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Furious Russian military blames U.S. ‘humanitarian pause’ for fall of Palmyra

Russian military blames US failure to press home attack on Raqqa for ISIS capture of Palmyra, but also implicitly criticises Russian government’s ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Aleppo for prolonging siege and preventing Syrian troops from being redeployed to Palmyra to defend the city.

Alexander Mercouris

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The fall of Palmyra is causing angry recriminations in Russia.

Officially the Russian military is blaming the US.  

In comments today General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian military’s chief spokesman, blamed the fall of Palmyra on the US failure to apply pressure on ISIS in Raqqa, which enabled ISIS to send its fighters from Raqqa to attack Palmyra.

“Over the past two days militants of the terrorist organization Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) launched several attacks on the positions of Syrian troops in the area of Palmyra. The terrorists were pushing ahead from the North, the East and the South. The attackers numbered more than 5,000.  Apparently, the IS militants had gathered around Palmyra, being very certain that combat operations in Raqqa would not resume.”

I made the identical point yesterday

“There is in fact no sign of a serious US led offensive against Raqqa, whilst the offensive against Mosul has stalled.  I said this some weeks ago on 19th November 2016, and recent reports in the Western media have confirmed it.

Obviously if ISIS really were under serious pressure in Raqqa it would not be able to send fighters from there to attack Palmyra.  ISIS’s latest offensive against Palmyra is therefore proof that the US led offensive against Raqqa is a fiction, whilst the fact ISIS has sent fighters from Iraq to Palmyra shows it is still a formidable force in Iraq as well.”

Whilst this is no doubt true, the Russian and Syrian militaries could hardly have been unaware before ISIS attacked Palmyra that the US led offensive against Raqqa was a fiction.  Saying that the US led offensive against Raqqa is a fiction does not therefore explain why the Russians and the Syrians failed to take adequate precautions to ensure Palmyra’s defence.

The Russian military has in fact made perfectly clear that it places the major blame for the fall of Palmyra on something quite different: the prolongation of the siege of Aleppo as a result of the repeated ‘humanitarian pauses’, which left the Syrian army defending Palmyra dangerously short of troops, and with those who were there of lesser quality.

Since the ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Aleppo were imposed on the Syrian and Russian militaries as a result of Russia’s diplomatic strategy, blaming them for the fall of Palmyra is an implicit criticism by the Russian military of the political strategy of Russia’s political leadership.

General Konashenkov all but said as much, though as a serving officer he chose his words very carefully when he did so

“This attack has once again demonstrated that terrorists should not have the smallest chance to take a break, for they always take advantage of such respites to regroup and then carry out a sudden attack.”

(bold italics added)

Konashenkov of course knows that ISIS has never been given a “break’, whether by the Russians or by the Syrians or indeed by the US.  His words about “terrorists not being given the smallest chance to take a break” – though supposedly referring to the failure of the US to press home its offensive against Raqqa – therefore look to be intended to refer to the repeated ‘humanitarian pauses’ in the fighting in Aleppo.

Where Konashenkov as a serving soldier has been forced to be diplomatic, General Yury Baluyevsky, a former Chief of Staff who is now retired, and who is by all accounts someone who is very much a soldiers’ soldier, was a great deal more forthright

“I understand it is necessary to ensure the safety of the population… But when these pauses last three weeks, and these militants – who are up to their elbows in blood – can restore their strength and are allowed to keep their personal weapons – well, that I don’t understand.”

(bold italics added)

This obviously refers to the ‘humanitarian pauses’ which have repeatedly taken place in Aleppo, and specifically the very prolonged one that took place in October and November.

This is not the first time that the Russian military has made know its disagreement with the political and diplomatic strategy President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have been following in Aleppo.  Back at the end of October there was a curious public spat between the Russian military and Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, during which it emerged that President Putin had refused the Russian military’s public request to resume bombing in Aleppo, which he had put on hold in order to allow for a ‘humanitarian pause’.

Here is what I wrote about it then

“….this episode clearly shows one thing: the persistent Western claim that Putin is a dictator and an autocrat and that he is Russia’s hardliner is a myth.

On the contrary it is clear that Putin is now coming under intense pressure from the Russian military to call off the bombing halt in Aleppo, and that the military feel sufficiently strongly about this to go public, to the point where they made public a “request” to Putin to allow them to resume bombing in a way that clearly showed that this is what they want to do. 

The fact that Putin is resisting the military’s public request is a clear sign that he did not prompt it, and that the request was not welcome to him, and was made to him by the military as a form of pressure.

What that of course shows is that the military is becoming increasingly impatient with Putin’s Aleppo strategy, which they obviously interpret as foot-dragging, and that they are no longer bothering to conceal the fact.”

(bold italics added)

Baluyevsky’s reference to “pauses lasting three weeks” clearly refers to this episode, and shows how angry about this pause the military were.

To my knowledge The Duran was the only news site to report this episode in October correctly as a “furious row”, in which the military by going public sought to pressure Putin to end the ‘humanitarian pause’ to allow the bombing to resume.  

Every other media and news site I know of claimed instead that it was all a public relations show intended to make Putin seem reasonable and moderate.  

The reality is that no government – and certainly not the Russian government – publicises its disagreements for such a purpose.  

The Western media’s inability to report this incident properly shows again its poor understanding of Russia based on its complete misconception that President Putin is Russia’s absolute ruler, and that whatever happens in Russia is determined solely by him.  

The reality on the contrary is that though the Russian government is indeed in most respects highly disciplined, angry disagreements do take place, and sometimes as on this occasion they spill over and become public.

Putting all this aside, is it really true that it was the prolongation of the siege of Aleppo which resulted in the fall of Palmyra?

Undoubtedly if eastern Aleppo had fallen sooner, the Syrian military would have had more and better troops available to defend Palmyra.  However it is not certain it would have sent them there. 

The Syrian army’s priority is not to save Palmyra.  It is to win the war.  The war is not being won in Palmyra, which is far from the core areas of western Syria where most of the Syrian population lives. 

In view of this it is more likely that if the Syrian army had been able to end the siege of Aleppo more quickly, it would have redeployed its troops to retake Idlib or possibly Al-Bab in north western Syria,  or to consolidate the Syrian army’s recent gains in the countryside near Damascus.  It is far less likely that the Syrian army would have sent many of its best troops to garrison Palmyra, where they would have been idle with nothing obviously useful to do.

This episode in fact highlights the different approaches to the war between the Russians and the Syrians.

For the Russians retaining Palmyra, which is a critically important cultural monument, is a fundamental objective, so that its loss to ISIS was – as General Baluyevsky has said – a blow to their “prestige”. 

For the Syrians, the very existence of whose state is at stake, Palmyra is a sideshow, and a distraction from the real war, in which they are fighting for their lives and for their country in western Syria.

This is why the Syrians left only 1,000 second line troops to guard Palmyra, who quickly withdrew from the city apparently in a state of some confusion as shown by the large amount of expensive equipment they left behind when they were attacked by an ISIS force which outnumbered them five to one.

Notwithstanding these differences, it is undoubtedly the Russian view about Palmyra which is now going to prevail.  Though the very latest reports confirm that ISIS is still gaining ground near Palmyra, and though the number of reinforcements which the Syrian army has so far sent to Palmyra is small, there is no doubt that a major counter-offensive to recapture the city will be organised in the next few weeks.

Though the Russians continue to rule out sending ground troops to Syria, they have pointedly made known that they do not consider their Special Forces (“Spetsnaz”) to be ground troops.  Undoubtedly some of them are heading to Palmyra now.

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Deep State insurrection defying POTUS Trump’s order to release unredacted FISA docs (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 113.

Alex Christoforou

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Deep State officials like ex-CIA chief John Brennan are in panic mode.

Deep State DOJ tool Rod Rosenstein refuses to comply with Trump’s executive order as afforded him by the US Constitution.

Establishment Democrats are all over the mainstream media channels calling the act of releasing documents criminal.

The US President wants every American citizen to see the full, unredacted version of the FISA documents used to spy on Carter Page. Trump is simply asking for full transparency, in what has become a two year, multi-million dollar witch hunt, to find collusion where there is none.

This is all you need to know about the hoax that was and is Trump-Russia collusion and the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the insurrection taking place at the US Department of Justice, as Democrats, ex-Obama officials, and DOJ directors are doing everything in their power to make sure the truth, about how the FISA warrant to spy on Carter Page was obtained, remains hidden from the eyes of the American public.

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Via Zerohedge


Despite President Trump’s Monday order for the “immediate declassification” of sensitive materials related to the Russia investigation, “without redaction,” the agencies involved are planning to do so anyway, according to Bloomberg, citing three people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are going through a methodical review and can’t offer a timeline for finishing, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive matter. –Bloomberg

Trump ordered the DOJ to release the text messages of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also ordered released are specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The DOJ and the FBI are expected to submit proposed redactions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – which will prepare a package for Trump to sign off on.

“When the president issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America’s national security interests,” a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement. “The department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the president’s order.”

The agencies are likely to cite national security concerns over revealing classified “sources and methods” pertaining to the Russia investigation – which will put them in direct conflict with Trump’s order. Trump, as president, has the power to override the agencies and declassify material on his own.

Trump’s order to release the documents comes after months of requests from GOP lawmakers, while the DOJ has repeatedly denied their requests for more transparency.

The FBI’s spy…

According to Bloomberg, the DOJ is interpreting Trump’s request to include information about the use of confidential informant (spy) Stephan Halper during the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation. After taking in over $400,000 from the Obama Pentagon under the auspices of a research contract, Halper befriended and spied on members of the Trump campaign, including aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

Showdown?

Top Congressional Democrats Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff and Mark Warner penned a joint letter to ODNI Director Dan Coates, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding that the agencies defy President Trump.

In the letter, the lawmakers “express profound alarm” at the decision to “intervene in an ongoing law enforcement investigation that may implicate the President himself or those around him.”

“Any decision by your offices to share this material with the President or his lawyers will violate longstanding Department of Justice polices, as well as assurances you have provided to us.”

The letter then demands that the agencies brief the Gang of Eight before releasing the materials “to anyone at the White House.”

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Trump Weighs In On The Single Worst Mistake In American History

Trump hits Bush: Invading Iraq ‘the single worst decision ever made’.

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Via Zerohedge


In a wide ranging interview with The Hill on Tuesday conducted in the Oval Office, President Trump was asked to give his take on the biggest mistake in American history.

Considering just how open-ended a question that is, it’s perhaps surprising that he merely went back less than a couple decades into the Bush presidency, though Trump’s base will certainly welcome it as it hearkens back to his “America First” foreign policy vision of the campaign trail.

“The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush,” the president during his interview with Hill.TV.

“Obama may have gotten them (U.S. soldiers) out wrong, but going in is to me the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country,” he said.

Trump explained the reasoning behind this choice, and why it wasn’t something like the civil war or another defining and devastating event reaching far into American History.

“Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, ‘oh gee, let’s not do it. Seven trillion, and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives,” the president explained.

Some scholars and humanitarian groups estimate that over one million Iraqis were killed in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq starting in 2003. A 2008 Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll, for example, found that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war.

“To me it’s the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.”

Various estimates on the Iraq war’s cost have put the total taxpayer bill as low as near $2 trillion, but none dispute that it is in the multiple trillions, and estimates will vary widely depending on if veteran care is factored into it.

The comments echo things Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016. For example during one of his first major foreign policy speeches then candidate Trump said, “I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.” And referencing the famous quote of John Quincy Adams, he said during the same speech, “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies.”

He had previously shocked pundits for being the first Republican nominee for president to trash George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and has more recently likened it to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest”.

All of this is a hopeful sign considering the extremely heightened and dangerous tensions over Syria this week, and given Trump seems to have vacillated between “bringing the troops home” and getting more involved. On Monday Trump hinted that a decision on the U.S. role in Syria is coming soon.

Commenting on the over 2,000 troops now in Syria ostensibly as part of the “anti-ISIL” coalition campaign, Trump indicated this mission could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

We consider it a hopeful and a good sign that Trump is possibly revisiting his “America First” foreign policy pledges by identifying the Iraq War as the worst mistake in US history.

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Brett Kavanaugh eleventh hour smear begins to fall apart (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Trump is urging the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh to testify and be heard.

Trump said he wants to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, noting that it would be “unfortunate” if she does not testify before a Senate committee. Trump told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House to view hurricane damage in North Carolina…

“If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”

“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that would be very interesting.”

From Trump’s lips to God’s ear…Blasey Ford came out to issue a statement essentially saying that she will not testify to Congress, either in an open or closed door session.

Furthermore it appears that Ford will not even allow Senate investigators to fly to California and obtain her statement from the comfort of her own home (as Senator Grassley has offered to do).

Ford is demanding an FBI investigation into an allegation with no date, time or place attached to it. 

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the dangerous game of identity politics being played by the establishment, Democrat left, and their mainstream media minions.

The premise that a four decades old accusation is all that is needed to destroy a person’s entire life, threatens to tear down the most basic foundational values adhered to from within the US Constitution, and propel the United States of America towards a fascist state where censorship, citizen surveillance, and evidence free accusations are used to keep the establishment left in power and the American population cowered in fear.

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According to Zerohedge, Democrats’ Hail Mary play to stymie the confirmation of Trump SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh is beginning to fizzle out. As angry Dems demanded that a Monday hearing on the allegations against Kavanaugh be delayed until the FBI has a chance to investigate, turncoat Republicans (on whom the Dems had been depending for votes) instead withdrew their support and fell in line after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley declared that he would not honor Democrats’ request. Grassley revealed his intention to stand firm late Tuesday after lawyers for Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey, who is claiming that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her 35 years ago when the two were 17-year-old high school students, said their client wouldn’t be wiling to appear at Monday’s hearing.

According to the HillGrassley said Tuesday that there was “no reason” to delay the hearing now that Republicans have invited both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, to testify publicly. However, while Ford’s attorneys have insisted that their client has taken a polygraph test and “deserves to be heard”, Ford has bizarrely insisted that the FBI should have an opportunity to investigate her claims before she appears before the committee in order to spare her the “trauma” of confronting her alleged assailant.

Ford’s lawyers conveyed her request in the form of a letter sent to the committee, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

Senator Grassley said he would refuse this request as several Republicans who had appeared to be on the cusp of defecting said they wouldn’t support further delays should Ford prove unwilling to testify.

Via the Hill…

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” said GOP Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), who was one of the first Republicans to call for the Judiciary Committee to hit pause on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Sunday.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) told reporters earlier Tuesday that Ford’s lack of response to the committee about testifying was “puzzling.”

And GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who had threatened to vote against Kavanaugh if Ford wasn’t given the chance to be heard, told CNN that he expected the committee to move on if she doesn’t appear.

“I think we’ll have to move to the markup,” he told CNN. “I hope she does (appear). I think she needs to be heard.”

Via Zerohedge…

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegations and insisted he didn’t attend the party where the physical assault allegedly took place. Patrick Smyth, a fellow former Georgetown Prep student whom Ford alleges was also in attendance during the party issued a statement via his lawyer standing up for Kavanaugh. And in a separate letter to Grassley and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, not only does Smyth repudiate Ford’s allegations, but he adds that he doesn’t remember this party even taking place.

Of course, Feinstein – who admitted last night that she couldn’t say for certain that Ford’s story is entirely truthful – sat on Ford’s allegations for three months before referring them to the FBI and sharing them with other lawmakers (who purportedly “leaked” it to the press). President Trump on Tuesday said that he “feels sorry” for Kavanaugh, adding that he doesn’t want to “play into [Democrats] hands”, presumably by giving them more time to drag out the confirmation process.

“They should have done this a long time ago, three months ago, not now. But they did it now. So I don’t want to play into their hands,” Trump said.

Without the support of their Republican allies, Democrats will lack the votes on the committee to hold up the nomination past Monday. Though bizarrely, Kavanaugh himself hasn’t said yet whether he would or wouldn’t testify, which begs the question: If neither Kavanaugh nor Ford appear at the hearing, what exactly will lawmakers discuss?

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