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Bloomberg panics: “Putin has succeeded in making Russia a factor in the Middle East”

Diplomat says: Russia a ‘nimble boxer’ vs musclebound U.S.

Alex Christoforou

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The Saudi king’s first visit brings another Middle East leader to Moscow, and the US deep state is in panic mode.

Of course Russia, China, and other nations, will be more than happy to work with Middle East partners under a framework of international law and mutual respect…something the US hegemony was unwilling to do.

Russia did not so much win the Middle East, as much as the US lost the Middle East, through a devastating mix of regime change, jihadist funding, and illegal invasions.

Via Bloomberg

The Israelis and Turks, the Egyptians and Jordanians — they’re all beating a path to the Kremlin in the hope that Vladimir Putin, the new master of the Middle East, can secure their interests and fix their problems.

The latest in line is Saudi King Salman, who on Wednesday is due to become the first monarch of the oil-rich kingdom to visit Moscow. At the top of his agenda will be reining in Iran, a close Russian ally seen as a deadly foe by most Gulf Arab states.

Until very recently, Washington stood alone as the go-to destination for such leaders. Right now, American power in the region is perceptibly in retreat — testimony to the success of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, which shored up President Bashar al-Assad after years of U.S. insistence that he must go.

“It changed the reality, the balance of power on the ground,” said Dennis Ross, who was America’s chief Mideast peace negotiator and advised several presidents from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama. “Putin has succeeded in making Russia a factor in the Middle East. That’s why you see a constant stream of Middle Eastern visitors going to Moscow.”

Success brings its own problems. As conflicting demands pile up, it’s not easy to send all those visitors home satisfied. “The more you try to adopt a position of dealing with all sides, the more you find that it’s hard to play that game,’’ Ross said.

Moscow was a major power in the Middle East during the Cold War, arming Arab states against Israel. Its influence collapsed along with communism. When the U.S. invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, Russia was a bystander, unable to do more than protest.

The tables began to turn in 2013, when the U.S. under Obama decided not to attack Assad. Two years later, Putin sent troops and planes to defend him.

For the most part, America’s local allies were firmly in the Assad-must-go camp. They were disillusioned when U.S. military might wasn’t deployed to force him out.

Russia’s clout in the region has grown “because Obama allowed it to,’’ said Khaled Batarfi, a professor at Alfaisal University’s branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “Unfortunately he withdrew to a great extent from the Middle East.’’

That view is widespread. It was bluntly expressed last month by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spent years urging American action against Assad. Talks with the U.S. “couldn’t get any results,’’ he said.

Turkey has now joined Russia and Iran in a plan to de-escalate the conflict. It’s “achieving a result,’’ Erdogan said. Two years ago, tensions between Putin and Erdogan had threatened to boil over, after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet on the Syrian border. Last Friday, the Russian president flew to Ankara for dinner with his Turkish counterpart and “friend,’’ who’s agreed to buy Russian S-400 air defense missile systems, riling fellow NATO members.

Meanwhile the Saudis, who had financed rebels fighting against Assad, are cooperating with Russia in coaxing the opposition to unite for peace talks – which will likely cement the Syrian leader in power.

America’s Middle East allies mostly welcomed the change of U.S. president, and Donald Trump’s tough talk about challenging Iran. So far, though, he’s stuck close to his predecessor’s policy in Syria, concentrating on fighting Islamic State not Assad.

So, as the goal of regime-change in Syria recedes, priorities have shifted. The Saudis and other Arab Gulf powers are urging Russia to reduce Iran’s role in Syria, where Hezbollah and other Shiite militias supported by Tehran have provided shock troops for Assad’s offensive.

“Russia is better off not to be on one side of it. That’s the key message,’’ said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a U.A.E.-based political analyst. “Here is the king, representing Arab Gulf countries, representing a lot of geopolitical weight, coming to Russia. And Russia has to take that into consideration.’’

But Putin won’t shift his stance on Iran to accommodate Saudi wishes, according to a person close to the Kremlin.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has visited Russia four times in the past 18 months, has also found it hard to sway the Russian leader.

In August, Netanyahu told Putin that Iran’s growing foothold in Syria is “unacceptable.’’ In September he told CNN that the Iranians are trying to “colonize’’ Syria with the aim of “destroying us and conquering the Middle East.’’

Russia, though, refused his demand for a buffer zone inside Syria that would keep the forces of Iran and Hezbollah at least 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli border, a person familiar with the matter in Moscow said. Instead, Russia offered a 5-kilometer exclusion zone, the person said.

Russia also rejected a U.S. demand to make the Euphrates river a dividing line between Syrian government troops and U.S.-supported forces in eastern Syria. This has led to a race to capture territory from retreating Islamic State fighters in a strategic and oil-rich border region.

Yet Russia has succeeded in keeping open channels of communication to all sides, from Iran to Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian radical Islamist group Hamas to Israel, said Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa director at Eurasia Group.

While Russia didn’t give way on the buffer zone, it has a tacit understanding that permits Israel to carry out airstrikes against Hezbollah in Syria, said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group set up by the Kremlin.

It’s been mediating, along with Egypt, to end the decade-old inter-Palestinian rift between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Putin invited rival Libyan factions to Moscow, after a series of peace efforts by other countries came to nothing. Russia has become a leading investor in oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, and was one of the few world powers to refrain from condemning its recent vote on independence.

In economic terms, the contest for influence looks like an unequal one – America’s GDP is 13 times Russia’s. That’s not always the decisive factor, said Alexander Zotov, Moscow’s ambassador to Syria from 1989 to 1994.

“Sometimes you have two boxers coming out to the ring, one is huge with bulging muscles and the other is smaller but nimble, and has a better technique,’’ he said.

While economics are a limiting factor for Russia, Putin also enjoys several advantages over American presidents, according to Paul Salem, vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. He has no Congress to worry about, and no elections that he risks losing. Putin has been around for almost two decades, a long time in geopolitics, with “very consistent leadership, a consistent message,” Salem said. “He says what he does, he does what he says.”

Russia’s rise came as U.S. policy makers grew preoccupied with Asia, and the American public tired of Middle East wars – something both Obama and Trump acknowledged.

“Washington remains the indispensable power in the region,’’ said Eurasia’s Kamel. But its commitment to traditional alliances is weakening, he said, and that’s encouraged regional leaders to hedge their bets. “The Kremlin is on everyone’s mind.’’

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Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

 

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This Man’s Incredible Story Proves Why Due Process Matters In The Kavanaugh Case

Accused of rape by a fellow student, Brian Banks accepted a plea deal and went to prison on his 18th birthday. Years later he was exonerated.

The Duran

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Authored by James Miller of The Political Insider:


Somewhere between the creation of the Magna Carta and now, leftists have forgotten why due process matters; and in some cases, such as that of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, they choose to outright ignore the judicial and civil rights put in place by the U.S. Constitution.

In this age of social media justice mobs, the accused are often convicted in the court of (liberal) public opinion long before any substantial evidence emerges to warrant an investigation or trial. This is certainly true for Kavanaugh. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, cannot recall the date of the alleged assault and has no supporting witnesses, yet law professors are ready to ruin his entire life and career. Not because they genuinely believe he’s guilty, but because he’s a pro-life Trump nominee for the Supreme Court.

It goes without saying: to “sink Kavanaugh even if” Ford’s allegation is untrue is unethical, unconstitutional, and undemocratic. He has a right to due process, and before liberals sharpen their pitchforks any further they would do well to remember what happened to Brian Banks.

In the summer of 2002, Banks was a highly recruited 16-year-old linebacker at Polytechnic High School in California with plans to play football on a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. However, those plans were destroyed when Banks’s classmate, Wanetta Gibson, claimed that Banks had dragged her into a stairway at their high school and raped her.

Gibson’s claim was false, but it was Banks’s word against hers. Banks had two options: go to trial and risk spending 41 years-to-life in prison, or take a plea deal that included five years in prison, five years probation, and registering as a sex offender. Banks accepted the plea deal under the counsel of his lawyer, who told him that he stood no chance at trial because the all-white jury would “automatically assume” he was guilty because he was a “big, black teenager.”

Gibson and her mother subsequently sued the Long Beach Unified School District and won a $1.5 million settlement. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, long after Banks’s promising football career had already been tanked, that Gibson admitted she’d fabricated the entire story.

Following Gibson’s confession, Banks was exonerated with the help of the California Innocence Project. Hopeful to get his life back on track, he played for Las Vegas Locomotives of the now-defunct United Football League in 2012 and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. But while Banks finally received justice, he will never get back the years or the prospective pro football career that Gibson selfishly stole from him.

Banks’ story is timely, and it serves as a powerful warning to anyone too eager to condemn those accused of sexual assault. In fact, a film about Banks’s ordeal, Brian Banks, is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival next week.

Perhaps all the #MeToo Hollywood elites and their liberal friends should attend the screening – and keep Kavanaugh in their minds as they watch.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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