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Diplomatic exchanges suggest deal between Trump and Putin about Syria

Intense diplomatic activity between US and Russia suggest an understanding has been reached between the Trump administration and the Kremlin over Syria with the US supporting the Russian initiative on ‘de-escalation areas’ and Russia switching the deconfliction hotline with the US military back on.

Alexander Mercouris

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Alongside the agreement in Astana between Russia, Turkey and Iran to set up ‘de-escalation areas’ in Syria, it is clear that diplomatic contacts between the US and Russia about Syria have intensified significantly in recent days, with the White House and the Kremlin engaging in the first positive interactions they have had since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

The talks kicked off with a telephone conversation between Presidents Putin and Trump on Tuesday 2nd May 2017.  At the time international attention was focused on the situation in the Korean Peninsula.  It is now clear that the main focus of the conversation between Putin and Trump was actually Syria.  Here is the Kremlin’s summary of this part of the conversation

A wide range of current issues regarding the two countries’ cooperation in the international arena was discussed, with an emphasis on future coordination of Russian and US actions to fight international terrorism in the context of the Syrian crisis.

It was agreed to bolster the dialogue between the heads of the two nations’ foreign policy agencies in an effort to find ways to stabilise the ceasefire and make it durable and manageable.

The aim is to create preconditions for launching a real settlement process in Syria. To that end, the Russian Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State shall promptly brief the countries’ leaders on any progress achieved.

(bold italics added)

This makes it clear that Putin and Trump discussed ways of ‘de-escalating’ the Syrian crisis with a view to combining forces against Jihadi terrorists ie. Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

It is now known that Putin discussed his proposal to set up the ‘de-escalation zones’ over the course of his conversation with Trump.  Trump gave his agreement, as did Turkish President Erdogan during his meeting with Putin on the following day (Wednesday 3rd May 2017).

On Thursday 4th May 2017 the representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran signed the memorandum setting up the ‘de-escalation areas’ in Astana (the Russian Foreign Ministry has now officially published its text, though it is the same one that I have discussed previously).

On the following day, Friday 5th May 2017, there was a telephone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during which the main topic of discussion was the conflict of Syria and implementation of the proposal for ‘de-escalation areas’.

The day after, Saturday 6th May 2017, the General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, and General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a telephone conversation to discuss implementation of the memorandum.  This conversation between the highest ranking officers of the Russian and US militaries resumes the dialogue between the US and Russian militaries Gerasimov and Dunford began with each other in February in Baku.

Following the telephone conversation between Gerasimov and Dunford on 6th May 2017, the Russians switched back on the deconfliction hotline between the US and Russian militaries that the Russians switched off following the US missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base on 6th April 2017.  Earlier Russian media reports which I discussed previously which claimed that the deconfliction hotline had been switched on previously were clearly wrong.  TASS has provided a summary of the Russian Defence Ministry’s account of this conversation

Russia’s Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford confirmed in their phone conversation the readiness to reinstate the memorandum of understanding on safe flights over Syria and to draw up more measures so as to avoid any conflicts, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

“Syria was in focus of the talks in the light of the agreements, reached in Astana on May 4 this year, on establishing de-escalation zones in some regions of Syria,” the ministry said in a statement. The top generals “confirmed readiness to re-assume in full the parties’ obligations under the Russian-US memorandum of understanding on air safety and prevention of incidents in Syria’s air space and besides, to continue work on additional measures so as to avoid conflict situations during (military) operations against ISIS (so-called Islamic State) and Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Besides, the conversation held at the US request highlighted “other issues on bilateral agenda” except Syria, the ministry said.

“The interlocutors agreed to maintain regular contacts,” the defense ministry said.

On May 4, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to set up four de-escalation zones in Syria. Under the memorandum signed at the talks in Astana, combat operations, including flights by military aircraft, are outlawed. The memorandum was concluded for six months with chances of automatic prolongation for another six months. Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier that the fight against Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (outlawed in Russia – TASS) would be continued inside and around those zones.
(bold italics added)
The highlighted words may suggest that there was a limited resumption of use of the hotline earlier, and that some form of limited cooperation between the US and Russian militaries in the fight against Al-Qaeda (Jabhat Al-Nusra) and ISIS is under discussion.
All of this suggests that some sort of understanding between the Trump administration and the Russians about Syria has been reached.  The Russian assertion that US aircraft would not fly over the ‘de-escalation areas’ is probably a part of this.
It is too early to be sure, but with the rise in influence in Washington of Rex Tillerson, who over recent weeks has finally asserted himself both as President Trump’s most important foreign policy adviser and as the chief proponent in Washington of a realist foreign policy, it may be that after the setback of the US missile strike against Al-Shayrat air base the deal that appeared to be in the works between the Kremlin and the Trump administration over Syria – with the US abandoning regime change in Syria in return for Russia’s help in the fight against Jihadi terrorism in Syria – is back on track.

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S.M. De Kuyper
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S.M. De Kuyper

The US long term plan to stay in Syria forever is not at all changed. It must do so to oversee it’s hegemony as it’s military does not yet agree it is falling in global importance. All communications with Russia/China are underpinned by this reality believed obssessively by America.

S.M. De Kuyper
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S.M. De Kuyper

OF COURSE!

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Honest liberal says he is NOT INTERESTED in policy explanation [Video]

When news anchors try to act like prosecuting attorneys instead of actually interviewing people, we all lose.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One characteristic of modern-day television “news reporting” is that the political news is not truly reported. Rather, if the interviewer disagrees with the one being interviewed, the session turns into interviewer grandstanding. Regrettably, this tactic is used by liberal and conservative journalists alike. However, it is usually not admitted, as the interviewer usually chooses to say things like “I want the truth” when he or she really wants to force the other person to admit the correctness of the interviewer.

Over the weekend, Fox News’ Chris Wallace grandstanded against White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller. However, Chris Wallace at least was honest about his wish:

STEPHEN MILLER: … At a fundamental level, we could go down into the details, and you know, Chris, I can go down into details as much as you want to, but the bottom line is this…

CHRIS WALLACE: Please don’t! (laughs)

This is a big problem. The responsibility of any good journalist is to get full and accurate information about a given topic. Isn’t it?

Not in the press of our day. Chris Wallace is a valued personality for the Fox News Channel. As a former CBS anchor for 60 Minutes, Wallace brings a well-known face and voice of the mainstream media to Fox, even though he is quite liberal politically, as are many in the entertainment and information professions.

The problem is that the topic here, the facts justifying President Trump’s National Emergency declaration on Friday over the still permeable US-Mexico border, are present in abundance. But Mr. Wallace did not want to know these facts, or perhaps worse, he did not want to let his viewing audience know this information, so he tried to prevent Mr. Miller from talking about those details.

Stephen Miller, thankfully, was not having it. He insisted on giving a full and informed response to Mr. Wallace’s questions, even though Wallace did not want to hear any information.

The rest of the interview is comprised of Mr. Miller trying to dissemimate information and Mr. Wallace trying to block it and refuse it in order to sustain his own preferred narrative.

Chris Wallace’ point of view is that the President called a National Emergency for no good reason, and that President Trump is breaking the law by appropriating money for the Border Wall, something which only the House of Representatives can do, legislatively.

However, the point of view expressed by Mr. Wallace and President Trump is that as Chief Executive of the United States of America, the President is responsible to preserve the country from invasion. For the President, the never-ending waves of illegals coming into the country and not being deported, but rather, released into the US pending trials that they often never attend years later, amounts to a slow invasion.

Strictly speaking, President Trump is correct. The illegals are not (usually) armed representatives of a foreign power, but neither do they become American citizens. Many of them take advantage of generous provisions and loopholes in the law (Mexico teaches them how to do this!) and they therefore earn money but usurp the country of resources.

It has been exceedingly difficult to move the level of interest in stopping illegal immigration in the US. Rush Limbaugh rightly stated in his program on Friday, February 15, what the problem is, and we include some of the details (as we should) for why Mr. Limbaugh says what he says here:

There is a limit on a number of detainees. There is limit on how much of border and fence can be built. There’s a limit on what kind can be built. There’s a limit on modernization. This bill is filled with congressional edicts telling the president of the United States what he cannot do. Now, it authorizes $23 billion for Homeland Security, but it specifies $1.375 billion for fencing and bordering.

But there are so many limits on this as to make this practically irrelevant — by design and on purpose, because I firmly believe that what members of Congress (both parties) actually want with this bill is to send a message that nothing is ever gonna happen as long as Donald Trump is President. The attempt in this budget deal is to send a message to you Trump voters that it’s worthless voting for him, that it is a waste of time supporting him, because they are demonstrating that he can’t get anything done.

This is Pelosi in the House and Schumer in the Senate getting together, because they know when it comes to illegal immigration, these parties are unified, folks. For the most part, the Republicans and Democrats are for open borders. There are exceptions on the Republican side. But there are a lot of Republicans that don’t want Trump to succeed even now. There are a lot of Republicans just after he was inaugurated who don’t want him to succeed. So they come up with a piece of legislation here that is outrageous.

It is outrageous in its denial of the existence of a genuine emergency at the border. They don’t care. They will deal with whatever mess they create. They don’t care how bad it gets because in their world, the only mess is Donald Trump — and since the Russian effort and the Mueller effort and everything else related to that has failed to get his approval numbers down (and that has been the objective from the get-go), this is the latest effort, and it won’t be long… You mark my words on this.

There is an emergency at the US-Mexico border. Last year almost half a million people were apprehended by the Border Patrol and ICE. Many, if not most, though, are still in the United States. They were not all sent back. Some were, and some of them probably have come back in yet again. The fact that our nation’s borders are unrestricted in this manner is absolute folly.

The more American people know the details about what is actually happening at the border, the more they support the wall’s construction and President Trump’s policies. We have seen evidence for this in polling even by liberal network outlets. President Trump managed to call attention to this topic and bring it into the center of the discussion of US domestic policy. Rasmussen reported that the level of approval of Trump’s work to close the border is high – at 59 percent, with only 33 percent disapproving.

The President made this an issue. Chris Wallace tried in his own program to deflect and dissuade information from being brought to the attention of the American viewers who watch his program.

This is not journalism. It is reinforcement of propaganda on Mr. Wallace’s part, defense against facts, and an unwillingness to let the American people have information and therefore to think for themselves.

Unfortunately, such practices are not limited to Mr. Wallace. Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and others all utilize this form of questioning, and it is a shame, because the news reporter no longer reports the news. When a talking head on TV or radio places himself or herself as the Gatekeeper to allow or prevent information from reaching the American people, this is highly presumptuous, ego driven and almost always, dishonest.

Worse, such an approach reinforces this message to American people: “You cannot think for yourself. It is too hard, so we will do your thinking for you. Trust us!”

This style of journalism became more and more popular over, under the “appearance” of “tough questioning.” However the usual course of “tough questioning” is ideologically aligned with whatever the journalist thinks, and not at all about what is actually important. Chris Wallace is notorious for doing this with conservatives, and he does aggravate them, but he reduces interviews to an argument between the journalist and the person interviewed.

And usually, this is not the story. This was made absolutely clear in the interview with Stephen Miller, even to the point that Mr. Wallace actually voiced the request, “please don’t (give us all the specifics of this issue.)” 

Good journalism respects the fact that different people have different points of view. Agreement or disagreement with these points is what Op-Ed writing is for. But when Op-Ed is treated as hard fact journalism, we all lose.

We included the whole interview video from the beginning here so that the viewer can take in the whole course of this discussion. It is well worth watching. And as it is well-worth watching, it is also well-worth each person’s own personal consideration. People are smarter than the media would like us to be.

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Macron pisses off Merkel as he tries to sabotage Nord Stream 2 pipeline (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 177.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss an EU compromise for Nord Stream 2 where EU member states, the EU Parliament, and its Commission will give the bloc more oversight on gas pipelines, with one caveat…the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia will not be threatened by the new regulations in the agreement.

Macron pushed hard to have the new regulations include (and derail) Nord Stream 2, an action which annoyed Angela Merkel, who eventually got her way and delivered another blow to Macron’s failing French presidency.

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Via The Express UK

Angela Merkel hit back at Emmanuel Macron over Russia and Germany’s pipeline project, declaring it would “not be a one-sided dependency”. The German Chancellor explained that Germany will expand its gas terminals with “liquified gas”. Speaking at a press conference, Ms Merkel declared: “Do we become dependent on Russia because of this second gas pipeline? I say no, if we diversify. Germany will expand its gas terminals with liquefied gas.

“This means that we do not want to depend only on Russia, but Russia was a source of gas in the Cold War and will remain one.

“But it would not be one-sided dependency.”

Via DW

The EU parliament and its Council are set to adopt new regulations on gas pipelines connecting the bloc members with non-EU countries, the EU Commission announced early on Wednesday.

The upcoming directive is based on a compromise between EU member states and EU officials in Brussels. The bloc leaders agreed to tighten Brussels’ oversight of gas delivery and expand its rules to all pipelines plugging into the EU’s gas distribution network.

“The new rules ensure that… everyone interested in selling gas to Europe must respect European energy law,” EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement.

For example, owners of pipelines linking EU and non-EU countries would also be required to allow access for their competitors. Brussels would also have more power regarding transparency and tariff regulations.

Russian ambassador slams US

Brussels has repeatedly expressed concern over the controversial Nord Stream 2 project which would deliver Russian gas directly to Germany through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Many EU states oppose the mammoth project, and the US claims it would allow Moscow to tighten its grip on the EU’s energy policy.

Berlin has insisted that the pipeline is a “purely economic” issue.

Speaking to Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily, Russian ambassador to Berlin, Sergey Nechayev, slammed the US’ opposition as an attempt to “push its competition aside” and clear the way for American suppliers of liquefied gas.

“It’s hard to believe that a country that is destroying the rules of free and fair trade, that is imposing import tariffs on its competition, that is flying slogans like ‘America First’ on its flags and often threatens biggest European concerns with illegal sanctions, is now really concerned about European interests,” the Russian envoy said in remarks published in German on Wednesday.

Last week, France unexpectedly rebelled against the project, but Berlin and Paris soon reached a compromise. Thanks to their agreement, the latest deal is not expected to impede the ongoing construction of Nord Stream 2.

Citing sources from negotiators’ circles, German public broadcaster ARD reported that the deal left room for Germany to approve exceptions from the EU-wide rules.

According to the EU Commission, however, exceptions are “only possible under strict procedures in which the Commission plays a decisive role.”

The Gazprom-backed pipeline is set to be completed by the end of the year.

 

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UK Defence Secretary looking for a fight with both China and Russia (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 87.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s idea to deploy hard power against China and Russia, starting with plans to send Britain’s new aircraft carrier to the tense sea routes in the South China Sea.

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“Britain’s Gavin Williamson places Russia & China on notice, I’m not joking,” authored by John Wight, via RT

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is itching for conflict with Russia and China. He’s not mad. Not even slightly. But he is stupid. Very.

Unlike former fireplace salesman Gavin Williamson, I am no military expert. But then you do not need to be one to understand that while Britain going to war with Russia and China might work as a video game, the real thing would be an exceedingly bad idea.

So why then in a speech delivered to the Royal United Services Institute in London, did Mr Williamson’s argument on the feasibility of the real thing elicit applause rather than the shrieks of horror and demands he be sacked forthwith it should have? This is a serious question, by the way. It is one that cuts through British establishment verbiage to reveal a country ruled not by the sober and doughty political heavyweights of years gone by, but by foaming fanatics in expensive suits

Placing to one side for a moment the insanity of the very concept of Britain deploying hard power against Russia and/or China, the prospect of fighting a war against two designated enemies at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Not satisfied with that, though, Mr Williamson is actually contemplating a conflict with three different enemies at the same time – i.e. against Russia, China, and the millions of people in Britain his government is currently waging war against under the rubric of austerity.

“Today, Russia is resurgent,” Mr Williamson said, “rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit.”

For Mr Williamson and his ilk a resurgent Russia is a bad thing. Much better in their eyes if Russia, after the Soviet era in the 1990s, had remained on its knees as a free market desert; its state institutions in a state of near collapse and tens of millions of its citizens in the grip of immiseration. Yes, because in that scenario Western ideologues like him would have had free rein to rampage around the world as they saw fit, setting fire to country after country on the perverse grounds of ‘saving them’ for democracy.

As it is, he and his still managed to squeeze in a considerable amount of carnage and chaos in the years it did take Russia to recover. The indictment reads as follows: Yugoslavia destroyed; Afghanistan turned upside down; Iraq pushed into the abyss; Libya sent to hell.

By the time they turned their attention to Syria, intent on exploiting an Arab Spring that NATO in Libya transformed into an Arab Winter, Russia had recovered and was able to intervene. It did so in concert with the Syrian Arab Army, Iran and Hezbollah to save the day – much to the evident chagrin of those who, like Gavin Williamson, prefer to see countries in ashes rather than independent of Western hegemony.

As to the facile nonsense about Russia trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine back into its orbit, both countries happen to share a border with Russia and both countries, in recent years, have been used by the UK and its allies as cat’s paws with the eastward expansion of NATO in mind.

It gets worse though: “The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost.”

“Provocations,” the man said. Since British troops have been taking part in exercises on Russia’s doorstep, not the other way round, one wonders if Gavin Williamson wrote this speech while inebriated.

It is Russia that has been on the receiving end of repeated provocations from NATO member states such as the UK in recent times, and it is Russia that has been forced to respond to protect its own security and that of its people where necessary. Furthermore, not only in Russia but everywhere, including the UK, people understand that when you have political leaders intoxicated by their own national myths and propaganda to such an extent as Britain’s Defence Secretary, danger ensues.

The most enduring of those national myths where London is concerned is that the British Empire was a force for good rather than a vast criminal enterprise, that Britain and America won the Second World War together alone, that Iraq had WMDs, and that international law and international brigandage really are one and the same thing.

Perhaps the most preposterous section of the speech came when Mr Williamson tried to fashion a connection between Brexit and Britain’s military strength: “Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.”

Reading this, you can almost hear Churchill turning in his grave. Britain’s wartime prime minister had such as Gavin Williamson in mind when he famously said, “He has all the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

Mr Williamson obviously misread the memo talking up not the opportunity for increased conflict with China after Brexit but trade.

This was not a speech it was a linguistic car crash, one that will forever command an honoured place in compendiums of the worst political speeches ever made. As for Gavin Williamson, just as no responsible parent would ever dream of putting an 10-year old behind the wheel of car to drive unsupervised, no responsible British government would ever appoint a man like him as its Defence Secretary.

In years past, he would have struggled to find employment polishing the brass plate outside the building.

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