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Vladimir Putin met Assad, discussed Future of Syria, Syria to potentially rewrite constitution

Syrians will build their own future, a future which was saved by Russian brothers and sisters

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met, in Sochi, Thursday, to discuss the future of Syria.

Vladimir Putin congratulated Assad for major successes in the fight against terrorism, noting that their military success has opened up the possibility for a political solution.

The Syrian Arab News Agency, a state-run media outlet has a transcript of much of the discussion, and reports that Putin greeted Assad as follows:

“Mr. President, I am very happy to receive you in Russia, and first of all I congratulate you on the coming of the holy month of Ramadan and congratulate you on the great successes achieved by the Syrian Arab army in the fight against terrorism. And due to the efforts of the Syrian soldiers, very important steps were gained during the latest period in order to boost the legislative authority in the country where terrorists were expelled from important regions in Syria, which paved the way to start reconstructing infrastructure in the country after expelling terrorists and putting an end to the threat against Damascus.”

Assad congratulated Putin on his re-election, noting that Putin’s policies and leadership, “satisfied the Russian people”, and gave Russia a bigger place in the international arena. 

According to Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, Putin, and Assad:

“have noted the necessity to create additional conditions for the resumption of full-format political process in Syria,”

Assad said he welcomed a political solution with enthusiasm, but noted, according to Sputnik, that:

…it will be difficult to restore the political process in Syria as there are countries that don’t want stability in the country, he added.

“The sides noted the successes of the Astana process and of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, held in Sochi… During these talks, the sides disused the next joint steps. Assad said that stability in Syria is improving, and this opens the door to the political process that started some time ago. According to him, he has repeatedly said at these talks that Damascus has always enthusiastically supported the political process, which should go along with the fight against terrorism,” Assad said at the meeting.

“We know that this will not be easy [to restore the political process], since there are countries that do not want stability to return to Syria. However, together with you and the other partners and friends, we will continue to move steadily toward the peace process and for the sake of peace,” Assad added.

Syria to rewrite the Consitution?

Numerous sources, including official Syrian state media (SANA), have noted that in a major development, Syria will be sending a delegation to the UN to discuss, and possibly amend the Syrian constitution. This, however, is not the first time this was discussed, as Middle East Eye notes this was planned in Sochi as far back as January.

According to Sputnik, “Assad voiced his decision to send representatives to the UN-Constitutional Committee.” Sputnik quotes Assad as saying:

“Today I confirmed to President [Vladimir] Putin that Syria will send a list of its delegates to the constitutional committee to discuss amendments to the current constitution. This will be done as soon as possible,” Assad said in a statement following Russian-Syrian talks.

Vladimir Putin said that Russia welcomes and will support the Syrian president’s decision to send his representatives to the UN constitutional committee.

“Russia welcomes this decision by the Syrian president and will support it in every possible way, bearing in mind the agreements reached at the Syrian people’s congress held a few months ago in Sochi,” Putin said at a meeting with Assad.

Vladimir Putin also congratulated the Syrian president on the victory in fighting against terrorism in Syria. “After the military success in Syria, additional conditions to resume a full-format political process have been created,” Putin said.

“Terrorists have laid down their arms at Syria’s key sites, which allows to rehabilitate Syrian infrastructure, push [terrorists] back, almost halt their activities near the Syrian capital,” Putin said.

Furthermore, RT noted that:

As the two presidents talked about the conditions that would facilitate the peace process development, the Syrian leader said that he had decided to send a delegation to a committee tasked to rewrite Syria’s constitution, which was championed by the UN.

Syrians themselves will build their own future.

Here follows some photos of Syria

The phrase “to rewrite Syria’s constitution” may understandably cause alarm to some people. People who care for the free and independent future of Syria, may worry that Putin and/or Assad are being pressured, and are finally giving into the deep state, in some way, should Syria rewrite their constitution. They may say “No! There is no need for a political solution. Syria should stay the way it is!”

Photo by Dmitri Vozdvizhenky

But I am afraid this statement, while good intentioned, is wrong when taken to its natural conclusion. Syria must not “stay the way it is”, she must stay the way the Syrian people choose her to be, using their God-given right to free will, and national self-determination. If the Syrian people choose to make changes to the Syrian constitution, this is the right of the Syrian people, and there is nothing to be alarmed about.

So long as they are not being pressured, there are no signs of a shadow take over, and everything appears to be following the norms of Syrian law, the Syrian people have the right to do whatever they please with the internal structure of the country. That is in fact what the entire war has been about, the right of Syrians to sovereignty over Syria.

If the majority of Syrians choose tomorrow, to establish a Monarchy, a Soviet Socialist Republic, or likewise, if they decided to preserve in its entirety, the current government structure, this is their right. The only concern the international community should have, is to ensure that the will of the Syrian people is being carried out, and the decision is not made by the proxies of foreign governments, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, or separatists like the Kurdish forces.

I know I’ve said this several times now, but the point must really be made: the entire reason the sane world has had their eyes and hearts fixed on Syria, (aside from her crucial positioning), is the entire war is being fought to that the people of Syria can choose their own destiny. It would be counterintuitive to support that, but then dictate to them that they can not change their constitution, even if they legally choose so.

Syria is not a dead fossil, that must be preserved in a museum. She is a vibrant, dynamic, modern, yet still ancient country, that is very alive, and her people have their own hope’s and dreams. It is their Syria, they can do whatever they want, and no true Syrians would ever betray her.

To this effect, it’s counterintuitive to use terms like “Assad’s Syria”, or “Assad’s government” or “Assad’s army” because it’s the Syrian Army, and the Syrian Government, of which Assad is the legal President chosen by the Syrian people. Syria is Syria, as she always was, and her people will decide her future. The purpose of the fight is not to dictate it to them, but to defend their ancient right to make the choices for themselves.

In the same light, there are many people that look at negative international events, and say things like “Why didn’t Putin stop X” or “Why didn’t Russia stop the West from doing X”, or “Russia didn’t stop X, did they give into the deep state?”.

Everyone (especially non-Russians or non-Russian speakers) always likes to impose their own vision of Russia, whether positive or negative. Everyone has their vision of Russia, and they often expect her to conform to it, for better or worse. It must be understood, that Russia is Russia, and Syria is Syria, they are not the Anti-US, or the Anti-West. Russia is not La Résistance.

Russia is not responsible to fix all the worlds problems, Russia is only responsible for the Russian people. Russians do NOT wish to be involved in the West’s culture wars. Please do not assume Russia has a responsibility to sacrifice herself in order to counter some nefarious forces in the world.

Our Russian Orthodox Faith does not teach hatred against any people, and for all the ancient history of Russian statehood, the Russian national consciousness was never directed against another people. Russia’s involvement in Syria has been to save the Syrian people from terror, which could threaten Russia as well. It was a Podvig (valorous deed) not unlike the Great Patriotic War. Russia entered the conflict in Syria to save a brotherly people, not to “counter” the West. People shouldn’t assume Russia is obliged to fight cultural wars or geopolitical battles that others assign to her. Russia is only fighting for Russia.

That being said, it’s important to understand that this is just a report. Let’s not exaggerate, or blow this report out of proportion. There is no guarantee the Syrian constitution will be changed as of now, it’s just important to understand that if Syrians choose to change it, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Syria has changed greatly in the last ten years before the war, building and modernizing.

While I am Russian Orthodox, I have family connections and history deeply rooted in the Antiochian (Syrian) Orthodox Church (it’s the same religion, different countries), and I can say from what I have seen, that Syrians do overwhelmingly support their government and the structure of their country, and do not want it to be changed by foreign powers. That said, the point, is that Syrians, like all peoples, have the right to make their own choices.

As a final note, if you are ever curious about Syria, and want to hear what her people think, you can always try and find an Antiochian Orthodox Church, somewhere near you, and get to know the people. You will learn far more than you can from western media, that is for sure.

You may be surprised how very similar Syrian culture is to yours. After all, Syria was a key part of the Greco-Roman World, and Syrians were a major part of the Eastern Roman Empire, from which Russia got her Orthodox religion. You may find you have closer connections to Syria than you think. As Andre Parrot, the Former director of the Louvre Museum, once said:

Every person has two homelands… His own and Syria.”


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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Trump witch hunt dots connected: CNN to Steele to John McCain (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss documents released which show that Christopher Steele admitted to using posts by ‘random individuals’ on the CNN community website ‘iReport’ in order to back up his fabricated Trump dossier.

President Trump took note of Steele’s use of CNN citizen journalist posts, in a twitter tirade that blasted the British ex-spy for running with unverified community generated content from a now now-defunct ‘iReports’ website as part of his research.

Trump the proceeded to rip into late neocon Arizona Senator John McCain, tweeting that it was “just proven in court papers” that “last in his class” McCain sent the Steele’s dossier to media outlets in the hopes that they would print it prior to the 2016 US election.

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Via The Daily Caller

A federal court unsealed 43 pages Thursday of a deposition that former British spy Christopher Steele gave as part of a lawsuit over his infamous anti-Trump dossier.

To the disappointment of many observers, the full deposition was not unsealed in Thursday’s motion. Instead, portions of Steele’s interview, which he gave in London on July 13, 2018, were unsealed in separate court filings submitted in the lawsuit.

Steele’s full deposition totaled 145 pages. The portions published Thursday focus mainly on questions about the dossier’s claims about Aleksej Gubarev, a tech executive who Steele alleges took part in the hacking of Democrats’ computer systems.

Gubarev has vehemently denied the claim and sued Steele and BuzzFeed News, which published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.

U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro, who handled the lawsuit, ordered a slew of previously sealed documents to be made public Thursday. Ungaro dismissed the lawsuit on Dec. 19 but did not weigh in on whether the dossier’s claims about Gubarev were accurate.

It is unclear whether Steele’s entire deposition will be released. A source familiar with Steele’s interview tempered expectations of any bombshells in the document, saying that Steele avoided going into detail about his efforts to create the dossier and his sources.

A deposition given by former State Department official David Kramer was perhaps the most enlightening document contained in the dump.

Kramer, a longtime associate of late Arizona Sen. John McCain, was BuzzFeed’s source for the dossier. Kramer shared the dossier with at least 11 other reporters, including CNN’s Carl Bernstein. (RELATED: John McCain Associate Gave Dossier To A Dozen Reporters)

Kramer obtained the dossier in late November 2016 after visiting Steele in London. Steele acknowledged that Kramer and McCain were picked as conduits to pass the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey. McCain met with Comey on Dec. 9, 2016 and provided all of the dossier’s memos that had been written up to that point.

“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” Kramer said in the deposition when asked why Steele and his business partners at Fusion GPS wanted McCain to meet with Comey.

Via Washington Examiner

Former British spy Christopher Steele admitted that he relied on an unverified report on a CNN website for part of the “Trump dossier,” which was used as a basis for the FBI’s investigation into Trump.

According to deposition transcripts released this week, Steele said last year he used a 2009 report he found on CNN’s iReport website and said he wasn’t aware that submissions to that site are posted by members of the public and are not checked for accuracy.

web archive from July 29, 2009 shows that CNN described the site in this manner: “iReport.com is a user-generated site. That means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked, or screened before they post.”

In the dossier, Steele, a Cambridge-educated former MI6 officer, wrote about extensive allegations against Donald Trump, associates of his campaign, various Russians and other foreign nationals, and a variety of companies — including one called Webzilla. Those allegations would become part of an FBI investigation and would be used to apply for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

During his deposition, Steele was pressed on the methods he used to verify allegations made about Webzilla, which was thought to be used by Russia to hack into Democratic emails.

When asked if he discovered “anything of relevance concerning Webzilla” during the verification process, Steele replied: “We did. It was an article I have got here which was posted on July 28, 2009, on something called CNN iReport.”

“I do not have any particular knowledge of that,” Steele said when asked what was his understanding of how the iReport website worked.

When asked if he understood that content on the site was not generated by CNN reporters, he said, “I do not.” He was then asked: “Do you understand that they have no connection to any CNN reporters?” Steele replied, “I do not.”

He was pressed on this further: “Do you understand that CNN iReports are or were nothing more than any random individuals’ assertions on the Internet?” Steele replied: “No, I obviously presume that if it is on a CNN site that it may has some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site.”

When asked about his methodology for searching for this information, Steele described it as “what we could call an open source search,” which he defined as “where you go into the Internet and you access material that is available on the Internet that is of relevance or reference to the issue at hand or the person under consideration.”

Steele said his dossier contained “raw intelligence” that he admitted could contain untrue or even “deliberately false information.”

Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Fusion GPS was receiving funding at the time from the Clinton campaign and the DNC through the Perkins Coie law firm.

The series of memos that Steele would eventually compile became known as the “Trump Dossier.” The dossier was used in FISA applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

When asked whether he warned Fusion GPS that the information in the dossier might be “Russian disinformation,” Steele admitted that “a general understanding existed between us and Fusion … that all material contained this risk.”

Steele also described his interactions with Sen. John McCain’s aide, David Kramer, whose own deposition showed that he provided BuzzFeed with a copy of the dossier and had spoken with more than a dozen journalists about it.

“I provided copies of the December memo to Fusion GPS for onward passage to David Kramer at the request of Sen. John McCain,” Steele said. “Sen. McCain nominated him as the intermediary. I did not choose him as the intermediary.”

When asked if he told Kramer that he couldn’t “vouch for everything that was produced in the memos,” Steele replied, “Yes, with an emphasis on ‘everything.'”

When asked why he believed it was so important to provide the dossier to Sen. McCain, Steele said: “Because I judged it had national security implications for the United States and the West as a whole.”

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Trudeau’s Top Bureaucrat Unexpectedly Quits Amid Growing Corruption Scandal

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

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Via Zerohedge


Since it was exposed by a report in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper earlier this month, the scandal that’s become known as the SNC-Lavalin affair has already led to the firing of several of Trudeau’s close advisors and raised serious questions about whether the prime minister was complicit in pressuring the attorney general to offer a deferred prosecution agreement with a large, Quebec-based engineering firm.

And according to the first round of polls released since the affair exploded into public view…

…it could cost Trudeau his position as prime minister and return control to the conservatives, according to the CBC.

Campaign Research showed the Conservatives ahead with 37% to 32% for the Liberals, while both Ipsos and Léger put the margin at 36% to 34% in the Conservatives’ favour.Since December, when both polling firms were last in the field, the Liberals have lost one point in Campaign Research’s polling and four percentage points in the Ipsos poll, while the party is down five points since November in the Léger poll.

Meanwhile, as the noose tightens around Trudeau, on Monday another of the key Canadian government officials at the center of the SNC-Lavalin scandal has quit his post.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the privy council, the highest-ranking position in Canada’s civil service and a key aide to Justin Trudeau, announced his retirement Monday. Trudeau named Ian Shugart, currently deputy minister of foreign affairs, to replace him.

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

“It is now apparent that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the opposition parties,” he said, citing the need for impartiality on the issue of potential foreign interference. According to Bloomberg, the exact date of his departure is unclear.

As we reported in February, Canada’s former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, quit following allegations that several key Trudeau government figures pressured her to intervene to end a criminal prosecution against Montreal-based construction giant SNC. Wernick was among those she named in saying the prime minister’s office wanted her to pursue a negotiated settlement.

Wernick has since twice spoken to a committee of lawmakers investigating the case, and during that testimony both defended his actions on the SNC file and warned about the risk of foreign election interference, as “blame Putin” has become traditional Plan B plan for most politicians seeing their careers go up in flames.

“I’m deeply concerned about my country right now, its politics and where it’s headed. I worry about foreign interference in the upcoming election,” he said in his first appearance before the House of Commons justice committee, before repeating the warning a second time this month. “If that was seen as alarmist, so be it. I was pulling the alarm. We need a public debate about foreign interference.”

Because somehow foreign interference has something to do with Wenick’s alleged corruption.

Incidentally, as we wonder what the real reason is behind Wernick’s swift departure, we are confident we will know soon enough.

Anyway, back to the now former clerk, who is meant to be non-partisan in service of the government of the day, also criticized comments by a Conservative senator and praised one of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers.

Wernick’s testimony was criticized as overly cozy with the ruling Liberals. Murray Rankin, a New Democratic Party lawmaker, asked the clerk how lawmakers could “do anything but conclude that you have in fact crossed the line into partisan activity?” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said he seemed “willing to interfere in partisan fashion for whoever is in power.”

Whatever Wernick’s true motives, he is the latest but not last in what will be a long line of cabinet departures as the SNC scandal exposes even more corruption in Trudeau’s cabinet (some have ironically pointed out that Canada’s “beloved” prime minister could be gone for actual corruption long before Trump). Trudeau had already lost a top political aide, Gerald Butts, to the scandal. A second minister, Jane Philpott, followed Wilson-Raybould in quitting cabinet.

Separately, on Monday, Trudeau appointed a former deputy prime minister in a Liberal government, Anne McLellan, as a special adviser to investigate some of the legal questions raised by the controversy. They include how governments should interact with the attorney general and whether that role should continue to be held by the justice minister.

As Bloomberg notes, the increasingly shaky Liberal government hasn’t ruled out helping SNC by ordering a deferred prosecution agreement in the corruption and bribery case, which centers around the company’s work in Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya. Doing so would allow the company to pay a fine and avoid any ban on receiving government contracts. That decision is up to the current attorney general, David Lametti; of course, such an action would only raise tensions amid speculation that the government is pushing for a specific political, and favorable for Trudeau, outcome.

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