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Here’s what Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad discussed in Sochi

Syrian President Assad arrives in Russia for talks with Russian President Putin and top Russian military leaders on Syria’s future

Alexander Mercouris

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President Assad of Syria has come unexpected to the Russian resort city of Sochi, where he is having high level talks with Russia’s President Putin and with Russia’s senior military leadership.

This is the second trip President Assad is known to have made to Russia since Russia intervened militarily in Syria in September 2015.  The first trip came in late October 2015, shortly after the Russian military intervention began.  Of course there may have been – and probably have been – other secret Assad trips to Russia, which have not been announced.

At the time of Assad’s first trip to Moscow the situation in Syria remained very fraught.  The Jihadi rebels still held eastern Aleppo and had effectively surrounded the rest of the city and were pressing on the remaining territories the Syrian government still controlled along the coast.  Further east the whole of central and eastern Syria had fallen under the control of ISIS, which had recently captured Palmyra.  The Syrian military was over-stretched and exhausted, and in urgent need of time and help to sort itself out.

In summary, President Assad came to Moscow in October 2015 a drowning man to whom the Russians had just thrown a lifeline.

The situation is totally transformed today.

Not only has eastern Aleppo been liberated and the whole of Aleppo secured, but the authority of the Syrian government has been restored along the whole of Syria’s western coast with only the province of Idlib and a few pockets of territory still under Jihadi control.

In central and eastern Syria ISIS has been broken.  Palmyra is now conclusively liberated, the siege of Deir Ezzor has been broken and the city cleared of ISIS, and following the liberation of Albukamal  ISIS no longer controls any large or important towns in Syria, and has been reduced to a rural insurgency.

In the meantime the Syrian army has been expanded, retrained and re-equipped into a far more formidable force than it was before.

Though there are different estimates of the precise extent of the territory controlled by the Syrian government, when Assad came to Moscow in October 2015 the territories under the Syrian government’s control consisted of a small belt of territory along Syria’s western coastline, whereas now the greater part of Syria is once more indisputably under the Syrian government’s control.

In summary, Putin was fully justified in saying to Assad at the start of the summit today that

……the Syrian people, despite a very difficult ordeal, are gradually moving towards the final and inevitable defeat of the terrorists.

Why then is President Assad in Russia today?

The obviously very carefully prepared and pre-scripted comments Putin and Assad made to each other at the start of their meeting shows that with the war winding down the Russians want to consult with Assad about the political negotiations to achieve a Syrian settlement which are about to restart.  Putin in fact said as much

Mr President, as you know, I will meet with my colleagues – the presidents of Turkey and Iran – here in Sochi the day after tomorrow. We have agreed to hold additional consultations with you during our meeting. Of course, the main subject on the agenda is a peaceful and lasting political settlement in Syria after the routing of the terrorists.

As you know, in addition to the partners I have mentioned we are also working closely together with other countries, such as Iraq, the United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. We maintain constant contact with these partners.

I would like to talk with you about the basic principles of the political process and the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, the idea of which you have supported. I would like to hear your opinions on the current situation and development prospects and your views on the political process, which should ultimately be implemented under the UN auspices. We also hope that the UN will join the [political] process at its final stage.

(bold italics added)

Here it is necessary to make some comments about the speech President Assad made recently, which was discussed at length by my colleague Adam Garrie.

In the speech President Assad spoke of an ideology of Arabism, which as my colleague Adam Garrie correctly says is consistent with the Baathist ideology of Syria’s ruling party.

As Adam Garrie correctly says, what President Assad was doing in his speech was charting a future course for Syria and potentially for the whole Arab world which whilst in no sense opposed to Islam nonetheless looks to transcend sectarian and confessional differences on behalf of a united Arab nation.

It was in other words an emphatic restatement of the ideology of Arabism which has been around in the Arab world since the 1950s and which remains the prevailing ideology in Syria to this day.

President Assad is not however an ideologist but a practical politician, and the primary audience for his speech was not in my opinion Arab public opinion – which is already very familiar with all these arguments – but the Russians, with whom he currently must deal.

Briefly, what President Assad was saying in his speech was that Syria should retain its Arab identity, and should not make excessive concessions to the Kurds and to Syria’s various confessional groups.

He specifically ruled out changes to the official names of the country and the army, and said they should continue to be called the ‘Syrian Arab Republic’ and the ‘Syrian Arab Army’ and not become the ‘Syrian Republic’ and the ‘Syrian Army’.

The Russians – or at least some of them – have by contrast tentatively floated ideas of Syria doing precisely those things – of creating some sort of federal structure that would grant some form of political or cultural autonomy to the Kurds and to the country’s confessional groups, with the names of the country and the army being changed to the “Syrian Republic” and the “Syrian Army” – which President Assad said in his speech would be wrong and appeared to rule out.

The meeting between Assad and Putin appears to be intended to argue out these points, in preparation for the negotiations for the final settlement of the Syrian conflict which are about to start.

The meeting in Sochi also however has a military dimension.  Putin often uses his Sochi residence as a venue for the large-scale conferences of top experts to discuss national policies which form an essential part of his governing style.

On 17th November 2017 – shortly before Assad arrived in Sochi – a major conference began there bringing together Russia’s senior military and the leaders of its defence industries to discuss the State Armaments Programme, which will shape the development of Russia’s armed forces up to 2025.  The Kremlin’s website has published Putin’s introductory comments to the conference, which is apparently still continuing.

The Kremlin website shows that Putin arranged for Assad to participate in this conference

Meeting with senior officials of the Defence Ministry and the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces

Vladimir Putin: I have asked the President of Syria to attend our meeting.

I want him to see those who have played the key role in saving Syria.

Of course, Mr Assad knows some of you personally. He told me at our talks today that the Russian Army has saved Syria as a state. Much has been done to stabilise the situation in Syria. I hope that we will close the chapter on the fight against terrorism in Syria, although some seats of tension will remain or will flare up again……

(bold highlighting in the original)

At one level this is an extraordinary honour to the Syrian President.  However there are obviously practical dimensions as well.

Firstly, there is the obvious wish to have President Assad give his personal thanks to the Russian military which saved him and Syria from destruction.  However it is a certainty that future military cooperation was also discussed.

This will obviously include discussions on the ongoing military operations to bring the Syrian war to a final end.  However it is a certainty that Syrian-Russian military cooperation beyond the war’s end will be discussed as well.

With Syria set to host a very large complex of Russian military bases, and with the Syrian military needing to be reconfigured and re-equipped to face the challenges of ‘peace’ (which in the Middle East is never truly peace) there will be much to talk about.

 

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The social media ‘DEPLATFORM’ end game: Self-censorship (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 82.

Alex Christoforou

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Alex Jones’ account was put in “read only” mode and will be blocked from posting on Twitter for seven days because of an offending tweet. 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 Jones linked to within his tweet saying, “now is time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag”.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week defended Twitter’s decision to not suspend Infowars and Alex Jones from the platform, claiming they had not violated Twitter policies.

Dorsey refused to take down Alex Jones and his popular Infowars account, even as his Silicon Valley buddies over at Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify were colluding to remove any sign of Jones or Infowars from their platforms…

“We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” Dorsey said in a tweet last week. He later added that it was critical that journalists “document, validate and refute” accounts like those of Mr. Jones, which “can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors.”

According to Zerohedge, still after a CNN report identifying numerous past tweets from Infowars and Jones that did violate Twitter’s rules, those posts were deleted. Tweets by Infowars and Jones deleted last week included posts attacking transgender and Muslim people; a claim that the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated by “crisis actors”; and a video calling David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., high-school shooting, a Nazi.

Dorsey finally caved overnight, with a “temporary suspension”, which will likely become permanent upon Jones’ next violation.

Twitter’s crackdown came more than a week after technology companies, including Apple, YouTube and Facebook removed content from Jones and his site, Infowars. As the WSJ notes, the actions against Infowars intensified a growing debate over what role tech companies play in policing controversial content on their platforms while they simultaneously support the principle of free speech.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou examine the aggressive purge of conservative right, libertarian, and progressive accounts from Silicon Valley social media platforms, and how Alex Jones’ was the first step towards driving so much fear into the population, that self censorship takes over and authoritarian rule over the Internet takes hold.

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

Via Zerohedge

In the latest media pit stop, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sat down with NBC News Lester Holt, where he defended the company’s decision to put Infowars’ Alex Jones under a seven-day timeout over an offensive tweet linking to a video in which Jones encourages his audience to “act on the enemy before they do a false flag,” and to get “battle rifles” ready.

Dorsey said that despite calls to ban Jones last week amid a seemingly coordinated multi-platform blacklisting, he resisted until now.

“We can’t build a service that is subjective just to the whims of what we personally believe,” Dorsey told Holt, while saying he believes a suspension can be an effect deterrent which can change user behaviors.

“I feel any suspension, whether it be a permanent or a temporary one, makes someone think about their actions and their behaviors,” Dorsey added – though he admitted he has no idea if Jones’ timeout will result in any changes in behavior.

Dorsey stated: “Whether it works within this case to change some of those behaviors and change some of those actions, I don’t know. But this is consistent with how we enforce.”

Jones was banned or restricted from using the services of at least 10 tech companies this month, including Facebook and YouTube. Twitter had been the most high-profile holdout, until it announced on Tuesday that Jones was suspended from posting for seven days.

Dorsey later clarified on Twitter that he was “speaking broadly about our range of enforcement actions” with regards to the company’s use of timeouts.

in a follow-up question on weighing the importance of Twitter’s rules versus its moral obligation, Dorsey said the company has “to put the safety of individuals first in every single thing that we do, and we need to enforce our rules and also evolve our rules around that.” –NBC News

Jack Dorsey said on Twitter.

“I don’t assume everyone will change their actions. Enforcement gets tougher with further reported violations.”

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The Discarded Wisdom of America’s Founders

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

Eric Zuesse

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A good example of the discarded wisdom of America’s Founders is George Washington’s Farewell Address to the nation, delivered by him not orally but instead solely in printed form, published in Philadelphia by David C. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, on 19 September 1796, and distributed to the nation. The following extended excerpt from it is the most famous part of it, and is being blatantly raped by today’s U.S. Government, and therefore it might indicate the necessity for a second American Revolution, this one to disown and throw out not Britain’s Aristocracy, but America’s aristocracy. America’s Founders had done all they knew how to do to conquer Britain’s aristocracy, and they embodied in our Constitution all that they knew in order to prevent any aristocracy ever from arising in this nation; but the Founders clearly had failed in this their dearest hope, because a domestic U.S. aristocracy has arisen here and destroyed American democracy, as this nation’s Founders had feared, and as Washington in this document effectively affirms — and, by these words, proves — to have happened (they’ve taken over this country, in and by both of its Parties, and so we have here a profound and scathing, blistering, criticism of today’s American Government):

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Bruce Ohr Texts, Emails Reveal Steele’s Deep Ties to Obama DOJ, FBI

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application.

The Duran

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Authored by Sara Carter via SaraCarter.com:


A trove of emails and handwritten notes from Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr exposes the continuous contact and communication between the DOJ attorney and anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, according to notes and documents obtained by SaraACarter.com. The emails and notes were written between 2016 and 2017.

The notes and emails also reveal that Ohr was in communication with Glenn Simpson, the founder of the embattled research firm Fusion GPS, which was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC to hire Steele.

In one of Ohr’s handwritten notes listed as “Law enforcement Sensitive” from May 10, 2017, he writes “Call with Chris,” referencing Steele. He notes that Steele is “very concerned about Comey’s firing, afraid they will be exposed.” This call occurred months after FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee and revealed for the first time that the FBI had an open counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and alleged collusion with Russia.

Steele is also extremely concerned about a letter sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Comey for information on his involvement with Steele. Grassley sent 12 questions to Comey regarding the bureau and Steele’s relationship and wanted all information on any agreements they had during the investigation into alleged Russia-Trump collusion. Grassley also wanted to know if the FBI ever verified any of the information in Steele’s reports.

In Ohr’s notes from May 10, 2017, he goes onto write that Steele is concerned about a letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee, writing:

“Asked them 3 questions:

  1. What info (information) did you give to the U.S. govt (government)?
  2. What was the scope of yr (your) investigation?
  3. Do you have any other info that would assist in our question?”

SaraACarter.com first reported this week text messages between Steele and Ohr, revealing that Steele was anxious about Comey’s testimony and was hoping that “important firewalls will hold” when Comey testified.

Those text messages in March 2017 were shared only two days before Comey testified to lawmakers.

The House Intelligence Committee revealed in their Russia report earlier this year that Steele–who was working for the FBI as a Confidential Human Source (CHS)–had shopped his dossier to numerous news outlets in the summer of 2016.  According to the report, the FBI terminated Steele after discovering that he was leaking to news outlets, breaking a cardinal rule by the bureau to not reveal ongoing investigations and information to the media.

However, there is growing concern that the FBI was well aware that Steele was in contact with media outlets about his dossier before the FBI applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for its first warrant in the fall of 2016 to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign volunteer advisor, Carter Page.

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application…

“There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application and that question needs to be resolved,” said a congressional official with knowledge of the investigation.

The documents from March 2017, reveal how concerned Steele is with Grassley’s committee and the letter from the senator’s office seeking answers from Steele on the dossier.

In June 2017, Steele tells Ohr,  “We are frustrated with how long this reengagement with the Bureau and Mueller is taking.  Anything you can do to accelerate the process would be much appreciated.  There are some new, perishable, operational opportunities which we do not want to miss out on.”

In October 2017, Steele notes that he is concerned about the stories in the media about the bureau delivering information to Congress “about my work and relationship with them.  Very concerned about this.  People’s lives may be endangered.”

And in November 2017, Steele, who is trying to engage with Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel, writes to Ohr saying, “we were wondering if there was any response to the questions I raised last week.”

Ohr responds by saying, “I have passed on the questions (apparently to the special counsel) but haven’t gotten an answer yet.”

Steele then says,  “I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your SC (special counsel) colleagues on the issues you kindly put to them from me.  We have heard nothing from them either.  To say this is disappointing would be an understatement!  Certain people have been willing to risk everything to engage with them in an effort to help them reach the truth.  Also, we remain in the dark as to what work has been briefed to Congress about us, our assets and previous work.”

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