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Assad will not go, Syria to remain united under Russian-Turkish peace plan

Contrary to Turkish inspired media reports, there are no secret Russian-Turkish agreements to ‘federalise” Syria, or to carve it up into “zones of influence”, or for the removal from power of President Assad.

Alexander Mercouris

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On 28th December 2016, the day before the Russian and Turkish Foreign Ministries communicated their ceasefire plan to the UN Secretary General and to the UN Security Council, a report appeared in Reuters which claimed that Russia and Turkey have come to a private understanding to divide Syria into “zones of influence”.

Supposedly this also involves the ultimate removal from power of Syrian President Assad, though supposedly Iran has not agreed to this.

The relevant paragraphs in the Reuters report read as follows

Syria would be divided into informal zones of regional power influence and Bashar al-Assad would remain president for at least a few years under an outline deal between Russia, Turkey and Iran, sources say.

Such a deal, which would allow regional autonomy within a federal structure controlled by Assad’s Alawite sect, is in its infancy, subject to change and would need the buy-in of Assad and the rebels and, eventually, the Gulf states and the United States, sources familiar with Russia’s thinking say…..

Assad’s powers would be cut under a deal between the three nations, say several sources. Russia and Turkey would allow him to stay until the next presidential election when he would quit in favor of a less polarizing Alawite candidate.

Iran has yet to be persuaded of that, say the sources. But either way Assad would eventually go, in a face-saving way, with guarantees for him and his family.

Careful reading of the report shows that the “sources” it refers to are almost entirely Turkish.  The only Russian source appears to be Andrey Kortunov, a well known Russian academic and commentator on international affairs, who is the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, and who is also connected to the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

Though Kortunov is a serious scholar he is not an official of the Russian government, and the extent to which he is familiar with the details of the negotiations that have been going on between the Russian and Turkish governments must be open to doubt.

Talk about a federal structure for Syria may have its origin in a proposal some Russian officials are known to have made for a possible ‘federal solution’ for Syria’s Kurdish problem.  I discussed this proposed ‘federal solution’ involving the Kurds on 25th October 2016, and pointed out that it is not properly speaking a federal solution at all, but rather

…..the sort of arrangement that exists within Russia, where areas like Tatarstan are recognised to have a distinct ethnic identity, and where special provisions are made to recognise and accommodate this fact.

As it happens the Syrian government has flatly rejected this proposal, and though the Kurds appear to be still pushing it, it is far from clear that there is any life still left in it.

The Reuters piece suggests it is Turkey that is currently pushing the federalisation proposal.  If so then it is most unlikely Turkey would want such a ‘federal solution’ for Syria’s Kurds, especially if (as would almost certainly be the case) its effect was to entrench the anti-Turkish YPG in power in Syria’s Kurdish areas along the Turkish border.  Since it is however very difficult to see how a ‘federal solution’ for Syria could work without the Kurds, that in itself is a good reason for doubting that the Turkish calls for a ‘federal solution’ for Syria are intended seriously.

The fundamental difficulty the ‘federal  solution’ anyway faces is that outside the Kurdish areas there is practically no support for it in Syria.

The Syria war is often described as a sectarian war between an Alawite dominated Syrian regime drawing its support from Syria’s minority communities, who are mainly to be found in the populous coastal regions of western Syria, and Syria’s Sunni majority, which accounts for almost the whole of the population of Syria’s central and eastern regions.  The ‘federal solution’ idea is for Syria to be divided into three parts on ethnic and sectarian lines, with an Alawite dominated region in western Syria along the coast, a Kurdish area in the north, and a Sunni region in the vast though thinly populated regions of Syria’s interior in the centre and east

Syrians I have spoken to have however told me that this conception of Syria is wrong. Syria is not divided along sectarian lines.  The great majority of Syrians identify themselves first and foremost as Arabs and Syrians irrespective of whatever might be their personal religious faith.  It is a mistake to assume that the violent Wahhabi/Salafi sectarianism that has been imported into Syria in the last few years, and which is the driving force of the war, and the marginally less violent Sunni sectarianism of the Muslim Brotherhood which preceded it, are representative of the attitudes of most Syrians.

Since the majority of Syrians oppose being divided on sectarian lines, carving up Syria into a federation along such lines has no support and makes no sense.   As it happens all opinion surveys which have taken place in Syria since the start of the war show that the great majority of Syrians (over 70%) want their country to remain united.

In summary, the federal proposal has no obvious attractions and little to no prospect of success, so it is difficult to see why the Russians, whose interest is in maintaining a united Syria, would want to support it.

As it happens the main supporters of the ‘federal solution’ for Syria have until recently been certain hardliners in the US, who having given up hope of achieving regime change in Syria, have instead been quietly lobbying for the creation of a pro-US Sunni client state in Syria’s central and eastern regions.  The very fact this supposed ‘federal solution’ to Syria’s crisis has had some US backing is however a good reason to doubt the Russians are interested in it.

If the ‘federal solution’ has no attraction to the Russians, and has almost certainly not been agreed by them, why are the Turks talking about it?

The reason is almost certainly connected to internal Turkish politics.

The fundamental problem the Turkish government faces is that having committed itself so wholeheartedly and so publicly to the regime change project in Syria, it is now faced with the prospect of its total failure.

Not only must that be very difficult for some Turkish officials to accept, but there must be many people in Turkey who would see that as a defeat.  In a few cases some might even see it not just as a defeat but as a betrayal.

In the circumstances it is not surprising if some Turkish officials are busy reassuring the Turkish public – and one suspects in part themselves – that it is all really just part of some cunning plan to carve up Syria into “zones of influence” with Russia, preserving Turkey’s influence in Syria, whilst getting President Assad to stand down.

The fact that there is total silence about any of this from Moscow is the best possible reason for doubting that any of it is true.  Why anyway would the Russians, after the defeat of the Jihadis in Aleppo, agree to any of this?

It is actually most unlikely the Russians would agreed to any of these Turkish ideas, and the Turks must privately know they won’t.  Doing so would completely contradict longstanding Russian policy, which is that these are all issues the Syrians must decide for themselves in talks between them, and that they have nothing to do with Russia.

If the Russians consistently refused to change this policy under US pressure, why would they do it to please the Turks?

The only agreement the Russians are known to have made with the Turks is the one that was communicated by the Russians and the Turks to the UN Security Council on 29th December 2016.

That agreement makes no reference to Syria being carved up into “zones of influence: or into any sort of federal structure.  Nor does it say anything about President Assad standing down.

There are no grounds to speculate on any further Russian-Turkish agreements for Syria, including agreements about Syria’s division into “zones of influence” or its federalisation or about President Assad’s eventual removal, and it is a virtual certainty that no such agreements, informal or otherwise, exist.

kerry-assad-must-go

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What Lies Behind the Malaise of the West?

Prime Minister Theresa May was just forced to pledge that she would not lead her party in the next election — to survive a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Is it coincidence or contagion, this malady that seems to have suddenly induced paralysis in the leading nations of the West?

With lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen’s confession that he colluded with Donald Trump in making hush money payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, America’s stage is set for a play that will run two years.

As Democrats test the waters for a presidential run by savaging Trump, the establishment Trump detests and defeated in 2016 will use every weapon in its considerable arsenal to break and bring him down, as it did half a century ago to Richard Nixon.

By spring 2019, Americans will be unable to escape the vitriol on cable and social media. And the outside world will see America again as a house divided. Our politics will be even more poisonous than now, and it is not easy to see what would bring our warring tribes together again.

Consider, then, the situation of our old ally Great Britain.

Prime Minister Theresa May was just forced to pledge that she would not lead her party in the next election — to survive a no-confidence vote in Parliament. A third of all Tory members voted to throw her out.

The no-confidence vote was called after May had to cancel a vote on the Brexit plan she had negotiated with the EU, when it was evident that a coalition of Tories and Labor would vote to kill her plan.

May has been humiliated. Yet her humiliation solves nothing. The clock is running toward a March deadline for concluding a Brexit deal. And no plan acceptable to both Parliament and the EU is on the table.

The possibility exists that Britain could simply crash out of the EU, causing severe economic damage to both.

Realizing this, Brussels has left the door open if Britain should vote in a second referendum to remain in the EU. But calling and carrying out that referendum would be a betrayal of the 52 percent of the British people that voted to restore full national independence.

While London wanted to stay in the EU in 2016, England voted to leave. Northern Ireland wanted to stay, as did Scotland, though 45 percent of Scots had earlier voted to declare their own independence from Great Britain.

In France, after four Saturdays of anarchy, arson, looting and vandalism of her national monuments, President Emmanuel Macron capitulated to the rioters. He withdrew the fuel tax that triggered the uprisings. He agreed to have his government add $113 a month to those earning the minimum wage, and to let workers get overtime pay and Christmas bonuses tax-free, and to revoke higher social charges on modest pensions.

The cost of Macron’s retreat is estimated at $11 billion, 0.4 percent of France’s GDP. Saturday will tell us if his appeasement bought peace.

The political collapse of Macron has been extraordinary.

In 2017, he won almost two-thirds of the national vote, and his La Republique en Marche! won an absolute majority of the National Assembly.

Today, one poll puts Macron’s approval at 21 percent. The idea that he can replace Angela Merkel as the recognized leader of the EU seems ridiculous.

As for Merkel herself, hailed as leader of the West in the time of Trump, her party and coalition lost so much support in the recent election that she stepped down as leader of the CDU and pledged not to run for another term as chancellor.

Europe’s fourth-largest economy, Italy, is now led by a coalition of the populist-left Five Star Movement and populist-right Lega party. The coalition seeks greater freedom on spending than Brussels is willing to allow, and a halt to migration from across the Med.

With Poland and Hungary at odds with Brussels over alterations in their political systems, the EU has never seemed less united.

What are the underlying causes of these 21st-century crises of Western democracies?

Certainly, globalization, with its creation of ties among transnational elites at the expense of nation-states and their indigenous peoples is one. Capitals — Washington, London, Paris, Berlin — seem ever more distant from the countries they rule.

Then there is demography. The native-born of almost all Western nations are aging, shrinking and dying. Death rates exceed birth rates. While peoples of the West are living longer, they are producing fewer children to replace them.

At the same time, Western elites have welcomed foreign workers and left borders unsecured against mass migration. And the people coming in, almost all now from the Third World, are not assimilating as the children of 19th- and 20th-century European immigrants to the USA had largely done by 1960.

A consequence and related cause is the rise of tribalism, or ethno-nationalism, the search for identity and community with one’s own. Loyalties to family, tribe, neighborhood, culture and country appear paramount, rising above intellectual and political alignments.

The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing, said Pascal. And so it does.

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Petro Poroshenko and Theresa May: failed leaders on the same disastrous trajectory (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 37.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look how UK PM Theresa May and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko are willing to destroy their country in the pursuit of pleasing their globalist masters, while retaining what little power they still hold.

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https://soundcloud.com/user-901836666/petro-poroshenko-and-theresa-may-failed-leaders-on-the-same-disastrous-trajectory

Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s president has recently warned Russian tanks are amassing along the border between the two countries amid increasing tensions. The comments came late last month after three Ukrainian naval boats were seized in the Kerch Strait by Russia.

President Petro Poroshenko has allegedly shown images of what he claims to be hundreds of tanks preparing for an invasion.

He told Sky News:

“This is the tank base just 18km from our border, this was happening in September, October, and now.”

“This is 18km from my border, this is the same warehouse where they have their ammunition, the same where they have multi-rocket launch systems, we should be prepared to protect my country.”

Satellite imagery from Google Earth taken sometime in November from the Defense Blog has verified Poroshenko claims. Photos show hundreds of Russian main battle tanks at a new military installation in the Kamensk-Shakhtinsky region.

The Russian base is about 18 kilometers (11.1 miles) away from the rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. Images show hundreds of main battle tanks, with thousands of military trucks, support systems, artillery pieces, tankers, and troop transport vehicles.

Russia has been quietly building up its forces near the border with Ukraine since late summer and now has a military force greater than 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea, Viktor Muzhenko, the commander of Ukrainian armed forces, told Reuters in an interview last week.

In front of us is an aggressor who has no legal, moral or any other limits,” he said. “It is very difficult to predict when it will occur to him to begin active combat actions against Ukraine.”

“This (the Kerch Strait incident) was an act of aggression from regular forces, the border service (of the Russian Federation) in relation to the Ukrainian armed forces,” Muzhenko added.

Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation, made a great point in October that Washington is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, donating warships and military equipment to the country for use against Russia. This is the latest indication that America’s military-industrial complex is shifting to Ukraine as the epicenter to start World War III, and from which the nuclear war is to be sparked against Russia.

There is a reason why Russia is amassing hundreds of main battle tanks on the Ukranian border, that is because the next geopolitical flare-up is right around the corner, likely to occur during the next global recession.

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Canada PM Justin Trudeau in way over his head with Huawei CFO arrest

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Justin Trudeau’s response to U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese officials over of stories around the arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Vancouver and the detention of a former Canadian diplomat in China.

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Via Zerohedge


China Arrests Former Canadian Diplomat As Government Fears Reprisal For Huawei CFO
Is this one of the “severe” reprisals threatened by Beijing when it summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing for a meeting over the weekend?

According to Reuters, former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has been detained in China. Kovrig’s employer, International Crisis Group, is working to secure his “safe” release.

The reason for Kovrig’s detention wasn’t immediately clear, and Beijing has refused to comment on his detention. However, Reuters noted that the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has “stoked fears of reprisals.”

“International Crisis Group is aware of reports that its North East Asia Senior Adviser, Michael Kovrig, has been detained in China,” the think-tank said in a statement.

“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” it added.

China’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Public Security did not respond immediately to questions faxed earlier about Kovrig’s detention.

The exact reason for the detention was not immediately clear. The Canadian embassy declined to comment, referring queries to Ottawa.

Kovrig, a Mandarin speaker, has been working for the ICG as an in-house “expert” since February 2017. Prior to that, he served as a diplomat for the Canadian government between 2003 and 2016, with stints in Hong Kong and Beijing.

And while it’s possible that the timing of Kovrig’s arrest is purely coincidental, the timing is certainly suspicious.

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