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Russia rejects Kerry’s demand for extension of Syrian ceasefire to Al-Qaeda

In series of statements Russian diplomats reject US demand that Syrian and Russian bombing of Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch Jabhat Al-Nusra cease, and that Kerry – Lavrov agreement be rewritten to soften US’s obligation to separate the fighters it supports from Jabhat Al-Nusra.

Alexander Mercouris

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It has taken the Russians no time to reject US Secretary of State Kerry’s demand that the ceasefire in Syria be extended to Jabhat Al-Nusra (i.e. to Al-Qaeda’s local Syrian branch) and that the Russians and the Syrians in effect impose a no-fly zone on themselves in northern Syria.

Directly after Kerry’s comments to the UN Security Council Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybakov, in his characteristically understated language, described the proposal as “unworkable”.

“To find the way out of this situation that would suit the US and the groups patronised by the Americans, this scheme was proposed, but it cannot work.”

Instead Ryabkov made it clear that Russia is prepared to bomb militant Jihadi organisations in Syria which refuse to separate themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra. 

He also flatly rejected US attempts to (in effect) rewrite the Kerry – Lavrov agreement to make it more favourable to the US agenda of achieving regime change in Syria by softening the US’s obligation in the agreement to separate the fighters the US supports from Jabhat Al-Nusra.

“The agreement has too many foes. The events of the past few days dealt a direct blow on that agreement. Of course, we see no alternative to what is written down in that document.  We believe that the wording is rather balanced and apparently describes the maximum possible in this situation, a situation of an acute crisis and continuing tragedies, a situation where Russia and the United States remain considerably divided in conceptual terms as to what should be done and how for the sake of addressing this problem.”

(bold italics added)

Ryabkov’s comment about Russia and the US being “considerably divided in conceptual terms” is identical to the observation made in The Duran by Adam Garrie that agreement between the US and Russia over Syria is ultimately impossible because of the fundamental difference in outlook and objective between the two countries.

Ryabkov homed in on what the Russians see as the fundamental problem with the whole peace process: the US’s unwillingness or inability to engineer the separation of the fighters it supports from Jabhat Al-Nusra

“Regrettably, the US Administration is still unable to do what is required for the full implementation of the agreement.  To be more precise, to bring about the separation of the moderates and the terrorists. Nor can the United States guarantee the implementation of a number of other components of this agreement which we’ve been witnesses to over the past few days.”

Where Ryabkov prefers moderate understated language Maria Zakharova, Russia’s formidable Foreign Ministry spokesman, is (as might be expected) far more outspoken. 

She has condemned blustering speech at the UN Security Council as a “show for millions of viewers and primarily, for the mass media, for cameras”.  She has also pointedly referred to the US’s insistence on keeping the terms of the Kerry – Lavrov agreement secret, and has asked rhetorically why that might be so

“Why are the Russian-U.S. agreements not published or made public?  For a very simple reason: then the entire world will know what commitments the sides have undertaken inking these agreements.”

She too has flatly rejected any re-writing of the Kerry – Lavrov agreement and has said that the problem is that the US – by failing to separate the fighters it supports from Jabhat Al-Nusra – is not implementing its terms

“The recipe is simple.  It has been specified in detail and approved of and you don’t need to look for it anywhere.  It (the Kerry – Lavrov agreement – AM) stipulates the separation of opposition – call them any names you please, because some call them militants while others say they are the moderate opposition – the very opposition that hasn’t laid down arms and continues combat operations – It should be separated from terrorists.”

Meanwhile both Zakharova and Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin have meanwhile criticised Kerry for misrepresenting Russian statements about the attack on the relief convoy

All I will say about that is that Kerry in his comments to the UN Security Council appeared at one point to say that the Russians were alleging that the relief convoy had self-combusted ie. had caught fire by itself.  Even the most cursory reading of Russian statements about the convoy shows this is not true.  In fact the Russians have made it fairly clear that they believe the Jihadis intentionally set fire to the convoy themselves, though in order not to compromise the prospects of the impartial on-the-spot investigation they are demanding they have been careful not to say it in so many words.  When someone turns to ridicule and misrepresentation to trash another’s argument, it is in my experience an infallible sign that they feel themselves to be on shaky ground, and I see no reason to think Kerry is any different.

Regardless of that, I doubt that the Russians are unduly concerned about the allegations the US is making about the convoy.  They have made it fairly clear that they see the media storm the US is trying to work up over the convoy as an attempt to divert attention from what they see as the far more serious US attack on the Syrian troops defending Deir Ezzor.  The Russians have made it fairly clear that they do not think this US attack was a “mistake” even if again, so as not to jeopardise future negotiations with the US, they are not so openly.  Here for example is what Ryabkov in his understated way had to say about it

“It is not a tragedy, it is a very dramatic development regarding the agreement as such. It is a heavy blow on its groundwork.”

Meanwhile President Assad of Syria – unconstrained by the diplomatic language the Russians feel obliged to use because of their ongoing discussions with the US – has said openly that the attack was intentional.  On the facts it is hard to disagree with him (see here and here).

Latest reports from Syria show that the ceasefire has completely broken down and that the fighting has resumed in earnest.  It seems that the Syrian army, having repulsed the Jihadi attacks on Aleppo which were made under the cover of the ceasefire, is once more on the attack.

Though Kerry and Lavrov are having more meetings in New York, it is the fighting on the ground in Syria which tells the true story.  This latest peace initiative is dead.

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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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