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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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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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