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Russia challenges Britain on Skripal: insists on proper procedures being followed; demands answers

Russia publishes detailed rebuttal of British claims on Skripal case, demands British answers to host of unanswered questions

Alexander Mercouris

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The Russian Foreign Ministry has published a formal statement responding to British claims of Russian involvement in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, and demanding that Britain answer questions about its conduct of the Skripal case

The complete text of the statement – known in diplomatic language as an Aide-memoire – is as follows

21 March 2018    21:33
Aide-memoire to clarify the state of affairs as regards the so-called ‘Skripal case’

1. On 12 March 2018, Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May, addressing the House of Commons, said it was “highly likely” that the Russian Federation was responsible for the poisoning of former GRU colonel, double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal on 4 March 2018 in Salisbury, with a nerve agent identified according to British classification as A-234.

The United Kingdom has publicly raised a question about Russia’s “concealing” and “using” part of its chemical arsenal, thus alleging that Russia has “violated” its obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC) – one of the most effective multilateral treaties in the disarmament and non-proliferation field, which was initiated, among others, by our country.

Thus, the United Kingdom has come out against Russia as well as against the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) itself and the tremendous work that has been done within this organization during the last two decades, including with participation of the United Kingdom.

Pursuant to the requirements of Article III of the CWC, the Russian Federation submitted a full and complete declaration of all its chemical weapons stockpiles. That data was thoroughly checked and verified by the inspection teams of the OPCW Technical Secretariat. The fact of the full elimination of Russia’s chemical arsenal has been officially confirmed by the authorized international institution – the OPCW.

2. On 12 March 2018, given the gravity of the accusations brought against our country, the Russian Embassy in London sent a note verbale to the Foreign Office of Great Britain requesting access to the investigation materials, including samples of the chemical agent that British investigators were referring to, so that it could be tested by our experts in the framework of joint investigation.

Thus, we proposed to act in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article IX of the CWC. It stipulates that States Parties to the Convention should first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with the CWC. Under the provisions of that Article, Russia would be ready to respond to the United Kingdom’s request within 10 days.

Unfortunately, the British side rejected that option and, instead of following the existing norms of international law, chose to unscrupulously politicize the issue.

3. British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested that a special Security Council meeting to discuss the matter be held on 14 March 2018.  Suspecting that London would play dirty, Russia insisted on making the Security Council’s meeting open.

It is incomprehensible what the British side was trying to achieve by bringing the issue to the UNSC. This matter by no means falls within the mandate of the UNSC. It is quite obvious that all discussions are pointless until the OPCW gives its assessment of the Salisbury incident (it is important to know whether a nerve agent was actually used; if it was, how the likely origin of the chemicals was determined; what, and on what basis, actions were taken with regard to the victims, etc.).

4. On 14 March 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May, apparently having come to senses, finally sent a letter to Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü (circulated to all OPCW Executive Council Member States on 15 March 2018) inviting the OPCW Technical Secretariat “to independently verify the analysis” of the British investigation into the Salisbury incident.

As indicated in the press release by the British Foreign Office of 18 March 2018, following the letter by Ms Theresa May, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the OPCW invited experts of the OPCW Technical Secretariat to visit the United Kingdom to carry out an independent analysis of the findings of the British Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in connection with the Salisbury incident. On 19 March 2018, OPCW experts arrived in the United Kingdom.

Russia expects the OPCW to make an official detailed account of developments around the ‘Skripal case’. We proceed from the understanding that the OPCW Technical Secretariat shall conduct a full-fledged independent investigation in accordance with all relevant provisions of the CWC.

5. Russia has more and more questions both in legal and practical terms. And we intend to seek answers through the OPCW.

Russia states that it has not used chemical weapons against Great Britain. We suppose that the attack on the Skripals with toxic chemicals shall be deemed a terrorist act. As Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen, is among the victims to the incident, we propose cooperation with the British Side under Article IX of the CWC.

We would like to ascertain the following issues.

Where, how, and by whom were the samples collected from Sergei and Yulia Skripal? How was it all documented? Who can certify that the data is credible? Was the chain of custody up to all the OPCW requirements when evidence was collected?

Which methods (spectral analysis and others) were used by the British side to identify, within such a remarkably short period of time, the type of the substance used (“Novichok” according to the western classification)? As far as we know, to do that, they must have had a standard sample of such agent at their disposal.

And how do these hasty actions correlate with Scotland Yard’s official statements that “the investigation is highly likely to take weeks or even months” to arrive at conclusions?

What information and medical effects led to a hasty decision to administer antidotes to the aggrieved Skripals and the British policeman? Could that hastiness lead to grave complications and further deterioration of their health status?

Which antidotes exactly were administered? What tests had been conducted to make the decision to use these drugs?

How can the delayed action of the nerve agent be explained, given that it is a fast-acting substance by nature? The victims were allegedly poisoned in a pizzeria (in a car, at the airport, at home, according to other accounts). So what really happened? How come they were found in some unidentified time on a bench in the street?

We need an explanation why it is Russia who was accused on the ‘Skripal case’ without any grounds whatsoever, while works to develop the agent codenamed “Novichok” in the West had been carried out by the United Kingdom, the USA, Sweden and the Czech Republic. There are more than 200 open sources publications in the NATO countries, highlighting the results that those countries achieved in the development of new toxic agents of this type.

6. Even from purely humanitarian perspective London’s action appears simply barbaric. On 4 March 2018 (as British authorities themselves claim) a nerve agent attack against Russian citizen Yulia Skripal was committed in the territory of the United Kingdom.

Russian Federation has demanded exhaustive information on the course of investigation into the Salisbury incident involving a Russian citizen (the Russian Embassy in London sent the relevant note verbale on 12 March 2018).

The United Kingdom is breaching elementary rules of inter-State relations and is still denying, without any explanation, Russian officials’ consular access to Yulia Skripal envisaged by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. For more than two weeks now, we have not been able to credibly ascertain what happened to our citizen and what condition she is actually in.

On 16 March, the Main Directorate for High-Priority Cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal investigation into the attempted willful murder of Russian citizen Yulia Skripal committed by dangerous means in the territory of the United Kingdom.

The investigation will be conducted in accordance with the Russian legislation and the norms of international law. Highly qualified experts will contribute to the investigation.

The investigators stand ready to work together with the competent authorities of the United Kingdom. We expect a cooperative approach of the British side.

7. In the UN Security Council as well as in the OPCW and at other international fora, the Russian Federation has been a consistent and insistent proponent of thorough, comprehensive and professional investigation of all crimes involving toxic chemicals, and of bringing perpetrators to justice.

We are ready to engage in full-scale and open cooperation with the United Kingdom in order to address any concerns whether in bilateral format or within the OPCW and other international instruments, working within the purview of international law.

As a responsible member of the international community and a bona fide State Party to the CWC Russia will never speak the language of ultimatums or answer informal and word-of-mouth questions.

The Western countries’ action on the fabricated ‘Skripal case’ contravenes the norms of international law and the general practice of inter-State relations, as well as the common sense itself. Naturally, we run a detailed record of all that, and when time comes, those guilty will inevitably be brought to justice.

Compare this careful statement with this infantile video published by the British Foreign Office, which conflates speculations about the case appearing on Russian television channels and in Russian newspapers with formal statements of the Russian government

To be clear, the Russians have provided a full explanation of their position: they were not involved in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, they do not possess any stocks of Novichok chemicals, and the Novichok chemical used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal cannot therefore have come from their stocks, which do not exist.

It is perverse and mendacious for the British to go on pretending that the Russians have not fully answered the question Theresa May put to them in her notorious ultimatum of a week ago.  Not only have the Russians fully answered the question; they have done so repeatedly.  It is another matter that the British do not like the answer.

The Russian statement or Aide-memoire speaks for itself, but I will just add two further points to it:

(1) Former British ambassador Craig Murray, whose articles on the Skripal case have been quite simply outstanding, has made the point that the British have never actually said that the chemical agent used in the attack on Skripal was made in Russia.

Instead the formula always used in all British and Western statements about the chemical agent used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal is that it was of a type developed by Russia.

I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so. Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation. The Russians were allegedly researching, in the “Novichok” programme a generation of nerve agents which could be produced from commercially available precursors such as insecticides and fertilisers. This substance is a “novichok” in that sense. It is of that type. Just as I am typing on a laptop of a type developed by the United States, though this one was made in China.

To anybody with a Whitehall background this has been obvious for several days. The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN Security Council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, “of a type developed by Russia” is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday:

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.

When the same extremely careful phrasing is never deviated from, you know it is the result of a very delicate Whitehall compromise.

To which I would add that the formula of a type developed by Russia is actually wrong.

The family of chemical agents the Western powers call “Novichoks” (apparently it is not a Russian term) were not “developed by Russia”.  They were developed by the USSR, which was a different and much bigger country than Russia.

The main production facility was allegedly in Uzbekistan, which is not part of Russia, though there is actually doubt about whether any “Novichok” agents were ever made there.

The British have apparently tried to get round this problem by saying that Russia is the USSR’s successor state and “assumed responsibility” for all the USSR’s programmes.

This is absurd.  Russia does not control everything that happens across the whole territory of the former USSR and it is absurd to say that it “responsible” for some of the things that might go on there.

Three former constituent republics of the USSR – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are now members of NATO.  Ukraine and Georgia are on bad terms with Russia and are regarded by NATO as NATO aspirant states. Uzbekistan, though currently friendly to Russia, has not always been so.  Moldova is deeply split between a pro-Russian President and a fervidly anti-Russian and pro-Western government.

To suppose that Russia is responsible for what goes on within these countries is ridiculous.  Yet they were part of the USSR – the country where development of the Novichok chemical agents took place – to the same extent that Russia was, and it is at least possible (indeed it is highly likely) that knowledge about the Novichok programme is dispersed across some or all of these countries, just as it is now dispersed in the West.

It seems that the facility where most of the research into Novichok chemical agents was done was located in Saratov which is now in Russia.

However given that the USSR was a different and much bigger country than Russia, it cannot be said that Novichok chemical agents are “of a type developed by Russia”.  It is false and misleading to go on saying so.

(2) An article in the Guardian today contains this quite extraordinary sentence

A Russian official said on Wednesday that Moscow would not accept the results of an inquiry into the source of the poison being undertaken by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

The official in question is Vladimir Yermakov, a deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for non-proliferation, who the Guardian also reports in the same article saying the following

It is not possible to evaluate what happened in Salisbury within the framework of the [chemical weapons] convention and within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Deeper expert evaluations will be needed, and in any case we need to conduct our own investigations for Russia to be able to draw any conclusions

The sentence in the Guardian article saying that “Moscow would not accept the results of the inquiry into the source of the poison being undertaken by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” is therefore wrong.

Yermakov simply made the point that the OPCW is not a police agency and its role is limited to confirming the identity of the chemical agent used in the attack. In order to find out who actually carried out the attack, and to understand fully what took place in Salisbury, a proper and thorough criminal investigation of the entire incident is needed.

That is obviously correct.

I would add that one of the most troubling aspects of this case is the way the British are trying to present the identity of the chemical agent as “proof” both of its origins and of who was responsible for the attack, when in fact it is no such thing.

To reiterate a point repeatedly made – including by Craig Murray (see above) and by the Moon of Alabama – the mere fact that a Novichok chemical agent might have been used in the attack does not prove that Russia was responsible for the attack because Novichok chemical agents can be made – and have been made – in places other than Russia.

The paragraph in the Guardian is doubly misleading because as the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Aide-memoire shows, it was Russia not Britain which originally insisted that the OPCW become involved in establishing which chemical agent was used in the attack, with the British initially resisting all outside involvement.

On the subject of the actual criminal investigation – which alone can determine who was responsible for the attack – the Russian Aide-memoire makes clear that Russia demands that it participate fully in the investigation since the attack being investigated was an attack on its citizens

The United Kingdom is breaching elementary rules of inter-State relations and is still denying, without any explanation, Russian officials’ consular access to Yulia Skripal envisaged by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. For more than two weeks now, we have not been able to credibly ascertain what happened to our citizen and what condition she is actually in.

On 16 March, the Main Directorate for High-Priority Cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal investigation into the attempted willful murder of Russian citizen Yulia Skripal committed by dangerous means in the territory of the United Kingdom.

The investigation will be conducted in accordance with the Russian legislation and the norms of international law. Highly qualified experts will contribute to the investigation.

The investigators stand ready to work together with the competent authorities of the United Kingdom. We expect a cooperative approach of the British side.

The Aide-memoire only refers to Yulia Skripal.  However since the Aide-memoire was published the Russians appear to have discovered that Sergey Skripal was a Russian citizen as well.  Apparently he never formally gave up his Russian citizenship, so that so far as the Russians are concerned he has dual citizenship: Russian as well as British.

Here is what Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, has to say about this

I must make it clear: Sergei Skripal has dual citizenship – Russian and British. Britons said that as he has British citizenship, they will be reporting nothing on his condition to us

Accordingly the Russians will presumably now also demand full consular access to Sergey Skripal as well as to his daughter Yulia Skripal, and no doubt they will also now extend their own investigation to look into the circumstances of the attack on Sergey Skripal, as well as into the attack on his daughter, Yulia Skripal.

This may prove important since it may make it easier for the Russians to obtain – or demand – information about what Sergey Skripal has been up to since he left Russia.

I retain an open mind about who was responsible for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.  I genuinely do not know who carried out the attack and why, and since I do not know I think it is improper to guess.

What I will say is this: the Russians are offering clear explanations, are posing relevant questions, are insisting on established procedures being followed in accordance with international treaties and with the Chemical Weapons Convention, and are offering their full cooperation to the OPCW, whose involvement they were the first to insist upon.

They are also offering – indeed insisting – on their full participation in the criminal investigation of the attack on two people they say are their citizens.

By contrast the British are keeping what they know secret, initially resisted calling in the OPCW, are blocking the Russians from having consular access to two of their citizens, and are denying the Russians information about the investigation of an attack on two of their citizens.

They are also saying things about a supposed Russian failure to answer questions and a Russian failure to cooperate which are simply untrue.

I leave it to the readers of this article to decide for themselves who – the Russians or the British – is behaving more suspiciously in the conduct of this case.

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

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


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

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

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

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Middle East to Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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