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Assessing Lavrov’s visit to Washington

Sergey Lavrov’s trip to Washington confirms progress in reconstructing relations between the US and Russia after the damage done by the Obama administration

Alexander Mercouris

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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov over the course of his two day visit to Washington gave a lengthy news conference in which he provided some information concerning his talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US President Donald Trump.

Lavrov’s mood at the news conference was upbeat, and this reflects the Russian media’s overall view of the talks.  There is no euphoria and Lavrov himself said that the task of repairing US-Russian relations is a huge one.  However he placed the blame for their present wretched state firmly on the previous Obama administration

We discussed the state of our bilateral relations, which is not encouraging. We are well aware why relations are where they are now. Unfortunately, previous US administration did everything to undermine the foundations of our relations. Now, we have to work almost from the ground up. We perfectly understand that Russian and US citizens want to live in peace and be able to interact normally. I think that the politicians should make sure that all artificial obstacles that lie in our way should be removed.

In this respect Lavrov made a pointed contrast in the differing personalities of the foreign teams of the Trump and Obama administrations

The dialogue between Russia and the US is now free from the ideology that characterised it under the Barack Obama Administration. US President Donald Trump, his Administration, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson  are the kind of people who want to maintain a dialogue not as a means of demonstrating what they can achieve in the area of ideological preferences, but rather as a means of solving particular issues which have great bearing on the nation’s progress, peoples’ well-being and settling conflicts in different areas.

The key difference is that Trump and Tillerson are former businessmen, whereas Obama’s team was made up heavily of lawyers and academics (Obama of course was both).  Unsurprisingly the lawyers and academics are far more ideological than the business people.  There is no doubt which of the two Lavrov prefers.

It is always better for relations when people do business rather than try to promote their ideological preferences or engage in propaganda. This forms the basis for our expectations.

Lavrov admitted that the actual results of the meeting were modest.  Given the early stage of the dialogue between Russia and the Trump administration, it could not be otherwise.

However two interesting facts came out of Lavrov’s visit.

The first is that the concept of de-escalation zones in Syria stems from an idea Tillerson took with him when he came to Moscow in April.  Lavrov was quite clear about this

As to Syria, we first of all focused on the ideas that had been discussed during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow when he shared his thoughts regarding de-escalation and safety. This was the initiative US President Donald Trump mentioned during his telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Secretary of State Tillerson later presented it in more detail in Moscow. The initiative is now being materialised in agreements concluded in Astana, where four de-escalation zones were proposed, including in the south, since the USA is particularly interested in stabilising the situation on Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel. We are ready to cooperate on the issue…….

Question: You have mentioned Russia’s interest in US involvement in the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria. Can you provide more details on this? Did President Trump or Secretary Tillerson say that the United States would cooperate with Russia, one way or another, to create these zones?

Sergey Lavrov: To begin with, the idea was initiated by US officials – President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. We used the Astana venue to promote its practical implementation. We will welcome any US contribution. This issue must be entrusted to those who are dealing with the situation on the ground professionally, and who have the information. We can facilitate this process both in Astana and in Geneva. We have reached an agreement that we, as active participants in the common efforts towards a Syrian settlement, should maintain these contacts with the other key players, primarily regional countries.

In other words at the very time that Britain’s clownish Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was trying to mobilize the G7 to threaten Russia with sanctions and was calling off his visit to Moscow supposedly in order to make it possible for Tillerson to present to the Russians with an ultimatum demanding they agree to get President Assad to go and commit to pulling their troops out of Syria, Tillerson was actually going to Moscow with a completely different proposal to de-escalate the conflict there.

As to the fate of President Assad, Lavrov made it perfectly clear that the Russian position in relation to him is unchanged

Someone asked me about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In Iraq and Libya, the international community did its utmost to overthrow Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. We can see what this has resulted in. As regards the settlement of the Syrian crisis, let us draw conclusions from our past mistakes and opt not for replacing the leader but for rooting out the evil of terrorism. President Donald Trump has reaffirmed today that the main goal for the United States in Syria is to defeat terrorism. We fully agree on this.

As for Russia quitting Syria, Lavrov was equally clear and rather crisper

We don’t have an exit strategy. All of us must fulfil our agreements, as UN Security Council resolutions say. Agreements must be honoured and terrorism must be rooted out in Syria, which must not become a seat of extremism and instability as it happened in Iraq and Libya.

(bold italics added)

Indeed with hindsight the negotiations between Tillerson and the Russians both in Moscow and Washington have gone so completely differently from what Boris Johnson expected that the unavoidable conclusion has to be that Tillerson decided it would be wiser not to take Boris Johnson into his confidence.  There can be no more withering testimony to the low regard in which Boris Johnson is held than that.

In any event it is now clear that for the first time since the start of the Syrian crisis the US and Russia are genuinely starting to coordinate their positions in Syria, though it is far too early to say that they are actually working together.  The difference between the negotiations the Russians are having with Tillerson and the abortive negotiations they had previously with Tillerson’s predecessor Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry, is that Tillerson unlike Kerry seems to have the President’s unequivocal support backing.  Whether this will be enough to lead to a peace settlement in Syria remains to be seen.

The other interesting fact that came out of Lavrov’s visit is that the Russians seem to have genuine hopes of regaining possession of the diplomatic premises the Obama administration seized in its last days under the pretext of the Russiagate scandal.  This is what Lavrov had to say about that

Sanctions are a unilateral action against us, and so resolving that is not our problem.

The issue of state property holds a special place in our talks. Property rights are affirmed by legal documents issued in the USA. The Obama Administration in its last days in power resorted to petty actions against both our property and our diplomats who were ordered to leave the United States within twenty-four hours. Everyone, in particular the Trump Administration, is aware that those actions were illegal. When those decisions were announced, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin said that we are completely entitled to respond reciprocally. The US side knows what that would look like. Yet we are not going to follow those who are trying to destroy our relations. Our US colleagues know about our stance. I hope we will be able to resolve the situation without our relations deteriorating.

The Russians must know that at the present time, with the Russiagate scandal still on fire, it is politically impossible for the Trump administration to return this property irrespective of whether or not its seizure by the Obama administration was illegal.  It is difficult to avoid the impression that the Russians are bringing this issue up in order to emphasize the utter falsity of the claims of interference in the US election which have been made against them, and as a marker that they will want this property returned when the falsity of these charges is finally proved.

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Trump Weighs In On The Single Worst Mistake In American History

Trump hits Bush: Invading Iraq ‘the single worst decision ever made’.

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Via Zerohedge


In a wide ranging interview with The Hill on Tuesday conducted in the Oval Office, President Trump was asked to give his take on the biggest mistake in American history.

Considering just how open-ended a question that is, it’s perhaps surprising that he merely went back less than a couple decades into the Bush presidency, though Trump’s base will certainly welcome it as it hearkens back to his “America First” foreign policy vision of the campaign trail.

“The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush,” the president during his interview with Hill.TV.

“Obama may have gotten them (U.S. soldiers) out wrong, but going in is to me the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country,” he said.

Trump explained the reasoning behind this choice, and why it wasn’t something like the civil war or another defining and devastating event reaching far into American History.

“Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, ‘oh gee, let’s not do it. Seven trillion, and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives,” the president explained.

Some scholars and humanitarian groups estimate that over one million Iraqis were killed in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq starting in 2003. A 2008 Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll, for example, found that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war.

“To me it’s the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.”

Various estimates on the Iraq war’s cost have put the total taxpayer bill as low as near $2 trillion, but none dispute that it is in the multiple trillions, and estimates will vary widely depending on if veteran care is factored into it.

The comments echo things Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016. For example during one of his first major foreign policy speeches then candidate Trump said, “I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.” And referencing the famous quote of John Quincy Adams, he said during the same speech, “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies.”

He had previously shocked pundits for being the first Republican nominee for president to trash George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and has more recently likened it to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest”.

All of this is a hopeful sign considering the extremely heightened and dangerous tensions over Syria this week, and given Trump seems to have vacillated between “bringing the troops home” and getting more involved. On Monday Trump hinted that a decision on the U.S. role in Syria is coming soon.

Commenting on the over 2,000 troops now in Syria ostensibly as part of the “anti-ISIL” coalition campaign, Trump indicated this mission could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

We consider it a hopeful and a good sign that Trump is possibly revisiting his “America First” foreign policy pledges by identifying the Iraq War as the worst mistake in US history.

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Brett Kavanaugh eleventh hour smear begins to fall apart (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Trump is urging the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh to testify and be heard.

Trump said he wants to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, noting that it would be “unfortunate” if she does not testify before a Senate committee. Trump told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House to view hurricane damage in North Carolina…

“If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”

“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that would be very interesting.”

From Trump’s lips to God’s ear…Blasey Ford came out to issue a statement essentially saying that she will not testify to Congress, either in an open or closed door session.

Furthermore it appears that Ford will not even allow Senate investigators to fly to California and obtain her statement from the comfort of her own home (as Senator Grassley has offered to do).

Ford is demanding an FBI investigation into an allegation with no date, time or place attached to it. 

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the dangerous game of identity politics being played by the establishment, Democrat left, and their mainstream media minions.

The premise that a four decades old accusation is all that is needed to destroy a person’s entire life, threatens to tear down the most basic foundational values adhered to from within the US Constitution, and propel the United States of America towards a fascist state where censorship, citizen surveillance, and evidence free accusations are used to keep the establishment left in power and the American population cowered in fear.

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According to Zerohedge, Democrats’ Hail Mary play to stymie the confirmation of Trump SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh is beginning to fizzle out. As angry Dems demanded that a Monday hearing on the allegations against Kavanaugh be delayed until the FBI has a chance to investigate, turncoat Republicans (on whom the Dems had been depending for votes) instead withdrew their support and fell in line after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley declared that he would not honor Democrats’ request. Grassley revealed his intention to stand firm late Tuesday after lawyers for Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey, who is claiming that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her 35 years ago when the two were 17-year-old high school students, said their client wouldn’t be wiling to appear at Monday’s hearing.

According to the HillGrassley said Tuesday that there was “no reason” to delay the hearing now that Republicans have invited both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, to testify publicly. However, while Ford’s attorneys have insisted that their client has taken a polygraph test and “deserves to be heard”, Ford has bizarrely insisted that the FBI should have an opportunity to investigate her claims before she appears before the committee in order to spare her the “trauma” of confronting her alleged assailant.

Ford’s lawyers conveyed her request in the form of a letter sent to the committee, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

Senator Grassley said he would refuse this request as several Republicans who had appeared to be on the cusp of defecting said they wouldn’t support further delays should Ford prove unwilling to testify.

Via the Hill…

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” said GOP Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), who was one of the first Republicans to call for the Judiciary Committee to hit pause on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Sunday.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) told reporters earlier Tuesday that Ford’s lack of response to the committee about testifying was “puzzling.”

And GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who had threatened to vote against Kavanaugh if Ford wasn’t given the chance to be heard, told CNN that he expected the committee to move on if she doesn’t appear.

“I think we’ll have to move to the markup,” he told CNN. “I hope she does (appear). I think she needs to be heard.”

Via Zerohedge…

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegations and insisted he didn’t attend the party where the physical assault allegedly took place. Patrick Smyth, a fellow former Georgetown Prep student whom Ford alleges was also in attendance during the party issued a statement via his lawyer standing up for Kavanaugh. And in a separate letter to Grassley and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, not only does Smyth repudiate Ford’s allegations, but he adds that he doesn’t remember this party even taking place.

Of course, Feinstein – who admitted last night that she couldn’t say for certain that Ford’s story is entirely truthful – sat on Ford’s allegations for three months before referring them to the FBI and sharing them with other lawmakers (who purportedly “leaked” it to the press). President Trump on Tuesday said that he “feels sorry” for Kavanaugh, adding that he doesn’t want to “play into [Democrats] hands”, presumably by giving them more time to drag out the confirmation process.

“They should have done this a long time ago, three months ago, not now. But they did it now. So I don’t want to play into their hands,” Trump said.

Without the support of their Republican allies, Democrats will lack the votes on the committee to hold up the nomination past Monday. Though bizarrely, Kavanaugh himself hasn’t said yet whether he would or wouldn’t testify, which begs the question: If neither Kavanaugh nor Ford appear at the hearing, what exactly will lawmakers discuss?

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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