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How bad is John Bolton? If he worked for Iran, the US would label him a fundamentalist extremist

The situation is starting to resemble a Hollywood-style, Wag-the-Dog, drum-up-a-war-to-distract-the-populace scenario.

Alex Christoforou

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The Dolls of Militarism: From War Hawks to Chickenhawks,” by Danny Sjursen.

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast Fortress on a Hill, co-hosted with fellow vet Chris ‘Henri’ Henriksen.

Sometimes I get sick of saying it, but just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

Donald Trump’s continual cabinet reshuffling — otherwise the stuff of reality-TV drama — has become genuinely frightening. Like so many Russian matryoshki or nesting dolls, the president has been removing one war hawk after another, only to reveal yet more extreme versions of the same creature. And rumor has it that such personnel moves have yet to reach their end point.

In just the last few weeks, President Trump has fired his secretary of state and national security adviser, while nominating two fanatical replacements: CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. The “old” team, Rex Tillerson and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, were flawed choices from the start, but Pompeo and Bolton seem like an instant formula for a war — or two or three of them. (And keep in mind that we’re already actively fighting at least seven wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa.)

Tillerson gutted the State Department and, had he stuck around, might have gone down as one of the worst secretaries of state ever to walk the halls of Foggy Bottom. Still, the former ExxonMobil CEO does seem to have tried to restrain Trump’s more extreme positions on the Paris climate accords and the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal. In addition, as his infamous “moron” comment suggests, he evidently wasn’t cowed by our bully-in-chief.

Lieutenant General McMaster was no prince either. He helped craft a National Defense Strategy that all but declared a new Cold War on Russia and China. He was also to the right of reasonable on Iran and North Korea. Nevertheless, he is an intelligent man with genuine academic bona fides. I’ve met the guy and, even though we disagree on almost everything, he’s certainly preferable to a zealot like Bolton. McMaster thinks critically and wasn’t always reflexively pro-war. However, Trump, a man who likes his information in tiny doses (and preferably on Fox News), reportedly found H.R.’s detailed briefings insufferable. And McMaster’s recent suggestion that Russia played an “incontrovertible” role in the 2016 U.S. election evidently didn’t help him one bit either.

Think about it for a second. An embattled, scandal-ridden administration suddenly fires two hawkish, though tenuously mainstream, foreign policy advisers and replaces them with off-the-grid warmongers. Connect those dots and it gets scary, fast. In fact, the situation is starting to resemble a Hollywood-style, Wag-the-Dog, drum-up-a-war-to-distract-the-populace scenario.

With whom? Given the proclivities of Pompeo and Bolton, the obvious candidate is Iran. After all, as their records suggest, both the incoming secretary of state and the national security adviser suffer from acute cases of Iran hysteria and have been beating the Islamic Republic war drum for years now. So look for Trump and his two new subordinates to strike a less than substantial deal with nuclear North Korea (to show their cuddly diplomatic side) and then pivot toward tearing up the Iran nuclear deal in May and heading for military action against non-nuclear — and so more vulnerable — nuclear-pact-adhering Iran.

Count on this, at least: it’s going to be one hell of a ride for America’s already overstretched military men and women — and one hell of a cash bonanza for an already flush military-industrial complex.

The Bolton Problem

No question about it: John Bolton is a nightmare. If he worked for Iran or any other Muslim state, we’d label him a fundamentalist extremist. But he’s ours and his religion of choice has long been chauvinist interventionism, so instead he tends to get the lifeless (and perhaps not even accurate) label “neoconservative.”

How bad is he? Well, we’d all undoubtedly be far better served if Michael Bolton were national security adviser and just sang “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” throughout his term in office.

The national security adviser holds an incredibly influential position and doesn’t even require Senate confirmation hearings. Need proof? The establishment’s favorite statesman-cum-war criminal Henry Kissinger started out in that position for President Richard Nixon. The thought of Bolton’s voice being the final one Trump hears (and he’s well-known to be prone to whatever last catches his attention) before making decisions about war and peace should chill us all.

How dangerous is Bolton, who came to Trump, like so many others, via his position as a commentator at Fox News? Back in 2005, he couldn’t even pass muster among Republicans in Senate confirmation hearings to become President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations. Dubya had to slip him in with a recess appointment (a decision even he came to regret). But give Bolton credit, at least, for consistency. He’s been wrong about every significant foreign policy move since 9/11. Of course, he was hardly alone in that in Washington politics, but he does stand out for his unapologetic regime-change enthusiasm. He’s repeatedly called for preventive war with North Korea. He’s long called for regime change in Iran by force of arms and, back in distant 2017, even placed a time stamp on that event (the end of 2018)!

He still insists that the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which shattered that country and the entire region, was justified, a fact that ought in itself to have disqualified him in the eyes of a president who, on the campaign trail, repeatedly called that war “dumb.”

A man who hasn’t learned from or even accepted the failure of regime change in Iraq is now to take the helm coordinating U.S. military policy for the future. If Iraq didn’t constitute a mistake, then what would? It’s hard to imagine. If preventive war — not exactly street legal in international law — is A-okay, why not, say, regime change in Syria (another country the president recently claimed he wanted to get out of) and risk war with Turkey, Iran, and Russia as well? Or how about directly taking on Iran, an event that could make the invasion of Iraq look like the “cakewalk” it was billed as back in early 2003? There are plenty of nasty regimes out there and you can bet on one thing: Bolton will advise the president to use his $716 billion military for more than just parades.

The Pompeo Problem

In 1986, Mike Pompeo was the class valedictorian at West Point and he then spent some time in the pre-9/11 Army. You might think that, all these years later, he would have at least a hint or two about the real-life costs of unwinnable, unnecessary wars in the Greater Middle East. Still, he’s clearly on the war-with-Iran crazy train. He’s even bragged that it would only take 2,000 air sorties to wipe out Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The million-dollar question that should follow evidently doesn’t even occur to him: What then? A ground invasion? An indefinite blockade and/or no fly zone? How would Israel respond? What about Russia? Would Shia militias turn on American troops elsewhere in the region?

If James Mattis keeps his job (an open question these days for the man who has confided to ever-ready-to-leak colleagues that he doubts he can even work with John Bolton), Pompeo could become the nation’s first top diplomat in memory to be more hawkish than the secretary of defense, himself a former four-star general. Foggy Bottom could then be renamed War Department 2.0.

Pompeo is a staunch Islamophobe and has even received an award from the extremist anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America. The presumptive secretary of state possesses the anti-Islamic, Christian zealotry of Vice President Mike Pence combined with the bombast of Trump and the (dangerous) intellect of the purported “adults” in (or now leaving) the “room,” Mattis and McMaster.

No less unsettling: Pompeo’s actions at his last job as CIA director. While there, for example, he fought to release documents that were designed to intimate alleged collusion between Iran and al-Qaeda. Forget all you know about the Middle East in these last years; forget that Osama bin Laden and Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei were on opposite sides of an ongoing, regional sectarian war; forget that Iran is actively fighting al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Pay attention to Pompeo, a man ready to insist that Iran equals al-Qaeda and so is, in fact, the sort of 9/11-associated culprit to which Congress meant to apply its 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

In other words, while at the CIA, Pompeo continued to peddle an updated version of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld playbook that sold their invasion of choice — in that case, falsely linking Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda — to an uninformed citizenry. Or to put it another way, Pompeo and Bolton are on the same page, both ready to replay an old script one more time.

If John Bolton is still a true believer when it comes to the doctrine of crusading regime change, then Mike Pompeo is exactly the diplomat-in-chief to sell it to an intellectually unengaged president, a largely AWOL Congress, and a distracted public. All the pieces will soon be in place for the next disaster.

From Hawkish Generals to Chickenhawks

So what’s really going on here? Two disturbing trends seem to be at work: the move from rule by general to rule by civilian chickenhawk and the end of dissent (or even debate) within Trump’s inner circle.

The president’s initial record of appointing not one but three of “his” generals to run the national security team and the White House was itself a threat to the republic and its time-honored tradition of civilian primacy over the military. Those three flag officers — McMaster, Mattis, and retired general John Kelly — already inhabited their own echo chamber when it came to America’s wars. All of them were still wedded to the myth of the Iraq surge to “victory” of 2007-2008. According to this fable (still widely accepted in military circles), the U.S. military could’ve/would’ve/should’ve won in Iraq after General David Petraeus’s famed “surge” there, if only feckless Barack Obama had left the troops in Iraq just a bit longer (by which they meant, as in South Korea after 1953, for more or less ever).

In addition, appointing highly decorated veterans in an era in which all things military are adulated in this country had its own potential for squelching dissent. Witness Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders taunting a reporter that it would be “highly inappropriate” to question White House Chief of Staff John Kelly because he had once been a four-star Marine general. Still, Mattis and McMaster are at least intelligent, somewhat principled men who haven’t always toed the Trump line or kissed the proverbial ring. (McMaster had been bucking authority inside the Army for three decades, even writing a book arguing that the joint chiefs should have stood up to President Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam War years.)

The president’s new appointees, civilians though they are, will out-hawk the generals any day of the week. Bolton, in particular, had made a name as a Fox News commentator calling for war with North Korea and Iran in the sort of language one doesn’t — in my experience — even hear in the military ranks. So, big picture, the national security state seems now to be moving from one threat to democracy, a politicized military, to another: the frenzied chickenhawkery of even more extreme civilians.

What President Trump seems to value most is sycophantic loyalty not to the nation but to himself, a quality that’s the most essential aspect of any cult of personality. Which means one thing: outright dissent of any real sort inside the administration is a thing of the past (an autocratic mood that could, sooner or later, spread to the larger society). What did McMaster and Tillerson ultimately have in common? Simply put, both attempted to restrain Trump’s more extreme impulses and neither truly clicked with the president on a personal level. Big mistake. What this president wants above all else isn’t critical thinking or informed debate on crucial issues but total allegiance.

The defining characteristics of this White House are nepotism and sycophancy. John Bolton is never going to temper Trump’s most bellicose instincts and Pompeo is already a Trump sycophant. When defending Pompeo’s appointment, Trump’s two main arguments were that he was a West Point graduate and that they are “always on the same wavelength.” It’s been widely reported that the two men have hit it off on a personal and professional level, as Pompeo personally delivered daily oral CIA intel briefs in the Oval Office (since Trump loathes reading). Pompeo grasped just how to get what he wanted in such a situation: stay in the boss’s good graces. Mind-melding with the president is the path to promotion in this administration.

As America enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to yet more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.

Trump finally has the minions he wants: devoted and fervently militaristic.

And while the public remains focused on the man’s outlandish shenanigans, his team will be cooking up something far worse: a new war to put all the others to shame.

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The mainstream media does not want you to think [Video]

It is difficult to tell if recent reports like this really represent a realization for the media, but this interview rings true nonetheless.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Several recent stories on Fox, Breitbart, and here on The Duran all address the increasingly obvious bias of the mainstream media with regard to news reporting. We discussed on The Duran how Chris Wallace of Fox News refused to hear details from White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller about why the recently declared National Emergency is in fact legitimate.

This piece revealed that the media is very actively trying to control and direct what information they want the public to hear, rather than truly reporting the news, or interviewing people to get their takes on things, and to perhaps fully interview all sides in a controversy and then let the American public decide for themselves what to think.

This used to exist in more gentlemanly debate programs in some fashion, such as with the TV debate program Point Counterpoint, but now, the bias of the reporter or of the network is the primary operator in determining the outcome of the interview, rather than the information that is available about the story.

This has helped create a news and information culture in the United States that is truly insane. As examples, consider these paraphrased headlines, all occurring within the last few years:

All of these are probably familiar to most readers. Many of them are still repeated and acted on as if they were real. But the articles we linked to behind most of these ledes are examples of the disproof, usually 100% disproof, of these. They are hoaxes, or reports built on circumstantial evidence without any proof, or in the worst cases, pure slander and propaganda.

One reporter for CBS news, 60 Minutes anchor Lara Logan, discussed this in an interview with retired Navy SEAL Mike Ritland, for his own podcast program, which was picked up by the MediaIte website. The video of her interview is quite lengthy but starting at about 02:14:00 there is a particular segment that the MediaIte writers called to attention. We include this segment in the video.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: The video is unrestricted in regards to language and there is some profanity. Parents, please listen first before letting your children watch this video.

A major point Mrs Logan makes here is that 85% of the employ of the mainstream media in the USA consist of registered Democrats. She also speaks forcefully against the use of stereotypes, and suggests the best place to start is actual facts. This means that most journalists are coming into this work with a bias, which is not set aside for the sake of the facts of the story.

Probably the most key point comes at 2:18:20 in the video is how Lara Logan is taught the way to discern whether or not someone in journalism is lying to you:

“Someone very smart told me a long time ago, that, ‘how do you know you are being lied to?’, ‘how do you know you are being manipulated?’, ‘how do you know there is something not right with the coverage?’, when they simplify it all, and there is no gray. There is no gray. It’s all one way.

“Well, life isn’t like that. If it doesn’t match real life, it is probably not. Something is wrong.”

Lara Logan then pointed out the comparison of the mainstream media’s constant negative coverage of President Trump against the reality of his work, that, regardless of one’s own personal bias, it does not match that everything the President does is bad. She also highlighted the point that one’s personal views should not come into how to report a news story.

Yet in our days, it not only comes into the story, it drives the narrative for which the story just becomes an example of “proof” that the narrative is “true.” 

Tucker Carlson talked vividly about the same characteristic on his program Monday night on Fox News.

He points out that the 3,000 yearly shooting in Chicago get very little news coverage, but that is because these are not as “useful” as the Jussie Smollett story is.

This is an example of using an event or a person’s actions to satisfy a politically biased propaganda narrative, rather than report the news.

This is not occasional, as the list of news headlines given above show. This is a constant practice across most of the mainstream media. Probably no one who gives interviews on the major networks is exempt, for even Mr. Carlson often resorts to cornering tactics when interviewing liberals in an apparent attempt to make the liberal look ridiculous and the point of view he espouses to look vindicated through that ridiculousness.

While this is emotionally invigorating for the Carlson fan who wants to see him “eviscerate” the liberal, it is very bad journalism. In fact, it is not journalism at all; it is sensationalism in a nasty sense.

It also insults the viewer, perhaps without them knowing it, because such reporting is the same as telling the viewer “WE ARE IN CONTROL!” and that the viewer must simply go along with the narrative given.

It is very bad when what should be information reporting, policy discussion, or debate becomes infected with this. Ideas, the product of (hopefully) rational and discursive reasoning, are pushed aside by pure emotion and mass sensationalism. Put metaphorically, it is the new look of bread and circuses, keeping the masses entertained while anything else might be happening.

Sometimes the motive for this is not so sinister. After all, we have a 24 hour news cycle now. In the 1970’s we didn’t. And in those times, the calibre of news reported was much higher. Reporting was far more careful. The Pulitzer Prize winners  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did their incredible exposé on the doings of President Richard Nixon under the directorship of the Washington Post editor, which demanded triple-checking of everything, making sure that all information was factual, accurate and genuine. While the story was indeed sensational, more importantly, it was true.

Now we have a lot of sensation, but very little to zero truth. As an example, every one of the ledes linked above is not proven to be true, in fact the truth in many of these stories is the opposite of what the headline says.

This would not be much of a problem if the media lies were not absorbed and reacted on by their readers, listeners and viewers. But the fact is that there are a significant number of consumers of mainstream media news that do react to it. The Covington High School incident showed this in perhaps the most frightening way, with open calls for violence against teenagers and high school students, requested by professionals, people that are supposed to be adults, such as Kathy Griffin, Reza Aslan, and GQ writer Nathaniel Friedman, who called for these kids to be “doxxed”, which as we reported, is an action that can be deadly.

We are in the times where the love of many has gone cold, and all is about expediency and selfishness. While there are a few outlets and a few journalists that still retain interest in recording and disseminating the truth, the reality is that most of what is out there is tainted by the drive for attention and sensationalism.

The media that engages in such behavior is actually hurting people, rather than informing and helping them.

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Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Fortunately the world today is very different from that of 2003, Washington’s decrees are less effective in determining the world order. But in spite of this new, more balanced division of power amongst several powers, Washington appears ever more aggressive towards allies and enemies alike, regardless of which US president is in office.

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States. To succeed in this endeavor, they use a hybrid strategy involving diplomacy, military support to allies, and economic guarantees to countries under Washington’s attack.

The United States considers the whole planet its playground. Its military and political doctrine is based on the concept of liberal hegemony, as explained by political scientist John Mearsheimer. This imperialistic attitude has, over time, created a coordinated and semi-official front of countries resisting this liberal hegemony. The recent events in Venezuela indicate why cooperation between these counter-hegemonic countries is essential to accelerating the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar reality, where the damage US imperialism is able to bring about is diminished.

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

Moscow and Beijing, following a complex relationship from the period of the Cold War, have managed to achieve a confluence of interests in their grand objectives over the coming years. The understanding they have come to mainly revolves around stemming the chaos Washington has unleashed on the world.

The guiding principle of the US military-intelligence apparatus is that if a country cannot be controlled (such as Iraq following the 2003 invasion), then it has to be destroyed in order to save it from falling into Sino-Russian camp. This is what the United States has attempted to do with Syria, and what it intends to do with Venezuela.

The Middle East is an area that has drawn global attention for some time, with Washington clearly interested in supporting its Israeli and Saudi allies in the region. Israel pursues a foreign policy aimed at dismantling the Iranian and Syrian states. Saudi Arabia also pursues a similar strategy against Iran and Syria, in addition to fueling a rift within the Arab world stemming from its differences with Qatar.

The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

The US dollar remaining the global reserve currency is essential to Washington being able to maintain her role as superpower and is crucial to her hybrid strategy against her geopolitical rivals. Sanctions are a good example of how Washington uses the global financial and economic system, based on the US dollar, as a weapon against her enemies. In the case of the Middle East, Iran is the main target, with sanctions aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from trading on foreign banking systems. Washington has vetoed Syria’s ability to procure contracts to reconstruct the country, with European companies being threatened that they risk no longer being able to work in the US if they accept to work in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow have a clear diplomatic strategy, jointly rejecting countless motions advanced by the US, the UK and France at the United Nations Security Council condemning Iran and Syria. On the military front, Russia continues her presence in Syria. China’s economic efforts, although not yet fully visible in Syria and Iran, will be the essential part of reviving these countries destroyed by years of war inflicted by Washington and her allies.

China and Russia’s containment strategy in the Middle East aims to defend Syria and Iran diplomatically using international law, something that is continuously ridden roughshod over by the US and her regional allies. Russia’s military action has been crucial to curbing and defeating the inhuman aggression launched against Syria, and has also drawn a red line that Israel cannot cross in its efforts to attack Iran. The defeat of the United States in Syria has created an encouraging precedent for the rest of the world. Washington has been forced to abandon the original plans to getting rid of Assad.

Syria will be remembered in the future as the beginning of the multipolar revolution, whereby the United States was contained in military-conventional terms as a result of the coordinated actions of China and Russia.

China’s economic contribution provides for such urgent needs as the supply of food, government loans, and medicines to countries under Washington’s economic siege. So long as the global financial system remains anchored to the US dollar, Washington remains able to cause a lot of pain to countries refusing to obey her diktats.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions varies from country to country. The Russian Federation used sanctions imposed by the West as an impetus to obtain a complete, or almost autonomous, refinancing of its main foreign debt, as well as to producing at home what had previously been imported from abroad. Russia’s long-term strategy is to open up to China and other Asian countries as the main market for imports and exports, reducing contacts with the Europeans if countries like France and Germany continue in their hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Thanks to Chinese investments, together with planned projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the hegemony of the US dollar is under threat in the medium to long term. The Chinese initiatives in the fields of infrastructure, energy, rail, road and technology connections among dozens of countries, added to the continuing need for oil, will drive ever-increasing consumption of oil in Asia that is currently paid for in US dollars.

Moscow is in a privileged position, enjoying good relations with all the major producers of oil and LNG, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, and including Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria. Moscow’s good relations with Riyadh are ultimately aimed at the creation of an OPEC+ arrangement that includes Russia.

Particular attention should be given to the situation in Venezuela, one of the most important countries in OPEC. Riyadh sent to Caracas in recent weeks a tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken a neutral stance regarding Venezuela, maintaining a predictable balance between Washington and Caracas.

These joint initiatives, led by Moscow and Beijing, are aimed at reducing the use of the US dollar by countries that are involved in the BRI and adhere to the OPEC+ format. This diversification away from the US dollar, to cover financial transactions between countries involving investment, oil and LNG, will see the progressive abandonment of the US dollar as a result of agreements that increasingly do away with the dollar.

For the moment, Riyadh does not seem intent on losing US military protection. But recent events to do with Khashoggi, as well as the failure to list Saudi Aramco on the New York or London stock exchanges, have severely undermined the confidence of the Saudi royal family in her American allies. The meeting between Putin and MBS at the G20 in Bueno Aires seemed to signal a clear message to Washington as well as the future of the US dollar.

Moscow and Beijing’s military, economic and diplomatic efforts see their culmination in the Astana process. Turkey is one of the principle countries behind the aggression against Syria; but Moscow and Tehran have incorporated it into the process of containing the regional chaos spawned by the United States. Thanks to timely agreements in Syria known as “deconfliction zones”, Damascus has advanced, city by city, to clear the country of the terrorists financed by Washington, Riyadh and Ankara.

Qatar, an economic guarantor of Turkey, which in return offers military protection to Doha, is also moving away from the Israeli-Saudi camp as a result of Sino-Russian efforts in the energy, diplomatic and military fields. Doha’s move has also been because of the fratricidal diplomatic-economic war launched by Riyadh against Doha, being yet another example of the contagious effect of the chaos created by Washington, especially on US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Washington loses military influence in the region thanks to the presence of Moscow, and this leads traditional US allies like Turkey and Qatar to gravitate towards a field composed essentially of the countries opposed to Washington.

Washington’s military and diplomatic defeat in the region will in the long run make it possible to change the economic structure of the Middle East. A multipolar reality will prevail, where regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran will feel compelled to interact economically with the whole Eurasian continent as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The basic principle for Moscow and Beijing is the use of military, economic and diplomatic means to contain the United States in its unceasing drive to kill, steal and destroy.

From the Middle East to Asia

Beijing has focussed in Asia on the diplomatic field, facilitating talks between North and South Korea, accelerating the internal dialogue on the peninsula, thereby excluding external actors like the United States (who only have the intention of sabotaging the talks). Beijing’s military component has also played an important role, although never used directly as the Russian Federation did in Syria. Washington’s options vis-a-vis the Korean peninsular were strongly limited by the fact that bordering the DPRK were huge nuclear and conventional forces, that is to say, the deterrence offered by Russia and China. The combined military power of the DPRK, Russia and China made any hypothetical invasion and bombing of Pyongyang an impractical option for the United States.

As in the past, the economic lifeline extended to Pyongyang by Moscow and Beijing proved to be decisive in limiting the effects of the embargo and the complete financial war that Washington had declared on North Korea. Beijing and Moscow’s skilled diplomatic work with Seoul produced an effect similar to that of Turkey in the Middle East, with South Korea slowly seeming to drift towards the multipolar world offered by Russia and China, with important economic implications and prospects for unification of the peninsula.

Russia and China – through a combination of playing a clever game of diplomacy, military deterrence, and offering to the Korean peninsula the prospect of economic investment through the BRI – have managed to frustrate Washington’s efforts to unleash chaos on their borders via the Korean peninsula.

The United States seems to be losing its imperialistic mojo most significantly in Asia and the Middle East, not only militarily but also diplomatically and economically.

The situation is different in Europe and Venezuela, two geographical areas where Washington still enjoys greater geopolitical weight than in Asia and the Middle East. In both cases, the effectiveness of the two Sino-Russian resistance – in military, economic and diplomatic terms – is more limited, for different reasons. This situation, in line with the principle of America First and the return to the Monroe doctrine, will be the subject of the next article.

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Nearly assassinated by his own fighters, al-Baghdadi and his caliphate on its last legs (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the Islamic State has been rapidly losing territory over the last two years in Syria and Iraq, due to efforts by Russian and Syrian forces, as well as the US and their Kurdish allies.

The jihadist caliphate has lost most of its forces and resources, leading it to go into hiding.

Al-Masdar News is reporting that Daesh* leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly attacked in a village near Hajin by some of the terrorist organisation’s foreign fighters in an apparent coup attempt, The Guardian reported, citing anonymous intelligence sources. Baghdadi reportedly survived the alleged coup attempt, with his bodyguards taking him into hiding in the nearby desert.

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Meanwhile European leaders are shocked at US President Trump’s ISIS ultimatum. Via Zerohedge

After President Trump’s provocative tweets on Sunday wherein he urged European countries to “take back” and prosecute some 800 ISIS foreign fighters as US forces withdraw from Syria, or else “we will be forced to release them,” the message has been met with shock, confusion and indifference in Europe. Trump had warned the terrorists could subsequently “permeate Europe”.

Possibly the most pathetic and somewhat ironic response came from Denmark, where a spokesperson for Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Copenhagen won’t take back Danish Islamic State foreign fighters to stand trial in the country, according to the German Press Agency DPA“We are talking about the most dangerous people in the world. We should not take them back,” the spokesperson stressed, and added that the war in Syria is ongoing, making the US president’s statement premature.

Germany’s response was also interesting, given a government official framed ISIS fighters’ ability to return as a “right”.  A spokeswoman for Germany’s interior ministry said, “In principle, all German citizens and those suspected of having fought for so-called Islamic State have the right to return.” She even added that German ISIS fighters have “consular access” — as if the terrorists would walk right up to some embassy window in Turkey or Beirut!

Noting that the Iraqi government has also of late contacted Germany to transport foreign fighters to their home country for trial, she added, “But in Syria, the German government cannot guarantee legal and consular duties for jailed German citizens due to the armed conflict there.”

France, for its part, has already agreed to repatriate over 130 French Islamic State members as part of a deal reached in January with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are holding them, after which they will go through the French legal system. However, French Secretary of State Laurent Nuñez still insisted that the west’s Kurdish allies would never merely let ISIS terrorists walk out their battlefield prisons free.

“It’s the Kurds who hold them and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them,” Nuñez told French broadcaster BFMTV on Sunday. “Anyway, if these individuals return to the national territory, they all have ongoing judicial proceedings, they will all be put on trial, and incarcerated,” he said, in comments which appeared to leave it up to others to make happen.

And representing the Belgian government, Justice Minister Koen Geens charged Trump with blindsiding his European allies with the demand, which included Trump underscoring that it is “time for others to step up and do the job” before it’s too late. “It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” Geens said during a broadcast interview on Sunday, according to the AFP.

Meanwhile in the UK the issue has recently become politically explosive as debate over so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum continues. The now 19-year old joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. She’s now given birth in a Syrian refugee camp and is demanding safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone.

Conservatives in Britain, such as Interior Minister Sajid Javid have argued that “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship. He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”

Identified as French nationals fighting within ISIS’ ranks, via Khaama press news agency

The UN has estimated that in total up to 42,000 foreign fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS — which appears a very conservative estimate — and which includes about 900 from Germany and 850 from Britain.

SDF leaders have previously complained about the “lack the capacity” for mass incarceration of ISIS terrorists and the inability to have proper battlefield trials for them. Recent estimates have put the number of ISIS militants in US-SDF battlefield jails at over 1000, though Trump put the number at 800 in his tweet.

However, even once they do return to Europe it’s unclear the extent to which they’ll be properly prosecuted and locked in prison by European authorities.

For example, another fresh controversy that lately erupted in Britain involved a 29-year old UK woman who traveled to join ISIS, and was convicted for membership in a terrorist group upon her return to Britain. She was jailed on a six year sentence in 2016, but is now already walking free a mere less than three years after her conviction.

 

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