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Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Coronavirus Means America Is Really Broke. Trump Should Get the Hell Out of Syria. | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 23, 2020

The U.S. is broke. Before the coronavirus made its malign appearance, Washington was set to run trillion-dollar annual deficits this year and as far as we can see beyond. Now revenues will fall and expenses rise this year, at least, as a result of the sharply contracting economy. And Congress is preparing to pass a $1 trillion “stimulus” package on top. Why are we still in Syria?

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/coronavirus-means-america-really-broke-trump-should-get-hell-out-syria-135932

by Doug Bandow

The U.S. is broke. Before the coronavirus made its malign appearance, Washington was set to run trillion-dollar annual deficits this year and as far as we can see beyond. Now revenues will fall and expenses rise this year, at least, as a result of the sharply contracting economy. And Congress is preparing to pass a $1 trillion “stimulus” package on top.

Yet America’s endless wars continue in the Middle East. If the U.S. stopped tomorrow it would end up spending an estimated $6.4 trillion on conflicts which by and large ended disastrously: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Every day the Trump administration continues to pour good money after bad.

Why?

Washington’s promiscuous war-making is discretionary: the Mideast has lost its strategic significance. No one threatens to conquer the oil upon which the West depends. No one threatens the survival of Israel, a regional superpower. What justification is there for Americans to continue attempting to socially engineer one of the world’s most fractious, unstable regions?

It is not enough to say no to any new geopolitical crusades, such as war with Iran, which would be a regional catastrophe. The U.S. should pull out of existing conflicts. Ending support for Saudi Arabia’s depredations in Yemen should be easy. So should be exiting Iraq as anger grows against Washington for trading blows with pro-Iranian militias on Iraqi soil.

Most important is leaving Syria. American officials have spent nine years attempting to shape that conflict’s outcome, so far without success. The administration should withdraw U.S. forces, leaving the region’s powers to sort out that country’s future.

Washington’s involvement never made any sense. President Bashar al-Assad is an evil man who was no friend of America but never threatened the U.S. Nor had Damascus done much to endanger Israel in years. The Syrians did not even retaliate for an Israeli strike on a nuclear reactor being built with North Korean aid.

Syria’s collapse into civil war was a tragedy, though more complex than often portrayed. The Assad government was brutal, but not guilty of genocide: low-tech civil wars typically are bloody and many of the dead were regime supporters. Jihadist insurgents also killed prolifically and brutally, even using chemical weapons. It was the kind of conflict in which one could only wish all combatants ill.

Yet with the absence of a militarily effective, politically moderate movement—America’s attempt to find and aid such fighters was tragically ineffective, even incompetent—the best outcome for Washington was Assad’s survival. Turning a nation-state over to Islamist radicals was the sort of horrid specter typically presented as the reason the U.S. had to intervene in such conflicts. The Obama administration’s willingness to bring about that end, intentional or not, was perverse, even bizarre.

There is much bad to say about Trump’s foreign policy and decision-making process. However, apparently he alone in the administration—the result of his decision to surround himself with only members of the “endless war” crowd—understands the necessity of leaving Syria. When urged in 2017 to reinforce the U.S. military there, he reportedly responded: “I’m not sending any more forces into Syria. Arm the Kurds, take Raqqa, get ISIS out of there, and then get the hell out of Syria.”

Three years later the only proper bottom line remains the same: “Get the hell out of Syria.”

Yet the desire to play social engineer, ignoring religion, geography, history, ideology, interest, and culture, remains strong. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin recently penned an article on why Americans, as their country slid toward crisis over COVID-19, “should care about Syria.” In fact, the piece brilliantly makes the opposite case.

Rogin’s contentions:

1. “What happens in Syria doesn’t stay in Syria. A New wave of refugees will destabilize European democracies.” Sure, but those “European democracies” match the U.S. in economic strength and exceed America in population. Let the Europeans, finally, after years of cheap-riding, confront a military problem rather than assume it is Washington’s responsibility. After all, in case they have not noticed, Americans are rather busy with their own problems right now.

2. “The United States has interests all over the region that will be threatened by the rising chaos.” Uh, the Mideast has been a disastrous mess for years. Much of it caused by U.S. policies. Washington destroyed democracy in Iran, blew up Iraq, helped destroy Libya, and is continuing to help dissolve Yemen. Stating that interests are stake does not mean that they are important enough to warrant war, or that military action can save them. What have American policymakers done in the last two decades to suggest they are capable of fixing Syria?

3. “The Islamic State will seize the opportunity to revive itself. Eventually, when strong enough, its fighters will attack Americans wherever they can.” Actually, ISIS broke sharply from al-Qaeda in seeking to create a caliphate, or quasi-nation state, not attack the far enemy, namely the U.S. The only Americans killed by the Islamic State before Washington intervened were those who had traveled to Syria. Anyway, the movement is opposed by every government and a host of groups in the region—Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, the Gulf States, Israel, Kurds, Hezbollah—as well as outsiders Russia and Europe. Is the emerging ISIS juggernaut so great that only Washington can halt a revival?

4. If Assad retakes Idlib, “his next target is Syria’s northeast, where several hundred U.S. servicemembers are based, which will make that our problem.” Actually, that is not a problem. Those personnel could and should be withdrawn. They are illegally occupying another country, with neither congressional nor United Nations authority, and for no good strategic reason.

5. “It we remove those troops, we will lose all leverage to push for a political solution.” At one point Assad was on the military ropes while Washington was funding insurgents and a gaggle of other nations, most notably Turkey and the Gulf States, also were aiding his opponents. That “leverage” gained nothing. Today he has won the civil war and is attempting to reconquer the last area, Idlib, under insurgent control. Now Washington’s pressure is expected to force him from power?

6. “The Islamic State and Iran will fill the vacuum.” Actually, the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, is likely to fill the vacuum. One of the essential contradictions of U.S. policy was attempting to eliminate ISIS while overthrowing Assad, the group’s most important enemy. That effort failed as he left America to concentrate on the Islamic State while he targeted other insurgents. Allowed to occupy the rest of his country, Assad would battle any ISIS resurgence. As for Iran, it already is in Syria at the invitation of the government, its presence impelled by insurgencies backed by America. Freer access for Tehran to Syria’s north won’t matter to America, or even to Israel, which has demonstrated its ability to ensure its security.

7. “With just a few hundred soldiers and some help to our allies, the lives of millions can be spared from Assad’s cruel rule.” Having stood by for nine years as civil war ravaged Syria, it is a little late to imagine Washington doing much to protect civilians there. Anyway, exactly how this is to be accomplished is not clear. Surely not by direct U.S. military intervention. Supporting Turkey, which slaughtered Kurdish civilians in Turkey before illegally invading Syria to kill Kurds there, would be a strange step to take in the name of humanitarianism. (Never mind Ankara’s domestic slide toward authoritarianism and Islamism, intervention in Libya’s civil war, and dalliance with Russia.) Nor is leaving Idlib under the rule of a collection of Islamists, led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Hurras al-Din, both connected to al-Qaeda, and other equally dubious jihadist groups, a humanitarian solution. Nor is this in America’s interest. Finally, since Syria, backed by Iran and Russia, is unlikely to voluntarily yield sovereign territory, any U.S. intervention would have to be perpetual, for no discernible American advantage or interest.

8. Citing David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee, “The war in Syria will, dangerously, become a precedent for a new normal for brutal, divisive, contagious conflict.” The conflict has raged for nine years killing upwards of a half-million people. If a precedent might be set, it already has been set. However, the past is filled with equally horrendous conflicts that long raged, slaughtering and destroying indiscriminately: Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Colombia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Yemen, Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo. Go back in history a little: Algeria, Angola, Cambodia/Kampuchea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria (Biafra). Alas, the bloody precedent has been very well established.

9. “If Americans are not convinced by the moral or strategic arguments, consider this: There are at least six U.S. citizens being held as prisoners by the Assad regime right now. … If we leave Syria and don’t insist on playing a role in its future, our chances of negotiating their release go way down.” If Washington’s demand to play a role in Syria’s future hasn’t won their release after eight years—Austin Tice went missing in 2012—it isn’t likely to do so in the future. But if U.S. officials gave up their determination to oust the Assad government, they would have a much better chance of winning the release of people who are, after all, just bargaining chips to Damascus…

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Which target after Syria?, by Thierry Meyssan

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2020

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Turkey has an actual army, has Russian missile systems that would be difficult to defeat and is home to US nukes.

Saudi Arabia it is?

An empire builders work is never done.

https://www.voltairenet.org/article209439.html

by Thierry Meyssan

Events in the “Broader Middle East” since 2001 have followed a relentless logic. The current question is whether the time has come for a new war in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The answer depends in particular on the resumption of hostilities in Libya. It is in this context that the Additional Protocol negotiated by Presidents Erdoğan and Putin to resolve the Idleb crisis must be interpreted.

| Damascus (Syria)

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The initial map of the “reshaping of the Broader Middle East”, published by Colonel Ralph Peters.

19 years of “war without end”

President George W. Bush decided to radically transform the Pentagon’s missions, as Colonel Ralph Peters explained in the Army magazine Parameters on September 13, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Admiral Arthur Cebrowski to train future officers. Cebrowski spent three years touring military universities so that today all general officers have taken his courses. His thoughts were popularized for the general public by his deputy, Thomas Barnett.

The areas affected by the US war will be given over to “chaos”. This concept is to be understood in the sense of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, i.e. as the absence of political structures capable of protecting citizens from their own violence (“Man is a wolf to man”). And not in the biblical sense of making a clean slate before the creation of a new order.

This war is an adaptation of the US Armed Forces to the era of globalization, to the transition from productive capitalism to financial capitalism. “War is a Racket,” as Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated general, used to say before World War II [1]. From now on, friends and enemies will no longer count; war will allow for the simple management of natural resources.

This form of war involves many crimes against humanity (including ethnic cleansing) that the US Armed Forces cannot commit. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld therefore hired private armies (including Blackwater) and developed terrorist organizations while pretending to fight them.

The Bush and Obama administrations followed this strategy: to destroy the state structures of entire regions of the world. The US war is no longer about winning, but about lasting (the “war without end”). President Donald Trump and his first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, have questioned this development without being able to change it. Today, the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski thinkers pursue their goals not so much through the Defence Secretariat as through NATO.

After President Bush launched the “never-ending war” in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), there was strong contestation among Washington’s political elites about the arguments that had justified the invasion of Iraq and the disorder there. This was the Baker-Hamilton Commission (2006). The war never stopped in Afghanistan or Iraq, but it took five years for President Obama to open new theatres of operation: Libya (2011), Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015).

Two external actors interfered with this plan.
- In 2010-11, the United Kingdom launched the “Arab Spring”, an operation modeled on the “Arab Revolt” of 1915, which allowed Lawrence of Arabia to put the Wahhabi in power on the Arabian Peninsula. This time it was a question of placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power with the help not of the Pentagon, but of the US State Department and NATO.
- In 2014, Russia intervened in Syria, whose state had not collapsed and which it helped to resist. Since then, the British – who had tried to change the regime there during the “Arab Spring” (2011-early 2012) – and then the Americans – who were seeking to overthrow not the regime, but the state (mid-2012 to the present) – have had to withdraw. Russia, pursuing the dream of Tsarina Catherine, is today fighting against chaos, for stability – that is to say, for the defence of state structures and respect for borders.

Colonel Ralph Peters, who in 2001 revealed the Pentagon’s new strategy, published Admiral Cebrowski’s map of objectives in 2006. It showed that only Israel and Jordan would not be affected. All other countries in the “Broader Middle East” (i.e., from Morocco to Pakistan) would gradually be stateless and all major countries (including Saudi Arabia and Turkey) would disappear.

Noting that its best ally, the United States, was planning to cut its territory in two in order to create a “free Kurdistan”, Turkey unsuccessfully tried to get closer to China, and then adopted the theory of Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu: “Zero problems with its neighbours”. It distanced itself from Israel and began to negotiate peace with Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Iraq etc. It also distanced itself from Israel. Despite the territorial dispute over Hatay, it created a common market with Syria. However, in 2011, when Libya was already isolated, France convinced Turkey that it could escape partition if it joined NATO’s ambitions. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a political Islamist of the Millî Görüş, joined the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was not a member, hoping to recoup the fruits of the ’Arab Spring’ for his own benefit. Turkey turned against one of its main clients, Libya, and then against one of its main partners, Syria.

In 2013, the Pentagon adapted the “endless war” to the realities on the ground. Robin Wright published two corrective maps in the New York Times. The first dealt with the division of Libya, the second with the creation of a “Kurdistan” affecting only Syria and Iraq and sparing the eastern half of Turkey and Iran. It also announced the creation of a “Sunnistan” straddling Iraq and Syria, dividing Saudi Arabia into five and Yemen into two. This last operation began in 2015.

The Turkish General Staff was very happy with this correction and prepared for the events. It concluded agreements with Qatar (2017), Kuwait (2018) and Sudan (2017) to set up military bases and surround the Saudi kingdom. In 2019 it financed an international press campaign against the “Sultan” and a coup d’état in Sudan. At the same time, Turkey supported the new project of “Kurdistan” sparing its territory and participated in the creation of “Sunnistan” by Daesh under the name of “Caliphate”. However, the Russian intervention in Syria and the Iranian intervention in Iraq brought this project to a halt.

In 2017, regional president Massoud Barzani organised a referendum for independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. Immediately, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran understood that the Pentagon, returning to its original plan, was preparing to create a “free Kurdistan” by cutting up their respective territories. They coalesced to defeat it. In 2019, the PKK/PYG announced that it was preparing for the independence of the Syrian ’Rojava’. Without waiting, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran once again joined forces. Turkey invaded the “Rojava”, chasing the PKK/YPG, without much reaction from the Syrian and Russian armies.

In 2019, the Turkish General Staff became convinced that the Pentagon, having temporarily renounced destroying Syria because of the Russian presence, was now preparing to destroy the Turkish state. In order to postpone the deadline, it tried to reactivate the “endless war” in Libya, then to threaten the members of NATO with the worst calamities: the European Union with migratory subversion and the United States with a war with Russia. To do this, it opened its border with Greece to migrants and attacked the Russian and Syrian armies in Idleb where they bombed the Al Qaeda and Daesh jihadists who had taken refuge there. This is the episode we are living through today.

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Robin Wright’s “Reshaping the Broader Middle East” map, published by Robin Wright.

The Moscow Additional Protocol

The Turkish army caused Russian and Syrian casualties in February 2020, while President Erdoğan made numerous phone calls to his Russian counterpart, Putin, to lower the tension he was causing with one hand.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to curb the Pentagon’s appetites if Turkey helped the Pentagon restart the “endless war” in Libya. This country is divided into a thousand tribes that clash around two main leaders, both CIA agents, the president of the Presidential Council, Fayez el-Sarraj, and the commander of the National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

Last week, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Libya, Professor Ghassan Salame, was asked to resign for “health reasons”. He complied, not without expressing his bad mood at a press conference. An axis has been set up to support al-Sarraj by the Muslim Brotherhood around Qatar and Turkey. A second coalition was born around Haftar with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, but also Saudi Arabia and Syria.

It is the great return of the latter on the international scene. Syria is the culmination of nine years of victorious resistance to the Brotherhood and the United States. Two Libyan and Syrian embassies were opened with great pomp and circumstance on 4 March, in Damascus and Benghazi.

Moreover, the European Union, after having solemnly condemned the “Turkish blackmail of refugees”, sent the President of the Commission to observe the flow of refugees at the Greek-Turkish border and the President of the Council to survey President Erdoğan in Ankara. The latter confirmed that an arrangement was possible if the Union undertook to defend the ’territorial integrity’ of Turkey.

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With keen pleasure, the Kremlin has staged the surrender of Turkey: the Turkish delegation is standing, contrary to the habit where chairs are provided for guests; behind it, a statue of Empress Catherine the Great recalls that Russia was already present in Syria in the 18th century. Finally, Presidents Erdoğan and Putin are seated in front of a pendulum commemorating the Russian victory over the Ottoman Empire.

It was thus on this basis that President Vladimir Putin received President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kremlin on March 5. A first, restricted, three-hour meeting was devoted to relations with the United States. Russia would have committed itself to protect Turkey from a possible partition on the condition that it signs and applies an Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area [2]. A second meeting, also of three hours duration but open to ministers and advisers, was devoted to the drafting of this text. It provides for the creation of a 12-kilometre-wide security corridor around the M4 motorway, jointly monitored by the two parties. To put it plainly: Turkey is backing away north of the reopened motorway and losing the town of Jisr-el-Chogour, a stronghold of the jihadists. Above all, it must at last apply the Sochi memorandum, which provides for support only for the Syrian armed opposition, which is supposed to be democratic and not Islamist, and for combating the jihadists. However, this “democratic armed opposition” is nothing more than a chimera imagined by British propaganda. In fact, Turkey will either have to kill the jihadists itself, or continue and complete their transfer from Idleb (Syria) to Djerba (Tunisia) and then Tripoli (Libya) as it began to do in January.

In addition, on March 7, President Putin contacted former President Nazerbayev to explore with him the possibility of deploying Kazakh “blue chapkas” in Syria under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). This option had already been considered in 2012. Kazakh soldiers have the advantage of being Muslims and not orthodox.

The option of attacking Saudi Arabia rather than Turkey from now on has been activated by the Pentagon, it is believed to be known in Riyadh, although President Trump is imposing delirious arms orders on it in exchange for its protection. The dissection of Saudi Arabia had been envisaged by the Pentagon as early as 2002 [3].

Missiles were fired this week against the royal palace in Riyadh. Prince Mohamed ben Salmane (known as “MBS”, 34 years old) had his uncle, Prince Ahmed (70 years old), and his former competitor and ex-heir prince, Prince Mohamed ben Nayef (60 years old), as well as various other princes and generals arrested. The Shia province of Qatif, where several cities have already been razed to the ground, has been isolated. Official explanations of succession disputes and coronavirus are not enough [4].

Translation
Roger Lagassé

 

 

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The Brutal Tragedy of Idlib: Why the U.S. Should Stay out of Syria and Dump NATO | The National Interest

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/brutal-tragedy-idlib-why-us-should-stay-out-syria-and-dump-nato-130247

by Doug Bandow

Washington should encourage the peaceful conclusion of conflicts such as Syria. But maintaining peace at home should remain America’s highest objective.

Syria is attempting to bring its civil war to a bloody end near the northwest city of Idlib. Syrian forces have clashed with Turkey, which invaded its neighbor and created a secure, jihadist-controlled enclave. Russia backed Damascus’ offensive, as Ankara urged NATO to deploy Patriot missiles. The Trump administration faces pressure from war-happy legislators such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is campaigning to impose a no-fly zone in an ongoing civil war.

The United States should stay out of the explosive confrontation. Instead of getting more involved in a civil war now in its tenth year, the Trump administration should bring home America’s troops now illegally occupying Syrian oil fields. And Washington should turn the transatlantic alliance over to the Europeans, ensuring that Americans stay out of any Turkish conflict with Syria and Russia—especially one created by Ankara’s aggression against its neighbor.

Syria dissolved into civil war nearly a decade ago. However, the Assad government has been gradually extending its control over once rebel-held lands. The process is not easy: the regime has been badly weakened by years of fighting and opposition has revived in some areas, such as Daraa, a trigger for the initial civil war. Nevertheless, Damascus recently launched an offensive to reclaim Idlib, a major city swollen with refugees who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria.

Idlib is an extraordinary tragedy, the last insurgent controlled region, in contrast to other areas under Kurdish, Turkish, and American control. With Turkish support the insurgents, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jibhat al-Nusra, and other radical Islamist groups, cut the major M5 highway. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Sham eventually gained control of the city and environs.

Turkey, committed to the overthrow of Syrian president Bashir al-Assad, supported the opposition and warned Damascus off from advancing on Idlib. As part of a cease-fire negotiated through Russia Turkey established a dozen military observation posts and later added additional deployments intended to act as tripwires to discourage Syrian military advance. However, the ceasefire ultimately failed and Damascus recently began large-scale operations against Idlib. Syrian armed action always seemed inevitable: after all, multiple governments in Ankara employed brutal military force against Kurdish separatists.

Damascus quickly made progress, recovering control of the M5. But the fighting displaced hundreds of thousands of Syrians, many of whom headed for Turkey. Most seriously, Syrian or Russian airstrikes (blamed on the first, more likely by the second) killed thirty-three Turkish soldiers. Moscow claimed that the latter were operating with “terrorists” and “terrorist fighting units,” meaning insurgents, which Ankara denied. However, wrote Joseph Trevithick of The Drive: “Turkey, together with its local partners, has been attacking regime ground and air forces for weeks now, including with armed drones, as it seeks to stem the offense in Idlib. The Turkish government has stepped up deliveries of heavier weaponry, including armored vehicles and howitzers, to various Syrian militant groups opposed to Assad, as well.”

Turkey launched retaliatory attacks on Syrian military positions and threatened broader military action to establish a “safe zone.” Ankara already has twice acted, utilizing allied insurgents, to drive Syrian Kurds from the border. Turkey even threatened to attack U.S. personnel operating with Kurdish militias against Islamic State forces.

With the potential for a full-scale armed confrontation and even war between Turkey and Syria backed by Russia, Ankara, a NATO member, called on its allies, including America, for consultations and support. Despite Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sustained campaign to tyrannize his people and separate his country from the West, the allies so far have lined up behind him.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced “full solidarity” with Ankara and said the allies were “constantly looking into what more they can do to provide further support for Turkey.” The alliance denounced “indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and Russia.”

So far, NATO’s aid means enhancing NATO reconnaissance missions over the border area and considering deployment of Patriot air defense missiles. However, Greece blocked the issuance of a statement backing Ankara. But if hostilities explode Turkey likely will call on NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Of course, the alliance will act seriously only if Washington agrees. Thus far, the Trump administration has encouraged Ankara. For instance, the State Department declared: “We stand by our NATO ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iranian-backed forces. We are looking at options on how we can best support Turkey in this crisis.” Washington’s UN Ambassador Kelly Craft said “the United States’ commitment to our NATO ally, Turkey, will not waver. Turkey has our full support to respond in self-defense.”

So far few specifics have been offered. Pentagon spokesman Alyssa Farah explained: “We are exploring ways the United States can work together with Turkey and the international community.” Ideas include increased information sharing, logistical aid, and other forms of non-combat support, as well as maintaining equipment readiness. The special envoy on ISIS, James Jeffrey, recently opined that the president said his administration might provide ammunition.

Washington’s ivory tower warriors, who have pushed for U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war for a decade, have returned to their traditional panacea, a no-fly zone. Argued Graham, who rarely has found a war he did not want others to fight: “The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians. This is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in decades and the brutal aggression of Assad supported by Iran and Russia needs to come to an end.”

Of course, there is much in the world which “should” happen. But only rarely does that justify war. The United States has the strongest military on earth, leading many policymakers to assume that every problem is solvable by bombing, invading, and/or occupying other nations. Yet America’s experience over the last two decades with endless war, often conducted with a humanitarian gloss, has been a little short of disastrous.

Global social engineering, attempting to overcome history, culture, religion, ethnicity, geography, and more, has a wretched record. Conflicts most often turn out worse than predicted. The Iraq war triggered sectarian slaughter, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, spawned al-Qaeda-in-Iraq which became ISIS, and enhanced Iran’s influence.

Washington’s carte blanche to Saudi Arabia enabled the latter’s horrific aggression against Yemen, which has aided al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long the most virulent affiliate of the national organization which staged 9/11. And the Obama administration’s insistence that al-Assad be removed from office discouraged negotiation by both Damascus, which saw little reason to talk, and its critics, who expected U.S. support for its maximalist demands…

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A Syrian man receives treatment at a hospital in the town of Afrin, February 16, 2018.

 

 

 

 

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Russia Just Told the World, “No.”

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2020

All of this adds up to Russia holding the whip hand over the global market for oil. 

The ability to say, “No.”

And they will have it for years to come as U.S. production implodes.  Because they can and do produce the marginal barrel of oil.  

https://tomluongo.me/2020/03/06/russia-just-told-the-world-no/

There is real power in the word “No.”

In fact, I’d argue that it is the single most powerful word in any language.

In the midst of the worst market meltdown in a dozen years which has at its source problems within global dollar-funding markets, Russia found itself in the position to exercise the Power of No.

Multiple overlapping crises are happening worldwide right now and they all interlock into a fabric of chaos.

Between political instability in Europe, presidential primary shenanigans in the U.S., coronavirus creating mass hysteria and Turkey’s military adventurism in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean and Libya, markets are finally calling the bluff of central bankers who have been propping up asset prices for years.

But, at its core, the current crisis stems from the simple truth that those prices around the world are vastly overvalued.

Western government and central bank policies have used the power of the dollar to push the world to this state.

And that state is, at best, meta-stable.

But when this number of shits get this freaking real, well… meeting the fan was inevitable.

And all it took to push a correction into a full-scale panic was the Russians saying, “No.”

The reality has been evident in the commodity markets for months.  Copper and other industrial metals have all been in slumps while equity markets zoomed higher.

But it was oil that was the most confounding of all.

Most of 2019 we saw oil prices behaving oddly as events occurred with regularity to push prices higher but ultimately see them fall.

Since peaking after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani oil prices have been a one-way trade. Down.

Our inept leaders are trying to blame coronavirus as the proximate cause for all of the market’s jitters.

But that masks the truth. The problems have been there for months, pushed to the back burner by incessant Fed intervention in the dollar-funding markets.

The 2008 financial crisis was never dealt with, just papered over.

The repo crisis of last September never ended, it’s still there.

And it reappeared with ferocity this week as people sold dollars and bought U.S. treasuries pushing U.S. yields on the long end of the curve to absurd levels.

Credit markets are melting down. Stock markets are the tail, credit markets are the dog. And this dog was run over by a bus.

The Fed intervenes to keep short term interest rates from rising to preserve the fiction it is still in control.

The market wants higher rates for short-term access to dollars.

The Fed tried to help by cutting rates by 0.5% but all that did was tell people the Fed was as scared as they were.  The selling resumed and gold bounced back to it’s recent high near $1690, only to be swatted down on the New York open this morning.

That didn’t work either.

OOPS!

And into this mess OPEC tried to save itself by asking for a historic production cut.

OPEC needs this cut to remain relevant. The cartel is dying. It’s been dying for years, kept on life support by Russia’s willingness to trade favors to achieve other geostrategic goals.

I’ve said before that OPEC production cuts are not bullish for oil just like rate cuts are not inflationary during crisis periods.

But finally Russia said No. And they didn’t equivocate. They told everyone they are prepared for lower oil prices.

The panic was palpable in the reporting on the meeting.

“Regarding cuts in production, given today’s decision, from April 1, no one — neither OPEC countries nor OPEC+ countries — are obliged to lower production,” he told reporters after the meeting.

OPEC’s Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo said the meeting had been adjourned, although consultations would continue.

“At the end of the day, it was the general, painful decision of the joint conference to adjourn the meeting,” he told reporters.

Earlier, Oanda analyst Edward Moya had suggested that a failure to reach an agreement could spell the end of OPEC+.

“No-deal OPEC+ means the three-year experiment is over. OPEC+ is dead. The Saudis are all-in on stabling oil prices and they may need to do something extraordinary,” he said.

There comes a point where negotiating with your adversaries ends, where someone finally says, “Enough.” Russia has been attacked mercilessly by the West for the crime of being Russia.

And I’ve documented nearly every twist and turn of how they have skillfully buttressed their position waiting for the right moment to get maximum return to reverse the tables on their tormentors.

And, to me, this was that perfect moment for them to finally say “No,” to get maximum effect.

When dealing with a more-powerful enemy you have to target where they are most vulnerable to inflict the most damage.

For the West that place is in the financial markets.

Remember, the first basic fact of economics.  Prices are set at the margin. The only price that matters is the last one recorded.

That price sets the cost for the next unit of that good, in this case a barrel of oil, up for sale.

In a world of cartelized markets the world over, where prices are set by external actors, it is easy to forget that in the real economy (regardless of your political persuasion) the world is an auction and everything is up for bid.

High bid wins.

So, the most important geostrategic question is, “Who produces the marginal barrel of oil?”

For more than three years now, President Trump has supported his policy of Energy Dominance in a Quixotic quest for the U.S. to become that supplier.  Trillions of dollars have been spent on building up domestic production to their current, unsustainable levels.

This policy pre-dates Trump, certainly, but he has been its most ardent pursuer of it, sanctioning and embargoing everyone he can to keep them off the bid.

What he could never do, however, was push Russia off that bid.

The reason U.S. production rates are unsustainable is because their costs are higher per barrel than the marginal price especially when all other prices are deflating.  Simple, straightforward economics.

If they were, on balance, profitable then the industry as a whole would not have burned through a few hundred billion in free cash flow over the past decade.

That’s where the Russians’ power comes from.  Russia is one of the lowest cost producers in the world.  Even after paying their taxes to the government their costs are far lower, close to $20 per barrel break-even point, than anyone else in the world when one factors in external costs.

When you don’t owe anyone anything you are free to tell them, “No.”

Sure, the Saudis produce at similar cash costs to the Russians but once you factor in its budgetary needs, the numbers aren’t even close as they need something closer to $85 per barrel.

They can’t tell their people, “No,” you have to do without. Because the populace will revolt.

Russia can ride out, if not thrive, in this low price regime because :

  1. the ruble floats to absorb price shocks in dollars.
  2. A majority of their oil is now sold in non-dollar currencies – rubles, yuan, euros, etc. – to lessen their exposure to capital outflows
  3. the major oil firms have little dollar-denominated debt
  4. low extraction costs.
  5. its primary governmental budget ebbs and flows with oil prices.

All of this adds up to Russia holding the whip hand over the global market for oil.

The ability to say, “No.”

And they will have it for years to come as U.S. production implodes.  Because they can and do produce the marginal barrel of oil.

That is why oil prices plunged as much as 10% into today’s close on the news they would not cut production.

There is a cascade lurking beneath this market. There is a lot of bank and pension fund exposure in the U.S. to what is now soon-to-be non-performing fracking debt.

Liquidations will begin in earnest later this year.

But the market is handicapping this now.

I cannot overstate how important and far-reaching this move by Russia is.  If they don’t make a deal here they can break OPEC. If they do make a deal it will come with strings that ensure pressure is lifted in other areas of stress for them.

The knock-on effects of oil plunging from $70 per barrel to $45 over two months will be felt for months, if not years.

And it is no shock to me that Russia held their water here. If they didn’t, I would have been surprised.

This was Putin’s opportunity to finally strike back at Russia’s tormentors and inflict real pain for their unscrupulous behavior in places like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Venezuela and Afghanistan.

He is now in a position to extract maximum concessions from the U.S. and the OPEC nations who are supporting U.S. belligerence against Russia’s allies in China, Iran and Syria.

We saw the beginnings of this in his dealings with Turkish President Erdogan in Moscow, extracting a ceasefire agreement that was nothing short of a Turkish surrender.

Erdogan asked to be saved from his own stupidity and Russia said, “No.”

This condition of producing the marginal barrel of oil in a deflationary world places Russia in the driver’s seat to drive U.S. foreign policy behavior in an election year.

Talk about meddling in our elections!

The Achilles’ heel of the U.S. empire is the debt.  The dollar has been its greatest weapon and it is still king.  And it is a weapon with a great deal of power but wielded only against the U.S.’s allies, not Russia.

Markets will adjust and calm down in a few days. The panic will subside. But it will come back soon enough in a more virulent form. Today is a replay of 2007-08 but this time Russia is far better prepared to fight back.

And when that happens, I suspect it won’t be the Saudis or the Turks that come running to Russia to save them, but the U.S. and Europe.

At which point, I have to wonder if Putin will channel his inner Rorschach.


 

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NATO: From Covert Sponsor to Artillery for Terrorists in Syria — Strategic Culture

Posted by M. C. on February 29, 2020

The top Russian diplomat said the US envoy had previously dropped similar hints about rehabilitating HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, an offshoot of the al Qaeda terror cartel, related to Islamic State (or ISIS). As Lavrov points out, these chameleonic groups are internationally proscribed terror organizations. They are not exempt from targeting under past de-escalation deals between Russia and Turkey.

It seems astounding that the US – which declares itself to be in a war against terrorism – is flagrantly acting as a mediator to spare these same terrorists from definitive military defeat.

Syria and Russia have previously accused Ankara of covertly supplying the terrorists with arms and cross-border logistics.

Turkey is supplying jihadists in order to eliminate the Kurds who want a piece of Turkey for their homeland.

The US courts jihadists to eliminate Shiites that never attacked US in order to benefit Sunni’s that have attacked US.

Who is the one being played for a sucker?

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/02/28/nato-from-covert-sponsor-to-artillery-for-terrorists-in-syria/

Finian Cunningham

 


NATO member Turkey was recently caught out providing artillery support for terror groups in Syria’s Idlib province; now leader of the NATO alliance, the United States, is hinting at Russia and Syria holding dialogue with the terrorists to curb the upsurge in conflict.

As Syria’s endgame closes, the protagonists and their proxies are coming more clearly into focus. NATO’s covert shadowy connection with the jihadist insurgents it has sponsored for regime change is being flushed out as the Syrian army and its Russian ally home in on the last stand of the terror groups.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week ruled out any mediation with Tahrir Hayat al Sham (HTS), the main terrorist network holding out in Idlib in northwest Syria. Lavrov was referring to comments made earlier by US envoy James Jeffrey who suggested that HTS was “not a terrorist organization any more” and therefore might be included in negotiations for de-escalation.

The top Russian diplomat said the US envoy had previously dropped similar hints about rehabilitating HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, an offshoot of the al Qaeda terror cartel, related to Islamic State (or ISIS). As Lavrov points out, these chameleonic groups are internationally proscribed terror organizations. They are not exempt from targeting under past de-escalation deals between Russia and Turkey.

It seems astounding that the US – which declares itself to be in a war against terrorism – is flagrantly acting as a mediator to spare these same terrorists from definitive military defeat.

The increasing violence in Syria over recent months is a result of jihadist militants continuing their attacks against civilians, as well as against the Syrian armed forces and their Russian allies in spite of several de-escalation attempts. The terrorists have used their areas of control in Idlib and Aleppo countryside to launch rocket attacks on government-controlled areas. Under the September 2018 deescalation agreement between Russia and Turkey, Ankara was obliged to facilitate a ceasefire by the jihadist groups which it is presumed to have influence over. But Turkey failed to implement its obligations.

Hence the Syrian government forces and their Russian ally were entitled to go after the culprits.

Turkey’s protests about the offensive serves to expose Ankara’s association with the terror groups. President Erdogan’s threats of deploying thousands of more troops in Syria’s north is in effect an admission of Turkey providing military support for the terrorists. It gives new meaning for the purpose of Turkish military observation posts along the border; more like command-and-assist posts.

Syria and Russia have previously accused Ankara of covertly supplying the terrorists with arms and cross-border logistics. What is quickly transpiring in the latest conflict phase is how Turkey’s state forces are openly participating with the illegally armed militants, as if the latter were a division of the Turkish army. Given Turkey’s NATO membership, the implication here is daunting: NATO, evidently, is in overt league with the terrorists waging war against Syria.

That collaboration was manifest last week on February 19 when Syrian army positions at Nayrab in Idlib came under attack from jihadist militants, believed to be HTS. The attack was supported by Turkish artillery and tank fire. Russian SU-24s were called in to repel the ground offensive. Two Turk troops were killed in the fighting.

Turkey’s Defense Minister HulusiAkar subsequently made an appeal to the US to supply Patriot air defense batteries. It is not clear if the US will actually take that step which would mark a dangerous escalation against Russian-backed Syrian forces.

The US and NATO envoys have, however, voiced renewed support for Turkey amid growing tensions with Syria and Russia.

It has long been suspected that the US and other NATO members have been arming the anti-government militants in Syria since the war erupted in 2011, including known terror groups, such as HTS and its myriad incarnations.

A recent auditing report by the Pentagon found that thousands of US weapons worth over $700 million have unaccountably gone missing from its military warehouses across the Middle East and in particular from arms depots in Kuwait and near the Jordanian-Syrian border. Militants in Syria have been documented as being armed with US-made shoulder-fired missiles (MANPADs) and anti-tank TOW rockets. The linkage to the Pentagon would therefore seem evident.

But what is emerging is the stark configuration of NATO troops alongside terror cadres on the battlefield.

The suggestion by US envoy James Jeffrey that Syria and Russia should talk terms with the terrorist HTS further demonstrates the allegiance between Washington, its NATO allies and the militants.

Syria, with the full support of Russia, has vowed to take back every inch of its territory from the foreign-backed insurgents who have done their utmost to destroy that state, committing unspeakable atrocities against the nation in the process.

International law mandates the Syrian government to take the battle to the end in order to crush and eradicate its enemies. No other state would tolerate anything less. We can only imagine the response by the US towards insurgents in its territory, and if Russia were to somehow call upon Washington to negotiate a truce.

Cornered in Idlib, the NATO powers are moving to salvage their terror proxies, by either giving them military cover or, as Washington is attempting to do, cut some slack through ceasefire negotiations.

 

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White Helmets are ‘preparing chemical attack false-flag’ in Syria’s Idlib, Russian military tipped off — RT World News

Posted by M. C. on February 4, 2020

True or not…we shall see.

About 15 ‘White Helmets’ were spotted in the town, alongside militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – an Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra – said two local residents, adding that two vehicles have delivered about 400 liters (100 gallons) of chemicals to the town.

https://www.rt.com/news/480004-syria-chemical-attack-warning/

Militants affiliated with al-Qaeda and ‘White Helmets’ are preparing to stage a chemical attack in Idlib province as Syrian army continues to advance, the Russian Reconciliation Center said citing a tip from local residents.

Members of the self-styled civil defense group, which operates solely in territories controlled by anti-government militants, were noticed arriving at the town of Ma’arat al-Artik, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) northwest of Aleppo. According to the call that came in on the reconciliation center’s hotline on Monday evening, they were preparing a “provocation with the use of poisonous agents.”

About 15 ‘White Helmets’ were spotted in the town, alongside militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – an Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra – said two local residents, adding that two vehicles have delivered about 400 liters (100 gallons) of chemicals to the town.

Some 200 people, including children – mostly family members of HTS militants, which had been evacuated to Idlib from elsewhere in Syria – could be involved in staging the false-flag chemical attacks, the tipsters said.

The Reconciliation Center named the militant commander involved in the plan as Mahi al-Din al-Am, saying it was the same man who helped stage and film the graphic aftermath of the alleged chemical attack at Khan Shaykhun in April 2017.

The center called on the militants to abandon their “criminal plan” and called on Turkey – which recently sent troops into militant-controlled Idlib – to exert “all possible pressure” to prevent a false flag.

 

A number of “chemical attacks” in Syria have been blamed on the government in Damascus over the course of the war, which began in 2011. They happen to take place every time the Syrian army is advancing against the militants, who have tried time and again to attract Western military intervention on their behalf.

Following the 2017 Khan Shaykhun incident, the US launched missiles against Syria; another air and missile attack was launched in April 2018, after an “attack” at Douma near Damascus. Though the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) eventually said the Douma attack may have happened, whistleblowers have recently made public that evidence in the case was doctored to reach that conclusion, while skeptical assessments of OPCW’s in-house experts were ignored.

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Were the Nice Attacks A False Flag Or A Lone Nut?

 

 

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A New Definition of Warfare, by Philip Giraldi – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on January 22, 2020

But perhaps the definition of war itself should be expanded. The one area where Trump and his team of narcissistic sociopaths have been most active has been in the imposition of sanctions with lethal intent.

It’s absolutely in [your] interests and the people of Great Britain’s interests to join with President Trump, with the United States, to realign your foreign policy away from Brussels, and to join the maximum pressure campaign to keep all of us safe.”

Ever notice how politicians and armies of sanctioned countries stay in pretty good shape while civilians do not?

https://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/a-new-definition-of-warfare/


Supporters of Donald Trump often make the point that he has not started any new wars. One might observe that it has not been for lack of trying, as his cruise missile attacks on Syria based on fabricated evidence and his recent assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani have been indisputably acts of war. Trump also has enhanced troop levels both in the Middle East and in Afghanistan while also increasing the frequency and lethality of armed drone attacks worldwide.

Congress has been somewhat unseriously toying around with a tightening of the war powers act of 1973 to make it more difficult for a president to carry out acts of war without any deliberation by or authorization from the legislature. But perhaps the definition of war itself should be expanded. The one area where Trump and his team of narcissistic sociopaths have been most active has been in the imposition of sanctions with lethal intent. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been explicit in his explanations that the assertion of “extreme pressure” on countries like Iran and Venezuela is intended to make the people suffer to such an extent that they rise up against their governments and bring about “regime change.” In Pompeo’s twisted reckoning that is how places that Washington disapproves of will again become “normal countries.”

The sanctions can kill. Those imposed by the United States are backed up by the U.S. Treasury which is able to block cash transfers going through the dollar denominated international banking system. Banks that do not comply with America’s imposed rules can themselves be sanctioned, meaning that U.S. sanctions are de facto globally applicable, even if foreign banks and governments do not agree with the policies that drive them. It is well documented how sanctions that have an impact on the importation of medicines have killed thousands of Iranians. In Venezuela, the effect of sanctions has been starvation as food imports have been blocked, forcing a large part of the population to flee the country just to survive.

The latest exercise of United States economic warfare has been directed against Iraq. In the space of one week from December 29th to January 3rd, the American military, which operates out of two major bases in Iraq, killed 25 Iraqi militiamen who were part of the Popular Mobilization Units of the Iraqi Army. The militiamen had most recently been engaged in the successful fight against ISIS. It followed up on that attack by killing Soleimani, Iraqi militia general Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and eight other Iraqis in a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport. As the attacks were not approved in any way by the Iraqi government, it was no surprise that rioting followed and the Iraqi Parliament voted to remove all foreign troops from its soil. The decree was signed off on by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, based on the fact that the U.S. military was in Iraq at the invitation of the country’s government and that invitation had just been revoked by parliament.

That Iraq is to say the least unstable is attributable to the ill-advised U.S. invasion of 2003. The persistence of U.S. forces in the country is ostensibly to aid in the fight against ISIS, but the real reason is to serve as a check on Iranian influence in Iraq, which is a strategic demand made by Israel and not responsive to any actual American interest. Indeed, the Iraqi government is probably closer politically to Tehran than to Washington, though the neocon line that the country is dominated by the Iranians is far from true.

Washington’s response to the legitimate Iraqi demand that its troops should be removed consisted of threats. When Prime Minister Mahdi spoke with Pompeo on the phone and asked for discussions and a time table to create a “withdrawal mechanism” the Secretary of State made it clear that there would be no negotiations. A State Department written response entitled “The U.S. Continued Partnership with Iraq” asserted that American troops are in Iraq to serve as a “force for good” in the Middle East and that it is “our right” to maintain “appropriate force posture” in the region.

The Iraqi position also immediately produced presidential threats and tweets about “sanctions like they have never seen,” with the implication that the U.S. was more than willing to wreck the Iraqi economy if it did not get its way. The latest threat to emerge involves blocking Iraq access to its New York federal reserve bank account, where international oil sale revenue is kept, creating a devastating cash crunch in Iraq’s financial system that might indeed destroy the Iraqi economy. If taking steps to ruin a country economically is not considered warfare by other means it is difficult to discern what might fit that description.

After dealing with Iraq, the Trump Administration turned its guns on one of its oldest and closest allies. Great Britain, like most of the other European signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been reluctant to withdraw from the agreement over concern that Iran will as a result decide to develop nuclear weapons. According to the Guardian, a United States representative from the National Security Council named Richard Goldberg, had visited London recently to make clear to the British government that if it does not follow the American lead and withdraw from the JCPOA and reapply sanctions it just might be difficult to work out a trade agreement with Washington post-Brexit. It is a significant threat as part of the pro-Brexit vote clearly was derived from a Trump pledge to make up for some of the anticipated decline in European trade by increasing U.K. access to the U.S. market. Now the quid pro quo is clear: Britain, which normally does in fact follow the Washington lead in foreign policy, will now be expected to be completely on board all of the time and everywhere, particularly in the Middle East.

During his visit, Goldberg told the BBC: “The question for prime minister Johnson is: ‘As you are moving towards Brexit … what are you going to do post-31 January as you come to Washington to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the United States?’ It’s absolutely in [your] interests and the people of Great Britain’s interests to join with President Trump, with the United States, to realign your foreign policy away from Brussels, and to join the maximum pressure campaign to keep all of us safe.”

And there is an interesting back story on Richard Goldberg, a John Bolton protégé anti-Iran hardliner, who threatened the British on behalf of Trump. James Carden, writing at The Nation, posits “Consider the following scenario: A Washington, DC–based, tax-exempt organization that bills itself as a think tank dedicated to the enhancement of a foreign country’s reputation within the United States, funded by billionaires closely aligned with said foreign country, has one of its high-ranking operatives (often referred to as ‘fellows’) embedded within the White House national security staff in order to further the oft-stated agenda of his home organization, which, as it happens, is also paying his salary during his year-long stint there. As it happens, this is exactly what the pro-Israel think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) reportedly achieved in an arrangement brokered by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.”

The FDD senior adviser in question, who was placed on the National Security Council, was Richard Goldberg. FDD is largely funded by Jewish American billionaires including vulture fund capitalist Paul Singer and Home Depot partner Bernard Marcus. Its officers meet regularly with Israeli government officials and the organization is best known for its unrelenting effort to bring about war with Iran. It has relentlessly pushed for a recklessly militaristic U.S. policy directed against Iran and also more generally in the Middle East. It is a reliable mouthpiece for Israel and, inevitably, it has never been required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

To be sure, Trump also has other neocons advising him on Iran, including David Wurmser, another Bolton associate, who has the president’s ear and is a consultant to the National Security Council. Wurmser has recently submitted a series of memos to the White House advocating a policy of “regime disruption” with the Islamic Republic that will destabilize it and eventually lead to a change of government. He may have played a key role in giving the green light to the assassination of Soleimani.

The good news, if there is any, is that Goldberg resigned on January 3rd, allegedly because the war against Iran was not developing fast enough to suit him and FDD, but he is symptomatic of the many neoconservative hawks who have infiltrated the Trump Administration at secondary and tertiary levels, where much of the development and implementation of policy actually takes place. It also explains that when it comes to Iran and the irrational continuation of a significant U.S. military presence in the Middle East, it is Israel and its Lobby that are steering the ship of state.

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This starving girl was searching for food to eat. A few ...

 

 

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“Opposing Interventionism In Nation X Means You Love Nation X’s Government!” – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on December 28, 2019

I’ll tell you why: Hollywood.

Obviously war isn’t actually about Good versus Evil; usually it’s nothing more noble than geostrategic agenda versus geostrategic agenda.

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2019/12/27/opposing-interventionism-in-nation-x-means-you-love-nation-xs-government/

Every time you speak out against western imperialism in a given nation or question western propaganda narratives about that nation’s government, you will inevitably be accused of loving that nation’s government by anyone who argues with you.

When I say “inevitably”, I am not exaggerating. If you speak in any public forum for any length of time expressing skepticism of what we’re told to believe about a nation whose government has been targeted by the US-centralized empire, you will with absolute certainty eventually run into someone who accuses you of thinking that that government is awesome and pure and good.

I have never, ever had this fail to occur, even once. If I write an article about the mountain of evidence suggesting we were lied to about a chemical attack in Syria, I get people telling me I think Bashar al-Assad is a girl scout who’s never ever done anything wrong. If I express skepticism of the flimsy narratives we’re being fed in the escalating propaganda war against China, I get “If you love Beijing so much and think Xi is so innocent you should go and move to China!” It’s one of the only completely predictable things about this job.

Which is of course idiotic. Understanding that the US government and its allies lie constantly with the full-throated support of western news media in no way suggests a belief that the targeted government in question is wonderful, and there’s absolutely no legitimate reason to infer such a thing. The indisputable fact that US-led military interventionism is universally disastrous and based on lies has nothing to do with anyone’s level of emotional support for the governments targeted for destruction by the US-centralized empire. Yet everyone reading this who’s ever tried to speak out against US foreign policy has encountered the behavior I’m describing here.

Why is that? Why do establishment loyalists engage in such a weird, nonsensical behavior with such reliable consistency? Why do they literally always accuse anyone who questions any narrative about any empire-targeted government of having positive emotions toward that government, even though there is no rational reason for them to do so?

I’ll tell you why: Hollywood.

Well, not just Hollywood. Really the dynamic we’re about to discuss has been going on for as long as there have been war stories. But the dominant storytellers of today are in Hollywood, and that’s where the dominant war stories are told.

For as long as war stories have been told, those stories have been framed as a battle between good and evil. The good side is the side you identify with, and the evil side is the one you want to lose. You see this in almost all depictions of war coming out of Hollywood today, from movies based on actual wars to sci-fi and fantasy films like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Over and over and over again from childhood we are trained to assume that mass military violence must have a Good side and an Evil side, so when we see a war being depicted anywhere we immediately start trying to sort out who are the Good Guys and who are the Bad Guys, usually without even thinking about it.

Obviously war isn’t actually about Good versus Evil; usually it’s nothing more noble than geostrategic agenda versus geostrategic agenda. But because people are conditioned from an early age to overlay any ideas about large-scale conflict with this false Good or Evil dichotomy, there’s an immediate assumption that if you’re suggesting that one side might not be Good, then the other side are the Good Guys. If you say the government pushing regime change in Iran is doing something immoral, then you’re saying they’re the Bad Guys, which means you think the Iranian government are the Good Guys.

Yes, the behavior in question really does boil down to something that stupid. This phenomenon where empire apologists will predictably accuse you of loving an empire-targeted nation just because you oppose imperialist agendas is primarily due to a combination of dumb binary thinking and watching too many Hollywood movies. In other words, it’s due to bad information meeting bad thinking.

All we can really do to address this dynamic is bring consciousness to it. When someone’s acting out the unexamined assumption that because you are critical of western imperialism you must necessarily believe that all of its targets are perfect and wonderful, you can point out the absurdity of this position and invite them to think a little harder about it. Or just link them to this article.

Beyond that, all you can really do is understand what you’re looking at, roll your eyes, and sigh.

_________________________________

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Presenting The Syria Deception: Al Qaeda Goes to Hollywood (VIDEO) – Grayzone Project

Posted by M. C. on December 8, 2019

https://grayzoneproject.com/2018/09/15/presenting-the-syria-deception-al-qaeda-goes-to-hollywood-video/

An exclusive Grayzone investigative documentary rips the cover off of the most sophisticated and expensive campaign of humanitarian interventionist propaganda in modern history.

By Dan Cohen

For decades, Western governments, corporate media, and Hollywood have engaged in a project of mass deception to manufacture consent for military interventions. Waged in the name of lofty ideals like freedom, human rights, and democracy, US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya wound up bringing death, destruction and even the return of slavery to the African continent.

As the wounds from those catastrophes festered, Washington embarked on its most ambitious project yet, marketing another war of regime change, this time in Syria.

The following investigative mini-documentary exposes the cynical deceptions and faux humanitarianism behind the campaign to sell the dirty war on Syria.

It also demonstrates the lengths that the US and its allies have gone to develop new ploys to tug at Western heartstrings and convince even liberal minded skeptics of war that a US intervention was necessary — even if it meant empowering Al Qaeda’s largest franchise since 9/11 and its theocratic allies among the insurgency.

Big lies and little children have formed the heart of what is perhaps the most expensive, sophisticated, and shameless propaganda blitz ever conducted. Welcome to The Syria Deception.

Hollywood’s role in promoting war is nothing new. The American film industry has collaborated over the years with the State Department, the Pentagon, and the intelligence services to produce an array of films burnishing the military’s image, revising controversial US actions, and propagating official accounts of critical events through action blockbusters.

See the rest here

New Netflix documentary series explores how Hollywood ...

 

 

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MoA – OPCW Manufactured A Pretext For War By Suppressing Its Own Scientists’ Research

Posted by M. C. on December 2, 2019

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2019/11/opcw-manufactured-a-pretext-for-war-by-suppressing-its-own-scientists-research.html

Moon of Alabama

OPCW Manufactured A Pretext For War By Suppressing Its Own Scientists’ Research

Leaks from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) prove that the OPCW management ignored or manipulated reports its Fact Finding Mission had written about the April 2018 Douma incident in Syria.

The history of the Douma incident and the OPCW and media manipulation around it is available from the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media under the headline: How the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident was nobbled. Our own posts around the incident are linked below.

The OPCW management ignored that the technical, chemical and medical analysis of its own specialists exculpated the Syrian government from the allegation that it poisoned some 40 people in Douma by dropping Chlorine canisters from a helicopter.

The OPCW scientific staff found that dropping the canisters could not have created the damage that was found. Those canisters must have been placed by hand. The amount of chlorinated organic chemicals found at the two scenes was very low and it is very unlikely that they are the result of a reaction with chlorine gas. The medical symptoms of the casualties as was seen in various videos at the time of the incident were inconsistent with death by chlorine inhalation.

The OPCW management twisted the interim and the final OPCW report on the incident to make it look as if the Syrian government was guilty of dropping chlorine canisters. The detailed internal technical analysis was ignored. It was replaced by external analysis from unknown sources who claimed the opposite of what the OPCW engineers and chemists had found. The wording of the report suggests that high levels of chlorinated organic chemicals were found without giving the very low concentrations (in parts per billions) that were actually found. The internal medical analysis was eliminated from the official report.

OPCW emails and documents were leaked and whistleblowers came forward to speak with journalists and international lawyers. Veteran journalist Jonathan Steele, who has spoken with the whistleblowers, wrote an excellent piece on the issues. In the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens picked up the issue and moved it forward:

New sexed-up dossier furore: Explosive leaked email claims that UN watchdog’s report into alleged poison gas attack by Assad was doctored – so was it to justify British and American missile strikes on Syria?.

The ‘citizen journalists’ of the U.S. government financed Bellingcat propaganda shop made a laughable attempt to refute the claims the whistleblower made. Caitlin Johnstone took it apart.

Hitchens also responded to the Bellingcat scam: Bellingcat or Guard Dog for the Establishment?.

Quoting Bellingcat Peter Hitchens (PH) writes:

Bellingcat:
However, a comparison of the points raised in the letter against the final Douma report makes it amply clear that the OPCW not only addressed these points, but even changed the conclusion of an earlier report to reflect the concerns of said employee.PH:
Apart from the words ‘a’, and ‘the’, everything in the above paragraph is, to put it politely, mistaken. Bellingcat have been so anxious to trash the leak from the OPCW that they have (as many did when the attack was first released) rushed to judgment without waiting for the facts. More is known by the whistleblowers of the OPCW than has yet been released, but verification procedures have slowed down its release. More documents will, I expect, shortly come to light.

One, which I have seen, is very interesting. It is a memorandum of protest, written many months after the e-mail of protest published at the weekend. This was sent to the OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias (there is some doubt about whether it ever reached him) by an OPCW investigator (one of those who actually visited Douma), on 14th March 2019. It has reached me through hitherto reliable sources. This is nearly two weeks *after* the release of the ‘final’ report (on Friday 1st March 2019) which is supposed to have resolved the doubts of the dissenters.

In his discussion of the issue Hitchens also mentions this blog:

[The OPCW report claim] ‘Various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from Locations 2 and 4, along with residues of explosive. These results are reported in Annex 3. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is ongoing.’ resulted in some quite remarkable media reports. These are explored here:https://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/07/syria-many-media-lie-about-watchdog-report-on-the-chemical-attack-in-douma.html

Bellingcat and its supporters may not like the source, and I do not much like it myself, but it is a unique record, as far as I know, of the initial media response to the issue of the July 6 report. I have in fact checked its claims with Reuters and the BBC and they do not dispute what it says, though they say they later corrected the output.

It is sad, Peter, that you don’t like this blog much but I am afraid I can do nothing about it.

A few hours ago Hitchens published another piece: In defense of journalism – ‘Citizen journalists’ are no such thing. In it he again takes on Bellingcat and other such ‘citizen journalists’ and ‘researchers’ to then reveal that he himself has now talked to an OPCW whistleblower:

Luckily for me I have had the backing of people who know deep down that journalism must take risks to be any good. Someone had to say ‘yes’ to me when I headed off at short notice a few days ago, on my complicated way to a safe house somewhere in a major city on the European continent.Someone had to fork out for my train fares and my cheap station hotels. Someone had to have the guts to let me tell my story about what I found when I got there — which was an honest man in turmoil. His job was to tell the truth and he was being prevented from doing so. So I could help him. In four decades of journalism, I have seldom felt closer to the Holy Grail, truth that had to be told, and truth that would shake power. Here it was. A pretext for war had been manufactured by suppression of research.

The “pretext for war” can not refer to the missile strike F-UK-US launched on April 16 2018, 8 days after the Douma incident and before any OPCW inspectors had visited the site.

Hitchens must refer to an upcoming war that was supposed to be based on the now disgraced OPCW report.

There is indeed a possible path to war…

The OPCW scientists found serious evidence that the Syrian government can NOT be guilty of the Douma incident. Under U.S. pressure the OPCW management suppressed its scientists’ technical reports or replaced them with those from “external experts” to make it look as if the Syrian government caused the incident. The new attribution group at the OPCW will use that manipulated report to find Syria guilty of causing the incident. The U.S. and others could then use that guilty verdict as pretext to launch a war.

We only learned of this plan because courageous scientists and engineers at the OPCW do not want to see their organization abused to find pretexts to wage wars on the innocent. They came forward and told the public what it needs to know. They deserve our gratitude.

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