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Russian and US military chiefs meet in Turkey to discuss the fight against ISIS

US and Russian military chiefs meet to discuss their plans for fight against ISIS.

Alexander Mercouris

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Just three weeks after the top soldiers of the US and Russian militaries – General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff – met in Azerbaijan, they have followed up with a second meeting in Antalya Turkey, for a summit hosted by Turkey’s top soldier, General Hulusi Akar, who is the Chief of the Turkish General Staff.

Unlike the summit meeting in Azerbaijan, which discussed the full range of US-Russian military relations, the meeting in Turkey is specifically focused on this situations in Iraq and Syria.

The background to this meeting is that President Trump has directed the US military to provide him with plans to intensify the fight in Iraq and Syria against ISIS and the other Jihadi terrorist groups, which President Trump has pledged “to wipe from the surface of the earth”.  Apparently a draft plan has already been prepared by the Pentagon, though it has not yet been presented to the President.

At the meeting in Azerbaijan Dunford is reported to have reassured Gerasimov that talk of large scale US army deployments to Syria was untrue.  However a sharp increase in the number of US military personnel deployed to Syria is definitely on the cards.  With the Russians in a dominant military position in Syria, Dunford clearly wants to brief Gerasimov personally about the plan, so as to ensure at least a measure of Russian (and Syrian) cooperation.

This comes after reports that the US air force carried out air strikes on ISIS that helped the recent Syrian advance on Palmyra.

A further reason why Dunford and Gerasimov might wish to speak to each other – and involve the Turks in their discussions – is that recent offensives by the Syrian and Turkish armies in northern Syria have brought these two armies into close contact with each other.  Whilst there has been no outright clash, a number of incidents have taken place.

With both the US and Russia anxious to concentrate on the fight against ISIS, Dunford and Gerasimov will be concerned to ensure that these incidents do not spiral out of control.  They will want Hulusi Akar’s explanations of how he will ensure this, and they may have their own proposals to make to him.

With the situation in the eastern Syrian desert Deir Ezzor remaining critical, Gerasimov will also be seeking reassurances from Dunford that the US is doing all it can to prevent ISIS fighters fleeing from Mosul and Iraq joining the fight against the Syrian army in Deir Ezzor.

Lastly, Dunford, Gerasimov and Hulusi Akar will undoubtedly discuss in detail the situation in Manbij, where parallel and clearly coordinated US and Russian troop movements have blocked a Turkish advance on Kurdish controlled Manbij and on ISIS controlled Raqqa.

The chiefs of the US and Russian militaries will want both to reassure Hulusi Akar that this is not a hostile move by the US and Russia against Turkey, and that Turkey’s cooperation in the fight against ISIS is highly valued, and at the same time make clear to Hulusi Akar what are the red lines beyond which Turkey is not allowed to go.

The fraught political situation in Washington has made it politically impossible for President Trump to forge ahead at least for the time being with his objective of detente with Russia.

However the US military are not so constrained.  With the neocons no longer in charge in Washington and able to prevent them from talking to the Russians, they have seized the opportunity to reach out to  their Russian counterparts.  The result is that they are now working with them discreetly on the ground in Syria in order to avoid possible conflicts there – such as the one which almost happened in October – and in order that the two militaries can keep each other informed of their respective plans.

It is important to say that this is a dialogue not an alliance.  There is no evidence that Dunford and Gerasimov are planning joint operations together against ISIS.  Whilst that might one day happen for the moment US Defense Secretary Mattis has ruled it out.

However one reason ISIS has been able to survive for so long and grow to such enormous strength is precisely that the US and the Russian militaries have been in conflict with each other in Syria.  This has allowed ISIS to play the two off against each other, and even to forge tactical alliances with the US against the Syrians and the Russians, as happened to deadly effect in September in Deir Ezzor.

Now that the US and Russian militaries are at talking to each and informing each other about their plans, hopefully that will no longer be the case.

In the meantime the mere fact that the US and Russian militaries once more have an active ongoing dialogue, even if its scope for the moment is limited to the fight against ISIS and Jihadi terrorism in Iraq and Syria, may make it easier in the long run to effect a general improvement in US Russian relations.

The US military are not as vulnerable to the charges of treason and collusion with the Russians that s0 many of Donald Trump’s civilian officials are.   It would take a very brave or even reckless Democratic Party Senator, CIA official or New York Times journalist to accuse General Dunford of treason because he has met with his Russian counterpart.

That means that for the moment the US military are in a much better position to carry out diplomacy with the Russians than the civilians are, a fact which given how important the military are in Donald Trump’s administration may turn out to be important in the long run.

That however is for the future.  In the meantime the mere fact that Dunford and Gerasimov are now regularly talking to each other is in itself a good thing.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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