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Very dangerous escalation in Syria

Reckless US sponsored attacks on Russian forces in Syria risk a dangerous clash

The Saker

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Republished with permission; this article was first published by The Saker

By now many of you must have heard the news: a Russian Lieutenant-General, Valery Asapov, and two Colonels have been killed in what appears to be a very precisely targeted mortar attack.  Just as in the case of the Russian military police unit recently attacked near Deir ez-Zor, the Russians are accusing the Americans of being behind this attack.  To make things even worse, the Russians are now also officially accusing the Americans of actively collaborating with ISIS:

US Special Operations Forces  units enable US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces units to smoothly advance through the ISIS formations.  Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir-ez-Zor.  The aerial photos made on September 8-12 over the ISIS locations recorded a large number of American Hummer vehicles, which are in service with the America’s SOF.  The shots clearly show the US SOF units located at strongholds that had been equipped by the ISIS terrorists. Though there is no evidence of assault, struggle or any US-led coalition airstrikes to drive out the militants.  Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them. This suggests that the US troops feel safe in terrorist controlled regions.

These are the maps and aerial photos provided by the Russians (for higher resolution, click here)

What this all seems to point to is that the Pentagon has now apparently decided to attack Russian forces directly, albeit unofficially.   From the Pentagon’s point of view, this (almost) makes sense.

First, by now it is pretty darn clear that the “good terrorists” and the “bad terrorists” have lost the civil war in Syria.  Simply put, the USA has been defeated, Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have won and the Israelis are now freaking out.

Second, the American plan to use the Kurds as foot-soldiers/canon-fodder has failed.  The Kurds are clearly too smart to be pulled in such a losing proposition.

Third, the American plan-B option, the partition of Syria, is now itself directly threatened by the Syrian military successes.

Last and not least, the Americans by now are deeply humiliated and enraged at the Russian success in Syria.

Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov

Hence they have now apparently taken the decision to directly target Russian military personnel and they are using their considerable reconnaissance capabilities combined with US Special Forces on the ground, working side by side with “good” and “bad” terrorists, to target and attack Russian military personnel.

This is not the first time, by the way.  There is pretty good evidence that a Russian hospital near Aleppo was targeted using means not available to the local Daesh franchise.  This time, however, the Americans are not even trying to hide.  The message seems to be this all-time American favorite “watcha gonna do about it?“.

There is a lot the Russians could do about it, in fact.  I wrote about this in my article “Using plausible deniability against a systematically lying adversary“.  If the folks at CENTCOM really believe that their generals are all safe and out of reach they are deeply mistaken.  Unlike the Russians and, even more so, the Iranians, US Generals are mostly risk averse and hard to get to in Syria.  But who said that Russia would have to retaliate in Syria?  Or, for that matter, that Russia would have to use Russian forces to retaliate.  Yes, Russia does have special units trained in the assassination of high-value targets in hostile countries, but that does not at all mean that they would decide to use them.  Accidents can happen anywhere and the roads are notoriously dangerous in the Middle-East.  Why do I mention that?  To illustrate that Russia does have options short of overtly going to war.

Of course, the Russians could simply fire a volley of Kalibr cruise missile at any of the ISIS positions shown in the photos above and then go “oops, you had personnel embedded with these al-Qaeda types?  Really?  We had no idea, no idea at all“.  Syria also have a pretty solid arsenal of tactical ballistic missiles.  The Syrians could mistakenly hit any such ISIS+US positions and express consternation at the presence of US military personnel in the midst of terrorists.  There is also Hezbollah who, in the past, has even seized Israelis soldiers in raids across the border and who could decide to capture themselves some US SOF types.    And let’s not forget the Iranians who have not had such an golden opportunity to finally get their hands on US military personnel since many years.

The three key weakness of the US force posture in Syria are: first, their own force in Syria is too small to make a difference, but big enough to represent a lucrative target and, second, all the boots on the ground which matter are against them (Syrians, Iran, Turkey, Hezbollah and the Russians).  Finally, the only two real US allies in the region are too afraid to put boots on the ground: Israel and the Saudis.

The bottom line is that if the Americans think that the Russians and their allies don’t have options they are deeply mistaken.  They also should seriously consider the consequence of having US SOF operating in forward positions.  The Syrians are closing the distance fast and this might not be the best time to hunt Russian military personnel.

So far the Russians have only limited themselves to protests and expressions of disgust.  This has clearly not been an effective strategy.  The Russians apparently don’t realize that very few people care and that the more the complain, the less credible their warnings sound.  This is not a sustainable approach and the Russians will so “have to do something about it”, to use the American expression.

Things might become very dangerous, very fast and very soon.

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Pedja
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Terry Ross
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Terry Ross

That definitely has ratchetted up the pressure on the US to pull back.
I cannot see Russians and Syrians stopping their advance at this stage.

colum
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colum

It would be defeat from the jaws of victory if they did. Militarilly and Politically they need the coup de grace as soon as possible to put this mess beyond doubt.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal
BobValdez
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BobValdez

“The Russians apparently don’t realize that very few people care and that the more the complain, the less credible their warnings sound. ” What kind of stupid shit is this, from the saker, no less? The Russian DO realise no-one gives a shit about them or their military casualties, and they WILL retaliate, asymmetrically and under the radar. It is VITALLY inportant for Russia to make official complaints about the us and it’s terror tactics, so that when the whining seppos start bitching about Russia killing their terror troops on the ground, no-one will give a fuck then, either. I… Read more »

Norman
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Norman

Absolutely

Great Expectations
Guest
Great Expectations

Having read the entire article, I take a less literal interpretation of that sentence. In the context of the piece, that final sentence doesn’t seem to be a criticism of the Russians’ self-awareness, but perhaps a suggestion that they need to (and possibly will) turn the screw a tighter to counter US aggression. If there is one thing the Russians are meticulous about, it’s not giving the US and its allies the slimmest opportunity to condemn any Russian actions. So it seems that every step taken by the the Russians is signposted in huge neon lights, to cover every propaganda… Read more »

Suzanne Giraud
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Suzanne Giraud

Bingo!

Putin's baby
Guest
Putin's baby

Americans always, always underestimate their many enemies…. Russian will do something. In fact not too long ago, they fired some cruise missiles which killed us, British and yidreali officers…

Le Ruse
Guest
Le Ruse

But…But… They did win in Grenada ?? Didn’t they ??

PhoebeDHarry
Guest
PhoebeDHarry

Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
On tuesday I got a brand new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
!sz105d:
➽➽
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Le Ruse
Guest
Le Ruse

SamanthaDFujiwara only cheap two bit Ho are making home porn for $97 an hour ??

mnedes
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mnedes

The US doesn’t have to win wars, we just have to foment chaos. Be evil.

Le Ruse
Guest
Le Ruse

Chaos ?? & we know, who started it ? A doctor, an engineer, a rabbi and a lawyer were debating who was the world’s first professional. The Doctor said, “It must have been a doctor. Who else could have helped with the world’s first surgery of taking a rib from Adam to create Eve, the first woman?” “No,” said the rabbi. “It must have been a rabbi, since the Lord needed someone to help preach his message to Adam and the world.” “Wait,” said the engineer. “The world was created in 6 days from nothing. Do you know what a… Read more »

Gavin Allen
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Gavin Allen

More pathetic propaganda from the Duran. Never happened.

Norman
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Norman

You smell really bad

Ray Joseph Cormier
Guest

I believe this is True, “First, by now it is pretty darn clear that the “good terrorists” and the “bad terrorists” have lost the civil war in Syria. Simply put, the USA has been defeated, Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have won and the Israelis are now freaking out.” As for American behaviour these Days, I see the US is acting out these Projections from 1976; On September 13, 1976, the major daily THE KANSAS CITY TIMES published this Vision of the FUTURE: “He came to town for the Republican National Convention and will stay until the election in November… Read more »

dago dingo
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dago dingo

Would love nothing more than watching the Kalibr’s rain down on ISIS/U.S positions anywhere in Syria or Iraq, would also love to see some scum Israeli fighter jets blown out of the sky so as to send a very clear message to these thugs & their controllers in the deep state.

Woodshedding
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Woodshedding

Everyone keeps talking as though war with Russia weren’t the BIGGEST GOAL of the powers that be.

Robert Ferguson
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Robert Ferguson

“Powers that be” = Zionist Jews

john vieira
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john vieira

The script is being played out. Trump’s U turn after Merkel’s visit, the false flag gas attack, cruise missile shots into Syria and bellying up to the Brussels ‘bar’ to ‘derail’ Le Pen…and the deflection with Kim to cover their continued aiding and abetting of ISIS…Pity the Germans did not ‘oust’ Merkel…

Bong
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Bong

RUSSIAN SHOULD KILL ALL FUCKING AMERICA AND THEIR COUNTER PARTIES IN SYRIA IN LAND OR OFF SHORE. BLOW ALL FUCKING US NAVY VESSEL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ATLANTIC WITH ALL ON BOARD AND EQUIPMENT.

Pete Mangum
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Pete Mangum

guys like Ron Paul have been warning about this for decades, all to no avail. American boobus are about to learn a hard lesson for not listening to him!

Isabella Jones
Guest
Isabella Jones

” The Russians apparently don’t realize that very few people care and that the more the complain, the less credible their warnings sound. ” Must admit to being a little surprised to see Saker taking a PCR line, and assuming that he knows more and better than the leaders in the Kremlin. Putin, and following him his hand picked team, have taken a cautious, calculated approach. There is a saying in Russia “you never hurry unless catching fleas”. Well, we might think of Yanks that way morally – yes they are fleas – but in truth, taking them on in… Read more »

tomo stojanovic
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tomo stojanovic

I think you are right – Eastern Europeans have different mentality – in Serbia where I am from people try to do their best and they don’t worry at all what others will think about them. The first story I remember being taught in primary school was from I think the 1001 Nights by Scheherazade – called You cannot please Everyone or something like that. A man rides a donkey and his son pulls the donkey. They bump into a guy who tells the father to swap positions with his son, the other one later tells them that nobody should… Read more »

Isabella Jones
Guest
Isabella Jones

Very true re the story of the man, boy and donkey tomo. Something we have to learn early in life – impossible to please everyone. You just have to work out if what you are doing is right, and you are doing your best and not hurting anyone if it can helped, and then let others make of it / you what they will. It never ceases to amaze me the extent so many people, Anglos’ especially, will let their concern of what others think influence them. I knew one lady who fell in love with a beautiful outfit of… Read more »

Thomas
Guest

Let’s hope and pray a sea of American General rank officers and CIA types are spilled rather quickly to allow the world to watch the yellow streak the runs down their spines come to bloom when Push has turned into Shove.

Suzanne Giraud
Guest
Suzanne Giraud

Patience: just give the CIA/MOSSAD possessed soup of brands enough rope for the world to see WHO is the aggressor. And then, the legally-present and allied Justice can be released with full fury.

Keith Smith
Guest
Keith Smith

it seems that americans are monitoring the movement of all SAA and Russian military activites with drones and satelites, and reporting information to ISIS

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BREXIT storm deepens, as parliamentary coup may be forming against May and Corbyn

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 166.

Alex Christoforou

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Emboldened by Theresa May’s lack of leadership and will to deliver the Brexit that UK citizens voted for in a democratic referendum, remain MPs are now mobilizing to do the EU’s bidding in forcing Britain to nullify the Brexit process and eventually stay a part of the European Union.

After yesterday’s thumping of May’s Brexit plan in parliament, The Times’ Matthew Parris is now openly floating the idea that “it’s time for parliament to wrest control from the zombies, stating that “Theresa May isn’t any good” and “Jeremy Corbyn is equally useless”…

There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess. No hidden strengths, no unexpected qualities; no whizzbang new thinking, no magic. Forget May. Forget Corbyn. Salvation is not coming from these directions.
So it’s up to parliament. MPs are coming to understand that they have to act. It has been stealing on parliamentarians for months now and close contacts between leading members of both parties have been made and have been deepening.
From within the Commons a shadow executive must emerge, and is beginning to. Labour’s Yvette Cooper talks to the Tories’ Dominic Grieve. Around them is a cluster of senior parliamentarians who are getting used to talking.
A common purpose unites them: rescuing the country from a no-deal Brexit that only a small minority actually want. Whether this is to be done by seeking a better deal than May’s or by a new referendum, or both, they need to find a way soon. An “indicative” vote of the House of Commons may help guide them.
And however speedily the House can find its leadership and direction, it’s hard to imagine this can be done without an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period.
Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn from last night’s vote is that parliament must wrest control from a zombie prime minister, a zombie cabinet and a zombie opposition. I heard in May’s response to the result the hint of the straw at which she may now clutch: a Labour-style Brexit under a Tory nominal prime minister. I would be amazed if her party would accept it.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the turbulent and uncertain road ahead in the Brexit saga as a March deadline looms.

Shifting sands, and betrayal at the highest level is now crystallizing, as hints of a possible parliamentary coup against May and Corbyn is being floated as a possible solution to the impasse that will ultimately steer the UK back under EU control, and cancel the Brexit referendum.

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Via Straits Times

The words “humiliated” and “crushed” featured prominently in British newspaper headlines following Parliament’s massive rejection of a divorce deal with the European Union on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Dailies said Prime Minister Theresa May’s grip on power was waning after the huge vote against the agreement struck between her government and Brussels, as she prepared to fight a no-confidence motion on Wednesday.

“May humiliated by 230 votes,” The Daily Mirror tabloid said.

The Daily Telegraph wrote: “Humiliation for Prime Minister as MPs overwhelmingly reject deal and Labour tables no confidence vote.”

The broadsheet’s parliamentary sketchwriter Michael Deacon said Mrs May had somehow defied the odds by making a historic event an anticlimax.

“Her speech had all the brio of a mouldy gym sock,” he wrote.

“She sounded as winningly persuasive as a mother snapping at her children to eat up their cabbage or go to bed hungry.”

The vote itself “was as if Agatha Christie has allowed Miss Marple to solve the murder half way through and spend the rest of the novel pottering about in the garden”.

‘ZOMBIE PM’

The Times columnist Matthew Parris said it was time for senior MPs to take over the Brexit process.

“There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess,” he wrote following the vote.

“Theresa May isn’t any good; she doesn’t have a fiendish, secret strategy; she’s careless with the truth and will say anything to get her through another week. She doesn’t know what to do.

“Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn… is that Parliament must wrest control from a zombie Prime Minister, a zombie Cabinet and a zombie opposition.”

The Daily Mail said the defeat left Mrs May’s power “hanging by a thread”, calling it a “devastating result, which threatens to plunge the Brexit process into chaos”.

The Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, said: “Crushed PM dares MPs to vote for general election after record Brexit defeat.”

“The crushing defeat – which saw 118 Tories turn against the PM – is the worst since the advent of full democracy and suggests Mrs May will never win enough support for her strategy,” said the tabloid.

The Financial Times newspaper ran a headline reading: “May’s defeat spells trouble for the EU’s Brexit approach.”

“Huge loss leaves PM in race against time,” the broadsheet said.

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Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone

Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).

THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMS

Because Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations of his birthday have become disgusting New Year’s rituals in Ukraine in recent years, with thousands participating in Nazi-style torch-lit marches that include shouted protests against “Putin’s Russia” and rants such as, “Jews out!” which are heard by everyone except the police. This New Year was no exception, since the current Ukrainian government under President Petro Poroshenko (who publicly identified himself as a Banderite after taking office in 2014) officially added Bandera’s 110th birthday to the list of Ukraine’s most important anniversaries. This time, there were several quiet voices of condemnation heard in Poland, Israel, and even the US. Why? In truth, torches, masks, political murders, and mob attacks against “pro-Russian” public figures are nothing new in post-Maidan Ukraine. And these things usually pose no problem for the mainstream press of the US and its allies. So, why is Bandera an exception?

The answer is ethnic, as awful as that may sound. Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media, with its double and triple standards. In the 1930s Bandera killed Polish officials, in the 1940s his people killed civilian Jews and Polish peasants, and these are groups whose plight even the New York Times cannot ignore today. If Bandera’s infamous slogan “Death to enemies!” had been directed only against “disloyal” Russians and anti-Banderite Ukrainians (the groups currently persecuted by Poroshenko), Bandera would have been no different from his modern admirers in the Ukrainian government. But Bandera’s followers from the OUN decimated the Jewish population of Lvov and Kiev in 1941, trying to curry favor with the advancing Germans. And between 1943 and 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), taking its orders from Bandera’s OUN officers, ethnically cleansed his native Western Ukraine of ethnic Poles, killing from 70,000-100,000 of them (the infamous “slaughter of Volhynia”). The aim was to create an “ethnically pure” Ukraine before the arrival of the Red Army in late 1944. Documents published by the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka indicate that Bandera and the OUN hoped that the Red Army would soon be replaced by Anglo-American domination. “His strategy was to clean up the house before the arrival of the real master,” Motyka concludes in his book.

THE LADY OF THE RADA VS. ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT

The American domination took another 70 years, but it did come. And now the Banderites’ (and Poroshenko’s) only historic disagreement with the West is over the infamous “ethnic cleansing,” to which Bandera’s “glorious heroes” subjected Ukraine in 1941-1944. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin dared to raise the issue during his visit to Ukraine in 2016, he got a scolding from the vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Irina Gerashchenko: “The Israeli president allowed himself some incorrect and undiplomatic words about the OUN’s tragic history,” Gerashchenko said at the time. “It was highly inappropriate, especially now, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence.” Gerashchenko forgot to mention the fact that Babi Yar, the burial site of some 30,000 Jews killed by German and Ukrainian Nazis in Kiev in 1941, was vandalized nine times between 2015 and 2016, according to data provided by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

WHY THE WEST WANTS TO FORGET, BUT CANNOT

In the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup in 2014, the mainstream press was ready to forget even that, since an honest account of Bandera’s activities between 1939 and 1959 could rekindle memories of the undesirable parallels to the “resistance to Russian occupation” by Poroshenko’s army in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015, about 10,000 people died there, victims of the aircraft and tanks sent by Poroshenko (just months earlier, the US and the EU had been unable to abide the use of truncheons by the police of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych). At the time, the NYT called Bandera the “Ukrainian nationalists’ hero.” Obviously, the NYT’s authors were taking their cues from the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, with her Banderite headline, “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine Needs” in the once-glorious New Republic.

But here the mainstream press tried to kill off a memory that will never die — the memory of how Hitler’s East European Nazi allies participated in the destruction of the region’s Jewish population in the early 1940s. This was something not even Anne Applebaum could make people forget.

In his articles in the American press, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, tried to explain to the American public that Bandera’s cult is not an isolated, unpleasant phenomenon: Stepan Bandera never acted alone, he represented a crudely nationalist ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology reigns triumphant in modern Ukraine behind the “liberal” façade displayed for the West. For example, Dolinsky notes that Poroshenko’s hypocritical speeches memorializing Jewish victims can be heard next to, say, a memorial to OUN activist Ivan Rogach, whose newspaper called Jews “the greatest enemy of the people” in 1941. “The Ukrainian leadership set itself on the course of rehabilitating anti-Semitism and introducing censorship of history,” concludes the official statement of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights group, famous for its work to bring Nazi criminals to justice.

THE RUSSIAN QUESTION BEHIND THE JEWISH ONE

If the West cannot afford to be completely silent about Bandera’s participation in the Holocaust, it is willingly ignoring another huge injustice that is inseparable from Bandera’s cult in modern Ukraine — the erasure of the Russian and anti-Banderite component of Ukraine’s historic memory. In 2017, Kiev’s Vatutin Avenue was renamed Bandera Avenue, resulting in an outcry in Russia and complete silence in the West. This avenue, a major thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital, had originally been named in honor of General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from Nazi occupation in 1943 and died in a shootout with the OUN’s guerillas in 1944. At the time, there was no question about where America’s sympathies lay: the fight against Hitler was not yet over, and Vatutin, born in 1901 to a peasant family living immediately adjacent to the future Russian-Ukrainian border, was a useful ally for the United States. Will Bandera and his modern followers be a good replacement? Only someone with Poroshenko’s plans for Ukraine or with Anne Applebaum’s views on history could agree.

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Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started This War

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set.

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Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi .

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

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