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Lebanese President demands “former” PM Hariri return from Saudi Arabia

The political parties of Lebanon are showing a unity over the issue of Hariri’s return.

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Lebanese President Michel Aoun has spoken with the Saudi envoy in Beirut and demanded the return of Saad Hariri, the “former” Lebanese Prime Minister who by all accounts was forced to deliver a resignation speech in Riyadh on Saudi state-run television.

From the official Lebanese perspective, Hariri cannot formally resign unless he does so on Lebanese soil. This is the position of Hezbollah, the Shi’a Amal Movement and seemingly President Aoun’s primarily Christian Free Patriotic Movement.

Meanwhile, Fouad Siniora, a former Prime Minister from Hariri’s Sunni Future Movement has also stated that his party seeks the return of Hariri to Lebanese soil.

Ever since Hariri’s controversial resignation speech, rumours have persisted that he has been held against his will in Saudi Arabia.

French President Emmanuel Macron is in Saudi Arabia as part of an unscheduled visit where he is presumed to be seeking information about Hariri’s whereabouts.

The burgeoning unity among all major Lebanese political parties in respect of seeking Hariri’s safe passage back to Lebanon, helps demonstrate that fears of an immediate collapse of the Lebanese coalition government was largely hyperbolic.

It also vindicates my hypothesis that Hariri’s forced resignation was part of the domestic Saudi purges being led by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, rather than a calculated effort by Saudi Arabia to destabilise Lebanon. To be sure, the Saudis are indeed hoping for one last shot at meddling successfully in Lebanese affairs, but this is, from the Saudi perspective, an adjunct desire which stems from the primary goal of a deep purge of the Saudi elite.

As I previously stated,

“If viewed in isolation, the Hariri resignation appears like a clear Saudi organised attempt to foment discord in Lebanon by provoking Hezbollah, with the aim of weakening the resistance in Syria and opening up Lebanon to the kind of civil crisis which in the past has led to aggressive Israeli invasions and general strife.

However, when the events of yesterday are taken in totality, a different theory springs to mind, one which ought to be taken seriously, even if counter-intuitive at first glance.

After MBS’s ‘great purge’ of highly important figures in the Saudi ‘deep state’, including the billionaire and darling of western mainstream media, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, it is fair to say that Muhammad Bin Salman has taken the first strike against any would-be challengers or political opponents as he continues to consolidate his power, even before formally taking the throne from the elderly King Salman.

This ‘great purge’ which comes after the house arrest of former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, is a clear indication that MBS looks to turn Saudi into ‘his’ country just as Stalin turned the USSR into ‘his’ when he purged virtually all the remaining elements of the original Bolshevik leadership during the 1930s.

It is this parallel that is also important in another way. Many commentators, including contemporary Russian opposition leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has remarked that Stalin’s purges, including of the army, left the Soviet Union less than adequately prepared to stop the fascist invasion on 22 June 1941. It should be noted at this point, that MBS’ purge includes many security officials.

MBS’ purges were clearly planned a long time in advance, even though the creation of an anti-corruption committee technically took place only hours before it issued the first degrees placing powerful Saudis under arrest. The fact that MBS sought to conduct many major purges at the same time, is indicative of a man who does not intend to give his opponents any time to regroup against him. Again, this is somewhat reminiscent of Stalin who held large scale trials which prosecuted many opponents (for Stalin, traitors) at one time.

This is significant because it is generally unwise to meddle in the affairs of countries abroad, when conducting such a deep and wide purge at home. This very phenomenon has been often used to explain why Donald Trump’s foreign policy is so chaotic. Trump’s domestic distractions have disallowed the formation of a coherent foreign policy.

Of course, if MBS’ opponents had differing views on how to handle Hariri, the purge may have been an insurance policy. The more likely scenario though is that many of the men purged would not have been able to impact the Hariri decision, not least because it would mean publicly going against the narrative that Hariri resigned because he feared an assassination attempt from Iran and Hezbollah rather than because the Saudi regime told him to go. Few in the wider Arab world believe this narrative, but in Saudi, one ‘has to’ acknowledge it as true for obvious reasons.

This therefore, forces one to consider why the Saudi regime would involve itself in the Hariri affair on the same day as the ‘great purge’?

The answer lies in exploring whether the Hariri ‘purge’ was more for domestic consumption than for international consumption. As a powerful Saudi citizen, one could think of Hariri’s apparently forced resignation as the first Saudi purge of the day, on a day that saw many powerful Saudi citizens dethroned from powerful places in society.

The message to all powerful Saudis, including to Hariri, is that no one is too big to fall at the hands of MBS, even a Saudi citizen who is the Prime Minister in a foreign democracy. The fact that both Hariri and MBS are young men in a leadership role, would indicate that for the famously politically trigger happy MBS, it was also an ego boost.

What about the geo-political repercussions? 

On the surface, the move will clearly enrage Iran, Hezbollah and to a degree anger Syria while emboldening Israel and extremist Sunni movements in the Arab world including al-Qaeda.

Practically though, Israel is all too aware that Hezbollah is far more powerful today than when it expelled Israel from southern Lebanon in 2006 and al-Qaeda, although making a final push in the Golan Heights with Israeli assistance, is nevertheless a terrorist group on its last legs in the Levant and Iraq.

As for Iran, while Saudi continues to spew predictably anti-Iranian rhetoric, Saudi’s pivot towards Russia and China necessarily prohibits further Saudi aggression against Iran, except for that which is limited to rhetorical statements that will irk Iran and give Russia a headache, but do little more.

MBS sees China and Russia as crucial partners that will help realise his Vision 2030 project to diversify the Saudi economy. This means that Saudi will have to increasingly play by both Russia and China’s rules, which mean abandoning proxy imperial ambitions, abandoning military threats against nearby states and possibly move towards selling energy in the Petroyuan.

Therefore, a radically different explanation for yesterday’s events in Saudi begin to emerge. Perhaps the Hariri ‘resignation’ and the great purge are meant less to encourage Israel and provoke Iran, Syria and Hezbollah than they are events used to send subtle messages to Russia and China, possibly with communiques made behind the scenes to clarify the meaning.

Such a message is summarised as follows: Saudi has surrendered in its attempts to politically influence the Levant and will allow the chips to fall where they may. The Saudi puppet is out of Lebanon and Saudi won’t do anything meaningful to oppose Hezbollah in the post-Hariri era in Lebanon. Instead, Saudi will focus on domestic political changes to pave the way for a more ‘eastern friendly’ MBS regime in Riyadh.

Here, the implied advantage to Russia is that President Michel Aoun will be allowed to form a new government in Beirut that will be more amenable to Russian and consequently Chinese interests in the region, thus giving the eastern superpowers an unbroken chain of partners in the region stretching from Pakistan to Iran, into Iraq and Syria and finishing on the Mediterranean with Lebanon.

In return, it is implied that Russia will continue to resist any US attempts to slow down MBS’ ascent to power.

To be absolutely clear, I do not believe for a moment that this is a ‘Russian plan’. Instead, Saudi is doing something whose long term outcome is naturally in Russia’s interest and Russia, a country which does not even intervene in the affairs of its enemies, will surely not intervene in the affairs of a Saudi state which is pivoting (however awkwardly) towards Russia and her partners.

CONCLUSION: 

I am by no means fully convinced that the second scenario is what is in fact developing, but with so much mystery as to what actually is happening it would be irresponsible not to explore such a scenario.

In all of this, it is implied that Hariri had little choice in the matter. He was merely given an offer he could not refuse by MBS and he took it. Perhaps this is why Hariri is out of power but not under arrest. Were he to resist Saudi attempts to ‘guide’ his future, he may have found that fortune would have not smiled on him in the way that it apparently has done.

In the end, scenarios one and two may both come into play, just not at the same time. Scenario one is bound to fail in its apparent objectives and thus, Saudi could then pivot to scenario two. This is in my view, the most likely explanation for what is going on. Saudi is engaging in a last ditch provocative move towards Lebanon, Syria and Iran, but this is ultimately a small stick which obscures a larger carrot intended not for Levantines or Iranians, but for Russian and Chinese stomachs.

In each case, the United States is the biggest loser”.

2 radically different interpretations of Saudi’s ‘great purge’ and Lebanese PM Hariri’s ‘resignation’

 

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Second group of Su-57 stealth fighters to be requested in 2020

The second Su-57 contract will feature fighters with the advanced engine design that was under development while the prototypes were made.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The contract for a second order of Russian Su-57 stealth fighters is expected to be signed in 2020, according to an unnamed source in Russia’s aircraft-making industry. TASS, the Russian News Agency, reported on this on Wednesday, 16 January:

The second contract to manufacture 13 Su-57 fighter jets for the Russian Aerospace Forces is to be signed next year, a source in Russia’s aircraft-making industry told TASS on Wednesday.

“In 2020, we plan to sign the second contract to manufacture and deliver 13 Su-57 fighter jets, some of them equipped with the second-stage engines,” he said. “The preliminary timeframe for the new contract is five years.”

The first contract envisages the delivery of two fifth-generation aircraft in 2019-2020.

“In line with the contract signed in 2018, one serial Su-57 jet with first-stage engines will be delivered to the Aerospace Forces this year, the other aircraft featuring the same type of engine – in 2020.”

The aircraft’s manufacturer, the United Aircraft Corporation, refrained from commenting on the report.

The Su-57 is a fifth-generation multirole fighter designed to destroy all types of air targets at long and short ranges and hit enemy ground and naval targets, overcoming its air defense capabilities.

The Su-57 took to the skies for the first time on January 29, 2010. Compared to its predecessors, the Su-57 combines the functions of an attack plane and a fighter jet while the use of composite materials and innovation technologies and the fighter’s aerodynamic configuration ensure the low level of radar and infrared signature.

The aircraft has been successfully tested in Syria.

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Pelosi tries to prevent State of the Union address because of shutdown

Nancy Pelosi advised Mr. Trump not to deliver a live State of the Union speech, but the reason may be because she is unwilling to be exposed.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tried what is perhaps a new stunt in the ongoing government shutdown saga (we hesitate to call it a “crisis”). She requested that President Trump either reschedule his yearly State of the Union address or – and she said this literally – deliver it in writing to Congress on January 29th, the date the speech is scheduled to occur.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump.

The letter, which can be seen directly by clicking the hyperlink above, tries to essentially make this request the President’s fault because he refuses to take “no wall” for an answer.

The motive behind this attempt is interesting. Politico covered this story originally, and this publication is pretty far to the left and definitely not a Trump fan oasis. Yet in a rare random feat of journalism, the Politico article does appear to give some of the real reason why the Speaker of the House did this.

Publicly, Democrats plan to argue that the parties need to focus on addressing the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history. They’re also concerned about security staff working through a major national event without being paid.

“This shutdown is ridiculous and the people tasked with protecting him and protecting us are not getting a paycheck,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the House Rules Committee chair. “So it’s inappropriate to carry on with business as usual.”

But privately, Democrats also don’t want to give Trump a major platform to blame them for the shutdown when Trump’s demand for billions in wall funding has been the main driver, according to a Democratic lawmaker close to leadership. Trump has tried to pin the blame on the shutdown on Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, but public polls shows the public largely blames the president.

The announcement comes as a group of bipartisan House lawmakers in the Problem Solvers Caucus is set to meet with Trump on Wednesday to discuss border security. Trump, frustrated by his inability to secure any additional money for his border wall, has tried to peel off moderate Democrat support as Pelosi and Schumer dig in.

But Democrats are rallying fellow members to stay together. Schumer attended a closed-door caucus meeting with House Democrats just as Pelosi made the announcement on the State of the Union address on Wednesday. Her message was to stay unified in their opposition.

Politico was able to bury this bold-typed point in the rhetoric that “public polls largely blame the president.” However this may not exactly be the case.

There are indications that the 26-day long standoff is going to go the President’s way. While this is admittedly speculative, there seem to be solid factors on the President’s side of the argument that the Democrats do not have. Some are factual, and many are emotional and rhetorical:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is standing firm, and has not wavered from the commitment to pass nothing that the President will not sign.
  • Some Democrat leaders are beginning to speak about border security – including the wall – as vital needs. This includes this representative from Southern California (!) Representative Katie Hill, who gave this interview on Fox News:

  • Where the argument is pragmatic and information-based, as Representative Hill notes, then the argument becomes quite compelling for a wall.
  • CNN turned down the opportunity to interview Dan Plante, a San Diego area TV reporter, about the border wall there because Mr. Plante said that the new wall that has been installed in that sector is hugely successful.
  • The level of information given by the Democrat opposition leaders, Pelosi and Chuck Schumer is essentially at the level of “no you can’t have it. Because!!” – in other words, septuagenarians acting like four-year olds. Really.
  • Talk show anchor Rush Limbaugh and his huge body of listeners are wildly in favor of the shutdown and everything the President is doing. It is very clear that the shutdown’s length is doing nothing to deter President Trump’s base. And as long as that holds true, he will not move a muscle.
  • President Trump is a businessman, not a politician. He is far more results-driven than the mainstream media can afford to admit. While they characterize him as insane, or a child, or throwing a tantrum, the President doesn’t really care. He knows what he wants, and he is prepared to be patient and wait the Democrats out.
  • The final sign we will offer on this list (though there are more) is that the Russia collusion narrative is back. When things go bad for the media on Trump, they try to pull out Russia. Maybe it is just a bad habit because it seems less and less effective each time it is tried.

The battle lines are tropes versus reality, and politics versus policy. It is too soon to be sure that this will go the President’s way and that the wall will go up, but patience and perseverance are beginning to expose cracks and weaknesses in the Democrat argument. Some of the US certainly does NOT care about a border wall. But those that do have not been shaken by all this – rather, they have been strengthened, plus they have facts on their side.

All the Pelosis and Schumers of the world can do is fret and complain and look like fools, and they seem to be doing exactly that.

 

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Peak Stupidity: Deep State and mainstream media push ‘Trump is a spy’ nonsense (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 167.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the sheer stupidity of the entire ‘Trump is a Russian spy’ narrative being plastered all over the mainstream media, as neo-liberal shills and neocon war hawks continue to damage the Office of the United States President by insisting on pushing a made up story that a five year old child who waits for Santa Claus to bring Christmas gifts would have a hard time believing.

Meanwhile the real crime and real treason derived from a Comey-Clapper-Brennan Deep State plot to remove a democratically elected Trump from power, is being blacked out from the mainstream, neo-liberal news cycle.

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The Gateway Pundit lists the 35 times the FBI “deviated from standard practice” or committed crimes in an effort to exonerate Hillary Clinton and indict US President Donald Trump..


The FBI leadership under the Obama Administration took many actions that deviated from standard practice [i.e. were corrupt and criminal] in their efforts to exonerate Hillary from her crimes and then spy and frame candidate and then President Trump.  Today current members of the FBI are embarrassed to even turn on their TV’s as a result.

Time magazine of all places reported recently about the many efforts the FBI took related to Hillary exoneration and then the Trump framing.  These corrupt and criminal actions have taken a desperate toll on the current members of the FBI –

In normal times, the televisions are humming at the FBI’s 56 field offices nationwide, piping in the latest news as agents work their investigations. But these days, some agents say, the TVs are often off to avoid the crush of bad stories about the FBI itself. The bureau, which is used to making headlines for nabbing crooks, has been grabbing the spotlight for unwanted reasons: fired leaders, texts between lovers and, most of all, attacks by President Trump. “I don’t care what channel it’s on,” says Tom O’Connor, a veteran investigator in Washington who leads the FBI Agents Association. “All you hear is negative stuff about the FBI … It gets depressing.”

Of course the employees of the FBI are in a funk, their fearless and corrupt leaders, as well as leaders in Obama’s corrupt DOJ, went to extravagant links to exonerate the obvious criminal actions of Hillary Clinton, and then to do all they could to prevent candidate Trump from winning an election.  Then once the election was won by President Trump, they went to unheard of depths of deceit and corruption to attempt to remove him from office.

Here’s a list of the actions the Deep State FBI took in their recent criminal actions surrounding the 2016 Presidential election and since [the first 11 items are from the Time post noted above with comments in brackets] –

1 – Comey breached Justice Department protocols in a July 5, 2016, press conference when he criticized Hillary Clinton for using a private email server as Secretary of State even as he cleared her of any crimes
2 – Comey reopened the Clinton email probe less than two weeks before the election
3 – Andrew McCabe lied to the bureau’s internal investigations branch to cover up a leak he orchestrated about Clinton’s family foundation less than two weeks before the election and had lied for months about it
4 – FBI wasn’t adequately investigating “high-risk” employees who failed polygraph tests (but, in fact, putting them in charge of high-profile investigations, like Peter Strzok who failed his poly). In one instance, an FBI IT specialist with top-secret security clearance failed four polygraph tests and admitted to having created a fictitious Facebook account to communicate with a foreign national, but received no disciplinary action for that.
5 – The FBI’s miss of the Russian influence operation against the 2016 election, which went largely undetected for more than two years (The FBI had the chance to kill this Russian intrusion years before it reached crisis point in the election). Mueller’s Russia probe found that Moscow’s operation against the 2016 election first got under way in 2014, but the FBI failed to address it.
6 – The FBI was getting information it shouldn’t have had access to when it used controversial parts of the Patriot Act to obtain business records in terrorism and counterintelligence cases.
7 – The bureau missed the significance of the damaging 2015 hack of the DNC database [although others argue that the DNC was never hacked – due to the FBI’s lack of investigative process, we may never know what happened.] 8 – The bureau also sat on the disputed “dossier” prepared by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. [Which was then used for the entire case against Trump and anyone near him].
9 – The bureau’s decision to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was influenced by politics.
10 – Text messages between FBI special agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, which were critical of Trump.
11 – Comey broke with Justice Department rules and norms by assuming authority usually held by prosecutors and speaking in public about a case that did not produce criminal charges.
12 – Comey took copious notes and diligently informed others of all interactions with Trump while lying about having had any interactions with Obama, never taking notes or notifying anyone so even after having been warned of Mr. Steele’s motivations, even after having fired him for violating the rules, the FBI continued to seek his information—using Mr. Ohr as a back channel. This surely violates the FBI manual governing interaction with confidential human sources.
13 – FBI guidelines state that unverified information should not be submitted to the FISA court.
14 – They were passive, not proactive. The Obama administration “stood down” and watched these “activities” unravel. At worst, they possibly played a hand in creating circumstances to push the investigation forward into more serious stages that allowed for more intrusive techniques, such as spying. (The FBI is supposed to prevent crime, not watch it happen).
15 – John Brennan, James Clapper, Samantha Power, Loretta Lynch were all briefed by James Comey on the alleged Russian interference into the Trump campaign, yet the Trump campaign was left in the dark.
16 –FBI agents found Abedin deleting classified Clinton emails from her Yahoo account but failed to subpoena her devices. If they had, maybe they wouldn’t have had to reopen the case in 11th hour when NY agents found work emails on the laptop she shared with her perv husband.
17 – The FBI failed to notify Congress of the investigation into the Trump campaign for months rather than quarterly as was practice. [See Comey presentation to House Republicans in March 2017] 18 – The FBI did not pursue criminal charges when Clinton’s email archives were permanently deleted from her private server days after a subpoena for them was issued by a congressional committee investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
19 – The IG found that the FBI and DOJ during the MidYearExam probe of Hillary Clinton email server “did not require any witnesses to testify before the grand jury,” despite at least 3 witnesses lying to FBI agents.
20 – “[T]he 
Midyear team did not obtain search warrants to examine the content of emails in Mills’s or Abedin’s private email accounts and did not seek to obtain any of the senior aides’ personal devices.”
21 – IG Report: Nobody was listed as a subject of this [Clinton email] investigation at any point in time (So neither Hillary nor her top aides were formally under investigation by FBI at any time in 2015-2016, but the agents handling the issue thought it was a criminal action).
22 – The IG report indicates a strong pro-Clinton/anti-Trump bias in FBI investigators of Midyear and Operation Russian Collusion but it still went on without personnel changes or actions against the corrupt investigative team.
23 – The IG report found: “The MYE Team did not seek to obtain every device, including those of Clinton’s senior aides, or the contents of every email account through which a classified email may have traversed.”
24 – Manafort interviewed twice before joining the Trump team. If he was guilty of anything why did they allow him to join the Trump team?
25 – In 2008, a questionable person on McCain’s POTUS campaign caught the attention of FBI counterintelligence, and the FBI privately approached McCain. That questionable person was quietly removed from Team McCain but this same sensitivity was not provided to the Trump team.
26 – The corrupt Obama FBI and DOJ used the “salacious and unverified” opposition research called the Steele dossier to open a counterintelligence investigation and obtain warrants but it wasn’t even verified and it was created by the opposition party [DNC]. [Multiple sources] 27 – Unprecedented leaking to the press: 13 different individuals at the FBI were feeding a journalist information.
28 – Dan Bongino asks the question: How did Halper go from being a CIA informant to an FBI informant? And he’s right. It is a DEVIATION FROM THE STANDARD PRACTICE for law enforcement agencies to give up/share their asset.
29 – The “probable cause” arrest of George Papadopoulos is a deviation from the standard practice.
30 – Halper was a CHS (Confidential Human Source). FBI rules prohibit using a CHS to spy on Americans before an official investigation has been created.
31 -Stone and Caputo say they believe they were the targets of a setup by U.S. law enforcement officials hostile to Trump which was before an official investigation which again is a deviation from standard practice.
32 – The FBI interviewed Carter Page in March of 2016 about his Russian ties. Two months later, Comey is briefing the NSC about his concerns about Carter Page. Nothing of any note happened in those intervening months to cause a rise of concerns, so whatever concerns Comey had Comey had them before Page was hired on as an adviser. It was a DEVIATION FROM STANDARD PRACTICE for Comey to not have warned Trump about Page. Comey warns Obama instead who also takes no steps to warn Trump.
33 – Another deviation from the standard practice is to start an investigation without a crime.
34 – Planting the Isikoff article to be used in court to obtain a FISA warrant.
35 – Related to the FBI, it’s important to note that former DNI chief James Clapper limited the IC report for review to only 3 agencies rather than send the report out to all 17 agencies for review. This way he was able to control what was put into the report – another deviation from the standard practice.

This may only be a partial list of FBI abuses and actions taken with deviations from standard practice, if not clear cut crimes.  The gangsters who ran Obama’s FBI, from Mueller to Comey, are so corrupt, current and former agents are now embarrassed to be part of the once storied federal agency.  Quite frankly, it’s doubtful if the FBI can ever be trusted again!

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