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Russia’s ‘de-escalation zones’ in Syria: a serious proposal, a diplomatic ploy or a trap?

Russia’s proposed ‘de-escalation zones’ in Syria are obviously intended as an alternative to the US proposal for ‘safe havens’

Alexander Mercouris

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Russian President Vladimir Putin rounded off three days of non-stop diplomacy with a telephone conversation with US President Trump and a meeting with Turkish President Erdogan.  This came directly after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  Putin obviously discussed the Syrian conflict with all three.  Moreover it is known that over the course of the same discussions Putin mooted with all three of them – but especially with Trump and Erdogan – a new Russian proposal for something the Russians are calling ‘de-escalation zones’.

That this is so was confirmed during the joint news conference Putin and Erdogan gave after their meeting.  Here is what the two of them had to say about this proposal

Question(retranslated): I have a question about resolving the Syrian crisis and creating safe zones in Syria. Did the two leaders discuss this issue and, if so, did they reach an agreement?

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: There is a new initiative in this regard. As you may be aware, from the very outset, I have been using the term ”safe zone“. I will continue to use it. However, a new term – ”de-escalation zone“ – has gained currency recently. As you may be aware, refugees from Aleppo have found shelter in the province of Idlib. Unfortunately, problems occasionally emerge in Idlib. A ”green zone“, that is, a ”de-escalation zone“ has been created there. We hope that the de-escalation zone will be preserved.

This is critical for the Astana process. I hope that the decision on the de-escalation zone will be adopted and acted upon to further resolve this issue.

Vladimir Putin: The President and I operate on the premise – I already mentioned this – that the Syrian crisis can be resolved exclusively by political means. However, to set this political process in motion it is necessary to ensure a ceasefire. As the countries that made the greatest contribution to this formula and the practical side of ending hostilities, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have never stopped thinking about ways to bolster the ceasefire.

One way to do so is to create safe zones, or de-escalation zones, as the President just said. We have heard the US President mention de-escalation zones as well. Yesterday, I discussed this issue on the phone with Mr Trump. As far as I understand, the US administration is supportive of these ideas. Earlier, Russia held consultations with Damascus and Tehran, and we believe that we need to work toward creating mechanisms that would guarantee an end to the bloodshed and create conditions for starting a political dialogue. In this sense, I am on the same page with the President of Turkey. We proceed from the premise that the participants in the conflict who gathered in Astana today will make the final decision, because, ultimately, the future of their country depends on them. As guarantors of the ceasefire, Turkey, Iran, and Russia will do their best to ensure that these mechanisms get better and are effective. We will support this proposal.

This is all extremely vague, and does not provide any clear explanation of what these so-called ‘de-escalation zones’ are supposed to be about or what they will consist of.  However it seems from these words that Erdogan, Trump and the Syrian and Iranian leadership are all to a greater or lesser degree supportive of this proposal, which given their differences on so many other issues is an extraordinary fact in itself.

A few days ago Al-Masdar, which has reliable sources within the Syrian government, published an interesting article about how the Russians are supposedly planning to establish four zones in Syria, which are presumably the proposed ‘de-escalation zones’.  The article reads as follows

Russia proposed the creation of four zones in Syria as part of a wider plan to de-escalate the tension in the war-torn country.

The proposed zones will have safety lines along them and monitoring centers in order to avoid direct fire among the warring parties, as well as granting safe access to unarmed civilians and aid convoys.

The Russian proposal also involves the possibility of the three guarantor states (Russia, Iran and Turley) to form a working group and send troops in order to enhance the application of the proposal.

Putting this article with what Putin and Erdogan said together, it seems that what the Russians are proposing is that the Syrian authorities and the various Turkish backed Jihadi groups which are supposed to be participating in the Russian-Turkish sponsored ceasefire and in the Astana process agree between them certain zones (the Russians have apparently proposed four such zones) which are to be completely demilitarised and to which civilians can escape in order to avoid the fighting.

Putin was quite clear that the setting up of these ‘de-escalation’ zones and their boundaries had to be agreed by the Syrian government and by the Turkish backed Jihadis as part of the Astana peace process.

We proceed from the premise that the participants in the conflict who gathered in Astana today will make the final decision, because, ultimately, the future of their country depends on them

However it seems that once the boundaries are agreed the three guarantor powers – Iran, Turkey and Russia – will take steps to secure them.   Here is what Putin had to say about that

As guarantors of the ceasefire, Turkey, Iran, and Russia will do their best to ensure that these mechanisms get better and are effective

What this means in practice is unclear.  The Al-Masdar article speaks of the setting up of a ‘working group’ and of troops being sent ‘in order to enhance the application of the proposal’.  That suggests peacekeepers being sent to police the zones.

The question of whose troops those would be is the key one.

The Syrians would be deeply unhappy if Turkish troops were introduced into Syria in order to police the zones, since this would legitimise the presence of Turkish troops in Syria, which up to now has been illegal.  Given how the Syrians feel about Turkey – which has been their most relentless enemy – they would be bound to object strenuously to any proposal which legitimised the presence of Turkish troops in their country.  The Russians in light of their own difficulties with Turkey might be reluctant to pressure the Syrians to agree to it.

The US, the Israelis and the Saudis for their part would however undoubtedly strongly object to the introduction of Iranian troops into Syria for such a purpose.  All three of these countries have spoken of their determination to end any Iranian presence in Syria.  They would certainly not agree to Iranian troops entering the country to police ‘de-escalation zones’.  The Turkish backed Jihadis would be bound to object strenuously also.

That might well mean that the bulk of the troops would have to come from Russia.  A short time ago rumours circulated in the Middle East media that the Russians were considering sending ground troops to Syria.  If so then that might be as part of this proposal rather than in the active combat role the rumours claim.  Presumably if an agreement were reached it would be backed by a Resolution of the UN Security Council authorising Russia, probably with the help of troops from some other powers, to send troops to Syria to police the zones.

Any suggestion that Russian ground troops be sent to Syria, even following an international agreement and with the authority of the UN Security Council, would still however be hugely controversial in Russia.  It is far from certain the Russian government is considering it.  So far there is no confirmation of it.

Whilst the form and purpose of the proposed ‘de-escalation zones’ is still unclear, the reason for Russia proposing them is not.  They give every impression of being a Russian response to President Trump’s revived talk since the alleged Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack of ‘safe havens’.

The difference between ‘safe havens’ and ‘de-escalation zones’ is that ‘safe havens’ are supposed to be set up by the US and Turkey unilaterally, whilst ‘de-escalation zones’ are supposed to be agreed by the Syrian government as part of the ceasefire talks underway in Astana.  Moreover the Russians would have a role in monitoring and perhaps administering the ‘de-escalation zones, whilst they would have no such role in guarding the ‘safe havens’.  Setting up the ‘safe havens’ would amount to a US-Turkish invasion of Syria, which would dramatically worsen the crisis there.  “De-escalation zones’, in theory at least, would not.

From the Russian point of view (and possibly that of Damascus and Tehran) ‘de-escalation zones’ would also have the further advantage that their form and boundaries – unlike those of the ‘safe havens’ – would be agreed, at least in theory, by the Syrian government in Damascus, bringing them within the legal jurisdiction of the Syrian state.

That the ‘de-escalation zones’ are different, or are supposed to be different, from the ‘safe havens’ was implicitly admitted by President Erdogan during his joint news conference with Putin

There is a new initiative in this regard. As you may be aware, from the very outset, I have been using the term ”safe zone“. I will continue to use it. However, a new term – ”de-escalation zone“ – has gained currency recently

President Erdogan’s words however also point to the problem: even if the ‘de-escalation zones’ are supposed to be different from the ‘safe havens’, in practice they may amount to the same thing.

Ever since the Russian-Turkish ceasefire was agreed fighting has continued in Syria largely unabated, with the Turkish backed Jihadi groups which supposedly signed up to the ceasefire regularly joining Al-Qaeda in attacks against the Syrian army.  Some of these groups were for example involved in the recent offensives in northern Hama and in Damascus.

These same Jihadi groups have also repeatedly staged walk outs from the Astana talks, and they have just done so again.

Given this record there has to be a serious possibility that if ‘de-escalation zones’ are ever set up these same Jihadi groups will try to take them over and convert them into base areas from which to attack the Syrian army.  That after all is precisely what they intended that the ‘safe havens’ would be.  Needless to say in trying to do this the Jihadis would have the support of the US and the Turks, who would then have a pretext to come to the defence of the Jihadis in the ‘de-escalation zones’ if the Syrian army sought to attack them there.

The Russians and the Syrians will of course do everything they can to prevent this situation from arising.  However it is easy to see how setting up ‘de-escalation zones’ could go horribly wrong, and -more to the point – how, precisely because the Jihadi groups might try to convert the ‘de-escalation zones’ into base areas whilst the Russians and the Syrians would try to prevent them from doing so, the whole process of setting up the ‘de-escalation zones’ might become bogged down in furious argument.

Which however raises another possibility, which is that like the Russian draft for a ‘Syrian constitution’ about which so much was heard a few weeks ago, but which has since vanished without trace, this Russian proposal to set up ‘de-escalation zones’ may not be intended seriously and may be nothing more than a diplomatic stratagem.

From the Russian point of view the priority in Syria at the moment must be to prevent the various parties – the Syrians, the Turks, the US and the Kurds – from getting drawn into an all-out war with each other.  Donald Trump’s recent re-floating of the idea of ‘safe havens’ has however seriously increased that possibility. Proposing ‘de-escalation zones’ might be the Russians’ way of getting Trump off the hook – which may be why he has apparently welcomed this proposal so enthusiastically – whilst giving the parties a topic they can talk about and argue over instead of fight each other.  Meanwhile the Syrian army would be left alone to carry on the fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIS unhindered.

In that case even if actual agreement on the ‘de-escalation zones’ is never reached, floating the proposal would have served its purpose.

As I said before during my discussion of the Russian draft for a Syrian constitution, these sort of stratagems were once a commonplace of diplomacy, though they scarcely ever happen today because the US and the Western powers never use them.  The Russians however have retained a gift for them, and it may be that this whole nebulous idea of ‘de-escalation zones’ is just another example.

Whether that is so or not, and whether the proposal for ‘de-escalation zones’ is intended seriously or is in fact simply a stratagem, is something which the next few weeks should make clear. One way or the other however this proposal repays careful watching.

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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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