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Syria, Turkey and the Kurds: A Devil’s Triangle that only Russia can navigate

As ISIS crumbles in Syria, all eyes should be on America’s inconsistent but growing relations with Syrian Kurds.

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Throughout the conflict in Syria, the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian/Iranian and Hezbollah allies have tended to operate in different regions vis-a-vis the Kurdish led US proxy army known as the SDF.

Over the last year however, this has increasingly changed. As Syrian forces along with their allies continue to liberate Deir ez-Zor city which has been under ISIS occupation for the last three years, reports have surfaced indicating that a faction of the SDF is only a few short kilometres away from Syrian forces as the SDF approaches the city from the north.

With the SDF and the Syrian Arab Army now effectively competing for territory which will be inevitably re-gained from ISIS by either force, the previous unspoken agreement that the SDF would more or less have free reign east of the Euphrates, might no longer apply. In many respects this is now a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.

As Deir ez-Zor lies just west of the Euphrates and with Syria intent on exercising its right to liberate “ever inch of Syria”, the question now is, what will the major foreign powers do to either prevent or encourage conflict between Kurdish militants and the Syrian Arab Army?

Before exploring the answers to such questions, it is necessary to understand that according to international law, only the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have any right to operate in Syria. The United States remains in Syria in contravention to international law, but because the US shows little respect for international law, it is necessary to explore the various scenarios bearing this unfortunate situation in mind.

The first major test of how the SAA and SDF would interact with one another when coming face to face on the battlefield, took place in June of 2017.

At that time, the United States illegally shot down a Syrian fighter jet which the US alleges fired on SDF positions. Syria however claims that it was firing on ISIS/Daesh positions.

As geo-political expert Andrew Korybko pointed out at the time,

“These narratives aren’t mutually exclusive, and it’s very possible that the SAA rightly conflates the SDF with Daesh due to the Kurds’ documented connection with this terrorist organization. Moreover, the Kurds are ethnically cleansing Arabs from Raqqa en mass in order to pave the way for the city’s annexation to their unilaterally declared “federation” after its forthcoming capture, so it makes sense why Damascus could implicitly recognize them as terrorists without publicly declaring them as such for reasons of sensitive political optics”.

Russia responded furiously to America’s downing of the Syrian jet and issued a statement saying that any US aircraft flying west of the Euphrates were now legitimate targets. Since then, confrontations between Russia’s Syrian partners and the US have generally de-escalated. The establishment of a joint Russian-Jordanian-US de-escalation zone in south western Syria is a further proof that part of America’s policy on Syria amounts to little more than ‘where you can’t beat them, quietly join them’.

The Russian statement regarding US aircraft being targeted seemed to enshrine the idea that areas west of the Euphrates were the Syria/Russian/Iranian sphere on influence while those to the east were the US/Kurdish sphere of influences.

Now however, that those spheres are set to literally collide in Deir ez-Zor, the questions is ‘what now’?

The answer to this lies in examining what each side wants or is perceived as wanting from the aftermath of the assured defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria.

Syria: 

Syria wants something that is simple, legal and obvious: the full liberation of its territory and the expulsion of all terrorists as well as unwelcome state actors, primarily the United States but also Turkey.

Any further discussions between Kurds and Damascus about regional autonomy can only be a post-war political discussion so far as Syria is concerned. Syria has grave concerns about the anti-Arab racism among many Kurds as Damascus ought to have. It is ultimately the duty of the Syrian government to protect its citizens from discrimination or anti-Arab propaganda.  Even so, Damascus sees this as a civil issue rather than an issue of international conflict.

Turkey: 

While Turkey’s continued presence in Syria, particularly in Idlib is still deeply unwelcome by Damascus, the nature of Turkey’s goals in Syria have changed dramatically over the last several months.

Most crucially, in August of this year, Turkey quietly withdrew support for terrorist factions (the so-called opposition) in Syria. While some expected this to pave the way for rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara, who prior to the conflict had no serious disagreements, both the Syrian and Turkish Presidents have recently rejected such claims.

For Syria, this is a matter of dignity. Turkey had, for most of the conflict been an effective state actor illegally occupying Syrian land and training terrorist groups who operated in some of the most strategically important parts of western, northern and north-central Syria.

For Turkey, it is a matter of pride also, as Turkey’s ruling elite have spent years positioning themselves in opposition to the ruling Arab Socialist Ba’ath party in Syria and all it stood for.

That being said, Turkey’s mission in Syria is now to prevent the consolidation of Kurdish militias. This itself is done in the service of Turkey’s geo-strategic goal of preventing any Kurdish state from rising on its borders.

This has led Ankara to grow closer to Iran which also rejects the idea of a Kurdish state in the Arab world as it would set a precedent for Kurds in Iran to threaten the territorial integrity of Iran itself.

At the same time, Turkey’s President Erodgan who previously had serious disagreements with Russia over Syria, has now said that Turkey and Russia’s position on Syria is now more or less the same.

Erdogan stated this morning,

“Currently, the process in Idlib is being run as we agreed with Russia. There are no disputes with Russia on it. No controversy was brought to the agenda during our meeting with Iran”.

While Turkey and Syria will likely not directly cooperate against the Kurds any time soon, depending on US aims for its Kurdish proxies, one can certainly not rule out such a thing happening in the future.

Turkey and Syria will perhaps never be friends any time soon, but they may likely have a common enemy and in this sense, it will be in the interests of both Damascus and Ankara to work to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria.

The United States: 

Ever since Donald Trump took office, the modus operandi of the US in Syria has shifted from using jihadists to foment regime change against the legitimate government in Damascus, to one of using Kurdish forces as proxies to create a would-be sphere of influence in parts of eastern and northern Syria.

It is still less than clear what the US intends to do with this sphere of influence, if it even attains it. The fact that the SDF is having a much harder time fighting ISIS in Raqqa vis-a-vis the SAA in the more fortified Deir ez-Zor, is testament to the fact that ultimately while the SDF are better fighters than the jihdaists, they still are far less effective a fighting force than the legitimate Syrian Arab Army.

Should the SDF conquer significant amounts of territory in Syria, the US would be in a position to argue for either hyper-Kurdish autonomy, beyond that which has already been established or otherwise, argue for the establishment of a Kurdish state.

Here though, matters get more difficult for the US. While Washington and Ankara are increasingly at odds over foreign policy, Turkey is still a member of NATO. Furthermore, Turkey’s army is second largest in NATO, only America’s standing army is larger.

If the US pushed for a Kurdish state in Syria, what remains of the US alliance with Turkey would essentially be over. It is still not clear if this is something which concerns the Trump administration. This might be due to the foreign policy chaos which dominates Washington or because the US has designs on Turkey and Erdogan which may represent something resembling a soft regime change ambition in Ankara.

Turkey is all too aware of America’s odd behaviour vis-a-vis Turkey and no country in the region wants to see civil war in Turkey, much though the alt-media in parts of the secular and Shi’a Arab world and even among some genuine Russians might indicate something contrary to this.

The other problem the US has is the Kurds in Iraq. Ironically, the US is now less inclined to support Kurdish separatism in Iraq than Washington was during the Presidency of Saddam Hussein. Under Saddam, the US was happy to weaken Iraq in any way possible and Kurdish separatism was a clear option.

Now, the US is playing something of a ridiculous balancing act in Iraq where it is trying to placate historically decent (though often inconsistent) relations with Iraqi Kurds while trying to maintain America’s substantial (however totally immoral) investment in Iraq which aims to see Iraq’s borders preserved. If the Kurds in Iraq do declare unilateral independence, the pro-Iran sentiment which is already strong in Baghdad will only grow stronger as Ian’s position vis-a-vis Iraqi Kurds is consistent as are Iran’s increasingly political fraternal bonds to the majority Shi’a population of Iraq.

America could still exploit political tensions between Iraqi and Syrian Kurds in order to say ‘yes’ to a Kurdish state in Syria but ‘no’ to one in Iraq, however, even by the standards of American hypocrisy, a great deal of geo-political tightrope walking would have to be embarked upon in order to achieve this. Wider regional blow-back against the US, from all directions, would nevertheless, be inevitable.

Russia: 

Russia is unique among all of the aforementioned powers as Russia has acceptable to good and historically very good relations with the Kurds of the Middle East. Russia of course also has good relations with Iran, Turkey, Syria, Israel (the only entity in the region which covertly and sometimes overtly supports a Kurdish state), Palestine and to a degree the United States. In other words, Russia can talk to all parties in the Middle East, including and especially those who do not speak to each other.

Russia is already known to be a go-between in respect of the SDF/US and Syria. The fact that there haven’t been more conflicts between the Kurds and Syrian Arab Army as well as between Turkey and the Kurds, is a testament to just how effective Russian diplomacy is.

The other side of this coin is that because Russia refuses to act as a puppet master of any one faction in the Middle East, both out of respect for international law and because Russia does not seek to appear as favouring any one faction, the aforementioned interests of each groups will inevitably collide and short of Russia acting as brazenly in Syria as America did and to an extent still does in Iraq, there is little Russia can do or will do.

CONCLUSION: 

Ultimately, the Kurds are only as powerful as America and to some degree Israel allows them to be. Every other state in the region is opposed to Kurdish separatism and therefore, should the Kurds seek to unilaterally declare independence in Syria, American aid both militarily and politically, is ultimately the only thing that could even come close to nullifying the position of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.

While Russia officially adopts an agnostic position on a Kurdish state, Russia’s increasingly good relations with Turkey and Iran mean that Russia may quietly shift to one of respectful opposition to a Kurdish state, perhaps arguing instead for a process of dialogue between Damascus and Kurdish rebel leaders. This would not take a great deal of effort to shift form Russia’s existing agnostic position which de-facto applies support for the status quo of regional territorial integrity.

The old reality of Russia using the Kurds as leverage against Turkey and Iran, something which dates back to the 18th century, is increasingly not valid. Turkey’s economic reliance on Russia for example has made it so that Russia has enough leverage against Turkey and also Iran, without resorting to any supine ‘Kurdish threats’. That being said, Russia requires less leverage against either country than it once did and what leverage it does need can be achieved through Russia’s good relations with secular Syria and its often discarded but relevant good relations with hysterically anti-Iran, Tel Aviv.

In this respect, the fate of many countries depends on the fact that a country as powerful as the United States is being run by people who are exploiting the Kurds, but to ends which are as unknown amongst many Americans as they are to everyone else.

Welcome to the Devil’s Triangle.

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Gavin Allen
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Gavin Allen

Yet more fake news and propaganda from the Durian… “the Kurdish led US proxy army known as the SDF” LOL. SDF is not a “US proxy”. SDF’s closest political ally is Russia. “As geo-political expert Andrew Korybko pointed out… the SAA rightly conflates the SDF with Daesh due to the Kurds’ documented connection with this terrorist organization. Moreover, the Kurds are ethnically cleansing Arabs from Raqqa en mass” – omg, pathetic! So, apparently, the left-wing democratic feminist “Kurds” (actually he means the population of northern Syria) have a “documented connection” with a right wing patriarchal terrorist organisation allied with Turkey?… Read more »

Kaput
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Kaput

I do love your state of mind indeed…………. Why not give back to Mexico all annexed States lol………… California, Arizona, Texas etc etc…………. Then maybe the kurds can have teir cemetry as well.

Boris Kazlov
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Boris Kazlov

You are the shit-posting murican troll, paid CIA disinfo agent.Adam and Andrew are spot on right, did you not read recent declaration of operation Inherent Resolve, that they will not allow SAA to cross the Euphrates as if this s thier territory, and will support their allies, so SDF is their pupet or not, they also declared that they will not allow SAA to reclaim land that was not taken by them from ISIS, so if SDF takes land of ISIS it belongs to them, right? The scheme of the Zionists has changed from regime change to partitioning and weakening… Read more »

JNDillard
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JNDillard

Russia has repeatedly stated its position in support of the internationally recognized borders of the state of Syria, a position supported by the UN. This position is also supported by all the states in the region, with the exception of Israel, and all the countries of the world, except the United States. Of course, NATO countries, with the exclusion of Turkey, also indirectly support the internationally illegal claims of Kurdistan. It does appear that the Kurds, in alliance with Israel and the US, who are paying and arming them handsomely, have been taking advantage of the preoccupation of the Syrian… Read more »

FlorianGeyer
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FlorianGeyer

On a purely tactical level it will be important for the SAA to reinforce its positions South of Raqqa and indeed all the way to Aleppo as any US response could be along that part of the borders which in the Raqqa area would give some advantage to the ISIS gangs there.

A major issue will be of course that US air and artillery intervention will likely be from Kurdish held areas.

ColinNZ
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ColinNZ

The US will not risk a direct confrontation with Russia, especially when ISIS are defeated (very soon now) and thus the US have no further legal/illegal pretext to be in Syria. They are just posturing for land grab, and hope an autonomous Kurdish area will allow an indefinite tentative presence, but it wont be long before even the US will see no strategic advantage in staying there.

ColinNZ
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ColinNZ

The SAA & allies have overwhelming force at DeZ, with tens of thousands of battle-hardened troops and special forces. The SDF will suffer catastrophic casualties if they confronted them, and the US would trigger a catastrophic larger conflict if it joined in. My guess is that the US-backed SDF are posturing for a land grab (including oil fields) for future bargaining chip but I do not think the Syrian government will allow it. If the SDF do not back down they will be routed.

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

In the news today:
The losers: “Germany putting arms exports to Turkey on hold”
The winners: “Turkey’s sings the contract with Russia, for the supplies of S-400 missile system”

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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