he added.

“Inside the Al-Tanf zone, which the Americans unilaterally declared under their protection, and inside the refugee camp jihadists are regularly reported to recover strength. On several occasions they conducted raids from there into other territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. This zone must be shut down immediately,” the Russian minister said.

“Our colleagues from the UN for some reason are hesitant to say that humanitarian convoys cannot get into this US-controlled area because the US would not guarantee their safety,” Lavrov added. “Instead they focus attention on the humanitarian situation in Idlib or Eastern Ghouta.”

The minister added Russia has mounting evidence that the US has no intention to oppose this jihadist group in earnest.

The response came after a question from the think tank International Crisis Group about what “Russia could do more” in Syria to prevent an escalation of violence there, particularly between Iran and Israel. Lavrov said the question should be “what the US could refrain from doing” in Syria and that the answer was “stop playing dangerous games” and cease trying to partition the nation.

The Americans “in the territories they patronize east of the Euphrates River and all the way to the state border with Iraq create governing bodies which are designed by intention to have no links with Damascus,” he pointed out.

Lavrov also commented on the situation in the southwestern part of Syria on the border with Jordan and Israel – which was designated as a “de-escalation zone” by Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran – and Israel’s interests in Syria. Israel accuses Iran of using proxy forces to seize control of parts of southern Syria, including those along the border, and has threatened to use military force to reverse the situation.

“We negotiated the creation of this zone with Jordan and the US and it’s not a secret that our Israeli colleagues were informed about what we discussed,” he said. “Now to implement everything we had agreed on we have to focus on one particular article, which said all parties to the agreement would work to make sure that no non-Syrian forces were present inside and near this de-escalation zone.”

The Russian diplomat added that the US carving out the Al-Tanf area was the exact opposite – a unilateral move that no other party agreed to.

The dispute between Israel and Iran, Lavrov said, certainly complicated the situation in Syria, and Moscow believes both parties need to take steps to defuse it. For instance, Iran’s statements that Israel was a Zionist entity that needs to be destroyed are perceived as absolutely unacceptable in Russia. But neither does Russia see as constructive Israel’s policy of turning every problem in the region into a vehicle for opposing Iran, he said.

“This is what we see in Syria, this is what we see in Yemen, and even the latest developments around the Palestinian issue, including Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, are to a large extent caused by the very same anti-Iranian bias,” Lavrov explained. “Both attitudes pose a risk of further damaging the situation in the region, which is already very pitiful.”

The Russian minister suggested that Israel and Iran should try to address their differences – including the latest flare-up involving an Iranian drone destroyed by Israel after reportedly violating the airspace of the Jewish state – by taking them to the UN for proper resolution. “Otherwise we will be rolling down the slope to a situation in which every incident is simply blamed on the other party and used to justify military action.”

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Israeli PM’s telecom cronies busted as corruption scandal continues to unfold – By SPUTNIK

netanyahu

© Associated Press / Matt Dunham
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The Israel Securities Authorities has opened an investigation into allegations that the country’s largest telecommunications company Bezeq received benefits so as to deal with positive media coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Several senior executives from the Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, including two close associates of Benjamin Netanyahu, have been arrested as part of the corruption probe into the Israeli Prime Minister’s alleged corruption activities.

The detainees include Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filbert, who is accused of handing confidential documents to Bezeq to add to the company’s favorable treatment and provide positive media coverage of Netanyahu.

Police also nabbed Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq, who is suspected of communicating with the Israeli Prime Minister.

netanyahu scandals

© Reuters / Amir Cohen
The logo of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd, the country’s largest telecom group, is seen outside their headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel June 21, 2017

The arrests came just a few days after the Israeli police said that they had collected enough evidence to support claims that Netanyahu committed fraud and took bribes. The police promised to hand over the relevant investigative materials and its indictment recommendations to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Right now, Netanyahu faces charges of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy supporters, in the form of cigars, champagne and jewelry in return for advancing their interests.

The second investigation looks into allegations that Netanyahu arranged to obtain favorable coverage from the popular newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in return for creating problems for its rival, the Israel Hayom paper.

Additionally, the Israeli Prime Minister may be accused of alleged involvement in a multimillion dollar submarine deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. Netanyahu vehemently denies any wrongdoing, claiming that he is the victim of a smear campaign launched by his political opponents.

Late December saw thousands of people protesting in the streets in Tel Aviv to demand Netanyahu’s resignation over alleged corruption, in the “March of Shame” demonstration which continued for the fourth consecutive week at the time.

The beginning of January saw the continuation of anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu, with more than 2,000 people taking to the streets in Tel Aviv.

Comment: Even Israelis are getting fed up with Bibi

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The Problem is America: The Malignant Cultural Hegemony – By Phil Butler (New Eastern Outlook )

Author: Phil Butler

 

 

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What is wrong with the American people? After several years of horrific policy toward the waking world, democracy’s standard bearers seem to be drowning in a lake of selfishness. Distracted, apathetic, or simply dumbed and numbed by unrelenting propaganda, the most admired society on Earth has turned to a wriggling mush of diverging ideals. I fear that American have become what we ultimately deplored, just another despicable cultural hegemony. Here’s a short brief on the matter.

A recent article by James Carden at The Nation prompted me to discuss this unsavory truth today. The title of the piece, “Trump’s Syria Policy: Perpetual War Without Debate”, provides a stunning introduction for my “proofs” of America’s war on peace. But, the reader need not read Carden’s story to understand that the United States has been transformed into a lawless international pirate state. This paragraph is evidence enough our government has gone rogue:

“Currently there are, in the absence of congressional authorization and in violation of international law (since the United States was not attacked by Syria, nor are US troops there at the invitation of the sovereign Syrian government), an estimated 2,000 American troops based in Syria. Given this, it was odd, though hardly surprising, when major US media outlets like CNN carried the news that American occupying troops were acting “defensively” last week when the United States launched a series of strikes against regime forces, killing over 100 Syrian soldiers, in retaliation for an attack on a headquarters of US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces in Khusham. Reports emerged this week that perhaps dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian mercenaries were also killed in the US attack.”

We Are the Enemy

It’s high time we face the fact that successive administrations have been operating outside the Constitution of the United States of America. There’s no arguing that Obama and Trump blatantly exceeded their authority under that founding document, as well as under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which limits executive authority to conduct such military actions. However horrific this fact may be thought, these actions are only a symptom of a much deadlier, and more pitiful causal agent – a society in shameful decay, one indiscernible from those of the last days of Rome or Hitler’s Third Reich. What we have witnessed these last thirty years is the corruption and destruction of a dream – a dream very few can even recall. The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Afghanistan, and Iran and a dozen regime changes taught Americans nothing whatsoever. Today, my people scarcely even noticed the tens of millions ruined or dead on account of America’s corrupt policies toward the world. Not even the Clintons’ graft and misdeeds seem to register as more than a sound bit these days. Rather than parroting the painfully obvious, I should think the reader is wanting more explanation of how in the hell this happened.

For those unfamiliar, it was Karl Marx who gave us the notion of “cultural hegemony,” which is the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class. In such a system of control, the ruling class manipulates the culture of society, altering and shaping the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores in such a way as to form a social construct beneficial only to this ruling class. Make no mistake, this is exactly where American society is today – managed to the point of being automated. And while we all grew up whispering how “The Man” was controlling everything, hardly anyone in my country will stand up and raise a voice professing this truth. Please my fellow Americans, do not hazard to argue here – we all know this is the truth we do not want the world to know. The technocrats I harp about, the ruling elites who hide behind their invulnerability, and the local despots allowed to run their urban games, the wheelers and dealers, and the apathetic masses who tolerate them – we’re finally at the predictable end my friends. Rex Tillerson the Exxon king armed with the mighty lever of American military might, now there is a fearsome vision for you, a moving picture image of literal cultural imperialism. “We need gas, we’ll take gas, don’t you try and stop us.”

The Rotten Seed of Mediocrity

And now you might ask; “Where did we go wrong?” Was the assassination of JFK or some other crisis the beginning? Well, the beginning of America’s transformation into a dastardly hegemony does not really matter now. We are here. It is helpful to look at a few signposts though, just in order that we tweak the consciousness of a few. Maybe some analysts would point to Bill Clinton’s role in destroying Yugoslavia. While others will venture back to Lyndon Johnson and America’s biggest disaster, that Vietnam War. But, I can recall a more recent societal disaster for American known as the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB),” first proposed by former President George W. Bush, and signed into law January 8th, 2002. This disastrous piece of legislation ensured 13 years of dumbing and numbing of America’s youth, with aftereffects reaching into the distant future. NCLB provided Bush and Obama with a monetary lever to blackmail educators into retarding the educational excellence that had made America the envy of the world once. NCLB produced a generation of Americans who can read well and do mid-level math, but who are also social science cripples. We created a generation of sociopaths who could read iPhone instructions and count well. NCLB drowned the excellent student and threw a life preserver for any child who wanted a free ride. NCLB was scrapped just before Obama left office, and it was replaced by Every Student Succeeds Act, which was like closing the gate after the cows have already left. Please understand, the ruling elite have no interest in a new intelligent society, think about it.

After over a decade of American kids supposedly being pushed forward, the United States ranks 40th in Mathematics, 25th in Science, and 24th in reading behind many of the countries Donald Trump calls “shit holes.” According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Latvia, Vietnam, Russia, and even Singapore (1st) beat American students out in math. Even more telling than recent indicators, this report by AARP speaks of an American education system half a century ago that was second to none. When I was a student Americans consistently ranked in the top two spots on the world stage, today 10th is considerate a success by leadership. We need not argue here about test scores and the exactitudes of America’s education system to understand the impacts of this “cultural hegemony” exacted onto Americans. The disintegration of America’s former ideals grows more apparent as we look at such things as the WJP Rule of Law Index, where the US is currently 18th position behind Singapore and others. And if we look at the “Economic Freedom of the World” results we find the U.S. in 16th position behind even Jordan and Chile. Even in areas where America is perceived to excel, such as in press freedom, the country ranks far below many third world or emerging states. Finally, when we examine such measures as the Global Peace Index we see America running 114th behind Rwanda. Yes, you read that correctly, the same Rwanda infamous for genocide.

“Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.” – Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason

“Sieg Heil” – Hail Stupidity

How many remember the newsreel reruns of Adolf Hitler standing before a multitude of Nazis chanting “Sieg Heil” – the minions of evil thrusting their hands forward in unison to perform the Hitler salute that was obligatory in the Nazi Reich. I remember this as I read the comments in every “Putin bashing” article I read. We have returned to those days, rest assured, for every western media broadcast of Putin hate is emblematic. Putin has a cold, and the new Nazis in America wishes him dead or worse. Most of you probably do not read comments, but you do know the western mainstream versions resonated with a tone we’ve become familiar with. Putin, they said, is either on his death bed or he’d been kidnapped by Pussy Riot fans. Putin is this, or Putin is that, but always Putin is jeered, hated, and detested for reasons that are manufactured. Reading the headlines and the comments underneath, this is was what compelled me to study my country’s malignant stupidity. You’d be amazed how many readers of American or British magazines want Putin dead. Meanwhile, Russia eliminates the same people who killed in Paris, London, Brussels, and even the United States. Can you grasp the meaning in all this? Think about Putin smashing ISIL for humanity, and then superimpose this Wikipedia list of atrocities committed by them. If you’ve a conscience and a brain you are asking; “How can this be?”

“Goose pimples rose all over me, my hair stood on end, my eyes filled with tears of love and gratitude for this greatest of all conquerors of human misery and shame, and my breath came in little gasps. If I had not known that the Leader would have scorned such adulation, I might have fallen to my knees in unashamed worship, but instead I drew myself to attention, raised my arm in the eternal salute of the ancient Roman Legions and repeated the holy words, “Heil Hitler!” – George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party

I will tell you how this came to be, if Donald Trump was elected by “deplorables” – the liberal Millennials and other world order minions are mental sodomites, even when compared to the most ignorant and bigoted southern redneck. No wonder dead and displaced Syrians matter not. We are a Titanic shipwreck adrift, adrift until we strike a reef and sink. Looking on from clearer eyes, I see now how Karl Marx was a genius in his theories of cultural hegemony, and how unchecked capitalism is wrecking our world. In America, as was the case in Russia about the time of the Czars, the masses depended on working class intellectuals to insulate/defend them from elitist control. So, George Bush’s NCLB dumbing virtually assured there could be no “working class intellectuals.” Meanwhile, those decent citizens who might have called out the ruling class’ pollical pawns, they’ve been bought off with other aspects of this new dominant ideology of “perceived” empowerment. And in this false empowerment we see domestic and foreign policy goals uncovered. The Tillerson/Exxon war we are about to witness, the utter destruction of traditional values, rampant consumerism taken to new heights, and the myth of American exceptionalism which drugs the high functioning chimpanzees – this is the bitter and stark reality of a once great nation. We must see this, lest we be doomed to it.

I leave you with this from the imminent astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator, Carl Sagan:

“The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” Carl Sagan

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2018/02/18/the-problem-is-america-the-malignant-cultural-hegemony/

Can Israel digest Putin’s grand bargain? – By Alastair Crooke Strategic Culture Foundation (SOTT)

Netanyahu and Putin

“Israel is climbing up a high horse,” Alex Fishman (the veteran Israeli Defence Correspondent) wrote in the Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, last month, “and is approaching with giant steps a ‘war of choice’: Without mincing words, it’s an initiated war in Lebanon.” In Fishman’s article, he notes: “Classical deterrence is when you threaten an enemy not to harm you in your territory, but here, Israel demands that the enemy refrain from doing something in its own territory, otherwise Israel will harm it. From a historical perspective and from the perspective of international legitimacy, the chances of this threat being accepted as valid, leading to the cessation of enemy activities in its own territory, are slim.”

Ben Caspit also wrote about a fair prospect of a “war of choice,” whilst a Haaretz editorial – explains Professor Idan Landau in an Israeli news blog – noted: “The Israeli government therefore owes Israeli citizens a precise, pertinent and persuasive explanation as to why a missile factory in Lebanon has changed the strategic balance to the extent that it requires going to war. It must present assessments to the Israeli public as to the expected number of casualties, damage to civilian infrastructure and the economic cost of going to war, as compared with the danger that construction of the missile factory constitutes.”

We live dangerous times in the Middle East today – both in the immediate present, and in the mid-term, too.

Last week saw the first ‘game changer’ that almost plunged the region into war: the downing of one of Israel’s most sophisticated aircraft – an F16i. But as Amos Harel notes, on this occasion: “Russian President Vladimir Putin put an end to the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria – and both sides accepted his decision … On Saturday afternoon, after the second wave of bombardments … senior Israeli officials were still taking a militant line, and it seemed as if Jerusalem was considering further military action. Discussion of that ended not long after a phone call between Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” (emphasis added).

And that last statement represented the second ‘game changer’: In ‘good old days’, as Martin Indyk called it, it would have been to the US that Israel reflexively would have turned, but not this time. Israel asked President Putin to mediate. It seems that Israel believes that Mr Putin is now the ‘indispensable power’. And in terms of airspace in the north, he is. As Ronen Bergman wrote in the New York Times: “Israel will no longer be able to act in Syria without limitations”; and secondly, “if anyone was not yet aware of it, Russia is the dominant power in the region”.

So, what is all this about? Well for a start, it is not about a drone which may (or may not) have trespassed into what Israel calls Israel, or what Syria sees as ‘occupied Golan’. Let us ignore all that: or, think of it as ‘the butterfly wing effect’ in chaos theory, whose tiny wing changes ‘the world’, if you prefer. Ultimately however, these various warnings of impending war, precipitated out from the Syrian State’s success in defeating the jihadi insurgency mounted against it. This outcome has changed the regional balance of power – and we are witnessing states reacting to that strategic defeat.

Israel, having backed the losing side, wants to limit its losses. It fears the changes taking place across the northern tier of the region: Prime Minister Netanyahu has several times sought guarantees from President Putin that Iran and Hizbullah should not be allowed to gain any strategic advantage from Syria’s victory that might be to Israel’s disadvantage. But Putin, it seems clear, gave no guarantees. He told Netanyahu that whilst he recognized, and acknowledged Israel’s security interests, Russia had its interests, too – and also underlined that Iran was a “strategic partner” of Russia.

In practice, there is no effective Iranian or Hizbullah presence in any proximate vicinity to Israel (and indeed both Iran and Hizbullah have substantially pared their forces in Syria as a whole). But, it seems that Netanyahu wanted more: And to put leverage on Russia to guarantee a future Syria, free from any ‘Shi’a presence, Israel has been bombing Syria on almost a weekly basis, and issuing a series of war-like threats against Lebanon (on the pretext that Iran was constructing ‘sophisticated missile’ factories there), saying, in effect to President Putin, that if you do not give ironclad guarantees vis-à-vis a Syria free of Iran and Hizbullah, we will disrupt both countries.

Well, what happened is that Israel lost an F16: unexpectedly shot down by the Syrian air defenses. The message is this: ‘Stability in Syria and Lebanon is a Russian interest. Whilst, we recognize Israel’s security interests, don’t mess with ours. If you want a war with Iran that is your business, and Russia will not be involved; but do not forget that Iran is, and remains our strategic partner’.

This is Putin’s Grand Bargain: Russia will assume a certain defined responsibility for Israel’s security, but not if Israel undertakes wars of choice against Iran and Hizbullah, or if it deliberately disrupts stability in the North (including Iraq). And no more gratuitous bombing raids in the north, intended to disrupt stability. But if Israel wants a war with Iran, then Russia will stand aloof.

Israel has now had a taste of President Putin’s ‘stick’: Your air superiority in the North has just been punctured by the Syrian air defenses. You, Israel, will lose it completely were our Russian S400s air defenses to be enabled: ‘Think it over’.

In case of doubt, consider this statement in 2017, by the Chief of Staff of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Major-General Sergey Meshcheryakov. He said: “Today, a unified, integrated air defense system has been set up in Syria. We have ensured the information and technical interlinkage of the Russian and Syrian air reconnaissance systems. All information on the situation in the air comes from Syrian radar stations to the control points of the Russian force grouping”.

Two things flow from this: First, that Russia knew exactly what was going on when the Israeli F16 met with a barrage of Syrian air defense missiles. As Alex Fishman, doyen of Israeli defense correspondents, noted (in Hebrew) Yediot Ahoronot on 11 February: “One of the [Israeli] planes was hit by the two barrages of 27 Syrian surface-to-air missiles… which is a huge achievement for the Syrian army, and embarrassing for the IAF, since the electronic warfare systems that envelope the plane were supposed to have provided protection from a barrage of missiles… The IAF is going to have to conduct an in-depth technical-intelligence inquiry to determine: are the Syrians in possession of systems that are capable of bypassing the Israeli warning and jamming systems? Have the Syrians developed a new technique that the IAF is unaware of? It was reported that the pilots did not radio in any alert that an enemy missile had locked onto their plane. In principle, they were supposed to report that. They might have been preoccupied. But there is also the more severe possibility that they were unaware of the missile that had locked onto them – which leads to the question of why they didn’t know, and only realized the severity of the damage after they had been hit and were forced to bail out.”

And the second: that subsequent Israeli claims that Syria was then punished by Israel through the destruction of 50% of her air defense system should be taken with a big pinch of salt. Recall what Meshcheryakov said: It was a fully integrated, unified Russian-Syrian system, which is to say it had a Russian flag flying over it. (And this initial Israeli claim has now been back-peddled by the IDF spokesman; see here).

Finally, Putin, in the wake of the F16 downing, told Israel to stop destabilizing Syria. He said nothing about Syria’s drone patrolling the southern border (a regular Syrian practice for monitoring insurgent groups in the south).

The message is clear: Israel gets Russia’s limited security guarantees, but loses its freedom of action. Without air domination (which Russia already has seized), the assumed superiority over its neighboring Arab states – which Israel long since has folded into its collective psyche – will see Israel’s wings clipped.

Can such a bargain be digested culturally in Israel? We must wait to see whether Israel’s leaders accept that they no longer enjoy air superiority over Lebanon or Syria; or whether, as the Israeli commentators warn in our introductory quotes, the Israeli political leadership will opt for a ‘war of choice’, in an attempt to pre-empt Israel’s final loss of its domination of the skies. There is, of course, a further option of running to Washington, in order to try to co-opt America into adopting the eviction of Iran from Syria – but our guess is that Putin has already quietly squared Trump with his plan beforehand. Who knows?

And would then a preventive war to try to recuperate Israeli air superiority be feasible or realistic from the perspective of the Israeli Defense Forces? It’s a moot point. A third of Israelis are culturally, and ethnically, Russian, and many admire President Putin. Also, could Israel count, in such circumstances, on Russia not using its own highly sophisticated S400 air-defense missiles, stationed in Syria, in order to protect Russian servicemen stationed across Syria?

And the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese tensions, in themselves, do not bring an end to the present clutch of risks associated with Syria. On the same weekend, Turkey lost a helicopter and its two crew, brought down by Kurdish forces in Afrin. Sentiment in Turkey against the YPG and PKK is heating up; nationalism and New Ottomanism is spiking; and America is being angrily portrayed as Turkey’s “strategic enemy“. President Erdogan asserts forcefully that Turkish forces will clear all the YPG/PKK forces from Afrin to the Euphrates, but an American general says that American troops will not budge from blocking Erdogan’s route, midway – at Manbij. Who will blink first? And, can this escalation continue without a major rupture to Turkish-US relations? (Erdogan has already noted that America’s defense budget for 2019 includes an allocation of $550 million for the YPG. What exactly does America mean by that provision?).

Also, can a US military leadership, concerned to play-out a re-make of the Vietnam war – but with America winning this time (to show that the Vietnam outcome was a wholly unmerited defeat for the US forces) – accept to pull back from its aggressively imposed occupation of Syria, east of the Euphrates, and thus lose further credibility? Particularly when restoring US military credibility and leverage is the very mantra of the White House generals (and Trump)? Or, will the pursuit of US military ‘credibility’ degenerate into a game of ‘chicken’, mounted by US forces versus the Syrian Armed Forces – or even with Russia itself, which views the US occupation in Syria as inherently disturbing to the regional stability which Russia is trying to establish.

The ‘big picture’ competition between states for the future of Syria (and the region) – is open and visible. But who lay behind these other provocations, which could equally have led to escalation, and quite easily slipped the region towards conflict? Who provided the man portable surface-to-air missile that brought down the Russian SU25 fighter – and which ended, with the pilot, surrounded by jihadists, courageously preferring to kill himself with his own grenade, rather than be taken alive? Who ‘facilitated’ the insurgent group which fired the manpad? Who armed the Afrin Kurds with sophisticated anti-tank weapons (that have destroyed some twenty Turkish tanks)? Who provided the millions of dollars to engineer the tunnels and bunkers built by the Afrin Kurds, and who paid for the kitting out of its armed force?

And who was behind the swarm of drones, with explosives attached, sent to attack the main Russian airbase at Khmeimim? The drones were made to look outwardly like some simple home-made affair, which an insurgent force might cobble together, but since Russian electronic measures managed to take control and land six of them, the Russians were able to see that, internally, they were quite different: They contained sophisticated electronic counter-measures and GPS guidance systems within. In short, the rustic external was camouflage to its true sophistication, which likely represented the handiwork of a state agency. Who? Why? Was someone trying to set Russia and Turkey at each other’s throats?

We do not know. But it is plain enough that Syria is the crucible to powerful destructive forces which might advertently, or inadvertently, ignite Syria – and – potentially, the Middle East. And as the Israeli defense correspondent, Amos Harel, wrote, we have already this last weekend, “come a hair’s breadth from a slide into war”.

Alastair Crooke: Former British diplomat, founder and director of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum.

Damascus may be about to deploy Syrian Army in Afrin – To repel ‘Turkish invasion’, or ‘Kurdish uprising’? – By RT (SOTT)

Kurds dance during a protest

© Rodi Said / Reuters
Kurds dance during a protest against the Turkish attacks on Afrin in Qamishli, Syria January 30, 2018

The Syrian government reportedly rejected a request by the Kurdish self-government in Afrin to deploy troops to the area against an ongoing Turkish military operation, after the Kurds refused to lay down their weapons.

The proposed deal between Syrian authorities and Kurdish militias, who asked Damascus for military support against the Turkish invasion, derailed after Kurdish forces refused to comply with a precondition set by Damascus, an RT Arabic correspondent in Syria reported, citing a military source.

After the People’s Protection Units (YPG) refused a request to hand over arms to the Syrian state, the negotiations were cut short before any deal could be reached, the source said.

Lebanese Al-Masdar News also stated that “according to reports from Aleppo,” the deal, which could potentially become a tipping point in the conflict, was called off because the Kurds refused to part with weapons they use to fend off the Turkish offensive.

Conflicting media reports, however, allege that the deal was indeed secured, but they lack any details on the conditions of the deployment.

Arab TV network Al Mayadeen reported on Thursday that it had confirmed with “exclusive field sources” that the Syrian army had agreed to move into Afrin to repel the Turkish offensive.

A source cited by Sputnik also appeared to confirm the report, saying that the Syrian troops are going to be sent to the Syrian-Turkish border “in the next few days.”

Damascus has yet to comment on the reports. On Wednesday, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad called on the Kurds and Arabs in the area of the Turkish offensive to pool their forces in the face of Turkish aggression, calling Afrin “an integral part of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

“We affirm that the Syrian Arab Army defends every inch of the Syrian territory and Syria will return as unified as it has been throughout history,” Mikdad said, as cited by SANA. However, he stopped short of elaborating if the Syrian armed forces would move to counter the offensive.

Rumors that Damascus could step into the conflict were fueled by YPG commander Sipan Hamo, who said on Monday that the Kurdish militias “don’t have a problem with the entry of the Syrian army to defend Afrin and its border in the face of the Turkish occupation.”

In January, the self-administration in the Kurdish-held enclave in northern Syria had urged Damascus to dispatch its own forces to “protect its borders with Turkey from attacks of the Turkish occupier.” The self-administration noted Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch infringes on Syria’s sovereignty and reiterated the Kurds’ commitment to the country’s territorial integrity.

The Turkish operation in Afrin, which has been ongoing since January 20, has strained relations between Ankara and its major NATO ally, the US. Turkey demands that Washington withdraw its support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the backbone of which is formed by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The Turkish government believes YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed in Turkey as a terrorist organization.

The row has deepened over the US decision to sponsor the creation of a 30,000-strong security border force in Syria, half of which would be recruited from SDF. Turkey added to the tension by announcing plans to extend its military offensive to Manbij, which is used by the US military to support Kurdish operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL).

The US military said it had no plans to leave Manbij, warning the Turkish forces of a “sharp response.” In his rebuke, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “those who say they will give a sharp response if hit, have clearly never got the Ottoman slap in their lives.”

“They tell us, ‘Don’t come to Manbij.’ We will come to Manbij to hand over these territories to their rightful owners,” Erdogan said in February.

Comment: The Kurdish militias and the Syrian government have reached an agreement on the deployment of the Syrian Armed Forces in Syria’s district of Afrin, Lebanese media reported on Thursday.

The decision was made in order to protect the district and counter the attacks of Turkey or its allies in Afrin, Mayadeen broadcaster reported, citing a source with a knowledge of the situation.

A source familiar with the situation told Sputnik on Thursday that the Syrian Armed Forces would enter the territory near the border with Turkey in the district of Afrin in the next few days.

“The agreement has been reached on the deployment of the Syrian Armed Forces at the Syrian-Turkish border in Afrin in the north of Aleppo in the next few days. The agreement was reached between the Syrian government and the Kurds,” the source said.

See also: Desperate Fuzzy Alliance: Damascus to deploy forces in Afrin – Reports

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