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In their 70th telephone call of 2016 Lavrov warns Kerry on Syria and misusing the Security Council

In their 70th telephone conversation of the year Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov warns Kerry against arming Jihadis in Syria and, in the aftermath of the vote on Resolution 2334, of using the UN Security Council to embarrass and undermine Donald Trump.

Alexander Mercouris

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On Tuesday 27th December 2016 Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Kerry had their 70th telephone conversation of 2016.

That means that Lavrov and Kerry have spoken to each other by telephone most weeks and sometimes more than once a week throughout the year.  This is on top of the seemingly endless number of times they have met with each other.

It is difficult to imagine a more intense degree of interaction between the two senior diplomats of two rival powers.

It is also impossible to imagine a more sterile interaction, one more barren of achievement.

Though Lavrov and Kerry have spoken to each other so often, and though they have engaged in hours and days of negotiations with each other throughout 2016, the only two agreements they ever reached – both over Syria, the first in February and the second in September – both immediately unravelled.

At one level the intensity of interaction between Lavrov and Kerry shows again the nonsense of US President Obama’s boast that he has isolated Russia and turned it into a pariah state.  So far from that being the case, the most active diplomat engaging with the Russians throughout 2016 was no less a person than his own Secretary of State!

That all this frantic diplomatic activity has achieved precisely nothing, so that Obama leaves the Presidency with all the issues between the US and Russia unresolved and with relations between the two countries as bad as they have ever been, is also ultimately US President Obama’s fault.  He has repeatedly sent Kerry to talk to Lavrov without making clear the extent of Kerry’s mandate, and without giving Kerry the clear instructions and the unqualified backing that any high-level negotiator in Kerry’s position needs.

The result is that more often than not when Kerry did meet Lavrov the proposals he took with him were completely unrealistic and obviously unacceptable to the Russians.   On the rare occasions when he did achieve agreement, the agreement had to be renegotiated all over again with the hardliners in the Washington bureaucracy as soon as he returned home.  Since Kerry never had Obama’s unqualified backing it was inevitable this would happen, since by definition any agreement he reached which was acceptable to Moscow was bound to be unacceptable to the hardliners in Washington.  Needless to say that all but guaranteed that in the absence of Obama’s unqualified backing whatever agreements Kerry brought back with him to Washington immediately unravelled.

In saying this the point must also be made that in pitting themselves against Lavrov Obama and Kerry found themselves up against the most skilled and accomplished diplomat in the world today.  Moreover unlike Kerry, who has never enjoyed Obama’s complete confidence, Lavrov has Putin’s unqualified support and confidence.  Though the record of their meetings shows that Putin and Lavrov meet rarely, they obviously coordinate closely with each other, with Lavrov getting from Putin clear instructions, and Putin in return getting from Lavrov clear advice.

The result is that though Lavrov went into every negotiation with Kerry knowing exactly what he wanted, the same never seemed to be true of Kerry.  Instead one always got the impression of a Secretary of State who was making it up as he went along, and who could never in the end deliver.

The result is that eastern Aleppo has been lost whereas with a better strategy it might have been saved, the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo have been comprehensively defeated where they might have been withdrawn intact, and the US now finds itself at risk of being entirely excluded from the negotiations to settle the conflict in Syria, with the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians talking directly to each other without the US.

Though neither Obama nor Kerry have been prepared publicly to face up to the fact, it is a record of unrelieved failure and defeat.  Unsurprisingly it has provoked a flood of critical and sometimes angry commentary in the Western media, with much finger pointing and recrimination, but little in the way of clear thinking and proper answers.

As to the subject of their latest telephone conversation, the Russian Foreign Ministry has provided a detailed report, which is being summarised by TASS.

On Syria Lavrov was in schoolmasterly form, lecturing Kerry on the inadmissibility of supplying arms to the Jihadis, and pointedly reminding him that the focus of negotiations has now moved to the tripartite format involving Russia, Turkey and Syria, from which the US is excluded

The parties discussed the ways to settle the Syrian crisis in the light of the agreements reached at the recent trilateral meeting between the Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers, aimed at ensuring ceasefire across Syria and stepping up the war on terror.  Lavrov pointed out that if Washington eased restrictions on arming Syrian rebels, so that portable air defence systems could be provided to them, tensions may increase as well as the death toll.

On bilateral relations Lavrov pointedly reminded Kerry that it was the US not Russia which was responsible for the downturn in relations between the two countries, and which bears responsibility for the consequences.

Touching on bilateral relations, the Russian minister once again stressed the inadmissibility of the Barack Obama administration’s course to further undermine the basics of normal cooperation between Russia and the United States.

It was Lavrov’s comments to Kerry about US misuse of the UN Security Council in the context of the Arab-Israeli dispute which are by far however the most interesting

The two top diplomats exchanged views on the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and around it. Lavrov stressed the necessity of creating conditions for direct talks between the leaders of Israel and Palestine and warned against bringing US’ domestic agenda into the work of the Middle East Quartet and the United Nations Security Council. He stressed that attempts to use these formats in bickering between the Democrats and Republicans are harmful,

(bold italics added)

Yesterday in an article for The Duran I pointed out that Resolution 2334, which the Obama administration allowed to pass through the UN Security Council and which it almost certainly itself engineered, and which has reaffirmed the Occupied Territory status of east Jerusalem, was actually targeted at Donald Trump, and was not an attempt to advance the cause of Middle East peace but was rather an attempt by Barack Obama to embarrass Donald Trump and to tie his hands in his future dealings with Israel.

Lavrov’s comments to Kerry show that the Russians think the same thing, and find it every bit as objectionable as I do.  Why else would Lavrov be warning the Obama administration through Kerry against bringing “the US’s domestic agenda into the work of ……the United Nations Security Council” whilst scolding them for using “these formats in bickering between the Democrats and the Republicans” which is “harmful”?

Kerry is reported to be depressed at the way Lavrov has comprehensively bested him in the many hours of negotiations that have taken place between them.  As a US official representing a US administration which still remains committed to the doctrine of US Exceptionalism, he must also find lectures of the sort he has just received from Lavrov utterly infuriating.  It is however the mismanagement of foreign policy by the Obama administration, of which as Secretary of State Kerry was an important part, that has brought him to the point where he has to listen to these lectures.

Suffice to say that the fact that Kerry soon won’t have to speak to Lavrov again, and won’t have to fear being bested by Lavrov again or having to listen to any more of Lavrov’s lectures, might be the one thing that makes him look forward to his coming retirement.

 

 

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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.

RT

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Via RT…


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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