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6 events which mark America’s climb-down in Syria

While the US presence in Syria is illegal and has been admitted as such by a top US General, the overall trajectory of US policy in Syria under Donald Trump is one that increasingly acknowledges Russia’s role as the dominant super-power acting in the country.

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The United States appears to be on a course of permanently backing down from the following: conflict with Syrian forces in Syria, open disagreements which could lead to conflict with Russian forces in Syria, attempts to take the ‘lead’ in Syria, relations with Salafist terrorist groups in Syria.

While the US maintains its illegal presence in Syria both in respect of bases and in respect of frequent air raids which have had a devastating effect on the civilian population, the overall trajectory of US participation in Syria seems to be from an entirely different position from what was observed in the Spring of 2017 when on the 6th of April, the US attacked a Syrian base without any legal justification.

Here is the important series of very recent events.

1. 19 June, 2017: Russia threatens to target US aircraft 

On the 18th of June, the United States shot down a Syrian Arab Airforce fighter-jet which was conducting anti-terrorist operations in al-Tabqah, Raqqa Governorate.

The shooting down of a Syrian plane on Syrian soil by American forces which have no legal basis to be in Syria in the first place, was condemned resoundingly by Russia.

Russia furiously stated that the attack was a violation of international law, an act of aggression against a sovereign nation and an act which manifestly aided terrorists.

The next day, on the 19th of June, Russia issued the following statement,

“In the areas of combat missions of Russian air fleet in Syrian skies, any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the (US-led) international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defence forces as air targets”.

This remains Russia’s most serious threat to the US in respect of America ceasing its aggression in Syria to-date. By contrast, after the US attack on a west Syrian airbase in April of 2017, Russia condemned the attack and temporarily cut off the flight safety phone line it maintains with the US in Syria, but no further condemnation or threats were issued.

In this instance, however, Russia defined clear spheres of influence in Syria. The areas west of the Euphrates were uncontested areas of Syrian domination which Russia would defended by targeting US aircraft if necessary.

The United States has not touched a single Syrian aircraft since.

2. 27 June, 2017: One false flag and two non-attacks 

On 27 June, The White House Press Secretary announced that the US had information that Syria was about to conduct a chemical weapons attack. In a manner that was frankly, surreal, the US threatened to conduct a “heavy” attack on Syrian forces as a result of an attack which hadn’t happened and which objectively could not happen as the US and Russia both agreed that Syria gave up what remained of her unused chemical weapons stockpiles by 2014.

This was later followed by the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley threatening both Iran and Russia over the prognosticated incident that never happened.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova came out swinging, stating that Russia was aware of two locations for a possible false flag attack staged by terrorists.

At the same time, US Secretary of Defence James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis seemed to contradict the belicosity of Nikki Haley and Sean Spicer, saying that it remains a US goal to ‘de-conflict’ with Russia.

In the end, terrorists claimed they were attacked and no one appeared to believe them this time. The result is that the US did not make good on its treat.

READ MORE: Russia aware of possible locations for false flag attack

3. 7 July, 2017: Trump and Putin agree to establish a ceasefire in south western Syria

The proximity in time of the US declaring an imminent chemical weapons attack in Syria and Donald Trump’s scheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, seems to me far more than coincidental. It was as if certain individuals in the American deep state wanted to derail any potential progress in respect of the first meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

In the end, the meeting not only happened but went on for hours longer than originally scheduled.

The result of the meeting was the agreement by the US and Russia along with Jordan to guarantee a ceasefire in south western Syria. The agreement also intends to turn areas where the ceasefire has been established into a new de-escolation zone to be jointly enforced by Russian, America and Jordanian forces.

4. 14 July, 2017: Donald Trump praises ceasefire in south western Syria and agrees that US should cooperate further with Russia 

During his first full interview since meeting with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump said that only “fools” would want hostility with Russia. This came after Trump praised the ceasefire in south western Syria during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

During the press conference, Donald Trump stated that he would like more such ceasefire agreements to come into effect while Macron admitted that regime change is no longer on the table for France, a country whose foreign policy is increasingly a carbon-copy of American policy.

5. 19 July, 2017: Confirmation that Trump ordered CIA to stop arming jihadist terrorists in Syria

Multiple press-sources confirmed that Donald Trump ordered the CIA to cease arming jihadist groups in Syria, a claim backed up from information on the ground that FSA jihadists were forced by the United States to withdraw from the race to Raqqa in favour of strongly US backed Kurdish forces.

This is a clear indication that under Trump, the United States has given up on Barack Obama’s flagship policy of arming jihadists under the guise that they are ‘moderate’.

READ MORE: Trump ends CIA arms to Salafists in Syria

6. 22 July, 2017: US General admits American forces are in Syria illegally 

In a surprisingly genuine Mea culpa, US Army General Raymond Thomas stated that the US “would have no ability to stay” in Syria if the America presence was challenged in respect of international law.

He further stated,

“Here’s the conundrum: We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their backstoppers have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We’re a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, U.S.?”

His statement vis-a-vis Turkey is not entirely true. Turkey remains in Syria and remains there illegally. However, what Russia has been able to do is bring Turkey into the Astana Peace Process which created multiple de-escalation zones in Syria. This has had the aggregate effect of reducing many Turkish operations against Syrian forces while the US backing of Kurdish forces has led Ankara to more or less swap its duel anti-Syrian and anti-Kurdish position in Syria to one that is now almost exclusively anti-Kurdish.

READ MORE: Astana and the US-Russian agreement: Complimentary agreements that are geo-political wins for Russia

All of this has had the effect of America switching from a position of geo-political unilateralism in Syria to one where the US is increasingly acknowledging that the only super-power that calls the shots in Syria is Russia. This is not to say that the US will not still continue illegal airstrikes on civilians that remain un-coordinated with Damascus, nor that the US presence in Syria is any less illegal because of the aforementioned admission by a top US General.

It is merely a matter of America realising that it cannot control events in Syria without having to fight Russia, both diplomatically and possibly even militarily, should America persist. Under the Trump administration, the US seems to want to avoid fighting Russia for influence in Syria. By contrast, Hillary Clinton promised the opposite during her campaign.

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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