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CONFIRMED: Israel to share “intelligence” on Iran with Saudi Arabia

A new system of ‘north versus south’ alliances is all but fully solidified in the Middle East.

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The Chief of Staff of Israel’s military has confirmed to a Saudi Arabian newspaper, that the Israeli regime is now prepared to share intelligence with the Saudi regime on matters concerning Iran.

While some will doubtlessly feign shock at the announcement, it is merely a confirmation of what most regional observers have felt was the status quo dating back a number of years, albeit one which has intensified lately.

Today’s statement follows the trend of Saudi Arabia and Israel working quietly but unambiguously to begin establishing open diplomatic relations. When this inevitably happens, Saudi will be only the third Arab country to have relations with the Israeli regime, the others being Egypt and Jordan.

For decades, Saudi and Israel have shared similar regional alignments. Both regimes have worked to undermine and overthrow Arab nationalist governments throughout the Arab world, including both Ba’athist and Nasserist states. Since 1979, both countries have also become steadfast opponents of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Moreover, this follows a trend of the Middle East regrouping into a northern and southern zone, each with its own geo-strategic goals and mutual dependencies within the respective zone. As Saudi Arabia and Israel each fall in the southern zone, it is only natural for the two countries to make their de-facto alliance public. This demonstrates that any theoretical differences between the state ideologies of Zionism and Wahhabism are largely inconsequential. In both cases, shared strategic goals of undermining Arab nationalist states and the Islamic Revolution in Iran have taken precedence over perceived ideological differences.

In his statement, Israeli military officer Gadi Eisenkot admits to a south versus north divide. He accuses Iran of attempting to form a ‘Shi’a Crescent’ running from Iran to Lebanon. In reality, this internationally juvenile description of the new north of the Middle East, undermines the  very real strategic interests of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as part of this alliance, as well as the emerging and meaningful partnership between Iran, Turkey and Iraq. Furthermore, as this region is home to millions of Sunni Muslims and many varieties of Christians and seeing as Iran retains its historic Jewish population, it is absurd to call the new northern bloc of Middle Eastern powers a ‘Shi’a crescent’.

I have written about this new trend which is emerging in the following way:

With the wars in Syria and Iraq drawing to a close and with the governments of both states standing victorious over both Takfiri terrorism as well as (broadly speaking) Kurdish ethno-nationalism, a new reality in the Middle East has emerged where the region is broadly divided between a geo-political north and south.

In the north there is the Syria-Iraq alliance made possible by common enemies and a common history, in spite of the Ba’athist schism of 1966-2003. Both states, for slightly different reasons are also allied with Iran and for oddly similar, are reasons partners with Russia. In the case of Syria, Damascus is an historic Soviet ally and in the case of post-Ba’ahist Iraq, the government looks to attain defence independence by working with a Russian state which unlike the US, is willing to sell arms to any reasonable nation without political preconditions.

Iran, Iraq and Syria in turn are allied with Hezbollah, which in effect means a large portion of Lebanon and in terms of geo-strategic defence considerations, it means the most important part of Lebanon. Turkey is now a partner of Iran, Iraq (to a surprisingly important degree) and Russia. While Syria will be very unlikely to forgive Turkey for its previous support of Takfiri driven regime change, in reality, Syria and Turkey have a common post-Takfiri enemy: the continued rumblings Kurdish ethno-nationalism. This means that it is becoming increasingly likely that Syria and Turkey may end up cooperating in the future, even if it means doing so at a covert level because of heightened sensitivities to such a thing among the general public in both Turkey and Syria.

To the south, there is another story. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are now close allies. The mentality and political independence of the Nasser years are all but done in Cairo. Jordan can also be-lumped into this group. Like Egypt, Jordan is one of the only two Arab states to have normal relations with Israel and by many accounts Saudi Arabia will soon follow. As goes Saudi, so goes the UAE, Bahrain and to a lesser extent Kuwait and to an even lesser extent the relatively politically unimportant Oman. Qatar finds it self in a situation that is both precarious and surprisingly advantages, as I explored in a the piece below.

The alliance between the northern Middle East powers and the alliance between the southern Middle East powers are not formal blocs in the sense of the Warsaw Pact and NATO which divided most of Europe into east and west. Instead, the new geo-political blocs of the Middle East constitute a rapidly consolidating reality where countries are united based on the pragmatic acknowledgement of common interests. By including Turkey into the mix, one cannot say it is a “Shi’a crescent” and likewise, by including both Turkey and Iran into the northern Middle East, it is neither Pan-Arab. The same is true when it comes to including Israel in the southern portion of the alliance, which is very much where Israel is.

Against this backdrop, it is easy to see why many in Saudi Arabia and beyond are eyeing Lebanon as a potential prize. Lebanon, as a small state with beautiful real estate, is a microcosm of the entire alliance, certainly in terms of religious affiliation.

Hezbollah is well aware of this and in a move that can only be described as politically masterful and in terms of security, highly ethical, Hezbollah like the fellow Shi’a Amal Movement and the broadly Christian Free Patriotic Movement, have urged political unity at a time when clearly Saudi Arabia is attempting to sow divisions in the country.

Hezbollah is openly positioning itself as a ‘national party’ in a country that doesn’t have national parties. Lebanese politics often looks like ‘the art of the impossible’ with sectarian pacts being more prevalent than a unifying patriotism, as it is in Ba’athist Syria. Hezbollah cannot change this and certainly cannot modify it overnight, but in playing the national card rather than the Shi’a versus Sunni/Wahhabi card, Hezbollah has transcended the extreme sectarian politics of Lebanon, just as Saudi Arabia is becoming unable to transcend the family feud between some men from the House of Saud and other men from the House of Saud.

This attitude which will give Hezbollah and its coalition partners the moral high ground while refusing to exclude or scapegoat Lebanese Sunnis for Saudi’s meddling, means that Lebanon is well placed to become part of the political north of the Middle East.

This leaves Israel and Palestine. For the Israeli regime, recent events have all but killed Tel Aviv’s preferred narrative which it has invoked since 1947. For Israeli propagandists it was always “us versus the Arab world” and when the Arab world was attempting to unite in the age of Nasser, there was some truth to an Arab world uniting against Israel. This is something that the Arab world saw positively and Israel saw negatively. After 1979, the Israeli propaganda narrative was modified to be “The Arab world + Iran – Egypt versus us”.

Today though, with Jordan and Egypt on good terms with Tel Aviv, with Saudi Arabia looking to increase its ties with Israel and with only one Arab state, Syria, still fully behind the Palestinian cause, Israel’s narrative has collapsed.

There is no “Arab Israeli conflict” because half of the Arabs either tacitly or overtly accept the presence of the settler state. Likewise, Iran is a stalwart supporter of Palestine and Turkey is becoming ever more distant from Israel.

The collapse of Israel’s creation myth narrative also means increased Israeli isolation from a military standpoint. Just as Israel boosts its relations with the Arab states of the southern half of the Middle East, so too does it mean that Israel will have a more difficult time acting unilaterally.

Hezbollah’s leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has admitted for the first time that under the “new” Muhammad bin Salman regime in Saudi Arabia, the Israeli regime is being coerced by Saudi into making provocative moves while Israel remains cautious for selfish reasons. As recently as last week, it was assumed that Tel Aviv called the shots, not Riyadh.

This means that if Israel is going to preserve its new friends in the southern part of the Middle East, it will have to do something it has never done: consult with others in order to preserve alliances.

This weakens Israel’s ability to fight its customary blitzkrieg wars, as such wars rely on a single front against a united enemy. Instead, the region now has multiple possible fronts with many different enemies to rage at, in many scattered locations and many different partners to placate or even show deference towards. By contrast, Saudi Arabia prefers slow burning/grinding conflicts for obvious logistical reasons but also for the tactical reason that Saudi Arabia wants to present itself as the legitimate leader of the Arabs while Israel is keen to present itself as the country that Arabs fear. In reality, Israel is more hated than feared and Saudi is far from a leader of the Arab world, but these are the aims, however preposterous, of both states, respectively.

Even in Yemen where Saudi has used a large amount of shock and awe, it is still far from the Israeli blitzkrieg where a swift ground attack follows shortly from aerial bombardment. Likewise, Israel probably wouldn’t have the patience for such a protracted war, while Saudi at least for now, still is intend on beating the Houthis in Yemen, a task which will likely prove impossible.

This helps explain Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah’s confidence in the fact that Israel will not go to war in Lebanon even at Saudi’s gold plated behest. Israel knows that a conflict in Lebanon in 2017 would be a long protracted struggle, the kind Saudi might be willing to put up with in Yemen, but Israel does not have the stomach for on its border.

I previously wrote how this new reality could work in the favour of the besieged Palestinians in the long term. I stated,

“On the one hand, if Tel Aviv concentrates on both co-opting and being co-opted by states like Saudi, Egypt and Jordan who in recent decades have shown little enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, there is a danger that Palestinian land could become a tragic ghetto of isolation in an otherwise booming region. However, on the other hand, the idea of prosperity trickling horizontally across a newly booming economic region could actually take the wind out of the sails of the Israel-Palestine conflict, something which in the long term bodes well for Palestine reclaiming its full statehood. This is the case because if the Tel Aviv regime becomes fully immersed in a mostly Arab led regional prosperity initiative, having to contend with rightfully angry Palestinians could only exorcise all parties. Furthermore, Palestinian grievances in a would-be south-Arab ghetto could further incur the wrath of Palestine’s meaningful allies including Lebanon (aka Hezbollah), Syria, non-Arab Iran and in the future, quote possibly a revitalised and almost certainly pro-Palestine Iraq. Wanting to keep such countries away from Saudi’s ‘south Arab’ project would be in the interests (however selfish) of Saudi, Jordan, Egypt and the regime in Tel Aviv.

And here is where a peaceful one-state solution could come into play. Rather than divide a portion of an increasingly inter-dependent south-Arab region (aka the two-state solution), leaving open the possibility of Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq and non-Arab Iran playing a part in this new region via the Palestinian back door, it might instead be easier to create a single state along the pre-1947 Palestinian borders that could be described as Palestine with cosmopolitan characterises or perhaps Israel with Arab characteristics, depending on the demographics and political will of various countries in ten years or more from today.

Just as Lebanon is a cosmopolitan country that is increasingly tied in with the north-Arab region, so too could this new Palestine be a kind of cosmopolitan bridge to the south, a place which like Lebanon has a shared history that at times has been peaceful and at others has been horrific. Tragically, Israeli meddling is by far the greatest author of mystery in both Palestine and Lebanon.

Ultimately, unless something radically changes in Egypt, Jordan or Saudi, the kind of good will that countries like Syria has for Palestine will never be present in the new ‘south Arab’ bloc. However, pragmatism which would come about in the ‘new Arab south’ to spite countries like Syria and groups like Hezbollah, could indeed force a pragmatic one-state solution based on the peace that is implicit in the need to pacific a region in order to make it ‘prosperity friendly’. In this sense, Palestine could breath a much needed breath after decades of asphyxiation, while Palestine friends in the ‘new Arab north’ would have something of a last laugh as they have got a decades long running start in developing key relations with China and Russia.

This situation is both far from assured and also far from ideal in many ways. It is however, a possible solution which still represents some improvement on the hopeless status quo”.

Thus, we see the emergence of a new Middle East, one which has risen from the sinews of war in the north and political stagnation in the south. As Israel, Saudi, Egypt and Jordan become ever more economically interdependent, this will only further limit Israel’s ability to act in a unilateral fashion in its old blitzkrieg style.

While the north is increasingly revitalised by victory, the south is increasingly interdependent. Into this fray, the most heavily armed state in the  Middle East, Israel is now trapped in a cycle of interdependence, without its old narrative, without its old might, without its old confidence and without its old boogie men. Israel’s devious attempts to destroy Arab unity have just backfired in a spectacular fashion. Israel has built itself a fortress of partners and these partners have a lot to say to Israel and not all of it is the echo of a choir. For the first time in history, Israel may just have to listen to what others are saying.

The new Middle East: A North/South divide where Israel is losing its narrative and its old game plan

Thus we see that as Israel and Saudi Arabia formalise their partnership against the powers of the northern Middle East. The new blocs about which I spoke, have formally solidified.

 

 

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‘Treasonous’ Trump in the Conspirators’ Crosshairs

Every effort will continue to be made to ensure no concrete progress can be made on whatever was discussed in Helsinki while maintaining the 24/7 drumbeat of demonization.

Jim Jatras

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At least the White House can be happy that the resident Hitler-in-Chief’s inhuman separation of innocent migrant children from adults caught illegally crossing the US border with Mexico matters to nobody anymore.

Everyone’s moved on. “Children in cages” is yesterday’s news.

The issue now is treason, a crime carrying the death penalty.

On that score America and the entire world owe former CIA Director and onetime communist voter John Brennan a debt of gratitude for pointing out that President Donald Trump’s expressing the slightest hint of doubt about conclusions reached by the US Intelligence Community is both impeachable and treasonous.

Brennan didn’t just make that up, you know. It’s in the Constitution of the United States, right there in black and white:

Article II, Section 1: “The executive Power shall be vested in an Intelligence Community of the United States of America.”

Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist in doubting the Intelligence Community in any way, shape, or form.”

There you have it, it’s an open and shut case of treason, committed in full view of the global public within feet of Russian President Vladimir Putin – who, as the crack journalists of our intrepid Fourth Estate have now revealed through their diligent investigative work, was once an officer in the Soviet  KGB!  Trump’s unmasking, through his very own perfidious words, now adds “traitor” to all the other terms of opprobrium already justly appertaining to him.

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We all know what happens to traitors, don’t we?

A day later Trump hastily sought to cover up his treachery with the lame suggestion that he had inadvertently dropped the semi-syllable “-n’t” during his Helsinki press conference with his Russian “handler.” (Actually, that “wouldn’t/would” dodge is pretty cute. Who thought it up – Steve Miller? Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Trump himself? Genius! One can almost hear them brainstorming over what explanation would most insult the limited intelligence of their critics.)

But try as he might, Trump can’t escape. His media pursuers have caught on to his Houdini routine:

‘President Donald Trump’s attempt on Tuesday to backpedal on his disastrous remarks siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the stone-faced president read from a monotone prepared statement but deviated several times from it, was eerily reminiscent of the way he handled his infamous false equivalence in response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

‘After accepting Putin’s denial instead of affirming U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Trump on Tuesday tried to reverse course. Reading from prepared remarks, he said that he accepts the intelligence agencies’ conclusion and claimed that he misspoke during Monday’s press conference. (He added ‘that perhaps “other people” were responsible, and reverted to his usual talking point that “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, which appeared to be unscripted.) [ … ]

‘Many reporters, commentators and other political observers made similar observations, noting that Trump could quickly reverse himself again, just as he did in his response to the events in Charlottesville.’

Indeed, just the day after his “stone-faced,” “monotone” semi-contrition, Trump was right back at it, colluding with fellow Putin-puppet Tucker Carlson on Fox News. (Even worse, the Trump-Carlson duo even blasphemed against the holiest of holies of US national security, Americans’ willingness to risk nuclear annihilation in World War III over tiny, corrupt Montenegro.)

Not only did this two-man, latter-day analogue to the Gunpowder Plot belittle the supposedly proven fact of Russian hacking of the 2016 election (which nonetheless is still disbelieved by almost 40% of Americans!), they took the opportunity to inject a note of – you guessed it!  racism:

‘Carlson used literal white supremacy to defend Trump’s news conference.

‘“I mean I’m not a shrink, so I don’t fully understand it. I mean I don’t think Russia is our close friend or anything like that. I mean, of course, they tried to interfere in our affairs; they have for a long time. Many countries do. Some more successfully than Russia, like Mexico which is routinely interfering in our elections by packing our electorate,” Carlson said, suggesting Mexican immigrants who become naturalized citizens and vote are somehow illegitimate voters.

‘Former FBI Director James Comey criticized Trump for sitting down with Hannity and Carlson.

‘“Having sold out our nation on an international stage, Mr. Trump will now explain it all to Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson? I’m guessing RT and [Sputnik] were unavailable.’

But aside from Carlson, virtually all of Trump’s supposed defenders (mostly on Fox News) agreed entirely with the President’s accusers that questioning the intelligence community was totally impermissible.

Indeed, both his defenders and even Trump himself have tried to deflect criticism by citing the myriad ways in which his Administration has been “tough” on the Russians: sanctions, expelling diplomats, striking Syria twice, and most of all reveling in the slaughter of Russian contractors in Syria.

This reflects a troubling fact that undermines optimism that the Helsinki summit will herald a change for the better in the US-Russia relationship. The fact is, Putin is master in his own house but Trump is not.

There is no order or instruction Trump can give that he can be sure will be carried out, either by the Pentagon or the intelligence community – and certainly not the Justice Department, which blatantly tried to sabotage the summit with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s issuance of avacuous indictment of 12 GRU officers. As described by former CIA intelligence officer Michael Scheuer:

‘Why should any American worry about the unending, manic claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 election? This story, after all, has been made up and perpetuated by aspiring traitors like Clapper, Hayden, Tapper, Acosta, Hillary Clinton, Comey, John Podesta, Maddow, McCabe, Brennan, Page, Strzok, Wray, the reporting staffs of the Washington Post and the New York Times, the Council on Foreign Relations, and most of all, by the foreign-born Obama.

To believe this crew’s statements about anything at all is to believe that John McCain and Lindsay Graham can open their mouths without lying us into yet another interventionist war. […]

‘In the face of what Jefferson surely would call a “long train” of perfidy, treason, obsessive avarice, and murder by the national government, one must ask why would any commonsensical American fail to see that the Russian-meddling narrative is transparently an attempt by Obama leftovers and the seething, quite mad Neocons to push the United States into a new Cold War with Russia, one that would lead to a hot war, as well as a means of keeping themselves out of the slammer and off the gallows.

‘Indeed, there is not a loyal American citizen who has a single credible reason to believe any intelligence-based claims made by the Obama administration, or the Obama leftovers in Trump’s administration, about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The citizenry’s only fair-minded conclusion is that Obama ordered his intelligence and military lieutenants to stand down on responding to “Russian hacking” in summer, 2016, because no such hacking occurred.

Certainly, the two indictments of Russians – written by Obama acolytes led by Rosenstein, Strzok, and old-man, disgrace-to-the-Marines Mueller and his merry band of Trump-hating attorneys — are clearly dreamed-up travesties that would disgrace a first-year law-school student and get him the boot therefrom.’

The bottom line is that, even after Helsinki, Trump remains besieged inside his own Administration. It cannot be said with any assurance that there is a single high official, including Trump’s own appointees, who agrees with the President’s desire for rapprochement with Russia.

Congress is almost entirely against him, as evidenced by a virtually unanimous Senate vote on a nonbinding resolution against treaty-based law enforcement cooperation with Russia (as discussed by the two presidents) and talk of fast-tracking more sanctions legislation.

Even in areas theoretically under Trump’s full control, most importantly his constitutional command of the military, there is pushback. One early deliverable of the summit should be US-Russia cooperation in Syria to help wind down that war.

But General Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, was quick to point out that he’s received no instructions and that under prohibitory legislation enacted in 2014 no such cooperation would be legal without Congressional action to create an exception – which will not be forthcoming.

In a rule of law state, law enforcement should be politically neutral. In most countries it’s not, with those in power using police, prosecutors, and courts as weapons against the opposition. Only in America, and only since Trump’s election, has anyone seen the bizarre phenomenon of election losers abusing law enforcement against the winner.

Even as Trump talks optimistically of a second summit with Putin in Washington in a few months, the criminal Deep State conspiracy against him rolls on with the complicity of top appointees like Rosenstein.

Every effort will continue to be made to ensure no concrete progress can be made on whatever was discussed in Helsinki while maintaining the 24/7 drumbeat of demonization. (There’s even an attempt to force Trump’s interpreter in Helsinki, Marina Gross, to divulge what transpired in private between the presidents. Gross herself may draw suspicion on account of an unconfirmed report that she may actually speak Russian…)

For his part, Trump must seek support from the only direction he can: the tens of millions of “Deplorables” who voted for him. The more the media, the Democrats, and the GOP establishment trash him, the more they are convinced he is on the right track. By doubting the truth of Russian hacking and our sacred NATO obligation to every insignificant country few ordinary Americans could find on a map, he has increasingly mainstreamed those notions with his base.

Trump’s only way forward is continuing to be the wrecking ball he was elected to be. Twitter and his ability to change the subject with outrageous and “impermissible” utterances and actions are his main weapons. In that vein, as long as he’s being accused of treason, he might as well make the most of it:

Mr. Trump, fire Rosenstein and let the chips fall where they may.

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James Clapper rats out his former boss Barack Obama (Video)

Trump-Russia witch hunt started with order from former US President Barack Obama.

Alex Christoforou

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All roads in the Trump-Russia witch hunt lead to Barack Obama…at least that is what his former intelligence czar James Clapper admitted to fake news, CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper admitted in a CNN interview Saturday that former President Obama instigated the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump and his inner circle of advisors and staffer.

Speaking with Anderson Cooper, Clapper mad the stunning admission…

If it weren’t for President Obama we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did that set up a whole sequence of events which are still unfolding today including Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. President Obama is responsible for that. It was he who tasked us to do that intelligence community assessment in the first place.

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Via Zerohedge

Recall in May, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) fired off a letter to the Department of Justice  demanding unredacted versions of text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and former bureau attorney Lisa Page, including one exchange which took place after Strzok had returned from London as part of the recently launched “Operation Crossfire Hurricane”  referring to the White House “running” an unknown investigation.

Strzok had been in London to interview Australian ambassador Alexander Downer about a drunken conversation with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who – after reportedly being fed information – mentioned Russia having Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Strzok: And hi. Went well, best we could have expected. Other than [REDACTED] quote: “the White House is running this.” My answer, “well, maybe for you they are.” And of course, I was planning on telling this guy, thanks for coming, we’ve got an hour, but with Bill [Priestap] there, I’ve got no control….

Page: Yeah, whatever (re the WH comment). We’ve got the emails that say otherwise.

With Clapper’s admission that Obama was in the know the whole time, it looks like Peter Strzok’s text message stating “the White House is running this” was spot on.

House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo that the American public needs to see an unredacted version of the Carter Page FISA application.

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NATO’s eastward push clashes with Church Canons in the Ukraine

Amid other geopolitical machinations on the “Eastern front” there is one that has so far largely passed under the radar although its potential as a crisis detonator (or perhaps more properly, exacerbator) in the Ukraine and the surrounding Eastern Orthodox domains should not be underestimated.

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Petro Poroshenko meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Quite “spontaneously,” as these things are, won’t to happen, agitation at state and ecclesiastical levels in the Ukraine has been turned on to demand autocephaly, which in Orthodox church terminology is self-ruled status for the Orthodox religious community in the Ukraine.

But not for just any of the existing communities (there are at least two major ones, the Orthodox church in spiritual communion with the Russian Orthodox patriarchy in Moscow, and a breakaway group espousing all the politically correct Ukrainian nationalist and Russophobic views). Alert and politically savvy readers should have guessed that in this controversy center-stage is the breakaway, NATO-friendly group.

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The seemingly plausible argument is that since the Ukraine is an “independent” country, it is entitled also to have its own “independent” national Orthodox church to go along with that. That may or may not be so, depending on how church authorities in charge of these matters interpret and apply the relevant provisions of church law, or cannons. But before the issue was even presented to higher church councils for a ruling, the Ukrainian government itself avidly jumped into the fray to support its local Russophobic ecclesiastical proteges.

Needless to say, the Moscow Patriarchy affiliate in the Ukraine, which is followed by a majority of believers in that country, has taken a strong stand against the combined offensive against it of the NATO backed regime and its allies, anti-Russian zealots in cassocks. That means that now a new religious front also has been opened in the portion of Ukraine controlled by the Kiev regime.

It is an attempt to complete the process already begun in the spheres of language, culture, education, history, and a number of other key areas, in this case to extirpate the last vestiges of “malign” Russian spiritual influence by severing the last remaining ecclesiastical link to Moscow. Driving the point home are the fervent partisans of the “native” Ukrainian church, led by defrocked former bishop Philaret Denysenko, now styling himself the new Ukrainian patriarch.

The fact that in the early 90s the same Denysenko, who at that time was an Orthodox bishop, had no qualms about putting forward his candidacy for Patriarch of Russia, and that, although a Russian-speaker, he subsequently embraced Ukrainian nationalism and conveniently developed passionate anti-Russian sentiments only after failing to achieve that objective, is beside the point. What matters is that he has now become a willing tool and visible symbol of the hybrid war being waged by NATO against Russia in the region, a war which in this instance has also a vibrant religious component.

What must be making hybrid war experts at the headquarters in Mons and other centers which attend to such matters jubilant is that igniting a religious confrontation in the Ukraine holds for them much more than merely local benefits. It is equivalent to opening a Pandora’s Box in the most literally geopolitical, and not just purely religious sense of the expression. A dispute of this nature cannot be properly settled either within the Ukraine itself or by means of intra-church dialogue between Kiev and Moscow.

In the Orthodox world it is possible for a national church to gain self-rule, or autocephaly, but only under strictly prescribed conditions designed to preserve church unity and harmony. That means, at a minimum, that the consent of the Mother Church (in this case the Moscow Patriarchate) is required, as well as the approval of all the other churches around the world which form the Orthodox communion. And on top of that, to greatly complicate matters, there is also the ambiguous role in this process of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchy in Constantinople (Istanbul).

That see traditionally enjoys the position of “first among equals,” and it is not expected to act unilaterally but in consultation with other churches in resolving important issues. In the last couple of decades, however, it has notably tried to shake off those institutional constraints and has sought to turn itself into the Orthodox equivalent of the Roman Catholic Vatican.

The precarious position of the Ecumenical Patriarchy in Turkey, where it has very few, mostly ethnic Greek, followers remaining and is under heavy, and frankly unreasonable pressure from the essentially hostile Turkish government, since about the middle of the last century has motivated its patriarchs to seek the friendship and protection of Western NATO powers, simply to survive. That protection, however, did not come free of charge. Increasingly, and in particular during the Cold War period, the Ecumenical patriarch has been obligated to actively support various Western political initiatives. The increasingly Islamist complexion of the Turkish regime has now made toeing the Western line an existential necessity to an even greater degree.

Hence the unprecedented move by Poroshenko, during his visit to Turkey in April, taking a practical shortcut to resolve the Ukrainian situation without waiting first for a broad Orthodox Church consensus on the issue to emerge. Instead, Poroshenko urged directly the trapped  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to personally, and without bothering to consult peers, issue to Denysenko and his Kiev flock a grant of self-rule, in the requested form as patriarch of the NATO-invented and anointed “Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

To sweeten the deal, Poroshenko was supposed to bring in his coffers $25 million collected by devout Ukrainian oligarchs in the US, as a humble offering to patriarch Bartholomew to take a benevolent view of the fervent plea delivered to him on behalf of the Ukrainian faithful. Remarkably, the delivery of only a $10 million gift to the Patriarchy was recorded by the time the pious emoluments actually reached their destination in Istanbul. Where the missing $15 million might have evaporated can only be guessed, but given the Ukrainians’ sticky fingers when handling cash it does not require a long stretch of the imagination.

Predictably, the Russian Orthodox Patriarchy took a very dim view of such back-door church politicking lubricated with plenty of cash, even if one considers only the diminished sum that actually reached the designated recipients. Its foreign relations spokesman, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned the patriarch in Istanbul that he was playing with fire by turning a receptive ear to Kiev’s entreaties because, in his view, granting Ukrainian church self-rule (autocephaly) in disregard of canonical regulations would be “to cause a Great Schism equivalent to the one that occurred a thousand years ago”.

It should not be forgotten that this is no idle threat because the Russian church is the most numerous among Orthodox nations and a split between it and the Ecumenical see in Istanbul would plunge the entire Orthodox world into disarray. But that is just what the NATO doctors ordered, isn’t it?

It is, of course, quite normal for officials of the Russian church to seek to protect their faithful and safeguard their status in the Ukraine. But the impending, NATO-engineered convulsion, using the alleged spiritual needs of its Ukrainian colony as a hollow pretext, unleashed within the Orthodox religious community which sits astride the arc of geopolitical competition stretching from the Balkans to Russia, and from the Black Sea basin into the Caucasus, with a significant historical presence throughout the Middle East, is fraught with serious implications.

For one thing, its clear purpose is to add another layer to the campaign to “isolate Russia,” this time around by disrupting Russia’s spiritual and cultural ties to other kindred Orthodox lands, which may soon face a contrived “religious” choice between Moscow and Istanbul. The fact that the “choice” is couched in seemingly canonical rather than unapologetically and crudely political terms, makes it no less political.

Via Strategic Culture

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