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Why Russians in Syria are Welcome

Far from seeing Russian soldiers as occupiers, the Syrian people see them as saviours and welcome their presence.

Afra'a Dagher

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It was a hard and breathtaking moment for the people of Syria when US President Obama announced in August 2013 that the US was preparing a military strike against Syria.  It seemed that the US was about to go to war against Syria on the false pretext of the Syrian government’s “alleged use of chemical weapons” against its own people.  Obama even called it “the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century”. 

The US plan however ran into a storm of opposition. 

Russia and China had consistently opposed US attempts to obtain a UN Security Council Resolution to attack Syria, repeatedly exercising their power of veto in the Security Council to block US proposed Resolutions making threats and calling for sanctions against Syria.  Both of these countries made absolutely clear that they adamantly opposed any repeat of the “Libyan scenario” – ie. the NATO war of aggression against Libya – in Syria.

Come August 2013 and these two countries – Russia and China – stood their ground.  Both made it crystal clear that they strongly opposed Obama’s plan for a strike against Syria. 

But back to Obama’s statement, what about the Syrians, did President Obama really care about them?

The truth is that by August 2013 the Syrian people had been suffering the ugly face of war for years.  It is an ugly face hiding behind a US mask of fake concern for freedom in Syria and in a myriad of other third world countries.  Throughout that war the US and its allies in Europe and the Arab Gulf states had backed those they call “Syrians rebels” but who are more properly called “NATO mercenaries” or even “Saudi Wahhabi butchers”.

In Syria Obama’s statement caused huge alarm.  Some people – mindful of what had happened in Libya – decided to leave Syria to escape the bombing.  Others decided to stay, trusting in the wisdom of their Government,  the bravery of the Syrian Arab Army, and the support of Syria’s allies: Russia, China, Iran, and the Lebanese resistance.

That trust was rewarded!  At the last moment, because of all the opposition, Obama’s planned attack had to be called off.

The Syrian street responded with huge marches, organised by the Syrian people, in which Syrians expressed their thanks to Russian President Putin for leading the opposition to the air strike by carrying placards and signboards filled with praise for him and for Russia.  However, the US did not abandon its dream of invading Syria and it was in pursuit of that dream that shortly after the US-led so-called “anti-ISIS” coalition was formed. 

ISIS or Daesh is of course simply the same armed gangs who have all along been behind the violence, destruction, suicide bombings, and assassinations in Syria.  When it suited the West it called them “rebels”.  Then, for propaganda purposes, they became “ISIS” or Daesh.  It was just a different name for the same people.

This US-led “anti-ISIS” coalition operates on Syrian territory with no authorisation from the elected government of Syria.  By doing so it grossly violates Syrian sovereignty.  That is not just the view of the Syrian government.  It is the view of Syrian people as well. 

Besides who would trust a coalition made up of those same countries who have been organising the aggression against Syria ever since 2011?  After all it is these countries who have been striving ever since 2011 to overthrow Syria’s secular elected government by relying on Wahhabi murderers and militants.  In fact, from the moment the US and its allies began their pretended war against ISIS or Daesh, the balance of advantage on the battlefield began to move in Daesh’s favour.   Thus during the period of the “anti-ISIS coalition’s” “war against Daesh”, Daesh actually expanded its territory, so that it extended all the way from Al- Ramadi in Iraq to Palmyra in Syria.  Meanwhile elsewhere, on the northern front and in northwest Syria, Turkey opened its borders to its own trained mercenaries, who launched their own offensives there.  The net result of all this fake “anti-ISIS” and “anti-terrorist” activity was a significant expansion of the territory controlled by Daesh and the terrorists and a significant loss of territory by the Syrian government. 

As just one example of the West’s hypocrisy, on many occasions the US-led coalition dropped weapons for the “rebels” which ended up in the hands of the “terrorists” – including Daesh.  This of course was said to be an “accident”.  The reality – as everyone in Syria knows – is that there was no accident because the “terrorists” become the “rebels” whenever it suits the West to call them that.  To get a true sense of the madness, consider that the US is giving arms and even money to “moderate” rebels in Syria.  However these same people – called “moderates” when they are in Syria – suddenly become “ISIS terrorists” when they cross the border into Iraq.

The “anti-ISIS coalition’s” actions in fact showed that its true target was not ISIS or Daesh or the terrorists but the government and people of Syria.  Thus its aircraft struck a thermal power plant in Aleppo – located in a residential neighbourhood – and bombed Syrian soldiers who were actually fighting Daesh, as happened for example in Deir Al-Zour.  On another occasion the Syrian air defence force shot down a US drone flying over the Presidential palace in Latakia – where of course no ISIS or Daesh fighters were present. This drone was not of course “fighting ISIS”.  It was spying on the Syrian government.

This was the situation that caused Russia to act decisively last summer to support Syria.

The Russia-Syrian relationship is not a new.  Russia is traditionally an ally of Syria.  In turn the Syrian people and its elected government trust Russia.

The Syrian government asked for Russia’s support and help as the balance on the battlefield tipped in favour of Daesh and the terrorists as a result of the actions of the US-led coalition.  Russia acted on this request.  In doing so it acted in accordance with the wishes of the people of Syria.

Here it is important to say that Syria has an elected government.  Syria is not an autocratic monarchy like Saudi Arabia.  The request the elected government of Syria made to Russia asking Russia for help was made by the government the Syrian people had elected.  It was a request made on behalf of the Syrian people by their democratically elected government and was overwhelmingly supported by them.

That the Syrian people supported their government’s decision to ask Russia for help – and Russia’s decision to respond positively to this request – was again confirmed by the response of the Syrian people, who made known their gratitude to Russia in large demonstrations during which they carried placards and shouted slogans thanking Russia.  The Russian action in fact was for the people of Syria a huge relief.  For far too long Syria has had to fight alone against foreign backed fighters and a superpower military coalition,  relying only on its own weapons and its small – though heroic – army.

Russia coordinated its actions with the Syrian and Iranian governments, providing air cover to support the ground operation of the brave Syrian Arab Army and its ally Hezbollah. The Russian pilots got accurate coordinates about terrorist sites from the Syrian army.  After all who knows better the location of these sites than the brave Syrian soldiers who have been fighting the terrorists since 2011?

In October, 2015, Russia started its air operation alongside the Syrian Arab Army, and in just four months the balance shifted again, with Syria recovering territory and the terrorists – including Daesh – losing it.  Contrast that with how the US-led “anti-ISIS” coalition was unable to stop the advance of Daesh in two years.

This shift of the situation on the battlefield upset the US and its allies.  Despite their flowery talk of “war against terrorism” it was absolutely not what they wanted.  So – having pursued war relentlessly for 5 years – they suddenly discovered an interest in a “political solution”.  All of a sudden the call went up for negotiations in Geneva, with the Saudi delegation now demanding a ceasefire!

None of this of course has any truth or sincerity behind it.  It was all merely a dodge to stop the Syrian army backed by the Russian air force from destroying the terrorists whilst buying time to resupply the terrorists with more weapons and more “rebels” smuggled into Syria from across the Turkish border.

During the period of the Russian operation most of the Turkish border – the main gateway for the terrorists into Syria and the main route the terrorists use for their supply lines – was in fact secured.  Russia paid a price for this when one of its aircraft was treacherously shot down by the Turkish air force, with one of its pilots brutally murdered as he bailed out as a result of ground fire from Turkish-backed forces in the area (all this according to Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti).

Russia also helped the Syrian army break the siege of Aleppo and liberate most of the countryside around the city.  The Syrian army – backed by the Russians – also achieved great advances in Latakia, eventually liberating its countryside, thereby securing the whole province.  There have also been important advances around Damascus, whilst the cities of Homs and Hama have been cleared of terrorists, and Palmyra has of course been liberated.

When people in Syria hear the sound of Russian jets, that for them is the sound of peace not war.  It gives Syrians a feeling of safety.  Even Syrian children say “Don’t worry, those are President Putin’s jets.”  Even the mere presence of a Russian air base in Tartous province reassures Syrians.  It tells them the Russians are there to defend them.  

The airbase of course is equally important to Russia.  It secures Russia’s presence in the region which might otherwise fall entirely under US control.

One would never of course know any of this from the Western media.  There the story is one of Russia bombing Syrian civilians non-stop.  This often comes touched up with fake pictures of old bombings dating from long before the Russians ever came to Syria.  What makes these claims particularly insulting – both to the Russians but also even more to the Syrian people – is that many of these pictures of old bombings actually show the results of crimes committed by the very same terrorists (or “rebels”) the West is backing. 

By contrast with all this false and noisy chatter about Russian bombing of Syrian civilians, actual air strikes by the US-led coalition against Syrians go either completely unreported or are simply lied about.

When Syrians meet Russians by chance, say in a pharmacy or on the street, as now happens very often, they welcome them as friends and as brothers in arms.  By contrast no-one in Syria would ever want to meet an American soldier.  There is no one in Syria who can forget their intervention in Iraq and Libya, their crimes against the Iraqi and Libyan people, and of course their bloody role in Syria.  Unlike Russians, Americans are absolutely not welcome.

Over the last 5 years Syrians have paid a heavy price for their refusal to be a tool in the hands of the US and Israel.  Despite all our suffering we remain committed to the Resistance Axis of which Syria is the key link.  We support our President Bashar Al-Assad who leads us in that struggle.

The author is a Syrian journalist from Latakia who writes under the name Syrian Afra’a.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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