Connect with us

Analysis

News

The case against Michael Flynn: Lying to the FBI about asking Russia’s help to protect Israel (full analysis of indictment and Flynn’s guilty plea)

Botched attempt by Kushner and Flynn to block UN SC Resolution 2334 on status of Jerusalem lies behind case against Flynn

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

9,422 Views

The indictment and guilty plea of General Flynn represent what I suspect is the high water mark of the Russiagate scandal.

A few weeks ago, following the indictments issued against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, I speculated that Flynn would be the next person to be indicted, and so it has proved.

Flynn’s guilty plea has come with an apparent agreement to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Inevitably this is giving rise to speculation that Flynn has “flipped”.  Is that speculation warranted?

Firstly, it needs to be said that the indictment against Flynn and his guilty plea have absolutely no bearing on the allegations of illegal collusion during the 2016 Presidential election between the Trump campaign and the Russians which are at the centre of the Russiagate scandal.

Instead they concern what is purely a ‘process crime’: that Flynn falsely denied to the FBI that he had asked Russian ambassador Kislyak for Russia to react with restraint to the sanctions imposed on Russia in December 2016 by Barack Obama, and – much more interestingly – that he also falsely denied having asking Kislyak for Russia’s help to block or delay a vote on a Resolution in the UN Security Council.

The indictment does not say what this resolution was.  However the timing strongly suggests that it was Resolution 2334 passed on 23rd December 2016, which declared Israeli settlement activity unlawful, declared all Israeli settlements built since the 1967 Six Day War illegal, and which specifically ruled out recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Note that the indictment refers to a conversation between Flynn and Kislyak on 22nd December 2016, the day before the vote in the UN Security Council on Resolution 2334 took place.

At the time the UN Security Council voted for resolution 2334 I wrote a lengthy article for The Duran in which I said that though I happen to agree with every point made in Resolution 2334, I still thought the decision to put Resolution 2334 to the vote on 23rd December 2016 was wrong since it was transparently a device by Barack Obama to box in and embarrass his successor, the soon-to-be President Donald Trump

Firstly, it should be said that Resolution 2334 is unlikely to have come to the vote so quickly without the US quietly giving the green light to it, and making it known that it would not veto it.

As it happens when Resolution 2334 was first proposed it would have been open to Obama and his administration to ask for voting on it to be postponed until the new President had taken office, on the grounds that it was inappropriate for an outgoing administration to decide US policy on such an important Resolution when it was known that the incoming President had a different view.

Indeed that is arguably what Obama should have done.  This is an important Resolution (I attach the full text below) and given how controversial it is and its possible effect on future negotiations where the US plays a key role, there is a strong case for saying that the Obama administration should either have asked for voting on the Resolution to be postponed until after the new President had come into office, or – if that was impossible – should have consulted with President elect Donald Trump and his transition team to decide how the US would respond to it.

In the event we know from Trump’s angry reaction that he was not consulted, and there seems to have been no attempt to seek a postponement.

Obtaining a postponement looks as if it was perfectly possible.  Some countries on the Security Council – Malaysia and Venezuela especially – might have wanted to press ahead immediately.  However Egypt, which had initially proposed the Resolution, effectively disowned it, possibly under Israeli pressure, but more probably in order not to antagonise the incoming administration of Donald Trump, whilst the US’s allies, Britain and France (both Security Council Permanent Members) and Japan and New Zealand, would undoubtedly have gone along with a US request.

As for Russia, which is considering a Middle East peace initiative involving Israel and the Arabs of its own, its ambassador Vitaly Churkin in his comments to the Security Council made clear that he had expected a request for a postponement and would have supported it.  This is how the UN Press Office reports his comments

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), explaining that he had been puzzled by the process around the resolution and by the haste with which it had been “pushed” to the vote, agreed  with other speakers that settlement activities undermined the chances for a two-State solution, as did acts of terror and incitement to violence.

(bold italics added)

Since that was Russia’s position it is a certainty if a request for a postponement had been made that China also would have supported it.  In that case, with all the Great Powers agreed, it is a certainty that voting on the Resolution could have been postponed until after Inauguration Day.  That a postponement did not happen is a sure sign that Obama did not want one, and that despite the US abstaining on the vote he actually wanted the Resolution passed……

As for why Obama wanted such a Resolution passed in the closing weeks of his Presidency, the answer unfortunately almost certainly has little to do with Middle East peace, and everything to do with Donald Trump.

It has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that Obama’s overriding objective during the closing weeks of his Presidency is to do whatever he can to undermine Donald Trump’s legitimacy and authority as the US’s next President, and to lock Trump in to Obama’s existing foreign policy positions.

Thus Obama has colluded in the paranoid campaign which alleges that Donald Trump owes his election to Russia; he has sought to nominate German Chancellor Angela Merkel as his true successor and guardian of his policies instead of Donald Trump; and he has cut across Trump’s known wish to improve relations with Russia by having US and EU sanctions against Russia increased and extended.

By allowing UN Resolution 2334 to pass, Obama is doing more of the same.  He knows that Trump wants closer relations with Israel and is contemplating recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, so Obama allows a Resolution to slip past the UN Security Council that says that doing that would be against international law.

No wonder Trump – like Benjamin Netanyahu – is furious, and is making the fact known with angry comments about the UN.

Speaking for myself, on the specific issue of east Jerusalem, I happen to agree with Obama, and with Resolution 2334.

Though I understand the importance of Jerusalem not just for Israelis but also for Jewish people generally, Arabs and Muslims have at least comparably strong feelings about this issue, and given the overriding importance for the world of securing Middle East peace, it is wrong and unreasonable for Israel to try to remove the question of east Jerusalem from the negotiating table by deciding its status unilaterally.

There is of course vastly more which can be said about this subject, and about Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Territories and the Arab-Israeli conflict generally, but as this is a huge subject I will not discuss it here.

The point is that Obama’s constant campaign to box in and undermine his successor, even on issues where Obama might actually be in the right, is nonetheless petulant and wrong.

What makes it even worse in this case is that Trump, Netanyahu and probably the Russians almost certainly all believe that Obama is the true author of Resolution 2334.

Obama has a constant habit of trying to deflect criticism from himself by working through others whilst keeping his own intentions secret.  This enables him to blame others for his own mistakes – as he did for example when he managed to transfer the blame for the Libyan debacle onto Hillary Clinton – or to reverse policy quickly if his existing policy runs into criticism or opposition –  a good example being the way he let last September’s Kerry-Lavrov agreement over Syria unravel when it became clear that the Pentagon and the neocons in the State Department and the CIA opposed it.

It is this habit of Obama’s of constantly failing to commit himself publicly, and of working as much as possible from behind the scenes, which in large part explains why internationally he has become so mistrusted.

The case of Resolution 2334 is a case in point.  The full story of how this Resolution suddenly materialised before the UN Security Council just a few weeks before Donald Trump was due to become President may never be known.

However, given Obama’s history and the fact that he undoubtedly wanted the Resolution to pass, there has to be a suspicion that he got his diplomats to arrange for a friendly country – probably Egypt – to sponsor the Resolution, so that it could be passed without his having to take responsibility for it.

If Obama really did act in this way – arranging moreover for the US to abstain on a Resolution which he privately supported in order to cover his traces even further – then Trump’s and Netanyahu’s anger becomes even more understandable.

Ultimately Obama’s attempts to box in his successor will probably fail, and whatever one’s views on specific issues such as that of east Jerusalem, it deserves to.

In the case of Resolution 2334, the status of east Jerusalem is far too important to be played with in this way.  It is one thing for Obama to speak out against Donald Trump’s intended policy on this issue if he think it is wrong.  It is quite another for Obama to use his remaining weeks as President to try to sabotage in advance his successor’s policy on this and on any other issue.

Obama has had eight years as US President to fashion US policy on east Jerusalem.  He could have supported a Resolution of the sort the UN Security Council has just passed at any time during his Presidency.  A good possible moment might have been shortly after his reelection in 2011, when he would have had less reason to appease Israel’s supporters in the US than he had had previously.

Had Obama supported such a Resolution before, he might have been able to build on it to work for Middle East peace.  As it is, almost certainly because Obama finds Middle East peace-making too risky and too controversial to engage in, he has allowed efforts to achieve a peace settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict to stagnate during his Presidency.  At a political level that was probably wise because none of the efforts of previous Presidents to achieve Middle East peace have borne fruit.  Nonetheless it is what a President who genuinely cared about this issue would have done.

Instead, acquiescing in or actively engineering a Resolution like Resolution 2334 at the very end of his Presidency in order to spite his successor – and possibly Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as well – is a small minded and spiteful act, which is all but guaranteed to lead nowhere……..

Unfortunately it is the sort of small minded and spiteful act which is all too typical of this President, and which shows why Obama’s conduct of foreign policy has in the end fallen so far short of its promise, and has been so generally unsuccessful…

Reading through the tea leaves it seems that someone in the Trump transition team – almost certainly Jared Kushner – incensed by Obama’s actions, asked Flynn to speak to the Russians to see whether there was any chance they might be persuaded to use their influence in the UN Security Council to get the vote on Resolution 2334 either delayed until after President elect Trump took office or blocked altogether.

The result was to set in train the now famous series of telephone conversations between Flynn and Kislyak over the course of one of which Flynn also asked Kislyak for Russian restraint in response to Obama’s December 2016 sanctions against Russia.

That this is indeed what lies behind this whole affair is confirmed by recent information that Special Counsel Mueller’s team is looking into Kushner’s contacts with Israeli diplomats, and that Kushner has recently been interviewed by Mueller’s team for 90 minutes about information which would supposedly ‘exculpate’ Flynn of illegal dealings with the Russians.

What does any of this have to do with the Russiagate collusion allegations?

The short answer is absolutely nothing.

To those who say that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller in order to prove those allegations, and that Flynn’s conduct amounts to treason, I would point out that there is nothing in the indictment that makes the least reference to those allegations, and that in his statement which he released today Flynn categorically denied those allegations and that he had committed treason.

After over 33 years of military service to our country, including nearly five years in combat away from my family, it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of “treason” and other outrageous acts.  Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for.

(bold italics added)

This is not a confession that Flynn engaged in illegal collusion with the Russians or that he was involved with other people in the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team in carrying out such collusion.  On the contrary it is a categorical denial that he did or was.

Personally I would go further and say that it is also a denial by Flynn of any knowledge of any illegal collusion taking place since I cannot see how Flynn can call accusations against him “outrageous” and “false” if he knows that they are true of other people he was working with.

To my mind what this episode best shows is the extraordinary inexperience and amateurism of the people who made up Donald Trump’s transition team.

Kushner and Flynn should have known that asking the Russians to postpone the vote in the UN Security Council on Resolution 2334 was to ask the Russians the impossible.

Though Vitaly Churkin – Russia’s ambassador to the UN Security Council – made known Russia’s unease at the way the Obama administration had railroaded through the vote on Resolution 2334 before the transition in Washington had taken place, given Russia’s longstanding position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict there was never the slightest chance that Russia would act either to delay or to block the vote on Resolution 2334.

As to the legal implications of all this, Kushner may have been foolish and amateur in getting Flynn to talk to Kislyak in this way but I cannot see that any crime was committed by it.  The suggestion Kushner will be prosecuted under the Logan Act for inappropriate dealings with the Israelis looks to me incredibly farfetched.

The only potential point of concern for the Trump administration concerns the extent of Donald Trump’s knowledge of Kushner’s and Flynn’s activities.

It is surely likely that Jared Kushner discussed with Trump what he proposed to get Flynn to do, and it may be that Trump’s attempt to talk Comey out of pressing the case against Flynn stems from Trump’s embarrassment that Flynn landed himself in trouble because he acted on the instructions of his son-in-law.

To those looking to construct a case against Trump for obstruction of justice there might just be a glimmer of an argument here, and it may be that this why Mueller has chosen to indict Flynn for his false statements about his conversations with Kislyak rather than over his failure to register properly his lobbying work for Turkey under FARA and to declare properly the payments he received from RT.

However against that no one, least of all Comey himself, has ever said that Trump actually ordered Comey to drop the case against Flynn.

It bears repeating that nothing Flynn said to Kislyak – or which he might have been asked by Kushner to say to Kislyak – amounted to a criminal offence, a fact all but admitted by the indictment itself, which makes no charge about it.

On the contrary as Ty Cobb – Trump’s lawyer – has correctly said, the only crime for which Flynn is being charged – lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak – is the same one for which he was previously sacked by the White House.

My guess is that over the next couple of weeks the focus of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation will increasingly become Kushner.  Doubtless it will be about his dealings with Kushner that Mueller will be asking Flynn questions, with Mueller wanting to know how and why Kushner came up with his cack-brained idea of asking the Russians to block Resolution 2334.

However there is no evidence of any illegal collusion by Kushner with the Russians either before the election or after it, and it bears repeating that everything that has been discussed in this article and which has arisen from Flynn’s guilty plea and indictment happened after the election.  It cannot therefore have any bearing on the Russiagate collusion case against the Trump campaign, or the claims that the Russians meddled in the election to help Donald Trump.  On the contrary, the fact that the Russians turned down Kushner’s and Flynn’s suggestion that they act to block Resolution 2334 if anything argues the opposite.

Indeed if the entirety of the case against Kushner turns on steps he and Flynn took however incompetently to try to protect Israel – as I strongly suspect – then given the political realities in Washington I doubt it will go anywhere.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

Pelosi tries to prevent State of the Union address because of shutdown

Nancy Pelosi advised Mr. Trump not to deliver a live State of the Union speech, but the reason may be because she is unwilling to be exposed.

Seraphim Hanisch

Published

on

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tried what is perhaps a new stunt in the ongoing government shutdown saga (we hesitate to call it a “crisis”). She requested that President Trump either reschedule his yearly State of the Union address or – and she said this literally – deliver it in writing to Congress on January 29th, the date the speech is scheduled to occur.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Trump.

The letter, which can be seen directly by clicking the hyperlink above, tries to essentially make this request the President’s fault because he refuses to take “no wall” for an answer.

The motive behind this attempt is interesting. Politico covered this story originally, and this publication is pretty far to the left and definitely not a Trump fan oasis. Yet in a rare random feat of journalism, the Politico article does appear to give some of the real reason why the Speaker of the House did this.

Publicly, Democrats plan to argue that the parties need to focus on addressing the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history. They’re also concerned about security staff working through a major national event without being paid.

“This shutdown is ridiculous and the people tasked with protecting him and protecting us are not getting a paycheck,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the House Rules Committee chair. “So it’s inappropriate to carry on with business as usual.”

But privately, Democrats also don’t want to give Trump a major platform to blame them for the shutdown when Trump’s demand for billions in wall funding has been the main driver, according to a Democratic lawmaker close to leadership. Trump has tried to pin the blame on the shutdown on Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, but public polls shows the public largely blames the president.

The announcement comes as a group of bipartisan House lawmakers in the Problem Solvers Caucus is set to meet with Trump on Wednesday to discuss border security. Trump, frustrated by his inability to secure any additional money for his border wall, has tried to peel off moderate Democrat support as Pelosi and Schumer dig in.

But Democrats are rallying fellow members to stay together. Schumer attended a closed-door caucus meeting with House Democrats just as Pelosi made the announcement on the State of the Union address on Wednesday. Her message was to stay unified in their opposition.

Politico was able to bury this bold-typed point in the rhetoric that “public polls largely blame the president.” However this may not exactly be the case.

There are indications that the 26-day long standoff is going to go the President’s way. While this is admittedly speculative, there seem to be solid factors on the President’s side of the argument that the Democrats do not have. Some are factual, and many are emotional and rhetorical:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is standing firm, and has not wavered from the commitment to pass nothing that the President will not sign.
  • Some Democrat leaders are beginning to speak about border security – including the wall – as vital needs. This includes this representative from Southern California (!) Representative Katie Hill, who gave this interview on Fox News:

  • Where the argument is pragmatic and information-based, as Representative Hill notes, then the argument becomes quite compelling for a wall.
  • CNN turned down the opportunity to interview Dan Plante, a San Diego area TV reporter, about the border wall there because Mr. Plante said that the new wall that has been installed in that sector is hugely successful.
  • The level of information given by the Democrat opposition leaders, Pelosi and Chuck Schumer is essentially at the level of “no you can’t have it. Because!!” – in other words, septuagenarians acting like four-year olds. Really.
  • Talk show anchor Rush Limbaugh and his huge body of listeners are wildly in favor of the shutdown and everything the President is doing. It is very clear that the shutdown’s length is doing nothing to deter President Trump’s base. And as long as that holds true, he will not move a muscle.
  • President Trump is a businessman, not a politician. He is far more results-driven than the mainstream media can afford to admit. While they characterize him as insane, or a child, or throwing a tantrum, the President doesn’t really care. He knows what he wants, and he is prepared to be patient and wait the Democrats out.
  • The final sign we will offer on this list (though there are more) is that the Russia collusion narrative is back. When things go bad for the media on Trump, they try to pull out Russia. Maybe it is just a bad habit because it seems less and less effective each time it is tried.

The battle lines are tropes versus reality, and politics versus policy. It is too soon to be sure that this will go the President’s way and that the wall will go up, but patience and perseverance are beginning to expose cracks and weaknesses in the Democrat argument. Some of the US certainly does NOT care about a border wall. But those that do have not been shaken by all this – rather, they have been strengthened, plus they have facts on their side.

All the Pelosis and Schumers of the world can do is fret and complain and look like fools, and they seem to be doing exactly that.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone

Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media.

Dmitry Babich

Published

on

Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).

THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMS

Because Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations of his birthday have become disgusting New Year’s rituals in Ukraine in recent years, with thousands participating in Nazi-style torch-lit marches that include shouted protests against “Putin’s Russia” and rants such as, “Jews out!” which are heard by everyone except the police. This New Year was no exception, since the current Ukrainian government under President Petro Poroshenko (who publicly identified himself as a Banderite after taking office in 2014) officially added Bandera’s 110th birthday to the list of Ukraine’s most important anniversaries. This time, there were several quiet voices of condemnation heard in Poland, Israel, and even the US. Why? In truth, torches, masks, political murders, and mob attacks against “pro-Russian” public figures are nothing new in post-Maidan Ukraine. And these things usually pose no problem for the mainstream press of the US and its allies. So, why is Bandera an exception?

The answer is ethnic, as awful as that may sound. Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media, with its double and triple standards. In the 1930s Bandera killed Polish officials, in the 1940s his people killed civilian Jews and Polish peasants, and these are groups whose plight even the New York Times cannot ignore today. If Bandera’s infamous slogan “Death to enemies!” had been directed only against “disloyal” Russians and anti-Banderite Ukrainians (the groups currently persecuted by Poroshenko), Bandera would have been no different from his modern admirers in the Ukrainian government. But Bandera’s followers from the OUN decimated the Jewish population of Lvov and Kiev in 1941, trying to curry favor with the advancing Germans. And between 1943 and 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), taking its orders from Bandera’s OUN officers, ethnically cleansed his native Western Ukraine of ethnic Poles, killing from 70,000-100,000 of them (the infamous “slaughter of Volhynia”). The aim was to create an “ethnically pure” Ukraine before the arrival of the Red Army in late 1944. Documents published by the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka indicate that Bandera and the OUN hoped that the Red Army would soon be replaced by Anglo-American domination. “His strategy was to clean up the house before the arrival of the real master,” Motyka concludes in his book.

THE LADY OF THE RADA VS. ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT

The American domination took another 70 years, but it did come. And now the Banderites’ (and Poroshenko’s) only historic disagreement with the West is over the infamous “ethnic cleansing,” to which Bandera’s “glorious heroes” subjected Ukraine in 1941-1944. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin dared to raise the issue during his visit to Ukraine in 2016, he got a scolding from the vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Irina Gerashchenko: “The Israeli president allowed himself some incorrect and undiplomatic words about the OUN’s tragic history,” Gerashchenko said at the time. “It was highly inappropriate, especially now, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence.” Gerashchenko forgot to mention the fact that Babi Yar, the burial site of some 30,000 Jews killed by German and Ukrainian Nazis in Kiev in 1941, was vandalized nine times between 2015 and 2016, according to data provided by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

WHY THE WEST WANTS TO FORGET, BUT CANNOT

In the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup in 2014, the mainstream press was ready to forget even that, since an honest account of Bandera’s activities between 1939 and 1959 could rekindle memories of the undesirable parallels to the “resistance to Russian occupation” by Poroshenko’s army in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015, about 10,000 people died there, victims of the aircraft and tanks sent by Poroshenko (just months earlier, the US and the EU had been unable to abide the use of truncheons by the police of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych). At the time, the NYT called Bandera the “Ukrainian nationalists’ hero.” Obviously, the NYT’s authors were taking their cues from the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, with her Banderite headline, “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine Needs” in the once-glorious New Republic.

But here the mainstream press tried to kill off a memory that will never die — the memory of how Hitler’s East European Nazi allies participated in the destruction of the region’s Jewish population in the early 1940s. This was something not even Anne Applebaum could make people forget.

In his articles in the American press, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, tried to explain to the American public that Bandera’s cult is not an isolated, unpleasant phenomenon: Stepan Bandera never acted alone, he represented a crudely nationalist ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology reigns triumphant in modern Ukraine behind the “liberal” façade displayed for the West. For example, Dolinsky notes that Poroshenko’s hypocritical speeches memorializing Jewish victims can be heard next to, say, a memorial to OUN activist Ivan Rogach, whose newspaper called Jews “the greatest enemy of the people” in 1941. “The Ukrainian leadership set itself on the course of rehabilitating anti-Semitism and introducing censorship of history,” concludes the official statement of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights group, famous for its work to bring Nazi criminals to justice.

THE RUSSIAN QUESTION BEHIND THE JEWISH ONE

If the West cannot afford to be completely silent about Bandera’s participation in the Holocaust, it is willingly ignoring another huge injustice that is inseparable from Bandera’s cult in modern Ukraine — the erasure of the Russian and anti-Banderite component of Ukraine’s historic memory. In 2017, Kiev’s Vatutin Avenue was renamed Bandera Avenue, resulting in an outcry in Russia and complete silence in the West. This avenue, a major thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital, had originally been named in honor of General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from Nazi occupation in 1943 and died in a shootout with the OUN’s guerillas in 1944. At the time, there was no question about where America’s sympathies lay: the fight against Hitler was not yet over, and Vatutin, born in 1901 to a peasant family living immediately adjacent to the future Russian-Ukrainian border, was a useful ally for the United States. Will Bandera and his modern followers be a good replacement? Only someone with Poroshenko’s plans for Ukraine or with Anne Applebaum’s views on history could agree.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started This War

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set.

Published

on

Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi .

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending