The squalid charade in the US Senate over the nomination of a Supreme Court judge and the comic opera performance by President Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly are deeply embarrassing for many Americans — but far from all Americans, because substantial numbers support the flawed Court nominee and strongly endorse Trump’s arrogant and malevolent insults to so many nations. They relish confronting and menacing those who dare to disagree with them.
Trump’s threats against Venezuela were in line with similar intimidating remarks he made about North Korea at last year’s UN Assembly, but it’s unlikely we’ll see a similar reversal this time round. He also threatened Venezuela last year, and he’s maintained the offensive, in all meanings of the word. In 2017 he declared that President Nicolas Maduro’s government was strangling the country through “faithfully implemented” socialism and vowed to help the Venezuelan people “regain their freedom, recover their country and restore their democracy”. In New York on September 25 he said it would be easy for the Venezuelan military to launch a coup d’état and impose regime change, which was a direct threat to the country’s sovereignty. His encouragement of revolution followed his announcement to the Assembly that “I honour the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honour our sovereignty in return.”
But Trump is telling — ordering — many countries how to live and work, and has no respect whatever for customs or beliefs that do not fit with his confused and distorted view of how the nations of the world should conduct their affairs. He contradicted his statement about all nations having the right to do as they wish by calling on the UN to “resist socialism and the misery it brings to everyone.”
He has no idea that India, a country on which he heaped praise during his bizarre UN tirade, has a Constitution that begins, “We, the people of India [resolve] to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens” the tenets of “justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.” But that is a minor example of absurd contradiction in Trump’s erratic approach to the world. As pointed out in a Newsweek column, “Even in his choice of countries worthy of praise, America’s president signalled values set at odds with erstwhile American ideals… His praise of reforms undertaken by Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince omitted the severe crackdown on human rights activists in what remains a theocratic, absolute monarchy. His singling out of Poland and Israel as thriving democracies left many perplexed, given each country’s recent and well-documented struggles with democratic governance.”
That puts it mildly, because Israeli soldiers continue to kill unarmed Palestinians, and the lurch of Poland to extremism is not just perplexing but most disturbing for Europe. As observed by Professor Laurent Pech of the UK’s Middlesex University, “Poland is no longer a state governed by the rule of law… In essence, Poland’s so-called ‘judicial reforms’ are not reforms at all but rather a set of deliberate systemic attacks on the independence of the Polish judiciary.” But it isn’t surprising that Poland is backed enthusiastically by Trump, because it is one of Washington’s best customers for vastly expensive weapons and probably not least because it wants to have a US military base named Fort Trump, and is prepared to spend 2 billion dollars building it.
It is unlikely Iran would ever want to construct a Fort Trump, in view of the fact that the US president relished insulting the Tehran government and told the General Assembly that “Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction. They do not respect their neighbours or borders or the sovereign rights of nations” which is nonsense, but not as risibly absurd as his declaration that “Iran’s neighbours have paid a heavy toll for the agenda of aggression and expansion.”
Iran’s neighbours are Afghanistan to the east and Iraq to the west, and they have paid a heavy toll after being invaded by the United States military, because they have been reduced to chaos. Both are warzones and have become havens for the lunatic extremists of Islamic State. In Iraq in 2017, as recorded by Human Rights Watch, “Iraqi and US-led coalition forces bombarded civilian objects including homes and hospitals in ISIS-held areas. They have fired inherently imprecise ground-fired munitions, including mortars, grad rockets and Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munitions into densely populated civilian areas. In addition, aircraft have dropped explosive weapons with wide-area effects on these areas. By the coalition’s own admission, its aircraft have unintentionally killed at least 624 civilians.”
Just who is sowing death and destruction in Iraq?
On September 26, the day after Trump’s UN pantomime, the New York Times reported the UN as recording that in Afghanistan “the number of civilians killed by Afghan and American airstrikes is rising… 21 civilians were killed in two airstrikes last weekend.” and that “after the release of the United Nations statement, an airstrike on Tuesday in Kunduz Province killed three more people, a 45-year-old woman and two teenage girls, according to Sher Mohammed, the husband of the woman who died.” The UN Mission said that in the first six months of 2018, airstrikes killed 149 people and injured 204, a 52 percent increase from the same period last year.
Afghanistan is paying a heavy toll for the US agenda of aggression and expansion.
Washington continues to sow death and destruction around the world, and it is apparent that Trump is intent on domination. His belligerent policy on Iran, however, may not be simple to pursue, as the European Union, China and Russia disapprove of the unilateral US sanctions designed to cripple the Iranian economy which were imposed on the spurious grounds that the nuclear accord signed in 2015 is in some way threatening to the US. They intend to support the agreement, and it is heartening that, at last, the most important countries in the world are getting together to show Trump that he can’t have it all his own erratic way.
Press TV – Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Pakistan says Baku will not allow Israel to use its airspace or land to carry out a military attack on Iran or any other country.
“AZERBAIJAN HAS BEEN FOLLOWING A POLICY OF NON-INTERFERENCE IN THE [INTERNAL] AFFAIRS OF OTHER COUNTRIES,” BAKU’S AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN DASHGIN SHIKROV SAID IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE PAKISTANI DAILY THE NEWSON MONDAY.
THE AMBASSADOR STRONGLY REJECTED RUMORS IN WESTERN MEDIA OUTLETS ABOUT HIS COUNTRY’S READINESS FOR PROVIDING ISRAEL GROUND FACILITIES FOR ATTACKING IRAN’S NUCLEAR SITES. “AZERBAIJAN IS MEMBER OF THE ORGANIZATION OF ISLAMIC COOPERATION (OIC) AND NOBODY SHOULD HAVE ANY DOUBT THAT IT WILL NOT PERMIT THE USE OF ITS TERRITORY FOR COMMITTING ACTS OF AGGRESSION AGAINST ANOTHER OIC MEMBER,” THE AMBASSADOR ADDED.
ISRAEL HAS RECENTLY STEPPED UP THREATS OF CARRYING OUT A STRIKE AGAINST IRAN’S NUCLEAR ENERGY FACILITIES. THE THREATS ARE BASED ON THE UNFOUNDED CLAIMS THAT THE PEACEFUL NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC INCLUDE A MILITARY COMPONENT.
IRANIAN OFFICIALS HAVE REFUTED THE ALLEGATION AND HAVE PROMISED A CRUSHING RESPONSE TO ANY MILITARY STRIKE AGAINST THE COUNTRY, WARNING THAT ANY SUCH MEASURE COULD RESULT IN A WAR THAT WOULD SPREAD BEYOND THE MIDDLE EAST
Earlier this week, Reuters confirmed through two Azeri officers that Israeli forces were in place in Azerbaijan and that the president was weighing options of supporting their attack. That text is now below from Reuters. Their unedited full text is at Addendum I:
REUTERS – YET DESPITE OFFICIAL DENIALS BY AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL, TWO AZERI FORMER MILITARY OFFICERS WITH LINKS TO SERVING PERSONNEL AND TWO RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SOURCES ALL TOLD REUTERS THAT AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT HOW AZERI BASES AND INTELLIGENCE COULD SERVE IN A POSSIBLE STRIKE ON IRAN.
“WHERE PLANES WOULD FLY FROM – FROM HERE, FROM THERE, TO WHERE? – THAT’S WHAT’S BEING PLANNED NOW,” A SECURITY CONSULTANT WITH CONTACTS AT AZERI DEFENSE HEADQUARTERS IN BAKU SAID. “THE ISRAELIS … WOULD LIKE TO GAIN ACCESS TO BASES IN AZERBAIJAN.”
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Azerbaijan was “caught with their pants down” and is now trying to lie their way out of this.
In an explosive turn of events, Press TV announces Azerbaijan has “turned chicken” after receiving a chastising based on receiving an early distribution of this Veterans Today document through Russian sources.
Additional VT staff were, while at the Pentagon, responsible for drawing up the war plans, not just for the initial invasion of Iran but the American invasion of Azerbaijan, slated for 2008, as part of a Bush administration military takeover of the entire Caspian Basin.
The map for that attack by US troops from Iran is below:
The cover sheet for the War Plans/Exercise Plans is below, a document that contained a full outline for needed capabilities for the successful takeover of all of the former Soviet Republics, beginning with Azerbaijan as seen on the map above.
Today, Azerbaijan announced it would allow Israeli planes to use their air bases to attack Iran. Reuters published the press release from Baku, one originally released in Veterans Today 27 months ago. From Reuters:
BAKU (REUTERS) – ISRAEL’S “GO-IT-ALONE” OPTION TO ATTACK IRAN’S NUCLEAR SITES HAS SET THE MIDDLE EAST ON EDGE AND UNSETTLED ITS MAIN ALLY AT THE HEIGHT OF A U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU EXUDES IMPATIENCE, SAYING TEHRAN IS BARELY A YEAR FROM A “RED LINE” FOR ATOMIC CAPACITY. MANY FELLOW ISRAELIS, HOWEVER, FEAR A UNILATERAL STRIKE, LACKING U.S. FORCES, WOULD FAIL AGAINST SUCH A LARGE AND DISTANT ENEMY. BUT WHAT IF, EVEN WITHOUT WASHINGTON, ISRAEL WERE NOT ALONE?
AZERBAIJAN, THE OIL-RICH EX-SOVIET REPUBLIC ON IRAN’S FAR NORTHERN BORDER, HAS, SAY LOCAL SOURCES WITH KNOWLEDGE OF ITS MILITARY POLICY, EXPLORED WITH ISRAEL HOW AZERI AIR BASES AND SPY DRONES MIGHT HELP ISRAELI JETS PULL OFF A LONG-RANGE ATTACK.
An investigation done by independent intelligence organizations made up of former CIA, Army Intelligence and FBI personnel as published on June 18, 2010, discovered a plot between Israel, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan to attack Iran.
At that time, Israeli planes were training in Turkey on terrain meant to simulate Iran. Israel would send over 8 planes at a time and 6 would return. Sources report that two would fly to Azerbaijan where Israel now occupies two former Soviet fighter bases.
Israel was building a secret air force in Azerbaijan. That “secret air force” is now no longer secret, it is public knowledge but few know its history or the threat to world peace this irresponsible act represents.
The bases were supplied through the Georgian port of Poti with cluster and bunker-buster bombs being delivered beginning June 10, 2010. Units of the Russian Navy observed the deliveries and reported the incident to a world press that suppressed the story. The ship delivering the illegal arms were flagged American, the USS Grapple.
In consultation with intelligence operatives, it was found that the USS Grapple had been leased to Germany who had then allowed Israel to use it to deliver bombs to the Black Sea port under American naval identity.
WE HAVE SINCE LEARNED THAT TURKEY, DESPITE WHAT THEY CLAIM IS A HOSTILE RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL, HAS ALLOWED OVER FLIGHT BY ISRAELI MILITARY PLANES WHO ARE USING TURKISH AIR SPACE TO RELOCATE TO AZERBAIJAN AFTER A TWO YEAR PERIOD OF DISAGREEMENT.
THIS RELATIONSHIP, NEGOTIATED BETWEEN ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU AND TURKISH PRESIDENT ERDOGAN INCLUDES PROVISION FOR TURKEY TO ASSUME PARTIAL TERRITORIAL CONTROL OF A BORDER REGION INSIDE SYRIA.
TURKEY IS PLANNING TO SEIZE THIS TERRITORY AND CALL IT A “BUFFER ZONE” BUT THE “BUFFER” MAY INCLUDE UP TO 30% OF SYRIAN TERRITORY.
Israel and Turkey have agreed to “Balkanize” Syria. However, the roots of today’s announcement were known some time ago.
On June 18, 2010, over two years ago, this columnist released the following information:
“A WEEK AGO, ISRAEL LEAKED TO THE PRESS THAT THEY HAD PERMISSION FROM SAUDI ARABIA TO USE THEIR AIR SPACE TO ATTACK IRAN. THE SAUDI’S QUICKLY DENIED THIS.
THE EFFORT ON ISRAEL’S PART WAS A RUSE TO COVER THEIR REAL PLANS, TO ATTACK FROM THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA, CLOSE TO IRAN’S NORTHERN BORDER.
HOWEVER, THE BREAKDOWN IN RELATIONS WITH TURKEY AFTER MISCALCULATING THE RESPONSE TO THEIR FLOTILLA RAID ON A TURKISH SHIP IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS MAY HAVE ENDED THIS OPERATION.
ISRAEL, WHOSE ARMS AGREEMENTS WITH TURKEY MOUNTED TO NEARLY 5 BILLION DOLLARS OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS, HAD BEEN TRAINING PILOTS IN TURKEY FOR BOMBING ATTACKS ON IRAN. DURING THESE TRAINING MISSIONS, ISRAEL WAS SMUGGLING AIRCRAFT THROUGH TURKISH AIRSPACE.
SOURCES INDICATE THAT GEORGIA HAS BECOME A MAJOR TRANSSHIPMENT POINT FOR NARCOTICS FROM AFGHANISTAN AND OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE REGION. BOTH A LAND ROUTE THROUGH TURKEY AND INTO NORTHERN CYPRUS AND AIR AND SEA ROUTES DIRECTLY INTO EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA HAVE BEEN CITED.
TURKEY HAD ALLOWED ISRAEL TO USE THEIR AIR SPACE FOR TRAINING BECAUSE THEIR TERRAIN CLOSELY RESEMBLED AREAS OF IRAN THAT ISRAEL PLANNED TO ATTACK. HOWEVER, TURKEY WAS UNAWARE THAT PLANES INVOLVED IN THIS EFFORT WERE BEING RELOCATED TO FORWARD STAGING AREAS IN THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA, MAKING TURKEY, TECHNICALLY, FULLY COMPLICIT IN THIS PLANNED ILLEGAL ATTACK.
HELPING COORDINATE THE ATTACK ARE INTELLIGENCE UNITS FORWARD STATIONED IN AZERBAIJAN, UNDER THE GUISE OF TECHNICIANS, TRAINERS AND ADVISORS UNDER THE BROAD ARMAMENTS AGREEMENTS WITH THAT SMALL NATION.
SUPPLY OPERATIONS, MOVING NECESSARY ORDNANCE, MUCH OF IT SUPPLIED BY THE UNITED STATES UNDER AMMUNITION STORAGE AGREEMENTS, IS BEING MOVED THROUGH THE BLACK SEA TO THE GEORGIAN PORT OF POTI, A MAJOR SITE FOR EXPORTING COAL AND MANGANESE ORE.
COVER FOR THE SUPPLY OPERATIONS IS BEING PERFORMED BY THE GEORGIAN COAST GUARD, SET UP BY ISRAEL AND MANNED WITH ISRAELI OBSERVERS. THEIR JOB IS TO KEEP RUSSIAN SURVEILLANCE CRAFT AWAY FROM SUPPLY OPERATIONS UNDER THE GUISE OF A “GAZA TYPE” NAVAL BLOCKADE OF ABKHAZIA, A SEPARATIST PROVINCE SUPPORTED BY RUSSIA.”
REUTERS, IN ITS STORY PUBLISHED TODAY INDICATED CONFIRMED SOURCES WITHIN THE MILITARY INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY OF AZERBAIJAN. REUTERS GOES FURTHER:
“YET DESPITE OFFICIAL DENIALS BY AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL, TWO AZERI FORMER MILITARY OFFICERS WITH LINKS TO SERVING PERSONNEL AND TWO RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SOURCES ALL TOLD REUTERS THAT AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT HOW AZERI BASES AND INTELLIGENCE COULD SERVE IN A POSSIBLE STRIKE ON IRAN.
“WHERE PLANES WOULD FLY FROM – FROM HERE, FROM THERE, TO WHERE? – THAT’S WHAT’S BEING PLANNED NOW,” A SECURITY CONSULTANT WITH CONTACTS AT AZERI DEFENSE HEADQUARTERS IN BAKU SAID. “THE ISRAELIS … WOULD LIKE TO GAIN ACCESS TO BASES IN AZERBAIJAN.”
THAT ALIYEV, AN AUTOCRATIC ALLY OF WESTERN GOVERNMENTS AND OIL FIRMS, HAS BECOME A RARE MUSLIM FRIEND OF THE JEWISH STATE – AND AN OBJECT OF SCORN IN TEHRAN – IS NO SECRET; A $1.6-BILLION ARMS DEAL INVOLVING DOZENS OF ISRAELI DRONES, AND ISRAEL’S THIRST FOR AZERBAIJAN’S CASPIAN SEA CRUDE, ARE WELL DOCUMENTED.
ISRAEL’S FOREIGN MINISTER VISITED BAKU IN APRIL THIS YEAR.
BUT A LEAKED U.S. DIPLOMATIC CABLE FROM 2009 QUOTED ALIYEV, WHO SUCCEEDED HIS FATHER IN 2003, DESCRIBING RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL AS “LIKE AN ICEBERG, NINE TENTHS … BELOW THE SURFACE”.
The unknown factor is Azerbaijan’s ability to withstand a massive and immediate ground assault from Iran. US Army experts on the region indicate that Iran has a “superhighway direct to Baku,” the capitol of Azerbaijan and keystone to the massive Baku/Ceyhan pipeline.
Azerbaijan’s military, 45,000 active duty, a few thousand reserves and an unarmed and untrained inactive reserve of 300,000 veterans is extremely small in comparison to Iran’s military.
A REASONABLE ESTIMATE IS THAT, UNDER THE BEST OF CASES WITH SUPPORT FROM BOTH TURKEY AND ISRAEL, THAT BAKU COULD FALL IN 48 HOURS OR LESS, SHOULD THEY CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN AN UNPROVOKED ATTACK ON IRAN.
Azerbaijan is closely aligned with Turkey. However, they fought and lost a war in the early 1990’s against Armenia. Azerbaijan lost 16% of their territory at that time.
During that war, Azerbaijan turned to Al Qaeda and Chechen forces for support, an act that angered Russia. Azerbaijan is still a “safe haven” for terrorists and is commonly used to transit narcotics from Afghanistan and is a “way station” in human trafficking.
It is believed that an Israeli attack launched from Azerbaijan would unleash an immediate response from Armenia against Azerbaijan. The two nations have been at the verge of hostilities for nearly two decades.
A recent estimate of regional forces paints a very dark picture for Azerbaijan:
SINCE THE FALL OF THE SOVIET UNION, ARMENIA HAS FOLLOWED A POLICY OF DEVELOPING ITS ARMED FORCES INTO A PROFESSIONAL, WELL TRAINED, AND MOBILE MILITARY. IN 2000, CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AND RESEARCH REPORTED THAT AT THAT TIME THE ARMENIAN ARMY HAD THE STRONGEST COMBAT CAPABILITY OF THE THREE CAUCASUS COUNTRIES’ ARMIES (THE OTHER TWO BEING GEORGIA AND AZERBAIJAN.
CSTO SECRETARY, NIKOLAY BORDYUZHA, CAME TO A SIMILAR CONCLUSION AFTER COLLECTIVE MILITARY DRILLS IN 2007 WHEN HE STATED THAT, “THE ARMENIAN ARMY IS THE MOST EFFICIENT ONE IN THE POST-SOVIET SPACE”.
THIS WAS ECHOED MORE RECENTLY BY IGOR KOROTCHENKO, A MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC COUNCIL, RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE, IN A MARCH 2011 INTERVIEW WITH VOICE OF RUSSIA RADIO.
CASPIAN OIL SUPPLIES AT RISK
The 1100 mile pipeline is the only outlet for oil from the Caspian basin to outlets on the Mediterranean. A branch of the pipeline services the massive Kirkuk oil fields of Northern Iraq.
The pipeline is owned by a number of companies with BP having a 30 percent stake.
The 25% stake theoretically held by SOCAR, the state oil company of Azerbaijan is under Israeli control, as collateral to underwrite Israeli weapons sales.
Israel has an agreement to link to the pipeline through Iraq, a deal negotiated between the Elat Ashkian Pipeline Company of Israel and the US backed Chalabi government that assumed control of Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
It is no longer clear as to whether the current government in Baghdad is still interested in this project.
Additional threats to the pipeline are in Armenia, where it may also be intercepted and in Turkey, where the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group, has put the pipeline out of commission many times.
The significance of the pipeline is great in that, even if Iran has no rationale to cut oil supplies through the Straits of Hormuz, it could easily gain control of 5% of the world’s oil output and put all Caspian Basin oil off the market without in any way interfering with free transit of sea-lanes.
Additionally, the transit fees charged for use of the pipeline are a major source of revenue for both Georgia and Turkey, a source that would immediately end.
TWO “WILD CARD” ISSUES ARE RUSSIA AND IRAQ. AS IRAQ’S GOVERNMENT IS NOW UNDER SHIITE CONTROL AND AZERBAIJAN’S RELATIONS WITH, NOT JUST ARMENIA BUT RUSSIA HAVE BEEN EXTREMELY POOR, THE CHANCES FOR THIS MOVE BY ISRAEL TURNING INTO A REGIONAL CONFLICT OR WORLD WAR ARE VERY HIGH.
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT TURKEY’S “HAM HANDED” PLOTTING WITH ISRAEL AGAINST SYRIA AND THEIR ATTEMPTS TO SPREAD INFLUENCE INTO CENTRAL ASIA, THEIR SHORT LIVED POSITION AS A POTENTIAL LEADER IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD HAS CLEARLY TAKEN A “BACK SEAT” TO IRAN, EGYPT, PAKISTAN AND INDONESIA.
Israel’s timetable to attack from Azerbaijan is entirely dependent on the risks their long time but highly secretive ally is willing to accept.
Minimally, Azerbaijan might actually disappear. In a best case scenario, they would lose additional territory to Armenia and suffer total devastation of their oil production and processing facilities and destruction of their armed forces.
FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD, THE RESULT, AS EXPECTED, HIGHER GASOLINE PRICES, HIGHER FOOD PRICES AND MORE THREATS TO CURRENCIES ALREADY NEARING COLLAPSE.
Editing: Jim W. Dean
By Thomas Grove
BAKU | Sun Sep 30, 2012 12:46pm EDT
(Reuters) – Israel’s “go-it-alone” option to attack Iran’s nuclear sites has set the Middle East on edge and unsettled its main ally at the height of a U.S. presidential election campaign.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exudes impatience, saying Tehran is barely a year from a “red line” for atomic capacity. Many fellow Israelis, however, fear a unilateral strike, lacking U.S. forces, would fail against such a large and distant enemy.
But what if, even without Washington, Israel were not alone?
Azerbaijan, the oil-rich ex-Soviet republic on Iran’s far northern border, has, say local sources with knowledge of its military policy, explored with Israel how Azeri air bases and spy drones might help Israeli jets pull off a long-range attack.
That is a far cry from the massive firepower and diplomatic cover that Netanyahu wants from Washington. But, by addressing key weaknesses in any Israeli war plan – notably on refueling, reconnaissance and rescuing crews – such an alliance might tilt Israeli thinking on the feasibility of acting without U.S. help.
It could also have violent side-effects more widely and many doubt Azeri President Ilham Aliyev would risk harming the energy industry on which his wealth depends, or provoking Islamists who dream of toppling his dynasty, in pursuit of favor from Israel.
Yet despite official denials by Azerbaijan and Israel, two Azeri former military officers with links to serving personnel and two Russian intelligence sources all told Reuters that Azerbaijan and Israel have been looking at how Azeri bases and intelligence could serve in a possible strike on Iran.
“Where planes would fly from – from here, from there, to where? – that’s what’s being planned now,” a security consultant with contacts at Azeri defense headquarters in Baku said. “The Israelis … would like to gain access to bases in Azerbaijan.”
That Aliyev, an autocratic ally of Western governments and oil firms, has become a rare Muslim friend of the Jewish state – and an object of scorn in Tehran – is no secret; a $1.6-billion arms deal involving dozens of Israeli drones, and Israel’s thirst for Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea crude, are well documented.
Israel’s foreign minister visited Baku in April this year.
But a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2009 quoted Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, describing relations with Israel as “like an iceberg, nine tenths … below the surface”.
That he would risk the wrath of his powerful neighbor by helping wage war on Iran is, however, something his aides flatly deny; wider consequences would also be hard to calculate from military action in a region where Azerbaijan’s “frozen” conflict with Armenia is just one of many elements of volatility and where major powers from Turkey, Iran and Russia to the United States, western Europe and even Chinaall jockey for influence.
Nonetheless, Rasim Musabayov, an independent Azeri lawmaker and a member of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said that, while he had no definitive information, he understood that Azerbaijan would probably feature in any Israeli plans against Iran, at least as a contingency for refueling its attack force:
“Israel has a problem in that if it is going to bomb Iran, its nuclear sites, it lacks refueling,” Musabayov told Reuters.
“I think their plan includes some use of Azerbaijan access.
“We have (bases) fully equipped with modern navigation, anti-aircraft defenses and personnel trained by Americans and if necessary they can be used without any preparations,” he added.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has made clear it does not welcome Israel’s occasional talk of war and that it prefers diplomacy and economic sanctions to deflect an Iranian nuclear program that Tehran denies has military uses.
Having also invested in Azerbaijan’s defenses and facilities used by U.S. forces in transit to Afghanistan, Washington also seems unlikely to cheer Aliyev joining any action against Iran.
The Azeri president’s team insist that that will not happen.
“No third country can use Azerbaijan to perpetrate an attack on Iran. All this talk is just speculation,” said Reshad Karimov from Aliyev’s staff. He was echoing similar denials issued in Baku and from Israel when the journal Foreign Policy quoted U.S. officials in March voicing alarm that Azeri-Israeli action could thwart U.S. diplomacy toward Iran and across the Caucasus.
Israeli officials dismiss talk of Azeri collaboration in any attack on Iran but decline public comment on specific details.
Even speaking privately, few Israeli officials will discuss the issue. Those who do are skeptical, saying overt use of Azeri bases by Israel would provoke too many hostile reactions. One political source did, however, say flying unmarked tanker aircraft out of Azerbaijan to extend the range and payloads of an Israeli bombing force might play a part in Israeli planning.
Though denying direct knowledge of current military thinking on Iran, the Israeli said one possibility might be “landing a refueling plane there, made to look like a civilian airliner, so it could later take off to rendezvous mid-air with IAF jets”.
A thousand miles separates Tehran and Tel Aviv, putting much of Iran beyond the normal ranges of Israel’s U.S.-made F-16 bombers and their F-15 escorts. So refueling could be critical.
There is far from unanimity among Israeli leaders about the likelihood of any strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, whether in a wider, U.S.-led operation or not. Netanyahu’s “red line” speech to the United Nations last week was seen by many in Israel as making any strike on Iran unlikely – for at least a few months.
Many, however, also assume Israel has long spied on and even sabotaged what the Western powers say are plans for atomic weapons which Israel says would threaten its very existence.
A second Israeli political source called the idea of Azerbaijan being either launch pad or landing ground for Israeli aircraft “ludicrous” – but agreed with the first source that it was fair to assume joint Israeli-Azeri intelligence operations.
The Azeri sources said such cooperation was established.
As part of last year’s arms deal, Azerbaijan is building up to 60 Israeli-designed drones, giving it reconnaissance means far greater than many analysts believe would be needed just to guard oil installations or even to mount any operations against the breakaway, ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“With these drones, (Israel) can indirectly watch what’s happening in Iran, while we protect our borders,” legislator Musabayov said – a view shared by Azeri former military sources.
Less reserved than Israeli officials, the sources in Azerbaijan and in Russian intelligence, which keeps a close eye on its former Soviet backyard, said Baku could offer Israel much more, however – though none believed any deal was yet settled.
The country, home to nine million people whose language is close to Turkish and who mostly share the Shi’ite Muslim faith of Iran, has four ex-Soviet air bases that could be suitable for Israeli jets, the Azeri sources said. They named central Kyurdamir, Gyanja in the west and Nasosny and Gala in the east.
The Pentagon says it helped upgrade Nasosny airfield for NATO use. It also uses Azeri commercial facilities in transit to Afghanistan. But U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan is limited by Washington’s role as a mediator in its dispute with Armenia.
One of the sources with links to the Azeri military said: “There is not a single official base of the United States and even less so of Israel on the territory of Azerbaijan. But that is ‘officially’. Unofficially they exist, and they may be used.”
The source said Iran had been a main topic of talks in April with Israel’s Soviet-born foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
Azeri tarmac, a shorter flight from key sites in northern Iran including the Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant and missile batteries at Tabriz, might feature in Israeli war planning in less direct ways, the former Azeri officers said.
With Israel wary of its vulnerability to pressure over air crew taken prisoner, plans for extracting downed pilots may be a key feature of any attack plan. Search and rescue helicopters might operate from Azerbaijan, the sources said – or planes that were hit or low on fuel could land at Azeri bases in extremis.
Such engagement carries risks for Azerbaijan and its oil platforms and pipelines operated with international companies.
Defending against Iran is part of public debate in Baku. The United States has provided Azerbaijan with three Coast Guard cutters and has funded seven coastal radar sites as well as giving Baku other help in protecting its oil installations.
Relations have long been strained between the former Soviet state and Iran, which is home to twice as many ethnic Azeris as Azerbaijan itself. Tehran beams an Azeri-language television channel over the border which portrays Aliyev as a puppet of Israel and the West, as well as highlighting corruption in Baku.
Azerbaijan sees Iranian hands behind its Islamist opposition and both countries have arrested alleged spies and agitators.
Faced with an uneven balance of force, Aliyev’s government makes no bones about Israel being an ally. As one presidential aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained: “We live in a dangerous neighborhood; that is what is the most powerful driving force for our relationship with Israel.”
However, Israel’s confrontation with Iran may turn out, the arms build-up in Azerbaijan, including recent Israeli upgrades for its Soviet T-72 tanks, may have consequences for the wider region and for the stand-off with Armenia – consequences that would trouble all the powers with stakes in the Caspian region.
“We keep buying arms. On the one hand, it’s a good strategy to frighten Armenia,” one of the former Azeri officers said of the shaky, 18-year-old ceasefire over Nagorno-Karabakh. “But you don’t collect weapons to hang on the wall and gather dust.
“One day, all these could be used.”
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)
Russia has decided to send to Syria its S-300 VM system and has started delivering the Krasukha 4 radar systems jammer and other related military equipment. These installations indicate the low level of relations between Moscow and Tel Aviv. Israel’s capacity to destroy the new Russian system in Syria is not at issue. Israel may find a way to do so. Nevertheless, any such move will be a direct challenge to Russia’s superpower status.
Russia has repeatedly shown strategic patience: when two of its planes were shot down (first by Turkey in 2015), when the US launched 59 cruise missiles above its head, and when the US bombed Syrian positions and Russian contractors in Deirezzour. The latest of many Israeli provocations risks making Russia look weaker than it is. In this way, Israel has forced Russia to make an aggressive response.
The Russian decision to deliver these advanced missiles system, capable of neutralising any enemy target with a range of 200 km, doesn’t mean Syria will start operating them tomorrow and will thus be able to hit any jet violating its airspace and that of Lebanon. Russia is known for its slow delivery and will have to be in control of the trigger due to the presence of its Air Force in the air together with that of the US coalition.
Israeli arrogance pushed president Vladimir Putin to come out of his comfort zone in taking this decision. The Russian command expressed its anger bluntly when describing Israel as “highly ungrateful”. It seems Russia has helped Israel extensively during the years of its presence in Syria (since 2015) at the expense of the “axis of the resistance”, including Syria. Russia’s goal has been to keep a balance between this axis and its relationship with Israel.
Russia’s quandary is the difficulty of maintaining such a balance in this complicated conflict. The US has taken a clear stand behind Israel. Russia was also trying to align itself with Israel, despite the fact that Tel Aviv – a military state with a government – is not interested in balance. Israel’s most recent behaviour amounts to downgrading and mocking Russia’s position as a superpower.
Israel’s politico-military leadership was not embarrassed to inform Russia only one minute before its attack on the Latakia warehouse manufacturing spare parts of the Syrian M-600, the equivalent of the solid fuel precision missile Fateh-110. Moreover, Tel Aviv misinformed Russia’s Hmaymeem coordination centre, claiming that the Israeli attack would come from the east. The Russian command instructed the IL-20 to move west and land at the airport to avoid being caught in a crossfire. But the Israeli F-16 jets arrived from the west and not the east, leading to the downing of the IL-20 and the death of the 15 Russian servicemen.
Russia’s efforts at a balanced position have met with Israeli abuse. President Assad told his Russian homologue – during their last conversation – that Israel, under the pretext of hitting Hezbollah arms convoys, is destroying the Syrian army’s infrastructure, preventing it from recovering. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been undermining Putin in punishment for the neutral stand the Russian president has been trying to adopt.
Israel’s aggressive posture led it into a tactical mistake. It is now faced with a strategic crisis as its condescension pushes Putin to arm Syria further. But the most serious decision is not the long-delayed delivery of the S-300 VM but the decision to close Syrian airspace and prevent any hostile jet from violating it. In this regard, Russia may not be able to avoid direct confrontation with the US, whose forces (including the UK and France) are occupying the al-Tanf crossing between Syria and Iraq as well as the province of al-Hasaka and part of Deir-ezzour.
The S-300 VM can protect the Syrian coast, including Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. This would be enough to protect the Syrian government and the Iranian presence in the Levant. This would in turn definitely push Israel to escalate, and even to use its F-35 stealth fighters to avoid being intercepted by the Syrian air defence system. But this would be yet another direct challenge to Russia.
The “Axis of the resistance” is watching from afar and has decided not to intervene in order to avoid any involvement with Putin’s decision. They see his move as positive and a first step away from the Russian president’s neutral stand. The move is accordingly unwelcome to “ungrateful” Israel.
The Russian decision wasn’t born from the void but from cumulative Israeli actions to cripple the Syrian army’s capability when Russia has been trying to rebuild it. Putin’s decision goes beyond the relations of Israel and Moscow. There is a regional-international war going on in the Levant. All weapons are being used in the Syrian-Lebanese-Iranian theatre with the exception of outright nuclear bombs.
The “Axis of the resistance” is watching carefully and reaping benefits from US and Israeli mistakes. However, the last chapter in this war has not been written. Syria will ultimately be left with al-Hasaka and al-Tanf to liberate, both occupied by US forces. The Syrian war remains full of surprises, and dangers may multiply at any moment.
Notice the timing of this latest land grab move by right-wing extremists in Israel – just ahead of the much anticipated Kushner-Netayahu “Ultimate Peace Deal” soon to be unveiled to great fanfare in Washington DC and Tel Aviv (but little much elsewhere).
Netanyahu and Kushner working behind closed doors to carve-up what remains of Palestine for Israeli settlers.
The new Israeli law entitled, The “Law for the Regularization of Settlement in Judea and Samaria”, allows the state to expropriate Palestinian land on which illegal Israeli settlements were built, has already been deemed as “unconstitutional” by Israeli left-wing groups sympathetic to the native Palestinian Arab population
Palinfo reports…Clearly, this new Likud ‘land heist’ is designed to ensure that Palestinians will remain tangled in legalese and excessive jargon in order to create a permanent stalemate regardless of which way the supposed “peace deal” goes. The law will enable Jewish occupiers to maintain illegal possession of stolen land through a fraudulent ‘legal’ framework that allows the state of Israel expropriate Palestinian land on which illegal settlements were built supposedly “in good faith or at the state’s instruction,” and thereby denying the rightful Palestinian landowners of the right to use their own land “until there is a diplomatic resolution of the status of the territories.” To make it seem ‘fair and balanced’ the law claims to provide a mechanism for paying-off of “compensating” Palestinians whose privately owned land was stolen from them by the state of Israel.
An Israeli newspaper said that the ministerial committee for legislation at the Knesset would study a bill on Sunday that would allow Jewish settlers to acquire land rights in the occupied West Bank.
Members of the Knesset cannot discuss bills and vote them into laws before this ministerial committee, whose members are ministers, approve them for discussion on the floor of the Knesset.
According to Haaretz newspaper, the explanatory notes affixed to the bill, which is sponsored by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), say that the current situation is based on a 1953 Jordanian law, which prevented anyone from buying land in the West Bank unless they were Jordanian citizens or citizens of another Arab country. That law remained in force after Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 six-day war.
In the early 1970s, an Israeli way was found to circumvent the law and allow settlers to buy land there through a special order stating that anybody could buy land through a company registered in the West Bank, regardless of who owned the company.
That enabled Jews to set up companies registered in the West Bank and use them to buy land, the newspaper affirmed.
Smotrich’s bill aims to eliminate this disparity and simply state that anyone can buy land in the occupied West Bank. “The fact that an Israeli currently can’t buy land there just because he is an Israeli is unacceptable,” the bill’s explanatory notes said.
Ariyana Love is a researcher/writer with The Liberty Beacon Project. She is Directing Middle East Rising & Occupy Palestine TV news channels. Ariyana is a human rights defender and Goodwill Ambassador to Palestine. She is also Chairman of an international foundation promoting humanitarian projects in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Bloomberg News headlined on February 4th of 2016, “These Are the World’s Most Miserable Economies” and reported the “misery index” rankings of 63 national economies as projected in 2016 and 60 as actual in 2015 — a standard ranking-system that calculates “misery” as being the sum of the unemployment-rate and the inflation-rate. They also compared the 2016 projected rankings to the 2015 actual rankings.
Top rank, #1 both years — the most miserable economy in the world during 2015 and 2016 — was Venezuela, because of that country’s 95% dependence upon oil-export earnings (which crashed when oil-prices plunged). The US-Saudi agreement to flood the global oil market destroyed Venezuela’s economy.
#2 most-miserable in 2015 was Ukraine, at 57.8. But Ukraine started bouncing back so that as projected in 2016 it ranked #5, at 26.3. Russia in 2015 was #7 most-miserable in 2015, at 21.1, but bounced back so that as projected in 2016 it became #14 at 14.5.
Bloomberg hadn’t reported misery-index rankings for 2014 showing economic performances during 2013, but economist Steve H. Hanke of Johns Hopkins University did, in his “Measuring Misery Around the World, May 2014,” in the May 2014 GlobeAsia, ranking 90 countries; and, during 2013 (Yanukovych’s final year as Ukraine’s President before his being forced out by Obama’s coup), Ukraine’s rank was #23 and its misery-index was 24.4. Russia’s was #36 and its misery index was 19.9. So: those can be considered to be the baseline-figures, from which any subsequent economic progress or decline (after Obama’s 2014 Ukrainian coup) may reasonably be calculated. Hanke’s figures during the following year, 2014, were reported by him at Huffington Post, “The World Misery Index: 108 Countries”, and by UAE’s Khaleej Times, “List of Most Miserable Countries” (the latter falsely attributing that ranking to Cato Institute, which had merely republished Hanke’s article). In 2014, Ukraine’s misery-index, as calculated by Hanke, was #4, at 51.8. That year had 8 countries above 40 in Hanke’s ranking. Russia was #42 at 21.42. So: Russia’s rank had improved, but, because of the globally bad economy, Russia’s absolute number was slightly worse (higher) than it had been before Obama’s coup in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russia. By contrast, Ukraine’s rank had suddenly gotten far worse, #4 at 51.80 in 2014, after having been #23 at 24.4 in 2013.
The figures in Bloomberg for Russia were: during 2015, #7 with a misery-index of 21.1; and projected during 2016, #14 with a misery-index of 14.5; so, Bloomberg too showed a 2015-2016 improvement for Russia, and not only for Ukraine (where in the 2016 projection it ranked #5, at 26.3, a sharp improvement after the horrendous 2015 actual numbers).
Thus: whereas Russia was economically sunningly stable at #36 from start to finish throughout the entire five-year period 2013-2017, starting with a misery-index of 19.9 in 2013 and ending with 18.1 in 2017, Ukraine went from a misery-index of 24.4 in 2013 to 36.9 in 2017 — and worsening its rank from #23 to #9. During that five-year period Ukraine’s figure peaked in the year of Obama’s coup at 57.8. So, at least Ukraine’s misery seems to be heading back downward in the coup’s aftermath, though it’s still considerably worse than before the coup. But, meanwhile, Russia went from 19.9 to 18.1 — and had no year that was as bad as Ukraine’s best year was during that period of time. And, yet: that coup and the economic sanctions and the US-Saudi oil-agreement were targeted against Russia — not against Ukraine.
If the US were trying to punish the people of Ukraine, then the US coup in Ukraine would have been a raving success; but actually Obama didn’t care at all about Ukrainians. He cared about the owners of America’s weapons-making firms and of America’s extractive firms. Trump likewise.
During that same period (also using Hanke’s numbers) the United States went from #71 at 11.0 in 2013, to #69 at 8.2 in 2017. US was stable.
Saudi Arabia started with #40 18.9 during 2013, to #30 at 20.2 in 2017. That’s improvement, because the Kingdom outperformed the global economy.
During the interim, and even in the years leading up to 2014, Russia had been (and still is) refocusing its economy away from Russia’s natural resources and toward a broad sector of high technology: military R&D and production.
The following year, SIPRI bannered, on 14 December 2015, “Global Arms Industry: West Still Dominant Despite Decline,” and reported that, “Despite difficult national economic conditions, the Russian arms industry’s sales continued to rise in 2014. … ‘Russian companies are riding the wave of increasing national military spending and exports. There are now 11 Russian companies in the Top 100 and their combined revenue growth over 2013–14 was 48.4 per cent,’ says SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman. In contrast, arms sales of Ukrainian companies have substantially declined. … US companies’ arms sales decreased by 4.1 per cent between 2013 and 2014, which is similar to the rate of decline seen in 2012–13. … Western European companies’ arms sales decreased by 7.4 per cent in 2014.”
The Russian government-monopoly marketing company for Russia’s weapons-manufacturers, Rosoboronexport, presents itself to nations around the world by saying: “Today, armaments and military equipment bearing the Made in Russia label protect independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of dozens of countries. Owing to their efficiency and reliability, Russian defense products enjoy strong demand on the global market and maintain our nation’s leading positions among the world’s arms exporters. For the past several years, Russia has consistently ranked second behind the United States as regards arms exports.” That’s second-and-rising, as opposed to America’s first-and-falling.
The American aristocracy’s ever-growing war against Russia posed and poses to Putin two simultaneous challenges: both to reorient away from Russia’s natural resources, which the global aristocracy wants to grab, and also to reorient toward the area of hi-tech in which the Soviets had built a basis from which Russia could become truly cost-effective in international commerce, so as to, simultaneously, increase Russia’s defensive capability against an expanding NATO, while also replacing some of Russia’s dependence upon the natural resources that the West’s aristocrats want to steal.
In addition, the hit to Russia’s economic growth-rate from the dual-onslaught of Obama’s sanctions and the plunging oil prices hasn’t been too bad. The World Bank’s April 2015 “Russia Economic Report” predicted: “Growth prospects for 2015-2016 are negative. It is likely that when the full effects of the two shocks become evident in 2015, they will push the Russian economy into recession. The World Bank baseline scenario sees a contraction of 3.8 percent in 2015 and a modest decline of 0.3 percent in 2016. The growth spectrum presented has two alternative scenarios that largely reflect differences in how oil prices are expected to affect the main macro variables.”
The current (as of 15 February 2016) “Russia GDP Annual Growth Rate” at Trading Economics says: “The Russian economy shrank 3.8 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2015, following a 4.1 percent contraction in the previous period, according to preliminary estimates from the Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev. It is the worst performance since 2009 [George W. Bush’s global economic crash], as Western sanctions and lower oil prices hurt external trade and public revenues.” The current percentage as of today, 17 September 2018, is 1.9%, after having plunged down from 2.2% in late 2017, to 0.9% in late 2017; so, it is rebounding.
On January 27, 2014, the government adopted an anti-crisis plan with the goal to ensure sustainable economic development and social stability in an unfavorable global economic and political environment.
It announced that in 2015–2016 it will take steps to advance structural changes in the Russian economy, provide support to systemic entities and the labor market, lower inflation, and help vulnerable households adjust to price increases. To achieve the objectives of positive growth and sustainable medium-term macroeconomic development the following measures are planned:
• Provide support for import substitution and non-mineral exports;
• Support small and medium enterprises by lowering financing and administrative costs;
• Create opportunities for raising financial resources at reasonable cost in key economic sectors;
• Compensate vulnerable households (e.g., pensioners) for the costs of inflation;
• Cushion the impact on the labor market (e.g. provide training and increase public works);
• Optimize budget expenditures; and
• Enhance banking sector stability and create a mechanism for reorganizing systemic companies.
Global growth continued its 2017 momentum in early 2018. Global growth reached a stronger than- expected 3 percent in 2017 — a notable recovery from a post-crisis low of 2.4 percent in 2016. It is currently expected to peak at 3.1 percent in 2018. Recoveries in investment, manufacturing, and trade continue as commodity-exporting developing economies benefit from firming commodity prices (Figure 1a). The improvement reflects a broad-based recovery in advanced economies, robust growth in commodity-importing Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs), and an ongoing rebound in commodity exporters. Growth in China – and important trading partner for Russia – is expected to continue its gradual slowdown in 2018 following a stronger than-expected 6.9 percent in 2017.
Putin’s economic plan has softened the economic blow upon the masses, even while it has re-oriented the economy toward what would be the future growth-areas.
Apparently, Putin has been succeeding — now even despite what the US aristocracy (and its allied aristocracies in Europe and Arabia) have been throwing to weaken Russia. And the Russian people know it.
PS: The present reporter is an American, and used to be a Democrat, not inclined to condemn Democratic politicians, but Obama’s grab for Russia was not merely exceedingly dangerous for the entire world, it is profoundly unjust, it is also based on his (and most Republicans’) neoconservative lies, and so I don’t support it, and I no longer support Obama or his and the Clintons’ Democratic Party, at all. But this certainly doesn’t mean that I support the Republican Party, which is typically even worse on this (and other matters) than Democratic politicians are. On almost all issues, I support Bernie Sanders, but I am not a part of anyone’s political campaign, in any way.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s plummeting popularity received another blow this week with the continuing scandal of an ex-bodyguard who was given elite access to Élysée Palace – even though he had no professional background in the state security services.
What’s more, Macron’s personal security minder, Alexandre Benalla, is accused of impersonating a police officer while beating up two protesters during a May Day rally in Paris earlier this year.
The thuggish behavior of a top Macron aide raises questions about this president’s ethics and politics. It conveys a disturbing image of fascist street brawling entering the very seat of French government.
Benalla has since been dumped from his post as Macron’s bodyguard over the scandal which has become dubbed “Benalla-gate”.
But the affair reinforces growing public anger over what they see as Macron’s self-inflated presidential style. He is increasingly seen as arrogant, aloof, and unaccountable, with delusions of grandeur.
Ironically, the former Rothschild investment banker, with his youthful “fresh face”, was elected in May 2017 on the back of his much-hyped self-proclaimed mission to renew French politics. Macron (40) even started a brand new political party, En Marche, which was billed as transcending “old” Left-Right rigidities and renovating French democracy.
The president’s honeymoon period with the French public has long worn off. His much-touted social policy reforms are seen as draconian cuts in workers’ rights and public services for the benefit of the wealthy. He has even gained the moniker, “president of the rich”.
On several occasions, Macron has shown a galling elitist conceit, such as when he publicly berated a protesting teenager to “show respect”, or when he floated the idea of bestowing a new formal title of “first lady” to his 25-years-senior wife, Brigitte (65), thus attempting to turn the French parliamentary republic into an American-style executive power.
Recently, when he was challenged by an unemployed gardener about lack of jobs in that profession, Macron haughtily told the young man to try his hand at laboring in building construction. His lack of empathy provoked a public outcry over what appeared to be a “let them eat cake” attitude.
This week, the president’s former bodyguard was summoned by the French Senate to answer questions on his exact relationship with Macron. The enquiry could go on for weeks.
But what the Senate hearings point to is a growing frustration with Macron’s self-styled majesty as a leader who sees himself above reproach. He has often talked about how his presidency is aimed at “restoring France’s greatness”, and seems to have a penchant for addressing parliamentarians beckoned to the Versailles Palace, as if they are his subjects.
His former appointment of Benalla (27) as personal bodyguard raised eyebrows. It smacked of political favoritism towards a personal friend. Benalla has no professional background in the French police or military which is the normal career path for someone appointed to be the president’s top security official. It is said that the former bodyguard’s only experience in security work was being previously employed as a bouncer in a nightclub. How he came to know Macron is an intriguing question, and it is this relationship that lawmakers want to find out about in their ongoing questioning.
Their relationship became a scandal when Benalla was videoed by May Day protesters beating up a man and woman on the streets of Paris earlier this year, while demonstrating against Macron’s social reforms. In the video, Benalla is seen wearing a police helmet and an armband purporting to identify him as a member of the police force. He is also seen viciously punching the man on the head and stomping on his stomach as he fell to the ground. It appears to be a shocking display of gratuitous, sadistic violence.
One can only imagine how Western news media would explode with sensational front page headlines if, somehow, a similar event took place in Moscow, in which an aide to President Putin was filmed being involved in assaulting protesters. You would never hear the end of that in Western media.
Why President Macron’s personal security guard would take time off to go to a rally and beat up protesters is a troubling question. Did Benalla get some perverse pleasure from his violent conduct? It is also a serious offense under French law to impersonate a law enforcement officer, which could result in a prison conviction.
When French media finally identified Benalla from the amateur video footage in mid-July, the accusation was then leveled at Macron of engaging in a cover-up. Hence the term “Benalla-gate” was coined.
Macron at first ignored the furore in typical supercilious mode. Under mounting public pressure, he then eventually broke his silence. Though he reacted in a petulant manner as if the media were picking on him, which only served to underline the perception that this president views himself as some kind of regal figure above the fray of “commoners”.
Bizarrely, Macron riposted to the media questions about Benalla’s seeming privileged employment with a sarcastic quip: “He’s not my lover!”
Was it a Freudian slip? It’s not the first time that Macron’s sex life has been rumored to be secretly gay.
During the presidential campaign, Russian news media carried a report quoting French political opposition sources claiming that Macron’s private life was more nuanced than his marriage to a much older woman suggests. Macron then hit back defensively, accusing Russia of interfering in the French election, based on one throwaway gossip story.
Whatever the precise relationship is between Macron and his rogue bodyguard, one thing does seem clear however. This president has a Napoleon complex, or perhaps a Bourbon Sun King complex. He seems to think exceedingly highly of himself, as being a ruler who is above the rule of law and public accountability.
Just over a year in office, the supposed squeaky-clean Emmanuel Macron is showing himself to have the whiff of the same old corruption that has marred so many of his predecessors in Élysée Palace.
With Turkey’s military presence in northern Syria and its support of militant groups in Idlib, it was to be expected that the Syrian Army offensive in the region would be postponed until a compromise was reached between Erdogan and Assad’s allies, as I explained earlier. Russian president Vladimir Putin held talks with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan, for the third time in less than a month, in Sochi on September 17th. They agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib; later, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed to journalists there would not be a large military operation in the province.
According to Russian diplomatic sources who spoke with Al-Watan newspaper, the Russian-Turkish agreement will be implemented in three stages:
The first stage will go into effect by mid October to create a 15 to 20 km weapons-free zone along the contact line between militant groups and government forces. All radical groups, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra/Al Qaeda will have to leave this zone, which will be patrolled jointly by Russian and Turkish military units.
In the second stage the heavy weapons will be collected from the region until November 10 and the militants will leave civilian areas.
In the third stage, lasting to the end of this year, state institutions will resume activities in Idlib.
Notice that for the completion of all three stages, the cooperation of militant groups is necessary. This is the point that may result in the partial or complete collapse of the demilitarization efforts – but that is not necessarily a failure.
South Frontreports that pro-militant sources claim that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (the coalition affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria) and some other groups, including the Islamic Turkistan Party (composed of die-hard Uyghur Muslims from China) have rejected the agreement. (It was originally reported that Jaish al-Izza, a Free Syria Army group, had also rejected it, but now that appears to be incorrect). Furthermore, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation warned after the Putin-Erdogan meeting that the White Helmets and members of Al-Nusra were still preparing a false-flag chemical attack to blame the Assad government. This is not surprising; after all, Syria is dealing with jihadi factions – literally terrorists – not with a mix of “moderate rebels” and a few bad apples as the Western narrative insists. By definition, terrorists are uncooperative to say the least, especially when asked to give up their weapons and let the state do its job.
If the information on the reaction of the terrorist groups is correct, the Turkey-sponsored and FSA-affiliated Jabhat al-Wataniya al-Tahrir (aka the National Front for Liberation) and Jaish al-Izza would be the only parties potentially willing to go along with the plan. In fact, Putin and Erdogan never expected or intended to make deals with groups everyone recognizes as radical – particularly with Al-Nusra, which was singled-out by Putin at the Sochi press conference, while Erdogan vowed to “clear these territories of radical elements”. Therefore, in the context of Idlib, when we hear Russia or Turkey discuss ‘moderate rebels’, they mean Turkish proxies.
Before the latest Sochi summit, Erdogan demanded a political solution to the situation in Syria, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, when in reality he had three objectives:
To salvage the forces in the area loyal to Turkey.
To minimize the amount of refugees and jihadists crossing the border into Turkey.
To retain as much influence on the future of Northern Syria as he could.
Clearly, Putin understood that Turkey would not simply leave the region of its own accord, and thus the Idlib offensive would have risked a dangerous direct confrontation between states. So he agreed to proceed via the ‘political route’, fully aware that Turkey would then have to commit to join the fight against groups officially recognized as terrorists – even those Turkey directly or indirectly supported in the past – while pulling the reins on its proxies or even turning its guns against those who rebelled. Furthermore, Turkey takes another step towards Russia, Iran and Syria, and away from NATO and its machinations in the Middle East. Ultimately, the crucial point of the agreement is not how many militants will give up their weapons or not, but that Turkey is now on board with the liberators of Syria. One could say that Putin ‘gently coaxed’ Erdogan into doing the right thing.
Lose The Match, Knock Over The Board
Of course, there is another advantage to calling off a major offensive in Idlib: It makes it harder – though not impossible – for Western countries and their allies to protest, threaten, and retaliate against some imaginary war crime, and for terrorists to stage an attack on civilians, inviting such retaliation.
Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.
Some geopolitical players bent on war seem to have taken the news hard enough to make significant mistakes. There are a number of observers – including an advisor to Erdogan – who believe that Israel’s latest insanely criminal stunt, which resulted in the downing of a Russian Il-20 military plane and the death of 15 Russian servicemen, was a response to the Sochi agreement reached a few hours earlier. Indeed, there are barely any coincidences in politics, although we must not forget that on the same day (Monday, September 17th) the Russian Ministry of Defense presented evidence countering the Dutch report on the MH17 flight tragedy over Ukraine – a non-negligible event that may have inspired Machiavellian Israeli minds to distract the public from such data.
The tragedy of the Russian Il-20 was the product of typical duplicitous, cowardly Israeli military ‘strategy’. While on an illegal and unprovoked bombing operation against government targets in Syria – of which the Russian MOD was notified with less than a minute’s notice – four Israeli F-16 fighter jets flying at low altitude “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region… The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” an MOD statement said. The reaction of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was bitter:
“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” the Russian minister said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”
Evidently, the Israelis were intentionally looking to cause trouble for the Russian military. However, judging by the amount of time they took to officially respond to an angry Russia, it appears they miscalculated and did not expect that a Russian aircraft would be lost, nor did they expect Russia blame them. This was Israel’s big mistake: Russia is likely to forcefully make difficult or even obstruct any future Israeli operations in or above Syria. Putin’s words about boosting the safety of Russian personnel in Syria and taking “steps that everyone will notice” point in that direction.
A bad situation was made worse when an arrogant Israeli response finally came. No apologies were offered; all Russia got was an expression of “sorrow” and much blaming of third parties:
There is another interesting fact to this story, that seems to be rapidly slipping out of media reports. The French Navy’s frigate “Auvergne” was in the region at the time, and according to the Russian MOD, several missile launches were detected from that ship. At what were those missiles aimed? What role did the French Navy play in Monday night’s bombing of Syria and/or the loss of the Russian Il-20?
With diplomatic skill, Putin again managed to solve the ‘Turkey problem’ in Syria – at least for now. Unfortunately, it will be much harder to fix the ‘Israel/NATO problem’. The discourse and behavior of neocons and zionists shows that they have no interest whatsoever in a stable, prosperous Syria – or in a peaceful Middle East. While commenting on US politics, Putin once observed that is “difficult to have a dialogue with people who confuse Austria and Australia”. We could add that it is even harder to reason with people who confuse war with peace and truth with lies.
Andrés Perezalonso has been a contributing editor for Signs of the Times in both its English and Spanish versions since 2007. He holds a PhD in Politics, an MA in International Studies, a first degree in Communication, and has a professional background in Media Analysis. He thinks that understanding world events is not unlike detective work – paying attention to often ignored details and connections, and thinking outside of the box. He was born and raised in Mexico and currently resides in Europe.
If you want proof of American criminal conduct in Syria, look no further than the events of yesterday when a group of ISIS grubs set off from American-occupied Al-Tanf on motorcycles in the direction of the Western Plantations with their goal being to reinforce ISIS positions near Al-Raqqa (via the Abyadh Al-Tuwaynaan Valley) where the other pro-American SDF is located. Talk about playing two sides against the other! The ambush was sprung about 30 kms west of Palmyra (Tadmur) by elements of Air Force Intelligence-Special Operations Units. The terrorist rodents were especially vulnerable on their motorcycles as expertly positioned commandos opened light arms fire at them killing two instantly and forcing another two to wipe out on the road. The two taken into custody started warbling like nightingales explaining their relationship with American officers at Al-Tanf.
The second ambush took place in the area of Al-Furoo’ east of Palmyra by about 70 kms. There, the terrorists were not so interested in confrontation. They surrendered to the Security Services commando units and gave up 10 motorcycles, weapons and ammo, 146 rolls of hashish, 14 bags of Captagon which amounted to 10,000+ tablets. I guess they were going to cater a party. They are now warbling like starlings.
Now that a new prime minister in Iraq is in office, we are hoping the Baghdad government stops affording the U.S. privileged status permitting it to supply and occupy the Al-Tanf base. The Hashemites in Jordan are a lost cause, but, Iraq is not yet that far gone. There is still hope that Muqtadaa Al-Sadr and his allies will re-assume their mantles as Iraq’s only truly populist movement. The U.S. has been truly injured by the fall of Al-‘Abbaadi’s government after so many lobbying efforts – efforts to intervene in Iraqi elections.
The night before yesterday, somebody fired some rockets at a military research-and-development center in Latakia. Syrian radar picked up the approaching missiles and fired Pantsir anti-missile rockets at them, bringing most down, according to sources in Latakia. Yet, the atmosphere is still somewhat murky.
That evening, amidst the melee, an Ilyushin aircraft carrying 14 crew members and enlisted men was downed in the Mediterranean near the coast of Syria. A search and rescue operation is now in progress.
This is what happened. Nobody was expecting any attack by the Zionist Settler State. There were no weapons being transferred to HZB from any research center in Latakia City. The Humaymeem AB was on alert, as usual, but, as I wrote, there were no causes for concern. A French missile boat was in the international waters outside Syria’s coastline and there was no expectation it would fire at any target, especially where there was a danger of striking Russia’s military.
(Photo: French Navy)
The French ship was the Auvergne, an Aquitaine Class ship. If any of you remember your history, it was at Aquitaine (then northwards to Poitier and Tours) where Charles Martel blunted the Umayyad Caliphate’s effort to conquer Europe from Andalusia in 732 AD. Well, anyways, there is a lot of history behind that name.
Zionist military planners noted that the Il-20 aircraft was scheduled to depart Humaymeem at around 5 p.m. It would be the perfect cover. The attack on the research center was approved by Prime Minister Mileikowski (a/k/a Netanyhu). When the Il-20 was in the air, so were 3 F-16s. The idea was to shadow the transport aircraft and fire at the base. But, what happened became a nightmare.
Syrian air defense units were not told about the Russian airplane. When Zionist aircraft appeared on their screens, they perfunctorily fired at the targets. It is evident from the swift Zionist retreat that there was realization that Syrian air defense missiles could hit the Russian aircraft. And they did, causing the Ilyushin to crash into the Mediterranean.
Initial Russian reaction was to blame the French who were accused of firing cruise missiles at Latakia even though the “false flag” CW event had not taken place. This could mean that the CW event was scheduled to take place on Monday, but, that the Turkish-Russian agreement at Socchi aborted that. It is possible and it is an indication of just how incompetent the French really are.
It is also obvious now that the Kremlin is fuming over this. Mileikowski constantly crows about how much coordination exists between Russian and Zionist forces in Syria. This was an example of how treacherous these Zionists really are.
DAYR EL-ZOR: I had a beautiful photo showing the devastation wrought by a series of Russian Air Force sorties over a large convoy of ISIS vultures heading from Al-Mayaadeen to Dayr El-Zor City, but, as always, technical problems prevented me from pasting it. In any case, the Russian Ministry of…
Attorney for 35 years and Supreme Court Certified Interpreter for Arabic/English Diploma with Honors from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in 1968; B.A. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor 1968-1972; M.A. University of Michigan Dept. of Near Eastern Studies 1972-1974; Ph.D. Cand. Univ. of Michigan 1972-1977; Then went to law school. Credits: Harvard University for classes in Islamic Philosophy; Fellowships from University of Pennsylvania 1976; 2 from Univ. of Michigan. Read English, Arabic, German, French, Farsi, some Hebrew. Studied Ancient Greek and Latin before grad school. Michigan Supreme Court Certified Interpreter/Translator for Arabic and English
Western and Russian media sources have reported an alleged joint Israeli-French strike on Syria on September 17. The attack included Israeli warplanes and French missile frigates operating in the Mediterranean off Syria’s coast. Amid the attack, a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft with 14 service members aboard disappeared.
The attack immediately prompted commentators, analysts, and pundits to call for an immediate retaliation to the unprovoked military aggression, warning that a failure to react would leave Russia looking weak. Some commentators even called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to step down.
Not the First Provocation
Yet the attack is reminiscent of the 2015 Turkish downing of a Russian warplane – after which similar calls for retaliation were made, coupled with similar condemnations of Russia as “weak.” And since 2015, Russia’s patient and methodical approach to aiding Syria in its proxy war with the US-NATO-GCC and Israel has nonetheless paid off huge dividends.
Russia would later aid Syria in retaking the northern city of Aleppo. Palmyra would be retaken from the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) – Homs, Hama, Eastern Ghouta, and the southern city of Daraa would also be retaken – leaving virtually everything west of the Euphrates River under the control of Damascus.
In fact, the near precipice of total victory was achieved by Russia and its allies ignoring serial provocations carried out by the US-NATO-GCC and Israel, and simply focusing on the task of systematically restoring security and stability to the conflict-ridden nation.
Russian-backed Syrian forces are now staged at the edge of Idlib. So far tilted has the balance of power tipped in Damascus’ favor that even Turkey has found itself seeking negotiations with Russia over the last remaining territory still held by the West’s proxy forces.
The Reality of Western Provocations
Syria and its allies were winning the proxy war for the nation’s future before Israel and France attacked, and they are still winning the proxy war in the aftermath of the joint strike. Syria has weathered hundreds of such attacks – big and small – throughout the past 7 years.
Israeli warplanes have been operating at a distance, using standoff weapons. French missiles launched from frigates also constitute a standoff strategy, avoiding the risk of overflying Syrian territory and being targeted or shot down by Syrian air defenses.
Modern warfare doctrine admits that no war can be won with air power alone. This means that a nation flying sorties over a targeted nation cannot achieve victory without ground forces coordinating with air power from below. If air power alone over a nation makes it impossible to achieve victory, standoff air power makes victory even more futile.
But there is another possible motive behind the West’s serial attacks. Modern electronic warfare includes the detection and countering of air defense systems. Each time an air defense system is activated, its position and characteristics can be ascertained. Even if air defense systems are mobile, the information they provide during a provocation while attempting to detect and fire at targets is invaluable to military planning.
Should Russia engage its most sophisticated air defense systems during provocations, affording the West a complete picture of both its technology in general and the disposition of its defenses in Syria specifically, should the West decide to launch a knock-out blow through a full-scale air assault, it could do so much more effectively.
This is precisely what the US did in 1990 during Operation Desert Storm when taking on Iraq’s formidable air defenses. The initial air campaign was preceded by the use of some 40 BQM-74C target drones used to trick Iraqi air defenses into turning on their equipment which was being monitored by US electronic warfare aircraft flying along the Iraqi-Saudi border. It was the disclosure of the disposition and characteristics of Iraq’s anti-aircraft systems more than any sort of “stealth” technology that allowed the US to then overwhelm Iraqi air defenses.
Considering that hundreds of provocations have been launched against Syria, we can assume that somewhere among them, serious attempts at electronic surveillance and reconnaissance have taken place. We can also assume that competent Russian military leadership has been aware of this and has taken measures to safeguard the disposition and capabilities of its premier air defense systems until it is absolutely essential to reveal them.
The Best Revenge Will Be Victory Over NATO
Downed Syrian and Russian aircraft, or casualties inflicted upon Syrian forces and their allies on the battlefield are difficult as human beings to watch without stirring desires for immediate revenge. Yet it must be kept in mind that immediate revenge rarely serves well long-term strategies toward victory.
Ancient Chinese warlord and strategist Sun Tzu in his timeless treatise, “The Art of War,” would warn contemporary and future generals about the dangers of caving to emotions at the expense of sound strategy. He would state (emphasis added):
Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.
No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.
If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.
Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.
But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.
Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.
It is not to Russia’s advantage to sink French frigates or expose the full capabilities of its air defense systems to shoot down a handful of Israeli warplanes to satisfy public desires for immediate revenge or to protect nonexistent notions of Russian invincibility.
Instead, it is to Russia’s advantage to simply win the proxy war in Syria. Just as in 2015 when calls for immediate revenge were made regarding a Turkish-downed Russian warplane, Syria, Russia, and Iran will continue moving forward – slowly and methodically – to secure Syrian territory from foreign proxies seeking to divide and destroy the country, springboard into Iran, and eventually work their way into southern Russia.
Avenging serial provocations is infinitesimally less important than overall victory in Syria. The fate of Syria as a nation, Iran’s security and stability as a result, and even Russia’s own self-preservation is on the line. The awesome responsibility of those who have planned and executed Syria’s incremental victory over proxy forces backed by the largest, most powerful economies and military forces on Earth could greatly benefit from a public able to understand the difference between short-term gratification and long-term success and how the former almost certainly and recklessly endangers the latter.
The greatest possible “revenge” to exact upon those who inflicted this war upon the Syrian people, is their absolute and total defeat.
MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. Russia will respond to actions on behalf of the Israeli Air Force that led to a fatal crash of Russia’s Il-20 aircraft on Monday late night in Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.
“We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us,” Shoigu said.
The Russian Il-20 that was shot down by Syrian air defense systems had been conducting reconnaissance activity in the Idlib de-escalation zone before the crash, he said.
“Our reconnaissance airplane Il-20 with 15 crew members on board – that had been conducting reconnaissance tasks over the Idlib de-escalation zone to find places of storage and collection of unmanned aerial vehicles which fly from this zone and strike various Syrian regions – was in the strike zone, strictly speaking between Israel’s aircraft – four F-16 planes – and Syrian territory,” he said.
Israeli F-16 jets delivered strikes on Syria using the Russian Ilyushin-20 reconnaissance plane as cover, since the Israelis believed that Syria’s air defenses would not counteract against that trajectory, Shoigu said. “It’s clear to any specialist the strike was delivered using our Ilyushin-20 as cover, because they [the Israelis] thought the Syrian air defense systems would not act in that direction,” he stated.
Shoigu indicated that the Israeli Air Force had conducted the attacks without notification.
“The Israeli side didn’t issue a notification or, to be more precise, they warned us a minute before conducting the strike,” he said. “They told us they were about to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, and they did it.”
“As a result of countermeasures to the Israeli attack, the Syrian air defense troops brought down the Ilyushin-20,” Shoigu indicated.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, on September 17 at about 23:00 Moscow time (GMT + 3) contact was lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane that was returning to the Hmeymim airbase above the Mediterranean Sea, 35 km off the Syrian coast. The ministry specified that the Il-20 disappeared from the air traffic control radars during the attack of four Israeli F-16 planes on Syrian facilities in the Latakia Governorate.
The Russian Defense Ministry later reported that the plane had been downed by the Syrian air defense systems. According to the ministry, the Israeli pilots used the IL-20 as a shield, putting it under the attack of the S-200 missile system. It was said that the Israeli flight control devices and the F-16 pilots “could not but see the Russian plane as it was coming in for a landing at an altitude of 5 km.” That said, they intentionally carried out this provocation, said Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, noting that Russia regarded Israel’s actions as hostile.