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BREAKING: No partition of eastern Syria; US “welcomes Syria destroying ISIS” there

US rules out “land-grab” in Syria; says Syria ‘welcome’ to defeat ISIS and free Deir Ezzor.

Alexander Mercouris

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Colonel Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the US led Coalition against ISIS, has spoken of the Syrian government today in more positive terms than any other US official since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Specifically Dillon is reported to have said that the US led anti-ISIS Coalition is purely focused on destroying ISIS, and that to the extent that the Syrian government also acts to destroy ISIS that is welcomed by the US led Coalition and by extension by the US

If it looks like they are making a concerted effort to move into ISIS-held areas, and if they show that they can do that, that is not a bad sign.  We are here to fight ISIS as a coalition, but if others want to fight ISIS and defeat them, then we absolutely have no problem with that.

A very strong health warning is in order.  Colonel Dillon is a relatively low ranking official though one holding an important post.  It is not clear to what extent he actually speaks for the US government.  Of course there is also the possibility – unfortunately unavoidable when considering any statement made by any US official on the Syrian issue – that he is not speaking honestly and that his words are intended to deceive.

However there is one strong reason for thinking that Colonel Dillon’s words may indeed reflect current US policy.  These are the further comments he made specifically about the Syrian army’s advances towards the town of Abu Kamal, an important town on the Iraqi border in the Euphrates river valley

If they want to fight ISIS in Abu Kamal and they have the capacity to do so, then that would be welcomed. We as a coalition are not in the land-grab business. We are in the killing-ISIS business. That is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do that and they’re going to put forth a concerted effort and show that they are doing just that in Abu Kamal or Deir Ezzor or elsewhere, that means that we don’t have to do that in those places.

These appear to be carefully chosen words, which touch closely on the present situation in Syria.

As I discussed recently, the situation in Syria has been transformed in recent weeks by the lightning advances of the Syrian army, which following the relative stabilisation of the situation in western Syria has been advancing against ISIS into eastern and central Syria along two axes – one in central Syria, from Palmyra along the main highway towards the besieged eastern city of Deir Ezzor, and the other in the north, from Aleppo through southern Raqqa Province and also towards Deir Ezzor.

In the last few days the Syrian army has launched a further offensive against ISIS from the south, with Syrian troops advancing northward along the Iraqi border into Deir Ezzor province from the new positions they recently captured from ISIS just north of the US military base in al-Tanf.  Here is how the Al-Masdar news agency described this development two days ago

Backed by several paramilitary allies, the Syrian Arab Army made an impressive advance in the Syrian desert along the Syrian-Iraqi borders in the direction of Deir Ezzor entering the oil-rich province for the first time in years since the fall of the Syrian Badiyah in the hands of the Islamic State terrorists.

On the route of the advance, the Syrian Armed Forces captured Ard Al-Washash, Al-Waer Dam, Al-Waer Canyon region, and much of the desert near the T2 Pumping Station. The latest advances leave the government forces less than 25 km from the T2 Base in Deir Ezzor’s southeastern countryside and some 100 km away from ISIS’s stronghold of Albukamal which many consider to be the terror group’s new capital following the siege (and fated fall) of Raqqa by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

As it stands, the SAA is now 120 km from the besieged city of Deir Ezzor from its southern flank, 135 km from Palmyra axis, and 115 km from the Raqqa axis in what seems to be a race by the different SAA formations to reach the desperate city in as little time as possible as ISIS hammers its resilient defenders with an offensive after the next hoping to break it before the allied troops lift the siege.

The reference to “ISIS’s stronghold of Albukamal” in the Al-Masdar report clearly refers to Abu Kamal, the town referred to by Colonel Dillon in his comments.  What Colonel Dillon is saying is that the US troops in al-Tanf will not interfere with or block this advance.

As such Colonel Dillon’s words look like a public statement directed first and foremost to Moscow reiterating a message which has almost certainly been made by the US to the Russians in private, which is that the US is not going to interfere in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve the siege of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, and will not try to block the Syrian army’s moves into central and eastern Syria because of some US plan to partition Syria.  Note that Colonel Dillon specifically refers to Deir Ezzor in his comments, and specifically denies that the US is in the “land-grab business”.

The background to these comments is the Russian warning given to the US a few days ago directly following the shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter near Rusafa that Russia would henceforth switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline with the US and would track US aircraft if they flew west of the Euphrates.  This is what I said about this warning then

…….the single most important reason for the strong Russian reaction is what caused the US to shoot down the SU-22 down in the first place.

As the report from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights shows, the real reason the SU-22 was shot down was because it was supporting a Syrian army offensive to capture the strategically important town of Rusafa from ISIS.

Rusafa lies south east of Tabqah – the main base of the US backed Kurdish militia in this area – and within striking distance of the main highway between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, the eastern desert city currently besieged by ISIS.

By capturing Rusafa the Syrian army is now in a position to intercept columns of ISIS fighters who might try to flee Raqqa for Deir Ezzor.

The Syrians and the Russians have in recent weeks complained that the US and the Kurds have been doing nothing to prevent ISIS fighters fleeing Raqqa for Deir Ezzor, and in recent days there have even been reports of movements by Kurdish militia to try to block the Syrian army’s offensive to relieve Deir Ezzor.

The shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter appears to have been intended as a warning to stop the Syrian army from capturing Rusafa, so as to block the Syrian army’s attempt to relieve the pressure on Deir Ezzor.

The Russian warning to the US looks in turn to have been intended to make clear to the US that this sort of interference in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve Deir Ezzor is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The US has heeded the Russian warning.  The various statements made by the US and by various US officials today, though full of the usual bluster about the US defending itself and its allies anywhere and everywhere, in fact clearly signal that the US is backing off.

Colonel Dillon’s words are the US’s public response to the Russian warning, given by a low level official so that the extent of the extent of the US climbdown is minimised.

The Russian warning was “intended to make clear to the US that….interference in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve Deir Ezzor is unacceptable and will not be tolerated”.  Colonel Dillon’s words say publicly what the US is almost certainly telling the Russians privately, that the Russian warning has been heeded, and that no further US “interference in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve Deir Ezzor” is contemplated.

My article of six days ago saying that the US was backing down following the Russian warning was – understandably enough – disputed by many people, though the evidence of what was happening was clear enough.

Colonel Dillon’s comments – which almost certainly reflect the policy of General Mattis, the US Defense Secretary who seems to be the US official now in actual charge of the Trump administration’s Syrian policy – should put the matter beyond doubt.

With the US giving the Syrian army a green light to sweep through eastern and central Syria to crush ISIS in Deir Ezzor the stage is being set for a final apocalyptic battle in eastern Syria between the Syrian army and the group.  In Al-Masdar’s words

Should the Syrian Army reach Deir Ezzor, the Islamic State’s presence in Syria will be challenged. The terrorist group knows it, and will muster the bulk of its power for this apocalyptic battle that will permanently change the dynamics of the Syrian war- hopefully bringing the tortuous war to its long-awaited end.

Further into the future, it seems that following the Russian warning and the US climbdown whatever plans there still were in the US to separate eastern Syria from the rest of Syria and to set up a Sunni client state there have been abandoned.

Though there is no doubt that some people in the US remained committed to these plans (which was why the Syrian SU-22 fighter was shot down) I doubt that these plans ever had the wholehearted support of the uniformed military in the Pentagon or of the President himself.  Following the Russian warning such support as there still was for these plans seems to have collapsed.  As I have long made clear, I doubt they were ever viable anyway.

That does not mean that the US has abandoned its attempt to gain influence in Syria.  What it means is that having given up on eastern Syria it will now focus on setting up its Kurdish client state in northern Syria instead.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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