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France botched its Syrian diplomacy with Russia and the UN

France squanders its prestige and good will in Moscow by engaging in a diplomatic circus at the UN Security Council and in connection with Putin’s trip to Paris.

Alexander Mercouris

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The events of the last 2 weeks stand testament to the extent to which West has lost the initiative in Syria, and of the calamitous decline of France.

The commonly repeated claim that the US pulled out of all diplomatic contact with Moscow about Syria following the collapse of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, is simply untrue.  Kerry and Lavrov talk to each other about Syria – and no doubt about other matters – by telephone practically every day. 

What the US did pull out of was not diplomatic contact with Moscow about Syria; it was the talks concerning the setting up of the ceasefire that was envisaged by the Kerry-Lavrov agreement.  Since by the time the US took this step both the Russians and the Syrians were saying the ceasefire had broken, it made no sense to continue with these talks, and for once the US acted properly by ending them.

Kerry and Lavrov have of course just met in Lausanne in the format of an international meeting to discuss Syria, though their meeting does not seem to have achieved anything much.  Far from this being a US climbdown or reversal as some are saying, this meeting is simply a continuation of the ongoing diplomatic discussions that constantly take place between the US and the Russians.

However what is true is that following the collapse of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement Kerry was in no hurry to engage publicly in one to one talks with the Russians. 

Beyond questions of prestige and of political convenience, it is not surprising if Kerry has been too embarrassed to meet personally with Lavrov since the Kerry-Lavrov agreement collapsed. 

Kerry has been continuously bested by Lavrov in every meeting he has had with Lavrov over Syria.  His deep sense of humiliation about this was all too obvious in the leaked transcript of his meeting with the Syrian opposition activists which took place at the UN General Assembly.

It is completely understandable therefore why Kerry might not have wished to meet with Lavrov so soon after the collapse of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, given that he would have known that Lavrov would have used the opportunity to carpet him over the US’s failure to separate Syrian opposition fighters from Jabhat Al-Nusra.  This together with the US attack on Deir Ezzor and the Jihadi attacks on the Castello road is the single most important reason why the Kerry-Lavrov agreement has collapsed.

In this situation Kerry turned to the French.

Here something should be said about Kerry’s relationship with France. 

Kerry has very strong personal connections to France going back to his childhood, and speaks French fluently.  He is familiar with the French political world, has longstanding friendships with several French politicians, and is even first cousin to one of them: Brice Lalonde, a former French Green Party leader and a minister in the French government in the 1990s, who was once mayor of the Breton village where Kerry as a child and as a young man used to holiday.

It is completely understandable therefore that Kerry – reluctant to face Lavrov and Putin himself – turned for help to the French.

The French for their part would have been only too eager to oblige.  Not only would this have put them at the forefront of international diplomacy.  France also has a long historic connection to Syria, which was once a French colony.  France has been an outspoken supporter of the Syrian opposition and of the attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and has hankered for a major role in the diplomacy concerning Syria.

The story of what followed is of how the French under the incompetent leadership of President Hollande blew it.

The French diplomatic initiative began with a trip by French Foreign Minister Jean-March Ayrault to Moscow on Thursday 6th October 2016 to discuss a draft Resolution the French had prepared concerning the situation in Aleppo.   

As to the contents of this draft Resolution, Reuters claims to have seen it and says that it

“…..ask(ed) U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to propose options for a U.N.-supervised monitoring of a truce and threaten(ed) to “take further measures” in the event of non-compliance by “any party to the Syrian domestic conflict.””

The reference to “further measures” is clearly a reference to article 42 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which says

“Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”

In other words the French draft Resolution was intended to impose a ceasefire and to prepare the ground for UN authorised military action (probably a no-fly zone) in the event that it did not stick.

We know more about the text of this Resolution from Russian sources. 

It put the entire blame for the collapse of the ceasefire on the Syrian government.  It also demanded an end to Russian and Syrian bombing of the Jihadi rebels in eastern Aleppo.

In other words the Resolution blamed the Syrian government for the failure of the ceasefire, ordered it and the Russians to desist from bombing the Jihadis in Aleppo, demanded another ceasefire, and threatened military action against the Syrian army if the ceasefire broke down, without apparently making equivalent demands of the Jihadis.

The proposed Resolution was obviously completely lopsided and was therefore unacceptable to the Syrians and the Russians.

On the eve of Ayrault’s visit to Moscow Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, warned that the draft of this proposed Resolution was unacceptable.  However he offered talks to see if it could be salvaged so as to enable the UN Security Council to take a united position on Syria and on the situation in Aleppo.

For what happened during Ayrault’s visit to Moscow and immediately thereafter we must turn to Putin, who gave the following account during a press conference in Moscow. 

“Our respected friend and colleague, the French foreign minister came to Moscow and presented the French resolution. To which our foreign minister said: “We will not vote against it if you take our amendments and considerations on this issue into account. We are deeply involved in this crisis, in these problems; we know the details.” To which his French counterpart said: “Yes, of course, nor do we want to be slapped with this kind of veto.” Our representative to the UN in New York was told the same. Lavrov laid out the Russian position and there is nothing excessive in it.

I can tell you frankly what this was all about. The French resolution blamed the situation entirely on the Syrian authorities and said nothing about the opposition – in this case I am not talking about terrorists – the opposition that should also bear some responsibility, and some tasks should also be put before it. That is my first point.

Second, we stated that we were willing to endorse the initiative of the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy Mr de Mistura regarding the militants’ withdrawal from Aleppo. The French side took a positive view of that. We expected further joint constructive work both with France and with other Security Council members.

So what happened next? The French foreign minister left Moscow for Washington and the following day he and Mr Kerry accused Russia of every sin imaginable; no one talked to us and discussed nothing with us, and they threw this resolution at the Security Council, clearly expecting our veto. Why?”

These words of Putin’s clarify the changes the Russians wanted made to the Resolution.

Firstly a Resolution that placed the entire blame for the collapse of the ceasefire on the Syrian government was obviously unacceptable to the Russians, who have repeatedly said that the reason the ceasefire broke down was because the Jihadi rebels the US backs refused to abide by the ceasefire or separate themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra. 

The Russians insisted that the text of the Resolution be amended to shift at least part of the blame for the failure of the ceasefire onto the Syrian opposition, and to make demands upon them that were at least equivalent to those made of the Syrian government.

Secondly the Russians sought to incorporate into the ceasefire a proposal floated by Staffan de Mistura, Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on Syria.

Staffan de Mistura’s proposal almost certainly was prompted by Kerry and the US, who have previously used de Mistura and the UN’s various humanitarian agencies to float proposals they are unwilling to put forward themselves.

The single most important part of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement was the provision that provided for the withdrawal of Jihadi fighters from eastern Aleppo by way of the Castello road.  The Kerry-Lavrov agreement failed because the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo refused to leave eastern Aleppo by way of the Castello road or to separate themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra.

De Mistura’s proposal resurrected this part of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, without however making it a formal commitment.  De Mistura proposed that Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters voluntarily quit eastern Aleppo and he offered to accompany them as they left.

The Russians welcomed de Mistura’s proposal.  However they insisted that it be incorporated into the Resolution, turning it from a personal proposal by de Mistura into a binding commitment having the force of international law.

The Jihadis in eastern Aleppo rejected the de Mistura proposal and it became clear during the diplomatic discussions leading up to the UN Security Council meeting on Saturday 8th October 2016 that the Western powers were not prepared to incorporate it into the UN Security Council Resolution or into any other diplomatic document.

De Mistura’s proposal was never intended seriously.  De Mistura himself undermined it by saying that Jabhat Al-Nusra accounts for just 900 out of the 8,000 Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo. 

Not only is this contrary to most authoritative claims – which agree that Jabhat Al-Nusra is actually the dominant force in eastern Aleppo – but it contradicts what de Mistura himself has previously said.  In previous statements de Mistura has admitted that Jabhat Al-Nusra accounts for half the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo. 

In a press conference on Thursday 6th October 2016 de Mistura gave a convoluted explanation in which he tried to reconcile his contradictory statements by claiming that his previous claim that Jabhat Al-Nusra accounted for half the fighters in eastern Aleppo had now been “updated”

“We have done a much more updated analysis of the al-Nusra reality in eastern Aleppo. I know I was quoted, and is correct, I did refer to a figure which was close to 50%, you must have heard it, I think it was in the context of the Security Council. Well based on a more accurate estimates, which are also more up to date, and which are never completely perfect but are in my opinion, quite reliable, we are talking now about a presence in eastern Aleppo of at maximum 900 people, 900 people. The previous figure probably was also based on the out of date figure, that about 1500 al-Nusra fighters had left Idlib and other locations in order to join the al- Ramousseh battle which you remember took place some time ago when they attempted to re-take al-Ramousseh road. But they, according to our information, did withdraw, once this counter-offensive did not succeed and failed. So this amends, and please take it now as the line, which can always be amended by facts and figures, and more effective analysis, but that amends the so-called 50% thing. 900 al-Nusra fighters in eastern Aleppo.”

De Mistura (of course) provided no evidence to back his latest ‘update’, which he insists must now be “taken as the line” (ie. which it is impermissible to challenge).  As for his claim that the UN had previously mistakenly added the Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters engaged in the August offensive to those  actually inside eastern Aleppo, that is simply silly. Frankly de Mistura’s comments read like they were made up on the fly.

What however actually spelt the end of de Mistura’s proposal was the suggestions the Russians made about what should follow it. 

In public statements the Russians said that once the Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters had left eastern Aleppo the whole district should be reoccupied by the Syrian army.  The Russians sugared the pill by saying the Syrian army should form joint patrols with the remaining Jihadi fighters to restore law and order and ‘reassure the population’ in the district.  In Lavrov’s words

“In the first place, those who don’t leave with ‘Nusra’ should clearly separate themselves [from it], on paper, officially sign such a commitment.  Maybe then the government law enforcers and this armed opposition will be able to form some kind of joint law-and-order bodies to ensure normal life, so that people would feel safe.”

This of course is a demand for the surrender of eastern Aleppo to the Syrian government.  That is obviously something the Jihadi fighters and to the Western powers will never formally agree to, and the moment the Russians demanded it the de Mistura proposal was dead.

The other amendment the Russians are known to have demanded was one that deleted all references in the Resolution to a prohibition on aircraft (meaning of course Russian or Syrian aircraft) overflying Aleppo .

I have previously discussed the absurdity of this demand, made previously by Kerry and other Western leaders, which amounts to a demand that the Russians and the Syrians agree to impose a no-fly zone on themselves. 

“……..Kerry is demanding is that the Syrians and the Russians agree to impose a no-fly zone on themselves so as to let Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Jihadis win in order to enable regime change to take place in Syria.”

The French draft Resolution repeated this absurd demand, which as I said before Kerry and other Western officials must know the Russians and the Syrians would never agree to.  In the event the Russians rejected it, as they were bound to do, insisting that it be deleted from the text.

According to Putin Ayrault agreed to give serious thought to the Russian amendments.  However he failed to do so.  On going to Washington the following day he instead (according to Putin)

“….accused Russia of every sin imaginable; no one talked to us and discussed nothing with us, and they threw this resolution at the Security Council, clearly expecting our veto.”

Putin is being disingenuous here.  The changes the Russians proposed to the Resolution were so fundamental they would have changed completely its whole character, even if they had left the bulk of the text unchanged.  Once he saw the original text of the Resolution the French were proposing Putin cannot seriously have believed the French would agree to the Russian changes.  Nor can he have seriously believed Washington would agree to them either.

The whole episode of the French Resolution and of Ayrault’s trip to Moscow in truth looks less like a serious negotiation and more like an exercise in diplomatic posing.  Kerry and the French pretended they could embarrass the Russians into shifting their position on Aleppo by threatening to present a Resolution that would isolate the Russians in the UN Security Council.

Presumably de Mistura’s proposal, which appeared to offer the Russians what they have always wanted – the removal of Jihadi fighters from eastern Aleppo – whilst in reality doing no such thing, was held out as some form of bait.  The fact the Western powers refused to incorporate it in the Resolution or in any other diplomatic document shows that it was never intended seriously, and by demanding that it should be the Russians effortlessly exposed it for the sham it was.

That the whole episode of the Resolution was nothing more than an exercise in diplomatic posing is confirmed by the Reuters report of 5th October 2016, published on the eve of Ayrault’s trip to Moscow.  It says

“French officials have said that if Moscow were to oppose the resolution they would be ready to put it forward anyway to force Moscow into a veto, underscoring its complicity with the Syrian government.”

In other words the French and the US were never negotiating with the Russians seriously.  The pretended plan was to scare the Russians into backing down by threatening them with a Resolution they would be too embarrassed to veto. 

That neither the US nor the French ever really believed this plan would work is however shown by the comments a French diplomat is reported to have made to Reuters

“It’s all that’s left. We’re not fools. The Russians aren’t going to begin respecting human rights from one day to the next, but it’s all we have to put pressure on them.”

These words expose the emptiness of the whole affair.  If the French knew all along the plan would not work and that the Russians would not be embarrassed into backing down and would veto the Resolution when it was put to the UN Security Council, then what was the point of the whole exercise?

In the event not only did the Russians not back down but they turned the tables on the US and the French by proposing a Resolution of their own.  Apparently this closely followed the text of the French draft.  However it incorporated all the changes the Russians had previously insisted on, and which Putin says Ayrault had previously agreed to consider.

The Russian counter-Resolution was not intended simply as a spoiler.  It was intended to help the Chinese make public their support for the Russian position without putting the Chinese in a position where they would have to veto a Resolution which had the support of the majority of the states on the UN Security Council. 

China has a longstanding policy of not vetoing Resolutions which have majority support in the UN Security Council except in very exceptional circumstances.  Clearly what happened was that the Russians and the Chinese worked together to enable China to cast a vote supporting Russia at the UN Security Council without having to cast a veto when the French Resolution was put to the vote.  By proposing their Resolution the Russians made it possible for the Chinese to abstain on the French Resolution – which was guaranteed the support of a majority of states on the UN Security Council because it had the support of the US and its allies – whilst making it possible for the Chinese to make their support for Russia clear by voting for the Russian Resolution. 

This in fact is what happened with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador to the UN, speaking out strongly at the UN Security Council in support of the Russian Resolution whilst making clear China’s unhappiness with the French Resolution.  Here is how the UN’s press centre summarises his comments

“The draft text from France and Spain contained several important elements, but some of its contents did not reflect full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and independence, nor did it incorporate constructive views from some Council members (NB: this is a clear reference to the amendments proposed by Russia – AM).  On the other hand, the Russian Federation’s draft text did reflect respect for Syria’s sovereignty.  Noting that he had voted for the latter text, he voiced regret it had not been adopted.”

(bold italics added)

As it happens the Russian draft Resolution gathered more support in the UN Security Council than the Western powers and perhaps the Russians anticipated.  Russia, China and Venezuela voted for it and Angola abstained – as was to be expected.  However Egypt, traditionally a US ally and the one Arab state represented on the UN Security Council, also voted for it, whilst Uruguay – the one genuinely non-aligned state on the UN Security Council, also abstained (ie. refused to vote against it).  This left just those states on the UN Security Council who are known to be allies of the US to vote it down.

If the plan behind the French Resolution was therefore to embarrass Russia by isolating it on the UN Security Council, then deft Russian diplomacy meant that it failed.

In passing, the battle over the rival Resolutions at the UN Security Council on 8th October 2016 may be causing a rethink in Beijing of China’s traditional policy of not vetoing save in exceptional circumstances Resolutions which have majority support. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to be hinting his dissatisfaction with this policy and his belief  that China should in future play a more assertive role in the UN Security Council in alliance with Russia.  Interfax reports him telling Putin (his “old friend”) at the BRICS summit in Goa that the Chinese and the Russians should in future coordinate even more closely their positions at the UN Security Council to achieve a “fairer” world

“As UN Security Council members and leading countries, we should step up our coordination and interaction within the framework of multilateral institutions.  Key issues should be addressed through coordination between you and us, so that our combined efforts help ensure a fairer and more reasonable world order.”

(bold italics added)

The Russians have complained that presentation of a Resolution to the UN Security Council that had no possibility of being adopted simply in order to embarrass one of its members and to score a public relations point is an abuse of the procedures of the UN Security Council.  They are of course right.

Whilst it is the sort of thing that has happened before, and which will doubtless happen again, it is nonetheless an extraordinary misuse of the UN Security Council – not to mention an extraordinary waste of time – to behave in this way.

It is also a sad reflection of the state of French diplomacy.  The country that invented modern diplomacy has wasted a week of diplomatic time on what was essentially a farce.  That time could have been used to look for a serious diplomatic solution to the problem of Aleppo. 

Once upon a time French diplomacy would have sought to do just that – striving to shape a Resolution the UN Security Council could adopt that might have brought some sort of peace to Aleppo.  The basic groundwork after all has already been done in the form of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement.  Clever French diplomacy would have sought to revive the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, and to enshrine it in an enforceable UN Security Council Resolution, which would have had behind it the force of international law.

Instead the time was misused – and the energies of diplomats were wasted – on an act of grandstanding conducted one suspects for the benefit of the Western media and with an eye to the French Presidential election next year.

It beggars belief that the France of De Gaulle or Mitterrand would have agreed to let itself be used in this way.  If Kerry and his officials had wanted to put on a show at the UN Security Council then the French in former times would have told them to do it themselves rather than involve France in it.  As it is the prestige of French diplomacy has been diminished.

It was what happened next which however brought the complex if empty diplomatic manoeuvres of the previous days down to the level of bad farce.

Stung by the Russian vote against the Resolution – or more probably intent on striking yet another pose – French President Francois Hollande publicly declared that he intended to use Putin’s forthcoming visit to France to harangue Putin over Syria. 

To that end he cancelled an official opening ceremony for a newly built Russian religious and cultural centre in Paris, which had been the ostensible purpose of Putin’s visit, supposedly so that the visit could focus exclusively on Syria.

Hollande’s pitch has echoes of the equally unfortunate and equally empty proclamation by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott that he would use the G20 summit in Brisbane to “shirtfront Putin” over MH17, though it is more likely that what Hollande had in mind was a once famous incident when French President Mitterrand gained widespread praise in France and in the West by embarrassing his Soviet hosts by publicly bringing up the subject of the then jailed Soviet dissident Andrey Sakharov at a Kremlin banquet.

The Russians however robbed Hollande’s gesture of its whole point by simply calling off the visit.  In doing so they exposed the irrelevance of France, brought about by the hollowness of France’s diplomacy. 

Putin cruelly turned the knife in an interview with French reporters in which he cheerfully said that attending the opening of a Russian religious and cultural centre in Paris was more important than holding talks with the French President 

‘…..it is not that we are renouncing the visit, but simply that we were told that the main reason for this visit, namely, opening the religious and cultural centre, is not appropriate at this moment. But if the main reason for my visit to Paris is not appropriate, we will probably find another opportunity to meet and discuss Syria. We set no limitations concerning this matter and we are open for dialogue.”

(bold italics added)

This interview is as it happens a good example of Putin enjoying himself. 

He teased his interviewers by pretending the Russians had not called off the visit but had merely “postponed” it.  He patronised them by saying the visit would happen when it was “most convenient” (to whom?).  He dismissed French talk of Russian war crimes as “political rhetoric that does not have great significance”.  Instead of letting himself get baited on the situation in Aleppo, he lectured his interviewers on the situation in Aleppo as if he was a schoolteacher addressing a class of backward children.

Question: Mr President, the thing is that the French do not understand why you are bombing these people you call terrorists. After all, it was ISIS who attacked us, but there are no ISIS forces in Aleppo. This is what the French do not understand.

Vladimir Putin: Let me explain. It is another terrorist group, Jabhat al-Nusra, that controls the situation in Aleppo. This group was always considered a wing of Al Qaeda and is included in the UN’s list of terrorist organisations.”

Not surprisingly much of the French political class – including all the conservative and right wing contenders in next year’s Presidential election – have rounded on Hollande for his inept handling of the whole affair.

France remains a potentially important country, drawing huge prestige from its history and its culture.  Leaders like De Gaulle, Mitterrand, Chirac, and even to some extent Sarkozy, have shown how effective if used properly French diplomacy can be. 

The shabby events of the last two weeks show how under the inept leadership of Francois Hollande this asset is being squandered.  The big loser is France.

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Social media purge continues, as platforms operate as publishers (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 80.

Alex Christoforou

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Following the suspension of Alex Jones, Twitter has also moved to restrict Jones’ Infowars account.

BuzzFeed News is reporting that the Infowars account will be restricted from tweeting, but will still be able to browse Twitter and send direct messages to other users, while users will still be able to view the account.

The move, which essentially puts the account in read-only mode, comes less than a day after Twitter temporarily limited Infowars proprietor Alex Jones for a week after he tweeted a link to a video in which he called on his supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready. That video, which was shared on Twitter-owned live streaming service Periscope, was also shared by Infowars earlier on Wednesday.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that Infowars’ account, which has more than 430,000 followers, will be prevented from tweeting, retweeting, liking or following other users during a seven-day window. The account will stay online, allowing users to view it during that period.

Via Zerohedge

On Tuesday, Twitter suspended the conspiracy theorist and blogger for violating the social media company’s policies, in a stark reversal for Jack Dorsey who previously bucked the trend by other tech giants to muzzle the Infowars creator.

As CNET first reported, Jones’ account was put in “read only” mode and will be blocked from posting on Twitter for seven days because of an offending tweet, the company said. While Twitter declined to comment on the content that violated its policies, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN the content which prompted the suspension was a video published Tuesday in which he said, “now is time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag.”

A Twitter spokesperson wouldn’t say what would get Jones or Infowars permanently suspended, however they noted “We look at [the] volume and nature of violations before suspending an account,” according to Buzzfeed.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the latest twists and turns in the vicious social media purge of conservative right and libertarian accounts. Platforms are acting like publishers and this may mean the end of monopoly social media services.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Meanwhile, in a censorship move against Libertarian commentary, Ron Paul Institute director Daniel McAdams and Antiwar editor Scott Horton were suspended by Twitter for simply retweeting. Justin Raimondo informs…

Target Liberty reports

Update from Justin:

Neither @scotthortonshow nor @DanielLMcAdams have been reinstated. You can see their tweets: they can’t tweet.

RW

Daniel McAdams explain what happened…

Robert I can give you an update from my perspective regarding what happened:

Yesterday on Twitter, former US diplomat Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) took members of the mainstream media to task for swallowing and printing government lies without even bothering to check them out. He said as a former US government official (turned whistleblower) he also lied to the press on behalf of the government and was astonished that the press swallowed each one, hook, line and sinker.

Several corporate media hacks and in particular one employee of an NGO funded by George Soros — a fellow called Jonathan Katz — piled on Peter, accusing him of all manner of treachery. When Peter ended one response with a sarcastic reference to zombie attacks – “I hope a MAGA guy eats your face” — which is obviously a joke, Katz replied that he is reporting Peter for promoting violence.

So he and his buddies ganged up on Peter and got him banned. Scott Horton and I were incensed over the ban, which seemed to us totally arbitrary. There was no threat of violence and it was no different than millions of Tweets all the time. So Scott and I both joined in and criticized Katz for running off to the authorities in attempt to get someone banned rather than just walk away from the debate.

Katz then did his usual routine and ran to the authorities and had Scott and me banned. Mine was for, as Twitter informed me, because “you may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” There is no way at all that my Tweet violated the above rule. In no way did I harass or threaten based on those criteria. I merely strongly criticized Katz for running to the authorities to get Peter banned.

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“I’m Not A Racist, But I’m A Nationalist”: Why Sweden Faces A Historic Election Upset

Sweden is set to have a political earthquake in September.

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Via Zerohedge


“Trains and hospitals don’t work, but immigration continues,” Roger Mathson, a retired vegetable oil factory worker in Sweden, told Bloomberg on the same day as the violent, coordinated rampage by masked gangs of youths across five Swedish cities.

We noted earlier that Swedish politicians were quick to react with anti-immigrant party ‘Sweden Democrats’ seeing a surge in the polls ahead of the September 9th election.

“I’m not a racist, but I’m a nationalist,” Mathson said. “I don’t like seeing the town square full of Niqab-clad ladies and people fighting with each other.”

Is Sweden set to have its own political earthquake in September, where general elections could end a century of Social Democratic dominance and bring to power a little known (on the world stage), but the now hugely popular nationalist party often dubbed far-right and right-wing populist, called Sweden Democrats?

Sweden, a historically largely homogeneous population of 10 million, took in an astounding 600,000 refugees over the past five years, and after Swedes across various cities looked out their windows Tuesday to see cars exploding, smoke filling the skies, and possibly armed masked men hurling explosives around busy parking lots, it appears they’ve had enough.

Over the past years of their rise as a political force in Swedish politics, the country’s media have routinely labelled the Sweden Democrats as “racists” and “Nazis” due to their seemingly single issue focus of anti-immigration and strong Euroscepticism.

A poll at the start of this week indicated the Sweden Democrats slid back to third place after topping three previous polls as the September election nears; however, Tuesday’s national crisis and what could legitimately be dubbed a serious domestic terror threat is likely to boost their popularity.

Bloomberg’s profile of their leader, Jimmie Akesson, echoes the tone of establishment Swedish media in the way they commonly cast the movement, beginning as follows:

Viking rock music and whole pigs roasting on spits drew thousands of Swedes to a festival hosted by nationalists poised to deliver their country’s biggest political upheaval in a century.

The Sweden Democrats have been led since 2005 by a clean-cut and bespectacled man, Jimmie Akesson. He’s gentrified a party that traces its roots back to the country’s neo-Nazi, white supremacist fringe. Some polls now show the group may become the biggest in Sweden’s parliament after general elections on Sept. 9. Such an outcome would end 100 years of Social Democratic dominance.

The group’s popularity began surging after the 2015 immigration crisis began, which first hit Europe’s southern Mediterranean shores and quickly moved northward as shocking wave after wave of migrants came.

Jimmie Akesson (right). Image source: Getty via Daily Express

Akesson emphasizes something akin to a “Sweden-first” platform which European media often compares to Trump’s “America First”; and the party has long been accused of preaching forced assimilation into Swedish culture to be become a citizen.

Bloomberg’s report surveys opinions at a large political rally held in Akkeson’s hometown of Solvesborg, and some of the statements are sure to be increasingly common sentiment after this week’s coordinated multi-city attack:

At his party’s festival, Akesson revved up the crowd by slamming the establishment’s failures, calling the last two governments the worst in Swedish history. T-shirts calling for a Swexit, or an exit from the EU, were exchanged as bands played nationalist tunes.

Ted Lorentsson, a retiree from the island of Tjorn, said he’s an enthusiastic backer of the Sweden Democrats. “I think they want to improve elderly care, health care, child care,” he said. “Bring back the old Sweden.” But he also acknowledges his view has led to disagreement within his family as his daughter recoils at what she feels is the “Hitler”-like rhetoric.

No doubt, the media and Eurocrats in Brussels will take simple, innocent statements from elderly retirees like “bring back the old Sweden” as nothing short of declaration of a race war, but such views will only solidify after this week.

Another Sweden Democrat supporter, a 60-year old woman who works at a distillery, told Bloomberg, “I think you need to start seeing the whole picture in Sweden and save the original Swedish population,” she said. “I’m not racist, because I’m a realist.”

Sweden’s two biggest parties, the Social Democrats and Moderates, are now feeling the pressure as Swedes increasingly worry about key issues preached by Akesson like immigration, law and order, and health care – seen as under threat by a mass influx of immigrants that the system can’t handle.

Bloomberg explains further:

But even young voters are turning their backs on the establishment. One potential SD supporter is law student Oscar Persson. Though he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll vote, he says it’s time for the mainstream parties to stop treating the Sweden Democrats like a pariah. “This game they are playing now, where the other parties don’t want to talk to them but still want their support, is something I don’t really understand,” he said.

Akesson has managed to entice voters from both sides of the political spectrum with a message of more welfare, lower taxes and savings based on immigration cuts.

With many Swedes now saying immigration has “gone too far” and as this week’s events have once again thrust the issue before both a national and global audience, the next round of polling will mostly like put Sweden’s conservative-right movements on top

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The Turkish Emerging Market Timebomb

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him.

The Duran

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Authored by Jim O’Neill, originally on Project Syndicate:


As the Turkish lira continues to depreciate against the dollar, fears of a classic emerging-market crisis have come to the fore. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s populist economic policies have finally caught up to him, and sooner or later, he will have to make nice with his country’s traditional Western allies.

Turkey’s falling currency and deteriorating financial conditions lend credence, at least for some people, to the notion that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” I suspect that many Western policymakers, in particular, are not entirely unhappy about Turkey’s plight.

To veteran economic observers, Turkey’s troubles are almost a textbook case of an emerging-market flop. It is August, after all, and back in the 1990s, one could barely go a single year without some kind of financial crisis striking in the dog days of summer.

But more to the point, Turkey has a large, persistent current-account deficit, and a belligerent leader who does not realize – or refuses to acknowledge – that his populist economic policies are unsustainable. Moreover, Turkey has become increasingly dependent on overseas investors (and probably some wealthy domestic investors, too).

Given these slowly gestating factors, markets have long assumed that Turkey was headed for a currency crisis. In fact, such worries were widespread as far back as the fall of 2013, when I was in Istanbul interviewing business and financial leaders for a BBC Radio series on emerging economies. At that time, markets were beginning to fear that monetary-policy normalization and an end to quantitative easing in the United States would have dire consequences globally. The Turkish lira has been flirting with disaster ever since.

Now that the crisis has finally come to pass, it is Turkey’s population that will bear the brunt of it. The country must drastically tighten its domestic monetary policy, curtail foreign borrowing, and prepare for the likelihood of a full-blown economic recession, during which time domestic saving will slowly have to be rebuilt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership will both complicate matters and give Turkey some leverage. Erdoğan has  constitutional powers, reducing those of the parliament, and undercutting the independence of monetary and fiscal policymaking. And to top it off, he seems to be reveling in an escalating feud with US President Donald Trump’s administration over Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.

This is a dangerous brew for the leader of an emerging economy to imbibe, particularly when the United States itself has embarked on a Ronald Reagan-style fiscal expansion that has pushed the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than it would have otherwise. Given the unlikelihood of some external source of funding emerging, Erdoğan will eventually have to back down on some of his unorthodox policies. My guess is that we’ll see a return to a more conventional monetary policy, and possibly a new fiscal-policy framework.

As for Turkey’s leverage in the current crisis, it is worth remembering that the country has a large and youthful population, and thus the potential to grow into a much larger economy in the future. It also enjoys a privileged geographic position at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, which means that many major players have a stake in ensuring its stability. Indeed, many Europeans still hold out hope that Turkey will embrace Western-style capitalism, despite the damage that Erdoğan has done to the country’s European Union accession bid.

Among the regional powers, Russia is sometimes mentioned as a potential savior for Turkey. There is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would love to use Turkey’s crisis to pull it even further away from its NATO allies. But Erdoğan and his advisers would be deeply mistaken to think that Russia can fill Turkey’s financial void. A Kremlin intervention would do little for Turkey, and would likely exacerbate Russia’s own .

The other two potential patrons are Qatar and, of course, China. But while Qatar, one of Turkey’s closest Gulf allies, could provide financial aid, it does not ultimately have the wherewithal to pull Turkey out of its crisis singlehandedly.

As for China, though it will not want to waste the opportunity to increase its influence vis-à-vis Turkey, it is not the country’s style to step into such a volatile situation, much less assume responsibility for solving the problem. The more likely outcome – as we are seeing in Greece – is that China will unleash its companies to pursue investment opportunities after the dust settles.

That means that Turkey’s economic salvation lies with its conventional Western allies: the US and the EU (particularly France and Germany). On August 13, a White House spokesperson confirmed that the Trump administration is watching the financial-market response to Turkey’s crisis “very closely.” The last thing that Trump wants is a crumbling world economy and a massive dollar rally, which could derail his domestic economic ambitions. So a classic Trump “trade” is probably there for Erdoğan, if he is willing to come to the negotiating table.

Likewise, some of Europe’s biggest and most fragile banks have significant exposure to Turkey. Combine that with the ongoing political crisis over migration, and you have a recipe for deeper destabilization within the EU. I, for one, cannot imagine that European leaders will sit by and do nothing while Turkey implodes on their border.

Despite his escalating rhetoric, Erdoğan may soon find that he has little choice but to abandon his isolationist and antagonistic policies of the last few years. If he does, many investors may look back next year and wish that they had snapped up a few lira when they had the chance.

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