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The reasons and perils of Israel’s dangerous game in Syria

Israel’s bombing of Syrian positions in the Golan Heights is part of a strategy of creating an Al-Qaeda controlled buffer zone as Israel’s strategic position deteriorates in light of the pending victory of the Syrian government in the Syrian war.

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most important things to have happened in the Syrian war over the last few months is that the veil of Israel’s neutrality in the war has been thrown off.

This veil was always very thin.  It is no secret in the Middle East that the Syrian conflict has been all about breaking the ‘Axis of Resistance’ of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah by attacking Syria, which was supposed to be its weakest link.

The ‘Axis of Resistance’ of course gets its name because of its ‘resistance’ to Israel.  It is not surprising therefore that Israel is implacably hostile to it, and has long sought to break it up. Since the ‘Axis of Resistance’ – and the extension of Iranian power that comes with it – is also seen as a threat by the conservative Arab Gulf States and by the US, that explains the de facto alliance between them and Israel which has been the main driver of the Syrian war.

Our contributor Afra’a Dagher – who is Syrian and who writes from Syria – has written about all this extensively.   Israeli leaders have also spoken about all it with refreshing directness and frankness which one never gets from the leaders of the West.  Consider for example the public admission in January 2016 of Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon that he would rather see the victory of ISIS in Syria than the perpetuation of Iranian influence there.

It is clear by now however that this plan has badly miscarried.

Following the intervention of Russia in 2015 it became increasingly clear that the Syrian government was going to survive.  Following the liberation of eastern Aleppo last December it also became clear that the Syrian government was likely to regain control of the populous regions of ‘useful Syria’ on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.  Following the Russian-Turkish-Iranian ceasefire plan agreed in May the Syrian government’s control of ‘useful Syria’ has been consolidated.  Following the offensives of the Syrian army in eastern Syria it is becoming clear that the plan to hive off eastern Syria in order to create a Sunni client state there has also failed.  The US has now publicly admitted as much.

All of this from an Israeli point of view is serious enough.  However of even greater concern must be that the result of the Syrian war is leaving Israel’s strategic position much weaker than it was before the war started.  To see why consider the following four facts:

(1) The Syrian army is now a far more formidable force than it was before the war

The Syrian army before 2011 was like most Arab armies inefficient and shot through with corruption.  Six years of war have however cut out the dead and rotten wood, improving discipline and morale, and giving the army’s commanders battlefield experience exceeding anything the Israeli army now has.  It has also massively improved the Syrian army’s command and control systems.

The blisteringly fast parallel advance of three large Syrian military columns across the desert of central and eastern Syria towards Deir Ezzor which is currently underway speaks of the very highest quality of staff work.  This is not something the Syrian army was capable of before the war.

Quite probably much of this staff work – perhaps all of it – is being done for the Syrian army by the Russians, who have historically excelled at staff work.  However even if Syrian commanders involved in the operation are purely beneficiaries of staff work being done for them by the Russians, they will be experiencing the effect of first class staff work for the first time and will be learning vital lessons from it.

There are also reports of the wholesale retraining of Syrian officers and soldiers by Russian advisers and of the Syrians being supplied by Russia with sophisticated weapons such as T90 tanks, BTR82 armoured vehicles, Igla man portable surface to air missiles (MANPADS) and by Iran with sophisticated Iranian drones.

The Syrian army has also gained for the first time in its history experience of close air support for ground troops engaged in both offensive and defensive operations, with the Syrians learning all about how to train and position forward air controllers and how to maintain communications during ground fighting between ground forces and air forces.

(2) President Assad’s prestige and authority is being increased

The Syrian government has been the most consistent opponent of Israel amongst the governments of the Arab states since at least the 1960s.  Whereas Egypt and Jordan have concluded peace treaties with Israel, Syria has consistently refused to do so.

President Bashar Al-Assad inherited this policy from his father, former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.  Until the outbreak of the Syrian war he was however widely seen as a weak leader, too intellectual and too westernised to replace his father in leading Syria effectively.

In the event President Assad rose to the challenge of the war.  His success in holding Syria together through the extraordinary stresses of the war, the leadership he has provided to his people, to his government and to his army, and his skilful diplomacy, which has won him the vital backing of Russia, will inevitably once the war is over increase his prestige, not just within Syria but in the Arab world as a whole.  He will be seen as the man who at the risk of his own life stayed at his post even as his official residence was almost entirely surrounded by Jihadi fighters, and who stood up to the US, Israel, the Gulf Arab States, NATO, Turkey, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and against all the odds won.

The war has transformed President Assad – amongst Arab leaders Israel’s most implacable enemy – into a potentially towering figure, arguably the most imposing the Arab world has had since the death of Gamal Nasser.  Moreover unlike tyrannical and blustering figures like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Al-Assad – dignified, educated and articulate in both Arabic and English – looks like someone Arabs can identify with, and who like Nasser the outside world can take seriously.

The Israelis must be worried as to what use President Assad will put his newly found authority and prestige when the Syrian war is over and his hands are finally freed.  Will he become a beacon of opposition to them as Nasser once was?  The possibility is there.

(3) The Syrian-Iranian alliance has been massively strengthened

In my opinion the ultimate origin of the Syrian war is the 2006 conflict in Lebanon when the Lebanese Shiite resistance group Hezbollah successfully held off the assault of the Israeli army.  This event spread alarm not just in Israel but in the US and amongst the Gulf Arab States about the powerful Iranian led ‘Axis of Resistance’ which was in the process of forming.  As discussed above, the Syrian war was essentially launched to break it.

I will now state my view that this pre-2011 fear about the emergence of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ – often conflated with the somewhat different concept of the so-called ‘Shia Crescent’ – was overdone.  Before 2011 Hezbollah was a purely Lebanese movement, which posed no threat to the existence of Israel, whilst Syria, though Israel’s enemy and allied to both Hezbollah and Iran, posed no threat to Israel either.  As for Iran, though it did have a powerful military, it was also far away and was then and – in my opinion still is now – overwhelmingly focused on its own security.

As for the idea of some sort of territorially contiguous ‘Shia Crescent‘ forming a ‘land-bridge’ linking Iran with Hezbollah across Syria and Iraq, this was a concept which before 2011 had no reality.  Certainly no such ‘land-bridge’ could have existed in 2006 when Hezbollah defeated Israel’s assault in Lebanon because Iraq at that time was under US occupation following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, ensuring that the US would intercept whatever supplies Iran might have tried to send to Hezbollah through there.

The effect of the Syrian war is however that it has actually brought all the elements of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ together and is adding Iraq to them, making the concept of a ‘land-bridge’ from Iran to Hezbollah across Syria and Iraq finally into a potential reality.

Iranian influence has markedly increased in Syria as a result of the war.  Iranian troops are now present in Syria where before 2011 there were none.  There are also now large numbers of Iranian commanded Shia militia from Iraq there.  Hezbollah is now also fighting alongside the Syrian army there. Syria and Iraq have discovered a commonality of interest in fighting ISIS and other Jihadi movements which they never had before, and are now de facto allies.  Both are allies of Iran.

With the coordinated arrival of Syrian and Iraqi troops at their common border for the first time in years, the much feared and talked about ‘land-bridge’ linking Iran with Hezbollah across Iraq and Syria is now finally close to becoming a reality.  Not only is it now theoretically possible to send supplies by road from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but there is now for the first time a real possibility of it actually happening.

(4) Israel is losing its strategic dominance in the region because of the coming of Russia 

If the arrival of the Russians in Syria in 2015 was the single event which decisively turned the tide of the war in Syria, Russia’s recent decision to set up a huge network of bases in Syria – a fully fledged naval base in Tartus, a permanent air base in Khmeimim, and a huge supporting complex of advanced surface to air missiles, electronic warfare systems, radars, and listening stations – means that Israel’s hitherto unchallenged strategic dominance in this region is being lost.

To be clear, the Russian presence in Syria is not directed at Israel, and the Russians have been at pains to make clear that they are not Israel’s enemy.  However the presence of the sophisticated military of a nuclear superpower so close to Israel’s territory cannot but fill the Israelis with foreboding since over time, as the situation in Syria stabilises, it will inevitably come to constrain Israel’s actions.

The US has twice been obliged to limit its air operations in Syria after the Russians turned off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria (see here and here).

There is a separate ‘de-confliction’ hotline in existence between the militaries of Israel and Russia.  Since it is hardly plausible that Israel will be prepared to send its aircraft to places where the mighty US air force refuses to go, the Israelis must dread the day when the Russians decide to do the same to them, forcing them like the US to limit their flights in Syrian airspace.

That day may not be so far off.

The Russians during the Syrian war have shown that they will act strongly if either the US or Israel take military action which directly threatens the Syrian government, or which interferes with the offensive operations of the Syrian army.

Thus the Russians reacted sharply last October when the US seemed to be considering strikes on Syrian forces to break the siege of Jihadi controlled eastern Aleppo and following a US air attack on Syrian troops defending Deir Ezzor, and more recently they also reacted sharply when the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter during the ongoing Syrian army offensive in northern Syria against ISIS.  They also reacted sharply when Israel recently bombed Syria’s vital Tiyas air base, calling in the Israeli ambassador to protest an action which was clearly intended to obstruct the Syrian army’s eastern campaign against ISIS.

The Russians have however shown far greater forbearance in responding to attacks that they consider pinpricks ie. occasional US or Israeli strikes on Syrian troops or facilities which pose no direct threat to the Syrian government, and which do not affect the conduct of Syrian army operations which the Russians consider important.  The muted Russian response to the recent US shooting down of an Iranian drone was merely one example of this.

However once the situation in Syria stabilises and the country is at peace the Russians are unlikely to go on showing the same forbearance.  Israeli attacks on Syria will then be attacks on Russia’s most important friend and ally in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean, a country which will be hosting Russia’s biggest network of bases outside former Soviet territory, and one which will also be hosting tens of thousands of Russian visitors, not just military personnel manning the bases but civilian visitors and tourists visiting a friendly country which will no longer be a war zone.

In light of this there has to be an overwhelming likelihood that the Russians will at some point tell the Israelis that further attacks on Syria will no longer be tolerated, and must stop.

Beyond this there is there is the change in the regional balance caused by the mere presence of the Russian bases in Syria.

Already there are reports in the Israeli media of Israeli concern that Russian radars in Syria already possess the ability to track the flight of every Israeli aircraft taking off from every air base in Israel.  It is highly likely Russian listening stations in Syria and in Russia monitoring signals that might affect the operation of Russia’s Syrian bases will before long start listening to Israeli signals traffic even if they are not doing so already.  Meanwhile the electronic warfare systems the Russians have already deployed to Syria – notably the Krasukha-S4 – are probably already capable of jamming Israeli signals traffic and the operation of some Israeli weapons systems.

The Israelis must also worry about what might happen if the Russians one day start passing on some of the information their intelligence gathering systems in Syria are providing them to the Syrians.  After all it is standard practice for a country operating bases in another country to share intelligence it obtains through use of these bases with the host country.  The Syrians might in that case obtain intelligence about Israel of a quality they have never had before.

Regardless of that, with the Russians already in Syria and listening in to Israel’s signals traffic the possibility of Israel mounting a surprise attack on Syria like the one it carried off so spectacularly in 1967 has gone, probably forever.

It is not difficult therefore to see why Israel should be so concerned about recent developments in Syria.  A war which was at least in part intended to make Israel’s position stronger is ending up by making it much weaker.

It is these concerns which undoubtedly lie behind Israel’s most recent actions.

Despite Israeli denials the recent Israeli bombing raids on Syrian military positions in the Golan Heights are clearly intended to support an Al-Qaeda offensive against Syrian troops there.  The plan appears to be to create an Al-Qaeda controlled buffer zone between Israel and the Syrian military in the Golan Heights, the one area where Syria and Israel territorially adjoin each other, and where their militaries directly confront each other.

The Israelis after all tried to do the same thing when they set up the so-called ‘South Lebanese Army” in southern Lebanon to control a buffer zone there after their invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

If that is the Israeli plan – and everything suggests that it is – then the Lebanese experience ought to serve as a warning.

Al-Qaeda led Jihadi fighters are scarcely reliable allies for Israel, and in trying to manipulate them Israel is holding a scorpion by the tail.

By meddling in the Golan Heights Israel risks becoming bogged down in a prolonged war there, allied to Jihadi fighters who are its sworn enemy.  It is easy to see how this could turn out disastrously, with Israel over time becoming bogged down in a war in the Golan Heights similar to the war it fought and lost in southern Lebanon, which gave rise to Hezbollah.

Rather than engage in these dangerous games in Syria Israel would be far better advised to start looking at serious options to make peace, both with Syria and with the Palestinians.  Given that both of the two superpowers currently engaged in the Middle East – the US and Russia – are at present friendly towards Israel, there is no better time to do so than now.  Delaying doing it risks leaving Israel in a much weaker position than the one it is in now, as the situation in the Middle East following the end of the Syrian war starts to turn against it.

Unfortunately there is no sign that the present Israeli leadership – made complacent by long years of having things always go its way – has any thought of doing this.

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gbardizbanian

I greatly appreciate your comments on President Assad. I truly think he is an extraordinary political figure. He has never given up, he has not deserted his residence in Syria. He has stood up against a formidable alliance of treacherous ennemies: the US, the EU, Turkey, the Arab vassals of the US, NATO, etc…This is an incredible achievement. The Russians played their part but they wouldn’t have achieved anything if Assad had been a weak leader.

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Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

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Mike Pompeo lays out his vision for American exceptionalism (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 158.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Mike Pompeo’s shocking Brussels speech, where the U.S. Secretary of State took aim at the European Union and United Nations, citing such institutions as outdated and poorly managed, in need of a new dogma that places America at its epicenter.

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Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly underscored why nobody takes the United States seriously on the international stage. Via The Council on Foreign Relations


In a disingenuous speech at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo depicted the transactional and hypernationalist Trump administration as “rallying the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order.” He did so while launching gratuitous attacks on the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—pillars of the existing postwar order the United States did so much to create. He remained silent, naturally, on the body blows that the current administration has delivered to its erstwhile allies and partners, and to the institutions that once upon a time permitted the United States to legitimate rather than squander its international leadership.

In Pompeo’s telling, Donald J. Trump is simply seeking a return to the world that former Secretary of State George Marshall helped to create. In the decades after 1945, the United States “underwrote new institutions” and “entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” So doing, the United States “won the Cold War” and—thanks to the late President George H. W. Bush, “we won the peace” that followed. “This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

That leadership is needed because the United States “allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode” once the bipolar conflict ended. “Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” Pompeo explained. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” What is needed is a multilateralism that once again places the nation-state front and center.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges: that multilateralism should be an end in itself; that paper commitments are credible absent implementation, verification, and enforcement; or that the yardstick of success is how many bureaucrats get hired. What sensible people do believe is that multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems. Working with others is typically superior to unilateralism, since going it alone leaves the United States with the choice of trying to do everything itself (with uncertain results) or doing nothing. Multilateralism also provides far more bang for the buck than President Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy, bilateralism.

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

When he looks at the world, the president cares only about what’s in it for the United States (and, naturally, for him). That cynicism explains the president’s deafening silence on human rights violations and indeed his readiness to cozy up to strongmen and killers from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed bin Salman to too many more to list. Given Trump’s authoritarian sympathies and instincts, Pompeo’s warnings about “Orwellian human rights violations” in China and “suppressed opposition voices” in Russia ring hollow.

“The central question that we face,” Pompeo asked in Brussels, “is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today—does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?” The answer, of course, is not as well as it should, and not for nearly enough of them. But if the secretary is seeking to identify impediments to a better functioning multilateral system, he can look to his left in his next Cabinet meeting.

“Principled realism” is the label Pompeo has given Trump’s foreign policy. Alas, it betrays few principles and its connection to reality is tenuous. The president has abandoned any pursuit of universal values, and his single-minded obsession to “reassert our sovereignty” (as Pompeo characterizes it) is actually depriving the United States of joining with others to build the prosperous, secure, and sustainable world that Americans want.

“Bad actors have exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain,” the secretary of state declared in Belgium. “This is the poisoned fruit of American retreat.” How true. Pompeo’s next sentence—“President Trump is determined to reverse that”—was less persuasive.

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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