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Syria, Turkey, Russia and the Kurds: the struggle for Afrin

Russia tries to broker a diplomatic solution to the Afrin conflict

Alexander Mercouris

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The complexities of the fighting in Afrin have – unsurprisingly – confounded most people, to the points where understanding of what is actually going on there is becoming very difficult and is causing much misunderstanding.

Deciphering Russian policy with respect to the Afrin conflict between Turkey and the Kurds is causing special problems.

The most common view I have seen is that Turkey attacked the Kurds in Afrin with Russia’s agreement, with some speculating that the Russians are using the Afrin conflict to drive a wedge between Turkey – a NATO member state – and the US, which is backing the Kurds.

This has supposedly pitted the Russians against the Syrian government and Iran.

The recent movement of Syrian troops into Afrin has even led to some talk of Syria and Iran being now pitted in a conflict in Afrin alongside the Kurds against a supposed “Russian-Turkish” alliance.

This is often accompanied with talk that President Assad has made a serious mistake by sending his troops to fight alongside the Kurds in Afrin.  Supposedly the Syrian military without the support of Russia is incapable of defeating the Turkish military and is risking a serious defeat by fighting the Turks alongside the Kurds in Afrin.

In my opinion this analysis is wrong, and in this article I shall attempt to show why.

Before I do so however there are four key points I must make, without a proper knowledge and understanding of which any analysis of the recent moves in the Afrin conflict must fail.

4 key points about the Afrin crisis

(1) The ‘Russian-Turkish’ alliance in Syria does not exist.

Whilst the Russians and the Turks are in constant contact with each other, and whilst economic relations between Russia and Turkey are becoming ever closer, it is a fundamental mistake to think that Russia and Turkey are pursuing the same goals in Syria, as they would be doing if they were genuinely allies of each other.

On the contrary, the reason why contacts between the Russians and Turks over Syria are so intense is precisely because they have to negotiate constantly with each other because their aims in Syria are completely divergent.

(2) Whatever other criticisms may be made of him, President Assad has repeatedly shown over the course of the Syrian conflict that he is (i) in full control of the Syrian government and military; and (ii) an exceptionally skilful, realistic and well-informed politician and war leader.  He is also by now highly experienced.

It could hardly be otherwise.  After seven years of intense conflict President Assad would not still be leading Syria if he was not all those things.

(3) Having intervened in Syria in 2015 to save President Assad and his government, the Russians are not going to abandon him now when he is on the brink of victory and any thought that they might be thinking of doing so should be firmly put aside.

(4) In the de facto alliance which exists between Russia and Syria, Russia is immeasurably the stronger party.  That means that whilst the Russians have to listen carefully to what President Assad and the Syrians tell them, and to take their concerns into account, in the end it is the Syrians who must accommodate themselves to whatever the Russians decide.

Russian objectives in Syria and the Russian alliance with the Syrian government

Points (3) and (4) inevitably lead to a discussion of Russian objectives in Syria.

Especially now that Russia has committed itself to establishing substantial military bases in Syria the Russians need a Syria which is (1) peaceful and stable, so that it is in a position to safeguard the bases; and (2) friendly to themselves.

Beyond that there is for the Russians the question of their overriding objective in intervening in Syria in the first place.  That was done – as the Russians have said repeatedly – in order to achieve a Syria free of Jihadi terrorist influence, so that it cannot threaten Russia.  Only a strong and stable Syrian government in full control of all of Syria’s territory which is friendly to Russia can achieve this.

If it was not obvious to the Russians before, it is certainly obvious now, that President Assad is the only Syrian political leader who has the skill, legitimacy, support and authority within Syria to deliver all these things.  No substitute or replacement to him has emerged, because none exists.  That guarantees that Russia will stick by him.

To the extent that Russia is allied to any party in the Syrian conflict it is therefore with President Assad and his government.

Evidence for the existence of that alliance is there for all to see in the joint military operations the Syrian military and the Russians conduct together – as for example currently in eastern Ghouta – and in the obvious coordination that goes on between them on political and diplomatic questions.

That does not of course mean that disagreements between the Russians and President Assad’s government do not from time to time arise.  The Russians are known for example to believe that President Assad and the Syrian government should be more accommodating than they have been up to now towards the Kurds.

However the existence of these disagreements should not obscure the fact that on all major issues the Russians and the Syrians work together with each other, and that they are pursuing a common objective in Syria, which is the restoration of the Syrian government’s authority over the whole of Syria’s territory.

Given the presence of US and Turkish troops on Syrian territory, achieving that objective requires considerable diplomatic manoeuvring and finesse if an uncontrolled escalation of the conflict is to be avoided.  However that flexibility in achieving that objective should not cause confusion about what that objective is.   It is a major error to misconstrue tactical moves that the Russians and the Syrians must from time to time make as signs that they are giving up on their joint objective.  On the contrary they are steps towards achieving it.

Once all these points are understood it becomes possible to decipher the recent moves in the Afrin conflict correctly.

Origins of the Afrin conflict in the US’s Plan C

The conflict has its origins in what I have called the US’s Plan C: the US plan to create a powerful quasi-independent and heavily armed Kurdish statelet in northern Syria so as to undermine the Syrian government and to prevent the Syrian government from regaining control of all of Syria’s territory.

As I have previously pointed out, Plan C was hatched by a small group of powerful insiders within the US bureaucracy – President Trump’s National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster seems to have played a key role – and has never been properly discussed or thought through.

The result is that the inevitable strong reaction of Turkey to Plan C – ie to the creation of a heavily armed YPG led Kurdish statelet on its southern border – was grossly underestimated, so that the Turkish military intervention in Afrin and the Turkish demands for a US and Kurdish withdrawal from the strategically important town of Manbij seems to have taken the US by surprise.

Characteristically, despite the increasingly dangerous Turkish moves, the powerful insiders within the US bureaucracy who hatched Plan C have far too much invested in it to draw back, so that despite President Trump’s publicly expressed doubts and Turkey’s growing anger the US continues to pursue Plan C by continuing (despite denials) to arm the Kurds.

That all but guarantees that the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds – and between Turkey and the US – in Syria will continue and will escalate.

The only way that can be prevented is if the Kurds can be persuaded to change their position by distancing themselves from the US and by withdrawing themselves from involvement in the US’s Plan C.

Turkey’s attack on the Afrin and objectives in Syria

Turkey and President Erdogan for their part are making use of the conflict in Afrin not only to prevent the US backed YPG led Kurdish statelet in northern Syria from emerging but in order to pursue their own wider objectives in Syria.

These are to create a zone of territory in northern Syria under effective Turkish control which will act as a safe area for Turkey’s anti-Assad Jihadi proxies.

The Turkish incursion into northern Syria in August 2016 (Operation Euphrates Shield) was in furtherance of this objective, and the latest Turkish advance into Afrin (Operation Olive Branch) is a continuation of it.

The ongoing deployment of convoys of Turkish troops to the Jihadi controlled Syrian province of Idlib – which is clearly intended to block the advance of the Syrian army – is also being undertaken to achieve this objective..

That the Turkish attack on Afrin ultimately targets the Syrian government as much as it does the Kurds was in fact made clear in interviews given to the Guardian by the anti-Assad Arab Jihadi fighters who are participating alongside the Turkish army in the Afrin operation.

See for example this highly revealing discussion of Jihadi objectives in fighting alongside Turkey in Afrin in this Guardian article dated 27th January 2018

The decision to cross over into Syria, and directly intervene in the seven-year-long civil war, has underlined the depth of Turkey’s concern about Kurdish fighters inside Syria. But it has also thrown Ankara’s ambitious training project into relief. According to rebel commanders, Turkey has for nearly two years been supporting the build-up and training of a unified army in Syria capable of resuming the battle against President Bashar al-Assad, now in the ascendant in the long civil war.

The genesis of the idea came in the opening months of Turkey’s first military campaign into Syria, when it launched Operation Euphrates Shield in the summer of 2016. Its troops had orders to both oust Isis from key border towns and limit the Kurdish militias’ westward expansion.

After taking the town of Jarablus near the border, Turkey sought to augment the Euphrates Shield forces – a disparate coalition of rebel militias – with a cadre of trained fighters to tackle Isis and guard the frontiers against Kurdish forces.

Rebel officials say the training programme has continued, building up Euphrates Shield into a force of 10,000 to 15,000 battle-ready soldiers, with an additional 10,000 recent recruits. After major military losses to Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, the rebels see this force as a lifeline that could allow them to relaunch their waning insurgency. That rebel army, they say, could wage a campaign to eliminate al-Qaida-linked fighters who dominate the opposition-controlled province of Idlib, and go on to fight Assad again.

“We cannot accept military defeat, we have to reinforce and start over,” said one rebel official. “Euphrates Shield is against both terrorism and the regime, and it is the first step to build a state.” But their prime aim of unseating Assad seems increasingly divergent from their Turkish patrons’ focus on attacking Kurdish troops, meaning the force may ultimately amount to nothing but another proxy militia under a foreign power’s command – much like most other groups fighting in Syria…..

Turkey has quietly continued to support the project as it has grown into multiple divisions led by Syrian commanders who coordinate with Turkish officers, and who are spearheading the campaign in Afrin now. Therein lies the dilemma of the rebels leading the ground assault. Abandoned by all their international allies, they see no choice but to follow Turkey’s lead.

While they agree with the rationale of the Afrin campaign, they also hope that taking the Kurdish enclave will open up a ground corridor into Idlib that would allow the national rebel army its first test against their greatest enemies – Assad’s regime, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former wing of al-Qaida in Syria. Turkey has given them no promises of support for this. Its actions after the Afrin campaign will determine whether it has helped build up the rebel army to be its own proxy force, or to fight against the regime.

“We have to play on the differences between global powers negotiating in Syria,” said one rebel commander, whose group is not in Afrin but intends to join the national rebel army. “It is a strategic interest to open the ground corridor into Idlib, and it coincides with Turkish interests.”

(bold italics added)

These words not only give insight into the motives of the Turkish backed Jihadi forces fighting in Afrin.  They also show the suspicions they have towards President Erdogan and the Turkish government.

However the overall objective is clear enough, and it is also clear that Turkey backs it.  It is to take over Afrin and then use Afrin along with Jarablus (the latter captured by the Turkish army in August 2016 at the outset of Operation Euphrates Shield) as stepping stones towards establishing a Turkish backed Jihadi protectorate over Idlib province (currently a contested zone between ISIS and Al-Qaeda), which can then be used as launch pad for a renewed Jihadi offensive against the Syrian government.

Moreover it seems that a very large Jihadi force numbering up to 25,000 men is being built up with Turkish help to put this plan into effect.

This article in the Guardian vindicates the analysis of the motives behind Turkey’s 2016 Operation Euphrates Shield made at the time by the independent analyst Mark Sleboda (see my discussion made at the time here).

Just as Mark Sleboda said, far from Operation Euphrates Shield being aimed primarily at ISIS and the Kurds – as President Erdogan led everyone at the time to believe – its primary purpose was to rescue the Jihadi insurgency by bringing it under Turkish control, and rebuilding it in a Turkish controlled and Turkish protected safe area in northern Syria under the supervision of the Turkish army.

The current Turkish operation against the Kurds in Afrin is explicitly said by the Turkish backed Jihadi fighters to be in further pursuit of this plan.

The Syrian government and the Kurds: cutting deals with each other

This is what explains the recent deployment of Syrian forces to Afrin, and the Syrian government’s strong opposition to the Turkish operation in Afrin.

Though the Syrian government is obviously deeply concerned about the recent alignment of the Kurdish militia with the US and is determined to do all it can to end it, the Kurdish militia is not an existential threat to the Syrian government or to the Syrian state in the way that the Jihadi groups that Turkey backs are.

Whilst the establishment of a US backed Kurdish statelet in northern Syria would be a major blow to the Syrian government, there is no possibility of the Kurdish militia taking over the whole of Syria or marching on Damascus.

By contrast the Jihadi fighters currently fighting alongside the Turkish army in Afrin make no secret that that is precisely what their ultimate objective is.

For that reason it is overwhelmingly in the interests of the Syrian government to prevent the Turkish army from taking over Afrin, and that is why the Syrian government has facilitated the transfer of Kurdish fighters from other areas of Syria to Afrin, and why it has now deployed pro-government militia forces there.

This deployment of pro-government militia forces to Afrin in fact achieves for the Syrian government a multiplicity of purposes:

(1) It makes it more difficult for the Turkish army to conquer Afrin, something which it is in the Syrian government’s overwhelmingly strong interest to prevent;

(2) It re-establishes a Syrian government presence on the ground in Afrin, furthering the Syrian government’s ultimate objective of re-establishing itself across all of Syria’s territory; and

(3) Despite the YPG’s denials, it is overwhelmingly likely that some sort of deal has been done, enabling the Syrian government to take over territory from the YPG in return for its help in Afrin.

Already there are reports that the YPG has surrendered control of several districts in Aleppo province to the Syrian army.

Assuming that these reports are true – and video footage suggests that they are – then this is probably only the first of many concessions the Kurdish militia has been obliged to make to the Syrian government in order to secure its support in Afrin.  There are now even reports – published by the normally reliable Al-Masdar news agency – that the Kurds are about to hand over to the Syrian military the key town of Manbij, which is a declared objective of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch.

What then of the fears which are widely expressed that the entry of Syrian militia forces into Afrin is a foolhardy step, setting the scene for an all-out clash between the Turkish military and the Syrian army, which the Syrian army cannot win?

An assessment of those risks requires a discussion of Russian policy in the Afrin crisis.

Russia and Afrin: brokering a compromise?

Any discussion of Russian policy in the Afrin crisis needs to begin with two of the points I made previously:

(1) that it is strongly in Russia’s interests that the Syrian government re-establish its authority across the whole of Syria, and that this is now Russia’s primary objective in the conflict; and

(2) that in the de facto alliance between the Syrian government and Russia it is Russia which is overwhelmingly the dominant partner to whose opinions the Syrian government must defer.

These facts taken together with the fact that President Assad has repeatedly shown a keen understanding of Syria’s need to work with the Russians makes it all but inconceivable that the deployment of pro-government militia forces to Afrin was undertaken by the Syrian government without Russia’s agreement.

That Russia has approved the Syrian government’s decision to send pro-government militia forces to Afrin has now been confirmed by the presence of Russian troops escorting the pro-government militia forces as they redeploy to Afrin in order to deter attacks on them by the Turkish military.

Here is how the reliable and well-informed Al-Masdar news agency has reported the Russian deployment

The 3rd batch of Syrian popular forces made it into the northwestern city of Afrin through al-Ziyara crossing to help defend the predominantly-Kurdish region from the Turkish aggression.

The first two batches have entered Afrin during the past few days as per an agreement concluded earlier between the Syrian government and Kurdish factions.

 Last month, Turkey and its proxy militants have launched a full-scale offensive on Afrin region with the aim to ‘liberate the area from the terrorist Kurdish militiamen”.

The arrival of the Syrian forces will definitely make things harder for the already troubled Turkish-backed militants who failed to make substantial gains on the ground.

Meanwhile, members of the Russian military police were seen escorting the convoys at the Ziyara crossing in order to prevent the Turkish military from targeting the crossing as it was the case a few days ago when the 1st batch arrived.

(bold italics added)

Obviously the Russians have no more wish to see Afrin become a Turkish controlled base area for a Jihadi army capable of threatening the Syrian government than the Syrians themselves do.  That the Russians are therefore quietly assisting in the deployment of pro-government militia forces to Afrin in order to prevent that happening should not be a surprise.

What is true – and what is the source of much of the confusion – is that the Russians have to play their cards very carefully.

The fundamental weakness of the Russians’ Syrian strategy is that they need President Erdogan’s cooperation in order to stabilise Syria and to bring the conflict there to an end.  At the same time the Russians have to work with the fact that President Erdogan’s objectives in Syria – of which the Russians are of course fully informed – are diametrically opposite to their own.

This is what creates the strange shadow-boxing between the Russians and Turkey in Syria, with the Russians and the Turks needing at all times to appear to be on the best of terms with each other even as they constantly manoeuvre against each other for advantage.

It is this tortuous approach which explains why the Russians initially approved the Turkish attack on the Kurds in Afrin but have now approved a Syrian government move intended to thwart that attack.

The Russians will however be anxious to prevent an open clash between the Turkish and Syrian militaries from taking place in Afrin.

The Russians and the Syrian government are of course fully aware that in any one to one clash between the Turkish and Syrian militaries the advantage lies with the Turkish army.  The Russians would be loathe to see such a clash happen not just because it is likely that the Syrian military would be defeated, but because were it to happen they would come under immense pressure from Syria and Iran to come to the Syrian army’s aid.

Were they to do so their relationship with President Erdogan and Turkey would however be damaged probably beyond repair, thereby ending any prospect of their securing President Erdogan’s help to end the conflict in Syria.

This explains the understated nature of Russia’s moves.

It is known that the Russians tried to preempt Turkey’s Afrin operation by trying to persuade the Kurds to hand over Afrin to the Syrian government.  The Kurds however refused, so when the Turks attacked the Russians gave them the green light.

Now that the Kurds in Afrin are coming under pressure they have been forced to turn to the Syrian government.  The Russians have therefore given the Syrian government the green light to deploy its forces there.  At the same time they have almost certainly brokered an agreement whereby the Kurds in return for Syrian help will surrender districts they control in Aleppo and the town of Manbij to the Syrian government.

At the same time the Russians – anxious to maintain a dialogue with President Erdogan and to help him save face – have ensured that the Syrian deployment to Afrin is of a limited nature, being made up exclusively of pro-government militia forces, with no involvement by the Syrian army

The Al-Masdar news agency has confirmed that no Syrian troops are actually present in Afrin, showing that the deployment of pro-government militia forces to Afrin is intended first and foremost as a piece of positioning in advance of negotiations

No Syrian Arab Army (SAA) troops have entered the Afrin region of Aleppo, a military source in Aleppo told Al-Masdar News on Saturday morning.

According to the military source, the Syrian Army has been ordered to remain in Aleppo city and absent from the Afrin front.

The source added that the Syrian Army agreed to stay out of the battle after the Russian military held a meeting with their Turkish counterparts.

While the Syrian Army is absent from Afrin, the pro-government National Defense Forces (NDF) have entered this region to aid the Kurdish-led YPG.

The NDF coordinates with the Syrian Army, but they are not an actual branch of the military, which means they can operate autonomously if need be.

(bold italics added)

Russia’s plan

It is not in fact difficult to see what the Russian plan is.

Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch has now brought the whole of the border area in northern Afrin under Turkish control.

The Russians are now doubtless telling the Turks that this has achieved for Turkey its primary objective, which is to prevent the movement of Kurdish YPG and PKK fighters and supplies from Afrin into Turkey.

However the Russians are doubtless also telling the Turks that further advances deeper into Afrin would be unwise since they will meet with increased resistance not just from the Kurds but from forces loyal to Damascus. They will point to the presence of pro-government militia forces in Afrin to reinforce their point.

Having secured the border, they will be saying to Erdogan and to the Turks that it is now in Turkey’s interests to declare victory and stop.

As for the Kurds, the Russians will be reminding them that when they came under attack from Turkey their US ‘allies’ were nowhere to be seen, so that they had to look for help to the Syrian government and to Russia.

It is not therefore in the Kurds’ interests to get enmeshed in the US’s Plan C.  Better for them to come to terms with the Syrian government – which means accepting its authority – whilst relying on the help of Russia to secure such terms for them as it can.

The Russians will be reminding the Kurds that Russia has always been sympathetic to Kurdish aspirations, and they will be advising the Kurds to listen to Russia’s advice as advice coming from a friend.

As for the Syrian government, any agreement with the Kurds and with Turkey which detaches the Kurds from the US and which results in the establishment of a Syrian government presence in areas formerly under Kurdish control would be for it a good thing, advancing the Syrian government’s eventual goal of re-establishing its control over all of Syria’s territory, whilst if Turkish plans to establish a safe zone for Turkey’s Jihadi proxies in northern Syria can be prevented, then that would be even better.

The Russians will not only be telling the Syrians all this; they will also be telling the Syrians that accepting a limited and ultimately temporary presence of Turkish troops in northern Afrin and making some minor concessions to the Kurds on questions of cultural autonomy and local government is a small price to pay in order to achieve it.

Will it work?

Any negotiation involving President Erdogan and the Kurds is fraught with difficulty.

Both have maximalist objectives – in President Erdogan’s case for the establishment of a Jihadi dominated Islamist state in Syria under Turkish control, in the case of the Kurds for self-rule in an independent Kurdish state – to which they are emotionally deeply committed, and which they are very reluctant to give up.

Moreover there is the further complicating factor that neither President Erdogan nor the Kurds can be trusted to keep whatever agreements they make.  That means that any agreement made with them requires constant effort to be kept effective.

Against this both President Erdogan and the Kurds find themselves in increasing difficulties.

For President Erdogan, whilst Operation Olive Branch has made some important advances in Afrin, it has done so at the price of heavy losses, and against combined Russian, Syrian and Kurdish opposition it is likely to run into increasing difficulties.

President Erdogan must also worry about Turkey’s rapidly deteriorating relations with the US, and may calculate that Turkey therefore needs at least the appearance of a good relationship with Russia in order to protect itself from the US.

Over and above these considerations, following the incident of the downing of the Russian SU-24 President Erdogan knows very well the heavy price Turkey will pay if it crosses Russia.  With Turkey’s economy showing signs of overheating, and heavily dependent on Russia, he has every incentive to keep relations with Russia on track.

As for the Kurds, their recent setbacks in Afrin have shown them that for all their bragging they cannot take on the Turkish military by themselves, and that in a showdown with Turkey they cannot rely on the US to save them.

Both President Erdogan and the Kurds therefore have reasons to draw back, though whether the Russians can persuade them to do so is another matter.

Having said this, both President Erdogan and the Kurds have shown themselves to be willing to make compromises in the past, so the possibility that they can be persuaded to do so again should not be completely discounted.

What is beyond dispute is that Russian diplomacy is working flat out to achieve that very thing.

Not only is the Russian military talking to the Turkish military on the ground, but Alexander Lavrentyev, a top Russian diplomat and President Putin’s personal envoy, has just met with President Assad in Damascus, whilst President Putin and President Erdogan have again spoken to each other, as the Russians gear up for the summit they are trying to convene between President Putin of Russia, President Erdogan of Turkey and President Rouhani of Iran in Istanbul.

Much now rides on the success of this summit.  However the possibility of a breakthrough is there.

Of course if that happens it will be the final end of the US’s Plan C, and the beginning of the end of the war in Syria.

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The social media ‘DEPLATFORM’ end game: Self-censorship (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 82.

Alex Christoforou

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Alex Jones’ account was put in “read only” mode and will be blocked from posting on Twitter for seven days because of an offending tweet. Twitter declined to comment on the content that violated its policies.

A Twitter spokesperson told CNN the content which prompted the suspension was a video published Tuesday in which Jones linked to within his tweet saying, “now is time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag”.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week defended Twitter’s decision to not suspend Infowars and Alex Jones from the platform, claiming they had not violated Twitter policies.

Dorsey refused to take down Alex Jones and his popular Infowars account, even as his Silicon Valley buddies over at Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify were colluding to remove any sign of Jones or Infowars from their platforms…

“We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” Dorsey said in a tweet last week. He later added that it was critical that journalists “document, validate and refute” accounts like those of Mr. Jones, which “can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors.”

According to Zerohedge, still after a CNN report identifying numerous past tweets from Infowars and Jones that did violate Twitter’s rules, those posts were deleted. Tweets by Infowars and Jones deleted last week included posts attacking transgender and Muslim people; a claim that the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated by “crisis actors”; and a video calling David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., high-school shooting, a Nazi.

Dorsey finally caved overnight, with a “temporary suspension”, which will likely become permanent upon Jones’ next violation.

Twitter’s crackdown came more than a week after technology companies, including Apple, YouTube and Facebook removed content from Jones and his site, Infowars. As the WSJ notes, the actions against Infowars intensified a growing debate over what role tech companies play in policing controversial content on their platforms while they simultaneously support the principle of free speech.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou examine the aggressive purge of conservative right, libertarian, and progressive accounts from Silicon Valley social media platforms, and how Alex Jones’ was the first step towards driving so much fear into the population, that self censorship takes over and authoritarian rule over the Internet takes hold.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

In the latest media pit stop, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sat down with NBC News Lester Holt, where he defended the company’s decision to put Infowars’ Alex Jones under a seven-day timeout over an offensive tweet linking to a video in which Jones encourages his audience to “act on the enemy before they do a false flag,” and to get “battle rifles” ready.

Dorsey said that despite calls to ban Jones last week amid a seemingly coordinated multi-platform blacklisting, he resisted until now.

“We can’t build a service that is subjective just to the whims of what we personally believe,” Dorsey told Holt, while saying he believes a suspension can be an effect deterrent which can change user behaviors.

“I feel any suspension, whether it be a permanent or a temporary one, makes someone think about their actions and their behaviors,” Dorsey added – though he admitted he has no idea if Jones’ timeout will result in any changes in behavior.

Dorsey stated: “Whether it works within this case to change some of those behaviors and change some of those actions, I don’t know. But this is consistent with how we enforce.”

Jones was banned or restricted from using the services of at least 10 tech companies this month, including Facebook and YouTube. Twitter had been the most high-profile holdout, until it announced on Tuesday that Jones was suspended from posting for seven days.

Dorsey later clarified on Twitter that he was “speaking broadly about our range of enforcement actions” with regards to the company’s use of timeouts.

in a follow-up question on weighing the importance of Twitter’s rules versus its moral obligation, Dorsey said the company has “to put the safety of individuals first in every single thing that we do, and we need to enforce our rules and also evolve our rules around that.” –NBC News

Jack Dorsey said on Twitter.

“I don’t assume everyone will change their actions. Enforcement gets tougher with further reported violations.”

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The Discarded Wisdom of America’s Founders

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

Eric Zuesse

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A good example of the discarded wisdom of America’s Founders is George Washington’s Farewell Address to the nation, delivered by him not orally but instead solely in printed form, published in Philadelphia by David C. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, on 19 September 1796, and distributed to the nation. The following extended excerpt from it is the most famous part of it, and is being blatantly raped by today’s U.S. Government, and therefore it might indicate the necessity for a second American Revolution, this one to disown and throw out not Britain’s Aristocracy, but America’s aristocracy. America’s Founders had done all they knew how to do to conquer Britain’s aristocracy, and they embodied in our Constitution all that they knew in order to prevent any aristocracy ever from arising in this nation; but the Founders clearly had failed in this their dearest hope, because a domestic U.S. aristocracy has arisen here and destroyed American democracy, as this nation’s Founders had feared, and as Washington in this document effectively affirms — and, by these words, proves — to have happened (they’ve taken over this country, in and by both of its Parties, and so we have here a profound and scathing, blistering, criticism of today’s American Government):

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Bruce Ohr Texts, Emails Reveal Steele’s Deep Ties to Obama DOJ, FBI

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application.

The Duran

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Authored by Sara Carter via SaraCarter.com:


A trove of emails and handwritten notes from Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr exposes the continuous contact and communication between the DOJ attorney and anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, according to notes and documents obtained by SaraACarter.com. The emails and notes were written between 2016 and 2017.

The notes and emails also reveal that Ohr was in communication with Glenn Simpson, the founder of the embattled research firm Fusion GPS, which was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC to hire Steele.

In one of Ohr’s handwritten notes listed as “Law enforcement Sensitive” from May 10, 2017, he writes “Call with Chris,” referencing Steele. He notes that Steele is “very concerned about Comey’s firing, afraid they will be exposed.” This call occurred months after FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee and revealed for the first time that the FBI had an open counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and alleged collusion with Russia.

Steele is also extremely concerned about a letter sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Comey for information on his involvement with Steele. Grassley sent 12 questions to Comey regarding the bureau and Steele’s relationship and wanted all information on any agreements they had during the investigation into alleged Russia-Trump collusion. Grassley also wanted to know if the FBI ever verified any of the information in Steele’s reports.

In Ohr’s notes from May 10, 2017, he goes onto write that Steele is concerned about a letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee, writing:

“Asked them 3 questions:

  1. What info (information) did you give to the U.S. govt (government)?
  2. What was the scope of yr (your) investigation?
  3. Do you have any other info that would assist in our question?”

SaraACarter.com first reported this week text messages between Steele and Ohr, revealing that Steele was anxious about Comey’s testimony and was hoping that “important firewalls will hold” when Comey testified.

Those text messages in March 2017 were shared only two days before Comey testified to lawmakers.

The House Intelligence Committee revealed in their Russia report earlier this year that Steele–who was working for the FBI as a Confidential Human Source (CHS)–had shopped his dossier to numerous news outlets in the summer of 2016.  According to the report, the FBI terminated Steele after discovering that he was leaking to news outlets, breaking a cardinal rule by the bureau to not reveal ongoing investigations and information to the media.

However, there is growing concern that the FBI was well aware that Steele was in contact with media outlets about his dossier before the FBI applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for its first warrant in the fall of 2016 to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign volunteer advisor, Carter Page.

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application…

“There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application and that question needs to be resolved,” said a congressional official with knowledge of the investigation.

The documents from March 2017, reveal how concerned Steele is with Grassley’s committee and the letter from the senator’s office seeking answers from Steele on the dossier.

In June 2017, Steele tells Ohr,  “We are frustrated with how long this reengagement with the Bureau and Mueller is taking.  Anything you can do to accelerate the process would be much appreciated.  There are some new, perishable, operational opportunities which we do not want to miss out on.”

In October 2017, Steele notes that he is concerned about the stories in the media about the bureau delivering information to Congress “about my work and relationship with them.  Very concerned about this.  People’s lives may be endangered.”

And in November 2017, Steele, who is trying to engage with Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel, writes to Ohr saying, “we were wondering if there was any response to the questions I raised last week.”

Ohr responds by saying, “I have passed on the questions (apparently to the special counsel) but haven’t gotten an answer yet.”

Steele then says,  “I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your SC (special counsel) colleagues on the issues you kindly put to them from me.  We have heard nothing from them either.  To say this is disappointing would be an understatement!  Certain people have been willing to risk everything to engage with them in an effort to help them reach the truth.  Also, we remain in the dark as to what work has been briefed to Congress about us, our assets and previous work.”

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