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3 reasons the United States has lost the Middle East

The United States has become isolated in the Middle East just as new players move in and traditional powers re-align their geo-strategic positions.

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Iraq’s Vice President Nouri al-Maliki recently stated that the Trump administration does not have a clear policy vision, let alone policy plan for the Middle East. Events on the ground bear this out, but the fact is that America’s isolation from the future progress of the Middle East actually began under Barack Obama and to an extent George W. Bush. This trajectory is now largely irreversible.

With America losing its grip on the Middle East, other powers have moved in, particularly Russia, China and Iran.

Here’s why and how.

1. Chinese economic might 

With the world fixated on the military events in Syria and Iraq, China has been quietly but un-ambiguously working with the Syrian government to fix the terms on which Chinese companies will invest in Syria’s economy and help to rebuild Syria’s largely destroyed infrastructure when the conflict ends.

Earlier this month, the Syrian embassy in Beijing held an expo where 1,000 Chinese companies came to discuss what they could offer in terms of investment and redevelopment in post-war Syria.

At the event, Imad Mustafa, the Syrian Ambassador to China confirmed that China will be given priority in the rebuilding of post-conflict Syria. He stated,

“China, Russia, and Iran have provided substantial support to Syria during the military conflict. Therefore, it is these three countries that will play a major role in the reconstruction of Syria”.

It has now been confirmed that China is set to invest $2 billion into rebuilding Syria and this could only be the beginning.

Both Syria and Iran are on the map of China’s New Silk Road (the One Belt–One Road). As such, transit roots from East Asia to the Middle East will positively impact not only Syria and Iraq but also Iran and Turkey.

This comes at a time when the government in Baghdad remains committed to good relations with both Tehran and Damascus. In this sense, America’s illegal regime change in Iraq dating back to 2003 has backfired spectacularly. Iraq which was an enemy of Iran and had more or less frozen relations with Syria is now open to both countries which will make China’s life easier while potentially shutting America out.

Far from seeing One Belt–One Road as an opportunity, the United States has opposed it politically, the US continues to provoke China in the South China Sea and over the Korean Peninsula and furthermore, the US is currently engaged in many conflicts which happen to be along the planned Road.

READ MORE: US troops in Europe and the Middle East are there to provoke China more than Russia or Iran

By failing to cooperate with China on its flagship commerce and infrastructure project, the US is not only on the losing side of history but has been increasingly shut out of economic opportunities in regions where America once had considerable economic influence which it is gradually losing.

2. Russian geo-political, military and energy might 

The last five years alone have seen Russia gain new Middle Eastern and Eurasian allies and strengthen traditional alliances while not alienating a single power in one of the world’s most fraught regions.

Russian involvement in the Syrian war has strengthened an old alliance with Damascus. Just yesterday, Russia’s Federation Council approved a deal between Moscow and Damascus which will allow for the presence of Russian bases in Syria for the next 49 years with an option to extend the agreement by another 25. In this sense Russia and Syria’s alliance will last well into the final decades of the 21st century.

Syria also stated that Russia will be given priority along with China in Iran, in areas of post-war redevelopment, particularly in the energy sector where Russia is a global leader while importantly retaining independence from OPEC.

At the same time, Russia is building a partnership with Iraq. Baghdad just purchased a substantial amount of T-90 tanks from Russia and Iraq’s Russophillic Vice President is currently in Moscow where he is set to deepen cooperation between the two countries.

Russia’s relations with Iran remain at an all time high, with Iran looking to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the near future. Russia along with China founded the SCO in 2001. India and Pakistan both jointed this year.

Egypt under President el-Sisi continues to expand on historically good relations with Russia which date back to the Nasser era. Egypt and Russia have pledged to cooperate against terrorist threats and just today Russia confirmed the creation of a new de-escalation zone in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. The agreement was signed in Cairo which demonstrates Egypt’s increasingly important role in cooperating with Russian led peace initiatives.

In respect of Egypt’s neighbour Libya, the faction of Libya’s failed state which is the only one that could reasonably form a legitimate government, the secular Tobruk based Libyan House of Representatives, has good relations with both Egypt and Russia. This could become increasingly important as the armed forces of the House of Representatives, the Libyan National Army continues to make gains against jihadists.

In the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia’s attempt to isolate Qatar has backfired spectacularly. Russia is now seen by the Qataris themselves as well as those in the wider region as a legitimate broker of peace. Russia has called for a peaceful and amicable solution to the crisis which has been praised by Doha. At the same time, Russia continues to improve relations with Saudi Arabia.

All of this has happened while Russia remains one of the few powers in the world to have good relations with both Israel and Palestine.

All of this puts Russia in a unique position as a super-power with either close relations or at minimum good working relations with all the major players in the wider Middle East.

3. Turkey’s realignment and Iran’s re-emergence 

Ever since joining NATO in 1952, Turkey has been a close US ally in the Middle East and Eurasia. However, Turkey’s relationship with Washington continues to plunge to new depths.

Under Donald Trump, America’s backing of the Kurds, Turkey’s number one regional enemy, has caused to Ankara distance itself from both NATO and the pro-NATO bloc, the European Union. Turkey’s participation in the Astana Peace Process along with Russia and Iran is symptomatic of Turkey’s increasingly good relationship with Russia and moreover, of Turkish President Erdogan’s good personal relationship with President Putin.

READ MORE: America has pushed Turkey straight into Russia’s arms

Two related events have also brought Turkey closer to Iran. Russia was able to draw two historical adversaries into the Astana Peace Process while Turkey’s strongly pro-Qatari position in the Gulf has put Tehran and Ankara on the same page.

President Erdogan’s interventions into the internal affairs of Arab countries has made Turkey’s relations with the Arab states of Syria, Iraq and Egypt deeply strained. To compensate for this Turkey is looking increasingly outside of both Europe and the Levant for allies and is drawing nearer to Russia, Iran and Qatar.

This has the effect of putting the two large non-Arab powers of the Middle East firmly in a camp which has totally different geo-strategic priorities vis-a-vis the United States President Erdogan’s enthusiastic participation in the One Belt–One Road forum in Beijing is a further sign that Ankara is increasingly looking east after a 20th century where both culturally and geo-strategically, it had tended to look west.

CONCLUSION

All of this leads to America’s increased geo-political and consequently economic isolation in the Middle East. Iran’s increased prestige in Syria and Iraq looks set to define the next generation of Levantine and Mesopotamian relations with Tehran while Iran’s pragmatic relationship with Qatar could hold the key to continued Iranian economic growth.

Turkey’s pivot away from both the Arab world and the west is being largely compensated for with good relations with historic regional rivals turned potential partners, Russia and Iran.

Russia is in a unique position as a respected power broker and security partner throughout virtually all of the Middle East, while China’s One Belt–One Road which runs through much of the region is an economic super-giant in the making. America by contrast has not offered any original thinking in respect of the economic future of the Middle East, this is why many  Middle East governments are increasingly seeing America as yesterday’s lost opportunity rather than tomorrow’s hope.

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journey80
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journey80

Bush, Billary, Obama

nibs
Guest
nibs

1. China, Russia, Iran all are close or have borders in the region.
2. These countries operate foreign policies in their own interest, whereas the USA is massively swayed by what Israel tells them to do, and ends up doing things totally at odds with the US interest.

Conclusion: lose the Neocons.

stevek9
Guest
stevek9

An important aspect of Russia’s increasing influence in the World is nuclear power. This does not get a lot of discussion. Nuclear power will be the primary energy source for the World in this century. Despite irrational fears, this is the only source of energy outside coal which can power world-wide economic development. Russia is one of, if not the premier technical leaders in nuclear power technology (the BN800 is a case in point). And, they have an aggressive and effective export strategy. They will completely finance the construction of nuclear plants in their ‘build-own-operate’ model (which they implemented in… Read more »

Gonzogal
Guest
Gonzogal

Russia is doing wonders with solar energy that it can also help its ME friends set up not only for their own citizens but for sale in order to build their economies.
http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/solar-power-russia-emerges-shade/ri20035

tjoes
Guest
tjoes

Russia insider bans lots of people so their comments will not be seen. Discern anything that comes from RI…the owner is a real sleaze and DOES have hidden agenda .

tjoes
Guest
tjoes

Russia has huge natural gas supplies. They should be buying China turbine generators and lots of wire to supply China electricity.

my2Cents
Guest
my2Cents

“Nuclear power will be the primary energy source for the World in this century.”
Absurd ramble.

Mike John Elissen
Guest
Mike John Elissen

Less than 2 years ago US/EU politicians and political/strategic analysts were dead certain Russia would face `a quagmire` and `a repeat of the Soviet debacle in Afghanistan` in Syria. Anno now, the results of the Russian intervention in Syria are clear, while NATO faces its own `quagmires`… especially in Afghanistan, where a 15-year old war/occupation produces casualties, hatred and none of the fairy-tale promises made. Handing out cheques after butchering innocent people (or even the `cops` that you trained) doesn`t obscure the fact that NATO`s military adventures are failures – by any standard. Anyone with a memory capable of remembering… Read more »

Walter Dublanica
Member
Walter Dublanica

The U.S. could have had Russia as an ally. Instead we listened to our neocon cabal which hates everything Russian. Now Russia looks the other way like who needs the U.S.

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

The Neocons are the satanist children and grandchildren of the Trotskyite Jews who ran the Holocaust of Russians between 1917 and 1960 or so, and then again under Yeltsin. They are afraid that their evil may catch up to them if they stop murdering people – especially Christians and especially Russians.

Walter Dublanica
Member
Walter Dublanica

You are right in your assessment of the “tribe”. We have to be cleansed of their evil intentions.

Dan Kuhn
Guest
Dan Kuhn

If you want allies you have to offer something other than a demand that they are either with us or against us. What has the US given the Middle East? War and lots of it. When they offer economic help it is only with military hardware. The US has flattened at least three countries in the Middle East just since the turn of the century and is currently assisting Saudi Arabia in the destruction of another. What the US offers is even more misery piled upon the misery they have already inflicted on that part of the world. What is… Read more »

Ray Joseph Cormier
Guest

What an excellent and insightful analysis, so close to Reality vs political propaganda spin and delusions of grandeur. More than any other reader, I read it as a Revelation and confirmation, the details unfolding only NOW Day by Day, are GENERALLY unfolding in the spirit of this letter published by a Major US daily in the ‘Heartland’ of the Nation in the Spirit of ’76. September 13, 1976, the major daily THE KANSAS CITY TIMES published this Vision of the FUTURE: “He came to town for the Republican National Convention and will stay until the election in November TO DO… Read more »

lickeyleaks
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lickeyleaks

Looks like UN wont prosecute US for being there and they wont pay compensation for damage so 1 foot in the grave for them!!
China is gonna help rebuild,Russians will look after defences,Iran will be a good friend,who needs US??

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

Or, to quote that superb humanitarian and world class US diplomat, ‘Cookies’ Noodleman: “Fuck the EUSA”!

samo war
Guest
samo war
Debbie Beane
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Debbie Beane

The real losers? comment image

ColinNZ
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ColinNZ

Great article, excellent overview.

Constantine
Guest
Constantine

That was a really good one by Garrie. Backed by facts, no political bias and a clear-headed analysis.

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

Three reasons the United States has/have lost the Middle East?

1 The
2 United
3 States

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

I want to congratulate The Duran for getting on this site: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/the-duran/Check as ‘unreliable fake news and propaganda’. Who does the site ‘trust highly’?
WAPO, The NYT, the BBC and… the MOSCOW TIMES ! Priceless.

Simon
Guest
Simon

LOL they also had Bellingcat in their ‘least biased’ list. Good grief !

André De Koning
Guest
André De Koning

“America by contrast has not offered any original thinking in respect of the economic future of the Middle East…” So true as they never contribute in any way and only rob and destroy. Very good summary and overview. Also good news to hear RUssia is there to stay in Syria. This time I did believe the US administration would leave Syria and that all loss of lives and destruction has been for nothing. Get them out and rebuild!

seby
Guest
seby

Hallelujah!

The “end of the new American century” pronounced by the pentagon.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/07/23/the-end-new-american-century-pronounced-pentagon.html

samo war
Guest
samo war

barrrrbarian invasion ?

tjoes
Guest
tjoes

“Russia remains one of the few powers in the world to have good relations with both Israel and Palestine”

Apparently Russia has not figured out that Israel said their Kol Nidre prayers and will stab Russia in the back….covertly of course.

Putin's baby
Guest
Putin's baby

I love it! Hopefully these filthy yanks will be kicked out of ME soon as possible… then they will have to frack their country to pieces to have their energy… no water tho, just gas.. ho ho ho

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Theresa May survives another week in ongoing Brexit fiasco (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 153.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit survival, as the UK Prime Ministers appears to be heading to Brussels so she can coordinate with EU technocrats in order to meet a November deadline to move the unpopular agreement through all channels of British government.

It is still a very fluid situation. May has made it through a tough weekend where support to oust her never materialized, but the week ahead is anything but certain. For now May’s Brexit position looks secure.

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“Brexit. A Deal That Pleases No One,” authored by Daniel Lacalle via dlacalle.com…

The agreement announced between the British government and the European Union has been received in the United Kingdom with criticism from all sides. The defenders of staying in the European Union consider it very negative, of course. However, and this is the most important part, it is unlikely that the conservative party itself will support this agreement in parliament. Jacob Rees-Mogg has called the agreement “a failure of the negotiators and a failure to deliver Brexit.” Boris Johnson has said that it turns the United Kingdom into a “vassal state” and Nigel Farage has described it as “the worst agreement in history”.

Including the entire United Kingdom in the customs union and maintaining the payment of 10 billion pounds a year to give the European Union veto rights to the most important decisions is something that most conservative members of parliament will reject and that does not satisfy the Labor Party – which is also not pro-EU, let’s be clear – nor the liberal-democrats.

That is the great problem facing the government of Theresa May. That not even the government as a whole supports this agreement. The resignations that have been registered prove it. Even if the rest of the government decides to accept this agreement as a lesser evil, it is very difficult for the parliament to approve it.

At the centre of the controversy is a negotiating process that the European Union has left as a United Kingdom issue. But by letting the United Kingdom deal with its own divisions and problems, the EU also lost the perfect opportunity to offer British citizens and the rest of Europe a refreshing, leading and exciting project. And that is the big problem. That Brexit has been seen in many circles in Brussels as an opportunity to advance in the political and interventionist project, instead of moving towards a union in freedom for global, economic and political leadership.

The problem of the UK government is that it is led by a person, Theresa May, who must present a proposal to leave the EU when she has always been an advocate of remaining (Theresa May initially campaigned for the “Remain”). Thus, it is not surprising that the parliament arithmetics in favor of this agreement is not at all clear.

The British Parliament has more members in favor of Brexit than against, but it cannot be THIS Brexit.

Boris Johnson and the pro-Brexit hardliners may see an opportunity to weaken Theresa May and force a change of leadership that will bring a new leader more committed to a better deal.

Moderate Labour, who have been terrified for months with the radical drift of the Corbyn team, may also see an opportunity to weaken the leader who tries to take Labour to the far left.

My perception is that if there were a second referendum the result would probably be the same. In the United Kingdom there are no voices with political weight and real popular support to defend the European Union project. In the United Kingdom, the debate is either seeing the European Union as an annoying partner or as an impossible danger to solve.

Citizens in Europe see Brexit with sadness, logically. In the United Kingdom, news arriving from the European Union do not encourage a remain stance. High unemployment, unresolved immigration problems, lack of global leadership, high taxes, the specter of a new debt crisis in Italy and other risks. Pro-Europe UK leaders offer no other argument to citizens than the so-called Project Fear, a massive economic risk. However, British citizens see UK unemployment at 75-year lows, while in Europe they see the slowdown of the eurozone and the budget crisis of other countries, and do not find an unquestionable reason to stay in the club.

The UK citizen who votes for Brexit does not seem convinced that the only solution is to belong to a union that demands more control but offers less growth and employment.

The reactions to the agreement have not been very euphoric in any case. It seems something that was presented to fail. The pound and stock market did not react as the EU negotiators would think once the deal was seen as unlikely to pass parliament. In the bond market, Gilts strengthened as UK bond spreads fell while eurozone peripheral yields soared. The opposite of what would be seen as an EU victory.

Reaching an agreement that benefits everyone is difficult, but not impossible

The problem in the United Kingdom is that the agreement that would satisfy the pro-Brexit is impossible, and that the agreement that would please the pro-EU is impractical. That the message of economic ruin is not bought by Brexiters and not even the Remainers see the marvels of the EU membership.

Economically, it has been a mistake to present British citizens with the idea of “either the EU or the chaos”, because it does not work when there is not a clear, exciting and global leadership project.

The United Kingdom, one of the voices that defended economic freedom and open markets in an increasingly bureaucratic European Union is an essential partner to advance in Europe. Reaching an agreement that benefits everyone is difficult, but not impossible.

I have never bought the “EU or chaos” argument. I believe that both parts can benefit from a mutually beneficial deal. I am convinced that, even if this agreement is not approved, the British government will reconsider and present a solid plan for its citizens.

 

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Rise of the Western Dissidents

The only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. He is far from alone.

The Duran

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Authored by Allum Bokhari via Breitbart:


We’re used to Russian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, Iranian dissidents, and Saudi Arabian dissidents. But those who rightly believe the west is superior to authoritarian regimes must now contend with a troubling trend — the rise of the western dissident.

Chief among them is Julian Assange, who for a half-decade has been forced to live in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has claimed political asylum since 2011. Assange claimed that he would be extradited to the U.S. to face charges over his work at WikiLeaks if he left the embassy, and was routinely mocked as paranoid for doing so.

This week, we learned that Assange was right and his critics were wrong. Thanks to a clerical error by the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, reporters were able to confirm the existence of sealed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

Because the charges are sealed and the evidence is unknown, it’s impossible to say if the case has merit. But it likely relates to WikiLeaks’ release of unredacted diplomatic cables in 2011, which forced the U.S. to relocate several of its foreign sources.

Some allegations are more serious. While he was alive, neoconservative Senator John McCain maintained that leaks provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, which included the diplomatic cables, caused U.S sources to be murdered.

Those who see Assange as a villain will end the story here. What is typically left out is that WikiLeaks originally released the diplomatic cables in piecemeal form, with names redacted to prevent loss of life and minimize harm.

It was only after a Guardian journalist’s error led to the full unredacted cables leaking to third parties on the web that WikiLeaks published them as well — and not before Assange attempted to warn the office of Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State.

In other words, WikiLeaks behaved precisely as any responsible publisher handling sensitive material should, redacting information that could cause harm. The redactions only stopped when they became pointless. Assange is unlikely to have won more than a dozen journalism awards if he were completely reckless in his publications.

The Pentagon later admitted under oath that they could not find any instances of individuals being killed as a result of being named in Manning’s leaks to WikiLeaks, contradicting Sen. McCain’s allegations.

At worst, Assange and WikiLeaks can be accused of negligence, not deliberate recklessness, in the way it handled sensitive material. But as Breitbart Tech reporter Lucas Nolan points out, a far stronger case can be made against Hillary Clinton for the way she handled State Department emails — yet we see no criminal charges against her.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. In that, he is far from alone.

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, western governments targeted all manner of individuals associated with Assange and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, including Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, and The Guardian newspaper.

This was the early growth period of the internet, when the web had become a truly popular medium but had yet to be censored by pliant social media corporations. It was a time of profound unease at the power of the internet to undermine authority, both through the dissemination of information as in the case of WikiLeaks and Snowden, and in the new mobilization of political forces, as in the case of Occupy Wall Street and the SOPA/PIPA protests. Heavy-handed crackdowns against individuals and groups that were seen, rightly or wrongly, as symbols of the web’s early anarchic tendencies, like Kim DotcomAaron SwartzAnonymous, and LulzSec, were not uncommon.

These days, however, a new class of western dissident has emerged — the populist dissident.

Populist Dissidents

Who would have thought that the highest court in Europe, home of the enlightenment, would uphold a case in which a woman was prosecuted for blasphemy against Islam?

Who would have thought that Britain, the birthplace of liberalism and the free press, would ban an independent journalist from its shores for satirizing the same religion?

Who would have thought that Germany, whose living memory of the totalitarian Stasi is just three decades old, would put its largest opposition party under surveillance?

Just a few years ago, all three would sound far-fetched. But cases like these have become common as elites in virtually every western country mount a panicked attempt to contain the rise of populism (the goal, in the words of a Google executive, is to render it a “hiccup”in history’s march towards progress).

Look at the case of Tommy Robinson, the British critic of Islam who was dragged through Britain’s courts on fuzzy contempt-of-court charges. Sentenced to an astonishing thirteen-month imprisonment, Robinson was eventually freed after a successful appeal and now awaits a final trial before Britain’s Attorney General. Shaky charges that have been successfully appealed were exploited to persecute a British citizen who was inconvenient to the establishment. And there’s still a further trial to come.

Then again, Britain is a country that routinely bans foreign politicians and media figures from the country for being too right-wing. Michael SavageGeert WildersLauren SouthernPamela Geller, and Robert Spencer all enjoy this dubious distinction. Theresa May, who was responsible for internal affairs and immigration when Spencer and Geller were banned, is now the Prime Minister.

But it’s not just Britain. Not only has Trump’s White House, supposedly an ally of populists, failed to publicly intervene on behalf of the American citizens banned from the U.K. for expressing populist viewpoints, but it hasn’t even investigated allegations that far-left Antifa activists were able to stop conservative Rebel Media personality Jack Buckbyfrom entering the country by spreading false criminal allegations.

Julian Assange, a left-libertarian may share little ideological ground with right-wing critics of Islam. But they all share at least one thing: persecution by western states coupled with anti-establishment political speech or activities. They are also targets of the security establishment — Assange because of leaks that have exposed their secrets, and the populists because they refuse to censor themselves to avoid angering Muslims. (The UK justified its attempted ban of Geert Wilders by arguing that his presence in the country could lead to “inter-faith violence.”)

We also see attacks on free speech, with governments and politicians across the west pressuring Silicon Valley to suppress its critics. An unaccountable, unelected elite can sweep away a person’s livelihood in minutes, and cut their political message off from millions of American citizens. As I wrote in my column two weeks ago, the overarching trend is the gradual destruction or delegitimization of every tool, digital or otherwise, that non-elites use to express their preferences. Does that sound like a free society, or a controlled one?

You don’t have to agree with any of the individuals or groups listed above to see that surveilling political parties, blocking journalists from entering countries, jailing critics of religion, upholding blasphemy laws and censoring the net is the behavior of authoritarian nations, not liberal democracies. Yet this is the disturbing pattern we now see in the west.

Worse, foreign authoritarian regimes now provide safe harbor for western dissidents, in the same way that the west does for foreign dissidents. Edward Snowden, accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, has for years resided safely in Russia, a country that persecutes and even kills its own journalists. Before that, he sought refuge in Hong Kong, a “Special Administrative Region” of the People’s Republic of China, an even more terrifyingly totalitarian state.

Will there now be a quid pro quo, with Russia and other authoritarian regimes protecting our dissidents while the west protects theirs? Or will western countries remain true to their liberal traditions, and stop its alarming attempts to surveil, suppress, and persecute a growing number of its own citizens? On present trends, a dark and dystopian future seems to loom on the horizon.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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Zuckerberg’s “War Face” Has Driven Key Executives Away, Stoked Tension With Sandberg

About a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gathered around 50 of his key executives and told them that the company was at war – more specifically, under siege from lawmakers, investors and angry users over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and Russian influence on the platform.

Zuckerberg, according to the Wall Street Journal, told his top lieutenants during that June meeting that while executives can move more slowly and methodically on key decisions during “peacetime,” he would be acting more decisively going forward, said people familiar with the remarks.

The result? Tension which has boiled over to the point where several key executives have left the country – as well as friction between Zuckerberg and longtime COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

The 34-year-old CEO believes Facebook didn’t move quickly enough at key moments this year and increasingly is pressing senior executives to “make progress faster” on resolving problems such as slowing user growth and securing the platform, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg also at times has expressed frustration at how the company managed the waves of criticism it faced this year.

On Friday, that tension was on display when, during a question-and-answer session with employees at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., he blasted a fresh round of critical news coverage as “bullshit,” according to the people familiar with the remarks. –WSJ

One Facebook employee at the Friday session asked if the company could mitigate leaks by publishing internal reports on how frequently offenders are found and fired. While Zuckerberg said that Facebook does fire leakers, the root cause is “bad morale” thanks to negative press coverage.

And while the WSJ notes Zuckerberg has taken on ambitious annual goals, such as learning Mandarin and reading 25 books, this year his biggest challenge is fixing Facebook through his tougher management style, according to a person familiar with his thinking (so says the WSJ). Perhaps the Facebook CEO hired a drill sergeant to coach him on bringing out his inner-Alpha?

According to the Journal, Zuckerberg and Sandberg have had confrontations over his new management style, after she had long been afforded considerable autonomy over the company’s teams which handle communications and policy.

This spring, Mr. Zuckerberg told Ms. Sandberg, 49, that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica, the research firm that inappropriately accessed private data on Facebook users and used it for political research, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Ms. Sandberg later confided in friends that the exchange rattled her, and she wondered if she should be worried about her job.

Mr. Zuckerberg also has told Ms. Sandberg she should have been more aggressive in allocating resources to review troublesome content on the site, said one person familiar with the matter, a problem that the company still struggles to fix. –WSJ

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg seems to be pleased of late with internal improvements, telling reporters last week that Sandberg is a “very important partner to me, and continues to be, and will continue to be.”

Privately, Zuckerberg has told executives that some of the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal was just “hysteria,” to which Facebook simply didn’t mount an effective response.

Clash of the tech titans

Zuckerberg famously has butted heads with the co-founders of photo-sharing app Instagram, over his desire to share user location data on the main Facebook platform in order to help better target ads. The now-resigned Instagram founders strongly opposed the idea, and abruptly left the company in September.

The founders of WhatsApp similarly bailed on Facebook after disagreements over how to best extract revenue from the messaging service, according to people familiar with the matter.

And most recently, was the departure of Oculus VR co-founder Brendan Iribe, who was forced out by Zuckerberg in part due to a disagreement over the future of the virtual-reality handset, the people said. The decision to leave was reportedly “mutual.”

All told, about a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018. In May, Facebook announced a major reshuffling of top product executives in a way that helped free up Mr. Zuckerberg to oversee a broader portfolio within the company.

This turmoil at the top of Facebook has made it difficult for the company to execute on some product decisions and shore up employee morale, which has been sinking over the last year along with the stock price, which has fallen 36% since its peak. Many employees are frustrated by the bad press and constant reorganizations, including of the security team, which can disrupt their work, according to current and former employees. –WSJ

Doing whatever it takes

Facebook has come under fire recently – most notably after a New York Times report that the company used GOP operatives to smear the company’s detractors and promote negative news about competitors Google and Apple.

When the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal broke – the resultant rebukes from Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google executives sent Zuckerberg ballistic. The Facebook CEO “later ordered his management team to use only Android phones —arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s,” according to the Times.

Facebook then went on the offensive against the fellow tech giants.

On the advice of Joel Kaplan – a well-connected Republican friend, Bush administration official, and former Harvard classmate of Sandberg, Facebook began to go after Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Facebook has responded, initially saying they didn’t put out “fake news” against their competitors, and they had no idea what their marketing department was doing. On Friday, however, Sandberg said she took full responsibility for the actions of the communications team.

Facebook has tried to move forward following its various scandals; spearheading efforts to reign in data harvesting, and looking for someone to oversee its corporate, external and legal affairs.

Hopefully whoever is ultimately in charge of oversight won’t be scared away by Zuckerberg’s war face.

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