‘Losing Military Supremacy’ book review: How the US lost its edge to Russia – By The Saker The Unz Review (SOTT)

maryanov military supremacy

The fact that the USA is facing a profound crisis, possibly the worst one in its history, is accepted by most observers, except maybe the most delusional ones. Most Americans definitely know that. In fact, if there is one thing upon which both those who supported Trump and those who hate him with a passion can agree on, it would be that his election is a clear proof of a profound crisis (I would argue that the election of Obama before also had, as one of its main causes, the very same systemic crisis). When speaking of this crisis, most people will mention the deindustrialization, the drop in real income, the lack of well-paid jobs, healthcare, crime, immigration, pollution, education, and a myriad of other contributing factors. But of all the aspects of the “American dream”, the single most resilient one has been the myth of the US military as “the finest fighting force in history”. In this new book, Andrei Martianov not only comprehensively debunks this myth, he explains step by step how this myth was created and why it is collapsing now. This is no small feat, especially in a relatively short book (225 pages) which is very well written and accessible to everyone, not just military specialists.

Martyanov takes a systematic and step-by-step approach: first, he defines military power, then he explains where the myth of US military superiority came from and how the US rewriting of the history of WWII resulted in a complete misunderstanding, especially at the top political levels, of the nature of modern warfare. He then discusses the role ideology and the Cold War played in further exacerbating the detachment of US leaders from reality. Finally, he demonstrates how a combination of delusional narcissism and outright corruption resulted in a US military capable of wasting truly phenomenal sums of money on “defense” while at the same time resulting in an actual force unable to win a war against anything but a weak and defenseless enemy.

That is not to say that the US military has not fought in many wars and won. It did, but in the words of Martyanov:

Surely when America fought against a third-rate adversary it was possible to rain death from the skies, and then roll over its forces, if any remained by that time, with very little difficulty and casualties. That will work in the future too against that type of adversary – similar in size and flimsiness of Iraqi Forces circa 2003. But Ledeen’s Doctrine had one major flaw – one adult cannot continue to go around the sandbox constantly fighting children and pretend to be good at fighting adults.

The main problem for the USA today is that there are very few of those third-rate adversaries left out there and that those who the USA is trying to bring to submission now are either near-peer or even peer adversaries. Martyanov specifically lists the factors which make that kind of adversary so different from those the USA fought in the past:

  1. Modern adversaries have command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities equal to or better than the US ones.
  2. Modern adversaries have electronic warfare capabilities equal to or better than the US ones
  3. Modern adversaries have weapon systems equal to or better than the US ones.
  4. Modern adversaries have air defenses which greatly limit the effectiveness of US airpower.
  5. Modern adversaries have long-range subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles which present a huge threat to the USN, bases, staging areas and even the entire US mainland.

In the book, all these points are substantiated with numerous and specific examples which I am not repeating here for the sake of brevity.

One could be forgiven for not being aware of any of these facts, at least if one considers the kind of nonsense written by the US corporate media or, for that matter, by the so-called “experts” (another interesting topic Martyanov discusses in some detail). Still, one can live in an imaginary world only as long as reality does not come crashing in, be it in the form of criminally overpriced and useless weapon systems or in the form of painful military defeats. The current hysteria about Russia as the Evil Mordor which is the culprit for everything and anything bad (real or imaginary) happening to the USA is mostly due to the fact that Russia, in total contradiction to all the “expert” opinions, not only did not crash or turn into a “gas station masquerading as a country” with her economy “in tatters”, but succeeded in developing a military which, for a small fraction of the US military budget, successfully developed armed forces which are in reality far more capable than the US forces. I realize that this last statement is quite literally “unthinkable” for many Americans and I submit that the very fact that this is so literally unthinkable greatly contributed to making this possible in the first place: when you are so damn sure that by some kind of miracle of history, or God’s will, or Manifest Destiny or any other supernatural reason, you are inherently and by definition superior and generally “better” than everybody else you are putting yourself in great danger of being defeated. This is as true for Israel as it is for the USA. I would also add that in the course of the West’s history this “crashing in of reality” in the comfy world of narcissistic delusion often came in the form of a Russian soldier defeating the putatively much superior master race of the day (from the Crusaders to the Nazis). Hence the loathing which western ruling elites always had for everything Russian.

In this book, Martyanov explains why, in spite of the absolutely catastrophic 1990s, the Russians succeeded in developing a modern and highly capable combat force in a record time. There are two main reasons for this: first, unlike their US counterparts, Russian weapons are designed to kill, not to make money and, second, Russians understand warfare because they understand what war really is. This latest argument might look circular, but it is not: Russians are all acutely aware of what war really means and, crucially, they are actually willing to make personal sacrifices to either avoid or, at least, win wars. In contrast, US Americans have no experience of real warfare (that is warfare in defense of their own land, family and friends) at all. For US Americans warfare is killing the other guy in his own country, preferably from afar or above, while making a ton of money in the process. For Russians, warfare is simply about surviving at any and all cost. The difference couldn’t be greater.

The difference in weapons systems acquisition is also simple: since US wars never really put the people of the USA at risk, the consequences of developing under-performing weapons systems were never catastrophic. The profits made, however, were immense. Hence the kind of criminally overpriced and useless weapons system like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship or, of course, the fantastically expensive and no less fantastically vulnerable aircraft carriers. The Russian force planners had very different priorities: not only did they fully realize that the failure to produce an excellently performing weapons system could result in their country being devastated and occupied (not to mention their families and themselves either enslaved or killed), they also realized that they could never match the Pentagon in terms of spending. So what they did was to design comparatively much cheaper weapons systems which could destroy or render useless the output of the multi-trillion dollar US military-industrial complex. This is how Russian missiles made the entire US ABM program and the US carrier-centric Navy pretty much obsolete as well as how Russian air defenses turned putatively “invisible” US aircraft into targets or how Russian diesel-electric submarines are threatening US nuclear attack subs. All that at a tiny fraction of what the US taxpayer spends on “defense”. Here again, Martyanov gives plenty of detailed examples.

Martyanov’s book will deeply irritate and even outrage those for whom the US narcissistic culture of axiomatic superiority has become an integral part of their identity. But for everybody else this book is an absolute must-have because the future of our entire planet is at stake here: the question is not whether the US Empire is collapsing, but what the consequences of this collapse will be for our planet. Right now, the US military has turned into a “hollow force” which simply cannot perform its mission, especially since that mission is, as defined by US politicians, the control of the entire planet. There is a huge discrepancy between the perceived and the actual capabilities of the US military and the only way to bridge this gap are, of course, nuclear weapons. This is why the last chapter in the book is entitled “The Threat of a Massive American Military Miscalculation”. In this chapter, Martyanov names the real enemy of both the Russian and the American people – the US political elites and, especially, the Neocons: they are destroying the USA as a country and they are putting all of mankind at risk of nuclear annihilation.

The above summary does not do justice to Martyanov’s truly seminal book. I can only say that I consider this book as an absolutely indispensable “must read” for every person in the USA who loves his/her country and for every person who believes that wars, especially nuclear ones, must be avoided at all costs. Just like many others (I think of Paul Craig Roberts), Martyanov is warning us that “the day of reckoning is upon us” and that the risks of war are very real, even if for most of us such an event is also unthinkable. Those in the USA who consider themselves patriots should read this book with special attention, not only because it correctly identifies the main threat to the USA, but also because it explains in detail what circumstances have resulted in the current crisis. Waving (mostly Chinese made) US flags is simply not an option anymore, neither is looking away and pretending that none of this is real. Martynov’s book will also be especially interesting to those in the US armed forces who are observing the tremendous decline of US military power from inside. Who better than a former Soviet officer could not only explain, but also understand the mechanisms which have made such a decline possible?

You can also get both versions of the book (paper & electronic) here.

The book is also available on Amazon as a pre-order here.

It is scheduled to become available on September 1st.

Get at least one copy and give more to your friends!

The Saker

Putin-Trump summit finally on the way? – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Moscow hints that a summit in Vienna is under discussion as rumours of a July summit persist

US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
 

In the aftermath of the successful Kim-Trump summit in Singapore there is again speculation about the prospects of a possible summit meeting between the US and Russian Presidents, with Vienna the likely host city.

The clearest discussion of these rumours and of what such a summit might look like and what it might achieve has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow.

On the indications that a summit is in the air Dr. Doctorow has this to say

I say that a summit in the near future look likely, in part because that is suggested in several articles appearing recently in the Washington Post, in The Wall Street Journal, in The New Yorkermaking reference to unidentified contacts in the administration.  In part, I base it on less obvious clues that speak to the vestigial Kremlinologist in me. One is the repeat broadcast this morning on Vesti/Rossiya-1 of an interview with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that took place just before Vladimir Putin’s state visit on 6 June. Vienna has been mentioned as a possible venue for any such summit, and the interview makes plain why the country would be so very suitable as the site of a summit – namely Kurz’s populist and Euro-skeptic policies that are so highly appreciated by both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

The Return of Henry Kissinger

Dr. Doctorow suggests that Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s former National Security Adviser who is now in Russia ostensibly to watch the World Cup, may be playing a crucial go-between role in setting up the summit.

One additional clue is that Henry Kissinger is said to be in Moscow right now, and Henry has been an adviser to Trump on policy to Russia ever since the 2016 campaign. He has been the voice urging an accommodation with Russia for a variety of geopolitical strategic reasons.

To which I would add that Henry Kissinger is not only known to be an adviser to Donald Trump; he is also known to have good contacts with senior officials in Moscow including Sergey Ivanov, Vladimir Putin’s former Chief of Staff, who continues to be a member of Russia’s Security Council (Russia’s top policy making body) and who has in the past spoken of Kissinger in effusive terms.

A get to know you summit; not a detailed negotiation

As to what a summit between Trump and Putin might look like, Dr. Doctorow suggests that the Kim-Trump summit may provide a possible precedent.

The Kim-Trump summit took place with only minimal preparation and produced only a bland one page statement of intent.  However it has nonetheless managed to transform the international atmosphere.  Dr. Doctorow suggests a Trump-Putin summit would be similar

All accounts of the President’s decision to seek a meeting with Putin in July indicate that he is doing this over the objections of every one of his advisers.  Put another way, he would not appear to have many resources at hand at the moment for a solid preparation of the planned summit.

Normally, the Russians would not accept a meeting at the top without such preparation. However, in light of what just happened in the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, which also had close to no preparation and ended in a one-page, 4-point statement of intentions which was swallowed by the American establishment and media upon Trump’s return home, the Kremlin may well have decided that this is the only way forward with an American President under siege from his own administration not to mention the federal bureaucracy.

I can envision a Letter of Intent signed by Trump and Putin in Vienna that has three points. Two are the points sketched above. The third could be a quite unexceptional statement on Ukraine that would conceal a significant change in US policy given in verbal assurances that would change the dynamics in US-Russian relations. Namely the sides could agree to take measures to ensure that both Kiev and the breakaway republics begin at once to honor the Minsk Accords.  Behind this anodyne formula would be a US commitment to force the hand of Poroshenko or to have him removed and replaced by someone who will do what is necessary to achieve a political settlement with Donbass. In return, the Russians would ensure quick deployment of a UN or other reputable peace keeping force in the Donbass at the lines of separation of forces and at the Russian Ukrainian border.

The Letter of Intent would be a start, would give a new direction to the bilateral relations and would open the way to creation of working groups and restoration of lines of communication that Barack Obama foolishly severed following the tainted advice of his Neocon staff at the State Department.

The other three items which Dr. Doctorow envisages might be in the summit communique other than Ukraine relate to arms control and Syria.

On the subject of Syria Dr. Doctorow envisages an agreement along these lines

There have been rumors that the United States is seeking a de facto if not de jure partition of Syria whereby its control over the Kurdish territory east of the Euphrates River is recognized by the Russians. The logic for this U.S. interest may well be related more to containing Iran than to depriving the Assad government of territory, population and hydrocarbon resources.  Figuratively the American zone would be a bulwark against Iranian infiltration of Syria and Iran’s enjoying unchallenged military access to the Israeli border.  Considering the obvious understandings between Netanyahu and Putin over Iranian operations on Syrian soil, it is quite possible that Russia would agree to the US proposal as part of a bigger negotiation over improving bilateral relations.

On the subject of arms control, Dr. Doctorow puts it this way

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

Is any of this likely to be true?  Is a Trump-Putin summit of the sort envisaged by Dr. Doctorow really in the works?

Urgent need for a Trump-Putin summit

The first thing to say about such a summit is that it is sorely needed and that Trump and Putin should not be deterred from holding it simply because there has been only minimal preparation for it.

As a result of the phoney Russiagate scandal, whose absurdity grows by the day, we have a ridiculous situation where the two men who command the world’s two most powerful militaries can each meet one to one with every other world leader – including it turns out North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – but not apparently with each other.  The sooner this ridiculous and dangerous situation is ended the better.

Moreover, as Dr. Doctorow rightly says, such a summit meeting between Trump and Putin has a value that goes far beyond anything that the two men concretely agree with each other.

There mere fact that the leaders of the United States and Russia are finally talking to each other will transform the international atmosphere, and will hopefully bring to an end the climate of tension which has existed in the international system since the Western sponsored Maidan coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

As Dr. Doctorow also rightly says, it is actually better in this situation if Trump and Putin do not agree to anything specific with each other since in the present atmosphere anything they did agree with each other would almost certainly be misrepresented in the US by Donald Trump’s opponents as a betrayal.

Above all the subject of sanctions – as Dr. Doctorow rightly says – should certainly not be discussed, and no agreement to lift them should be reached.

Sanctions

However that does not mean that with respect to the sanctions a summit between the US and Russian Presidents would not be important.  The mere fact that the Presidents of the US and Russia were meeting would make the unrolling of further sanctions against Russia look increasingly unlikely.

Whilst the ugly blowback of the recent US sanctions against the Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska argues against further strong sanctions being imposed against Russia, such new sanctions as are from time to time announced do nonetheless have something of the quality of a sort of guerrilla campaign against Russia. For the Russians that is distracting, and as they focus increasingly on upgrading their economy they could well do without it.

Moreover a signal from the US – which a Trump-Putin summit would itself be – that further US sanctions against Russia are off the table would almost certainly be all the encouragement many international investors and businesspeople would need in order for them to start investing in Russia in a big way.

With Russian costs and assets now extremely cheap, and with the macroeconomic environment in Russia extremely stable and business friendly, the fear of further sanctions against Russia is now arguably the one thing which is discouraging international investors and businesspeople from piling into a Russia.  Here is how the Financial Times – normally a harsh critic of Russia – puts it

….the rouble has stabilised while investors have marked down the currencies of Argentina, Turkey, Brazil and other emerging market countries in the face of a resurgent dollar and rising Treasury yields. Because while they run large current account deficits, which need financing from capital flows, Russia runs a trade surplus.

Compared with other parts of emerging markets, “Russia is in a relatively comfortable position”, says Piotr Matys, EM strategist at Rabobank.

While a number of EM central banks have raised interest rates to counter the impact of the stronger dollar on their economies, the Central Bank of Russia is weighing a rate cut. And although investors have doubts about the credibility of some EM policymakers, they like CBR governor Elvira Nabiullina for bringing discipline and a consistent communication strategy to the central bank.

Inflation was raging at 15 per cent three years ago, but at 2.4 per cent is now below the CBR target of 4 per cent.

April’s sanctions prompted JPMorgan analysts to close long positions in the rouble, but they are now reintroducing them.

Nafez Zouk, macro strategist at Oxford Economics, says pressure on the rouble is “softening out given that the perception of geopolitical risks has faded”, and reckons the currency is undervalued on the basis of real exchange rate behaviour.

Russia may attract opprobrium on the world stage, but investors don’t mind holding their nose when opportunities arise.

Whilst a softening of the sanctions pressure will therefore almost certainly not be on the agenda of any summit between Trump and Putin, it would nonetheless be a consequence of it and would be an actual material benefit Russia would gain from a summit.

What of the US however, what might the US and Donald Trump gain from a summit with Vladimir Putin now?

Re-starting arms control

The answer to that has been provided by Dr. Gilbert Doctorow

Restarting arms control negotiations should take in more than propping up existing agreements that are either coming to term or are being systematically violated (agreement on short to intermediate range missiles). From Trump’s remarks on the new arms race, it would be entirely logical for him now to accept Vladimir Putin’s invitation to discuss the new technology strategic weapons systems such as Russia is now rolling out, as well as cyber warfare. They would also reopen talks on the US missile defense installations on land in Poland and Romania and at sea off the Russian coasts which gave rise to Russia’s development of what are called invincible offensive systems in response.

As my colleague Alex Christoforou and I have recently discussed in a video, Russia’s success in developing hypersonic missile technology has fundamentally changed the strategic military balance between the US and Russia.

Moreover this is happening at a time when the US’s Nuclear Posture Review was already making clear the US military’s growing dismay about the way the international military balance is shifting against the US.  Here is some of what I have previously said about the US Nuclear Posture Review in a previous article for The Duran

…..today – as was never the case during the Cold War – the aggregate economic, technological and especially industrial and raw material resources of Russia and China are greater than those of the US, calling into question the US’s long term ability to sustain an arms race which it insists on conducting simultaneously against both of them.

Already there is a marked build up of Russian conventional forces in eastern Europe, probably outmatching the size and power of the conventional forces the US currently has in Europe, whilst the Chinese aircraft carrier programme threatens US military dominance of the Pacific for the first time since the end of the Second World War.

At present the US still has the military forces to take on both the Russian army in Europe and the Chinese navy in the Pacific simultaneously.

However before long that will become impossible, at which point the US will find itself not only disastrously over-extended but facing a military commitments’ crisis….

The US Nuclear Posture Review is in fact a profoundly pessimistic document, more so than any other foreign policy or defence document the US government has published which I have read since the end of the Cold War.

Not only does it effectively admit what is now undeniable – that with the return of Great Power competition the ‘unipolar moment’ has passed – but it barely conceals its dismay that the US is once again locked into something which following the end of the Cold War it assumed it would never have to face again: a nuclear arms race…..

Indeed it is easy to see how the US’s overall military position is rapidly becoming worse than it was during the Cold War.

The Cold War was essentially a dual between two nuclear superpowers – the US and the USSR – which was fought out in a limited geographical area – north west Europe and the north Atlantic.

By contrast the challenges the US is now facing are becoming truly global: against Russia in Europe, against China in the Pacific, and potentially against North Korea and Iran in the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

Moreover, despite their differences there is a growing trend for three of these Powers – Russia, China and Iran – to work together with each other, with Russia and China de facto allies against the US, and Iran gradually becoming so.

It is only a question of time before the US finds that it does not have the conventional military forces to confront all these challenges simultaneously……

Dr. Doctorow claims that Henry Kissinger’s original reason for pressing Donald Trump to repair relations with Russia was precisely because of his alarm about the deterioration in the US’s global position caused by the US’s careless undoing of his 1970s diplomatic achievement of setting China and Russia off against each other

I have noted before that Kissinger’s advice to Trump during the electoral campaign to reach an accommodation with Moscow was aimed at decoupling the budding Russia-China strategic partnership that has undone all that Nixon and Kissinger achieved in the 1970s.  I have also noted that Putin rejected this conceptualization of the path to normalized relations with the US when Trump’s emissaries put it to him early in the spring of 2017. Putin is very loyal to his friends and would never turn on Chinese President Xi for the sake of an invitation to the White House. After that setback, Kissinger appeared to have disappeared from the Trump’s entourage.

In light of this the further deterioration of the US’s strategic military position highlighted by the Nuclear Posture Review and confirmed by the new generation of Russian hypersonic weapons unveiled in Putin’s March State of the Union Address  can only have given in Kissinger’s mind added urgency to the US’s need for a new arms limitation arrangement with Russia.

A ‘geostrategic ceasefire’?

This after all is the course I proposed in my discussion of the Nuclear Posture Review, and it is overwhelmingly likely that Kissinger – the nearest thing the US has to a foreign policy realist – shares it

In a rational world that ought to drive the US towards seeking some sort of rapprochement with either Russia or China or preferably with both of them.

Both countries are still overwhelmingly focused on their internal economic development, and for that reason they would probably be willing to come to some sort of ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ arrangement with the US if it were offered to them.

The brief detente era between the US and the USSR of the early 1970s offers a possible precedent, though given subsequent US behaviour the US now faces a massive trust deficit which it will struggle to overcome.

However that remains the rational approach for the US to be taking, and in my opinion if it took it, and committed itself to it seriously, it would probably despite all the trust issues achieve success given the overriding interest of both Russia and China in a peaceful and stable world situation at this time.  Certainly the view expressed in the Review that Russia and China are ‘revisionist’ powers is for the time being at least wrong.

If this is indeed the direction things are taking then it is completely unsurprising that Henry Kissinger – the individual most associated with the previous ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ between the US and Russia of the 1970s – is at the forefront negotiating it.

That ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ after all was also the product of an earlier US over-commitment crisis, with the US struggling to balance the competing demands of its strategic arms race with the USSR and the war in Vietnam.

Nixon and Kissinger responded to the 1970s US over-commitment crisis by coming to arms limitation agreements with the Soviets whilst simultaneously reaching out to China and scaling down the war in Vietnam.

It is just possible that Donald Trump on Kissinger’s advice is feeling his way to doing something similar now, and that some of his recent moves eg. the summit with Kim Jong-un and the talk of a summit with Putin now are the outward indications of it.

That would make sense of some of Donald Trump’s recent talk about Russia, which Dr. Doctorow describes in this way

Evidence of Kissinger’s return to favor came as recently as a week ago when Trump reportedly said behind closed doors at the G-7 meeting that Crimea is rightfully Russia’s.  That is half of the new equation for normalization of relations now being attributed to Kissinger by hearsay:  the other side of the equation being that in return Russia would withdraw its support to the rebellion in Donbass against the Ukrainian authorities.

Given the scale of the US’s pending over-commitment crisis, such a policy aiming at a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’ with Russia might just possibly if it was explained properly even in time gain a measure of support in Washington.  Here is what Dr. Doctorow has to say about that

Such a one-page Letter of Intent could be sold to a skeptical or even hostile Congress if arms control heads the list.  The Open Letter to Rex Tillerson by four US Senators, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent (Bernie Sanders) in early March urging immediate arms control talks showed that Vladimir Putin’s speech of 1 March on how Russia has restored full nuclear parity with the United States could break through the otherwise blind partisanship on Capitol Hill when questions of national survival are on the table. (See http://usforeignpolicy.blogs.lalibre.be/archive/2018/03/10/gang-of-four-senators-call-for-tillerson-to-enter-into-arms-1164058.html )

However it is important to stress that what looks to be on the agenda at least for the moment is a ‘geostrategic ceasefire’, not a full scale rapprochement between the US and Russia.

The US and Russia would remain adversaries.  However sanctions pressure on Russia would ease, attracting external investors to Russia, whilst the Russians would be given time and space to give all their attention to their economy without being distracted by the constant pressure on them of the US.  The US for its part would be under less pressure to engage in an arms race with Russia and China which it now lacks the resources to win.

Donald Trump himself has at times gone further and has spoken of actual friendship between the US and Russia.  That is not however on the agenda in the foreseeable future.

What are the prospects of success?

No retreat by Russia on Ukraine, Crimea or Donbass

Firstly Dr. Doctorow is certainly right when he says that any idea of Russia abandoning the two People’s Republics of the Donbass to their fate in return for a ‘geopolitical ceasefire’ with the US can be firmly ruled out

To abandon Donbass to the not so tender mercy of Ukrainian nationalists and revanchists would be political suicide for Putin given the strength of feeling on the subject among his supporters

I would add that the Russians have also categorically ruled out the possibility of a peacekeeping force being deployed to the Donbass to which Dr. Doctorow gives more credence.  Here is what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently had to say about that

The topic of the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbass was discussed at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Normandy Four participants [Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France], Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

“Yes, UN peacekeepers were discussed,” the Russian minister said. “The Russian position is crystal clear. We have a proposal introduced last September to the UN Security Council and aimed at providing UN security for observers working through OSCE,” Lavrov said.

At the same time, Ukraine continues insisting on the US variant of the UN mission in Donbass, which ruins Minsk Agreements completely, Lavrov noted.

“We explained that ideas put forward by US and Ukrainian representatives to convert this peacekeeping mission into a sort of military-political commandant’s headquarters to take control over the whole territory of proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics and which will decide on its own, who will be elected and in what way, completely ruins Minsk Agreements,” the Russian minister said.

“It seems to me that the French and the German understand our logic,” he added.

Given the total lack of trust the Russians have in any peacekeeping force proposed by Ukraine and the Western powers, and given that the supporters of this proposal for a peacekeeping force make no secret that it is their intention to use it as a means to return the Donbass to Kiev’s control, I do not see the Russians ever agreeing to it.

Conversely, I don’t see Trump – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – ever agreeing to Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s removal to please Putin and I don’t see Putin requesting it; nor do I see Trump agreeing to increase pressure on Ukraine in order to get Ukraine to implement the Minsk Process, and I don’t see Putin requesting it from him either.

I suspect that the most one can hope for coming out of a Trump-Putin summit on the subject of Ukraine would be a public recommitment by the US and Russia to the Minsk Process – as Dr. Doctorow suggests – together with a private understanding between Trump and Putin to put the issues of Crimea and Ukraine to one side.

Frankly I don’t think Trump cares about either Crimea or Ukraine, and I suspect that he would be only too happy to leave them to their own devices if he thought that that would be the way to get Putin to come to some sort of understanding with him each on issues like arms control which he really cares about.

As for Putin, I think that would be almost the optimal position for him, leaving Ukraine in effect adrift.

A winding down of the conflict in Syria

As for Syria, again I strongly doubt that the Russians would ever agree to even an informal partition of Syria along the lines Dr. Doctorow suggests.

Far more likely is that Putin will pass on to Trump assurances the Russians appear to have been given by the Iranian and Syrian leaders that the Iranian presence in Syria is connected to the ongoing conflict in Syria and will be significantly scaled down once the Syrian conflict ends.

Unlike Crimea and Ukraine Iran’s role in Syria is something Trump does care about, but again I suspect he would probably accept assurances of this sort given him by Putin if he were to see in them the way forward to an agreement with Putin on even more pressing issues such as arms control.

There is no longer any possibility of regime change in Syria.  From Donald Trump’s point of view an implicit assurance that after the Syrian government’s final victory the Iranian presence in Syria will be scaled down is probably a more attractive option than maintaining a US military presence in Syria indefinitely.

Russian media discusses the summit

The basis of an understanding between Trump and Putin is therefore there, and as Dr. Doctorow says there are now straws in the wind which suggest that the two men may be working towards a summit as they feel their way towards that understanding.

Indeed, even as I have been writing this article, Russia’s official TASS news agency has published a summary of an article in the Russian newspaper Kommersant which also discusses the rumours that a summit may be pending.

Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are reportedly gearing up for a summit in July. Numerous media leaks about the two leaders’ meeting, which is expected to be held in one of the European capitals, and information provided by Kommersant’s sources, indicate that preparations for it are underway. However, the paper’s interlocutors warned many White House officials are opposed to the idea, arguing that for Trump the proposed meeting will only make sense in the event of a breakthrough agreement on at least one of the key issues on the Russian-US agenda.

This has been confirmed by former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and currently Director of the Center for Political Studies Andrei Fyodorov who cited his own US diplomatic sources.

Unsurprisingly the Kommersant article identifies Donald Trump’s perennially hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton as the primary opponent of the idea for the summit.

However, interestingly enough, Bolton’s opposition to the summit appears to be based not on an objection to a summit with Putin in principle, but rather to his concern that it might be difficult to sell the idea of such a summit to an implacably hostile US political establishment now

“Among the opponents of the July summit plans is National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bolton known for his critical attitude towards Russia insists that for Donald Trump such a meeting would only make sense if he could take credit for it, similarly to the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore,” Fyodorov explained. “At the moment, the White House is not certain Trump could present his summit with Vladimir Putin to his opponents as a foreign policy victory in the run-up to the November elections to the US Congress. For example, an agreement to revive the nuclear disarmament negotiation process and maintain strategic stability could be such a victory.”

Having said this, If it is merely questions of presentation that are holding the summit back, then it is likely to happen sooner or later as Donald Trump’s political position in the US grows steadily stronger.  Another Russian analyst quoted by Kommersant explains it correctly in this way

According to Yuri Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, “Trump shows consistency in fulfilling his election pledges, although he is not ready yet to fully iron out relations with Russia.” “As the alleged ‘Russian meddling’ probe is running out of steam, Trump is trying to achieve a reset in relations with Moscow. His remarks about making Russia a member of the global powers’ club again and turning the G7 into G8 was yet another reminder,” the expert stressed.

A return to Trump’s original ideas about Russia?

Shortly before Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States, but after his election as President, he gave an interview to The Times of London in which he spelled out his foreign policy ideas.

In that article he first floated the idea of trading sanctions on Russia for an arms control agreement

They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia.  For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.

At the time this suggestion was made it provoked widespread dismay in Washington and amongst the US’s European allies as it was seen – correctly – as in effect throwing Ukraine under a bus.

However it appears to correspond with the direction in which Trump – possibly on Henry Kissinger’s advice – is currently travelling.

Whether Trump will be able to follow it, and what the ultimate destination will be if he does, remains to be seen.

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How the Last Superpower Was Unchained – By Tom ENGELHARDT – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

How the Last Superpower Was Unchained
EDITOR’S CHOICE | 18.06.2018

Tom ENGELHARDT

Think of it as the all-American version of the human comedy: a great power that eternally knows what the world needs and offers copious advice with a tone deafness that would be humorous, if it weren’t so grim.

If you look, you can find examples of this just about anywhere. Here, for instance, is a passage in The New York Times from a piece on the topsy-turvy Trumpian negotiations that preceded the Singapore summit. “The Americans and South Koreans,” wrote reporter Motoko Rich, “want to persuade the North that continuing to funnel most of the country’s resources into its military and nuclear programs shortchanges its citizens’ economic well-being. But the North does not see the two as mutually exclusive.”

Think about that for a moment. The US has, of course, embarked on a trillion-dollar-plus upgrade of its already massive nuclear arsenal (and that’s before the cost overruns even begin). Its Congress and president have for years proved eager to sink at least a trillion dollars annually into the budget of the national security state (a figure that’s still rising and outpaces by far that of any other power on the planet), while its own infrastructure sags and crumbles. And yet it finds the impoverished North Koreans puzzling when they, too, follow such an extreme path.

And when it comes to cluelessness, there’s another, far stranger path the United States has been following since at least the George W Bush moment that couldn’t be more consequential and yet somehow remains the least noticed of all. On this subject, Americans don’t have a clue. In fact, if you could put the United States on a psychiatrist’s couch, this might be the place to start.

America contained

In a way, it’s the oldest story on Earth: the rise and fall of empires. And note the plural there. It was never – not until recently at least – “empire,” always “empires.” Since the 15th century, when the fleets of the first European imperial powers broke into the larger world with subjugation in mind, it was invariably a contest of many. There were at least three or sometimes significantly more imperial powers rising and contesting for dominance or slowly falling from it.

This was, by definition, the history of great powers on this planet: the challenging rise, the challenged decline. Think of it for so many centuries as the essential narrative of history, the story of how it all happened until at least 1945, when just two “superpowers,” the United States and the Soviet Union, found themselves facing off on a global scale.

Of the two, the US was always stronger, more powerful, and far wealthier. It theoretically feared the Russian Bear, the Evil Empire, which it worked assiduously to “contain” behind that famed Iron Curtain and whose adherents in the US, always modest in number, were subjected to a mania of fear and suppression.

However, the truth – at least in retrospect – was that, in the Cold War years, the Soviets were actually doing Washington a strange, if unnoted, favor. Across much of the Eurasian continent, and other places from Cuba to the Middle East, Soviet power and the never-ending contest for influence and dominance that went with it always reminded American leaders that their own power had its limits.

This, as the 21st century should have (but hasn’t) made clear, was no small thing. It still seemed obvious then that American power could not be total. There were things it could not do, places it could not control, dreams its leaders simply couldn’t have. Though no one ever thought of it that way, from 1945 to 1991, the United States, like the Soviet Union, was, after a fashion, “contained.”

In those years, the Russians were, in essence, saving Washington from itself. Soviet power was a tangible reminder to American political and military leaders that certain areas of the planet remained no-go zones (except in what, in those years, were called “the shadows”).

The Soviet Union, in short, rescued Washington from both the fantasy and the hell of going it alone, even if Americans only grasped that reality at the most subliminal of levels.

That was the situation until December 1991 when, at the end of a centuries-long imperial race for power (and the never-ending arms race that went with it), there was just one gigantic power left standing on Planet Earth. It told you something about the thinking then that, when the Soviet Union imploded, the initial reaction in Washington wasn’t triumphalism (though that came soon enough) but utter shock, a disbelieving sense that something no one had expected, predicted, or even imagined had nonetheless happened. To that very moment, Washington had continued to plan for a two-superpower world until the end of time.

America uncontained

Soon enough, though, the Washington elite came to see what happened as, in the phrase of the moment, “the end of history.” Given the wreckage of the Soviet Union, it seemed that an ultimate victory had been won by the very country its politicians would soon come to call “the last superpower,” the “indispensable” nation, the “exceptional” state, a land great beyond imagining (until, at least, Donald Trump hit the campaign trail with a slogan that implied greatness wasn’t all-American any more).

In reality, there were a variety of paths open to the “last superpower” at that moment. There was even, however briefly, talk of a “peace dividend” – of the possibility that, in a world without contesting superpowers, taxpayer dollars might once again be invested not in the sinews of war-making but of peacemaking (particularly in infrastructure and the well-being of the country’s citizens).

Such talk, however, lasted only a year or two and always in a minor key before being relegated to Washington’s attic. Instead, with only a few rickety “rogue” states left to deal with – like… gulp … North Korea, Iraq and Iran – that money never actually headed home, and neither did the thinking that went with it.

Consider it the good fortune of the geopolitical dreamers soon to take the reins in Washington that the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, which ended less than a year before the Soviet Union collapsed, prepared the way for quite a different style of thinking. That instant victory led to a new kind of militarized dreaming in which a highly tech-savvy military, like the one that had driven Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in such short order, would be capable of doing anything on a planet without serious opposition.

And yet, from the beginning, there were signs suggesting a far grimmer future. To take but one infamous example, Americans still remember the Black Hawk Down moment of 1993 when the world’s greatest military fell victim to a Somali warlord and local militias and found itself incapable of imposing its will on one of the least impressive not-quite-states on the planet (a place still frustrating that military a quarter-century later).

In that post-1991 world, however, few in Washington even considered that the 20th century had loosed another phenomenon on the world, that of insurgent national liberation movements, generally leftist rebellions, across what had been the colonial world – the very world of competing empires now being tucked into the history books – and it hadn’t gone away. In the 21st century, such insurgent movements, now largely religious, or terror-based, or both, would turn out to offer a grim new version of containment to the last superpower.

Unchaining the indispensable nation

On September 11, 2001, a canny global jihadist by the name of Osama bin Laden sent his air force (four hijacked US passenger jets) and his precision weaponry (19 suicidal, mainly Saudi followers) against three iconic targets in the American pantheon: the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and undoubtedly the Capitol or the White House (neither of which was hit because one of those jets crashed in a field in Pennsylvania). In doing so, in a sense bin Laden not only loosed a literal hell on Earth, but unchained the last superpower.

William Shakespeare would have had a word for what followed: hubris. But give the top officials of the Bush administration (and the neocons who supported them) a break. There had never been a moment like it: a moment of one. A single great power left alone, triumphant, on planet Earth. Just one superpower – wealthy beyond compare, its increasingly high-tech military unmatched, its only true rival in a state of collapse – had now been challenged by a small jihadist group.

To president Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney, and the rest of their crew, it seemed like nothing short of a heaven-sent opportunity. As they came out of the shock of 9/11, of that “Pearl Harbor of the 21st century,” it was as if they had found a magic formula in the ruins of those iconic buildings for the ultimate control of the planet. As secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld would instruct an aide at the Pentagon that day, “Go massive. Sweep it up. Things related and not.”

Within days, things related and not were indeed being swept up. The country was almost instantly said to be “at war,” and soon that conflict even had a name, the Global War on Terror. Nor was that war to be against just al-Qaeda, or even one country, an Afghanistan largely ruled by the Taliban. More than 60 countries said to have “terror networks” of various sorts found themselves almost instantly in the administration’s potential gunsights. And that was just to be the beginning of it all.

In October 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan was launched. In the spring of 2003, the invasion of Iraq followed, and those were only the initial steps in what was increasingly envisioned as the imposition of a Pax Americana on the Greater Middle East.

There could be no doubt, for instance, that Iran and Syria, too, would soon go the way of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush’s top officials had been nursing just such dreams since, in 1997, many of them formed a think-tank (the first ever to enter the White House) called the Project for the New American Century and began to write out what were then the fantasies of figures nowhere near power. By 2003, they were power itself and their dreams, if anything, had grown even more grandiose.

In addition to imagining a political Pax Republicana in the United States, they truly dreamed of a future planetary Pax Americana in which, for the first time in history, a single power would, in some fashion, control the whole works, the Earth itself.

And this wasn’t to be a passing matter either. The Bush administration’s “unilateralism” rested on a conviction that it could actually create a future in which no country or even bloc of countries would ever come close to matching or challenging US military power. The administration’s National Security Strategy of 2002 put the matter bluntly: The US was to “build and maintain” a military, in the phrase of the moment, “beyond challenge.”

They had little doubt that, in the face of the most technologically advanced, bulked-up, destructive force on Earth, hostile states would be “shocked and awed” by a simple demonstration of its power, while friendly ones would have little choice but to come to heel as well. After all, as Bush said at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2007, the US military was “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.”

Though there was much talk at the time about the “liberation” of Afghanistan and then Iraq, at least in their imaginations the true country being liberated was the planet’s lone superpower. Although the Bush administration was officially considered a “conservative” one, its key officials were geopolitical dreamers of the first order and their vision of the world was the very opposite of conservative. It harkened back to nothing and looked forward to everything.

It was radical in ways that should have, but didn’t, take the American public’s breath away; radical in ways that had never been seen before.

Shock and awe for the last superpower

Think of what those officials did in the post-9/11 moment as the ultimate act of greed. They tried to swallow a whole planet. They were determined to make it a planet of one in a way that had never before been seriously imagined.

It was, to say the least, a vision of madness. Even in a moment when it truly did seem – to them at least – that all constraints had been taken off, an administration of genuine conservatives might have hesitated. Its top officials might, at least, have approached the post-Soviet situation with a modicum of caution and modesty.

But not George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and pals. In the face of what seemed like the ultimate in possibilities they proved clueless when it came to the possibility that anything on Earth might have a shot at containing them.

Even among their critics, who could have imagined then that, more than 16 years later, having faced only lightly armed enemies of various sorts, still wealthy beyond compare, still with a military funded in a way the next seven countries couldn’t cumulatively match, the United States would have won literally nothing?

Who could have imagined that, unlike so many preceding imperial powers (including the US of the earlier Cold War era), it would have been able to establish control over nothing at all; that, instead, from Afghanistan to Syria, Iraq deep into Africa, it would find itself in a state of “infinite war” and utter frustration on a planet filled with ever more failed statesdestroyed citiesdisplaced people, and right-wing “populist” governments, including the one in Washington?

Who could have imagined that, with a peace dividend no longer faintly conceivable, this country would have found itself not just in decline, but – a new term is needed to catch the essence of this curious moment – in what might be called self-decline?

Yes, a new power, China, is finally rising – and doing so on a planet that seems itself to be going down. Here, then, is a conclusion that might be drawn from the quarter-century-plus in which America was both unchained and largely alone.

The Earth is admittedly a small orb in a vast universe, but the history of this century so far suggests one reality about which America’s rulers proved utterly clueless: After so many hundreds of years of imperial struggle, this planet still remains too big, too disparate, too ornery to be controlled by a single power. What the Bush administration did was simply take one gulp too many and the result has been a kind of national (and planetary) indigestion.

Despite what it looked like in Washington once upon a time, the disappearance of the Soviet Union proved to be no gift at all, but a disaster of the first order. It removed all sense of limits from America’s political class and led to a tale of greed on a planetary scale. In the process, it also set the US on a path to self-decline.

The history of greed in our time has yet to be written, but what a story it will someday make. In it, the greed of those geopolitical dreamers will intersect with the greed of an ever wealthier, ever more gilded 1%, of the billionaires who were preparing to swallow whole the political system of that last superpower and grab so much of the wealth of the planet, leaving so little for others.

Whether you’re talking about the urge to control the planet militarily or financially, what took place in these years could, in the end, result in ruin of a historic kind. To use a favored phrase from the Bush years, one of these days we Americans may be facing little short of “regime change” on a planetary scale. And what a piece of shock and awe that’s likely to prove to be.

All of us, of course, now live on the planet Bush’s boys tried to swallow whole. They left us in a world of infinite war, infinite harm, and in Donald Trump’s America where cluelessness has been raised to a new power.

atimes.com

Assad Vows Resistance Against US, Israeli, Turkish “Occupying Forces” in Syria – By SPUTNIK

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In an interview with the al-Alam News Network on Wednesday, President Bashar Assad underscored his country’s full support for “any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against occupying forces regardless of their nationality.”

President Assad has described the US, French, Turkish and Israeli troops present in his country as “occupying forces.”

Mentioning the presence of fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in his country, President Assad said that “the battle is long and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time.”He added that even though Iran has no military bases in Syria, Damascus is ready to let them in if necessary.

In an earlier interview with the Daily Mail, President Assad accused the West of attempts to oust his government.

“We are fighting the terrorists, and those terrorists are supported by the British government, the French government, the Americans and their puppets whether in Europe or in our region,” Assad said.

“They tell lies, they talk about chemical weapons, they talk about the bad president killing the good people, freedom, peaceful demonstrations,” he added.

Invited by Damascus, Iranian military advisors are on the ground in Syria helping the government forces win the war, while Hezbollah units have been helping flush out terrorists in areas along Syria’s border with Lebanon.

READ MORE: Daesh Continues Resistance in Syria Only in US-Controlled Areas — Russian MoD

 
 
 
 

Related:

West Attacked Syria When Normalization Was Becoming Irreversible – Russian MoD
West Seeks to Bypass Russian UN Veto Amid Deepening Impasse Over Syria – Reports
Tags:
“occupying forces”, foreign troops, allies, Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah, Bashar Assad, Syria

Saudi Attempts to Sow Seeds of Sectarianism in Yemen Are Backfiring – By Ahmed Abdulkareem – (MINT PRESS)

Day and night, Yemenis in rebel-held areas are bombarded with polarizing sermons, radio ads reminiscent of the vitriol that fueled the 1994 Rwandan massacre, and leaflet drops that routinely rain down messages of disunity like confetti commandments hurled from an angry, vengeful God.

SANA’A, YEMEN — A  phalanx of flickering video cameras frames the portly Saudi Imam in a shimmering half-light, as he exhorts a brigade of Sunni Muslim mercenaries from the East African nation of Sudan to prepare for battle with rebels from Yemen’s Shia sect known as Houthis.

The (Saudi) King Salman Bin Abdulaziz brought you to defend the Prophet Muhammad;  Salman gave you the honor of defending the Prophet Muhammad’s companions.”

He continues, accusing the heterodox Houthis of heresy, in effect:

For Aisha, wife of Prophet Muhammad, has been accused of adultery by the Houthis. You should defend her. You will die on the path of Allah; you will go to heaven. You must be thankful to (King) Salman for giving this chance to you.”

Posted on YouTube, the imam’s stemwinder is part of Saudi Arabia’s broader media campaign to portray its military effort here at the Arabian peninsula’s edge as an intervention of sorts, an altruistic attempt to help a population of 28 million Yemenis sort out sectarian rivalries between Sunnis and Shias that date back centuries.

Since the conflict in Yemen erupted seven years ago, Saudi Arabia has taken to the pulpit and the airwaves, Facebook and Twitter and the Western media, to inflame Islamic passions, manufacture dissent, and rally Sunni Muslims both at home and abroad to repel the backwards Shia rebels and their supporters from Iran, which is home to more Shias than any country in the world. Day and night, Yemenis in rebel-held areas are bombarded with polarizing sermons such as in the above YouTube rant filmed in 2017, radio ads reminiscent of the vitriol that fueled the 1994 Rwandan massacre, and leaflet drops that routinely rain down messages of disunity like confetti commandments hurled from an angry, vengeful God.

“We’re trying to save you from the Persians,” reads one batch of leaflets. “Coalition forces came for you, when the Furs (Persians) tried infringing the origin of Arabism and Arab people, also for keeping your wealth and safety.”

One of the dropped by Saudi planes. Translation: “Oh honorable people, The coalition`s forces have come for you, when the Furs (Persians) tried infringing on the origin of Arabism and the Arab people, and to protect your wealth and safety.”

Combined with Saudi cash, this propaganda campaign has succeeded in recruiting Muslim sectarians and mercenaries from around the world, and disseminating its narrative in the Western media.

“How Sectarianism shapes Yemen’s War,” reads a Washington Post headline.

“How Sunni-Shia Sectarianism Is Poisoning Yemen,” reads a headline for the Carnegie for Middle East Center’s website.

“Combat in Yemen Risks Stirring Sectarian Hatreds,” reads a Reuters headline.

But here in Yemen, among a population that is roughly that of Texas, such Balkanizing rhetoric has largely fallen on deaf ears. In one interview after another, Yemenis told MintPress that they do not view the conflict in tribal terms but through a geopolitical lens: along with its allies in the U.S., Western Europe and Israel, Saudi Arabia wants to seize control of Yemen’s lucrative oil and natural gas reserves, and strategic supply routes.  

Hence this war, which has left more than 600,000 dead and injured. A Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports led to the deaths of 50,000 children from starvation and illness in 2017 alone — and human rights groups say that, on average, 130 children continue to die each day in Yemen, transforming what was the poorest country in the Middle East into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said at a news conference in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday that April 2018 has been the deadliest month this year so far, with a sharp increase in civilian casualties in Yemen.

As of this month, hundreds of thousands of people in Hodeida, western Yemen, are internally displaced and, thanks to a recent Saudi-led Coalition military campaign and a U.S.-supported Saudi blockade on Hodeida port, millions lack access to potable water.

Amnesty International says intense fighting near Yemen’s largest port of Hodeida has displaced around 100,000 people in recent months, most of them from Hodeida Province — saying “the worst could be yet to come.”

The Saudi-led Coalition’s warplanes indiscriminately target homes, schools and farms; and Yemenis, both Sunni and Shia, respond accordingly. They fight together and pray together, bury their martyrs together and die together defending their homeland from the foreign threats. Sunni women cook for Shia fighters and sell their jewelry to support them. No one interviewed for this story reported ever seeing an Iranian combatant or arms dealer, nor do they know anyone who has. Just last week, an angry mob gathered in the northern city of Sa’ada to set fire to leaflets dropped from Saudi aircraft.

Yemeni gather and burn inflammatory leaflets encouraging sectarianism cast by Saudi aircraft in Sa`ada, Northern Yemen, May 10, 2018. (Phoot: MintPress News)

When asked if Saudi Arabia is fighting for “Sunni interests,” one Yemeni taxi driver referenced the Saudis’ support for the Egyptian military’s 2012 coup that overthrew a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Sunni sect.

Saudi does not care about the Sunnis. You know the Saudis immediately used their financial muscle to help the anti-Muslim Brotherhood coup . . . led by General Sisi to consolidate its control over that country.”

A young Yemeni woman majoring in political science at Sana’a University, referenced Saudi Arabia’s support for Israel’s 2014 bombardment of the Palestinian territories:

When it came to Gaza, Islam’s template was discarded. Saudi Arabia gave Tel Aviv a green light to destroy Hamas in 2014.”

Taha Abu Talib — the head of the Yemen Legal Center for Rights and Development, which tracks coalition airstrikes on a daily basis — said that most of the casualties are Sunnis. A Yemeni scholar, Mohammad Taher Anam, told MintPress:

Saudi Arabia depicts the war on Yemen as a sectarian war to provoke Sunni followers . . . It is just like a bullfighter irritating the bull by waving the red cape.”

Those who put their hand on the chest while praying are Sunnis; the others are Shia.

 

 

Yemenis are not falling in Saudi propaganda

While the Houthis do represent the vanguard of Yemen’s resistance movement, their beliefs are relatively moderate within the context of Islamic factions, and historically Sunnis and Shias lived together peacefully. Even before the war, it was not uncommon to see Sunnis and Shias praying together at local mosques in Yemen.

A popular Sunni cleric, Major Yahia Al Deir, led a brigade of Houthi fighters when he was killed on a battlefield near the city of Najran. In a video recorded shortly before his death, he urged all Yemenis to fight together against Saudi invaders.

Major Yahia Al Deir was a Sunni preacher, killed on a battlefield at Najran, a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia while leading a military corps of Houthi fighters (Zaidi) in operations against Saudi military sites, 2018 (MintPress News)

In Major Yahia`s village, al Wathan, roughly 35 miles south of Sana, Abdullah Al Deir said his brother was motivated by the violence Saudi Arabia inflicted on Yemenis, both Sunni and Shia. A friend who fought alongside Major Al Deir, Ahmed Al Qaseem, said the cleric was fond of saying

We are fighting together, there is no Sunni and Shia.’”

Typically outnumbered in their colonial conquests, European settlers in the Arab world and across the global South have sought to divide the many by pitting the indigenous and working-class people against one another. In the Americas, that strategy has largely fallen along racial lines, as the elites have pitted every wave of white immigrants against the descendants of African slaves. In the African and Arab world, the fissures are more likely than not either tribal or religious or both.

Tribal divisions in Africa, for example, were traditionally fluid and seldom violent — tantamount, for the most part, to rivalries between fans of college basketball or professional football teams. But, in openly favoring one tribe over another for decades, European settlers inflamed tensions that led to real political violence between, say, the Shona and Ndebele tribes in Zimbabwe, Zulu and Xhosa in South Africa, and, most famously, the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, a former French colony.

As Ansarullah Political Bureau member Ali Al Quhom, told MintPress:

The American-Saudi aggression main goal is to occupy the country and plunder its wealth. They want to sink Yemeni people into chaos by reviving the ethnic and sectarian conflicts.”

Yemenis, however, have largely avoided such tensions.

In March of 2016, Sunnis gathered in the western city of Hodeida for a conference billed as “Together to reject sectarianism, Saudi aggression, and siege.” 

Yemen’s Sunni religious leaders -- more than 400 scholars, Imams, and clerics -- attend a conference in Hodeida on March 26, 2016, under the slogan "together to reject sectarianism, aggression and siege.”

Sunni scholar Taher Anam, who attended the conference, told MintPress:

The war on Yemen is a Saudi war, not a sectarian war, it is not for supporting Yemen’s former Riyadh-friendly government or against the country’s Houthi advancement. Surely it is against all Yemenis.”

Top Photo | Supporters of Yemen’s Houthi Shias attend a rally to mark the third anniversary of the Yemen’s revolution in Sanaa, Sept. 21, 2017. Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of Yemen’s Houthis, accused the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the UAE of seeking to divide Yemen. (AP/Hani Mohammed)

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

US will face ‘regret like never before’ if it pulls out of Iran nuclear deal – Rouhani – By RT

US will face 'regret like never before' if it pulls out of Iran nuclear deal – Rouhani
The US will be faced with regret if it decides to pull out of the nuclear deal agreed with Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned, adding that his government has “plans to resist” the move.

“If the United States leaves the nuclear agreement, you will soon see that they will regret it like never before in history,” Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday, as quoted by Reuters.

Rouhani went on to state that Tehran has “plans to resist any decision by Trump on the nuclear accord,” and that “orders have been issued to our atomic energy organization… and to the economic sector to confront America’s plots against our country.

“America is making a mistake if it leaves the nuclear accord.”

His remarks come in the lead-up to May 12, a deadline by which US President Donald Trump says America’s European allies must rectify “flaws” in the nuclear agreement. If that isn’t done to Trump’s satisfaction, he says he will refuse to extend US sanctions relief for Iran.

The European allies – Britain, France, and Germany – are committed to sticking to the deal which was signed in 2015, with a recent statement from Downing Street saying they agree it is “the best way of neutralizing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.” 

However, in an effort to keep Washington involved, the three nations are seeking to open talks on Iran’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 – when the key provisions of the deal expire – and its role in Middle East crises including Syria and Yemen.

That notion was slammed by Rouhani on Sunday. “We will not negotiate with anyone about our weapons and defenses, and we will make and store as many weapons, facilities and missiles as we need,” he said, stressing the rejection by Iranian leaders to hold talks on Iran’s missile program, which it claims is purely for defensive purposes.

Just a few hours earlier, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani implied that the president would be nixing Washington’s commitment to the agreement. Trump has called the accord, which was signed under the Obama administration, the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

Trump has also said that he has the power to cancel US participation in the agreement “at any time,” and refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal in October, despite confirmation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Tehran was in compliance with the deal.

Meanwhile, in a controversial television slideshow at the end of last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran lied about its nuclear program, which makes the 2015 deal invalid. While the US says the slideshow proves that Iran had a “robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program,” the presentation was slammed by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as a “coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelation by the boy who cries wolf.”

Analysts told RT that the timing of the seemingly well-rehearsed presentation was indeed crucial. Dr. Maged Botros, the head of the political science department at Helwan University in Egypt, said that Netanyahu’s presentation was “a setup for Trump,” suggesting it could be a solution for the US president to tear up the deal. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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After visiting Douma, western media begin to question ‘gas attack’ narrative – By RT

After visiting Douma, western media begin to question ‘gas attack’ narrative
After speaking with eyewitnesses on the ground in Syria, even mainstream media are beginning to cast doubt on the West’s narrative of an alleged gas attack in Douma, as medics tell French, German and UK media it never happened.

Agence France-Presse (AFP), the world’s third largest news agency, and the Independent, a British online newspaper, have each published stories that question whether chlorine or any other chemical was used against Syrians in Eastern Ghouta on April 7.

In a French language video report, AFP spoke with Marwan Jaber, a medical student who witnessed the aftermath of the alleged attack.

“Some of [the victims] suffered from asthma and pulmonary inflammation. They received routine treatment and some were even sent home,” Jaber told AFP. “They showed no symptoms of a chemical attack. But some foreigners entered while we were in a state of chaos and sprinkled people with water, and some of them were even filming it.”

Jaber’s testimony is consistent with claims made by a Douma doctor who spoke with veteran UK journalist Robert Fisk. Although Dr. Assim Rahaibani did not personally witness what happened in the medical clinic, he said that “all the doctors” he works with “know what happened.”

According to Rahaibani, intense shelling had created dust clouds that seeped into the basements and cellars where people lived. “People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted ‘Gas!’, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

Writing in the Independent, Fisk noted that locals he spoke with “never believed in” the gas attack stories – and that tales of President Bashar Assad’s chemical atrocities had been spread by armed Islamist groups who had imprisoned and enslaved thousands of people in Ghouta before the town was liberated by Syrian forces in April.

Meanwhile, a report aired by the German RTL Group-owned channel n-tv says it’s unclear whether the attack took place at all, given that most of the locals told them on camera they didn’t smell any chemicals at all, one local told them he remembers a “weird smell” and was fine after a glass of water, and one man, who didn’t want to show his face, insisted there was a “smell of chlorine.”

However, a local doctor told the channel: “Saturday, a week ago, we treated people with breathing problems, but chlorine or gas poisoning – no, those are different symptoms.”

All of these stories published by different outlets corroborate testimony from two men who appeared in the “gas attack” footage spread far and wide by western media and governments. Interviewed by the Russian military, the two men said they were unknowing accomplices in the gas attack ruse. “We were working and did not pay attention to who was filming us,” the first eyewitness said. “They were filming us, and then a man came in and started screaming that this was a chemical attack…People got scared and started spraying each other with water and using inhalers. Doctors told us that there was no chemical poisoning.”

Doctors and medical workers questioned by the Russian Center for Reconciliation confirmed that there had been no reports of patients suffering from chemical poisoning in Douma during the timeframe of the alleged gas attack.

The French and British media reports seem to contradict statements made by Paris and London, which have both stated unequivocally that the chemical attack did take place – and that Assad was responsible.

READ MORE: UK airstrikes in Syria based on ‘hearsay’ – Labour MP Chris Williamson (VIDEO)

French President Emmanuel Macron said before Saturday’s missile strike against Syria that he had proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chlorine to attack civilians in a militant-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

For her part, British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that a “significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack.”

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Prior to any investigation US State Dept accuses Russia and Syria of gassing civilians – By Caitlin Johnstone (Medium) ( SOTT)

Heather Nuaert

Just weeks ago, two firebreathing neoconservative war whores were promoted to the highest echelons of influence within the Trump administration. The new National Security Advisor John Bolton only has one key on his piano, and that key is war. Neoconservative hawk Mike Pompeo was promoted from the head of the notoriously vicious Central Intelligence Agency to Hillary Clinton’s old job as Secretary of State after famously announcing that he was trying to make the CIA “a much more vicious agency.”

Trump supporters talk a lot about the Deep State as though it is something separate from and at odds with the Trump administration. If that was ever the case, it certainly isn’t anymore. Trump might be in a power struggle with certain factions or aspects of the power establishment, but you don’t promote bloodthirsty swamp monsters like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to positions of maximum impact if you’re fighting the Deep State.

Pompeo’s State Department has issued a press release by way of its soulless spokeswoman Heather Nauert about the nonsensical new report that the Syrian government once again decided to kill a bunch of children with poison gas at the least strategically opportune moment imaginable. The press release is riddled with falsehoods and jaw-dropping accusations which cannot possibly be based in fact since they were made mere hours after the allegations surfaced, long before any sort of investigation into them could have even begun, much less been completed.

Let’s go through this press release line by line, from beginning to end:

“We continue to closely follow disturbing reports on April 7 regarding another alleged chemical weapons attack, this time targeting a hospital in Douma, Syria. Reports from a number of contacts and medical personnel on the ground indicate a potentially high number of casualties, including among families hiding in shelters.”

We should note here that the “ground” these sources are “on” is controlled by the Al Qaeda-allied terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam, and the reports we’re seeing sourced by the press are in fact coming from the western-backed and Al Qaeda-affiliated propaganda firm known as the White Helmets and the “pro-opposition Ghouta Media Center“. There’s no reason to believe that there is anyone “on the ground” in Douma willing to make themselves available as a source who is not supportive of jihadist factions and the western empire’s longstanding regime change agenda in Syria.

“These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community.”

If confirmed. That’s an open acknowledgement from the State Department that these reports are unconfirmed, which renders all the accusations which come later in this press release nonsensical.

“Immediate response by the international community” is exactly what Libya got in response to deceitful narratives promulgated by unquestioning media outlets. Now the nation which the west raped, brutalized and left for dead under the pretense of humanitarianism is a humanitarian nightmare, and NATO doesn’t care because the empire got the real job done in 2011.

“The United States continues to use all efforts available to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable. The regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute, and in fact nearly one year ago on April 4, 2017, Assad’s forces conducted a sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed approximately 100 Syrians.”

The assertion that the “regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute” is a brazen lie. The entire other half of the conflict consistently denies it, including Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin personally, and many respected western journalists and scholars remain skeptical of the official NATO narrative for a whole variety of reasons. It is absolutely ridiculous to say everyone agrees that in a region crawling with known terrorist factions who have a known history of chemical weapons attacks, and in a nation long targeted for regime change by the western empire, the only possible explanation for chemical weapons reports is a government which stands nothing to gain and everything to lose by using them.

“The Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately.”

Whoa! Held accountable? Immediately? What happened to “if confirmed”??

“Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks, targeting of countless civilians, and the suffocation of Syria’s most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons. By shielding its ally Syria, Russia has breached its commitments to the United Nations as a framework guarantor. It has betrayed the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118. Russia’s protection of the Assad regime and failure to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria calls into question its commitment to resolving the overall crisis and to larger non-proliferation priorities.”

Russia “ultimately bears responsibility” for an attack with no evidence? Again, mighty big words for a press release about a completely unconfirmed report.

I’ve never seen a convincing explanation as to why Assad would be “targeting” civilians at all. I could see criticizing him for, like America, not taking enough measures to protect civilians from air strike crossfire, but why would he “target” them? Is killing civilians with internationally banned weapons just some bizarre sexual kink of his? One he only discovered in 2011? Nobody has ever given me an answer to this that fits into what I know about motive and human nature.

“The United States calls on Russia to end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further, barbaric chemical weapons attacks.”

Half of this press release about Syria is actually about how awful and evil Russia is, the same nation the western empire has been finding any excuse to escalate tensions with since 2016 in a steadily escalating new cold war. Funny how this is all happening after the spectacular collapse of the “Novichok” narrative the UK was trying to use to unite Europe in aggressions against Russia.

Truth is the first casualty of war. Because of its reliance on psyops, propaganda and narrative shaping, this is especially true of cold war.

And that’s it for that insane State Department press release and all its accusations and demands for an international response. For further reading on the latest regime change Syria narrative being promulgated by the western war machine, check out this brand new article by independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley and this one by the always excellent Moon of Alabama. Both explain how this latest allegation fits in with an already highly suspicious pattern and explain how absurd it is to believe what we’re being told to believe. I wrote another article about this a few hours ago as well.

Remember: they wouldn’t be working so hard to manufacture your consent for these strategic power grabs if they didn’t need your consent. Refuse to be bullied and manipulated into handing it over to them.

Comment: See also:

Remember, Jaish al-Islam is the group that put Syrian civilians in cages on rooftops to act as human shields in order to discourage air strikes in East Ghouta. (Why would they even have bothered if Assad targets his own civilians?) Their leader praises Osama Bin Laden. Chemical weapons labs have been discovered in the liberated portions of East Ghouta. The terrorists have means, motive and opportunity, but idiots like Trump blame “Animal Assad”. Give us a break. Donate your brain to science, because it’s obvious you don’t need it.

The Russian military, via the head of the Reconciliation Center in Syria, refuted the reports of the alleged attack, saying:

“We declare our readiness, after Douma is liberated from the militants, to immediately send Russian radiation, chemical and biological protection specialists to collect data that will confirm the fabricated nature of these allegations,” he stated.

Yevtushenko said that “a number of Western countries” are trying to prevent the resumption of an operation aimed at driving militants from the city of Douma.

“For this purpose, the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces – one of the most widespread claims in the West – is being used,” he added.

Even the propaganda source SOHR has refused to confirm the attack, “and said casualties might have been a result of fire and toxic smoke following a conventional airstrike.”

Thus Reuters, while admitting it “could not independently verify reports of a chemical attack,” sought a comment from another obscure organization, the Syrian American Medical Society. A US-based SAMS representative claimed that, while a “chlorine bomb hit Douma hospital,” another nearby building was targeted by a barrel-bomb containing a mix that included “nerve agents.”

And how would they know? Ahh, it must be their jihadist chemical weapons experts on the ground in Douma. Of course!

Even Turkey has jumped on the bandwagon, saying they have “strong suspicions” Damascus is behind the alleged attack.

This is the background on what has actually been happening in Douma: the terrorists are desperate:

The situation in Douma escalated after Jaysh al-Islam militants breached all agreements, shelling Damascus and terrorizing civilians to derail evacuations, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria said in its daily report, issued before the claims of a chemical attack emerged.

“The Jaysh al-Islam militants carried out a number of attacks against the SAA [Syrian Armed Forces] positions and conducted mortar and missile shelling against Damascus,” the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said Saturday. “Over the last 48 hours, militants fired 25 mines and rocket projectiles at the capital and its suburbs. As a result, seven civilians were killed and 42 people injured. Shelling attacks are intensifying.”

Terrorists also continue to use civilians as human shields, the MoD noted, adding that militants are “publicly executing civilians” who support the withdrawal of militants from Douma.

“Jaysh al-Islam terrorists breached [the] Douma agreement by attacking with mortar and rocket shells several residential areas of Damascus, claiming lives and injuring dozens of civilians, including women and children,” Sana meanwhile reported.

The U.S. is “reviewing its options” – which is ridiculous given that they don’t have a freaking clue what has even happened yet:

The EU claimed on Sunday that there is “evidence” pointing to “another chemical attack” conducted by Damascus. It provided no specific details to substantiate the claim. Instead, the bloc called for an immediate “international response” and urged Russia and Iran to use their influence to prevent any similar incidents in future.

Damascus rejected the accusations, calling them “boring and inconclusive propaganda.” Only countries that “speculate on the blood of civilians and support terrorism in Syria” could be convinced by such reports, a Syrian Foreign Ministry official told SANA news agency. They pointed out that similar allegations emerge every time the Syrian Army makes advances in its fight against terrorists. The official added that Damascus had warned about a pre-planned false-flag attack.

Assad, once again, is the sane one. The Russian Foreign Ministry too:

The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the latest reports about a chemical attack that allegedly affected dozens of civilians in the militant-controlled town of Douma. It said the reports were another example of a “continuous series of fake news about the use of chlorine and other chemical agents by the government forces.”

“The goal of this… baseless speculation is to shield the terrorists and… the radical opposition that refuse to engage in a political settlement [process], as well as to justify potential military strikes from the outside,” the statement said. It then warned that any military interference in Syria conducted under “far-fetched or fabricated pretexts” would be “absolutely unacceptable” and could lead to “dire consequences.”

The Russian and Syrian air forces are on red alert after Trump’s idiotic tweets.

Syrian Army Reportedly Finds Documents in E Ghouta Linking Terrorists to the US – By Sputnik

A member of Syrian forces of President Bashar al Assad walks inside a tunnel that was used by rebels in Jobar, eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria April 2, 2018

© REUTERS/ Omar Sanadiki
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Following the liberation of East Ghouta, the Syrian military has found an extensive network of tunnels with underground hospitals that were used by terrorist groups to move safely and perform raids on Syrian army positions.

Syrian soldiers have found documented proof of the secret cooperation between a US-based company and terrorists in Syria in the tunnels discovered after the liberation of East Ghouta, the Fars news agency reports, citing anonymous source in the army. The source refused to give the name of the company, due to the sensitivity of the information and the fact that the investigation is still ongoing. But he reassured that the documents are corroborative and prove that the terrorists were funded and even paid regularly by the US organization.

READ MORE: US Caught Evacuating More Daesh Leaders in Syria — State Media

After the last groups left East Ghouta, the Syrian army started cleaning the city of what remained after the terrorists, including mine fields and booby-traps, and discovered a system of tunnels, connecting different parts of the town. The Syrian military found two hospitals, equipped not only with what terrorists had stolen from local hospitals, but also with more advanced equipment, reportedly produced in Western countries and Saudi Arabia.

READ MORE: US-Led Coalition Uses Al Hasakah Camp in Syria to Train Militants — Russian MoD

The US, which operates on the Syrian soil without the authorization of its government or a UN mandate, has been frequently accused of helping Daesh terrorists. Information surfaced late February and March in Syrian media that US helicopters were transporting Daesh commanders and their family members to Sabah al-Khair, which is believed by locals to be a terrorist training camp.

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