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Watch the US State Department Try To Explain Why US Weapons Keep Ending Up in Al-Qaeda’s Hands [Video]

Funny how US weapons keep ending up in Al Qaeda’s hands.

Alex Christoforou

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US State Department officials refuse to comment on reports that CIA weapons meant for ‪‎Syrian‬ “rebels” are magically stolen, again, and somehow ended up in Al Qaeda / Al Nusra hands. Funny how that keeps on happening.

“No Comment.”

“It’s an ongoing investigation.”

Then AP’s Matt Lee says, “How long should I hold my breath”.

Referring to how long it will take for some explanation as to why, mysteriously albeit, US weapons meant for “moderate Syrian rebels” keep on ending up in Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS hands.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Papadopoulos speaks as Maltese Professor Mifsud goes missing

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was been sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying to the FBI.

Papadopoulos admitted to lying to investigators about conversations he had with the now missing Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who baited an ambitious and naive Papadopoulos into discussing fairytale Russian government “dirt” on then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Papadopoulos apologized for his actions during his sentencing hearing last, telling the judge that he had made a “dreadful mistake” and was eager for redemption. Mueller’s witch hunt prosecutors wanted a sentence of up to six months, while Papadopoulos’ lawyers asked for probation.

Meanwhile Papadopoulos’ wife, Simona Maginante, has made the rounds on media channels claiming that her husband was entrapped by the FBI and pressured into pleading guilty.

Maginante told Business Insider...

“Knowing his case, he clearly didn’t commit any crime, since every crime is characterized by a ‘status of mind’ [sic] and a motive, it’s pretty clear George had no reason to lie about the date in which he met with professor Mifsud.”

In the latest bizarre twist in the Russiagate hoax, on the day George Papadopoulos was sentenced to two weeks in prison, lawyers involved in an “unrelated” case where the corrupt DNC is suing Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign over alleged interference in the 2016 election, raised the prospect professor Joseph Mifsud may be dead.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the George Papadopoulos sentence, and his recent media appearances…all the while, the secret professor/spy Joseph Mifsud went missing last year (and has remained missing), after Robert Mueller announced the first charges relating to his investigation into imaginary links between Russia and the Trump administration.

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Via The Independent UK

Joseph Mifsud, a former teaching fellow at Stirling University, held meetings in 2016 with George Papadopoulos, a former Trump administration foreign policy adviser who was jailed last week for lying to the FBI, including over his connections to the 57-year-old professor.

Prosecutors in the Papadopoulos case allege Mr Mifsud touted his “substantial connections with Russian government officials”, who could deliver “thousands of emails” featuring incriminating information against Ms Clinton.

But in unrelated court filings last week, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) claimed Mr Mifsud, who has not been seen since November last year, “may be deceased”.

The DNC is suing Russia, WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign over alleged interference in the 2016 election. Lawyers for the committee said it believed all defendants in the case were served with complaints, “with the exception of Mifsud (who is missing and may be deceased),” according to Bloomberg. They did not elaborate.

Court documents relating to the Papadopoulos case revealed the young foreign policy adviser initially tried to downplay Mr Mifsud as “a nothing” and “just a guy talk[ing] up connections or something”.

“In truth and in fact, however, defendant Papadopoulos understood that the professor had substantial connections to Russian government officials (and had met with some of those officials in Moscow immediately prior to telling defendant Papadopoulos about the ‘thousands of emails’),” the statement of offence read.

Mr Mifsud went missing last year, shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller announced the first charges relating to his investigation into links between Russia and the Trump administration.

On 30 October, Mr Mueller’s office made public Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, as well as charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates.

On 1 November, La Repubblica located Mr Mifsud in Rome. The academic told the newspaper he met Papadopoulos “three of four times”, but that the claims over election interference were “nonsense”.

“Papadopoulos doesn’t tell the truth,” he said. “The only thing I did was to facilitate contacts between official and unofficial sources to resolve a crisis. It is usual business everywhere. I put think tanks in contact, groups of experts with other groups of experts.

He continued: “I strongly deny any discussion of mine about secrets concerning Hillary Clinton. I swear it on my daughter. I don’t know anyone belonging to the Russian government.”

Mr Mifsud appears not to have been seen since he made those comments, even by Italian prosecutors attempting to track him down over an unrelated court summons in Italy.

His Ukrainian fiancée, who reportedly gave birth to his daughter earlier this year, has also said she has not seen him in months.

As well as offering emails, Mr Mifsud also introduced 31-year-old Papadopoulos to a woman named Olga, who claimed to be a niece of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and a man named Ivan Timofeev, who claimed to have a connection to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prosecutors said Papadopoulos’s false statements to the FBI contributed to their inability to secure an interview with the professor.

“The defendant’s lies undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States,” they wrote in court papers, noting Mr Mifsud left the US in February 2017 and has not returned.

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Partitioning of Syria is drawing China into the theater of war (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 108.

Alex Christoforou

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The law of unintended consequences has forced China’s hand in Syria.

As the battle for Idlib draws near, China is set to fight Al Qaeda trained Uyghur jihadists in Syria in order to help the Syrian government retake their territory, preventing those very jihadist terrorists from returning to Xinjiang province and sewing the seeds of partition in China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst, from Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss how the American plan to partition Syria has pressured China to take part in an already crowded and complicated conflict.

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After Syria’s partition, will Xinjiang be destabilized?” Authored by Christina Lin via Asia Times…

The US policy of permanently balkanizing Syria appears to be a foregone conclusion, even as the Syrian Arab Army and Russian forces proceed with their last major counter-terrorism operation in Idlib.

According to Wolfgang Mühlberger, senior fellow for EU-Mideast relations at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, “Idlib is the very Arab Kandahar with potentially more than 100,000 experienced, battle-hardened Sunni jihadi fighters hiding between the civilians.”

This high number is due to the amalgamation of all the militants from de-confliction zones or reconquered battle zones (e.g., Aleppo, Ghouta, Deraa, etc.) throughout Syria that have been shipped to Idlib over the past couple of years, as well as remnants of the Free Syrian Army.

However, despite Washington acknowledging that the governorate is an Al Qaeda safe haven for militants from over 100 countries, the tripartite powers of the UK, US and France are now asking Germany to join planned airstrikes against Syria – as soon as President Bashar al-Assad gives them the green light by using chemical weapons.

It is not entirely clear why the US believes the Syrian president would deliberately provoke western airstrikes on Syrian forces when they are on a winning streak in their war with the terrorists, but it does seem apparent that Washington intends to prevent Syria from regaining sovereignty over Idlib.

As discussed in a previous Asia Times article, RAND Corporation drew up a Syria partition plan wherein the US would occupy the northeast, Turkey the northwest, Russia and Iran the coastal area and large parts of the Syrian desert, and Israel and Jordan the southwest.

The US zone would contain oil fields where 90% of Syria’s pre-war oil production took place, while Israel would control the newly discovered oil reserves in the Golan Heights. Turkey’s control of Idlib as a safe haven for militants would put continued pressure on the Syrian government, and a balkanized Syria would be weak and less likely to provide a viable base for Iran and Hezbollah to attack Israel.

However, the partition of Idlib as a jihadi sanctuary has important implications for another actor – China. Back in August, there were reports that Beijing would participate in the Battle for Idlib due to the presence of Chinese Uyghur jihadi colonies. If Turkey controls Idlib, China fears Ankara and the West would exploit Uyghur militants as proxies to destabilize Xinjiang.

Idlib proxies to destabilize Xinjiang?

There are historical reasons for this concern, given that the CIA tried to destabilize Xinjiang and supported separatists in Tibet during the Cold War. As Israeli sinologist Yizhak Shichor pointed out, in the 1950s Washington tried to exploit Muslim grievances against China and the Soviet Union, by attempting to form a Middle Eastern Islamic pact to organize fifth columns in these countries.

Brian Fishman, a counter-terrorism expert at the New America Foundation, also noted that in the 1990s Osama Bin Laden accused the US and CIA of inciting conflict between Chinese and Muslims. After a series of 1997 bombings in Xinjiang that Beijing ascribes to Uyghur separatists, bin Laden blamed the CIA in an interview, saying, “The United States wants to incite conflict between China and the Muslims. The Muslims of Xinjiang are blamed for the bomb blasts in Beijing. But I think these explosions were sponsored by the American CIA.”

Interestingly at the time, Al Qaeda had its eyes on the West and largely ignored Uyghur separatism as a Chinese domestic issue. But as Fishman assessed, over time the transnational problem of al Qaeda and its allies, and the increasing prominence of Uyghurs in jihadi propaganda, meant that China could no longer avoid them.

Indeed, given that the 2016 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan was a joint operation between Al Nusra and its Uyghur affiliate Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP); the continual supply of advanced weaponry and tacit Western support for TIP due to its intermingling with the “rebel” opposition; professional military training by the private security company Malhama Tactical to improve TIP’s warfighting capabilities; and TIPs ultimate goal to attack China, James Dorsey at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore argued that Beijing mulling military intervention in Idlib underscores the gravity of this threat to China’s core interests.

Currently, China seems to be steering clear of direct military involvement and instead relies on Syria and Russia, but it would be concerned should Western powers block Damascus and Moscow’s campaign to reclaim Idlib and continue to partition a safe zone for Uyghur militants.

Moreover, as Jacob Zenn from the Jamestown Foundation pointed out, China is also concerned by “the prospect of re-shaping the borders in the Middle East that could lead to new conceptions of sovereignty and statehood – not only in the region but elsewhere throughout the Islamic world, including Central Asia and Xinjiang.’

Xinjiang at heart of Belt and Road Initiative

Now it appears that a Western united front is emerging to confront China on human rights issues, using various tools of media coverage, economic sanctions, political activism by NGOs and think tanks to internationalize the Uyghur issue in Xinjiang.  Similar to Israel’s dilemma over the internationalization of the Palestinian issue, China is bracing itself for a destabilization campaign and possible call for secession and partition of the province from Chinese sovereignty.

This perception is due to US backing of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, which aspires to revert Xinjiang to an independent East Turkistan. The first president of the Congress was Erkin Alptekin, son of Isa Alptekin, who headed the short-lived First East Turkestan Republic in Kashgar (November 12, 1933 to February 6, 1934), and also served as an advisor to the CIA while working at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich.

The Alptekin family and Xinjiang secession enjoy strong support from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who while being mayor of Istanbul in 1995, named a section of the Blue Mosque park after Isa Alptekin and built a memorial to commemorate Eastern Turkistani martyrs who lost their lives in the “struggle for independence.”

Given resource-rich Xinjiang is at the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), destabilizing the province would not only spoil the plan for Eurasian integration and development, but also weaken China’s economy by cutting off its overland energy supply from Central Asia and the Middle East, hamper its market access, and keep Beijing bogged down in an ethnoreligious conflict.

While this may augment current Washington’s trade war against the Middle Kingdom and weaken the Pentagon’s “peer competitor,” by deliberately stoking Chinese fears about Xinjiang destabilization and increasing radicalization, thereby egging Beijing to clamp down on Uyghurs, is in effect exploiting the ethnic Uyghur’s plight for narrow geopolitical agenda.

And as Yizhack Shichor perceived, “Vocal criticism of China related to its Uyghur persecution comes primarily, in fact almost entirely from outside the Middle East, from Western non-Muslim countries…[which] may have little do to with loving the Uyghurs, and much more to do with opposing China.”

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