The House of Saud Bows to the House of Putin – By Pepe Escobar

Saudi Arabia pivots to Russia, the new sheriff in town

11 hours ago
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What a difference a year – an eternity in geopolitics – makes. No one could see this coming; the ideological matrix of all strands of Salafi-jihadi terror – which Russia fights no holds barred, from ISIS/Daesh to the Caucasus Emirate – beating a path to the Kremlin and about to embrace Russia as a strategic ally.

The House of Saud was horrified by Russia’s successful campaign to prevent regime change in Syria. Moscow was solidifying its alliance with Tehran. Hawks in the Obama administration were imposing on Saudi Arabia a strategy of keeping oil prices down to hurt the Russian economy.

Now, losing all its battles from Syria to Yemen, losing regional influence to both Iran and Turkey, indebted, vulnerable and paranoid, the House of Saud has also to confront the ghost of a possible coup in Riyadh against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as Asia Times reported. Under so much pressure, who’re you gonna call?

The ultimate ghostbuster; Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Essentially, the House of Saud is obsessed by three main vectors; low oil prices; Iran and Shi’ism; and what to make of US foreign policy under Trump. Let’s take them one by one.

I want my S-400s

As much as a Moscow-Washington reset remains doomed, even with the implosion of Russia-Gate, House of Saud advisers must have known that the Kremlin won’t ditch its strategic relationship with Iran – one of the key nodes of Eurasia integration.

Moscow will keep aligned with Iran across “Syraq”; that’s part of the “4+1” (Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq, plus Hezbollah) alliance in the Levant/Mesopotamia, an incontrovertible (and winning) fact on the ground. And that does not preclude Russia’s increasingly cozy relationships across the Arab world – as with Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Libya.

What concerns Moscow, deeply, is Saudi (formal or informal) financing of Salafi-jihadi outfits inside Russia. So a high-level line of communication between Moscow and Riyadh works towards dissipating any misunderstandings regarding, for instance, jihadism in Tatarstan and Chechnya.

Moscow does not buy the much-spun (in the West) Iranian “aggressive behavior” in the Middle East. As a key negotiator of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Russia very well knows that Iran’s ballistic missile program is actually the key target of Trump’s imminent decertification of the Iran deal.

These missiles actually represent dissuasion against any possible US attack, “leading from behind” or not. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) in Tehran has made it quite clear the ballistic missile program does not fall into the JCPOA, and will remain active.

Enter the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Saudis and Rosoboronexport (Russia’s state body for exporting military hardware) signed in Moscow for the purchase of the S-400 missile system; the Kornet-EM system; the TOS-1A; the AGS-30; and last but not least the new Kalashnikov AK-103.

The S-400 success story is unequivocal. Iran bought it. Turkey bought it. Now Saudi Arabia buys it – even after splurging a fortune in US weapons during Trump’s by now infamous “sword dance” visit to Riyadh.

So no wonder, after the S-400 news, the US State Department like clockwork approved the possible – that’s the operative word – $15 billion sale of 44 THAAD launchers and 360 missiles to Saudi Arabia, a very good business for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

The Pentagon’s defense security cooperation agency said, “this sale furthers US national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats.” Cynics already envisage a battle of Iranian S-400s and Saudi THAADs “moderated” by Saudi S-400s.

We are the new OPEC

King Salman may have boarded the Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, but the real architect of the pivot to Russia is MBS. Oil in Saudi Arabia accounts for 87% of budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of exports. MBS is betting all his cards on the Vision 2030 program to “modernize” the Saudi economy, and he knows very well it will be impossible to pull off if oil prices are low.

At the Russia Energy Week forum in Moscow, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the Aramco IPO – a key driver of funds to Vision 2030 – will happen in the second half of 2018, contradicting Saudi officials who earlier stated the IPO was once again postponed to 2019. And no one can tell whether it will take place in the NYSE or not.

Meanwhile, the priority remains the OPEC / non-OPEC deal (with Russia at the forefront) to “stabilize” oil prices, clinched in November 2016 to cut production. President Putin tentatively agreed the deal could be extended beyond March 2018, something to be discussed in detail at the next OPEC meeting in Vienna in late November.

The deal may certainly be seen as a purely strategic/economic measure to stabilize the oil market – with no geopolitical overtones. And yet OPEC is geared to become a brand new animal – with Russia and Saudi Arabia de facto deciding where the global oil markets go, and then telling the other OPEC players. It’s open to question what Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela, among others, will have to say about this. The barely disguised aim is to bring oil prices up to a band of $60-75 a barrel by the middle of next year. Certainly a good deal for the Aramco IPO.There were a rash of other deals clinched in Moscow – such as Aramco and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) $1 billion fund for oil-services projects in Russia, plus another $1 billion for a technology fund.

This synergy implies Saudi Arabia investing in top Russian energy assets and Russia, for instance, supplying gas to the Saudi petrochemical industry and reducing drilling/production costs. Certainly a good deal for Vision 2030.

The new sheriff in town

To say that the Saudi pivot to Russia is rattling nerves across the Beltway is an understatement. The CIA is not exactly fond of MBS. 9/11-related puzzles are bound to resurface.

What’s also clear is that the House of Saud has realized it cannot be left to watching camels as the great Eurasia integration caravan picks up speed. Russia has pipelines crisscrossing most of Eurasia. 

China is building rail lines connecting all of Eurasia. And we haven’t even touched specific Saudi-Chinese projects part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).Those were the days of King Abdulaziz and FDR aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal forging a strategic partnership; the days of Washington leading Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, drive down prices and weaken the USSR; the days of the Afghan jihad.

Now there’s no US dependence on House of Saud oil anymore. And jihadist blowback is the name of the security game.

It may be too early to identify the Saudi pivot to Russia as the shift of the century. It is though a certified game-changer. Moscow is about to become the new sheriff in town, in virtually any town across Southwest Asia.

And it’s getting there on its own terms, without resorting to a Colt dialectic. MBS wants energy/defense cooperation? He gets it. MBS wants less Russian cooperation with Iran? He doesn’t get it. OPEC aims at higher oil prices? Done. And what about the S-400s? Free – sort of – for all.

Source: Asia Timee…

With US Petrodollar Hostage, Saudis Embark On New Courtship Of Russia In marked contrast to the United States’ fickleness in Middle Eastern affairs, by Whitney Webb

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After Israel, Saudi Arabia has long been considered to be the United States’ greatest ally in the Middle East, a fact evidenced by long-standing Saudi-U.S. joint policies such as the petrodollar system, weapons deals, and Saudi support for broader U.S. geopolitical goals in the region. However, this foundational relationship of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East appears to be changing rapidly, with the Saudis – in the footsteps of other, former U.S. allies in the region – surprisingly pivoting towards Russia, America’s geopolitical arch-rival.

Saudi Arabia’s warming relations with Russia became evident last month when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Riyadh for talks. During Lavrov’s visit, the Saudis began to soften their long-standing stance – re-articulated only a month prior – that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be removed from power. The shift was cemented by King Salman’s visit to Moscow last week, the first such trip ever taken by a reigning Saudi monarch.

Following the visit, the Saudis have abandoned their call for Assad’s removal from office, and are refraining from criticizing the role of Russia’s military in countering extremist groups in Syria, many of which are funded by the Saudis. Al Jazeera suggested that, in turn, Russia had softened its criticism of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

 

Russian-Saudi cooperation on expanding fronts, once Washington’s province

 

However, the Saudi king’s visit broached much more than a dramatic shift in Syria policy. The two nations – long rivals in the oil sector – launched a joint energy investment fund worth $1 billion, which included natural gas projects and petrochemical plants. Saudi state oil company Aramco also signed a deal with Russian petrochemical company Sibur to further cooperation regarding oil refining. The Saudis, having shown prior interest in building nuclear power stations, also made a deal with the Russian nuclear monopoly Rosatom for 16 nuclear power stations valued at approximately $100 billion.

In addition, a large delegation of Saudi businessmen, composed of 85 CEOs and 200 corporate representatives, accompanied the King to Russia and plan to invest as much as $10 billion in Russian businesses.

Arms agreements were also explored and King Salman is now expected to sign a $3.5 billion arms deal with Russia. While few details on the specifics of the arms deals have been made available, the Saudis will be purchasing ballistic missiles and air defense systems, including the s-400, from Russian manufacturers as part of the deal. While the Saudis remain one of the top buyers of U.S. arms — as evidenced by the Trump-brokered $110 billion weapons deal earlier this year – the Saudi’s decision to give a significant market share of their weapon purchases to Russia, the world’s second-largest exporter of arms and chief U.S. rival in this regard, is undoubtedly unsettling to American interests and a major indication of Saudi displeasure with the United States.


Related | Turkey Under Fire For Bucking NATO Suppliers, Signing Arms Deal With Russia


Indeed, the U.S. quickly expressed its displeasure with the Saudi government’s pivot towards Moscow. For instance, the Pentagon’s recent decision to halt military exercises with “Arab allies” came just a day after King Salman’s trip to Russia began. Though the decision was advertised as having been intended to rebuke the Saudis and their closest allies for their on-going spat with Qatar, the fact that the announcement coincided with the Saudis visiting Russia — and came several months after the diplomatic crisis with Qatar began — suggests an ulterior motive. The U.S. also quickly approved the sale of the advanced Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to the Saudis for $15 billion. The approval of the THAAD purchase also came the day after it was announced that the Saudis had agreed to buy an air defense system from Russia.

The strange mixture of rebuke and reward suggests that the U.S. has adopted a “carrot and stick” approach whereby it makes its displeasure known while simultaneously appealing to the Saudi’s desire for weapons and lucrative investment opportunities.

 

A rapid turning of the geopolitical worm

VLADIMIRPUTINSTATESMAN

The U.S.’ drastic loss of influence in the region may come as a surprise to Washington, which had apparently assumed that the Saudi’s dependence on the U.S. would prevent them from seeking stronger ties with the U.S.’ competitors, especially a major U.S. rival such as Russia. However, the U.S.’ failure in Syria, their political inconsistencies, and penchant for military intervention in the region have led to the gradual ebbing of influence, limiting most ties between the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies to a focus on military and counterterrorism cooperation in the region.

It also seems that King Salman’s ambitious heir and de facto Saudi ruler, Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), was misjudged by the American establishment. MBS is apparently so committed to his much-touted 2030 plan that he is willing to diversify wherever practical in order to bring to fruition his ambitious overhaul of the oil-dependent Saudi economy.


Related | Study Finds Saudi Arabia Promotes Hate Speech, Incitement


In contrast to the U.S.’ fickleness in Middle Eastern affairs, Russia is seen as a more consistent actor by Middle Eastern leaders, a potential ally offering much-needed stability. As Cyril Widdershoven noted at Oil Price:

The U.S. and its European allies have only shown a diffuse political-military approach to the threats in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region, while even destabilizing historically pro-Western Arab royalties and presidents.”

Putin’s friendship, however, is being presented as unconditional and enduring, with Russia’s relationship with historic allies such as Syria providing testaments to this. Putin’s drastically different leadership style has allowed Russia to cultivate ties with nearly every Middle Eastern country, allowing Russia to play both sides of the field in a region known for its stark geopolitical divisions.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Russia has also fostered alliances with several other countries with close U.S. ties, such as Jordan, Qatar, Turkey and even Iraqi Kurdistan – all while maintaining its long-standing alliances with Iran and Syria. Even Israel has been seeking closer ties with Russia, as evidenced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s four visits to Russia over the past 18 months. Putin’s new position as the “new master of the Middle East” seems all but set in stone.

This is especially true in light of the unlikelihood that the U.S. will be able to strong-arm the Saudis into backing out of closer ties with Russia. The U.S. is precariously reliant on the Saudis for their support of the petrodollar system — a policy negotiated in the 1970s whereby the Saudis, as de facto leaders of OPEC, would create a standard maintained by oil-producing nations selling their oil exclusively in U.S. dollars. This creates artificial demand for U.S. dollars, enabling decades of irresponsible American monetary policy and preventing a collapse of the currency.

With the petrodollar system already under attack from Russia – as well as China and Venezuela – the U.S. cannot afford to anger or alienate the Saudis, who are essentially the final linchpin in a dying system. “Soft” retaliatory measures, such as the canceling of military exercises, along with the promise of lucrative weapons and infrastructure deals, seem to be the only diplomatic “weapon” in the American arsenal that can keep the U.S. from losing what remains of their regional influence. Russia, however, now has much greater maneuverability in terms of influencing events in the region.

As Anatoly Tsiganok, a Moscow-based defense analyst told Al Jazeera:

Three years ago, Washington’s actions mattered the most. Now, the situation has changed cardinally; that is why now Middle Eastern nations pay attention to Russia.”

Top photo | Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman pose for a photo during a welcoming ceremony ahead of their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. (Alexei Nikolsky/Pool Photo via AP)

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China and Russia’s Have a Plan to Dethrone the Dollar. If They Succeed Most of the World Will Rejoice – By Federico Pieraccini

In a world where the choice is all to often to either submit to imperial domination, or suffer chaos brought on by the empire in revenge the financial shifts that are occurring are for much of the globe a long-awaited and welcome development

Fri, Oct 6, 2017
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If we were to identify what uniquely fuels American imperialism and its aspirations for global hegemony, the role of the US dollar would figure prominently.

An exploration of the depth of the dollar’s effects on the world economy is therefore necessary in order to understand the consequential geopolitical developments that have occurred over the last few decades.

The reason the dollar plays such an important role in the world economy is due to the following three major factors: the petrodollar; the dollar as world reserve currency; and Nixon’s decision in 1971 to no longer make the dollar convertible into gold.

As is easy to guess, the petrodollar strongly influenced the composition of the SDR basket, making the dollar the world reserve currency, spelling grave implications for the global economy due to Nixon’s decision to eliminate the dollar’s convertibility into gold. Most of the problems for the rest of the world began from a combination of these three factors.

Dollar-Petrodollar-GoldThe largest geo-economic change in the last fifty years was arguably implemented in 1973 with the agreement between OPEC, Saudi Arabia and the United States to sell oil exclusively in dollars.

Specifically, Nixon arranged with Saudi King Faisal for Saudis to only accept dollars as a payment for oil and related investments, recycling billions of excess dollars into US treasury bills and other dollar-based financial resources.

In exchange, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries came under American military protection. It reminds one of a mafia-style arrangement: the Saudis are obliged to conduct business in US dollars according to terms and conditions set by the US with little argument, and in exchange they receive generous protection.

The second factor, perhaps even more consequential for the global economy, is the dollar becoming the world reserve currency and maintaining a predominant role in the basket of international foreign-exchange reserves of the IMF ever since 1981.

The role of the dollar, linked obviously to the petrodollar trade, has almost always maintained a share of more than 40% of the Special Drawing Right (SDR) basket, while the euro has maintained a stable share of 29-37% since 2001.

In order to understand the economic change in progress, it is sufficient to observe that the yuan is now finally included in the SDR, with an initial 10% share that is immediately higher than the yen (8.3%) and sterling (8.09%) but significantly less than the dollar (41%) and euro (31%). Slowly but significantly Yuan currency is becoming more and more used in global trade.

The reason why the United States has been able to fuel this global demand for dollars is linked to the need for other countries to own dollars in order to be able to buy oil and other goods.

For example, if a Bolivian company exports bananas to Norway, the payment method requires the use of dollars. Norway must therefore own US currency to pay and receive the goods purchased.

Similarly, the dollars Bolivia receives will be used to buy other necessities like oil from Venezuela. It may seem unbelievable, but practically all countries until a few years ago used US dollars to trade amongst each other, even countries that were anti-American and against US imperialist policies.

 

This continued use of the dollar has had some devastating effects on the globe. First of all, the intense use of the American currency, coupled with Nixon’s decisions, created an economic standard based on the dollar that soon replaced precious metals like gold, which had been the standard for the global economy for years.This has led to major instability and to economic systems that have in the proceeding years created disastrous financial policies, as seen in 2000 and 2008, for example. The main source of economic reliability transferred from gold to dollars, specifically to US treasury bills.

This major shift allowed the Federal Reserve to print dollars practically without limit (as seen in recent years with interests rates for borrowing money from the FED at around 0%), well aware that the demand for dollars would never cease, this also keeping alive huge sectors of private and public enterprises (such as the fracking industry).

This set a course for a global economic system based on financial instruments like derivatives and other securities instead of real, tangible goods like gold. In doing this for its own benefit, the US has created the conditions for a new financial bubble that could even bring down the entire world economy when it bursts.

The United States found itself in the enviable position of being able to print pieces of paper (simply IOU’s) without any gold backing and then exchange them for real goods.

This economic arrangement has allowed Washington to achieve an unparalleled strategic advantage over its geopolitical opponents (initially the USSR, now Russia and China), namely, a practically unlimited dollar-spending capacity even as it accumulates an astronomical public debt (about 21 trillion dollars).The destabilizing factor for the global economy has been Washington’s ability to accumulate enormous amounts of public debt without having to worry about the consequences or even of any possible mistrust international markets may have for the dollar. Countries simply needed dollars for trade and bought US treasures to diversify their financial assets.

The continued use of the dollar as a means of payment for almost everything, coupled with the nearly infinite capacity of the of FED to print money and the Treasury to issue bonds, has led the dollar to become the primary safe refuge for organizations, countries and individuals, legitimizing this perverse financial system that has affected global peace for decades.

Dollars and War: The End?

The problems for the United States began in the late 1990s, at a time of expansion for the US empire following the demise of the Soviet Union.

The stated geopolitical goal was the achievement of global hegemony. With unlimited spending capacity and an ideology based on American exceptionalism, this attempt seemed to be within reach for the policymakers at the Pentagon and Wall Street.A key element for achieving global hegemony consisted of stopping China, Russia and Iran from creating a Eurasian area of integration. For many years, and for various reasons, these three countries continued to conduct large-scale trade in US dollars, bowing to the economic dictates of a fraudulent financial system created for the benefit of the United States.

China needed to continue in its role of becoming the world’s factory, always having accepted dollar payments and buying hundreds of billions of US treasury bills.

With Putin, Russia began almost immediately to de-dollarize, repaying foreign debts in dollars, trying to offload this economic pressure. Russia is today one of the countries in the world with the least amount of public and private debt denominated in dollars, and the recent prohibition on the use of US dollars in Russian seaports is the latest example.

For Iran, the problem has always been represented by sanctions, creating great incentives to bypass the dollar and find alternative means of payment.

The decisive factor that changed the perception of countries like China and Russia was the 2008 financial crisis, as well as growing US aggression ever since the events in Yugoslavia in 1999. The Iraq war, along with other factors, prevented Saddam from starting an oil trade in euro, which threatened the dollar’s financial hegemony in the Middle East.

War and the America’s continued presence in Afghanistan stressed Washington’s intentions to continue encircling China, Russia and Iran in order to prevent any Eurasian integration.

Naturally, the more the dollar was used in the world, the more Washington had the power to spend on the military. For the US, paying a bill of 6 trillion dollars (this is the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) has been effortless, and this constitutes an unparalleled advantage over countries like China and Russia whose military spending in comparison is a fifth and a tenth respectively.

The repeated failed attempts to conquer, subvert and control countries like Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Donbass, North Korea, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Venezuela, have had significant effects on the perception of US military power.

In military terms, Washington faced numerous tactical and strategic defeats, with the Crimean peninsula returning to Russia without a shot fired and with the West unable to react. In Donbass, the resistance inflicted huge losses on the NATO-supported Ukrainian army.

In North Africa, Egypt is now under the control of the army, following an attempt to turn the country into a state under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood. Libya, after being destroyed, is now divided into three entities, and like Egypt seems to be looking with favorable regard towards Moscow and Beijing.

In the Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq are increasingly cooperating in stabilizing regional conflicts, where needed they are backed by Russian military power and Chinese economic strength.

And of course the DPRK continues to ignore US military threats and has fully developed its conventional and nuclear deterrent, effectively making those US threats null and void.

Color revolutions, hybrid warfare, economic terrorism, and proxy attempts to destabilize these countries have had devastating effects on Washington’s military credibility and effectiveness.

The United States finds itself being considered by many countries to be a massive war apparatus that struggles to get what it wants, struggles to achieve coherent common goals, and even lacks the capability to control countries like Iraq and Afghanistan in spite of its overwhelming military superiority.

No One Fears You!

Until a few decades ago, any idea of straying away from the petrodollar was seen as a direct threat to American global hegemony, requiring of a military response.

In 2017, given the decline in US credibility as a result of triggering wars against smaller countries (leaving aside countries like Russia, China, and Iran that have military capabilities the likes of which the US has not faced for more than seventy years), a general recession from the dollar-based system is taking place in many countries.

In recent years, it has become clear to many nations opposing Washington that the only way to adequately contain the fallout from the collapsing US empire is to progressively abandon the dollar.

This serves to limit Washington’s capacity for military spending by creating the necessary alternative tools in the financial and economic realms that will eliminate Washington’s dominance.

This is essential in the Russo-Sino-Iranian strategy to unite Eurasia and thereby render the US irrelevant.

De-dollarization for Beijing, Moscow and Tehran has become a strategic priority. Eliminating the unlimited spending capacity of the FED and the American economy means limiting US imperialist expansion and diminishing global destabilization.

Without the usual US military power to strengthen and impose the use of US dollars, China, Russia and Iran have paved the way for important shifts in the global order.

The US shot itself in the foot by accelerating this process through their removal of Iran from the SWIFT system (paving the way for the Chinese alternative, known as CIPS) and imposing sanctions on countries like Russia, Iran and Venezuela.

This also accelerated China and Russia’s mining and acquisition of physical gold, which is in direct contrast to the situation in the US, with rumors of the FED no longer possessing any more gold. It is no secret that Beijing and Moscow are aiming for a gold-backed currency if and when the dollar should collapse. This has pushed unyielding countries to start operating in a non-dollar environment and through alternative financial systems.

A perfect example of how this is being achieved can be seen with Saudi Arabia, which has represented the crux of the petrodollar.

De-dollarize

Beijing has started putting strong pressure on Riyadh to start accepting yuan payments for oil instead of dollars, as are other countries such as the Russian Federation.

For Riyadh, this is an almost existential issue. Riyadh is in a delicate situation, dedicated as it is to keeping the US dollar tied to oil, even though its main ally, the US, has pursued in the Middle East a contradictory strategy, as seen with the JCPOA agreement.

Iran, the main regional enemy of Saudi Arabia, was able to have sanctions lifted (especially from Europeans countries) thanks to the JCPOA. In addition, Iran was able to pursue a historic victory with its allies in Syria, gaining a preeminent role in the region and aspiring to become a regional powerhouse.

Riyadh is obliged to obey the US, an ally that does not care about its fate in the region (Iran is increasingly influential in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) and is even competing in the oil market.

To make matters worse for Washington, China is Riyadh’s largest customer; and considering the agreements with Nigeria and Russia, Beijing can safely stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia should Riyadh continue to insist on receiving payment only in dollars. This would badly hurt the petrodollar, a perverse system that damages China and Russia most of all.

For China, Iran and Russia, as well as other countries, de-dollarization has become a pressing issue. The number of countries that are beginning to see the benefits of a decentralized system, as opposed to the US dollar system, is increasing. Iran and India, but also Iran and Russia, have often traded hydrocarbons in exchange for primary goods, thereby bypassing American sanctions.

Likewise, China’s economic power has allowed it to open a 10-billion-euro line of credit to Iran to circumvent recent sanctions. Even the DPRK seems to use cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to buy oil from China and bypass US sanctions. Venezuela (with the largest oil reserves in the world) has just started a historic move to completely renounce selling oil in dollars, and has announced that it will start receiving money in a basket of currencies without US dollars. (This is not to mention the biggest change to have occurred in the last 40 years).

Beijing will buy gas and oil from Russia by paying in yuan, with Moscow being able to convert yuan into gold immediately thanks to the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. This gas-yuan-gold mechanism signals a revolutionary economic change through the progressive abandonment of the dollar in trade.

In the next and last article, we will concentrate on how successful Russia, Iran and China have been in forging a multipolar world order with the goal of peacefully containing the fallout from the collapsing American empire, and how this alternative world order is opening up a new geopolitical landscape for America’s allies and other countries.

Source: Strategic Culture

The End of Empire – It’s Coming – By Chris Hedges

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

8 hours ago
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The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements.

Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding.

Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, thieves, opportunists and warmongering generals. And to be clear, I am speaking about Democrats, too.

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

Short of a sudden and widespread popular revolt, which does not seem likely, the death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning the United States as we know it will no longer exist within a decade or, at most, two.The global vacuum we leave behind will be filled by China, already establishing itself as an economic and military juggernaut, or perhaps there will be a multipolar world carved up among Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and a few other states.

Or maybe the void will be filled, as the historian Alfred W. McCoywrites in his book “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power,” by “a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral military forces like NATO, and an international financial leadership self-selected at Davos and Bilderberg” that will “forge a supranational nexus to supersede any nation or empire.”

Under every measurement, from financial growth and infrastructure investment to advanced technology, including supercomputers, space weaponry and cyberwarfare, we are being rapidly overtaken by the Chinese. “In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the American economy would grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 15 years, while China’s would triple and come close to surpassing America’s in 2030,” McCoy noted.

China became the world’s second largest economy in 2010, the same year it became the world’s leading manufacturing nation, pushing aside a United States that had dominated the world’s manufacturing for a century.

The Department of Defense issued a sober report titled “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World.” It found that the U.S. military “no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” and “it no longer can … automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range.” McCoy predicts the collapse will come by 2030.

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.

This collective self-delusion saw the United States make the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one that sounded the death knell of the empire—the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war in the George W. Bush White House, and the array of useful idiots in the press and academia who were cheerleaders for it, knew very little about the countries being invaded, were stunningly naive about the effects of industrial warfare and were blindsided by the ferocious blowback.

They stated, and probably believed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although they had no valid evidence to support this claim. They insisted that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and spread across the Middle East. They assured the public that U.S. troops would be greeted by grateful Iraqis and Afghans as liberators. They promised that oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction.

They insisted that the bold and quick military strike—“shock and awe”—would restore American hegemony in the region and dominance in the world. It did the opposite. As Zbigniew Brzezinskinoted, this “unilateral war of choice against Iraq precipitated a widespread delegitimation of U.S. foreign policy.”

 

Historians of empire call these military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, examples of “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism when during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire.Britain did so in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and then quickly had to withdraw in humiliation, empowering a string of Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over the nation’s few remaining colonies. Neither of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” McCoy writes. “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

Empires need more than force to dominate other nations. They need a mystique. This mystique—a mask for imperial plunder, repression and exploitation—seduces some native elites, who become willing to do the bidding of the imperial power or at least remain passive. And it provides a patina of civility and even nobility to justify to those at home the costs in blood and money needed to maintain empire.

The parliamentary system of government that Britain replicated in appearance in the colonies, and the introduction of British sports such as polo, cricket and horse racing, along with elaborately uniformed viceroys and the pageantry of royalty, were buttressed by what the colonialists said was the invincibility of their navy and army. England was able to hold its empire together from 1815 to 1914 before being forced into a steady retreat.

 

America’s high-blown rhetoric about democracy, liberty and equality, along with basketball, baseball and Hollywood, as well as our own deification of the military, entranced and cowed much of the globe in the wake of World War II. Behind the scenes, of course, the CIA used its bag of dirty tricks to orchestrate coups, fix elections and carry out assassinations, black propaganda campaigns, bribery, blackmail, intimidation and torture. But none of this works anymore.The loss of the mystique is crippling. It makes it hard to find pliant surrogates to administer the empire, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib inflamed the Muslim world and fed al-Qaida and later Islamic State with new recruits.

The assassination of Osama bin Laden and a host of other jihadist leaders, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, openly mocked the concept of the rule of law. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, along with the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, exposed us as state terrorists.

We have exercised in the Middle East the U.S. military’s penchant for widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies and blundering miscalculations, actions that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

The brutality abroad is matched by a growing brutality at home. Militarized police gun down mostly unarmed, poor people of color and fill a system of penitentiaries and jails that hold a staggering 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although Americans represent only 5 percent of global population.

Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despair.The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump’s election—a reaction to the corporate coup d’état and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country—have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy.

Presidential tweets and rhetoric celebrate hate, racism and bigotry and taunt the weak and the vulnerable. The president in an address before the United Nations threatened to obliterate another nation in an act of genocide.

We are worldwide objects of ridicule and hatred. The foreboding for the future is expressed in the rash of dystopian films, motion pictures that no longer perpetuate American virtue and exceptionalism or the myth of human progress.

“The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” McCoy writes. “Despite the aura of omnipotence empires often project, most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state.

Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor.

For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget.

Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profit—witness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgium’s rubber lust in the Congo, British India’s opium commerce, the Third Reich’s rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe.”

When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, “empires become brittle.”

“So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, eleven years for the Ottomans, seventeen for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, just twenty-seven years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003 [when the U.S. invaded Iraq],” he writes.

Many of the estimated 69 empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline, having ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero. In the United States, the reins of authority may be in the grasp of the first in a line of depraved demagogues.

“For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness,” McCoy writes.

The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls “insubstantial issues” will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

A discredited elite, suspicious and even paranoid in an age of decline, will see enemies everywhere. The array of instruments created for global dominance—wholesale surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, sophisticated torture techniques, militarized police, the massive prison system, the thousands of militarized drones and satellites—will be employed in the homeland. The empire will collapse and the nation will consume itself within our lifetimes if we do not wrest power from those who rule the corporate state.


 

SYRIAN ARMY PUSHING TOWARDS MAYADIN ON BOTH BANKS OF EUPHRATES (MAP) – By UPROOTED PALESTINIANS

 

SYRIAN ARMY PUSHING TOWARDS MAYADIN ON BOTH BANKS OF EUPHRATES (MAP)

03.10.2017

Syrian Army Pushing Towards Mayadin On Both Banks Of Euphrates (Map)

On October 3, Syrian government forces renewed push towards the ISIS stronghold of Mayadin located southeast of Deir Ezzor city.

According to pro-government sources, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the National Defense Forces (NDF) advanced on the both banks of the Euphrates River engaging ISIS units near Jadeed Ekedat and al-Muhassan.

If government troops are able to seize any of these two villages, this  will be a major breaktrough for the Syrian military that has recently faced signfificant problems with the ISIS resistance in central Syria.

The SAA-led advance on the eastern bank of the Euphrates will for sure draw attention of the US-led coalition and to push the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to restore their efforts to seize the strategic Omar oil fields before government forces.

 

Syrian Army Regains New Positions on Deir Ezzor – Mayadeen Road

Syrian Army

October 3, 2017

The Syrian Army units achieved a new advance in the operations against ISIL terrorists in the southeastern countryside, killing one of their prominent leaders at the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

SANA reporter said that army units established control over new positions on the road of Deir Ezzor- al-Mayadeen after carrying out intensive operations against dens and gatherings of ISIL terrorists.

On the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, army units engaged in violent clashes with ISIL over the past few hours at the axis of Khsham-Hatlet Fouqani, according to the reporter.

Scores of terrorists were killed in the clashes including one of their prominent leaders nicknamed “Abu Osama” of Tunisian nationality.

The Syrian Air Force backed the infantry troops through carrying out intensive airstrikes and destroying ISIL positions in the villages and towns of al-Jnainieh, al-Hussainyieh, Hatla, Muhassan, Sa’alou, al-Taiba, al-Boulail and al-Salhiyia.

The airstrikes expanded to target positions of ISIL terrorists in neighborhoods of Knamat, al-Hamidyieh, al-Ardi, Khasarat and al-Sheikh Yaseen as a number of terrorists were killed and many of their vehicles and fortifications were destroyed.

Source: SANA

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What Krypton fighter jets can do to protect Russia’s Arctic – By TASS

December 12, 2016, 13:49 UTC+3

Advanced multi-role Sukhoi-30SM fighters in the Russian Armed Forces

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Su-30SM fighter jet

Su-30SM fighter jet

© Marina Lystseva/TASS

 

The Russian Armed Forces keep getting more advanced multi-role jet fighters Sukhoi-30SM. Last spring a squadron of eight such planes was formed at Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. A jet fighter regiment stationed in the Rostov Region received two such planes. Just recently a batch of Sukhoi-30SMs was delivered to an assault air regiment of the Russian Navy in the Arctic. Naval aviation units in the Baltic are to get them next year. It is expected that under the effective defense contract Russia’s Aerospace Force will get more than 30 planes of this type by 2018.

Sukhoi-30SM planes have been widely engaged in the Syrian operation, in particular, to escort frontline and strategic bombers.

As the daily Izvestia says, the planes that have already become organic to the Northern Fleet’s aviation group will be armed with air-to-air rockets and supersonic anti-ship rockets Kh-31. The daily says the fighter planes’ task will be to protect the Barents Sea from warplanes, attack drones, cruise missiles and combat ships of a hypothetical enemy. Also, Sukhoi-30SMs will have the capability to attack radars, air defense systems and other facilities on the ground. For coping with such tasks the supersonic Kh-31 missiles may be employed.

 

 

KRYPTONS’ POTENTAIL CAPABILITIES

A dozen upgraded and newly-developed types of cruise missiles were provided for the ground forces and the Navy in 2015. A family of anti-ship and anti-radar missiles Kh-31A (also known as Kh-31M, NATO’s reporting name AS-17 Krypton) proved one of the latest products available from the OJSC Tactical Missiles Corporation (KTRV).

Research and development began back in 1975. The Krypton became the world’s first batch-produced missile with a mixed type engine that keeps the missile in low altitude flight (just 3-5 meters above the surface) at a Mach 2 speed. High maneuverability is the missiles’ another key feature. A combination of these two factors make the missiles highly invulnerable while piercing the air defenses of individual facilities and let them effectively hit the selected targets amid the enemy’s electronic countermeasures.

In the late 1990s the United States’ Boeing corporation had plans for acquiring up to 100 hypersonic anti-ship Kh-31A cruise missiles with the aim to convert them into air targets to be used in testing surface-ships’ air defense capabilities.

Many have tried to replicate our Kh-31 missile over the past decades. To little avail, though. China has failed to produce its counterpart to this day. So has the United States, although the Americans have been trying to purchase targets from us in attempts to create a working model of Kh-31 Boris Obnosov KTRV CEO

Currently there are four alterations of high-sped air-launched guided missiles of the Kh-31 type:

  • Anti-radar Kh-31P and Kh-31PD
  • Anti-ship Kh-31A and Kh-31AD

Certain configurations of the missile are available to foreign customers.

Kh-31PD was designed to hit air defense systems’ radars. Its range has been increased to 250 kilometers and the mass of the warhead, to 110 kilograms.

The anti-ship Kh-31AD, as its designers say, by far outperforms its predecessors in terms of combat effectiveness and is in no way inferior to the latest foreign counterparts. Its task is to destroy surface and amphibious surface ships and transport ships operating as part of task forces or sailing on their own. In contrast to its prototype (Kh-31A) the yield of the warhead is 15% higher and the range (120-160), twice greater.

The Kh-31AD missiles arm the Sukhoi-30/35 and MiG-29K/35 families of fighter planes. According to 2015 reports, the anti-ship missiles Kh-31/35 may be stalled on Ka-52K helicopter gunships possessing a new onboard radar.

 

SUKHOI-30 CAPABILITIES

Multirole fighter Sukhoi-30SM is an offspring of the Sukhoi-30 family. The latest alteration boasts the same capabilities as the export-oriented Sukhoi-30 MKI. Its onboard electronic equipment was adjusted to meet domestic requirements. The plane’s weaponry was changed and a new ejection seat installed.

Su-30SM

The Sukhoi-30SM (batch-produced, upgraded) is meant for gaining air supremacy and attacking surface targets on land and in the sea. Horizontal stabilizers in the front part of the fuselage and thrust vectoring engines lend the plane super-maneuverability.

The plane is equipped with a multi-functional control radar Bars, a system of refueling in flight, new navigation systems, wider range of group operations control equipment and an improved life support system.

The Sukhoi-30SM has impressive flight range and duration parameters, such as a combat range of 1,500 kilometers. It can also be used for training pilots for single-seat fighter jets of the future.

Twelve suspension devices enable the plane to carry medium-range air-to-air missiles of the R-27 family (up to eight), R-77 (ten) and short-range R-73 missiles (up to six).

Armed with anti-radar and anti-ship missiles Kh-31P and Kh-31A (up to six) the Sukhoi-30SM can be used in operations to suppress enemy air defense and destroy surface ships. Also, the Sukhoi-30SM is capable of delivering pin-point strikes with:

  • Kh-59 family missiles (up to five);
  • Guided air bombs KAB-250 (up to six), KAB-500 (up to six) and KAB 1500 (up to three);
  • Kh-29T missiles with a TV-guided warhead (up to six);
  • Unguided air bombs (100 kg, 250 kg and 500 kg).
  • Sets of unguided missiles S-8 (set B-8M) and S-13 (B-13P), and S-24 and S-25 missiles.

 

SUKHOI-30SM IN ACTION

Sukhoi planes have displayed the best of their qualities during Russia’s aerospace operation in Syria. The first reports saying these planes flew  combat sorties with an air group of other planes on October 12, 2015. The fighters provided cover for all sorties by Russia’s attack aircraft in Syria.

Sukhoi-30SM planes were repeatedly seen in Syrian airspace by pilots of US Air Force planes and by US attack drones. In November 2015 multirole planes of this type escorted Russia’s strategic bombers Tupolev-160 over the Mediterranean and Syria.

In September 2016 naval aviation pilots flying four Sukhoi-30SM planes participated in the large-scale exercise Kavkaz to have destroyed a combat ship of a hypothetical enemy by dropping four 250-kg bombs. Also, the pilots imitated a dogfight – an aerial battle at close range. The pilots performed a variety of aerobatics maneuvers at low and very low altitudes in attempts to take the most advantageous position for attack.

The Russian aerobatics group Russian Knights received a batch of these extra maneuverable planes in the autumn of 2016. For the past 25 years the group’s pilots used Sukhoi-27 jets.

The first contracts for providing Sukhoi-30SM planes for the Russian Armed Forces were concluded with the Irkut Corporation in 2012. Successes in Syria will surely encourage the Aerospace Force to order more such planes. A certain number of planes will be purchased for the Navy’s aviation component.

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Russia’s operation in Syria two years on – victory over terrorism is near – By TASS

September 30, 7:52 UTC+3

Russia’s efforts played a tangible role in achieving a situation where fragmented and conflicting groups of the armed opposition presented a common front in the struggle against terrorists

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MOSCOW, September 30. /TASS/. Two years ago today Russia declared it was beginning an anti-terrorist operation in Syria and its aerospace group dealt the first strikes against facilities and forces of the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State (outlawed in Russia). Two years on the operation is entering the final phase. That victory over the terrorist forces is near is well-seen in the latest statistics available: Syria’s government army enjoying Russian air support has regained control of 85% of the country’s territory.

Russia’s efforts played a tangible role in achieving a situation where fragmented and conflicting groups of the armed opposition presented a common front in the struggle against terrorists. Over the past year Aleppo has been cleared of terrorists and control regained of Palmyra. Akerbat – the militants’ major command center – has been stormed, which allowed for launching an offensive towards Deir ez-Zor. By now the three-year-long siege of that city has been terminated and the Syrian military are conducting security sweeps in its residential areas and suburbs.

Official forecasts regarding the chances of a successful completion of the anti-terrorist operation sound ever more optimistic.

Aleppo and Palmyra

Aleppo, a large city near Syria’s western border with Turkey, came under militants’ attacks in 2012 and about half of it fell under their control by the end of the same year. Prolonged fighting continued for many months. No fundamental changes in the situation occurred until the autumn of 2015, when Russia’s aerospace group delivered the first strikes against terrorist targets in Aleppo province, thus enabling the government army to launch a counter-offensive and retake the Kweires military air base in November.

In the summer of 2016 the Syrian army started a large-scale operation with the aim of recapturing the city. In October Russia initiated creation of humanitarian corridors to let civilians leave the city, but militants repeatedly opened fire on those trying to escape. In a situation like this the personnel of Russia’s Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Parties repeatedly helped groups of civilians out of Aleppo during nighttime amid continuing hostilities. In November the Syrian army launched a massive operation to storm the city. On December 16 Russia’s General Staff said Aleppo had been cleared of terrorists.

The regaining of Aleppo bolstered the chances for a peace settlement of the conflict in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the operation as the largest-ever humanitarian effort in the modern world.

Once that operation was over, Putin said that Russia was downscaling its presence in Syria. On January 6, 2017 Russia’s aircraft carrier The Admiral Kuznetsov, on a mission off Syria since October 2016, and the escort ships left back for Severomorsk. During its mission near Syria its deck fighter jets MiG-29K/KUB and Sukhoi-33 flew more than 400 sorties to have wiped out about 1,300 targets.

However, while the main government forces were focused on Aleppo, the Syrian military failed to beat back the militants’ counter-offensive and retain Palmyra they had earlier taken in the March of 2016. The “gem of the Syrian desert” had to be fought for again. The second battle of Palmyra began on March 1, 2017. The next day the Syrian army and militias of the Shi’ite party Hezbollah entered the city. On the same day Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported to President Putin the operation to retake Palmyra had been completed, adding that Deiz ez-Zor, then still besieged by the terrorists, would become the key point on the map of Syria crucial for an eventual victory over the Islamic State.

Deir ez-Zor

Before the start of the Deir ez-Zor operation the Syrian army was to establish control of Akerbat – a major transport hub and command center of the terrorists in the east of Hama Province. The militants had turned it into a major stronghold, with a sophisticated network of underground tunnels each ranging 100 meters to 800 meters in length. What made Akerbat particularly difficult to retake was that it had been well-prepared for all-round defense and had a multi-tier system of fortifications, bunkers and shelters. Also, in the fight for this citadel the militants used an unprecedented number of suicide bombers. Fifteen to twenty five militants wearing suicide belts and four or five vehicles loaded with explosives were destroyed each day. All approaches to the city were mined.

During the offensive operation Russia’s aerospace group dealt more than 300 strikes against the militants. With the loss of the city the terrorists were no longer able to regroup forces, receive ammunition and supplies, while the Syrian government army gained access to Deir ez-Zor, which was surrounded by the terrorists three years ago.

The city’s garrison had to repel no end of systematic attacks by outnumbering enemy forces. As soon as Russia responded to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s request to join the anti-terrorist operation military transport planes began an airdrop campaign to deliver humanitarian supplies to the city. Some aid Russia airlifted to Deir ez-Zor had been provided by the United Nations.

On September 5 Syrian forces under General Suheil Hassan broke the Islamic State’s siege of the city. Russia supported the Syrian forces on the ground by air strikes and Kalibr cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea’s frigate The Admiral Essen.

Three days later Russian aircraft operating near Deir ez-Zor wiped out a command post, a communication center and four warlords, including the Islamic State’s “war minister” Gulmurod Khalimov. On September 14 another strike with Kalibr cruise missiles followed, this time from the submarines The Veliki Novgorod and The Kolpino. On September 26 strategic bombers Tupolev-95MS contributed their share to the operation to launch X-101 cruise missiles, which eliminated terrorists’ command centers, a considerable amount of manpower and materiel and ammunition warehouses. By now the militants have been rolled back 5-7 kilometers away from Deir ez-Zor’s city limits beyond the Euphrates river. For now they keep the city’s residential areas under mortar fire.

In one such attacks on September 23 the chief of a group of Russian military advisers, Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, was killed. He was the first Russian high-ranking officer to have lost his life in the conflict in Syria. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, he was the 38th Russian military serviceman to have been killed in Syria during the 24-month-long operation.

“Allies”

Not the slightest warming of relations between Russia and the US-led coalition has occurred over the past two years. Military officials do keep in touch for preventing air incidents in the sky over Syria, but against the backdrop of mutual calls for pooling efforts in the struggle against terrorism suspicions can be heard at various international platforms ever more frequently that the United States’ real aims in Syria are quite different.

Russian and Syrian officials have said more than once that victory over terrorists in Deir ez-Zor could have been attained at a far smaller cost but for the coalition’s intervention. Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Jaafari says the United States, its allies and the armed opposition groups they support have suspended the operation to retake Raqqa from terrorists and moved their forces to the area of Deir ez-Zor to prevent the Syrian army from establishing full control of the city. He also claimed that a year ago US planes provided fire support for Islamic State militants to have hit a strategic height controlled by the Syrian army near that city. All this prolonged the siege the defenders of Deir ez-Zor had to endure.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is of the same opinion. He believes that the United States’ priorities in Syria have changed and now it is far more important for Washington to prevent the Syrian government from putting the border with Iraq under control than defeating the Islamic State.

Russian military specialists, too, see signs pointing in the same direction. In June 2017 the chief of the Main Operations Department of Russia’s General Staff, Sergey Rudskoy, said Islamic State armed groups near Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor were able to beef up military muscle largely because the international coalition posed obstructions to their defeat by government troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry said US secret services on September 19 initiated a major offensive by Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) against Syrian troops in the de-escalation zone Idlib with the aim to disrupt the government troops’ successful advance near Deir ez-Zor. A Russian military police platoon (29 men) was surrounded. A special commando group enjoying air support upset the encirclement and the military police personnel taken to safety. Three Russian military police were wounded in the operation. Russia has not received any plausible explanations from the United States yet regarding the situation following clashes near Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has recognized that Deir ez-Zor and the area round it have turned into a scene of confrontation between government forces and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, enjoying the support of the US-led coalition.

Political settlement

The liberation of Aleppo, one of Syria’s strategically important cities, paved the way for truce talks. As a result the Syrian government and fragmented groups of the so-called armed opposition signed agreements on ceasefire and preparations for peace talks. The truce took effect at midnight on December 30, 2016.

On February 22, 2017 Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart at that time, Barack Obama, adopted a statement on ceasefire in Syria starting from February 27. Both parties pledged to influence political forces within their respective realms of influence in order to achieve the cessation of hostilities. An overwhelming majority of armed groups fighting under the aegis of the Free Syrian Army declared their consent to truce starting from February 27. One hour before the deadline the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution in support of an end to combat operations in Syria.

A new format of talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, proposed by the Russian president, allowed for achieving far greater results in just six months than the previous years-long attempts to come to terms. The guarantor countries – Russia, Turkey and Iran – managed to bring to the capital of Kazakhstan many leaders of Syria’s armed opposition. One of the most important results of the Astana talks was the separation of the armed opposition from the terrorists, something Russia had asked the United States to do for the previous two years. Instead of fighting each other, in fact, waging a civil war, Syria’s opposition groups began to unite in combat operations against terrorists and joining government forces in their operations.

The Astana process brought into being a draft of Syria’s new constitution, national committees for reconciliation across the country and four de-escalation zones – in Idlib Province, north of Homs, in Eastern Goutha near Damascus, and in southwestern Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the creation of de-escalation zones helped prevent violence and ensure the observance of ceasefire. He said it was a great breakthrough Damascus officials and representatives of Syrian armed opposition groups confronting the government army had gathered at the negotiating table in Astana for an eye-to-eye discussion.

Great attention is paid to the national reconciliation committees, responsible for addressing reconciliation issues locally, thus enabling the conflicting parties to have a direct dialogue. The committees incorporate provincial self-government authorities, armed opposition representatives and officials from the Russian center for reconciliation. The national reconciliation committees have already held the first joint video conference on the results achieved. The conference linked Daraa, Damascus, Homs and Latakia. The commander of Russia’s military group in Syria, Colonel-General Sergey Surovikin promised all participants that the Russian side would be considering within the tightest deadlines all measures the national reconciliation committees would propose for maintaining peaceful life in the de-escalation zones.

By now, according to the Center for the Reconciliation of Warring Factions in Syria, 2,200 localities have joined the ceasefire agreement and more than 230 armed groups vowed allegiance to the terms of the cessation of hostilities.

Postwar reconstruction

According to Syrian officials, postwar reconstruction in the liberated territories is getting underway.

Russian and Syrian bomb disposal specialists are the first to enter the regained villages and cities. The Russian Armed Forces’ Anti-Mine Center opened its branch in Syria this year to run crash courses for Syrian personnel. The chief of the anti-mine-center’s branch, Anatoly Morozov, has said 600 sappers have been trained by now. Their skills and competence are good enough to handle the most tricky tasks. Currently mine-clearing work is in progress in Akerbat and Deir ez-Zor. Russian specialists say it will take five to ten years to clear Syria’s territory of explosive items.

Urban infrastructures, water and power supply in the first place, are being restored step by step. Social institutions, such as schools and hospitals, are on the list of the Syrian authorities’ high priorities. Deir ez-Zor is on the path back to normal life. Problems with water and power supply do exist, but steady work is in progress to restore infrastructures. Food and medical supplies keep pouring in.

Efforts are being exerted to restore monuments of culture to the original condition. As soon as Palmyra was liberated in 2016 Russian specialists joined repair and restoration activities on the premises of the archeological preserve. Researchers then arrived at the conclusion that the ruined cultural architectural monuments, such as the Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph can be restored, but the militants blew up what was still left of the arch when they briefly seized the city for a second time. In order to estimate accurately the scale of losses pillaging caused to Palmyra specialists are to examine the monument in greater detail. The Material Culture History Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences is creating a geo-information system Palmyra, which may help restore the ancient city to its prewar look and at the same time serve as evidence of terrorists’ crimes.

Cultural monuments in other cities are being reconstructed, too. The crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers in Homs province is an example of how repair work is proceeding. The Umayyad Mosque, one of the oldest in Damascus, and the Christian town of Maaloula, devastated by the militants, are being restored, too.

Outlook

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in course of the general political debate at the UN General Assembly session that the successes of the Syrian army and its allies in Aleppo, Palmyra, Deir ez-Zor and other parts of the country were a clear sign the ultimate victory over the terrorists would be achieved soon.

Moscow, too, hopes that the struggle against terrorists will be over within months.

Rudskoy said the termination of Deir ez-Zor’s siege completed the defeat of one of the strongest Islamic State groups in Syria. It was to that area that militants from Mosul and a large-share of the most combat-ready groups of terrorists from Raqqa had migrated.

The chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachyov, believes that Russia’s air strike in Der ez-Zor heralded a dramatic psychological and military turn in the situation in Syria and is a solid reason to say that the civil war in that country is coming to an end. That city was one of the last strongholds of radical Islamism in Syria and a source of lasting military threat. Now, Kosachyov said, there are only two pockets of resistance left – Raqqa and part of Idlib – but they are unable to have a decisive influence on the general trend of events in the country.

About the chances of reconciliation the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Syria should not be allowed to be dismembered by any means. Otherwise a chain reaction would follow in the whole of the Middle East. Diplomatic efforts are now focused on the process of a peace settlement.

Both Russian and Syrian military commanders stress the intention to push ahead with the operation until the elimination of the last terrorist.

More:
http://tass.com/defense/968260

The might of Russia’s advanced nuclear submarine – By TASS ( Military & Defense)

March 31, 17:08 UTC+3

Russia’s armament program through 2020 envisages the construction of six new Yasen-class submarines, armed with eight vertical silos for cruise missiles and ten torpedo tubes

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Project 885 Yasen-class fourth-generation nuclear submarine

Project 885 Yasen-class fourth-generation nuclear submarine

© Lev Fedoseyev/TASS

TASS-FACTBOX. March 31, 2017. The Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk in northern Russia has floated out the second Project 885 Yasen-class nuclear submarine Kazan.

The Project 885 (08850) Yasen-class fourth-generation multipurpose nuclear submarine was developed in the 1990s by the St. Petersburg-based Malakhit Design Bureau of Maritime Machine-Building under the direction of Chief Designer Vladimir Popov. The submarine is based on the Projects 705(K) Lira and 971 Shchuka-B. Sevmash, which is located in Severodvinsk in the Arkhangelsk Region and is part of the United Ship-Building Corporation, is the shipyard engaged in the construction of Yasen-class submarines.

The Project 885 Yasen-class submarine is designed to destroy an enemy’s submarines and surface ships, naval bases, ports, naval task forces and other targets. The Yasen-class submarine’s one-and-a-half hull design (the outer hull giving the submarine its streamlined shape is present only in its forepart).

Submarine’s performance characteristics

According to public sources, the Project 885 submarine is about 139 meters long and about 13 meters wide and has a draft of 10 meters. The submarine displaces 8,600 tonnes in its surface position and up to 13,800 tonnes in its underwater position. It can submerge to a maximum depth of 600 meters and develops a speed of 16 knots in its surface position and up to 31 knots in its underwater position. The submarine has a sea endurance of 100 days and a crew of 85-90 men. It is equipped with a single-shaft steam turbine nuclear power unit with a capacity of about 43,000 hp. The submarine’s OK-650V water-cooled and water-moderated reactor has a thermal capacity of 190 MW (modernized Project 885M submarines will be outfitted with a power unit of over 200 MW).

The Project 885 submarine is armed with eight vertical silos for Oniks and Kalibr cruise missiles, ten 533mm torpedo tubes with an ammunition load of 30 torpedoes each. Submarines of this type can be eventually armed with new Kh-101 (Kh-102) cruise missiles and universal deep-water homing torpedoes.

Submarine series

The Project 885 lead submarine K-560 Severodvinsk (Factory No. 160) was laid down at the Sevmash Shipyard on December 21, 1993, floated out on June 15, 2010, delivered to the Russian Navy for operational evaluation on December 30, 2013 and made operational in the Northern Fleet on June 17, 2014.

The other submarines of this series are being built under the modernized Project 885M (08851) Yasen-M. They are characterized by the optimized hull shape and upgraded electronic warfare and automation systems.

A contract for the construction of a submarine with Factory No. 161 was signed between Russia’s Defense Ministry and the Sevmash Shipyard on December 6, 2005. The construction of five submarines of this series with Factory Nos. 162-166 is stipulated by a contract of November 9, 2011 concluded with the United Ship-Building Corporation.

  • The second submarine, the K-561 Kazan (Factory No. 161), was laid down on July 24, 2009, floated out on March 31, 2017 and is expected to be delivered to the Russian Navy in 2018.
  • The third submarine, the K-573 Novosibirsk (Factory No. 162), was laid down on July 26, 2013 and is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in December 2019.
  • The fourth submarine, the K-571 Krasnoyarsk (Factory No. 163), was laid down on July 27, 2014 and is expected to be delivered to the Navy in December 2020.
  • The fifth submarine, the K-564 Arkhangelsk (Factory No. 164), was laid down on March 19, 2015 and is expected to be delivered to the Navy in December 2021.
  • The sixth submarine Perm (Factory No. 165) was laid down on July 29, 2016 and is expected to be delivered to the Navy in December 2022.

The state armament program through 2020 envisages the construction of six Yasen-class submarines. Another underwater cruiser, the Ulyanovsk (Factory No. 166), is expected to be laid down in July 2017 and delivered to the Navy in 2023.

More:
http://tass.com/defense/938673

America’s Dishonest Media War Against Russia Could Lead to Catastrophe – By Paul Craig Roberts

“I have written many times that provoking nuclear powers such as Russia and China is the most extreme form of recklessness and irresponsibility. The crazed morons in Washington are risking the life of the planet”

9 hours ago
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Our government is run by psychopaths

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept exposes the fake news put out by the US Department of Homeland Security (an euphemistic name for a Big Brother operation that spies on US citizens) that Russia hacked 21 US state elections, news that was instantly spread around the world by the presstitute media.

The propagandists running Homeland Security were contradicted by the state governments, forcing Homeland Security to retract its fake news claims.

The unasked/unanswered question is why did Homeland Security put out a FAKE NEWS story?

Greenwald explains that the US media is so conditioned by the National Security State to see Russian President Putin lurking behind and masterminding attacks on America that it is “now religious dogma”—a requirement—to find Russian perfidy everywhere. The result Greenwald correctly says is that “an incredibly reckless, anything-goes climate prevails when it comes to claims about Russia. Media outlets will publish literally any official assertion as Truth without the slightest regard for evidentiary standards.”

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In other words, the United States no longer has a media. It has a propaganda ministry for the military/security complex, the neoconservatives, and the Israel Lobby. And the idiot Americans sit in front of the TV and absorb the propaganda, and they read the New York Times and think that they are sophisticated and in the know.What Greenwald doesn’t address is the effect of the massive amount of fake news on Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Russia knows that Washington knows that the accusations against Russia are false. So why is Washington making false accusations against Russia?

This is a serious question, not only for Russia but for the entire world. All previous false accusations from the Clinton regime criminals, the Bush/Cheney regime criminals, and the Obama regime criminals ended in miiltary attacks on the falsely demonized targets. Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea would be within reason to wonder if the false news propaganda attack on them is a prelude to military attack.

Iran and North Korea cannot attack the US and its European vassals, but Russia and China can. I have written about the Operational Command of the Russian armed forces conclusion that Washington is preparing a surprise nuclear attack on Russia. Instead of reassuring the Russians that no such planning is in the works, Washington has instead pushed further the fake news Russiagate story with the false report that Russia had hacked the elections of 21 states.

What is the point of US security agencies such as Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, NSA constantly filling the propaganda machine known as the American Media with lies about Russia?

Russia must wonder as well. Russia knows that they are lies. Russia knows that it does no good to refute the lies because the West has a Propanganda Ministry instead of a media. Russia knows that Washington told lies about the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad, Iran. What does Russia conclude from the constant stream of lies about Russia that flow out of Washington and are
presented as truth by the Western presstitutes?

If you were the Russian government, would you conclude that your country was the next to be attacked militarily by Washington?

If you were the Russian government, you would know that Washington/NATO cannot possibly attack Russia except by surprise nuclear strike.

Knowing this, if you were the Russian government, would you sit there and wait on the strike? Imagine yourself the Russian government listening day in, day out, to endless wild improbable charges against Russia.

What can Russia possibly conclude other than this is preparation of Western peoples for a nuclear attack on Russia?

Russia is not going to be hung like Saddan Hussein or murdered like Gaddafi.I have written many times that provoking nuclear powers such as Russia and China is the most extreme form of recklessness and irresponsibility.

The crazed morons in Washington are risking the life of the planet.

The presstitutes are worse than the whores that they are. They never question the path to war; they only amplify it. Washington’s craven, cowardly, moranic vassel states in UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, and the rest of the EU/NATO idiots are, by their cooperation with Washington, begging for their own destruction.

Nowhere in the West is there a sign of intelligence.

Will Washington follow Adolf Hitler’s folly and march into Russia?Source: The Unz Review

The insidious ISIS-US relationship: The West’s tool for terrorizing and destroying countries – By Mark Taliano – Global Research

ISIS/Daesh have always been place-setters[1] for the U.S Empire and its Coalition of regime-change criminal cohorts.

Once Daesh is installed in an area, the area is destroyed and depopulated. Syrians flee from terrorist-held areas, to government -secured areas.

Now that the Syrian government and its allies are winning the just war against Western backed, sustained, and integrated terrorists, the West’s strategic use of its terror proxies is becoming more apparent.

Video satellite imagery reveals, for example, Western military installations ensconced in Daesh territory. This is normal, because the West and Daesh are comrades-in-arms.

The fact that the “Kurdish” SDF are transparently aligned with ISIS in Deir ez Zor should be of no surprise either, since the SDF are also aligned with the West and its allies, including of course Israel.

Sometimes the terrorists fight each other, but those who pay the salaries and enable the chaos and destruction of Syria are the overlords.

The dirty war exists because of the West and its allies and their regime-change partners. There is nothing humanitarian about it, and it is not a counter-terrorism operation. It is a pro-terrorism regime change/dirty war.

Syrian refugees, including Christians and minority groups, are flooding back into Syria precisely because the Syrian government is winning. The Syrian government is secular and tolerant. Christians, as an example are not flooding back to Iraq, because the imperial West destroyed that country and the Constitution is no longer secular.

Veteran Middle East War Correspondent Felicity Arbuthnot remarks:

Iraq was super secular until the invasion of 2003. US did divide and rule like never before. Under Saddam every year all religious buildings, e.g., Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Yazidi etc. were granted equally funds from government to do needed repairs. One never heard of the sectarian terms anywhere – until the US invasion…[2]

Similarly, Yousef Issa writes that

The United States contributed to the formation of a new Iraq, doctrinal, sectarian, regional and regional, the foundations of the failed state, Christians were forced to flee and migrate to a more stable and secure world. In Syria, Christians living in areas controlled by the national government did not leave their homes, Along with the rest of the citizens, and in the areas returned by the Syrian Arab Army, the population returned to them, including Christians, despite migrating to more advanced places such as Europe, America claims to help the people, and in fact it seeks to destroy every country that wants to be free from the dominance of puppet system …[3]

Western populations should shed their illusions. Our governments are committing war crimes and imposing an overseas holocaust on non-belligerent countries. The West and its allies are terrorizing and destroying countries and they are falsely projecting their own high crimes onto their victims.

Notes

1. Mark Taliano, “The Islamic State as ‘Place-Setter’ for the American Empire. ISIS is the Product of the US Military-Intelligence Complex.” Global Research, 30 August, 2017. Accessed 28 September, 2017.

2. Felicity Arbuthnot, Facebook commentary, 27 September, 2017.

3. Yousef Issa, Facebook comment, 27 September, 2017.

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