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Russia Prepares to Bomb the Rebels in Aleppo Again

As the rebels launch an offensive, truce around Aleppo approaches collapse.

Alexander Mercouris

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Evidence is mounting that the Russians are cranking up to resume large scale bombing in and around the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The background is an agreement which was concluded by the US and the Russians in February. This called for a “cessation of hostilities” between the various Syrian factions in return for which Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria was to be scaled down.

The “cessation of hostilities” was not a ceasefire and was not intended to be. This was because the two biggest groups fighting the Syrian government – Daesh (“the Islamic State”, also sometimes called ISIS) and Al-Qaeda’s local Syrian franchise – Jabhat Al-Nusra – were expressly excluded from it. The UN Security Council previously declared both organisations terrorist organisations and neither were parties to the “cessation of hostilities” agreement. In fact both denounced it.

A fundamental part of the “cessation of hostilities” agreement was that the US would persuade the various groups it supports in Syria – the so-called “moderates” who form the so-called “Free Syrian Army” – to separate their fighters from these two terrorist groups.

The reason the Russians are now cranking up to resume their bombing in and around Aleppo is because the separation of so-called “moderate fighters” from those of Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra in and around Aleppo has never happened. On the contrary the fighters of the various Syrian groups remain intermingled with each other and continue to fight alongside each other.

As for the US, there is little or no evidence that it has ever made any serious attempt to persuade the so-called “moderate fighters” it supports to separate themselves from Daesh or Jabhat Al-Nusra. On the contrary the whole weight of the US’s diplomatic activity over the last few weeks has been to dissuade the Russians from bombing Jabhat Al-Nusra from in and around Aleppo on the grounds that this might hit the so-called “moderate fighters”.

To understand how extraordinary that demand is, just consider that the US has never in all the air campaigns it has waged in the Middle East – whether against the Taliban in Afghanistan or in Iraq or in Libya or Syria – ever sought to distinguish between “militants” and “moderates”.

When the US bombed Afghanistan in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks its stance was totally straightforward – it bombed the Taliban everywhere and anywhere it could without making any distinction between its supposed militant and moderate factions. It was left to anyone who wanted to avoid getting bombed to get out of the way. This despite the fact that such different factions within the Taliban – actually a loose coalition of different groups – are known to have existed, and despite the fact that Al-Qaeda (the nominal target of the whole campaign) and the Taliban were distinct organisations. The mere fact the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were physically connected with each other sufficed for the US to bomb them both.

The fact the US has been pressuring the Russians to desist from bombing Jabhat Al-Nusra – ie. Al-Qaeda in Syria – has been barely reported in the West or in the US. If the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks – or indeed the US soldiers who fought against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families – were ever to learn that in Syria the US is protecting Al-Qaeda they would surely feel betrayed.

A series of complaints and messages from Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov suggests that the Russians are now close to having enough. Lavrov has made clear that the Russians consider the US in breach of the “cessation of hostilities” agreement the Russians and the US concluded with each other in February.

The Russians also see what is in fact obvious, that Jabhat Al-Nusra make use of any cessation of the bombing to re-equip and redeploy and to launch new attacks against Syrian army positions. Moreover when they do so the US’s so-called “moderate fighters” enthusiastically cooperate with them. A short while ago fighters from Jabhat Al-Nusra in cooperation with fighters of one of the so-called “moderate” groups together stormed an Alawite village and jointly massacred 19 of its civilian inhabitants including children and old people.

Here it is necessary to say something about the true situation in Syria. This is that the so-called “moderate forces” the US and the Western media constantly talk about quite simply don’t exist.

The collapse of the government’s authority over much of Syria meant that various village militias set themselves up to fill the void in different parts of the country. Some of them have claimed to be affiliated with the “Free Syrian Army” in order to get access to Western supplies, and many of them get lumped together by the US as if they were a coherent united fighting force. These militias are however focused on their own districts and are not seriously involved in the war.

As our writer Afra’a Dagher – who is an actual Syrian journalist based in Syria – has written, those fighters who are actually rebels – that is those fighters who actually fight the Syrian army and who seek to overthrow the Syrian government – call themselves at various times by different names but in reality are simply one and the same people.

In order to attract fighters, arms supplies and donations from the Gulf and elsewhere, they say they are Daesh or – if they are fighting around Aleppo – Jabhat Al-Nusra, or by any of various other colourful names that jihadi extremist groups in Syria like to use when it suits them. When they want to prevent the Russian air force bombing them, or when they need to get diplomatic support from the US or from Turkey or the West, they pretend to be “moderates” and call themselves the “Free Syrian Army”.

As Russia’s President Putin himself said in his recent speech to the UN General Assembly, “these people are cruel but they are not dumb”.

Both the US and the Russians know all this perfectly well. Both have for different reasons engaged in the fiction that there are “moderate fighters” in Syria who can be distinguished from the armed jihadis. The US does this because its priority is the overthrow of the Syrian government, not the defeat of violent jihadism in Syria. The Russians do it because they have always sought a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, which would involve the Syrian rebels’ keep supporters – Saudi Arabia and the US – which they see as the only way to secure an end to the war.

News of a major rebel offensive against Aleppo’s Kurdish districts over the last few days has however brought Russian patience to breaking point. Diplomatic engagement with the US having failed to prevent this offensive, the Russians are all but saying that bombing is about to resume.

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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