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INTERNATIONAL LAW VS IMPERIALISM: the new phase of war in Syria

The war is now a contest between foreign powers obeying international law along with their Syrian partner, versus foreign powers with open imperial ambitions.

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Around the time of the Syrian victory in the Battle of Aleppo, the fact that the government of Syria would not fall has been more or less assured.

Recent events have made this a virtual certainty. Because of this however, a new kind of proxy war is taking place with its own unique unspoken rules.

As The Duran’s Alexander Mercouris writes,

“…with the US and the Russians anxious to avoid coming to blows with each other, both sides also look to contain the conflict by trying to keep it within its current curious rules.  Basically these are that neither side sets out to attack the other, and that whoever gains control of territory from ISIS first is allowed to keep it.

That explains why the manoeuvres the two sides carry out against each other are never spoken of in that way, and it also explains the conciliatory language (“the Coalition does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them”) in today’s statement.

No doubt over the course of the next few hours the telephone lines between the Russian command in Khmeimim air base in Syria and the US command in Amman in Jordan will be buzzing with discussions as the militaries of the two sides search for ways to limit the damage so as to keep the conflict confined with its present rules”

The event Alexander Mercouris is referring to is the illegal shooting down of a Syrian aircraft by a US aircraft in Raqqa Governorate. While this event is a war crime according to international law, it is a move that conforms to the cynical rules of engagement that are as unspoken as they are now clear.

Put another way, the ‘race to liberate Raqqa’ is now the race to take Raqqa and beyond that the race for Raqqa is rapidly being overshadowed by the race for Deir ez-Zor which is now in many ways a bigger ISIS ‘hot-spot’ than Raqqa.

On top of this it’s a matter of a land-grab, something made all the more devastating by the fact that one of the parties is looking to grab back land which was always legally its own: Syria. The United States and the Kurds clearly have other ideas, to pretend otherwise at this point would simply be naive.

The nature of US mission creep means that America never likes to leave a conflict empty handed. Since the main prize of toppling the Syrian government is off the table, the new prize for the US is simply put, as much of eastern Syria as they can get their hands on, ostensibly so they can prepare for a US dependent Kurdish autonomous region or even a state of Kurdistan which would be something of a US client state.

In September, Kurdish Iraqis will hold a referendum on establishing a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. While both Iraq and Turkey are strongly opposed to this, America may well allow it to happen and use it as a pretext for linking it up with a Kurdistan carved from legal Syrian territory. The fact that Iraqi and Syrian Kurds have serious local political differences in many cases, will hardly matter to the United States who is a friend to both.

There is no doubt that Iran and Russia will both want to receive a kind of preferential position in Syria after the war and even less doubt that such offers will be on the table. Russia and Iran are fighting with Syria as partners, not adversaries and the post-war partnership will certainly continue.

But America is not a partner of any of the states surrounding the conflict in eastern Syria. Damascus is seen by the US as an enemy in all but name. Turkey and the US are on totally opposite sides of the equation now that the US has put its full military and geo-political weight behind Kurdish forces. However dependant Iraq is on the US, its government is an ally of Iran and Syria for reasons that have in some cases a more ancient background than the very existence of the United States.

From the American perspective, this is all the more reason to create a reliable pro-American client state in the region.

Israel is of course a big factor here. Depending on one’s perspective, Israel either dictates much of America’s Middle East policy and from other perspectives, Israel is the 51st state of the USA.

Israel makes no secret of its hatred towards the Syrian government. Israel and Syria have been enemies since a time when most people thought of an Egyptian goddess when they heard the word ‘ISIS’.

Israel and Hamas are on the same side in the war. Hamas fights with anti-Syrian jihadists while Israel continually attacks Syria and her allies, particularly the Lebanese Resistance Hezbollah and now even the pro-Israel Wall Street Journal confirms that Israel is aiding terrorists who are fighting the government in Damascus.

To add to these layers of imperial ambition, Israel is a long time regional ally of separatist Kurds and now that Turkey has backed Qatar in the current Gulf dispute, Saudi Arabia has come out with pro-Kurdish sentiments. This latter-most development fits into Donald Trump’s ambitions to formalise an Israel-Saudi alliance that in terms of the foreign policy ambitions of each state, already exists. Saudi and Israel have the same regional enemies, they want to destroy the same foes and now they want to cultivate the same regional would-be allies.

Therefore, it is fair to say that the US, Israel and the Saudis are pushing further towards open advocacy of a Kurdish client state in the region while Iran and Russia simply want to preserve Syria as she is currently comprised while maintaining their alliance with the legitimate government in Damascus.

According to the authority of international law, it is clear that Russia and Iran are the ‘good guys’ and America and her regional friends are the imperialist ‘bad guys’. In this case, it really is as simple as that.

When one looks to Turkey, things are by contrast, far more complicated.

Turkey in many ways, cooked its own goose by consistently funding, arming and fighting beside anti-government jihadists in Syria. Had Turkey remained neutral in the conflict or even switched to a position of neutrality before 2016, Turkey would have been able to have a very legitimate position from which to speak against the creation of a Kurdish state in both Syria and Iraq.

But because Turkey illegally invaded and occupied both Syria and Iraq at various times, Turkey’s position is deeply compromised.

Turkey’s position boils down too, “We want Turkish imperialism to bring down the government in Damascus in favour of jihadist extremists, but at the same time the US is wrong to turn the Kurds into imperial clients”. The position is as intellectually untenable as it is the blatant new reality.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said that he wants to bring Saudi Arabia and the United States into the Astana Peace Talks. While he may have had many reasons for wanting this, it is almost certain that his goal would be to minamise US and Saudi ambitions to create a Kurdish state.

In Astana Turkey is generally supported by Iran in its opposition to a Kurdish state and Russia while having good contacts with many Kurdish leaders, would never advocate for a Kurdish state at the expense of Syria. 

READ MORE: 4 reasons Erdogan has invited US and Saudi Arabia to Astana Peace Talks

In reality, America would probably never participate in the Astana format anyway as it is difficult to see American diplomats sharing any kind of peace table with Iran at the present time. 

In trying to have the best of both worlds, Turkey now has the worst of each. Assad will stay and he’ll never forgive Turkey. Simultaneous to this, the Kurds have been embolden by the United States who clearly has no consideration for Turkish sentiments on the issue. The Turkey–US alliance which was strong for much of the 20th century and even before, may now take decades to fully recover.

For Syria, the fight is about dignity. The Syrian government now easily controls Syria’s big population centres, what many call ‘useful Syria’, the kinds of places that to put it bluntly, people would want to live in and tourists would want to visit.

Still, Syria does not want to lose any of its territory after having objectively won the war. And why should it? International law dictates Syria MUST retain its territory–every inch of it.

For Russia ,it is a matter of balancing its partnership with Syria against not wanting a confrontation with the United States. Iran is in a similar position, though many in Iran would not so secretly like an opportunity to ‘teach the US a lesson’.

Turkey will do anything it can to stop Kurdistan from becoming a reality, though its options are far more limited than they would have been if Turkey had stayed out of the conflict from the beginning.

All the while, America, Israel and Saudi want whatever piece of the Syrian pie they can illegally get their hands on.

This is now beyond the ‘race for Berlin’, its more like an old fashioned imperial war of a bygone age, but one fought with 21st century military hardware.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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