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The NYT’s latest Russiagate story on George Papadopoulos is not believable. Here’s why

Attempt to distance Russiagate investigation from discredited Trump Dossier fails on Papadopoulos’s inherent unreliability as a witness

Alexander Mercouris

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As confidence in Robert Mueller’s investigation crumbles there have been the inevitable leaks intended to suggest that the Russiagate investigation is still on track and that despite the increasing appearances to the contrary there is actually some reality to the case it is investigating.

The leaks take the form of claims that Mueller is planning to issue a “supplemental indictment” of Paul Manafort supposedly fleshing out the tax evasion and money laundering claims he has brought against him, and more information about the strange case of George Papadopoulos.

I will not take up time discussing the ‘supplemental indictment’ against Paul Manafort.  The case against Paul Manafort does not touch on the collusion allegations which are the focus of the Russiagate affair, and by all accounts the new ‘supplemental indictment’ will not change that.

What the fact that Mueller is now preparing a ‘supplemental indictment’ against Manafort shows is that what I and many others have said previously is true: the original indictment against Manafort was rushed and unprepared, probably because it was rushed out to counter criticism of Mueller which was appearing in the Wall Street Journal.

Of much more interest is the new information which has been published about George Papadopoulos.  The information appears in an article in the New York Times which reads in part as follows

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

This information has clearly been published in order to counter the increasingly widely circulating claim that it was the Trump Dossier which triggered the Russiagate investigation.

This is made absolutely clear by the following paragraphs in the New York Times article

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired…..

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

Is this however really so?

The drunken bragging of a twenty eight year old man in a London bar presumably with attractive young women present is not usually considered grounds to initiate a top secret investigation resulting in the secret surveillance of people against whom no other evidence of wrongdoing exists.

The known timeline of the Russiagate inquiry anyway strongly argues against this claim

The DNC emails were published by Wikileaks on 22nd July 2016.  The FBI launched the Russiagate inquiry in late July 2016, probably after the DNC emails were published.

This was however after the FBI had interviewed Christopher Steele, the compiler of the Trump Dossier, in early July 2016.  The Trump Dossier’s first two entries are dated 20th June 2016 and 19th July 2016 – ie. before publication of the DNC emails – and it is likely that before the FBI launched the Russiagate inquiry in late July 2016 it had seen them.

The New York Times says that the FBI received the information about Papadopoulos’s bragging in front of the Australian High Commissioner after the DNC emails were published.  However the FBI did not actually interview Papadopoulos until 27th January 2017.

What seems to have happened is that after the Russiagate inquiry was launched the FBI went through all the information it received which might touch on the inquiry.  At some point the Australian High Commissioner’s report about Papadopoulos’s bragging in May 2016 in the London bar came up and a decision was taken to interview him.

However – contrary to what the New York Times says – the FBI cannot have accorded this any great importance since though the Russiagate inquiry was launched at the end of July 2016 the FBI did not interview Papadopoulos until 27th January 2017 ie. six months later.

That makes it all but inconceivable that it was – as the New York Times claims – the report from Australia about what Papadopoulos said in the presence of the Australian High Commissioner in the London bar rather than the Trump Dossier which triggered the Russiagate inquiry.

As it happens the rest of the New York Times article, though outlining at fantastic length the nature of Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts provides no evidence of collusion illegal or otherwise between the Russians, Papadopoulos or anyone else in the Trump campaign.

What the New York Times article does show is who Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts were.

It turns out that they were senior people in the Valdai Discussion Club, which is not at all surprising given that Professor Mifsud, the Maltese professor who was Papadopoulos’s contact, is known to have participated in a Valdai Discussion Club panel on 19th April 2016.

The Valdai Discussion Club for those who do not know is a Russian NGO which regularly hosts discussions between top level Russian officials and senior people from around the world.  It is sometimes spoken of as the Russian equivalent to Davos.  This page from its website gives an idea of its activities and of the very senior people from around the world who have been involved in it,

In other words when Papadopoulos and Professor Mifsud got to know each other Professor Mifsud simply put Papadopoulos in touch with the Russian organisers of the meeting he was attending.

That does not argue for Professor Mifsud’s “high level contacts” within the Russian government; it argues against it.

As it happens no Russian government official appears to have been directly involved in the discussions between the various members of the Valdai Discussion Group and Papadopoulos.

The New York Times says that Igor Ivanov, who was Russia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2004, was consulted by Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts.  Ivanov is presumably the “Russian MFA Connection” referred to in Papadopoulos’s indictment.  However Ivanov is a retired official not an active one, and his Wikipedia profile suggests that he is now mainly involved in academic work and in the work of various international NGOs. As such he would have been an obvious person for members of the Valdai Discussion Club to consult, and was not in any sense a representative of the Russian government.

As for the subject matter of the discussions between Papadopoulos and his Russian contacts, there is no hint in the New York Times article of any conspiracy between Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign and the Russians concerning the election or any other matter.

Instead we are told – again at inordinate length – about Papadopoulos’s already known but ultimately futile efforts to arrange a summit meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, which Papadopoulos persisted in even after he was told to stop them.

As has by now become typical of the New York Times’s Russiagate coverage, its latest article about Papadopoulos also states as facts things which are in fact strongly disputed.

For example it states as flat facts that it was Professor Mifsud who falsely claimed to Papadopoulos that Olga Polonskaya – one of Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts – was President Putin’s niece, and that it was Professor Mifsud who told Papadopoulos during a hotel meeting in London in April 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Professor Mifsud however has publicly denying telling Papadopoulos either of these things, and the only evidence he did so is that Papadopoulos says he did.

On the subject of the false claim that Polonskaya was Putin’s niece, it is intrinsically far more likely that this is an invention of Papadopoulos’s and not of Professor Mifsud’s.  Why after all would Mifsud  – presumably in cooperation with the Russians – seek to pass off Polonskaya as Putin’s niece when a five minute internet search would establish that Putin has no niece?  What would be the purpose of such a thing?

The only confirmed reference to Polonskaya being Putin’s niece other than Papadopoulos’s statements to the FBI is an email Papadopoulos sent to the Trump campaign describing her as such.

It is Papadopoulos not Professor Mifsud who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.  Papadopoulos’s behaviour in fact clearly points to him being a young man out of his depth and given to fantasising.  Even the New York Times calls him “brash, boastful and underqualified”.

It turns out that Papadopoulos even publicly reprimanded British Prime Minister David Cameron in a May 2016 interview with The London Times which he was not authorised by the Trump campaign to give, and for which he was subsequently severely reprimanded, and it is also known that he persisted in trying to arrange with the Russians a summit meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin even when told to stop doing so.

Given that Papadopoulos is a known loose cannon with a record of bragging and a conviction for lying why assume that on any subject  – eg. the false claims about Polonskaya – it is Papadopoulos who is telling the truth and that it is Professor Mifsud who is lying?  Surely the opposite is far more likely to be true?

In the case of Polonskaya the New York Times has to pretend that it is Papadopoulos not Professor Mifsud who is telling the truth because if it were confirmed that it was Papadopoulos who invented the story about Polonskaya being Putin’s niece then that would expose him as a fantasist, which would discredit the whole elaborate scenario the New York Times is trying to spin around him.

That shows why it is dangerous to assume that Papadopoulos is telling the truth on any point when those who have a vested interest in the Russiagate story say he is.  On the contrary Papadopoulos is an inherently unreliable witness and must always be treated as such.

Does the information in the New York Times article however tell us anything we didn’t previously know about the core issue in the case: the “dirt” Papadopoulos says Professor Mifsud told him that the Russians have on Hillary Clinton?

Firstly, despite the New York Times’s painstaking attempts to link the boasts which Papadopoulos blurted out in a London bar to the DNC and Podesta emails, it seems that Papadopoulos whilst he was bragging in the London bar did not in fact refer to those emails.

The relevant paragraph in the New York Times article on this point needs to be read carefully

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

(bold italics added)

This words “political dirt on Hillary Clinton” are almost certainly copied from the Australian High Commissioner’s report to his government, which was subsequently passed on to the FBI, and which forms the basis of the story in the New York Times.

What these words show is that Papadopoulos was boasting in the London bar that the Russians had “political dirt about Hillary Clinton”, not that they had the DNC or Podesta emails.

What this paragraph also shows is that Papadopoulos in May 2016 was bragging about his high position in the Trump campaign and about his contacts with the Russians, and was doing so openly in the presence of no less a person than the Australian High Commissioner, whose identity he cannot have been unaware of.

This sort of wild indiscretion all but proves that Papadopoulos was not involved in a secret criminal conspiracy with the Russians.  Of course the rest of the New York Times article and the text of his indictment provides no evidence that he was.

In fact it is possible to make some educated guesses about the Papadopoulos affair based on this new information, which leads to diametrically opposite conclusions to the ones reached by the New York Times.

In May 2016 Papadopoulos was clearly on a high, giving foolish interviews to The London Times and bragging in front of the Australian High Commissioner in a London bar about his high level position in the Trump campaign and about his contacts with the Russians.

That strongly points to his boast in the London bar that the Russians had ‘political dirt’ on Hillary Clinton being his own invention.

Subsequently, when he was asked about it by the FBI – long after the Russiagate scandal broken out – he panicked and blamed the whole thing on Professor Mifsud who he said told him about it during their meeting in the London hotel in April 2016.

Note that the wording of the indictment shows that Papadopoulos was vague about what precisely Professor Mifsud was supposed to have told him

On or about April 26, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for breakfast at a London hotel.  During this meeting, the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials.  The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton.  The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton“; “they have thousands of emails“.

(bold italics added)

The words “the Russians had emails of Clinton” make it clear that the emails supposedly discussed by Professor Mifsud and Papadopoulos in the London hotel in April 2016 were not the DNC and Podesta emails but Hillary Clinton’s own 33,000 emails deleted from her private email server.  Had Papadopoulos referred to the DNC and Podesta emails in his interview with the FBI the indictment would surely have said so.

In May 2016 – the month when Papadopoulos was drunkenly bragging in the London bar – the scandal around Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private email server for her State Department emails was at its height, with the Inspector General of the State Department publishing an 83 page report and with speculation rife about the progress of the FBI’s investigation into the affair.

Possibly Papadopoulos was thinking about Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails when he was bragging in the London bar.  More likely he referred to these emails when he tried to explain away his comments in the London bar to the FBI.

By the time the FBI interviewed him Papadopoulos would have known that any reference to the DNC and Podesta emails would have exposed him to suspicion of involvement in a far greater conspiracy.  Frightened and searching for ways to get himself out of trouble, and perhaps realising that he would not be believed if he admitted that he had been lying when he had been bragging in the London bar, he brought up the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails instead, and involved Professor Mifsud in the story to give himself cover.

Regardless, the fact that Papadopoulos’s recollection of what Professor Mifsud is supposed to have told him is so vague points to what is almost certainly the truth: Papadopoulos is making it all up.

Not only does this seem to me a far more plausible explanation of the Papadopoulos affair than the one suggested by the New York Times, but there is one obvious point which for me confirms it.

Nothing Papadopoulos says about this episode can be independently confirmed.

His account of his meeting in April with Professor Mifsud is disputed by Professor Mifsud who is the only other witness.

Apart from his bragging in the London bar there is no other evidence dating from the time that Papadopoulos had any knowledge that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.  None of his very numerous communications to the Trump campaign refer to the fact.

To those who say that Papadopoulos would wish to keep his reports about this secret, all I would say is that Papadopoulos cannot have thought of it as being so very secret since in May 2016 he was openly bragging about it in front of the Australian High Commissioner in a London bar.

All this taken together makes it highly likely that Papadopoulos is inventing the whole story, just as he is almost certainly the person who invented the story of Polonskaya being Putin’s niece.

In summary the New York Times story, far from lending credence to the Russiagate collusion allegations actually provides further reason to doubt them.

As for Papadopoulos, far from being a star ‘smoking gun’ witness, he comes across as a boastful fantasist who is not telling the truth.

What the article does highlight is the pressure the FBI and the Mueller investigation are under as the doubts about the Trump Dossier grow.

It is the Trump Dossier which remains however the key to the affair.  This latest attempt to deny the fact and to distract from it does not refute it.  On the contrary it confirms it.

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

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


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

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

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

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Middle East to Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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