SAUDI SNAFU IN LEBANON; MORE RODENTS LEAVE TOWNS FOR LALA LAND – By ZIAD FADEL

DAMASCUS-BAYT SAHM:

“RIDE GREYHOUND AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US”.  That’s right folks.  Buses clad in a variety of colors, 40 to be exact, have left Bayt Sahm in the East Ghouta to take remnant rodents to either Jaraablus on the Turk border or to Idlib where they can disport with fellow vermin of every ethnicity and culture.  Like backpacking college students of the 70’s, they can now engage in cultural exchanges with Chechens, Uighers, Uzbekis, Albanians, Eskimos and Trobriand warriors.  With their caterwauling brats screeching their lungs out like the nocturnal cats of Beirut, they shall wend their way into a new world of malignancy – where homosexuals are routinely put to death because of they way they were born; where non-rodents can be swindled and shook down for the dishonest tax that’s meant to protect them; where women are handed from one rat to another in a solemn ritual of brotherliness and sexual socialism.  It’s all coming to Idlib and Jaraablus.  And so is the Syrian Army.

____________________________________________

HOMS: 

Al-Rastan:  The birthplace of legendary Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Mustafaa Talaas, has become the new focal point of humiliation for Ahraar Al-Shaam, inter alia, with the turnover of all heavy weapons and the departure of their thieves on government- supplied buses.  Included in the handover were 6 T-62 tanks, 3 BMB armored vehicles, 2 Shilkas, a huge number of mortars and cannons.  Al-Rastan, which is, frankly, like Jisr Al-Shughoor, a hotbed of ignorance and minoritarian bigotry, is going back to being what it has always been historically:  the city you least like to visit in Syria.  Why Al-Rastan is as welcoming as Gary, Indiana, Newark, New Jersey, Flint, Michigan or even Tizi-ouzo, Algeria.  An invitation to Al-Rastan should be treated with the same zeal as one to spend an afternoon under the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the rats fighting for first dibs on your buttocks.

__________________________________________

LEBANON:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearing his iconic Italian restaurant tablecloth, MBS beams for the camera while singing:  “I’m the one who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.”………He’s not smiling today.

You all read my last exclusive post which revealed 2 “top secret” memos indicating a strong Saudi preference for Sa’ad Al-Hareeri, the stillborn, oaf son of the late gazillionaire and atomized prime minister of Lebanon whose assassination sparked a fitful withdrawal of Syrian Deterrent Forces from the country.  The memos made very clear the generous support Saudi Arabia was going to unload on Hareeri to strengthen his hand in the Lebanese Parliament.  And just as you might think, whenever the Saudis apply their Lilliputian brains to anything, it was going to be a devastating fiasco!

Yeah, sure.  I know.  Geagea did okay,  In fact, better than ever with his rabid Lebanese Forces candidates.  It’s true.  But, it just ain’t enough to get him over any hump in Leb politics.  I’m afraid that Geagea will always be the proverbial “also-ran”.

Hizbollah’s victory is all the more sweet because the Saudis are gnashing their teeth over how they managed to lose their grip on Lebanon.  Financially, they were top dog.  Now, with MBS’s realignment with the Zionist Settler State, Lebanon correctly saw the twilight of Saudi involvement coming, strengthened all the more by MBS’s curious vilification of Palestinians for not returning to the nauseating, episodic dead-end of peace negotiations under the aegis of the perversely pro-Zionist United States.  What other nincompoop but Trump would send 3 rapacious, Ashkenazi Zionist zealots to strike a deal with the Palestinians over land the negotiators believe was given to Jews by some imaginary deity?

Hizbollah and its allies now have a full majority in the Parliament.  With 128 seats available, HZB and its allies control 67, giving them a “veto” vote over any legislation deemed unacceptable.  Even, dedicated, pro-Assad politicians like Jameel Al-Sayyid won a seat.  Al-Sayyid won his seat despite a 4-year stint in prison on orders from German democracy-loving judge, Detlev Mehlis, who didn’t mind having 4 Lebanese generals wallow for 48 months without charges.  They were released eventually and never indicted for anything.  German justice.

Syria, despite the tumult of a 7-year insurgency, still managed to win on this front, also, handing Saudi chimpanzees a stinging defeat at every level, on every front and in all political dimensions.  The biggest winner,is, of course, Iran.

 

 

 

 

 

Expelling Russian diplomats: tokenism in Europe; petulance in Washington – By Alexander Mercouris (THEDURAN)

US expulsion looks like a delayed reaction to Russia’s huge expulsion of US diplomats last July

Before discussing the decision of the Western powers to expel Russian diplomats, it is necessary re-emphasise the total lack of logic behind the decision.

Though the decision is being presented in the media as an expulsion of “Russian spies”, it is also being linked to the Skripal case.

The Skripal case however is still ongoing.  The British police investigation is still underway.  No suspect has been named and all the indications are that the British police still do not know how Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned or who poisoned them.

The OPCW has only recently become involved in the case, and only because the Russians insisted on it.

The OPCW has not yet identified the chemical which was used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal.  Supposedly identification by the OPCW of the chemical is weeks away.

Meanwhile people like Craig Murray and John Helmer have pointed out that evidence submitted by the British authorities to the High Court suggests that the identification by Porton Down scientists of the chemical used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal as a Novichok may not be as conclusive as the British authorities have been leading everybody to believe.

That is hardly surprising since it is difficult to see how the Porton Down scientists would only need days to identify a chemical agent as a Novichok when that will take the OPCW’s experts several weeks.

For the record, I personally think the chemical used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal probably was a Novichok.

However I cannot personally see how that is conclusive of anything given that there is now abundant evidence that Novichok agents have been produced in at least test quantities in any number of countries, including the US and Britain, and not just in Russia.

As many have pointed out, saying that because Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a Novichok means that Russia must have been involved in the attack on them is rather like saying that because Kim Jong-un’s brother Kim Jong-am was poisoned with VX – a chemical agent developed by Britain – that means that Britain must have been involved in the attack on him.

As for Russia’s motive in seeking to murder Sergey Skripal, no-one has come up with any motive that looks to me in the least convincing.  Some of the motives suggested – eg. that Russia wanted to send a signal to Britain by poisoning Skripal with a deadly chemical or that Skripal was poisoned in order to deter other defectors – look to me frankly speculative and rather like conspiracy theories.

Nothing perhaps illustrates the chaos and muddle of this affair then a story which was given widespread coverage in the British media over the weekend.

This claimed that Sergey Skripal had supposedly written a letter to President Putin asking for a pardon and permission to return to Russia.

The story disintegrated after the Kremlin denied ever receiving such a letter.

In reality the story was obvious nonsense.  Skripal had already been pardoned by President Medvedev before he came to Britain and since he was still a Russian citizen he was free to return to Russia whenever he wanted.

Not only is the Skripal case still ongoing, and the case against Russia far from made, but Britain, the EU and Western government even admit as much.

Though in her statement to the House of Commons of 14th March 2018 British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the British government deemed the Russian state ‘culpable’ for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, that claim since then has been retracted.

Western governments, including the US, the EU and the British government, now say no more than that Russia is “highly likely” to have carried out the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

As I have previously pointed out, that comes nowhere close to meeting the standard of proof used in Britain in criminal cases, which is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Yet notwithstanding all this, and notwithstanding that the investigation into the case is still going on, that the case against Russia is far from made out, and that the US, the EU and the British government admit as much, the US and a score of other Western countries have now joined Britain in expelling Russian diplomats.

The logic of this escapes me, unless it is intended – as I have said previously – to be a message to the British investigators and to the OPCW that any finding other than one which can be spun into saying that Russia is responsible for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal will not be tolerated.

What then of the expulsions themselves?

The expulsions of Russian diplomats which have take place in Europe and in a number of other non-European and non-EU Western countries like Australia, Canada and Norway, have about them a token quality.

None of the countries has expelled more than four diplomats, a level of expulsions which is not going to effect the operation of any Russian embassy in any serious way.

Not only were the expulsions in Europe of a token character, but it seems that no European country is capping the number of diplomats the Russians can post to their embassies.

That means that after a decent interval the Russians will be able to replace all the diplomats who have been expelled.  The small number of diplomats who have been expelled means that the Russians will have no difficulty doing this.

Even this level of token expulsions was too much for some countries.  Austria, Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovakia and Cyprus failed to announce expulsions, as have all the former Yugoslav republics apart from Croatia.

Some countries, notably Austria and Bulgaria, have made known their disagreement with the expulsions.

Turkey – still despite everything a member of the NATO alliance – has made its disagreement clear also.

Even within some of the countries which have expelled Russian diplomats, the decision to do so has been controversial.

In Italy Matteo Salvini – the man most likely to become Italy’s next Prime Minister following the recent election – has made clear his strong disagreement with the expulsions.  According to Reuters Salvini has tweeted the following

Boycotting Russia, renewing sanctions and expelling diplomats does not resolve problems, it aggravates them

The expulsions of Russian diplomats in Europe have not just been token affairs.

They have also highlighted the growing division within the EU about policy towards Russia.  In Italy as Salvini’s comments show they may have even hardened feeling against the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions policy.

It is doubtless alarm about this growing division within the EU over policy towards Russia which explains the recent call from Germany for the abolition of national vetoes in EU Council decisions on foreign policy.

Why then if the expulsions were of a token character did they happen at all?

For an answer to that one must look to the completely different reaction in the US.

Here the expulsions of Russian diplomats is far from token.  Not only have 60 diplomats been expelled – as many as all the other expulsions (including the British expulsion) put together – but in what may be an illegal move 12 Russian diplomats are being expelled from Russia’s UN mission even though these diplomats are accredited to the United Nations and not to the US.

Why this disproportionately large number of expulsions in the US, which is so much greater than that any of the expulsions carried out by the US’s allies?

There are various theories about this, including one which I consider farfetched, which is that the expulsions were supposedly forced on President Trump by his advisers as some sort of ‘punishment’ for his decision to ignore General McMaster’s advice not to telephone President Putin to congratulate him on his election victory.

In my opinion there is a far more likely explanation, which is that the expulsion is belated US reaction to Russia’s gigantic purge of US diplomats and staff from the US embassy and consulates in Russia last summer.

This purge attracted extraordinarily little attention, even though it was by far the biggest single expulsion of diplomats and embassy and consular staff to have happened in modern history.  Here is what I wrote about it at the time

The Russians order to the US to reduce the staff at their embassy and consulates in Russia by 755 persons is in fact unprecedented.  As the BBC rightly says, though a large part of the reduction will no doubt be accounted for by non-diplomatic staff, the Russian announcement still constitutes what is by far the single biggest expulsion of diplomats in modern history

The decision to expel staff was made on Friday, but Mr Putin has now confirmed the number who must go by 1 September.

It brings staff levels to 455, the same as Russia’s complement in Washington.

This is thought to be the largest expulsion of diplomats from any country in modern history, says the BBC’s Laura Bicker in Washington.

The number includes Russian employees of the US diplomatic missions across Russia, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Moscow adds.

Staff in the embassy in Moscow as well as the consulates in Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St Petersburg are affected, she says.

Moreover the Russian decision now establishes the principle that the number of personnel at US embassies and consulates in Russia will in future be held to the same level – currently 455 – as the number of personnel at Russian embassies and consulates in the US.

That means that any future expulsions of Russian diplomats in the US – or any US refusal of visas to Russian diplomats to fill vacant posts at the Russian embassies and consulates in the US, as has apparently been happening – will be matched exactly equal expulsions of US diplomats from Russia, and refusals of visas to US diplomats seeking to fill vacant posts in US embassies and consulates in Russia.

That this is a heavy blow to the US is highlighted by one interesting fact.  It turns out that the number of personnel working at US embassies and consulates in Russia was almost three times greater than the number of personnel working at Russian embassies and consulates in the US.

That begs the question of what all these extra US personnel were doing there?   Perhaps US embassies and consulates are less efficient than Russian ones.  However I suspect that the Russians believe that many if not most of these extra people were actually engaged in intelligence gathering and “democracy promotion” activities.

Many people have commented on the quiet atmosphere in which the recent Russian Presidential election was conducted.  Compared to the last Presidential election in 2012 there were no significant anti-Putin protests, no violent or embarrassing incidents, and Navalny’s call for a boycott was ignored.

No one so far as I know has made the connection between the quiet atmosphere of the election and the gigantic purge of US embassy and consular staff which took place in the summer of 2017.

Nor has anyone connected the quiet atmosphere of the election to the effect of Russia’s 2012 Foreign Agent law, which requires Russian NGOs which receive foreign funding and which engage in political activities to register as foreign agents.

Perhaps there is no connection between the quiet atmosphere of the election and those two things.

However if such a connection does exist – and I suspect it does – then it is not difficult to see why Washington’s powerful ‘democracy promotion’ lobby might have found President Putin’s triumphant re-election even more infuriating than it might otherwise have been.

If so then that might explain why the US appears to have seized on the Skripal affair to carry out such a disproportionately large number of expulsions.

In that case it is at least possible that the wave of expulsions in Europe and elsewhere were coordinated by the US in order to give cover to its expulsions.

What consequences will these expulsions have?

Firstly, it is a given that the Russians will retaliate with their own expulsions.  The days when the USSR failed to respond symmetrically to mass expulsions of Soviet diplomats from the West are long gone.

Other than that I doubt that there will be any significant consequences at all.

It is likely that some of the Russian diplomats who are being expelled have been engaging in intelligence work.  However I suspect that the days when Soviet intelligence operations were tied to Soviet embassies ended with the Cold War.

Some Russian embassies probably still have an SVR Resident, and some Russian military attachés probably still are GRU agents.

However today it is much easier for Russians to travel and communicate across borders than it was during the Cold War, and if only for that reason I doubt that most Russian agents are based at or communicate through Russian embassies, where they can be easily monitored by the West’s counter-intelligence agencies.

If so then the recent wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats is not going to disrupt the Russian intelligence effort significantly or even at all.

By contrast Western intelligence operations in Russia do seem still to be heavily linked to Western embassies and consulates, a fact which doubtless reflects the absence of Western visitors to Russia.

If so then reciprocal expulsions of diplomats will hurt the Western intelligence effort in Russia more than it will hurt the Russian intelligence effort in the West.

If the quiet atmosphere in which the Russian Presidential election took place is indeed, even if only in part, a product of the massive purge of US embassy and consular personnel which took place last summer, then this provides further confirmation of this.

Beyond this it is difficult to see what actually has changed.

Top level dialogue between Russia and the West continues.  Save possibly in Washington, Russian diplomats will be replaced.  US and Russian military officers continue to meet and talk to each other in Syria.  The German government apparently remains determined to press ahead with Nord Stream 2 (Theresa May admitted to the House of Commons that Nord Stream 2 was not even discussed at the EU Council meeting last week).  The only important Western government which refuses to communicate with Moscow at a top level is the British.

With so many EU countries unwilling even to expel Russian diplomats significant further EU sanctions against Russia look extremely unlikely, whilst the US has ruled out further significant sanctions of its own.

Possibly there will be more sanctions of individual Russian businessmen, companies and officials.  However an EU diplomat has apparently admitted that the EU has practically exhausted the list of such individuals to sanction.  Besides it’s difficult to see what those sanctions have achieved anyway.

Even in Britain – the supposed centre of this particular storm – the Conservative government remains unwilling to impose sanctions on individual Russian businessmen and companies, possibly because many of them give money to the Conservative Party.

As for talk of the world sliding into war I find that unwarranted and overdone.

The practice of treating diplomats as disposable pawns in a West versus Russia chess game began in the Cold War.  For any Russian diplomat posted to the West, and for any Western diplomat posted to Russia, being expelled is an occupational hazard.

The Russians scarcely ever initiate these expulsions, but for Western leaders expelling Russian diplomats is an easy way to play tough with Moscow and to strike a Churchillian pose without taking any real risks.

That the West is choosing to respond to the Skripal case by expelling Russian diplomats is not a reason to be alarmed or to worry about war.  On the contrary it is more reason not to take this ‘crisis’ entirely seriously.

The Duran

 

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A Log in Your Own Eye: Decades of US Meddling in Foreign Elections – By Sputnik

usabombingsinsyria
The obsessive condemnation of still unconfirmed Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election is a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do,” where the US politicians and media seem to have developed both long and short-term memory loss when it comes to American meddling in foreign elections.
Photo: US President Bill Clinton (R) laughing with Russian President Boris Yeltsin during a press conference after their meeting at Hyde Park 23 October 1995. AFP, Don Emmert
With Russia’s presidential election coming up on Sunday, March 18, all eyes are on Moscow where eight candidates will be on the ballot this year. In turn, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) is busy in its preparation to administer the vote, ensuring fair and free procedure, as well as prevention of illegal interference in the election process.

Concerns regarding foreign meddling in the nation’s pivotal vote shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering it was not that long ago when the US interfered in Russia’s internal matters, influencing the outcome of the 1996 presidential election.

Spinning Boris
The popularity rating of then incumbent president Boris Yeltsin plunged to 6% and his chances of winning were next to nothing. In what later was released as Hollywood’s depiction of events, characters of the Spinning Boris film described the president’s standing:

“Stalin is dead. Not as dead as Yeltsin.”

2003 American comedy starred Jeff Goldblum, Anthony LaPaglia and Liev Schreiber, who portrayed a team of US spin doctors sent to salvage Yeltsin’s image and secure him another four-year term in the office.

The whole ‘rescue effort’ was reportedly orchestrated by Felix Bryanin, a Russian-American businessman who did not relish the prospects of Yeltsin’s chief rivals – the Communist party – winning the election and steering the country back to socialism.

The US didn’t bother covering its tracks, as political consultants Joe Shumate, George Gorton, Richard Dresner and Steven Moore detailed their exploits in an exclusive interview to Time magazine. The article was published on July 15, 1996 under the headline “Yanks to the Rescue – the secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win.”

 
 
Photo: Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Sputnik, Alexander Makarov
According to the Guardian, in 2003 Yeltsin’s former head of staff Sergei Filatov denied the involvement of US spin doctors in the election, claiming that he “never saw them” but “as they had been paid we decided to let them sit quietly in the President Hotel and not interfere.”
‘In the Interests of Democracy’
To some the fact of US interference in foreign politics may come as an eye-opening revelation but definitely not to former CIA director James Woolsey, who just recently admitted that American meddles in other countries “only for a very good cause in the interests of democracy.”
 
 
The majority of the Russian public are not dumbfounded by the practise either, as new poll revealed that in 2016 almost eighty percent of Russians thought the United States meddled “a great deal” or “a fair amount” in Russian politics.
Photo: Viewers during a holiday concert devoted to Russia Day on Red Square. Sputnik, Ramil Sitdikov
The US attempts at steering the political processes abroad were neither limited to Russia alone nor did they begin in the 1990s. Moreover, it won’t come as a surprise if the US “policy of interference” continues in the future, considering the rich history of such activity by Washington in the past.

The “impressive” record of forcing their political agenda on foreign governments by the US reveals a list of numerous cases, which include but are not limited to the following.

ITALY
In their effort to support non-Communist forces in post-war Italy, the US administration under Harry Truman flexed its political and financial muscle to influence the outcome of Italian elections in 1948.

The US threw their weight behind the Christian Democracy party, who defeated the left-wing coalition of the Popular Democratic Front, through generous monetary support, which former CIA officer F. Mark Wyatt simply described as “bags of money that we delivered to selected politicians.”

 
 
Photo: Italy’s Premier Alcide de Gasperi, at microphone, addresses a huge crowd from the balcony of the Christian Democrat Party Headquarters in Rome, Italy, on April 21, 1948. AP
“And, we did many things to assist those selected Christian Democrats, Republicans and… and the other parties… that could keep the secret of where their funds came from,” Wyatt said in a 1996 interview.
 
Guatemala
“Stay out of this hemisphere and don’t try to start your plans and your conspiracies over here,” Henry Cabot Lodge, US ambassador to the UN, warned his Soviet counterpart during a UN emergency session on June 18, 1954.
But US activity didn’t stop at finger-wagging and in 1954 the democratically elected leader of Guatemala Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was overthrown by the CIA-backed coup and forced into exile. The Eisenhower administration portrayed the coup as a revolt meant to clear the region of a perceived Communist threat – something that was facilitated by the US corporation the United Fruit Company (UFC).
“Once he took power, he was implanting this policy. The UFC didn’t like that very much and they hired a PR firm to convince the US that Arbenz was a Soviet puppet… Out of this PR campaign came a commitment by the CIA and the military to take this man out and in fact we did,” the author of the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins explained.
Lebanon
The fire of impending unrest in 1958 Lebanon, fuelled by confrontation between Maronite Christians and Muslims, was put out by Washington’s ‘helping hand’, which backed the pro-western Christian President Camille Chamoun against perceived threats posed by Syria and Egypt.
 
 
Photo: Former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun conducts business over the telephone at his National Liberty Party headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, July 9, 1963. Chamoun stated: “If Lebanon’s independence were threatened as in 1958, I would certainly appeal to any Nation”. AP
Around the same time the CIA used the US government money and donations by American oil companies to help Christian politicians in Lebanon win the elections.
Japan
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s the US secretly supported the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), providing covert financial support to its candidates without hesitation. The LDP have been in power in Japan since 1995 till modern days with minor gaps in between.
 
 
Photo: Socialist party members rough up a plain-clothes policeman during a scuffle between left wingers and riot police near the parliament building in Tokyo, Nov. 6, 1965. The demonstrators, supporting the Socialist and Communist parties, opposed the normalization pact which they contended is aimed at a Japan-South Korea-U.S. military alliance, after ruling Liberal-Democratic party rammed the ratification bill for the treaty through the special ad hoc committee of parliament’s Lower House. AP Photo, Nobuyuki Masaki
In 1950s their main opposition were the left-wingers – the Japan Socialist Party and the Japanese Communist Party. Interested in preserving LDP’s authority, the CIA provided financial backing to the party to ensure its dominance over its Communist counterparts.
Serbia
In 1999, the US and their NATO allies have intensified their efforts in ‘fighting for democracy’ – this time in then Yugoslavia. Thanks to their considerate assistance, the democratically-elected Yugoslav government had been toppled and millions of US dollars were poured into what Washington called “democratic opposition.”
 
 
Photo: Still from Serbian TV from April 4, 1999 showing a bridge over the Danube in Novi Sad, northern Serbia, some 70 km (40 miles) north of Belgrade, which was destroyed a day earlier by NATO warplanes. AFP, Serbian TV
“In post-cold war Europe no place remained for a large, independent-minded socialist state that resisted globalisation,” George Kenney of the US state department kindly explained.
Honduras
Manuel Zelaya was ousted as Honduras’ president in a military coup on June 28, 2009. His post was taken over by parliament Speaker Roberto Micheletti. Hillary Clinton who held the post of the US Secretary of State at the time cemented Micheletti’s position, according to an article citing inquiry conducted by Robert Naiman, Mark Weisbrot and Alexander Main, following the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails by the Department of State in March 2015.
 
 
Photo: A masked supporter of Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya demonstrates as soldiers stand guard outside Congress in Tegucigalpa, Friday, July 31, 2009. AP, Arnulfo Franco
It is further alleged that she deliberately delayed the suspension of US non-humanitarian aid to Honduras, under the excuse that the situation in the country was “still unclear.” Clinton’s action reportedly ensured that Zelaya wouldn’t be restored, despite the fact that the coup was officially opposed by the Obama administration and the UN.
 
 
Photo: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. AP, Patrick Semansky
Ukraine
A number of questions arise around America’s role in the 2014 coup in Ukraine, when the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted, following a series of violent protests.

The US Senator John McCain was in Kiev during the start of the unrest. A leading Republican voice on US foreign policy, McCain told thousands of Ukrainian protesters camped on Kiev’s main square in December 2013:

“We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe.”

 
 
Photo: US Senators Chris Murphy and John McCain cheer up the supporters of Ukraine’s European integration at Maidan square in Kiev, Ukraine, Dec 12, 2013. Sputnik, Ilya Pitalev
Later, a leaked phone conversation between then US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland hinted at extensive involvement.

They spoke about the need to “midwife this thing” and said Ukrainian politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk was “the guy”, shortly before he became prime minister.

Commenting on Washington’s attitude towards foreign meddling, Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., former staff director of the US Senate’s Church committee told the New York Times in 1997 “the United States has certainly engaged in these things, but we get all up in arms when someone else does.”

”The things the CIA cited as successes really weren’t successes. ‘They were an arrogant exercise of our power to intervene in domestic affairs,” he added.

‘Entirely your fault!’ Assange says Obama AG forced WikiLeaks to counter-attack with truth – By Julian Assange (RT)

‘Entirely your fault!’ Assange says Obama AG forced WikiLeaks to counter-attack with truth
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has pinned the blame for the website’s releases ahead of the 2016 presidential election on the Obama administration, as it put him in such conditions where he had “nothing to do but work 24/7.”

Assange made the quip on Twitter Friday, responding to a two-week-old anti-Russian post by the former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder, who headed the Department of Justice from 2009 to 2015, put forth the usual set of allegations against Moscow, claiming Russia would interfere with the upcoming US midterm elections.

Apparently addressing President Donald Trump, Holder demanded new sanctions against Moscow, which were “overwhelmingly approved by even this dysfunctional congress.”

“Are you simply unfit, without the necessary nerve or do they have something on you? We were attacked!” Holder wrote on February 20.

“Attacked? By what? The truth?” Julian Assange replied on Friday, adding that ultimately the US case against him, which followed WikiLeaks’ release of US classified documents in 2010, was to blame.

Barack Obama was president and Holder was attorney general at the time. Their efforts to prosecute WikiLeaks and Assange personally over the publication of US diplomatic cables and military documents about Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in Assange seeking asylum at the embassy of Ecuador in the UK.

Over the six years in London, Assange said, he’s had “nothing to do but work” round the clock – which resulted in WikiLeaks revealing more secrets of the US establishment. In the summer of 2016, WikiLeaks published internal Democratic Party emails, followed by a month-long drip of emails from the private account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, in the month prior to the presidential election.

Podesta, Clinton, and much of the Obama-era US establishment, however, has called WikiLeaks a “cutout” for Russian intelligence and blames Moscow for the alleged “hack” of the emails. No solid evidence to back up the claim has been produced. Assange has rejected those claims.

“Next time, not that there will be one, try following the constitution you swore to uphold,” the WikiLeaks co-founder advised the former AG in a subsequent Tweet.

He posted a link to a 2014 article describing his call for Holder to drop the case against WikiLeaks altogether. The DOJ ignored the request and the case remains open, while Assange continues to live in his embassy exile.

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Why the West Cannot Stomach Russians – By Andre Vltchek (NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK)

Author: Andre Vltchek

 

 

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When it comes to Russia or the Soviet Union, reports and historical accounts do get blurry; in the West they do, and consequently in all of its ‘client states’.

Fairytales get intermingled with reality, while fabrications are masterfully injected into sub consciousness of billions of people worldwide. Russia is an enormous country, in fact the largest country on Earth in terms of territory. It is scarcely inhabited. It is deep, and as a classic once wrote: “It is impossible to understand Russia with one’s brain. One could only believe in it.”

The Western mind generally doesn’t like things unknown, spiritual and complex. Since the ‘old days’, especially since the crusades and monstrous colonialist expeditions to all corners of the world, the Westerners were told fables about their own “noble deeds” performed in the plundered lands. Everything had to be clear and simple: “Virtuous Europeans were civilizing savages and spreading Christianity, therefore, in fact, saving those dark poor primitive souls.”

Of course, tens of millions were dying in the process, while further tens of millions were shackled and brought to the “New Worlds” as slaves. Gold, silver, and other loot, as well as slave labor had been (and still are) paying for all those European palaces, railroads, universities and theatres, but that did not matter, as the bloodshed was most of the time something abstract and far away from those over-sensitive eyes of the Western public.

Westerners like simplicity, particularly when it comes to moral definitions of “good and evil”. It matters nothing if the truth gets systematically ‘massaged’, or even if the reality is fully fabricated. What matters is that there is no deep guilt and no soul-searching. Western rulers and their opinion makers know their people – their ‘subjects’ – perfectly well, and most of the time, they give them what they are asking for. The rulers and the reigned are generally living in symbiosis. They keep bitching about each other, but mostly they have similar goals: to live well, to live extremely well, as long as the others are forced to pay for it; with their riches, with their labor and often with their blood.

Culturally, most of the citizens of Europe and North America hate to pay the bill for their highlife; they even detest to admit that their life is extremely ‘high’. They like to feel like victims. They like to feel that they are ‘used’. They like to imagine that they are sacrificing themselves for the rest of the world.

And above all, they hate real victims: those they have been murdering, raping, plundering and insulting, for decades and centuries.

Recent ‘refugee crises’ showed the spite Europeans feel for their prey. People who made them rich and who lost everything in the process are humiliated, despised and insulted. Be they Afghans or Africans, the Middle Easterners or South Asians. Or Russians, although Russians are falling to its own, unique category.

*

Many Russians look white. Most of them eat with knife and fork, they drink alcohol, excel at Western classical music, poetry, literature, science and philosophy.

To Western eyes they look ‘normal’, but actually, they are not.

Russians always want ‘something else’; they refuse to play by Western rules.

They are stubbornly demanding to remain different, and to be left alone.

When confronted, when attacked, they fight.

They rarely strike first, almost never invade.

But when threatened, when assaulted, they fight with tremendous determination and force, and they never lose. Villages and cities get converted into invader’s graves. Millions die while defending their Motherland, but the country survives. And it happens again and again and again, as the Western hordes have been, for centuries, assaulting and burning Russian lands, never learning the lesson and never giving up on their sinister dream of conquering and controlling that proud and determined colossus.

In the West, they don’t like those who defend themselves, who fight against them, and especially those who win.

*

It gets much worse than that.

Russia has this terrible habit… not only it defends itself and its people, but it also fights for the others, protecting colonized and pillaged nations, as well as those that are unjustly assaulted.

It saved the world from Nazism. It did it at a horrific price of 25 million men, women and children, but it did it; courageously, proudly and altruistically. The West never forgave the Soviet Union for this epic victory either, because all that is unselfish and self-sacrificing, is always in direct conflict with its own principles, and therefore ‘extremely dangerous’.

The Russian people had risen; had fought and won in the 1917 Revolution; an event which terrified the West more than anything else in history, as it had attempted to create a fully egalitarian, classless and racially color-blind society. It also gave birth to Internationalism, an occurrence that I recently described in my book The Great October Socialist Revolution: Impact on the World and the Birth of Internationalism.

Soviet Internationalism, right after the victory in WWII, helped greatly, directly and indirectly, dozens of countries on all continents, to stand up and to confront the European colonialism and the North American imperialism. The West and especially Europe never forgave the Soviet people in general and Russians in particular, for helping to liberate its slaves.

That is when the greatest wave of propaganda in human history really began to roll. From London to New York, from Paris to Toronto, an elaborate web of anti-Soviet and covertly anti-Russian hysteria was unleashed with monstrously destructive force. Tens of thousands of ‘journalists’, intelligence officers, psychologists, historians, as well as academics, were employed. Nothing Soviet, nothing Russian (except those glorified and often ‘manufactured’ Russian dissidents) was spared.

The excesses of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the pre-WWII era were systematically fabricated, exaggerated, and then engraved into the Western history textbooks and mass media narrative. In those tales, there was nothing about the vicious invasions and attacks coming from the West, aimed at destroying young Bolshevik state. Naturally, there was no space for mentioning the British, French, U.S., Czech, Polish, Japanese, German and other’s monstrous cruelties.

Soviet and Russian views were hardly ever allowed to penetrate the monolithic and one-sided Western propaganda narrative.

Like obedient sheep, the Western public accepted the disinformation it was fed with. Eventually, many people living in the Western colonies and ‘client states’, did the same. A great number of colonized people were taught how to blame themselves for their misery.

The most absurd but somehow logical occurrence then took place: many men, women and even children living in the USSR, succumbed to Western propaganda. Instead of trying to reform their imperfect but still greatly progressive country, they gave up, became cynical, aggressively ‘disillusioned’, corrupt and naively but staunchly pro-Western.

*

It was the first and most likely the last time in the history, Russia got defeated by the West. It happened through deceit, through shameless lies, through Western propaganda.

What followed could be easily described as genocide.

The Soviet Union was first lulled into Afghanistan, then it was mortally injured by the war there, by an arms race with the United States, and by the final stage of propaganda that was literally flowing like lava from various hostile Western state-sponsored radio stations. Of course, local ‘dissidents’ also played an important role.

Under Gorbachev, a ‘useful idiot’ of the West, things got extremely bizarre. I don’t believe that he was paid to ruin his own country, but he did almost everything to run it into the ground; precisely what Washington wanted him to do. Then, in front of the entire world, a mighty and proud Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics suddenly shook in agony, then uttered a loud cry, and collapsed; died painfully but swiftly.

A new turbo-capitalist, bandit, pro-oligarch and confusedly pro-Western Russia was born. Russia which was governed by an alcoholic Boris Yeltsin; a man loved and supported by Washington, London and other Western centers of power.

It was a totally unnatural, sick Russia – cynical and compassionless, built with someone else’s ideas – Russia of Radio Liberty and Voice of America, of the BBC, of black marketers, of oligarchs and multi-national corporations.

Is the West now daring to say that Russians are ‘interfering’ in something in Washington? Are they out of their minds?

Washington and other Western capitals did not only ‘interfere’, they openly broke the Soviet Union into pieces and then they began kicking Russia which was at that point half-alive. Is it all forgotten, or is Western public again fully ‘unaware’ of what took place during those dark days?

The West kept spitting at the impoverished and injured country, refused to honor international agreements and treaties. It offered no help. Multi-nationals were unleashed, and began ‘privatizing’ Russian state companies, basically stealing what was built by the sweat and blood of Soviet workers, during long decades.

Interference? Let me repeat: it was direct intervention, invasion, a grab of resources, shameless theft! I want to read and write about it, but we don’t hear much about it, anymore, do we?

Now we are told that Russia is paranoid, that its President is paranoid! With straight face, the West is lying; pretending that it has not been trying to murder Russia.

Those years… Those pro-Western years when Russia became a semi-client state of the West, or call it a semi-colony! There was no mercy, no compassion coming from abroad. Many of those idiots – kitchen intellectuals from Moscow and provinces – suddenly woke up but it was too late. Many of them had suddenly nothing to eat. They got what they were told to ask for: their Western ‘freedom and democracy’, and Western-style capitalism or in summary: total collapse.

I remember well how it was ‘then’. I began returning to Russia, horrified, working in Moscow, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Leningrad. Academics from Akadem Gorodok outside Novosibirsk were selling their libraries in the bitter cold, in dark metro underpasses of Novosibirsk… Runs on the banks… Old retired people dying from hunger and cold behind massive doors of concrete blocks… unpaid salaries and starving miners, teachers…

Russia under the deadly embrace of the West, for the first and hopefully last time! Russia whose life expectancy suddenly dropped to African Sub-Saharan levels. Russia humiliated, wild, in terrible pain.

*

But that nightmare did not last long.

And what happened – those short but horrible years under both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, but above all under the Western diktat – will never be forgotten, not forgiven.

Russians know perfectly well what they do not want, anymore!

Russia stood up again. Huge, indignant and determined to live its own life, its own way. From an impoverished, humiliated and robbed nation, subservient to the West, the country evolved and within a few years, the free and independent Russia once again joined ranks of the most developed and powerful countries on Earth.

And as before Gorbachev, Russia is once again able to help those nations which are under unjust and vicious attacks of the Western empire.

A man who is leading this renaissance, President Vladimir Putin, is tough, but Russia is under great threat and so is the world – this is no time for weaklings.

President Putin is not perfect (who is, really?), but he is a true patriot, and I dare say, an internationalist.

Now the West, once again, hates both Russia and its leader. No wonder; undefeated, strong and free Russia is the worst imaginable foe of Washington and its lieutenants.

That’s how the West feels, not Russia. Despite all that was done to it, despite tens of millions of lost and ruined lives, Russia has always been ready to compromise, even to forgive, if not forget.

*

There is something deeply pathological in the psyche of the West. It cannot accept anything less than full and unconditional submission. It has to control, to be in charge, and on top of everything; it has to feel exceptional. Even when it murders and ruins the entire Planet, it insists on feeling superior to the rest of the world.

This faith in exceptionalism is the true Western religion, much more than even Christianity, which for decades has not really played any important role there. Exceptionalism is fanatical, it is fundamentalist and unquestionable.

It also insists that its narrative is the only one available anywhere in the World. That the West is seen as a moral leader, as a beacon of progress, as the only competent judge and guru.

Lies are piling on top of lies. As in all religions, the more absurd the pseudo-reality is, the more brutal and extreme are the methods used to uphold it. The more laughable the fabrications are, the more powerful the techniques used to suppress the truth are.

Today, hundreds of thousands of ‘academics’, teachers, journalists, artists, psychologists and other highly paid professionals, in all parts of the world, are employed by the Empire, for two goals only – to glorify the Western narrative and to discredit all that is standing in its way; daring to challenge it.

Russia is the most hated adversary of the West, with China, Russia’s close ally being near second.

The propaganda war unleashed by the West is so insane, so intense, that even some of the European and North American citizens are beginning to question tales coming from Washington, London and elsewhere.

Wherever one turns, there is a tremendous medley of lies, of semi-lies, half-truths; a complex and unnavigable swamp of conspiracy theories. Russia is being attacked for interfering in U.S. domestic affairs, for defending Syria, for standing by defenseless and intimidated nations, for having its own powerful media, for doping its athletes, for still being Communist, for not being socialist anymore; in brief: for everything imaginable and unimaginable.

Criticism of the country is so thorough and ludicrous, that one begins to ask very legitimate questions: “what about the past? What about the Western narrative regarding the Soviet past, particularly the post-Revolutionary period, and the period between two world wars?”

The more I analyze this present-day Western anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda, the more determined I am to study and write about the Western narrative regarding Soviet history. I’m definitely planning to investigate these matters in the future, together with my friends – Russian and Ukrainian historians.

*

In the eyes of the West, Russians are ‘traitors’.

Instead of joining the looters, they have been standing by the ‘wretched of the world’, in the past, as well as now. They refused to sell their Motherland, and to enslave their own people. Their government is doing all it can to make Russia self-sufficient, fully independent, prosperous, proud and free.

Remember that ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and many other terms, mean totally different things in distinctive parts of the world. What is happening in the West could never be described as ‘freedom’ in Russia or in China, and vice versa.

Frustrated, collapsing, atomized and egotistic societies of Europe and North America do not inspire even their own people, anymore. They are escaping by millions annually, to Asia, Latin America, and even to Africa. Escaping from emptiness, meaninglessness and emotional cold. But it is not Russia’s or China’s business to tell them how to live or not to live!

In the meantime, great cultures like Russia and China do not need, and do not want to be told by the Westerners, what freedom is, and what democracy is.

They do not attack the West, and expect the same in return.

It is truly embarrassing that the countries responsible for hundreds of genocides, for hundreds of millions of murdered people on all continents, still dare to lecture others.

Many victims are too scared to speak.

Russia is not.

It is composed, gracious, but fully determined to defend itself if necessary; itself as well as many other human beings living on this beautiful but deeply scarred Planet.

Russian culture is enormous: from poetry and literature, to music, ballet, philosophy… Russian hearts are soft, they easily melt when approached with love and kindness. But when millions of lives of innocent people are threatened, both the hearts and muscles of Russians quickly turn to stone and steel. During such moments, when only victory could save the world, Russian fists are hard, and the same is true about the Russian armor.

There is no match to Russian courage in the sadistic but cowardly West.

Irreversibly, both hope and future are moving towards the east.

And that is why Russia is desperately hated by the West.

Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, a writer of revolutionary novel Aurora and several other books. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2018/03/08/why-the-west-cannot-stomach-russians/

US neo-imperialist ambitions drive interference in other countries’ affairs – Lavrov – By RT

US neo-imperialist ambitions drive interference in other countries' affairs – Lavrov
Rex Tillerson’s criticism in Ethiopia of China’s policy in Africa is inappropriate, says Russia’s Sergey Lavrov. From Zimbabwe, Lavrov slammed the US for interfering in other countries’ affairs, pursuing neo-imperialist ambitions.

“I didn’t know that [US Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson is a specialist in Chinese-American relations,” Lavrov said after he met with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare. He added that “it’s not exactly appropriate” for Tillerson to speak about Africa’s relations with other countries while a guest on the Dark Continent – especially in such “a negative way.”

Lavrov made his statement almost at the same time his American colleague was some 3,000km further north – where he warned Africans about China’s influence. He urged African countries to carefully weigh the benefits of Chinese loans at a news conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, during his first diplomatic trip to the continent.

“We are not in any way attempting to keep Chinese dollars from Africa,” he said.

By interfering in the internal affairs of other counties, the US seems to be pursuing “neo-imperialist” ambitions, Lavrov said. “We don’t share such an approach. I consider it ‘neo-imperialist’. And we will never pursue such policies,” he added.

Lavov added that Russia “has never interfered in other countries’ affairs, despite Washington and other Western countries claiming the contrary on a daily basis.” He stressed, though, that “not a single fact of this has been presented.”

In the meantime, Lavrov denied the US State Department’s claims about the absence of US-Russia discussions on a possible meeting between him and the secretary of state.

“I didn’t want to make a comment on this topic, but today the US State Department stated that there have been no discussions of our possible meeting with [Tillerson]. I can say that this is untrue,” he said.

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Apocalyptic Christianity in the State Department? – By John Feffer / Foreign Policy in Focus

World
Trump’s hard-right line on Israel and machinations against Iran make him an instrument of the end times for evangelicals.
 

Photo Credit: IsraelMFA / Flickr

Welcome back, Gog and Magog. I can’t say that I’ve missed you.

You might remember the Gog and Magog story from 2003, when George W. Bush was making plans to invade Iraq and assembling a “coalition of the willing.” French President Jacques Chirac was quite unwilling, so Bush went to great lengths to break down his resistance.

 

As part of this wooing of Chirac, Bush referred to the Biblical prophecies regarding Gog and Magog that suggested to some evangelicals that the end times were approaching in the Middle East.

Chirac had to consult a theologian to find out what Bush was going on about. Gog, Chirac was told, is the leader of Magog, and Magog is the enemy. A war involving Gog and Magog would basically trigger the apocalypse. Because the Bible was not precise in its predictions, Magog could be anyone or anything: Satan, Muslims, even (for Chirac) a poorly executed soufflé.

Bush, however, had a much more precise interpretation in mind: Saddam Hussein was Gog, and the call had gone out to rally the forces of good for a grand showdown. Chirac, who confirmed the story in 2009, was taken aback at Bush’s religious fanaticism.

A number of U.S. officials around Bush, including diplomat Kurt Volker, have strenuously denied the story. But even if Bush himself didn’t indulge in such millenarian fantasies, there were plenty of evangelicals in his circles who did have an impact on U.S. foreign policy. Over the years, Washington has identified plenty of Magogs and set out to topple nearly as many Gogs, always with the certainty of having “God on our side.”

Indeed, the U.S. role in the realization of God’s plans on Earth has been a leitmotif of American foreign policy since the days of John Winthrop and his assertion of the new colony in the Massachusetts Bay as the future “city on the hill.” It is a foundation stone of American exceptionalism. It is a contributing factor to this country’s recurrent xenophobia.

But the application of Biblical prophecy to the geopolitics of the Middle East is something more recent.

Late, Not So Great

The publication of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970 brought the wild predictions of end-times fundamentalists to the mass market. Issued by Bantam Books, Lindsey’s book started a cottage industry of pseudo-scholars combing through the Bible for clues to deciphering the puzzle of Middle Eastern politics.

Lindsey predicted that the war of Gog and Magog would begin with a Soviet invasion of Israel. The Anti-Christ would appear in the form of a United Europe, and the rapture would usher all the chosen up to heaven some time in the 1980s. In a sign of the mainstream appeal of this nonsense — and I confess that I devoured the book as a pre-teen under the impression that it was science fiction, which it was — Orson Welles provided the voice-over for the film version. (And you thought that Orson shilling on TV for Paul Masson wine was the lowest he went!)

The 1980s came and went. The world didn’t end. And neither has Hal Lindsey, who at the age of 88 still produces a half hour of fabulous folderol every week.

After all, the failure of predictions to come true has never stopped peddlers from making new forecasts or the gullible from listening to them (just ask the Seventh Day Adventists). Some years after Lindsey’s success, the Left Behind books brought the end-times narrative to a whole new generation. This version of Gog and Magog also centered on Israel, but identified the United Nations as the villain. And this time it was Nicholas Cage who embarrassed himself by appearing in the film version.

Today, some millenarians continue to identify the United Nations as Magog. Others happily enlist North Korea for the role of anti-Christ.

But generally, the focus remains on Israel — and Jerusalem more specifically.

And that’s where Donald Trump comes in.

The current U.S. president would seem an even less likely crusader against Gog than was the eternal fratboy, George W. Bush. Yet the evangelical community rallied around Trump in force in the 2016 election and has largely stayed by his side despite the nonstop revelations of his myriad sins (Summer Zervos, Stormy Daniels, and so on).

Much of the support derives from Trump’s domestic promises (abortion, Supreme Court nominees). But there’s also a foreign policy component.

For example, despite some early nods in the direction of the Palestinians, Trump has become a major champion of Israel. He has even announced that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the country. For run-of-the-mill, right-wing evangelicals, Trump’s decision is just plain good geopolitics: They believe that Israel is a force for good in the world, and anything that Washington does on its behalf helps both the United States and Christianity in general.

For the dispensationalists who are obsessed with the Rapture and the coming of end times, the Jerusalem decision is a sign and portent that Trump is willing to stand against the entire world, if necessary, to stand up for Israel. Mainline evangelicals often pretend that dispensationalists attract only a small number of folks. According to one poll, however, 65 percent of evangelical leaders identify with premillennialism — that’s the strand of Christian doctrine that involves the second coming of Jesus, a period of tribulation, and a 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth (with the Rapture happening at some point during that period).

“What kick-starts the end times into motion is Israel’s political boundaries being reestablished to what God promised the Israelites according to the Bible,” Nate Pyle, a pastor and author of a book about Jesus, informed Newsweek. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in other words, is the instrument of God when he blockades Gazans, encourages illegal settlements on Palestinian land, and otherwise defeats any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump is Netanyahu’s fanboy, so Trump too is God’s instrument. As I wrote back in October 216, “Much millenarian support comes from a belief that God has anointed Trump the ultimate disrupter of the status quo, the human wrecking ball that will smite all the structures standing in the way of Christ’s Second Coming. No one (other than the Donald himself) would confuse the candidate with the Messiah, but some evangelicals imagine him in the role of a John the Baptist gone slightly berserk.”

In the secular world, the Doomsday Clock has moved to within 150 seconds of midnight. Likewise, the clock of the end times has been ticking along, and many of the faithful are preparing for the Rapture.

The Trump era has kicked off a boom time for apocalyptics.

The Signs and the Portents

Don’t let the defeat of the Islamic State fool you. The Middle East remains a cauldron of conflict, and there are still plenty of Gogs to go around.

One of the best candidates for a Hal Lindsey-like showdown in the Middle East is Syria. Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, has all the hallmarks of a good Gog.

Like Saddam Hussein, he’s a Baathist who represents a ruling minority (in Assad’s case it’s the Alawites in a majority Sunni country, while Saddam presided over a minority Sunni government in a majority Shia country). Also like Saddam, Assad has been ruthless in eradicating his own population, though he was considerably more selective in his killing before the Arab Spring protests broke out. The most recent attacks by Russian and Syrian planes in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus held by opposition forces, have resulted in more than 500 dead and more than 1,500 injured (in a conflict that has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives).

Syria is now the focal point of numerous contesting powers. Russia and Iran are backing Assad. Turkey has invaded to suppress the Syrian Kurds, which has caused the latter to team up with Damascus (on the principle that the distant enemy is better than the enemy nearby). Despite Trump’s pledge to Turkey to stop backing the Syrian Kurds now that the Islamic State is no more, this military support is still a hefty line item in Trump budget.

Meanwhile, the United States is maintaining an unknown number of U.S. troops in Syria…for what? Answering that question leads to Trump’s true Magog.

Trump doesn’t care about Assad. Sure, he’s called him a “butcher,” and lobbed 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian forces last April in response to the Syrian use of chemical weapons. But Trump has something of a fondness for embattled autocrats and has acceded to Russian wishes to keep Assad in place, at least until 2021.

What Trump does care about, however, is Iran. The administration wants to keep U.S. troops in Syria to block Iran from expanding its influence in the country. Add to that the various indications that the Trump administration is gearing up for a direct confrontation with Iran, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for Gog and Magog.

Of course, there are other apocalyptic scenarios in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Iran might go to war, directly or through their proxies. If the Iran nuclear deal falls through, Israel might decide to bomb Iran’s nuclear complex. A new version of Sunni radicalism — a la al-Qaeda or the Islamic State — might mutate out of the primordial stew of resentments in the region.

But all of these scenarios converge if Trump decides to create an explicit coalition of the willing against Iran, with Israel and Saudi Arabia as founding members, and some secret side agreements with Sunni terrorist organizations to carry the fight to the Iranian Shia.

For Trump’s purposes, which would be to rally his base and distract attention from his various policy failures, the confrontation with Iran would really be of biblical proportions. The mullahs of Iran are much better candidates, in the long run, for Gog than a secular nationalist like Assad.

Trump is not a religious man. He can’t quote the Bible properly, and he has the most tenuous connection to the Church of any modern president. Don’t expect him to quote Gog and Magog in his conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But Trump is itching for a fight. He wants to shake things up. With evangelicals and right-wing Likudniks forming a significant core of support, he is already fulfilling the Middle East agenda of the apocalyptics. And, unfortunately, there’s more to come.

 

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands (Dispatch Books/Haymarket, 2016) and a TomDispatch regular.

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

US and Chinese top brass

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

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

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

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

Trump said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s not just the missiles…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Companies in the industry went up many times higher.

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

For the rest of the article go here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘They can’t beat us fairly’ — Lavrov on Olympic ban of Russia – By RT

‘They can’t beat us fairly’ — Lavrov on Olympic ban of Russia
The doping scandal that keeps many Russian athletes from competing in top events, including the ongoing Winter Olympics, was just part of the West’s devious strategy against Moscow, Russia’s foreign minister has said.

Sergey Lavrov said barring dozens of Russians from the games was “part of this unfair competition, because the Americans apparently can no longer beat us in a fair fight. They believe that taking back and preserving uncontested leadership in global sports requires sidelining the competition.”

READ MORE: Russian figure skater Medvedeva sets world record in short program at PyeongChang

The assertion came in an interview the minister gave to Rossia-1 news channel, aired on Sunday. Lavrov said in other areas he saw the same approach, “the use of unilateral, coercive, illegitimate, unlawful actions to obtain the advantage.”

Lavrov believes that the US and other Western powers are now fighting dirty because they cannot deal with the fact that Russia resurged after a low point in the 1990s, when much of its government was influenced by various foreign advisors pushing the agendas of their native countries. Russia has since realized it was “not a newborn country but a nation with a thousand-year long history” that its citizens should be proud of.

“This was a shock for the people who falsely thought they could act with impunity against Russia. I believe they still cannot deal with this shock,” he added, saying the symptoms of the condition included the “Russiagate” scandal, an allegation that Russia somehow attacked American democracy during the 2016 presidential election. Lavrov says there will never be proof of such interference.

READ MORE: ‘The Olympics is for all’: American tells RT why he waved Russian flag at PyeongChang (VIDEO)

“They have been investigating this for a year and not a single fact has surfaced to corroborate these speculations,” he said. “If there were any facts, they would have been leaked by now. I know this is how the US system works. Everything gets leaked with so many people involved in all those hearings and investigations.”

The Russian minister said Moscow saw the current state of relations with the US as abnormal and expected it to be fixed in time. For its part, Russia will not take hasty action in retaliation to US moves like anti-Russian sanctions, to avoid fueling the hysteria and giving leverage to people wishing to escalate the tensions, he said.

Lavrov said he personally was “indifferent” to being listed on Washington’s latest list of Russian citizens who may be subjected to further sanctions. But he said he was initially baffled by the way the anti-Russian panic affected people in the US.

“I could not believe my eyes and ears, seeing and hearing many officials in Washington, in the administration and Congress, whom I knew personally — quite serious and smart, rational people. I was amazed to see them being stripped of every bit of sense by this mass psychosis,” he said.

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