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Here’s why the US failed to save the Jihadis in East Ghouta

The US military is not prepared to take on Russia’s military in Syria

Alexander Mercouris

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As the fighting in East Ghouta in Syria began to get underway in earnest last month, talk inevitably increased about a possible US military strike against the Syrian military in order to save the Jihadis under siege in East Ghouta.

Demands – or what amounted to demands – for military action to break the siege of East Ghouta began to appear in the Western media, of which this article in The Guardian is a good example.  Here is some of the things it said

……in the light of two significant military developments in recent weeks, western leaders should reconsider their reluctance to strike the forces responsible for so many atrocities. First, on 7 February, Russian private military contractors attacked a base in eastern Syria where US troops were based. The US forces appear to have killed a large number of attackers. The Russians were undoubtedly fighting in Syria with Kremlin approval, as a way of maintaining the fiction that Russia has no ground forces in Syria. Even so, Russia chose to cover up its casualties, rather than fight back.

Second, after Syrian air defences shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter on 10 February, Israel claimed to have destroyed almost half of Syria’s air defence system in retaliatory strikes. The Russians did nothing to prevent the Israeli attack. Israel’s success suggests that western military leaders were exaggerating the strength of Syria’s air defences to justify not striking regime targets earlier.

Taken together, these two defeats for the Syrian regime and the Russians suggest that a well-planned campaign (not the kind of one-off missile strike that Donald Trump launched in April 2017) could degrade Assad’s military capabilities, providing an incentive for him to look for a peaceful way out. A similar strategy, involving Nato strikes on Serbian forces, helped to bring Slobodan Milošević to the negotiating table and end the Bosnian conflict in 1995. A military campaign would need to be coupled with a strong message to Russia to stay out of the way and a plan for moving towards peace.

Or take this article in The Atlantic, which said amongst other things the following

As the slaughter continues in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta—a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus that is home to some 400,000 people—the obvious question becomes even more urgent: How can this abomination be stopped? There are no risk-free silver bullets or magic potions. There is no diplomatic fairy dust or holy water. But one thing is inescapable: Unless the United States is seriously considering military strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime—a regime up to its eyes in war crimes and crimes against humanity—any discussion of “what to do” is empty

Reports duly appeared of US destroyers armed with cruise missiles approaching the Syrian coast, leading to warnings from the Russian military against US military action in East Ghouta.

This is from a Newsweek article dated 13th March 2018

Top Russian officials have threatened to retaliate with force if President Donald Trump orders an attack that could endanger the lives of its soldiers stationed there in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s campaign against rebels and jihadis near Damascus.

Army General Valery Gerasimov warned on Tuesday that the U.S. was preparing to launch raids against Moscow’s ally, the Syrian government, as it attempted to clear the pockets of insurgents—some of which were once backed by the West—in the suburbs of the capital city of Damascus. Gerasimov, who acted as chief of Russia’s general staff and deputy defense minister, claimed that the U.S. would strike under the false pretense of a chemical weapon attack—a tactic that Russia has denied the Syrian military utilizes—and vowed to fight back.

“In the event of a threat to our military servicemen’s lives, Russia’s armed forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles,” Gerasimov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency…….

…….the Russian Foreign Ministry also pledged a forceful response to any U.S. attack that threatened Russian troops who were stationed throughout Syrian military front lines near Damascus. Accusing a “belligerent” Haley of promoting “criminal actions” in Syria, the ministry said, “In this case, required retaliatory measures will be taken,” Tass reported.

“If a new strike of this kind takes place, the consequences will be very serious,” Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a separate statement also carried by Tass.

“Mrs. Haley should understand that it is one thing to irresponsibly exploit the microphone in the U.N. Security Council and it is another thing when both the Russian and American militaries have communication channels and it is clearly

As it happens, on 5th March 2018 an article appeared in the Washington Post reporting a discussion which supposedly took place in the White House in which a possible attack on the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta was supposedly discussed.

According to this article US President Donald Trump’s then National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, was in favour of an attack, but US Defense Secretary General James Mattis was adamantly opposed and US President Trump in the end decided against it

The Trump administration has considered new military action against the Syrian government in response to reports of ongoing chemical weapons use, officials said, raising the prospect of a second U.S. strike on President Bashar al-Assad in less than a year.

President Trump requested options for punishing the Assad government after reported chlorine gas attacks — at least seven this year — and possibly other chemicals affecting civilians in opposition-controlled areas.

In a Feb. 25 incident, residents and medical staffers in a rebel-held Damascus suburb, Eastern Ghouta, described symptoms associated with chlorine exposure. One child died, medical staffers reported.

The president discussed potential actions early last week at a White House meeting that included Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, officials said.

One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to address internal deliberations, said that the president did not endorse any military action and that officials decided to continue monitoring the situation….

One senior administration official said that Mattis was “adamantly” against acting militarily in response to the recent chlorine attacks and that McMaster “was for it.”

However this same Washington Post article casts doubt on whether this discussion ever actually took place

Dana White, chief Pentagon spokeswoman, denied that Mattis took part in discussions about military action in Syria and said the “conversation did not happen.”

With the fighting in East Ghouta almost to an end it is now clear that a US military strike against the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta will not happen.

Given that this is so, it is worth asking why?  The answer to that is provided by what has happened previously since Russia first intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015.

Back in October 2016, at the height of the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’, a serious discussion did take place within the US National Security Council debating whether or not the US should intervene militarily to break the Syrian army’s siege of the Jihadi controlled enclave of eastern Aleppo, and reviewing the military options for intervention which were then available to the US.

News of this discussion provoked a stern warning from the Russian military that any such intervention by the US military in the fighting in Aleppo would provoke a strong Russian response, with the Russians warning that their very capable air defence system in Syria was fully prepared to shoot down US aircraft if called on to do so.

Two days later the US backed down, publicly confirming that no US military action against the Syrian military was being planned or would take place.

Subsequently in April 2017, after the US cruise missile strike on Syria’s Al-Sharyat air base following the alleged chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun, the Russians retaliated by switching off the deconfliction hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, which the two militaries use in order to inform each other of their respective activities.

As an article in The New York Times dated 8th April 2017 admitted, the result was an immediate drastic reduction in US air operations in Syria, with the US air force unwilling to risk confrontation with the powerful Russian air defence system there

The American-led task force that is battling the Islamic State has sharply reduced airstrikes against the militants in Syria as commanders assess whether Syrian government forces or their Russian allies plan to respond to the United States’ cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield this past week, American officials said.

The precautionary move, revealed in statistics made public by the command on Saturday, was taken as Russian officials have threatened to suspend the communication line the American and Russian militaries use to notify each other about air operations in Syria.

After protracted negotiations the US was able to persuade the Russians to switch the deconfliction hotline back on.

However, shortly after in June 2017 the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 in eastern Syria, causing the Russians not only to switch the deconfliction hotline off again, but to warn the US that US aircraft flying over Syria west of the Euphrates would be tracked and ‘painted’ by Russian air defence radars

Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets.

The US response – under the cover of bluster about the US being prepared to defend itself – was to halt US air operations west of the Euphrates

As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrews given known threats in the battle space.

It is this game of cat-and-mouse which the Russians regularly play with the US military in Syria which accounts for the US failure to intervene in the fighting in East Ghouta.

Quite simply, as the events of October 2016, April 2017 and June 2017 show, the US military is not prepared to take on the Russian military in Syria and risk a full scale armed confrontation with Russia there.

I discussed all this in my article in which I discussed the Russian response to the US’s shooting down in June 2017 of the SU-22 fighter bomber in eastern Syria

The fact that the Russians have installed a powerful air defence system in Syria incorporating advanced S-400 and S-300VM Antey 2500 missiles means that the US is unable to confront the Russians directly unless it is prepared to risk possibly very serious casualties.

That is an option neither the US military nor the civilian officials of the Obama and Trump administrations are prepared to face.  This is because they know the extraordinary dangers such a clash with the armed forces of a nuclear superpower would risk.  They also know US public opinion is strongly opposed to the US becoming drawn into such a clash.

This is what explains the US’s failure to intervene in the fighting in East Ghouta.

On three prior occasions – in October 2016, in April 2017 and in June 2017 – the US has appeared to come close to an armed clash with the Russian military in Syria.

Following Russian warnings and counter-moves it has on each occasion backed off.

The same thing has now happened in relation to the fighting in East Ghouta.

Talk of US intervention has again resulted in Russian warnings, which have again caused the US to back off.

I say this though I am actually deeply skeptical that a US attack on the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta was ever seriously considered.

General H.R. McMaster – President Trump’s eternally belligerent former National Security Adviser – may have called for it, just as he has called for attacks on North Korea and Iran.

However at this very late stage in the Syrian war, with the Jihadis routed everywhere in Syria and in headlong retreat, a US attack to break the siege of East Ghouta would not only have been supremely risky; it would make no possible sense.

Realistically, what did not happen in October 2016 during the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’ – when the future of Syria was still in play – was not going to happen in March 2018 in East Ghouta when the struggle for Syria had already been decided.

That is why I never took the possibility of US military action in East Ghouta seriously, as I all but said in my article discussing the Battle of East dated 26th February 2018

…….if there are striking similarities between the uproar over the fighting in Aleppo in 2016 and the fighting in east Ghouta today, there is also one very important difference.

This is that this time the uproar lacks conviction.

Following the Syrian army’s victory in Aleppo in 2016, and following the establishment of permanent Russian bases in Syria, there is now no longer any possibility of President Assad being ousted by force.

That means that regime change in Syria is no longer practicable, which begs the question of why the war is being continued at all.

Putting that aside, since the US and the rest of the regime change coalition know that a “rebel” ‘victory’ in Syria is no longer possible, their protests against the Syrian army’s ongoing offensive against the Jihadis in east Ghouta inevitably lack conviction and have none of the force that they did in 2016.

I would add that for all of the above reasons I personally doubt that the meeting in the White House reported by the Washington Post during which an attack on the Syrian military besieging East Ghouta was supposedly discussed ever took place.  As the Washington Post reports (see above) Pentagon spokesman Dana White denies that it happened.

What is the source of much confusion is the persistent claim – made for example in the article in Guardian which I quoted above – that the Russian warnings against US military action are no more than bluff.

Those who make this claim have lately taken to citing the supposed Russian failure to respond to the following incidents

(1) the cruise missile strike on Al-Sharyat air base in April 2017;

(2) the Israeli attack on the Syrian air defence system in February 2018 following the shooting down By Syria of an Israeli F-16 fighter; and

(3) the US air strike in eastern Syria in February 2018 in which a number of Russian mercenaries were killed.

The first of these alleged examples of Russian inaction in response to attacks on Syria is in fact obviously wrong.  The Russians did respond strongly to the US cruise missile strike on Al-Sharyat air base.  They switched off the deconfliction hotline, causing a drastic cut in US air operations over Syria (see above).

As to the other two examples, they are based on the fallacy that the Russians have committed themselves to responding to every attack on the Syrian military by the US and its allies however minor such an attack might be, and that their failure to defend Syria from every such attack is therefore in some way ‘proof’ of their inability or of unwillingness to defend Syria when it is attacked.

For a classic statement of this view see these comments in the article in the Guardian article which I have cited

First, on 7 February, Russian private military contractors attacked a base in eastern Syria where US troops were based. The US forces appear to have killed a large number of attackers. The Russians were undoubtedly fighting in Syria with Kremlin approval, as a way of maintaining the fiction that Russia has no ground forces in Syria. Even so, Russia chose to cover up its casualties, rather than fight back.

Second, after Syrian air defences shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter on 10 February, Israel claimed to have destroyed almost half of Syria’s air defence system in retaliatory strikes. The Russians did nothing to prevent the Israeli attack……

Taken together, these two defeats for the Syrian regime and the Russians suggest that a well-planned campaign (not the kind of one-off missile strike that Donald Trump launched in April 2017) could degrade Assad’s military capabilities, providing an incentive for him to look for a peaceful way out. A similar strategy, involving Nato strikes on Serbian forces, helped to bring Slobodan Milošević to the negotiating table and end the Bosnian conflict in 1995. A military campaign would need to be coupled with a strong message to Russia to stay out of the way and a plan for moving towards peace.

This view is based on a completely false reading of the two incidents it describes (incidents (2) and (3) listed by me above).

Turning first to the US air strike which killed the Russian mercenaries, a detailed investigation by the German magazine Der Spiegel of this incident has established that the ‘scores’ or ‘hundreds’ of Russian mercenaries who were supposedly killed by this US air strike are  just as we reported previously – a figment of the imagination.

A team of DER SPIEGEL journalists spent two weeks interviewing both witnesses to, and participants in, the battle. The team also spoke to a staff member at the only hospital in Deir ez-Zor as well as an employee of the local military airport in an attempt to get a clear picture of exactly what took place during the three-day battle.

The accounts largely corroborate each other and the image of events that emerges is one that contradicts what has been reported in the Russian and international media.

At 5 a.m. on Feb. 7, around 250 fighters south of Deir ez-Zor attempted to cross from the west bank of the Euphrates to the east using a military pontoon bridge…..Witnesses say that no Russian mercenaries took part in the attempted crossing…….

……..right around the same time late that night, another group of Syrian tribal militia members and Shiite fighters came from the village of Tabiya to the south and also attacked the SDF base. And the Americans struck back with their entire destructive arsenal. They deployed rocket-equipped drones, combat helicopters, heavy AC 130 aircraft, nicknamed “gun boats,” to fire on targets on the ground, rockets and ground artillery.

They struck in the night, followed by an attack the next morning on a group with a tribal militia in Tabiya that had only come to retrieve the bodies. And on Feb. 9, they once again attacked a unit of the same fighters who had popped up on the eastern side of the river…….

Among those stationed in Tabiya was a small contingent of Russian mercenaries. But the two militia sources said they did not participate in the fighting. Still, they said, 10 to 20 of them did in fact lose their lives. They said a total of more than 200 of the attackers died, including around 80 Syrian soldiers with the 4th Division, around 100 Iraqis and Afghans and around 70 tribal fighters, mostly with the al-Baqir militia.

It all happened at night, and the situation became extremely complicated when the fighters from Tabiya entered the fray. A staffer at the only major hospital in Deir ez-Zor would later say that around a dozen Russian bodies were delivered. An employee at the airport, meanwhile, later witnessed the delivery of the bodies in two Toyota pickup trucks to a waiting Russian transport aircraft that then flew to Qamishli, an airport near the Syrian border in the north.

In the days that followed, the identities of the Russians killed would be revealed — first of six and ultimately nine. Eight had been verified by the Conflict Intelligence Team, a Russian investigative platform, and another was released by the radio station Echo Moscow. All were employees of the private mercenary company Evro Polis, which is often referred to by the nom du guerre of its head: “Wagner.”

(bold italics added)

In other words, far from ‘scores’ or ‘hundreds’ of Russian mercenaries participating in an attack by Syrian tribal fighters on a US position east of Euphrates and being killed by a US air strike,  the Russian mercenaries got caught up in a US retaliatory strike after Syrian tribal fighters on their own initiative advanced on a base held by Syrian militia allied to the US.

Far from ‘scores’ or ‘hundreds’ of Russian mercenaries being killed in the US retaliatory strike, the total number of Russian mercenaries who were killed was nine.

The incident does however seem to have provoked the Russians into complaining about what happened to the US, leading to steps being taken by the US and Russian militaries to ensure that nothing like that would ever happen again.

That no doubt explains why – as was recently confirmed by US Defense Secretary Mattis speaking on 27th March 2018 – the US recently acted to head off a possible further clash between the US military and Syrian tribal and Russian mercenary forces in the same area in eastern Syria

US forces in Syria narrowly averted another clash with Russian mercenaries like one last month that left more than 100 opposing fighters dead, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday.

Mattis told reporters that “Russian elements” moved across a deconfliction line into an area on the eastern side of the Euphrates river where the sides had previously agreed they could operate, he said.

But he said they came “too close” to positions of US soldiers in the area.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, contacted his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, about the incursion.

“And those elements fell back so we have also drawn off slightly to maintain the deconfliction between the elements there,” he said.

“So it seems that this time, it was resolved through the deconfliction communication line,” he added.

Mattis did not give a precise date for the incident, but on Thursday [22nd March 2018 – AM] the Pentagon issued a brief statement noting that Dunford and Gerasimov had held talks on Syria and other matters of mutual interest.

As for the Israeli strike in February 2018 – undertaken shortly after Syria’s air defence forces shot down an Israeli F-16 – it is true that in the days after the strike Israel made the usual inflated claims that it had destroyed 50% of Syria’s air defences and 900 Syrian anti aircraft missile launchers.

It says much about the current dismal state of international news reporting that this ridiculous claim has been taken seriously.

It is in fact well known that Middle East states – including of course Israel – routinely exaggerate the casualties they inflict on their opponents in order to make their ‘victories’ appear more impressive than they are.

In this case the true extent of the Israeli strike is actually known because before the propaganda machine got working the Israelis themselves provided what looks to be an accurate report of it

In retaliation for the downed jet, Israeli forces attacked 12 targets in Syria, including three aerial defense batteries and four targets described as Iranian, the IDF said.  An IDF statement described the four Iranian targets as “part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria.”

In typical Middle East fashion an attack on three Syrian anti aircraft missile batteries became inflated into the destruction of 900 Syrian missile launchers (!) and the destruction of 50% of the Syrian air defence system (!!).

It is difficult to know what is more fantastic: the Israeli claims or the fact that so many people chose to believe them and report them as true.

As I have repeatedly pointed out, the Russians will not let themselves get drawn into unnecessary confrontations with the Western powers over minor attacks on Syrian military units which have no bearing on the course of the war.  The Israeli strike in February 2018 in retaliation for the Syrian shooting down of an Israeli F-16 fighter was exactly such a minor attack.

To be clear, the Israeli strike – part of a decades long conflict between Israel and Syria in which Russia is not a party – neither interfered with Syrian military operations against the Jihadis nor did it threaten the existence of the Syrian government.  The Russians accordingly were not concerned by it.

By contrast the Russians most certainly are concerned about the fighting in East Ghouta.

Not only is the Battle of East Ghouta a key battle which the Syrian military must win if the Jihadi threat to Syria is to be eliminated, but the Russian military is itself heavily involved in the battle, with the Russian Aerospace Forces actively involved in the fighting, and the Russian military brokering withdrawal agreements with the Jihadis which are paving the way for the Syrian army’s eventual victory in the battle.

Given that this is so, the US and its allies can be under no illusions that a US military intervention in the fighting in East Ghouta will be anything other than fiercely resisted by the Russians.

That guarantees that no such intervention will take place, which is why of course it has not happened.

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

RT

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Via RT…


Forces are aligning against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, lead by elements within the CIA and strong players in the mainstream media. But what is really behind this deterioration in relationship, and what are its implications?

Following the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, western media and various entities, including the CIA, appear to have turned their back on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). In response to the scandal, the Guardian released a video which its celebutante, Owen Jones, captioned“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest threats on Earth. Time to stop propping up its repulsive regime.”

The Guardian was not alone in its condemnation. “It’s high time to end Saudi impunity,” wrote Hana Al-Khamri in Al-Jazeera. “It’s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi,” the Washington Post’s Editorial Board argued. Politico called it “the tragedy of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Even shadowy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Atlantic Council released articles criticising Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.

A number of companies began backing away from Saudi money after the journalist’s death, including the world’s largest media companies such as the New York Times, the Economist’s editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, Arianna Huffington, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Google Cloud CEO, just to name a few.

The CIA concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, and was reportedly quite open in its provision of this assessment. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, also took time out of his schedule to express concern over Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of the killing.

At the time of the scandal, former CIA director John Brennan went on MSNBC to state that the Khashoggi’s death would be the downfall of MBS. Furthermore, the US Senate just voted in favour of ending American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen (a somewhat symbolic victory, though this is a topic for another article), but nonetheless was a clear stab at MBS personally.

The only person who appeared to continue to uphold America’s unfaltering support for MBS, even after all the publicly made evidence against MBS, was the US president himself. So after years of bombarding Yemen, sponsoring terror groups across the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and beyond, why is it only now that there has been mounting opposition to Saudi Arabia’s leadership? Let’s just bear in mind that western media had spent years investing in a heavy PR campaign to paint MBS as a “reformer.”

Former national security adviser under Barack Obama’s second term, Susan Rice, wrote an article in the New York Times, in which she called MBS a “partner we can’t depend on.” Rice concludes that MBS is “not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable partner of the United States and our allies.” But why is this? Is it because MBS is responsible for some of the most egregious human rights abuses inside his own kingdom as well as in Yemen? Is it because of MBS’ support for groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda? No, according to Rice, we “should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make it clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammad continues to wield unlimited power.”

One will observe that the latter segment of Rice’s article almost mirrors former CIA director Brennan’s word on MSNBC word for word who stated that:

“I think ultimately this is going to come out. And it’s very important for us to maintain the relations with Saudi Arabia. And if it’s Mohammed bin Salman who’s the cancer here, well, we need to be able to find ways to eliminate the cancer and to move forward with this relationship that is critical to regional stability and our national interests.”

In reality, this is probably the issue that western media and government advisors have taken up with MBS. Aside from the fact he allegedly held a huge hand in the brutal murder of one of their own establishment journalists (Saudi Arabia reportedly tortured and killed another journalist not long after Khashoggi, but western media was eerily silent on this incident) MBS is not opposed for his reckless disregard for human rights. With insight into Rice’s mindset, we actually learn that if the US were to punish MBS, he would be likely to “behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners.”

You see, the problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and the other major oil producers met in Vienna at the year’s final big OPEC meeting of the year. As Foreign Policy notes, Saudi Arabia remains the largest oil producer inside OPEC but has to contend with the US and Russia who are “pumping oil at record levels.” Together, the three countries are the world’s biggest oil producers, meaning any coordinated decision made between these three nations can be somewhat monumental.

However, it appears that one of these three nations will end up drawing the short end of the stick as the other two begin forming a closer alliance. As Foreign Policy explains:

“But Saudi Arabia has bigger game in mind at Vienna than just stabilizing oil prices. Recognizing that it can’t shape the global oil market by itself anymore but rather needs the cooperation of Russia, Saudi Arabia is hoping to formalize an ad hoc agreement between OPEC and Moscow that began in 2016, a time when dirt-cheap oil also posed a threat to oil-dependent regimes. That informal agreement expires at the end of the year, but the Saudis would like to make Russia’s participation with the cartel more permanent.”

Russian officials have been signalling their intention to formalise this agreement for quite some time now. Given the hysteria in western media about any and all things Russian, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is the kind of news that is not sitting too well with the powers-that-be.

Earlier this year, Russia and Saudi Arabia announced that it would “institutionalize” the two-year-old bilateral agreement to coordinate oil production targets in order to maintain an edge on the global market.

While US president Trump has been supportive and incredibly defensive of MBS during this “crisis”, the truth is that the US only has itself to blame. It was not all too long ago that Trump announced that he had told Saudi King Salman that his kingdom would not last two weeks without US support.

Saudi Arabia is learning for themselves quite quickly that, ultimately, it may pay not to have all its eggs in one geopolitical superpower basket.

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly interested in Moscow since King Salman made a historic visit to Moscow in October 2017. While Trump has openly bragged about his record-breaking arms deals with the Saudis, the blunt truth is that the $110 billion arms agreements were reportedly only ever letters of interest or intent, but not actual contracts. As such, the US-Saudi arms deal is still yet to be locked in, all the while Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia for its S-400 air defence system. This is, as the Washington Post notes, despite repeated US requests to Saudi Arabia for it disavow its interest in Russia’s arms.

The economic threat that an “independent” Saudi Arabia under MBS’ leadership poses to Washington runs deeper than meets the eye and may indeed have a domino effect. According to CNN, Russia and Saudi Arabia “are engaged in an intense battle over who will be the top supplier to China, a major energy importer with an insatiable appetite for crude.”

The unveiling of China’s petro-yuan poses a major headache for Washington and its control over Saudi Arabia as well.According to Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High-Frequency Economics, China will “compel”Saudi Arabia to trade oil in Chinese yuan instead of US dollars. One must bear in mind that China has now surpassed the US as the “biggest oil importer on the planet,” these direct attacks on the US dollar will have huge implications for its current world reserve status.

If Saudi Arabia jumps on board China’s petro-yuan, the rest of OPEC will eventually follow, and the US might be left with no choice but to declare all of these countries in need of some vital freedom and democracy.

Therefore, ousting MBS and replacing him with a Crown Prince who doesn’t stray too far from the tree that is US imperialism may put a dent in pending relationships with Saudi Arabia and Washington’s adversaries, Russia and China.

Once we get over the certainty that the US media and the CIA are not against MBS for his long-list of human rights abuses, the question then becomes: why – why now, and in this manner, have they decided to put the spotlight on MBS and expose him exactly for what he is.

Clearly, the driving force behind this media outrage is a bit more complex than first meets the eye.

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