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5 reasons the Astana ‘safe zone’ Memorandum is good for Russia and Syria

Russia’s master chess move has made things better for Syria and worse for Syria’s enemies.

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The controversial move has sparked a great deal of debate, some measured and some outlandishly suggesting that Russia ‘sold out’ its Syrian partner.

Here are the key reasons why it was a masterful geo-political move by Russia that will help keep Syria safe, stable and sovereign.

1. It Simply Reinforces Existing Realities 

Currently, Syria is operating under a Russian authored ceasefire which the UN Security unanimously passed late last year. Even Obama’s United States didn’t dare veto the Russian resolution.

READ MORE: UN Security Council unanimously passes a Russian resolution for a Syrian ceasefire

The carefully worded ceasefire establishes a  non-aggression agreement whereby the Syrian led anti-terrorist coalition and certain militant/terrorist groups are bound not to engage in combat. The biggest terrorist groups operating in Syria are not covered by the ceasefire. That means that fighting against groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda/Nusra and others can and indeed is still being fought by the coalition that includes Russia and Iran.

Today’s Memorandum creating safe-zones merely formalises certain areas that will be both literally and figuratively fenced off in order to bolster the existing ceasefire.

This will allow responsible parties like Syria, Russia and Iran to monitor the situation more closely as well as have an even clearer opportunity to fight and destroy the dangerous groups correctly not covered by the ceasefire.

2. Turkey and America Are Politically Neutralised in Syria 

Turkey and America have both been pushing for the establishment of safe-zones which in effect are no fly zones. In the last months of the Obama administration, the US was pushing for US controlled no-fly zones that would have attempted to ground Syrian and Russian jets. This was totally unacceptable to both Russia and Syria and could have led to Russian and NATO planes shooting each other out of the sky. The consequences would have been dire.

The current situation sounds similar but is in fact very different. On paper,both Turkey and America have gotten what they want.

In reality, it means that Russia and Iran along with Turkey will be the enforcers of the safe-zones. Turkey as the ‘outsider’ partner in the Astana group is not about to drive a rift between Ankara on the one side and Moscow and Tehran on the other in such an overt fashion. If Turkey did, it would expose Turkey as a totally unreliable partner in the Astana format. The consequences of this would mean Turkey being forced out of the Astana format. It would not lead to the collapse of the Astana format. Turkey is outnumbered in more ways than one in this respect.

READ MORE: Russia calls the bluff of Turkey and so-called Syrian opposition and wins

Turkey has effectively been backed against the wall.

Russia has put the ball in Erdogan’s court. Erdogan is now bound by an agreement to be enforced by countries whose role in Syria has been a positive one, one that supports the Syrian government and consequently the Syrian people.

To put it in more mercenary terms, Russia and Iran have ‘colonised’ the intellectual debate from Turkey and America. They now control the safe-zones which are in effect no-fly zones. This means that Turkey can not act unilaterally without breaking an accord which it is a joint signatory of.

It also means that Turkey and the US are now increasingly distant in terms of alignments in Syria. Turkey must now help enforce an agreement drafted without the United States. Turkey is in the ‘big boys club’, so to speak, but the biggest military force in NATO isn’t a member.

This is compounded by existing tensions that Turkeys and the US have created themselves due to America’s refusal to abandon Kurdish SFD forces and Turkey’s refusal to abandon attacking Kurdish forces. Trouble in NATO paradise is a phrase which comes to mind.

In one swift move, Russia and Iran have not only preserved the status quo in Syria, but have simultaneously clipped the wings of Turkey and isolated America from any attempts to move and shake events without risking a total war against Syria, Russia, Iran and even Turkey.

READ MORE: Erdogan’s chief adviser claims Turkey may ‘accidentally’ attack US troops

3. Syria Supports the Move 

Syria’s chief diplomatic envoy Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari has conveyed Syria’s approval of the move. Syria is not about to support a move against its own interests, neither its short term nor long term interests.

Vladimir Putin made clear in his press conference with Turkish President Erdogan that no safe-zones could be established against the will of Syria. Putin has lived up to his word and Syria is not about to betray its on cause so late in the game.

Syria is winning the battle against terrorists on the ground . America’s illegal attack from the 6th of April has not retarded the progress of the Syrian Arab Army in this respect. Syria is supporting the move for the same reason Russia is. Syria, in supporting the Memorandum, has the opportunity to call Turkey’s bluff for the world to see and likewise call the bluff of the militant factions that are part of the Astana talks.

If the safe-zones fail, Syria is vindicated, if they succeed, Syria is one step closer to restoring normalcy.

4. The Militants/Terrorists Are Angry

The militant factions which are part of the Astana talks angrily stormed out of the session where the memorandum was signed by representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey.

They know full well that their bluff has been called. Their talk of peace has been exposed as the sham that many all ready knew it was and that Syria had constantly said it was.

If the militants do not abide by the protocols of the soon to be established safe zones, the world will then see that their penultimate goal is conquest rather than peace. They will be unmasked as insurgents rather than ‘opposition forces’.

Syria will at long last be vindicated. This may likely happen sooner than expected.

In this sense, Russia, Iran and Syria can turn around to Turkey and the United States and have a big ‘I told you so’ moment. With such a diverse coalition of nations and organisations  in favour of the agreement, those who are opposed are the isolated parties. They will have no leg to stand on. They will have to resort to either humility or unilateral war.

Much though the Trump administration is unpredictable, unilateral war seems incredibly unlikely at this stage.

5. It Has Real International Support

Whilst the US acted unilaterally and illegally in its  bombing of Syria,  the Memorandum at Astana has been welcomed by the Secretary General of the United Nations.

An official statement from the UN reads,

“The Secretary-General is encouraged by the agreement today in Astana, Kazakhstan, by guarantor countries Iran, Russia and Turkey to de-escalate violence in key areas in Syria.

It will be crucial to see this agreement actually improve the lives of Syrians. The Secretary-General welcomes the commitments to ceasing the use of all weapons, particularly aerial assets; to rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access; and to creating conditions for the delivery of medical aid and meeting civilians’ basic needs. The commitments made should not affect the rights of Syrians to seek and enjoy asylum.

The UN will continue to support de-escalation within the framework of the Security Council resolutions on Syria. The UN has also been proactively supporting discussions in Astana regarding detainees and humanitarian demining.

The Secretary-General welcomes the affirmation from the Astana meeting of the fundamental importance of a political solution and the full support expressed there for the UN-led intra-Syrian talks process in Geneva within the framework of Security Council resolution 2254.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is in consultation with all concerned as he finalises the date for the next round of the intra-Syrian talks”.

While the US, UK and France have frequently disregarded the UN, it is essential that this plan, which has Syrian approval, is also in line with the voice of the United Nations.

This again reinforces just how isolated the US and radical Sunni militants are at this time. The UN, Russia, Iran, Syria, Turkey and the UN are on one side, while the US and armed radicals are on another.

There is of course a danger that such an agreement could lead to the federalisation of Syria. This however is opposed by a country who supports the agreement, Syria, as well as a signatory of the agreement, Iran.

While some have accused Russia of agnosticism over federalisation, ultimately Russia has always said that it is a Syrian issue for Syria to decide. Connecting the dots leads to the conclusion that Russia will not bank on federalisation against the wishes of Damascus.

The Memorandum changes few manifest realities on the ground in Syria but it shifts the political trajectory of the situation vastly in favour of Syria, Russia and Iran. Turkey has been boxed into a corner and America doesn’t even have a corner to be boxed into.

Russia’s ‘long game’ strategy appears to have paid off.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

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The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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