Gold Leaving US Vaults: Signs of Upcoming Currency War and Armed Conflict – By Peter KORZUN (Strategic Culture Organisation)

The Turkish government has made the decision to repatriate all of its gold reserves that are currently housed in the US Federal Reserve System (FRS). Overall Turkey was storing 220 tonnes, valued at $25.3 billion, in the US, which it repossessed on April 19, 2018.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has toughened his stance against the US dollar (USD), declaring that international loans should be made in gold instead of the American currency. Ankara is seeking to reduce dependence on the US financial system. The gold’s homecoming was partly prompted by the US threats to impose sanctions if Turkey goes through with the signed deal to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

This is a dramatic move reflecting an international trend. Venezuela repatriated its gold from the US in 2012. In 2014, the Netherlands also retrieved its 122.5 tonnes of gold that were stored in US vaults. Germany brought home 300 metric tonnes of gold stashed in the United States in 2017. It took Berlin four years to complete the transfers. Austria and Belgium have reviewed the possibility of taking similar measures.

Few people believe the US Treasury’s assurances that the 261 million ounces (roughly 8,100 tonnes) in official gold reserves that are stored in Fort Knox and other places are fully audited and accounted for. The Federal Reserve has never been fully and independently audited. The pressure for a full, independent audit of all US gold reserves has always been resisted by the government and in Congress. Nobody knows if the gold is really there. What if the vaults turn out to be empty? It’s wiser to bring your gold home while you can, rather than to just keep on wondering.

The gold bars that the US claims to hold are of low purity and do not conform to international industry standards. Even if the US has the amount of gold it claims to have, most of it would not be acceptable for trading on the international market. While other countries are pulling their gold out of the FRS banks, Russia and China are boosting their reserves, creating gold-backed currencies for themselves and thus moving the world away from the dominance of the USD.

The US dollar’s status as the global reserve currency has been called into question. It faces some tough competition. The tariffs introduced by the US administration as an instrument of coercion against other countries are failing to bolster the greenback, which may soon face headwinds. An international currency war looms as a possibility. This makes investors look for other options. Indeed, why should other countries rely on a US dollar that is not backed by gold or anything but “the good faith and credit of the American worker,” when America itself is not trusted internationally?

For instance, the Chinese yuan is going strong. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are considering the prospects for making payments in their national currencies. Iran has recently announced it is switching from the dollar to the euro as its official reporting currency. Russia and China have a currency swap agreement that avoids settlements in the USD.

The quest to reduce dependence on the dollar was provoked by the ongoing use of sanctions as a political weapon, a kind of foreign-policy tool of choice. Even America’s closest allies are threatened by these restrictive measures. The recent attack on the Nord Stream 2 gas project is a good example. It’s only natural for other countries to be looking for ways to resist the US policy of twisting arms. Using alternative currencies and bringing gold home are ways to do that.

America has always opposed such efforts. Any methods would do. Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, was toppled and killed after he came up with the idea to introduce a golden dinar to be used as an international currency in the Middle East and Africa. Iran has recently banned the use of the USD in trade. It refuses to sell its oil for the US currency. President Trump is likely to kill the Iran deal in May, provoking Tehran into reviving its nuclear program.

An armed conflict with Iran might be much closer than generally believed. The nuclear deal has been honored, to everyone’s satisfaction but to Washington’s chagrin. Iran undoubtedly has no military capability that would be a threat to the US. It has never been responsible for any terrorist acts committed abroad or things like that. But it has done something unforgivable in the eyes of the US. It has threatened the USD. That’s what Washington cannot accept, because if it does not support the dollar, there will be problems financing the US government’s huge federal debt. A war with Iran would eliminate the largest non-USD oil exporter. One thing leads to another. The gold repatriations are a precursor to a currency war and armed conflict. That’s what drives US foreign policy.

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City beneath city: RT films massive network of militant-built tunnels under Syria’s Douma (VIDEO) – By RT

https://www.rt.com/news/425149-douma-underground-militant-tunnels/video/5ae0c540dda4c8d75f8b45fe

 
 
The Syrian military has been combing through a vast network of tunnels built by jihadists in Douma, not far from Damascus. RT Arabic filmed vehicles easily fitting in the passages and asked locals how the militants treated them.

Located 15 meters deep under the surface, the massive tunnels are supported by metal pillars and are paneled with some sort of liner plates, creating a subway look. They stretch for kilometers under the town, located in the area of eastern Ghouta, forming an entire city beneath the city.

To complete the set, the tunnels are equipped with electricity, parking lots and workshops. They are so big that a minivan could easily move through them, as seen in the footage. The military discovered that the tunnels were specifically used to stockpile machinery and vehicles.

The militants forced the locals to build the tunnels for them by starving the people, who refused to work, Douma residents told RT. “They starved us, they harassed us,” one man said, adding that the extremists also made captives and civilians work on the tunnels. “They [the militants] would not feed those, who refused to work,” he said.

READ MORE: Moscow slams western media ‘disinformation campaign’ about OPCW experts being denied entry to Douma

The Russian military said they found a chemical laboratory operated by militants in central Douma soon after the city’s liberation. The facility, located in the basement of a residential building, had some sophisticated equipment, including an industrial chemical reactor, which the military said was used by the jihadists to create toxic agents. Vast stockpiles of various chemicals were also found in the laboratory.

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US ‘May Provoke Conflicts in Latin America’ Amid UNASUR Row – By SPUTNIK

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Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay decided to leave the South American bloc last week, and this is a huge step back for the whole region, political analyst Sonia Wiener believes.

The decision of six Latin American countries to temporarily leave the Union of South American nations (UNASUR) jeopardizes regional integration, encourages interstate conflicts and puts at risk the protection of natural resources, Sonia Wiener, a political scientist from the University of Buenos Aires, told Sputnik.

“It is no coincidence that the decision is made during Bolivia’s presidency in the Union,” the researcher noted.

“This disintegration will not only hamper the development of the regional identity and the unity of the countries of the region, but also weaken territorial sovereignty, cooperation and protection of strategic natural resources […],” she added.

READ MORE: Russian Diplomat Slams ‘Destructive and Irrational’ US Policy Toward Venezuela

According to Wiener, the withdrawal of the six countries from the bloc “creates the ground for foreign interventions, in particular, by the United States and Great Britain, what is exactly happening now in the region.”

“I’m afraid that the US can provoke interstate conflicts in Latin America and then try to resolve them by military means, because war is business,” the analyst warned.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay decided to suspend their membership in the South American bloc on April 20.

The move was prompted by the fact that the bloc, according to the governments of these countries, has been inefficient due to grate differences in positions of its members and subsequent inability to find a consensus.

The idea of replacing the US contingent in Syria with Saudi troops is doomed to failure – By DMITRY MININ ( Strategic Culture Foundation)

The idea of replacing the US contingent in Syria with Saudi troops is doomed to failure

 

The White House has had a hot new idea – to leave Syria but also stay there at the same time by deploying an Arab contingent to US military bases, primarily from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). So to Arabize one of the bloodiest wars of our time in keeping with the bitter memory of Vietnamization. 

It seems that the plan was worked out during the almost month-long stay of Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in America. And the plan’s existence was announced on 17 April by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, during a joint press conference with the UN secretary general, António Guterres. Following the missile attack on Syria, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, reiterated that President Donald Trump still wants an early withdrawal of US troops from the country. The introduction of a Saudi contingent in their place seems to Washington to be in the interests of the United States. And the US government has not just suggested to Saudi Arabia that it replace the American contingent, but to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as well. They would take a back seat to the Saudis, however. There is also talk of these regimes providing money to rebuild Syria’s destroyed north. It seems they wouldn’t just be counting on military force, but on “buying” the local population as well.

It does raise a question, of course: have the Americans asked the Syrian government or its own allies – the Kurds and, at the very least, Turkey, Russia and Iran – about the desirability of such a replacement? No, of course they haven’t. Even while withdrawing, the US is unable to forget about its “exclusivity”. For many reasons, however, the idea of replacing Americans with Arabs is doomed to failure.

That Damascus will resolutely resist the proposed reoccupation of its territory by the forces of a “fraternal country” is obvious. It can only lead to more fighting and a rise in regional tensions. Almost as well-equipped as the Americans, the Saudis will never be a worthy opponent of the battle-hardened Syrian army. They have already shown what they’re capable of in the endless war in Yemen, where barefoot Houthis are inflicting one embarrassing defeat after another. Riyadh’s intention to fight a “decisive battle” against Iran on foreign soil will not be realised, either. With its ally Iraq behind it, Tehran would soon have the advantage.

All in all, not a single one of Syria’s neighbours is in favour of the arrival of Saudi troops to replace the Americans except Israel. Iraq is categorically against the idea, since it wants to avoid having to deal with an upsurge in fighting between Sunnis and Shi’ites on its borders. Turkey has no need for the Saudis either, because they would undermine its influence in the Ankara-controlled area of northern Syria. Suffice it to say that the nearly 30,000 troops now under Turkey’s wing from Eastern Ghouta, which was recently liberated by government troops, have been on Riyadh’s payroll for the entire war. Turkey has every reason to fear that Saudi Arabia will use these and other groups to assert its dominance over the area. Libya is also against the appearance of Saudi Arabia on the Syrian stage, fearing that clashes between Sunnis and Shi’ites will move to within its own borders. Even Jordan, which is dependent on Washington and London, is weary of the initiative. As a pragmatic politician, King Abdullah II of Jordan has a good idea of all the possible negative repercussions of such an undertaking. 

The proposals have also been criticised by Egypt, which has completely ruled out its involvement in their realisation. Mohammad Rashad, a senior official in Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, expressed himself in no uncertain terms: “The Egyptian Armed Forces are not mercenaries and cannot be leased or ordered by foreign states to deploy in a certain area.” Rashad continued: ““This is not acceptable. No one should dare to direct or give orders to Egypt’s army.” The statement is an indirect response to an appeal by the US president’s new national security advisor, John Bolton, to the head of Egypt’s intelligence services, Abbas Mustafa Kamil, inviting Cairo to be involved in the project.

Just as many problems await the Saudis in and around the area of their proposed location. To begin with, the Kurds from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control the area with the help of the US will certainly not welcome their arrival. It would mean the Kurds giving up control of the local Arab population in favour of the incoming contingent and losing most of the power they have won. It is quite possible that the Americans are secretly pushing for a scenario in which, as well as Arabization, there will also be a “dekurdization” of northern Syria, but at someone else’s hands. Then it would seem as if they are not betraying the Kurds, while calming Arab national feelings and ironing out differences with the Turks at the same time. Don’t think that the Kurds will remain passive bystanders in this situation, however. Chances are they will occupy the vacated US bases and refuse to let anyone in. It is even possible they will finally realise that, in the current situation, the most sensible course of action to resolve the Kurdish national question would be an alliance with Damascus. For the time being, Damascus is prepared to extend the rights of Kurds, but should they find themselves on the losing side later on, their window of opportunity will gradually close. 

And for Saudi Arabia, a direct clash with the Islamic State (IS), which, according to the official version, is the terrorist group that the Saudis must go to Syria to fight, could prove fatal. The truth is that many of the IS militants still fighting in Syria are mujahideen from Saudi Arabia and their ability to indoctrinate their fellow countrymen should not be underestimated. It could happen that any direct contact between the Saudi contingent and IS militants will eventually extend the latter’s influence to the Kingdom, something that the Islamic State has long dreamed of. In the countries of the Persian Gulf, there are already some who think it would perhaps be better to hire Sudanese nationals, Pakistanis or some other poor souls for the operation.

The new plan for America to save face in the Middle East is just as chimerical as all of America’s previous attempts at a global reorganisation of the region. The outcome of Arabization will not be any better than the outcome of Vietnamization was all those decades ago. And this will continue to be the case until Washington starts taking into account the positions of all interested parties, including Damascus.

US violating intl law by breaking into Russian consulate in Seattle – embassy – By RT

US violating intl law by breaking into Russian consulate in Seattle – embassy
The US government is violating international law with its decision to break into Russia’s locked consulate in Seattle, the Russian embassy in Washington said in a statement.

What we see now is a gross violation of the Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Convention on Consular Relations,” commented Nikolay Pukalov, the head of the embassy’s consular department. “The Russian side did not agree on stripping diplomatic status from our property in Seattle and did not give permission to American officials to enter our territory.”

The spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called the development “a hostile takeover” of the compound by the US.

The diplomatic building was evacuated earlier this week due to an order from Washington, which expelled 60 Russian diplomats and told the embassy to shut down the Seattle consulate in retaliation for the poisoning of a former double agent in Britain.

After the diplomats left on Tuesday, they locked the building. US officials on Wednesday broke into the compound.

The closure of Russia’s Seattle consulate was the latest in a string of diplomatic mission reductions taken by both sides over the past years. The pretext for this particular expulsion was the British accusation that the Russian government ordered an assassination of a former double agent. London failed to provide any public proof of the allegation and instead launched an international campaign to punish Moscow, finding a most eager participant in Washington.

The US claimed that the 60 diplomats it expelled were Russian spies and that the consulate in Seattle was heavily used for espionage purposes. Similar justifications were used when Washington ordered the shutdown of Russian missions in San Francisco and New York in September 2017.

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Silence of the shams: Western media puts Syrian boy’s witness account on hold – By SPUTNIK

Syrianboy

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Hassan Diab

If it doesn’t fit the narrative, there’s no harm in shelving it. It appears that evidence proving the purported chemical weapons attack in Douma was staged has been largely disregarded by the mainstream newsmakers in the West.

The alleged attack and the subsequent airstrikes by the US, UK and France have been dominating the Western news agenda for several weeks now.

On April 7, several media outlets reported that the Syrian army had used chlorine in Douma, killing up to 70 people and injuring hundreds. Footage showing the aftermath of the “attack” appeared on social media, showing men and women shouting, rushing and hosing down adults and children inside a hospital building.

The video has been acquired and shown by most Western news media under the tagline “Children are treated after a suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Douma, Syria” or similar headlines.

Responding to the video and the allegations, the Syrian Defense Ministry said the claims were based on hearsay and testimonies by jihadist militants, and not backed up by hard facts. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all proofs by the West were “based on media and social networks.”

However, the footage and the “irrefutable evidence” reportedly in possession of French President Emmanuel Macron were evidence enough for the allies – US, UK and France – to conduct cruise missile strikes on a number of targets in Syria.

In his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron refused to reveal what that “irrefutable evidence” was. Nevertheless, the events around the alleged attack received detailed coverage by British, American and international media as essential developments of the situation in Eastern Ghouta.

Staged Participation

Proof that the Douma hospital video was staged was presented to the international media on April 18, when the Russia 24 TV channel released an exclusive interview with the Syrian boy Hassan Diab, who was originally seen in the Douma video. Hassan said he was rushed to the hospital with his mother, and when they entered the hospital, unknown people grabbed and poured water on him, placing him with other patients after that.

“We were in the basement. Mom told me that today we don’t have anything to eat and that we will eat tomorrow. We heard a cry outside, calling “go to the hospital.” We ran to the hospital and as soon as I entered, they grabbed me and started pouring water on me,” Hassan Diab said.

Hassan’s father also spoke about the incident, saying “there were no chemical weapons” and that the “militants gave them dates, cookies and rice for participating in this film.”

Left Out of the Media Picture

The interview, however, went largely unnoticed by mainstream newsmakers. In the rare cases the interview with Hassan got a mention, it was referred to as line pushed by “Russian state media.”

A precursor to the Sun’s news headline “Russian TV claims Syria chemical attack boy, 11, filmed being doused with water was tricked into taking part in return for biscuits” was the phrase: “Fake Views.”

A Times’ headline attributes the fact that Hassan was paid off with food – to Russian TV, not the boy’s father, who made the statement.

In comparison, the Times didn’t attribute mentions of the alleged Douma attack to information presented by the White Helmets, a foreign-sponsored organization operating in Syria. Moreover, if some of the Times’ headlines featured the phrase “gas attack” in quotations, the effort wears out, as seen in other titles.

Throughout the development of the Douma story, most news channels have made the effort of calling the reported event “an alleged attack” – and some still oblige. But as time passed, headlines omitting the crucial qualifier started popping up online and in television discussions.

Syrian medics ‘subjected to extreme intimidation’ after Douma attack” and “Syria attack: Chemical weapons inspectors retrieve samples from Douma” are just a couple of examples – with the latter actually referring to the fact that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) experts haven’t yet established the use of chemical weapons.

The US broadcaster Fox News posted the alleged attack video online under the headline “Disturbing video: Children being treated after chemical attack in Syria” on April 9, which indicated certainty that the attack did happen and that chemical weapons had been used. However, a search for mentions of or statements by Hassan and his father on the Fox News website gives zero results.

CNN’s coverage follows a similar scenario. Even though some of CNN’s headlines on Douma stipulate that it was a “suspected” attack, others simply define it as a “chemical attack in Syria.” There is no information on Hassan and his recollection of events that took place on April 9.

Searches on the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post return no articles telling the story of Hassan and his father.

Due Impartiality

Very little coverage has been dedicated overall to Hassan’s witness statement, in effect disproving the pretext for an international military attack.

As a consequence, international audiences were largely left out of the balanced discussion over a matter so imperative to the public. According to a recent poll, respondents in Britain mostly opposed a missile attack against Syrian military targets.

The principle of section five of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, under which all media operate in Britain, is “to ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.” Disregarding important developments around the Douma “attack” does not appear to be in compliance with not “favoring one side over another.”

Hassan Diab may be brought to testify to the OPCW, Russia’s Permanent Representative to OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, said in a recent interview.

“At a certain point, I told my Western colleagues: we, probably, will have to use another language, since you don’t understand what we are saying. We will bring here, in The Hague, eyewitnesses who will personally tell you it was a choreographed provocation. I will do my best to have this boy speak here,” Mr. Shulgin said.

He added, however, that “everything is possible” and Hassan might not be allowed to give a statement at the OPCW.

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Russia capable of providing S-300 to Syria within one month — source – By TASS

April 23, 18:46 UTC+3

According to the source, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria

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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, April 23. /TASS/. Russia is technically capable of providing its air defense systems S-300 to Syria within one month, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS, adding that for this the launchers already at the Defense Ministry’s disposal might be used after the required reconfiguration, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS.

According to the official, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria. One is Russia may provide to Syria the export configuration of the air defense launchers. In that case Syria will get them in 18 to 24 months from now. The other possibility is the available systems may be retrieved from the Defense Ministry’s reserves. Those replaced by S-400 in the Russian army might be use, too.

“Naturally, the used S-300 systems that may be taken to Syria will have to be reconfigured to suit the standards of the Syrian air defense. This work may take about a month,” the source said.

TASS has no official confirmation of this.

 

Earlier, the daily Kommersant quoted its own sources as saying that Russia in the near future might start the delivery of S-300 Favorit air defense systems to Syria.

 

S-300 for Syria

 

Russia’s General Staff declared it might be possible to raise the question once again of providing S-300 systems to Damascus shortly after the United States, Britain and France on April attacked Syria with cruise missiles. The agreement with Syria on providing S-300 was signed back in 2010 only to be frozen due to objections from the West and Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on April 16 said Russia might be prepared to consider all the necessary steps for enhancing Syria’s defense capabilities, including the supplies of S-300 systems. On April 23 Lavrov said the question of providing S-300 to Syria had not been settled yet, but Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed that possibility with the Defense Ministry “from the standpoint of preventing a situation where Syria might turn out insufficiently prepared for aggressive attacks, like the one that took place on April 14.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from comment when asked if S-300 might be delivered to Syria in the near future.

 
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By Billing Russia ‘Terror Sponsor’ US Wants to Lay Hands on Europe – Think Tank – By Sputnik

The Moon over the Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya (Savior) Tower

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Republican senator Cory Gardner is championing a legislative initiative to determine whether Russia should be billed a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Radio Sputnik discussed this with Manuel Ochsenreiter, director of the German Center for Eurasian Studies and editor-in-chief of the German news magazine “ZUERST!”

Sputnik: In your view, why was this article published now, when relations between Russia and the US are as tense as they were during the Cold War era?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: We witness right now an escalation of the informational warfare; we have already now, well since the war started in Syria, which was escalating even more since the problems and difficulties in Ukraine, with the Maidan uprising, so we are now at a new escalation period and of course, the consequences for Gardner, for the US, or what they would like to see as consequences is to have a safe hand on Europe, on the European allies by labelling Russia as a “terrorist sponsoring” state.

It is not just about the consequences from the US, but they would pressure their European allies into also going into these consequences. One consequence, for sure, would be that Europe would be even closer to the US than Europe already is right now. This is also already the consequence of the Skripal story, the consequence of the so-called “gas attack” in Syria. So, it is about informational warfare meant for having the European allies more safe on the Washington side.

Sputnik: If Russia was indeed declared a state sponsor of terrorism, what kind of diplomatic moves would we see by the European Union, by the US?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: We would see a variety of diplomatic and economic measures. It would mean that sooner or later, the European countries would have to follow Washington’s judgement about Russia as a “terrorism sponsor.”

That would mean that there would be an enormous political pressure on all companies and businesses, and on all politicians who are advertising good and normal relations with Russia, between Europe and the Russian Federation. For the US, it is absolutely important to keep Europe on their side and to make Europe, let’s say, hostile towards Russia. Russia is a sort of natural partner for European states; Russia is a supplier of resources.

Germany, for example, has excellent high tech products and is also very important for the market of Russia, but the US wants to separate these two markets, or these two political spheres, to bind Europe closer to the US. The US knows [that] if Europe gets lost for the US, they are outside of the game.

READ MORE: Situation in Syria Shows ‘Cold War is Back’ — UN Chief

The consequences would include a diplomatic cooldown, maybe even freezing, maybe even more freezing than we were used to during the escalating periods of the “cold war.”

In economic terms, it would mean that companies, even if they do business with Russia, which would be legal, would suffer from moral and public pressure … if the US succeeds in making Europe also label Russia a “terrorism sponsor.” 

Sputnik: What other countries around the world are currently considered by the US and Europe as states sponsors of terrorism?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: If we take a closer look on these countries – we have for instance Iran labelled as a terrorist sponsor – we know also that they label the Lebanese Hezbollah forces as terrorists, as they are on the official terrorist list.

But if we look at the situation in the Middle East, we can precisely see that those entities and those groups labelled as terrorists or terrorist sponsors by the US are in many cases forces that are standing for stability and fighting against terrorism.

For example, Iran is one of the main forces supporting Syria in fighting the Islamic State*. Russia is the only foreign force, besides Iran, which is in Syria legally, which is there on the invitation of the legal Damascus government.

While the Americans, the British, the French and all other forces are there not legally, they were never invited, never asked by the sovereign state of Syria to support them in fighting terrorism.

We can say that one of the main terrorist-sponsoring states on the globe is the United States itself. There would be no Islamic State group existent today, if the US hadn’t meddled in the Middle East. The Islamic State exists precisely due to the meddling of the United States [in the Middle East.]

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.

The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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Empire Collapse: Russian Missile Tech Renders America’s Trillion Dollar Navy Obsolete – By Dmitry Orlov /Russia Insider(SOTT)

Dmitry Orlov

kinzhal hypersonic missile

Kinzhal (‘dagger’) hypersonic missile being test-fired by the Russian military

For the past 500 years European nations-Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany-were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy.

The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme orneriness and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so-during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.

Prior to the Soviet collapse, the US military generally did not dare to directly threaten those countries to which the USSR had extended its protection. Nevertheless, by using its naval power to dominate the sea lanes that carried crude oil, and by insisting that oil be traded in US dollars, it was able to live beyond its means by issuing dollar-denominated debt instruments and forcing countries around the world to invest in them. It imported whatever it wanted using borrowed money while exporting inflation, expropriating the savings of people across the world. In the process, the US has accumulated absolutely stunning levels of national debt-beyond anything seen before in either absolute or relative terms. When this debt bomb finally explodes, it will spread economic devastation far beyond US borders. And it will explode, once the petrodollar wealth pump, imposed on the world through American naval and air superiority, stops working.

New missile technology has made a naval empire cheap to defeat. Previously, to fight a naval battle, one had to have ships that outmatched those of the enemy in their speed and artillery power. The Spanish Armada was sunk by the British armada. More recently, this meant that only those countries whose industrial might matched that of the United States could ever dream of opposing it militarily. But this has now changed: Russia’s new missiles can be launched from thousands of kilometers away, are unstoppable, and it takes just one to sink a destroyer and just two to sink an aircraft carrier. The American armada can now be sunk without having an armada of one’s own. The relative sizes of American and Russian economies or defense budgets are irrelevant: the Russians can build more hypersonic missiles much more quickly and cheaply than the Americans would be able to build more aircraft carriers.

Equally significant is the development of new Russian air defense capabilities: the S-300 and S-400 systems, which can essentially seal off a country’s airspace. Wherever these systems are deployed, such as in Syria, US forces are now forced to stay out of their range. With its naval and air superiority rapidly evaporating, all that the US can fall back on militarily is the use of large expeditionary forces – an option that is politically unpalatable and has proven to be ineffective in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also the nuclear option, and while its nuclear arsenal is not likely to be neutralized any time soon, nuclear weapons are only useful as deterrents. Their special value is in preventing wars from escalating beyond a certain point, but that point lies beyond the elimination of their global naval and air dominance. Nuclear weapons are much worse than useless in augmenting one’s aggressive behavior against a nuclear-armed opponent; invariably, it would be a suicidal move. What the US now faces is essentially a financial problem of unrepayable debt and a failing wealth pump, and it should be a stunningly obvious point that setting off nuclear explosions anywhere in the world would not fix the problems of an empire that is going broke.

Events that signal vast, epochal changes in the world often appear minor when viewed in isolation. Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was just one river crossing; Soviet and American troops meeting and fraternizing at the Elbe was, relatively speaking, a minor event-nowhere near the scale of the siege of Leningrad, the battle of Stalingrad or the fall of Berlin. Yet they signaled a tectonic shift in the historical landscape. And perhaps we have just witnessed something similar with the recent pathetically tiny Battle of East Gouta in Syria, where the US used a make-believe chemical weapons incident as a pretense to launch an equally make-believe attack on some airfields and buildings in Syria. The US foreign policy establishment wanted to show that it still matters and has a role to play, but what really happened was that US naval and air power were demonstrated to be almost entirely beside the point.

Of course, all of this is terrible news to the US military and foreign policy establishments, as well as to the many US Congressmen in whose districts military contractors operate or military bases are situated. Obviously, this is also bad news for the defense contractors, for personnel at the military bases, and for many others as well. It is also simply awful news economically, since defense spending is about the only effective means of economic stimulus of which the US government is politically capable. Obama’s “shovel-ready jobs,” if you recall, did nothing to forestall the dramatic slide in the labor participation rate, which is a euphemism for the inverse of the real unemployment rate. There is also the wonderful plan to throw lots of money at Elon Musk’s SpaceX (while continuing to buy vitally important rocket engines from the Russians-who are currently discussing blocking their export to the US in retaliation for more US sanctions). In short, take away the defense stimulus, and the US economy will make a loud popping sound followed by a gradually diminishing hissing noise.

Needless to say, all those involved will do their best to deny or hide for as long as possible the fact that the US foreign policy and defense establishments have now been neutralized. My prediction is that America’s naval and air empire will not fail because it will be defeated militarily, nor will it be dismantled once the news sinks in that it is useless; instead, it will be forced to curtail its operations due to lack of funds. There may still be a few loud bangs before it gives up, but mostly what we will hear is a whole lot of whimpering. That’s how the USSR went; that’s how the USA will go too.

About the author

Dmitry Orlov is an engineer and author of several books, including The Five Stages of Collapse. His website is Club Orlov, and his Patreon page is here.

Guardian’s Owen Jones accuses mainstream media of ‘groupthink’, ‘intolerance’ and elitism – By RT

Guardian’s Owen Jones accuses mainstream media of ‘groupthink’, ‘intolerance’ and elitism
Guardian columnist Owen Jones has fired an opinion-rocket right into the midst of his own kind – journalists. His claim that the mainstream media is an invite-only club run by public school pals has not gone down well.

It began when the author and columnist tweeted some of the lessons he’s learned working in the British media. Labeling the profession a “cult” in the UK, Jones goes on to say the mainstream media (MSM) is “afflicted by a suffocating groupthink, intolerant of critics, hounds internal dissenters, full of people who made it because of connections and/or personal background rather than merit.”

Hurling such accusations against the British media did not solicit a positive reaction from the club’s members. Jones himself described the onslaught that followed against him as an “inferno” of fury… which in turn, sparked an article detailing exactly what is wrong with the UK press.

Journalists from publications across London (where most mainstream outlets are based) were outraged by the comments. There were anecdotes given to disprove Jones – with one reporter even quipping that “no one tells me what to think.”

Jones goes on to describe what’s known as the ‘huddle’ – to put it simply, that’s when reporters get together after Prime Minister’s Questions (or other media events frequented by lobby journalists) to decide what to say or write about. “[L]obby journalists will often stand together and/or walk back to the press lobby together and agree on ‘what just happened,’ if you like,” Jones writes.

Other ways the huddle – or “groupthink,” as he calls it – manifests in the media is through peer pressure. Jones included a comment from right-wing blogger Paul Staines in explanation: “there is for example peer pressure on new hacks to not rock the boat,” even if that pressure is applied by an “exasperated collective groan [from other reporters] if someone asks a dissonant question.”

Staines’ comments end by adding that it is “not a conspiracy, just peer pressure.”
Times columnist David Aaronovitch‏, ex-BuzzFeed writer James Ball, Financial Times editorial director Robert Shrimsley‏, and freelance journalist Robin Whitlock were some of many to swipe back at Jones. ITV news royal editor Chris Ship simply tweeted back his educational history, as the virtue signaling and defensiveness told their own story.

PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield followed suit. “I grew up in a working class household, went to state schools, worked my arse off on local papers for years and finally made it to Fleet St,” he tweeted, nose thoroughly out of joint.

It turns out Jones was referring to the media elite of the national titles and broadcasters; and not the “army of poorly paid and insecure freelancers or local reporters who are deeply undervalued,” as he describes them.

To go with the truth bomb he lobbed into the center of the media scrum, Jones dug up one or two supporting statistics – and it turns out that many in the media had a very privileged start to life.

“Just 7% of the British population are privately educated. But according to the Sutton Trust in 2016, 51% of Britain’s top journalists are privately educated,” Jones writes. Poverty Commission in 2014, 43% of newspaper columnists are privately educated; just 23% went to comprehensives. Two thirds of new entrants to journalism came from managerial and professional backgrounds: more than twice the level of the rest of the population.

“According to another government study, journalists are second only to doctors when it comes to the dominance of those from professional or managerial parental backgrounds. In other words: journalism is one of the most socially exclusive professions in Britain.”

That hasn’t stopped journalists and writers from coming out of the woodwork to slam Jones – or, at least, to enjoy others doing so.

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