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Astana peace talks on Syria are over, what’s next? (INTERVIEW)

Syrian journalist Afraa Dagher tells The Duran of her hopes and fears for Syria’s future post-Astana.




Adam Garrie asked Syrian political commentator Afraa Dagher to reflect on the recent Astana Peace Conference and how this impacts on Syria’s long-term future.

AG:  The new draft constitution seems to have disappointed people on all sides. It’s not surprising that terrorist’s whose currency is blood have rejected it, but there are many provisions which seem to weaken the Syrian Arab Republic’s standing as a secular, multi-national, multi-religious, tolerant republic for all citizens. What is your reaction to such provisions?

AD: Well, first of all, Syria is a sovereign country. It is not acceptable to have a constitution which was written by another country, even if this country is our ally.  The real Syrians have been sacrificing themselves since 2011 against the forces of the so-called “Arab Spring”, for the unity and sovereignty of Syria against the traitors, the armed mercenary forces who follow the western agenda of balkanizing Syria.

This is self-evident, as those agents replaced the flag of independent Syria with the French mandate flag, alongside with Islamic state one! So Syrians and only Syrians are qualified to make a decision about their constitution, not any other country, above all, not the traitorous “rebels”. Moreover, it is a primary Israeli goal to destroy the value of our Syrian Arab Army and our armed forces! This is the same goal of the opposition fighters who in many cases have relations with the Israeli occupier.

AG: Dr. Bashar Jaafari spoke in Astana of how Kurdish people have always been integrated into the Syrian Arab Republic as full citizens and cooperative members of society. Why then should there be specifically provisions for Kurdish territories when the problems that in the past existed in Iraq and currently exist in Turkey have been largely absent in contemporary Syrian history?

AD: Let me repeat an important quote by Dr. Bashar Al-Jafari, the civilized, polyglot, open minded and real great Syrian man:

“The western countries should stop supporting those terrorists and stop wasting their people’s  money”.

And this is the real solution to this war in Syria. So it is not by giving self-administration to the Kurds or any autonomy they want because then the other minorities will want the same later. That way Syria would be federated into sectarian and ethnic states! When this “Revolution”  started in March of 2011, there were two requests from the “Rebel” side that I can’t forget.

First of all, they asked (just like the Islamic brotherhood) to allow their women to be in full cover, ( same as “ISIS”) Secondly, the Kurds who were living in peace with us and have all the same rights as other Syrians suddenly asked to be given Syrian nationality in order to be able to participate in conferences so that they could later ask for Kurdish autonomy. It is clear that all this was well planned against the unity of Syria and against its great army.

AG: It was during the Corrective Period under the late President Hafez al-Assad that the Syrian Arab Republic as we know it today was born. What is the significance of this, especially given how the 1960s was such a turbulent decade in Syria’s history?

AD: Well, President Hafez Al-Assad was the iron leader in a region which is surrounded by neighbors such as Turkey, Israel, agent kings of the west, like in Jordan and the Arab Gulf, etc.

A strict and iron leader is the best one in this case. His Corrective Movement and also the real revolution in March 1963, were against capitalism and imperialism. It was about building Syria, building universities, and public hospitals , almost for free. It was meant to build an educated generation, not a Wahhabi state.

While the so-called “Arab Spring” intended to destroy the land and its people, that movement was one to organize people in democratic institutions to express their views on how to build a strong Syria, it was also intended to improve our economy and political life in united strong nation. I’m not saying the Syrian government is perfect, every country has corruption, but those suicide bombers backed by underdevelopment countries like Saudi Arabia and supported by the Zionist occupying entity Israel, are certainly not going to correct this.

We trust our secular leadership and we trust its wisdom and ideology, however, those who organized this war, don’t want Syrians to have such a great leader with such a great army.

AG: Prior to 1975, Lebanon was presented as the western model for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state in the Middle East. The horrible Civil War, of course, ended this ideal in the minds of the west and beyond. How has Syria managed to avoid major conflict until the foreign interventions of 2011?

AD: On 14 February 2016, President Bashar Al-Assad — this admired voice of his people in Syria — spoke before the members of the Central Bar Association and the affiliated councils of the Syrian cities. He called the foreign-demanded call for “transition” as the attempt to destroy Syria:

The so-called “transitional governing body” is a structure that will pave the way for an inner political conflict that reaches all social levels, which ultimately means a state of utter paralysis.

This structure disassembles all basic structures, particularly the armed forces, leaving us with one choice:  a sectarian constitution.  When this happens, sects are pitted against each other.  Each sect seeks to strengthen its own position by seeking external support until the homeland becomes dependent on external forces.  Because of the non-sectarian nature of our constitution, we have avoided such crises like the Lebanese one.

AG: Russia has had to play a precarious balancing act in bringing Turkey, an enemy of the Syrian people into the peace talks. Do you as a Syrian feel that this was the right or wrong decision?

AD: – Well, regardless of Russia, the voice of the Syrian streets  always says, about each peace conference held for Syria, that there is no use of inviting the so-called rebels, they  are not the ones deciding for themselves, they can’t make a decisions, It would better to invite their masters from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the US. The Russians already know that well, as they experienced this reality when fighting on the ground alongside with our Syrian Arab Army.

AG: Do you still consider Russia a friend?

AD: Syria was the gate for Russia to regain its position in the Middle East again, as a superpower. Our alliance is not modern, it is a strong and old one. Russia, for its part, supported Syria against the global plot against us.

I hope this friendship will continue regardless of the latest events including the draft constitution and the idea of accepting safe zone in Syria. Anyway, I’m not in a position power to evaluate it, however, I know that Syrians and Russians complete each other as a strong alliance and need to collaborate with each other against the US. The US is not trustworthy and I think Russia knows that more than anyone else.

AG: What is your message to Russian politicians and to the Russian people who overwhelmingly feel a sense of brotherhood and eternal friendship with the Syrian people?

AD: Much love and respect for Russia and its people, may the souls of their martyrs rest in peace. The first Russian pilot was killed by Turkish shot when he was on his jet over Syrian land close to Turkish borders. The beautiful female doctors that were killed by Turkey and the US-backed rebels who targeted them directly in Aleppo. We are one team against terrorists and their masters, and we will stay that way, brothers and sisters in two countries.

AG: As Russia has a permanent base in Syria, do you believe this assures Russia’s long-term support for the Syrian Arab Republic?

AD: it is a great basis on which to secure both Syria and Russia and to strengthen Russian influence in the Middle East.

AG: Do you believe any changes should be made to the current Syrian Constitution?

AD: It is Syrians and only Syrians who can decide on their constitution by referendum. No country can forcibly replace the existing constitution of a sovereign country. Moreover, there are two red lines:

1 The unity of Syria and

2 The immunity of our Syrian Arab Army, and armed forces, they are the protectors of Syria.

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Why did Trump recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind US President Trump’s sudden recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Following Trump’s statements as US President, acting Israeli Foreign Minister is saying that Trump will make it official and sign an executive order to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian border territory on Monday.

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Via DW

Israel says White House officials are preparing an official document to codify support for Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which will be signed by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The signing of the decree will be witnessed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Trump at the White House, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz (pictured), said in a Tweet.

“Tomorrow, President Trump, in the presence of PM Netanyahu, will sign a decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. Israel-US ties are closer than ever,” Katz said.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently annexing it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump’s tweet annoys allies

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely-contested claim to the border territory.

The decision has been criticized by many US allies — Germany, Britain, France and the EU have all said they still consider the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.

Syria and other states in the region said the recognition, if confirmed, would violate international law.

Netanyahu has long pushed for Washington’s endorsement, and many analysts see Trump’s comments as a campaign gift ahead of Israel’s April 9 election.

In 2017, Trump drew condemnation throughout the Middle East when he recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Russia Gives US Red Line On Venezuela

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.



Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:

At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, President Donald Trump was again bragging that the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with being apprised of Russia’s red line.

The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.

Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.

Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.

The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.

The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.

Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.

It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.

After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.

“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.

The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.

That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.

Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.

Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.

Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.

It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.

The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?

On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.

And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.

How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.

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With RussiaGate Over Where’s Hillary?

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain. She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.



Authored by Tom Luongo:

During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.
  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election
  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire
  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system
  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.
  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.
  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that she has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that HIllary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

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