China’s ability to freeze US military capability – By Nick Giambruno International Man (SOTT)

US and Chinese top brass

Last April, President Trump launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Syria.

He was responding to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government.

It was Trump’s most dramatic military move since he became president. It was also the United States’ first deliberate attack on the Syrian government.

At the exact moment he ordered the strike, Trump was also hosting China’s president, Xi Jinping, for dinner at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort. Xi’s wife was also there.

Trump said:

I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We are now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen. And President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded. What do you do? And we made a determination to do it. So the missiles were on the way. And I said: ‘Mr. President, let me explain something to you… we’ve just launched 59 missiles… heading toward Syria and I want you to know that.’

When asked how President Xi responded, Trump claimed: “He paused for 10 seconds and then he asked the interpreter to please say it again.”

The timing of the attack was meant to intimidate Xi and send China a message.

You see, China and Syria are allies. The Chinese give Assad’s government diplomatic, military, and economic support. China has also used its veto power at the UN several times to support Syria.

Essentially, Trump invited President Xi and his wife to his home for dinner. Then, over cake, he bombed one of Xi’s friends.

Trump hoped his hardball diplomacy would encourage China to tighten the screws on North Korea. He also wanted China to make changes in other areas like trade. He explicitly told Xi as much.

However, on closer look, Trump’s Syrian fireworks show was nothing but a hollow gesture. That’s because, without China, Trump would have no missiles to launch at anyone.

The guidance systems on the Tomahawk cruise missiles Trump launched at Syria depend on special materials that China has a near monopoly on producing. Surely, Xi knew this. Though Trump probably didn’t at the time.

And it’s not just the missiles…

If China decided to cut off these special materials, the entire US military would cease to function in short order.

Not surprisingly, Trump’s display of machismo did not impress the Chinese. Nor did it make them change their approach to North Korea.

A few months later, North Korea tested both an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the continental US and a thermonuclear weapon for the first time. Both might’ve been prevented if China had pushed harder to reign in North Korea.

So eventually – and likely soon – the US government will try to force China’s hand through trade and economic means.

Trump already threatened to cut off trade with any country that does business with North Korea. He was talking about China.

And Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury threatened to kick China out of the US dollar if it doesn’t crack down on North Korea. That would be akin to dropping a financial nuclear bomb on Beijing.

Sure, these seem like exaggerated threats. But it shows Trump’s frustration. It also means trade penalties against China could be imminent.

I think a full-blown trade war is coming soon.

But China has a big card to play. It could restrict access to that special material I just mentioned – the material used to make advanced electronic components, like the Tomahawk cruise missile guidance system.

China has used this strategy before. About six years ago, it restricted exports during a spat with Japan. The supply crunch caused a veritable mania in the special material’s industry.

Almost overnight, the price of this special material went up over 10 times.

Companies in the industry went up many times higher.

The US and China are in the early stages of a trade war. It’s only a matter of time before it escalates. That will probably happen soon. The perilous situation with North Korea guarantees it.

For the rest of the article go here.

Nick Giambruno: Nick is Doug Casey’s globetrotting companion and is the Senior Editor of Casey Research’s International Man. He writes about economics, offshore banking, second passports, value investing in crisis markets, geopolitics, and surviving a financial collapse, among other topics. In short, Nick’s work helps people make the most of their personal freedom and financial opportunity around the world. To get his free video crash course, click here.

Top Ten Signs the US Is the Most Corrupt Nation in the World – By Juan Cole (MINT PRESS)

Rit Picone of Newpaltz, N.Y., carries an American flag upside down as a symbol of protest against the influence of money in politics. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Don’t tell the global South how corrupt they are for taking a few petty bribes. Americans are not seen as corrupt because we only deal in the big denominations. Steal $2 trillion and you aren’t corrupt, you’re respectable.

Those ratings that castigate Afghanistan and some other poor countries as hopelessly “corrupt” always imply that the United States is not corrupt. This year’s report from Transparency International puts the US on a par with Austria, which is ridiculous. All kinds of people from politicians to businessmen would go to jail in Austria today if they engaged in practices that are quite common in the US.

While it is true that you don’t typically have to bribe your postman to deliver the mail in the US, in many key ways America’s political and financial practices make it in absolute terms far more corrupt than the usual global South suspects. After all, the US economy is worth over $18 trillion a year, so in our corruption, a lot more money changes hands.

1. A sure sign of corruption is an electoral outcome like 2016. An addled nonentity like Donald Trump got filthy rich via tax loopholes a predatory behavior in his casinos and other businesses, and then was permitted to buy the presidency with his own money. He was given billions of dollars in free campaign time every evening on CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other channels that should have been more even-handed, because they were in search of advertising dollars and Trump was a good draw. Then, too, the way the Supreme Court got rid of campaign finance reform and allowed open, unlimited secret buying of elections is the height of corruption. The permitting of massive black money in our elections was taken advantage of by the Russian Federation, which, having hopelessly corrupted its own presidential elections, managed to further corrupt the American ones, as well. Once ensconced in power, Trump Inc. has taken advantage of the power of White House to engage in a wide range of corrupt practices, including an attempt to sell visas to wealthy Chinese and the promotion of the Trump brand as part of diplomacy.

2. The rich are well placed to bribe our politicians to reduce taxes on the rich. The Koch brothers and other mega-rich troglodytes explicitly told Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in 2017 that if the Republican Party, controlling all three branches of government, could not lower taxes on its main sponsors, there would be no billionaire backing of the party in the 2018 midterms. This threat of an electoral firing squad made the hundreds of bribe-takers in Congress sit up and take notice, and they duly gave away to the billionaire class $1.5 trillion in government services (that’s what Federal taxes are, folks, services–roads, schools, health inspections, implementation of anti-pollution laws–things that everyone benefits from and which won’t be there anymore. To the extent that the government will try to continue to provide those slashed services despite assessing no taxes on the people with the money to pay for them, it will run up an enormous budget deficit and weaken the dollar, which is a form of inflation in the imported goods sector. Inflation hits the poor the worst. As it stands, 3 American billionaires are worth, as much as the bottom 150 million Americans. That kind of wealth inequality hasn’t been seen in the US since the age of the robber barons in the nineteenth century. Both eras are marked by extreme corruption.

One sign of American corruption is the rapidity with which American society has become more unequal since the 1980s Reagan destruction of the progressive income tax. The wealthier the top 1 percent is, the more politicians it can buy to gather up even more of the country’s wealth. In my lifetime the top one percent has gone from holding 25% of the privately held wealth under Eisenhower to 38% today.

3. Instead of having short, publicly-funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising (as a number of Western European countries do), the US has long political campaigns in which candidates are dunned big bucks for advertising. They are therefore forced to spend much of their time fundraising, which is to say, seeking bribes. All American politicians are basically on the take, though many are honorable people. They are forced into it by the system. The campaign season should be shortened to 3 months (did we really need 2 years to get an outcome in which a fool like Trump is president?), and Congress should pass a law that winners of primaries don’t have to pay for political ads on tv and radio.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in 2012, soon thereafter French police actually went into his private residence searching for an alleged $50,000 in illicit campaign contributions from the L’Oreale heiress. I thought to myself, seriously? $50,000 in a presidential campaign? Our presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars each! $50,000 is a rounding error, not a basis for police action. Why, George W. Bush took millions from arms manufacturers and then ginned up a war for them, and the police haven’t been anywhere near his house.

American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honorable exceptions, they represent the 1%. American democracy is being corrupted out of existence.


Read more by Juan Cole


4. Money and corruption have seeped so far into our media system that people can with a straight face assert that scientists aren’t sure human carbon emissions are causing global warming. Fox Cable News is among the more corrupt institutions in American society, purveying outright lies for the benefit of the fossil fuels billionaire class. The US is so corrupt that it is resisting the obvious urgency to slash carbon production. Virtually the entire Republican Party resists the firm consensus of all respected scientists in the world and the firm consensus of everybody else in the world save for a few denialists in English-speaking countries. This resistance to an urgent and dangerous reality comes about because they are bribed to take this stance. Even Qatar, its economy based on natural gas, freely admits the challenge of human-induced climate change. American politicians like Jim Inhofe are openly ridiculed when they travel to Europe for their know-nothingism on climate.

4. That politicians can be bribed to reduce regulation of industries like banking (what is called “regulatory capture”) means that they will be so bribed. Scott Pruitt, a Manchurian candidate from Big Oil, has single-handedly demolished the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of polluting industry. This assault on the health of American citizens on behalf of vampirical corporations is the height of corruption.

6. The US military budget is bloated and enormous, bigger than the military budgets of the next twelve major states. What isn’t usually realized is that perhaps half of it is spent on outsourced services, not on the military. It is corporate welfare on a cosmic scale. I’ve seen with my own eyes how officers in the military get out and then form companies to sell things to their former colleagues still on the inside. Precisely because it is a cesspool of large-scale corruption, Trump’s budget will throw over $100 billion extra taxpayer dollars at it.

7. The US has a vast gulag of 2.2 million prisoners in jail and penitentiary. There is an increasing tendency for prisons to be privatized, and this tendency is corrupting the system. It is wrong for people to profit from putting and keeping human beings behind bars. This troubling trend is made all the more troubling by the move to give extra-long sentences for minor crimes, to deny parole and to imprison people for life for e,g, three small thefts.

8. The National Security Agency’s domestic spying was a form of corruption in itself, and lends itself to corruption. With some 4 million government employees and private contractors engaged in this surveillance, it is highly unlikely that various forms of insider trading and other corrupt practices are not being committed. If you knew who Warren Buffett and George Soros were calling every day, that alone could make you a killing. The American political class wouldn’t have defended this indefensible invasion of citizens’ privacy so vigorously if someone somewhere weren’t making money on it.

9. As for insider trading, it turns out Congress undid much of the law it hastily passed forbidding members, rather belatedly, to engage in insider trading (buying and selling stock based on their privileged knowledge of future government policy). That this practice only became an issue recently is another sign of how corrupt the system is.

10. Asset forfeiture in the ‘drug war’ is corrupting police departments and the judiciary. Although some state legislatures are dialing this corrupt practice back, it is widespread and a danger to the constitution.

So don’t tell the global South how corrupt they are for taking a few petty bribes. Americans are not seen as corrupt because we only deal in the big denominations. Steal $2 trillion and you aren’t corrupt, you’re respectable.

Watch | Corruption Perceptions Index 2017

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/oHwW27kLazg?rel=0&showinfo=0

Top Photo | Rit Picone of Newpaltz, N.Y., carries an American flag upside down as a symbol of protest against the influence of money in politics. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, his new book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East (Simon and Schuster), will officially be published July 1st; he is also the author of Engaging the Muslim World and Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (both Palgrave Macmillan)l He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon; he has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles; His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

© Informed Comment

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Russia’s Syrian ‘Humanitarian Disgrace’? Fact-Checking Trump’s Claims – By SPUTNIK

 Engineers at the International Main Action Center of the Russian Armed Forces clear the historical part of ancient Palmyra of mines.
© Sputnik/ Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation

Opinion

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President Donald Trump has accused Russia, Iran and the Syrian government of causing a “humanitarian disgrace” in Syria, and said that the US military only remains in that war-torn country “for one reason: to get ISIS and get rid of ISIS and to go home.” But let’s look at the facts.

‘Humanitarian Disgrace’? 

Aid, Aid, & More Aid

On Saturday, servicemen from the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Reconciliation distributed another party of humanitarian aid, this time in the western Syrian city of Homs. Through the course of its mission in Syria, Russia has delivered humanitarian assistance on almost a daily basis, distributing close to 27 tons of aid in the last week alone. According to a 2017 report, Russia delivered nearly 1,500 tons of assistance to the country over a one year period, including food, medical supplies, clothing, and other essentials. Last June, Syria received some 81,000 tons in Russian wheat aid. Aid deliveries have only intensified as the Syrian Army and its allies made progress to free the country from the jihadists.

Iran, for its part, has also provided massive quantities of aid to Syria, sending a whopping 1,000 tons of assistance to the population of the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor soon after the Daesh siege of the city was lifted last September, and hundreds of tons more before and since.

Boots (and Not Just Military Ones) on the Ground: Saving People & World Heritage

Alongside material aid, Russia has also sent doctors, medics and army sappers to the war-torn country to provide urgent care for the civilian population and to make their homes and streets safe following the Islamist militants’ ouster.

As for the sappers, one of their most significant missions was the demining of Palmyra, the ancient city recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of global historical significance, after it was freed from Daesh in March 2017. Another was their mission to demine the city of Aleppo, Syria’s once de-facto economic capital and most populous city, where they found shells used by the militants which had been made in the USA and Germany.

Russia, Iran and Turkey have also deployed military police forces to the ‘de-escalation zones’ established in the course of the Astana peace talks (where the three countries serve as guarantors) to help keep the peace, and assist in the provision of humanitarian aid, provide training for local security forces, etc.

Peacemaking: From New Talks to Working De-Escalation Zones

As alluded to above, Russia sponsored a broad range of peace initiatives, organizing talks in Sochi last month, cosponsoring several rounds of negotiations in Astana beginning in 2016, and working within the Geneva format ever since its inception. In fact, Russia has called for peace talks since the start of the Syrian conflict, proposing multiple formats for negotiations between the government and the opposition going back all the way to early 2012, before the war escalated, before the formation of Daesh, and before the destruction of so much of the country, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, and the onset of the migrant crisis now afflicting Europe.

Protecting MinoritiesBefore the war, Christians constituted about 10 percent of Syria’s population; once fighting started, this minority faced particularly ruthless prosecution at the hands of the jihadists. Moscow’s efforts have helped shield Christians and other minorities from total enslavement and destruction. In late 2015, after the Russian counterterrorism operation in Syria began, Syrian President Bashar Assad described the Russian president as “the only defender of Christianity one can trust,” a sentiment which has been echoed by Pope Francis.

Stomping Out Terrorism

Last but not least, the Syrian Army and its Russian and Iranian allies have done more than any other force to destroy Daesh’s presence in Syria. Before Russia’s anti-terrorist operation began in 2015, Daesh had been expanding amid what the US-led coalition described as its fight against terrorism, coming to control about 70 percent of Syria’s territory. By November 2017, the Russian campaign helped to deflate the caliphate’s Syrian holdings to about five percent of the country’s territory. By early 2018, the Islamists’ influence had shrunken to a few pockets in Syria and along the Iraqi border, including the Euphrates Valley, where the terrorists have resorted to using female fighters out of desperation.

Late last year, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu summed up Russia’s military operation in Syria, reporting that some 48,000 military personnel had taken part, with the Aerospace Forces destroying 8,000 pieces of enemy military equipment, 396 oil facilities, 718 makeshift weapons workshops, and over 60,000 terrorists.

President Trump may claim it was the US that destroyed Daesh in Syria all he wants, but the country’s internationally recognized president has repeatedly underscored Moscow’s indispensable role in preserving the country’s statehood and stomping out the jihadists.

READ MORE: Assad Tells Putin at Meeting: Syria Was Saved as a State Thanks to Russia

To sum up, in light of the longstanding Syrian, Russian and Iranian effort to stabilize the humanitarian situation in the country, to organize peace talks, and to destroy Daesh’s barbarous caliphate and other terrorist groups, President Trump’s claim about the countries causing a “humanitarian disgrace” is simply disingenuous, if not outright absurd.US’s One Goal in Syria is to Fight Daesh? Really?

As for Trump’s other remark: that the US was in Syria for “for one reason: to get ISIS,” this too is doubtful, in light of recent events.

If the US’s mission in the country is really aimed at destroying the terrorists, how does that explain the Pentagon’s propensity to ‘accidentally’ bomb the Syrian Army, often as the latter is advancing against Daesh? How does it account for Daesh getting its hands on sophisticated Western weaponry? What about the numerous reports of US-led coalition forces extracting Daesh commanders after they have been encircled by Syrian forces?

And what about the open and ongoing US support for the so-called moderate opposition, which a few brave investigative journalists in the West have admitted basically don’t even exist anymore?

In fact, as the Syrian Army has moved ever closer to liberating the remaining areas of the country under Salafi-jihadist control, the US State Department, the Pentagon and Washington’s European allies have begun to refer to the Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam militants in eastern Ghouta as ‘rebels’, rather than the terrorists they really are.

Surely President Trump, who so proudly proclaimed his commitment to fighting radical Islamic terrorism during the election campaign, realizes that the Nusra Front is al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. You know, al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil?

Ultimately, with Daesh and other terrorist groups now on the brink of total defeat in Syria, due for the most part to the efforts of the Syrian Army, Russian air power, and support from Iran, perhaps it’s time for Mr. Trump to make good on his promise, and “go home.”

British Diplomatic Cable Reveals Western Strategy To Disintegrate Syria – By FARS (SOTT)

US president Donald Trump

© FNA
A Lebanese newspaper wrote that it has gained access to an email from the British embassy in the US which reveals Washington’s 5-paragraph plan to disintegrate Syria

The Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper wrote on Saturday that the US officials along with their western allies have decided to implement a detailed plan to disintegrate Syria and prolonge the war in the country by continued deployment on the Eastern banks of the Euphrates.

In a somewhat familiar but precise English, Benjamin Norman – a diplomat in charge of the Middle East at the British Embassy in Washington – reports in a confidential diplomatic telegram of the first meeting of the “Small American Group on Syria” (United States, Great Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan), held in Washington on January 11, 2018.

In this five-page TD, he reveals the details of the “Western strategy” in Syria: partition of the country, sabotage of Sochi, framing of Turkey and instructions to the UN Special Representative Staffan de Mistura who leads the negotiations of Geneva. A Non Paper (8 pages) accompanies this TD in anticipation of the second meeting of the “Small Group”. It was held in Paris on January 23, mainly devoted to the use of chemical weapons and the “instructions” sent by the “Small American Group” to Staffan de Mistura.

Hugh Cleary (Head of the Near and Middle East Department of the Foreign Office ), Jérôme Bonnafont (Director ANMO / North Africa and Middle East at the Quai d’Orsay), David Satterfield (US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East) and Jordanian Nawaf Tell and Saudi Jamal al-Aqeel attended the January 11 meeting in Washington. The American opened the meeting, stating that a second meeting would be held in Paris on January 23.

David Satterfield confirmed that President Trump has decided to maintain a large US military presence in Syria, despite the victory over the “Islamic State Organization” (Daesh); the cost of this maintenance being set at $ 4 billion annually. He said that this US military presence should prevent any resurgence of Daesh but, above all, to prevent the Iranians from what he called as settling permanently and imposing themselves in the search for a political solution”. Thirdly, he insisted that the first meeting of the “Small Group” should also provide “material and political support for Staffan de Mistura to” consolidate the Geneva process “.

All the participants welcomed this development very positively in order to “make substantial progress in Syria during the year 2018” and “respond to the propaganda of a Russian victory”. Then, the participants insisted on the “Russian desire to achieve a political solution” that was to be used to make the “Small Group” objectives “more operational”.

The United States noted that they would no longer participate in the Astana meetings, having reduced “their participation to a very low level, to emphasize their commitment to Geneva”; in definitive terms, it was decided to “draw a conceptual line on Astana to return to Geneva”. They then felt that so far “Geneva remained a failure, despite the efforts of Staffan de Mistura”. They were very cautious about including the ceasefire in the Geneva talks: “the truth is that we just do not have the ability to prevent the regime from nibbling the pockets of the opposition. remaining in Idlib and East of Ghouta “.

TD reports great progress “made by the opposition over the last few months,” pointing out that “it will still need to be more flexible to ensure that the Regime does not leave Geneva (…) while the Americans do not support the assumption of a transitional government as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 “.

The text adds that “it would still be useful for the opposition to stop agitating this assumption all the time …”. It was also agreed that “the opposition had to be more flexible and stop agitating the bogeyman of a transitional government without changing the final goal of partitioning Syria and leaving Bashar al-Assad.

The French representative – Jérôme Bonnafont – posed the problem of a possible participation of Bashar al-Assad in future elections. David Satterfield responded that “the goal was to create conditions and institutions that would allow elections that Assad could not win.”

Satterfield added that “there is no flagrant reason” to prevent Assad from being a candidate. Under these conditions, it was mainly a question of testing Russia’s intentions, especially so that it could “get the regime to discuss a new constitution, free elections under the control of the United Nations, and the creation of an environment likely to favor these two processes”.

Unrestricted agreement of all members of the “Small Group” meeting to “no longer be satisfied with Lavrov’s honeyed words, in order to put Moscow under pressure”. For Satterfield, it is about getting the Russians to let Assad go, “through meetings of the Security Council and a broad public communication campaign,” believing that the announced re-election of Vladimir Putin positively undermined the Russian position.

One of the conclusions of this first meeting of the “Small Group” is perfectly clear: “to reinvigorate Geneva so that Sochi becomes irrelevant”; France demanding more “transparency on the Russian position”. But it is still not to oppose “frontally” in Sochi “with the advantage of gathering a significant share of the Syrian civil society”, to bring back the “most positive contributions to Geneva, to renew and relaunch this format of Geneva.

The Saudis warned of a “risk of fragmentation of the different opposition groups and asked for help to maintain the cohesion of the opposition.” Satterfield replied that their representatives should “be more involved in finding a political solution rather than enjoy great salaries and long stays in pleasant hotels.” France supported this remark by emphasizing “communication”. In this regard, the British TD makes the following comment: “Unfortunately, the Fifth French Republic is not intended to finance this effort,” British representatives recalling “that the communication of the opposition was funded in the first place by … the United Kingdom “.

David Satterfield then explained that the Turkish opposition to the “Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)” prevented the Kurds from participating in Geneva. While understanding Ankara’s position, he stressed that “we could not ignore a group that controlled a third of Syria (SIC) and took the largest part in the fight against Daesh “.

He explained that “Americans were seeking to establish multi-ethnic leadership in northeastern Syria to dilute the hegemony of the YPG.” On the other hand, it was necessary to impose the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, mainly Kurdish and under American control) in the process of Geneva.

Comment from the TD author: “I understand that the United States will appoint William (Bill) Roebuck, their former ambassador to Bahrain, as the SDF Special Representative. I will follow, but it is worth remembering – according to the separate discussions we had, for example with Fiona Hill – that relations between the United States and Turkey are already bad and unlikely to improve. As a result, Americans are not in the best position to do – solo – the big job with SDF and Ankara.

The objective is clearly defined: “to get Staffan de Mistura to accept in Geneva a tripartite structure incorporating the opposition, Assad and the SDF”.

Moreover, the Deputy Secretary of State indicates that a “Non-Paper – Reviving the Syrian Political Track in Geneva – will be communicated to Staffan de Mistura before the meeting of January 23 in Paris,” in order to put the Russians at the foot of the Wall “. This document includes: “a political road map, the elements of a constitutional reform, the UN election supervision structure and guidelines for the establishment of a peaceful environment”.

For their part, the Jordanians called the session “Small Group” of “meeting publique most secret of all time.” And the author of the TD concludes: “For the moment, we must keep a group consisting only of the United States, Great Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The next to be invited should be Egypt and Germany (for whom we have pleaded). Turkey should also join the group, but the discussion with it may be poisoned by the Kurds, which will make it more difficult to neutralize Astana. It is therefore not urgent to integrate these last three countries.”

The concluding comments of this TD speak volumes about the future of Western strategy in Syria. The three key conclusions underscore “a real reaffirmation of US leadership behind the scenes …”. The second perspective is to “keep the pressure on Russia, even if Russia can not convince Moscow to let go of the regime as we had hoped.” In this regard, “we must continue – what we are already doing – to denounce the horrible humanitarian situation as well as the Russian complicity in the campaign of bombing civilian targets.” Finally, concludes the author of TD, “the Americans told me how much they appreciated our contribution and our support in recent months as they were finalizing their strategy.”

This does not augur a forthcoming crisis in Syria in a context marked by four major developments of the most worrying.

1) The United States has decided to strengthen and diversify their nuclear posture. The Pentagon has announced that it will develop miniaturized tactical nuclear weapons “to adapt to new international threats”. Iranian President Hassan Rohani responded: “How can anyone speak of world peace and at the same time announce that he is developing new nuclear weapons for his main enemies?”

2) NATO Defense Ministers agreed on 14 and 15 February in Brussels on the outline of a new overhaul of the Atlantic Alliance command structures. This “adaptation – the largest since the end of the Cold War”, according to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, is proposed by the US military. It aims to make the Alliance more effective in a high-intensity crisis. Clearly, it is “better to deter and respond to new threats from certain states, first and foremost Russia.”

3) In the aftermath of the destruction of an Israeli fighter in Syrian airspace, and while Israeli police demand the indictment of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu for corruption, Tel-Aviv accuses Iran of establishing itself in Syria and threatens to multiply its military operations. This is not the first time that the Israeli prime minister – who refuses to resign – is using the resurgence of regional tension to consolidate his personal power and his alliance with the extreme right of the country.

4) Finally, Washington’s military support for the Kurds in Syria continues to provoke the Ankara era. The crisis of confidence is consumed and the Turkish-American axis is on the brink of rupture. Second NATO contingent, the Turkish army had to accompany the conservative and anti-Western turn after the failed coup of July 2016. Mission has been given to a general with conservative and Islamist tendencies to restructure the derailed Turkish army by the purges. [Description: [​IMG]]

Ultimately, the British TD perfectly reflects the Western strategy in Syria: to sabotage the Sochi peace efforts, to add two new wars to the Syrian crisis: that of the Turks against the Kurds and those of the Israelis against Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. “The Americans have never admitted their military defeat in Syria and do not want to let go and especially their main strategic objective,” said a senior French diplomat, “that of a dismantling of Syria, the type of one who has been driven to Iraq and Libya. Their desire is to arm the Kurds to control the oil areas of eastern Syria in order to influence the political and economic reconstruction of the country. Peace is not for tomorrow.

Comment: See also: ‘Get ISIS and go home’: Trump bucks Pentagon and State Dept. on ultimate US goal in Syria

Coke, Nestle Near Ownership of World’s Second Largest Aquifer – by Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

Tourists visit Iguazu Falls in Brazil. The falls are part of the world's largest reservoir of fresh water, known as the Guarani Aquifer. They are in the middle of thick jungle that has more than 1,000 plant and hundreds of animal species., March 15, 2015.(AP/Jorge Saenz)

A concerted push is underway in South America that could see the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water, soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle.

A concerted push is underway in South America that could see one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestle. According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years.

Named after the Guarani indigenous people, the Guarani Aquifer is the world’s second largest underground water reserve and is estimated to be capable of sustainably providing the world’s population with drinking water for up to 200 years. Environmental groups, social movements, and land defenders warn that the exploitation of the freshwater reserve could see the 460,000-square mile (1.2 million sq. km.) reservoir sacrificed for the short-term profits of agribusiness, energy, and food-and-drink giants.

For global behemoths like U.S.-based Coca-Cola and Swiss Nestle, the extraction and sale of drinking water – a finite resource and a basic necessity for all living beings – is especially lucrative. Water intended for public use is enriched with various minerals or combined with cheap sweeteners and other ingredients before being bottled and sold at a massive profit.

 

The plunder of South America’s water

Iguazu Falls cascade near Foz do Iguazu, Brazil, March 14, 2015. Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, is part of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world's major underground reserves of fresh water. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

In Brazil, intense lobbying has been underway since at least 2016 to tap into the aquifer. These efforts fell under the spotlight late last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where private talks were reported between Brazil’s President Michel Temer and a range of top executives with interests in the aquifer, including Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris.


Read more by Elliott Gabriel


As leading Brazilian water-rights activist Franklin Frederick noted in Brasil de Fato, these companies belong to the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030WRG), a transnational consortium that includes AB Inbev, Coca-Cola, Dow, Nestle and PepsiCo. 2030WRG bills itself as “a unique public-private-civil society collaboration” and hides its intention to privatize developing nations’ water supplies by claiming to “facilitate open, trust-based dialogue processes to drive action on water resources reform in water-stressed countries in developing economies” and “close the gap between water demand and supply by the year 2030.”

According to corporate accountability advocates, in truth the group is “an unmistakably activist campaign by the private water industry to gain funding and credibility for a radical power grab.”

 

Temer’s coup and the “new Brazil”

A Guarani Indian holds  banner that reads in Portuguese "Now!", during a protest against President Michel Temer's plan to restrict land titles to indigenous communities, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 30, 2017. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

Brazil’s unelected President Temer is no stranger to radical power grabs: the deeply unpopular head of state came to power himself in August 2016 through a legislative coup that deposed his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff. Since then, his government has implemented a broad-ranging restructuring of Latin America’s largest economy and rolled back progressive policies established by the previous Workers Party government, such as environmental protections, poverty reduction programs, labor protections, and barriers to the privatization of natural resources.

According to Correio do Brasil, negotiations between coup figures and transnational conglomerates regarding the privatization of the Guarani Aquifer kicked off before the impeachment trial of former elected President Rousseff had even begun. In an article from August 2016 titled “Multinationals want to privatize water use and Temer negotiates,” a senior official in Brazil’s National Water Agency noted that a public hearing on the privatization of water was postponed on the same day the impeachment process began, because talks between Temer, Coca-Cola and Nestle were already “striding forward” at a rapid pace.

The newspaper noted:

Representatives of [Nestle and Coca-Cola] have held meetings with government authorities to formulate procedures for exploitation by private companies of water sources, especially in the Guarani Aquifer, in concession contracts for over 100 years — [the senior official] added.”

At the Davos forum, Temer trumpeted his government’s 20-month track record of transforming Brazil into a readily-exploitable country rich with opportunities for transnational capitalist elites:

The new Brazil that is back in business … is a more prosperous, a more open country – a country with more opportunities for investment, more opportunities for trade and business … In this short timespan we have succeeded in drastically changing the face of Brazil.”

Brazil’s water wealth has long been a source of profit for the country’s export industries, which deal in such commodities as beef, biofuels, rice, and oil and gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing. However, the deregulation of public control over land use and resource management has resulted in the reckless plunder of water resources, major pollution, and land grabs affecting indigenous nations and the rural poor in the region.

While a third of the Guarani Aquifer lies beyond Brazil’s borders, the right-wing governments in neighboring Argentina and Paraguay have also reportedly agreed to grant 100-year concessions to companies wishing to exploit the aquifer, with only Uruguay’s left-of-center government refusing to grant approval.

 

Militarization and the imperialist theft of Latin America’s resources

Indigenous protesters from various ethnic groups carry coffins representing indians killed over the demarcation of land, as they demand the demarcation of indigenous lands, outside the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil. In May, Congress passed two measures that convert around 1.4 million acres of protected land, the vast majority of it in the Amazon, into areas open to logging, mining and agricultural use. (AP/Eraldo Peres)

The push to privatize the Guarani Aquifer comes amid an increased militarization of the region by the Pentagon.

In May of 2016, the neoliberal government of Argentine President Mauricio Macri agreed to grant permission to the U.S. military to build a base in the jungle region known as the Triple Border, which lies directly on top of the Guarani Aquifer on the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. U.S. officials and media figures have long claimed that the area is a hotbed of alleged criminal activity, such as drug trafficking and counterfeiting intended to raise funds for Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.

As far back as 2004, critics like Elsa Bruzzone of Argentina-based progressive veterans’ group CEMIDA noted accused the U.S. of alleging a “terrorist presence” in the region “so they can install a military base and exert control over the water.”

Relating a common perception, observer Vincent Lofaso of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs also notes that Washington’s interest in the Triple Border may have more to do with the aquifer’s abundant water reserves than with so-called “international terrorism,” and says that the new U.S. base will deprive local indigenous communities of access to clean water supplies, fishing, and the freedom to navigate their region.

Under Temer, as well, the defense establishments of the United States and Brazil have formed an increasingly close relationship, recalling close ties between Washington and Sao Paolo during the 21-year military dictatorship that ruled the country following 1964’s right-wing coup. Last November, U.S. military personnel took part in military drills in the Brazilian Amazon involving 2,000 troops from Brazil, Colombia and Peru – all countries that have right-wing governments that have pushed forward hard-line corporate policies.

As the so-called “pink tide” of progressive elected governments in Latin America recedes and the U.S. reasserts a Monroe Doctrine claiming sovereignty over the Americas, the world faces an ever-increasing danger that our priceless shared environment will fall like ripe fruit into the hands of transnational corporations obsessed with short-term gains rather than protecting humanity’s basic needs for present and future generations.

Top Photo | Tourists visit Iguazu Falls in Brazil. The falls are part of the world’s largest reservoir of fresh water, known as the Guarani Aquifer. They are in the middle of thick jungle that has more than 1,000 plant and hundreds of animal species., March 15, 2015.(AP/Jorge Saenz)

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.

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

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Opinion: Netanyahu – Israeli Prime Minister or ‘Crime Minister’? – By CGTN

 
Opinions
Guest Commentary by Wang Jin

2018-02-24 12:56 GMT+8

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing tremendous pressure from an ongoing corruption investigation. With the former director general of the Ministry of Communications, Shlomo Filber, as a state witness, Netanyahu may be indicted and even convicted, or he might choose to resign. Whatever the outcome there is little doubt Israel’s political landscape will undergo a significant reshuffle in the near future.

Several alleged scandals challenge Netanyahu’s political reputation and future career. The first is the “Case 1000,” which opened officially in December 2016 and investigates the close relationship between the Netanyahu family and several wealthy merchants inside and outside Israel.

The second is the “Case 2000,” which is looking into the “special” relationship between Netanyahu and the Israeli mainstream media, Israel Hayom (Israel Today) and Yedioth Ahronoth (Latest News) specifically.

The third is “Case 3000,” which investigates Netanyahu’s role in the Israeli Navy’s purchase of three Dolphin-class submarines and four Sa’ar 6-class corvettes from Germany. Some Israeli analysts believe these purchases were not actually necessary for the navy and some suspect that Netanyahu and other political and military leaders received bribes from the German defense industry.

The fourth is “Case 4000,” which investigates the relationship between the Israel Ministry of Communications, controlled by Netanyahu after 2015, and Israel’s largest telecommunications company Bezeq.

Meanwhile, “Case 1270” investigates whether Netanyahu once offered an “appointment bribe offer” to a candidate for the position of Attorney General in exchange for dropping a case against Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attending a ceremony  at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Feb. 20, 2018. /VCG Photo 

Besides all these cases, Netanyahu’s family have also been in a number of personal scandals.

His wife has been criticized for humiliating her housekeepers, while Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son and the widely perceived “successor” of the “Netanyahu dynasty,” was recorded by his own personal driver commenting on girls in strip clubs using “impertinent remarks” in a conversation with friends.

All these scandals disclose a wide range of interests connecting Israeli politicians, energy companies, telecommunication companies, newspapers and even the justice department – not only linking them to Netanyahu and his family but also to some senior military and political officials.

Protesters supporting and opposing Netanyahu have been organizing their own protests in different cities in Israel, such as Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv. Supporters of Netanyahu believe these scandals are “conspiracies” designed by the Israeli left-wing media and social groups, while opponents believe Netanyahu is a “crime minister” and should resign immediately.

Israelis taking part in a demonstration titled the “March of Shame” against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government corruption in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on December 23, 2017. /VCG Photo 

If Netanyahu does resign or is arrested, it might be not easy to find a good replacement. Having led four cabinets, Netanyahu has become the second longest-serving prime minister since Israeli independence in 1948; only founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion lasted longer. Although Israel is a small state with fewer than 9 million people, its society is fragmented and political groups are split into different camps along left-right ideological lines as well as religious-secular factions. It is not easy to find a politician in today’s Israel political arena to replace Netanyahu.

Future candidates include Yair Lapid, the leader of centrist-wing “Yesh Atid” (Future Party); Moshe Kahlon, the leader of centrist-wing Kulanu (everyone of us); Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing party “Habayit HaYehudi” (Jewish Home Party); Avigdor Liberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home Party); Avi Gabbay, the leader of left-wing Mifleget HaAvoda (Labor Party); and Tzipi Livni, the leader of left-wing “Hatnuah” (Movement Party).

However, none of these is as qualified as Netanyahu.

Israeli MP and chairperson of the centre-right Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid /VCG Photo‍

Yair Lapid, Moshe Kahlon Tzipi Livni and Avi Gabbay lack “defense department” experience, which is important for Israeli voters; Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman need to shift from a right-wing agenda to a right-centrist-wing agenda to attract more voters. And no politician is likely to be able to unite different political camps to form a stable and sustainable government once Netanyahu leaves.

The answer to whether Netanyahu will remain as “prime minister” or resign or be arrested as “crime minister” will emerge in the coming weeks. 

(Wang Jin is a PhD candidate at the School of Political Science, University of Haifa and a research fellow at the Syria Research Center, Northwest University. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the view of CGTN.)

Russian UN envoy: “Battle for Raqqa didn’t get same outcry as Ghouta” ~ By RT and other Russian Press

 [REPORTS about terrorist attacks on Damascus and its Countryside, and the Syrian Arab Army and Russian Aerospace Forces military response to the terrorist dens in Eastern Qalamun and Ghouta]

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Russian UN envoy:
“Battle for Raqqa didn’t get same outcry as Ghouta”


Mercenary-terrorist gangs fire 70 rocket shells on Medical Surgery Hospital and residential areas in Damascus and Jaramana

[Damascus, SANA, 23/2/2018] – One civilian was killed and 60 others were injured on Friday due to 70 rocket shells fired by the armed groups on the residential neighborhoods of Damascus and its Countryside, in a new violation of the de-escalation zone agreement.

A source at Damascus Police Command said that armed groups fired a rocket shell on Salaheddin area in Rukn Eddin neighborhood in Damascus, killing one civilian and injuring tens others, some of them are in critical situation, in addition to causing severe material damage to public and private properties.

Seven other civilians were injured due to attacks with shells on Bab Touma and Ish al-Warwar, the source said.


Armed groups targeted residential neighborhoods in Damascus with shells:

The armed groups positioned in Eastern Ghouta targeted al-Sheikh Raslan area in Bab Touma neighborhood with a mortar shell, injuring a civilian, while another shell landed in Bab al-Salam area, causing only material damage.

The source added that an attack with a rocket shell by the armed groups positioned in Eastern Ghouta caused massive material damage to the ICU at the Medical Surgery Hospital in Baghdad Street in Damascus, damaging medical equipment in the hospital, cars parked in the area, and surrounding houses.

Earlier, the source told SANA that the armed groups positioned in Eastern Ghouta also fired mortar and rocket shells on the neighborhoods of Mezzeh 86, Barzeh, al-Joura, al-Qaboun, causing material damage to houses and properties.

A source at Damascus Countryside Police Command said that a number of shells landed in al-Assad residential suburb and its vicinity, causing only material damage to properties and infrastructure.

Three shells were landed on al-Homsi neighborhood in Jaramana city, causing only material damage, the source added.

SANA reporter said that units of the Syrian Arab Army have responded to the attacks by targeting the areas from which the shells were launched, inflicting losses upon the armed groups in personnel and weapons.

Material damage due to shelling attack on residential neighborhoods of Daraa

Material damage was caused on Friday when the armed groups fired shells on the residential neighborhoods of Daraa city in a new violation of the de-escalation zone agreement in the southern region.

Speaking to SANA’s reporter, a source at Daraa Police Command said that the armed groups fired a number of rocket shells on the neighborhoods of al-Sahari, Daraa al-Mahata and al-Kashef in Daraa city, causing material damage to citizens’ properties.

A unit of the Syrian Arab Army has responded with appropriate weapons to the areas form which the shells were launched, destroying a number of rocket launching pads.


Terrorists in Eastern Ghouta use civilians as human shields

[Moscow, SANA, Manar al-Freih / Hazem Sabbagh, 23/2/2018] – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the root of the problems in the Eastern Ghouta is the presence of Jabhat al-Nusra and groups affiliated to it which target the capital Damascus with shells, use civilians as human shields, and claim that humanitarian conditions are bad there.

In a press conference with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov on Friday, Lavrov said that the terrorists use civilians in Eastern Ghouta as human shields in order to put the blame for any casualties on the Syrian Army and government and present them as parties that violate international humanitarian laws, adding that whoever wants to ensure the human rights of the civilians in Eastern Ghouta should put pressure on the terrorist organizations that exist there.

The Russian minister said that the US-led international coalition doesn’t seem to fight Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization in Syria, adding that “al-Nusra is not being targeted. We still have no evidence that the US-led coalition considers the Nusra as a target for its military campaign.”

Lavrov also noted that the so called “White Helmets” have repeatedly been caught falsifying information.

He pointed out that the proposed UN Security Council resolution on Syria’s ceasefire (proposed by Kuwait and Sweden) doesn’t guarantee that the terrorists will lay down their weapons, but at the same time, Moscow is ready to back the proposal.

“In order to make this resolution effective — and we are ready to agree on a document that will do so — we propose a formula that will make the ceasefire real and based on the guarantees of the parties that are currently residing in East Ghouta; the guarantees should be backed by the external powers, including those who have influence over the extremist groups that entrenched themselves in the Damascus suburbs,” the minister said.

Lavrov said that the Astana process remains the only barrier that prevents the United States from dividing Syria, noting that these plans, even though they are denied by the US, are being implemented by them east of the Euphrates.

On the agreement on the de-escalation zones, Lavrov pointed out that the Americans do not want to recognize that Russia has played the key role in reaching it, which raises many questions for Moscow, adding that preparations are being made for the meeting between the foreign ministers of the three guarantor states (Russia, Iran, and Turkey) that will be based on UNSC Resolution 2254, which requires respect for the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic and its territorial inviolability.


Syrian Foreign Ministry: “Some Western officials are complicit in the crimes of terrorists against civilians in Damascus and its countryside”

[Damascus, SANA,Hazem Sabbagh, 20/2/2018] – The Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General and the head of the Security Council on the attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups on Damascus and its countryside, killing and injuring dozens of innocent civilians, affirming that terrorist officials and others who provide cover for these terrorists are complicit in these crimes.

In the letter, the Ministry said that armed terrorist groups located in the Eastern Ghouta targeted Damascus city and its countryside on Tuesday February 20th with scores of lethal shells, killing and injuring dozens of civilians as the shells targeted streets, residential neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, public establishments, and even the headquarters of diplomatic missions.

The Ministry said that this grave escalation by the terrorists, who fired more than 45 shells at Damascus in a few hours claimed the lives of six civilians and injured 29 more as of the date of writing these letters, is a continuation of the crimes committed on daily basis by these terrorists against the citizens in Damascus, as they have fired over 1,500 shells during the past seven weeks, killing and injuring hundreds, most of them women and children.

The Ministry noted that these attacks come at a time when some Western officials and others are carrying out campaigns that can only be described as direct support for these terrorists that encourage them to kill and carry out terrorist attacks without fear of being accountable.

The Ministry affirmed that these officials are complicit in the terrorists’ crimes against innocent civilians in Damascus and its countryside, as they are denying the Syrian state’s right to defend its citizens, fight terrorism, and confront those who fund and arm terrorists, adding that this is part of the underhanded conspiracy concocted by those officials around seven years ago, during which all parts of Syria suffered from terrorist bombings and massacres perpetrated by terrorists upon instructions from their masters in the capitals of Western and Arab Gulf states.

Syria affirms that these terrorist attacks will not dissuade it from continuing to fight terrorism, working to restore security and stability, and rebuilding what has been destroyed by terrorists and their partners and backers, the Ministry stated.

The Ministry also said that Syria demands an immediate and stern condemnation by the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General of this terrorist escalation, urging the Security Council to assume its responsibility by taking steps against the regimes and states that support and fund terrorism.

The Ministry concluded the letter by stressing that certain Western states’ prevention of condemning these terrorist attacks by the Security Council would send a message to the terrorists and their supporters to continue their crimes against Syrians and to keep using citizens in the Eastern Ghouta and other areas as human shields and hostages.


Lavrov: “U.S. & allies refuse to amend UN draft to include guarantee militants honor Syria ceasefire”

[RT News, 23/2/2018] ~ Washington and its allies refuse to amend a resolution drafted by the UN Security Council to include guarantees that militants will observe the ceasefire in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

Russia is ready to vote for the UNSC draft, but for the proposal to yield real results, it needs “a formula allowing the ceasefire to be made real, and based on the guarantees of everyone in Eastern Ghouta [province in Syria] and beyond.” Moscow’s top diplomat also cautioned that there are no guarantees that the militants will stick to the humanitarian pause instead of a continued shelling of residential areas in Damascus.


© Abdalrhman Ismail


These guarantees should be supported by those who can influence “extremist groups” in Eastern Ghouta, Lavrov stressed, apparently referring to the US-led coalition. At the same time, Washington and its allies do not want to pass any amendment that would place responsibility on itself for the militants’ failure to stop the hostilities, according to the diplomat.

“For now, they refuse to accept an amendment which will place responsibility on them to ensure that the militants give clear guarantees to stop the shelling,” the Russian foreign minister stated on Friday.

Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, has seen a new wave of clashes between Syrian government forces and both rebel and Islamist factions. The latter included Al-Nusra Front, currently known as Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham. Despite the terrorist group remaining a key problem in the area, Russia still has “no evidence that the US-led coalition considers Jabhat Al-Nusra as a real target for its actions.”

Addressing claims of human-rights abuses in Eastern Ghouta by the Syrian government, Lavrov said that many questions had been raised.

The Damascus suburb has recently been described by Western media outlets as the scene of a government-led massacre, with frequent claims that civilians are being deliberately targeted there. On Thursday, the UN Security Council convened for an emergency meeting in New York to discuss to the situation in Syria and Eastern Ghouta, in particular.

The Russian delegation rejected a proposed resolution for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which was submitted by Sweden and Kuwait, as “non-implementable” as “long and hard work with parties to the conflict is needed to bring them together and work out all the details.”


JAYSH AL-ISLAM SHELLS DAMASCUS WITH HEAVY ROCKETS: RUSSIAN WARPLANES RESPOND


[South Front, 23/2/2018] ~ On February 23, a heavy rocket launched by Jaysh al-Islam hit civilian buildings in the Rukn al-Din district in the northern part of the Syrian capital Damascus, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria.

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that one civilian had been killed and fifteen others had been injured in the rocket attack.

Jaysh al-Islam likely targeted the Rukn al-Din district with a Syrian-made Maysalun unguided artillery rocket. The rocket is a copy of the Iranian Zelzal-2 rocket. Maysalun has a range of 210km and a heavy high explosive (HE) warhead.

Jaysh al-Islam captured several Maysalun rockets from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Eastern Qalamun region during 2013. These rockets are still stationed in Jaysh al-Islam’s ammo depots in the Petra quarries in the northern part of the besieged Eastern Qalamun pocket, according to Syrian pro-government activists.

Lieutenant Colonel Ali Abdulbagi, Jaysh al-Islam’s Chief of the Staff, posted photos of Jaysh al-Islam’s Maysalun rockets via its official Twitter account on February 22 and openly threatened to use them. The official account of Jaysh al-Islam even retweeted Lt. Col. Abdulbagi threat.


 

In response to the rocket attack, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted pinpoints airstrikes against several ammo depots of Jaysh al-Islam the Eastern Qalamun pocket, according to Syrian pro-government activists.

Jaysh al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman, the Ahrar al-Sham Movement and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have shelled the city of Damascus on a daily basis over the last two weeks. According to SANA, four civilians were killed and eighty-eight others were injured in the armed groups shelling during the last 48 hours only.

Aftermath of the Jaysh al-Islam rocket attack on the Rukn al-Din district:

Jaysh al-Islam Shells Damascus With Heavy Rockets. Russian Warplanes Respond (Video, Photos)

“Hezbollah special forces took captive a senior field commander of the terrorists affiliated to Riyadh and two U.S. and French intelligence officers working in the newly-founded joint operations room of Jeish al-Fatah (a coalition of several terrorist groups) in Aleppo in one of the regions controlled by al-Nusra Front in Aleppo”, Majeda al-Haj, a prominent Lebanese journalist, wrote on al-Sabat news website today.

Al-Haj said that

the joint operations room was set up so that the French and US intelligence agents can directly command Jeish al-Fatah terrorist attacks in Aleppo and nearby regions.

She said that

the U.S. imagined that the captured spies would be taken to Lebanon and alerted Tel Aviv to bomb the convoy that was supposedly taking the captive American and French officers, but the convoy that came under the Israeli airstrike was not carrying the captured spies”.

She said that

the US, Israeli and Saudi spy agents in Syria later helped a special team of Al-Nusra terrorists – who received their trainings from Israel’s Mossad secret service in 2012 – to find the place of Hezbollah Commander Badreddin in retaliation for the capture of these officers.

Al-Haj said that

the Al-Nusra team is tasked with finding senior Hezbollah commanders in Syria to assassinate them.

She also pointed out that

the death of several Iranian advisors in Khan Touman was not the result of clashes with Al-Nusra terrorists, adding that the senior officers were killed in an air raid by the US planes that took off from Turkey’s Incerlik airbase and bombed their operation room in Southern Aleppo.

The Lebanese resistance movement’s senior military commander, Mustafah Badreddin, was killed near Damascus military airport in a terrorist attack last week.

After his death, a senior politician disclosed that the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement is planning to launch massive military operations against the Takfiri terrorists in Syria in retaliation for his martyrdom.

“Unique military operations by Hezbollah against Syria’s Takfiri terrorists will be conducted very soon,” Wahib Wahibi told FNA on Tuesday.

He reiterated that Hezbollah’s response to the Takfiri terrorists’ crimes will come within the framework of its counterterrorism operations.

(enphasis and bold added)


RELATED

Hezbollah-SG-Hassan-Nasrallah-2

 

 

Jaysh al-Islam Shells Damascus With Heavy Rockets. Russian Warplanes Respond (Video, Photos)Hezbollah has captured an American and a French spies in its operations in Aleppo, a prominent Lebanese media source revealed on Saturday, adding that the US, Israeli and Saudi intelligence agents helped Al-Nusra Front to find the place of Hezbollah’s martyred military chief, Mustafah Badreddin, and kill him in retaliation.

“Hezbollah special forces took captive a senior field commander of the terrorists affiliated to Riyadh and two US and French intelligence officers working in the newly-founded joint operations room of Jeish al-Fatah (a coalition of several terrorist groups) in Aleppo in one of the regions controlled by al-Nusra Front in Aleppo,” Majeda al-Haj, a prominent Lebanese journalist, wrote on al-Sabat news website today.

Al-Haj said that the joint operations room was set up so that the French and US intelligence agents can directly command Jeish al-Fatah terrorist attacks in Aleppo and nearby regions.

She said the US imagined that the captured spies would be taken to Lebanon and alerted Tel Aviv to bomb the convoy that was supposedly taking the captive American and French officers, “but the convoy that came under the Israeli airstrike was not carrying the captured spies”.

She said the US, Israeli and Saudi spy agents in Syria later helped a special team of Al-Nusra terrorists – who received their trainings from Israel’s Mossad secret service in 2012 – to find the place of Hezbollah Commander Badreddin in retaliation for the capture of these officers.

Al-Haj said the Al-Nusra team is tasked with finding senior Hezbollah commanders in Syria to assassinate them.

She also pointed out that the death of several Iranian advisors in Khan Touman was not the result of clashes with Al-Nusra terrorists, adding that the senior officers were killed in an air raid by the US planes that took off from Turkey’s Incerlik airbase and bombed their operation room in Southern Aleppo.

The Lebanese resistance movement’s senior military commander, Mustafah Badreddin, was killed near Damascus military airport in a terrorist attack last week.

After his death, a senior politician disclosed that the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement is planning to launch massive military operations against the Takfiri terrorists in Syria in retaliation for his martyrdom.

“Unique military operations by Hezbollah against Syria’s Takfiri terrorists will be conducted very soon,” Wahib Wahibi told FNA on Tuesday.

He reiterated that Hezbollah’s response to the Takfiri terrorists’ crimes will come within the framework of its counterterrorism operations.

 

Jaysh al-Islam Shells Damascus With Heavy Rockets. Russian Warplanes Respond (Video, Photos)Hezbollah has captured an American and a French spies in its operations in Aleppo, a prominent Lebanese media source revealed on Saturday, adding that the US, Israeli and Saudi intelligence agents helped Al-Nusra Front to find the place of Hezbollah’s martyred military chief, Mustafah Badreddin, and kill him in retaliation.

“Hezbollah special forces took captive a senior field commander of the terrorists affiliated to Riyadh and two US and French intelligence officers working in the newly-founded joint operations room of Jeish al-Fatah (a coalition of several terrorist groups) in Aleppo in one of the regions controlled by al-Nusra Front in Aleppo,” Majeda al-Haj, a prominent Lebanese journalist, wrote on al-Sabat news website today.

Al-Haj said that the joint operations room was set up so that the French and US intelligence agents can directly command Jeish al-Fatah terrorist attacks in Aleppo and nearby regions.

She said the US imagined that the captured spies would be taken to Lebanon and alerted Tel Aviv to bomb the convoy that was supposedly taking the captive American and French officers, “but the convoy that came under the Israeli airstrike was not carrying the captured spies”.

She said the US, Israeli and Saudi spy agents in Syria later helped a special team of Al-Nusra terrorists – who received their trainings from Israel’s Mossad secret service in 2012 – to find the place of Hezbollah Commander Badreddin in retaliation for the capture of these officers.

Al-Haj said the Al-Nusra team is tasked with finding senior Hezbollah commanders in Syria to assassinate them.

She also pointed out that the death of several Iranian advisors in Khan Touman was not the result of clashes with Al-Nusra terrorists, adding that the senior officers were killed in an air raid by the US planes that took off from Turkey’s Incerlik airbase and bombed their operation room in Southern Aleppo.

The Lebanese resistance movement’s senior military commander, Mustafah Badreddin, was killed near Damascus military airport in a terrorist attack last week.

After his death, a senior politician disclosed that the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement is planning to launch massive military operations against the Takfiri terrorists in Syria in retaliation for his martyrdom.

“Unique military operations by Hezbollah against Syria’s Takfiri terrorists will be conducted very soon,” Wahib Wahibi told FNA on Tuesday.

He reiterated that Hezbollah’s response to the Takfiri terrorists’ crimes will come within the framework of its counterterrorism operations.

 

Jaysh al-Islam Shells Damascus With Heavy Rockets. Russian Warplanes Respond (Video, Photos)Hezbollah has captured an American and a French spies in its operations in Aleppo, a prominent Lebanese media source revealed on Saturday, adding that the US, Israeli and Saudi intelligence agents helped Al-Nusra Front to find the place of Hezbollah’s martyred military chief, Mustafah Badreddin, and kill him in retaliation.

“Hezbollah special forces took captive a senior field commander of the terrorists affiliated to Riyadh and two US and French intelligence officers working in the newly-founded joint operations room of Jeish al-Fatah (a coalition of several terrorist groups) in Aleppo in one of the regions controlled by al-Nusra Front in Aleppo,” Majeda al-Haj, a prominent Lebanese journalist, wrote on al-Sabat news website today.

Al-Haj said that the joint operations room was set up so that the French and US intelligence agents can directly command Jeish al-Fatah terrorist attacks in Aleppo and nearby regions.

She said the US imagined that the captured spies would be taken to Lebanon and alerted Tel Aviv to bomb the convoy that was supposedly taking the captive American and French officers, “but the convoy that came under the Israeli airstrike was not carrying the captured spies”.

She said the US, Israeli and Saudi spy agents in Syria later helped a special team of Al-Nusra terrorists – who received their trainings from Israel’s Mossad secret service in 2012 – to find the place of Hezbollah Commander Badreddin in retaliation for the capture of these officers.

Al-Haj said the Al-Nusra team is tasked with finding senior Hezbollah commanders in Syria to assassinate them.

She also pointed out that the death of several Iranian advisors in Khan Touman was not the result of clashes with Al-Nusra terrorists, adding that the senior officers were killed in an air raid by the US planes that took off from Turkey’s Incerlik airbase and bombed their operation room in Southern Aleppo.

The Lebanese resistance movement’s senior military commander, Mustafah Badreddin, was killed near Damascus military airport in a terrorist attack last week.

After his death, a senior politician disclosed that the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement is planning to launch massive military operations against the Takfiri terrorists in Syria in retaliation for his martyrdom.

“Unique military operations by Hezbollah against Syria’s Takfiri terrorists will be conducted very soon,” Wahib Wahibi told FNA on Tuesday.

He reiterated that Hezbollah’s response to the Takfiri terrorists’ crimes will come within the framework of its counterterrorism operations.

 

‘Get ISIS and go home’: Trump bucks Pentagon & State Dept. on ultimate US goal in Syria – By RT

‘Get ISIS and go home’: Trump bucks Pentagon & State Dept. on ultimate US goal in Syria
President Donald Trump appeared to dash the hopes of interventionists and contradict his own administration officials, by declaring that US troops’ mission in Syria is limited to defeating ISIS and doesn’t include regime change.

“We’re there for one reason: to get ISIS and get rid of ISIS, and to go home,” Trump said on Friday, during a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the White House. “We’re not there for any other reason and we’ve largely accomplished our goal.”

While Trump did not hesitate to call the Syrian government “a humanitarian disgrace,” criticizing Russia and Iran for their involvement, his comments implied the US military also had no business in Syria beyond the ‘ultimate’ goal of defeating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“Ultimately, there has to be a political settlement,” said Turnbull, noting that Australian troops in the region have been focused on training the Iraqi military and not so much on Syria.

The two leaders were answering a question from a US reporter who wondered what they intended to do about the East Ghouta crisis. The suburb of Damascus is held by Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants and has seen heavy fighting over the past two weeks.

Trump’s position might be news to his Cabinet officials, however. US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, who has been an outspoken advocate of regime change in Syria, is currently championing a Security Council resolution proposing an emergency ceasefire in the area, following the militants’ claims of civilian casualties and atrocities uncritically echoed in Western media.

The resolution’s objective was to blame the Syrian government for the escalation of violence in order to, yet again, promote regime change, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference in Serbia on Thursday. Lavrov added that the militants in Ghouta belong to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda and a terrorist group that is not covered by the ceasefire overseen by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlined defeating IS ‒ and Al-Qaeda ‒ as only one of the five goals the US was pursuing in Syria. The others? Curbing Iranian influence and eliminating weapons of mass destruction, ending the civil war and creating conditions for safe return of refugees, as well as ensuring a peaceful transfer to a “post-Assad leadership.”

In Tillerson’s vision, the majority of Syrian people will peacefully vote out President Bashar Assad in a free election. The Obama administration and its allies had repeatedly insisted that “Assad must go,” which the Trump administration has alternately agreed and disagreed with.

In December, a Pentagon spokesman acknowledged the presence of almost 1,800 US troops in Syria, and said they will remain there for “as long as we need to.”

Unlike the Russian forces, who are in Syria on the invitation of the country’s officially recognized government, the US forces are operating without any kind of mandate under international law. Some lawmakers have even questioned their continued presence under US law, as the Trump administration continues to rely on authorizations from 2001 and 2002 to use military force (AUMF), passed by Congress to allow President George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of fighting terrorism.

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Stop confusing Kurdistans! Syria’s leftists must turn home to Assad – By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

February 22, 2018

by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog

Stop confusing Kurdistans! Syria’s leftists must turn home to Assad

As Assad-backed troops enter Afrin to fight Turkish invaders, the Syrian conflict has entered its decisive crossroads:

Will Northern Syria cooperate with Damascus, or not? This is the key to Syrian peace and territorial unity.

It’s also the question which will make or break claims that a Northern Syrian enclave which refuses to help expel uninvited Americans can somehow be a “leftist project”.

(I say it is a leftist project…IF they return to full cooperation with the Syrian government. I will detail my analysis of the political structure of “Rojava” in an upcoming article – this article only deals with immediate political concerns.)

No question can be answered, however, until I clarify some key facts about Northern Syria. Indeed, reporting about Northern Syria in the West is rife with the most fundamental errors, and the most egregiously false claims.

Firstly, the Kurds in Syria have only ever asked for autonomy, not independence.

People assume all Kurds are like Iraqi Kurds – separatists – but the Kurds in Syria want to stay within the Syrian state. This disavowal of independence is an undisputed, long-standing (if underreported) fact. Indeed, the arrival of pro-government forces in Afrin was met with celebrations – the “Arab Socialist Baath Party” is a nationalist one, it seems to have been forgotten. The fact that such celebrations could possibly raise some eyebrows only shows how terrible the West’s mainstream reporting is in Syria.

The second most important point is this: “Rojava”, “Syrian Kurdistan”, “Northern Syria” or the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria” – whatever it is called – is among the most interesting (and newest) leftist projects in the world today.

For that reason alone, nobody is reporting on it honestly.

After all, the Western mainstream media has no governmental or private mandate to support the 99%…much less in a Muslim country…still less in an anti-Zionist country like Syria!

Rojava’s governmental culture is based around ethnic equality, collective unity, local emancipation and undoubtedly socialist-and-not-capitalist inspired democratic & economic ideals. Therefore…the capitalist-imperialist West totally ignores all of that and solely focuses on identity politics: thus, it’s always reported as just “the Kurds”.

That leads to the third important issue: foolishly lumping all the Kurds across Southwest Asia together, thereby assuming that there are no regional differences: For Western media it is as if Kurds walk around all day in a special “Kurdish daze”, so enamored with being Kurdish that the countries and local neighborhoods where they live have absolutely no effect on them or their worldview. Their “Kurdishness” is all-consuming, it seems! The theory underpinning this is identity politics: if you are Kurdish, then you must all think alike.

So it makes no difference if you grew up/lived in Saddam’s Iraq, modern Iran, Baathist Syria, or Istanbul: You are a Kurd and – as a Kurd – you can only possibly see things via the lens of your Kurdishness. But only the West proffers this absurd, one-dimensional view of the Kurds – not the Middle Easterners who live alongside them.

A fourth problem – an even larger one for those in Syria – is that the Kurds in Syria are not even “Kurds”!

What I mean is: Kurds are around ½ of the population of Northern Syria, but only compose around 1/3rd in some of the biggest areas of Rojava, such as Membij. There are Assyrians and Chaldeans – they are Christian. There are Sunni Arabs. There are Turkmen, who are not allied to Turkey and are Syrian patriots despite their name. There are Circassians, Armenians, Yazidis, Chechens and others. Hard as it is for non-Muslims to believe: All these people like each other, live & work together, intermarry and have done so for more than a millennia. You cannot even say that all the fighters in this area are Kurds, either, because the Syrian Democratic Forces forces – who helped rout ISIL – are majority non-Kurd.

But they are all Syrian – and they want it to stay that way.

This IS the case…even though Kurds in Iraq aimed for independence…and despite the Western anti-Assad propaganda.

Clearly, a major overhaul on the idea of “Kurd” is needed for many….

The Kurdish ‘Bad Century’ is relative to where they live

Anyone can have a bad century and finish as winners…look at the Chicago Cubs.

So in Northern Syria the “Kurds” are not even Kurdish nearly half the time, LOL, but let’s be like the West and look at the “Kurds” across their 4 main nations.

If we accept that “Kurdishness” is not all-consuming , we can see how the experiences of “Kurds” in Iraq (which also compose Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, etc.) – who lived under Saddam Hussein’s wars, were massacred by the anti-Iranian MKO homicidal cult, lived in a country forced to endure material shortages caused by US sanctions from 1990-2003, and who are enduring US invasion and occupation – are fundamentally different than the experiences of “Kurds” in Syria…where these things did not happen.

The experience of “Kurds” in Syria – which is bordered by the menacing, illegitimate state of Israel, which had a different political conception & practice of Baathism than Iraq (which provoked more enmity than cooperation between the two since 1966), which was invaded not by a “coalition of the willing” but radical terrorists, which is on the cusp of benefitting from the extraordinary national unity which can only be created by victoriously defeating foreign invaders – are fundamentally different than the experiences of “Kurds” in Iraq.

“Kurdishness” in Turkey is an vastly larger issue than Syria, because there are vastly more of them than in anywhere else.

“Kurdishness” in Iran is totally different than in any of the four primary Kurdish countries: they are more accepted there than any other country.

This is a result of the acceptance promoted by Iran’s modern, popular revolution of 1979 (by definition, you can’t have a “modern, popular revolution” based on racism/ethnic superiority). Indeed, Iran’s definitive cultural “female Iran-Iraq war experience” was the best-selling, award-winning story told by a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq to Iran – in the book“Da”, which means “mother” (not in Farsi). Such a thing could never happen in Turkey, obviously, nor Arab nationalist Syria and Iraq. This modern acceptance is why Iran is the only nation of the four where there is no chance of fomenting a Kurdish uprising in Iran: being Iranian and Kurdish is not any sort of contradiction – they are incorporated in the national self-conception about as much as any numeric minority can reasonably be, as the success of “Da” illustrates. And for this reason – which is called (Iranian Islamic socialist) “modern democracy” – there is no chance of any sort of a “Kurdish uprising” in Iran. Even amid this ongoing historical era of Kurdish militancy across the entire region, the PJAK Party (Iranian Kurdish separatists) gave up armed operations in Iran in 2011: it’s useless – Iran is different, and on the Kurdish question as well. Israel could spend a zillion usuriously-gained dollars on such a project and it would get nowhere…which is why they spend their time in the southeast (in Baluchestan with Jundallah).

And, to repeat, because this is so important: The people of Northern Syria have never, ever said they want anything but autonomy within Syria. This proves that Syrian “Kurds” are not Iraqi “Kurds”, where Barzani and their bid for independence have been neutralised…much to the dismay of the US & Israel.

An often ignored (or not known) point is that Iraqi “Kurds” had been wooed (or led astray) by the US for two decades via preferential economic, political, cultural and immigration policies. The US paid for a lot of goodwill over many years. In Syria – LOL, not at all. So, Syrian “Kurds” have not come into contact with the American ideology anywhere as much…and their ideology is necessarily different (despite the overpowering Kurdish daze they walk around in, LOL!)

Only by ignoring these realities can one assume the “Kurds” of both regions share the same political outlook in February 2018.

So, I hope we are bit less konfused on who the “Kurds” really are.

Now, because of the leftist nature of northern Syria, we must de-konfuse our notions of their political ideology.

But I’m going to postpone that to part two – let’s talk immediate politics.

A very interesting leftist political project…but not if they ally with the US

It was with great alarm that greeted the recent US declaration that they will keep 2,000 troops in Northern Syria – that news turned off many to the possibility that northern Syria could possibly be leftist.

And rightly so, but Washington’s plans are simply their desire – there has been no official political deal: Rojavan leaders insist their cooperation with the US is strictly military to fight ISIL. Indeed, they have grown up in Syria, which has been attacked by Israel…but now they are going to be allies?

Certainly, the downfall of Barzani in Iraq is a blow to US/Israeli imperialism – so…of course they are refocusing to Northern Syria. But that doesn’t mean they will get what they want!

Certainly, Northern Syria cannot allow a military base inside its borders. There can be no “Syrian Guantanamo” to permanently menace a newly-liberated Syria, like in Cuba.

Let’s keep a couple war realities in mind: It’s not as if Northern Syrians could have stopped the US from planting soldiers and using an airstrip – there has been a huge war, after all, with a well-heeled army called ISIL to stop.

Let’s also remember that the Northern Syrians work with everybody to fight ISIL in Northern Syria: Russia, the US, Damascus, Iran, Hezbollah – everyone but Turkey. (Obviously, the US both fights terrorism and supports it.)

Rojavans…it may be now or never to fight for Syrian unity

The invasion by Turkey means Northern Syrians have now reached the point of no return: to work with Turkey (and thus the US) is to betray the Syrian people which Rojavans have always claimed to want to be.

Therefore, Syria is on the verge of peace and total victory…or major civil war: It will be decided by inter-Syrian diplomacy. Negotiations have been ongoing between the two areas for years, of course, and they are no doubt in overdrive right now.

The fundamental problem is this:

Damascus has always rejected the idea of a federated state and autonomy for Northern Syria. Northern Syria has held their ground militarily, and Damascus has been too occupied with ISIL to demand cooperation…but it’s February 2018, and here we are.

So what will Damascus do, and what will Rojava do?

I am not a Syrian, and thus my opinion should be worth very little – the future of Syria is only for Syrians to decide – but to me it looks like this:

Rojavans may view siding with Damascus as a risk regarding the re-installation of some Arab Nationalist policies they dislike (Rojava has 3 official languages for a reason, for example)…but siding with the Americans is a guarantee of leftist betrayal, a guarantee of a failure and a guarantee of regional bloodshed for decades.

Maybe Rojava can expel ISIL on their own, but they cannot expel the US and Turkey without Damascus…and they must be expelled. How can these troops stay if Damascus and Rojavans cooperate? They cannot, whatever the Pentagon wants.

Therefore, at some point – a point quite soon – Rojavans will need to openly embrace Damascus, in the name of Syrian unity and in the realization of issues larger than their own interests and sacrifices.

On the other side, there is nothing stopping Damascus from making concessions to win over Rojava…and yet, one easily sees the government’s hesitance: Making major changes to Syria’s political structure seems to require the democratic approval of the entire nation via vote. The granting of wholesale structural changes for one-third of the country during wartime appears to lack democratic legitimacy.

Rojava is where most of Syria’s oil is located. Certainly, those funds cannot be made the complete “autonomous” property of Rojavans. One easily sees how “granting autonomy” is a major question that goes beyond just the decades-long elevation of Arab culture over the culture of Turkmen, Chaldeans, Kurds, etc.….

Of course, it should not be surprising that Assad’s view of Rojava never gets an airing…but given Rojava’s leftist bonafides, nobody ever talks about them at all either. “Keep ‘em konfused with just ‘Kurds’” is the media line….

To sum up my view of the immediate political situation: Unity requires faith – Northern Syrians need to trust their fellow citizens that their success has earned them good faith credit in Syria’s common future.

And, finally, what choice does Rojava have? Turkey will never accept them (this is the pretext for their invasion), nor Damascus, nor Iraq. The only ones who will are the US and Israel…and that is leftist?!?!

No…this is why I predict a reconciliation. The failure of Syrian-Syrian diplomacy at this juncture is…civil war.

And who wants that in Syria?

In an upcoming second article I will examine what is the “leftist ideology” of Rojava, and how these ideas might interact with Arab Socialist Baathism in a unified, free, victorious state of Syria.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

Mission Possible: Here’s What Those Russian Su-57 Jets May Be Doing in Syria – By RT

 A PAK FA T-50 fighter jet
© Sputnik/ Alexey Filippov

Military & Intelligence

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The appearance of two Su-57 fighters at Syria’s Hmeymim Airbase, yet to be confirmed by the Russian MoD, has nevertheless got defense observers and armchair analysts alike talking. But what might the planes be doing there? Is their deployment strictly testing-related, or is it also meant to send a political message? Sputnik investigates.

Deployment Details

So far, both the Kremlin and the MoD have stayed mum on the subject of the Su-57s’ possible mission to Syria. But a simple observation of Su-57-related news from recent months seems to indicate that the deployment is highly likely.

For instance, on February 8, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov announced that the military was set to buy a batch of Su-57s for combat trials, with the first stage of state trials already completed. Two weeks before that, Boris Obnosov, CEO of Tactical Missiles Corporation, a company engaged in the development of weapons for the fighter platform, confirmed that the Su-57 had begun flight testing with its advanced new weaponry onboard. Hinting that the results of their work would be seen “in the imminent future,” Obnosov added that Su-57 test launches of new weapons developed by the Raduga and Vimpel design bureaus would start “soon.”

Vladimir Gutenov, Duma lawmaker in charge of a commission supporting the Russian defense industry, told Sputnik that while he could not independently confirm the Su-57s’ deployment to Syria, he “whole-heartedly welcomed” the reports. According to the lawmaker, the planes “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.” Furthermore, he said, the presence of the Su-57s will doubtlessly send a political message, serving as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states which periodically fly into” the Middle Eastern country uninvited.

What Russian Experts Are Saying

Russian military experts have offered a myriad of possible reasons for the Su-57s’ deployment to Syria.

For instance, Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Arms Export, a Russian military publication, told RBC that the deployment would help to advertise the planes, especially to the Indian market, in light of the joint Russian-Indian Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program.

For one thing, he said, “Lockheed Martin is active on the Indian market. Furthermore, there are difficulties with India on the FGFA project. The public launch of the Su-57 last year and its deployment to Syria now is aimed at convincing the Indians that the FGFA is a real project, which has a prototype that not only flies, but is capable of operating in a warzone.”

For his part, Nikolai Antoshkin, Col-Gen (ret.) a veteran Soviet and Russian military pilot, commander and combat training specialist, explained that while the first squadron of production Su-57s would soon be deployed to the Lipetsk Combat Training Center, “fighters, like any other weapon, are tested mainly in combat. Therefore, sending the Su-57 to Syria is a natural solution.”Emphasizing that the Su-57 was an excellent tool which would “come in handy” in the event of any “provocations against our forces in Syria,” Antoshkin also commented on rumors circulating online about the US Air Force allegedly suspending its F-22 Raptor flights over Syria due to the appearance of the Russian planes in the country.

For one thing, Antoshkin recalled, the Su-57 is equipped with 3D thrust vector jets, as opposed to the F-22’s 2D thrust vector jets, meaning higher maneuverability for the Russian plane. “In addition, these engines allow our fighter to reach speeds up to Mach 2 without an afterburner. With its onboard Belka radar station, the Su-57 can detect ‘stealth’ aircraft, and track over 10 targets simultaneously. Add to this the plane’s excellent radio-electronic warfare module, which suppresses enemy missiles’ homing systems.”

As far as onboard weapons are concerned, the observer recalled that “the Su-57 has two large internal weapons compartments, taking up practically the entire useful length of the aircraft. Each compartment can carry up to four K-77M air-to-air missiles,” which have a range of nearly 200 km and serve as the rough equivalent to the US’s AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.  

Ultimately, Antoshkin stressed that while deploying just two planes is not enough to provide Russia with an overwhelming military advantage in the Syrian theater, it would cause Russia’s potential adversaries to think twice: “I think it will give our geopolitical rivals an extra reason to ponder whether it is worth raising their hand against Russia,” the veteran air force officer concluded.

Hmeimim airbase in Syria
© Sputnik/ Ramil Sitdikov
Hmeimim airbase in Syria

Western Military Observers Respond

Wednesday’s photo and video evidence of the Su-57 fifth-gen stealth fighters flying around Hmeymim certainly got the Pentagon’s attention, with a DoD spokesperson complaining that the deployment was an indication that Russia was not living up to its “announced force drawdown.”

Many Western military observers were similarly critical, with Business Insider quoting experts who claimed that the deployment was a “cynical move” aimed at boosting Russian arms sales and gaining valuable intelligence on advanced US air power operating in the region.Popular Mechanics was somewhat more evenhanded, pointing out that the deployment will give the Russian military an opportunity to “learn a lot about how the jet works in less-than-ideal conditions, how good its sensors are at picking up targets in the air and on the ground, and how difficult it is to maintain the planes thousands of miles from Mother Russia.” However, that publication too offered its share of criticism, suggesting the Su-57s might stoke conflict with F-22s over US-controlled airspace in Syria, and would face the constant threat of mortar or drone attacks so long as they remain stationed in Hmeymim.

The National Interest’s Dave Majumdar did one better, actually speaking to a Russian military expert – Vasily Kashin of the Moscow-based Center for Comprehensive & International Studies. According to Kashin, the Su-57s’ deployment amounts to “testing in actual war,” something that would help prepare the planes for mass production.

As for Majumdar, as far as the analyst can tell, the deployment will likely help the Russian military gain valuable operational experience and performance data on the Su-57’s advanced avionics, including its active electronically scanned array radar and ELINT systems. Even “limited combat missions” are a possibility, he wrote.

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