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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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penroseShaun RameweRegulaSally Snyder Recent comment authors
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Sally Snyder
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Sally Snyder

As shown in this article, Israel has one goal in post-civil war Syria:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2019/01/israels-agenda-in-post-war-syria.html

Given this information and the recent appearance of John Bolton in Jerusalem, at the very least, it appears that the timeline for American troop withdrawal from Syria is fluid, largely because Israel wants to ensure that its agenda in Syria is achieved before the United States disappears from the scene.

Regula
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Regula

Great article. Ironically, Zhirinovsky on Russian TV explained the current situation and forces in play very similarly. Zhirinovsky goes on to include a possible return of the US from Iraq to then hit all four of the allied axis of resistance – Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq and Iran – plus Turkey and that at that point there would be an independent Kurdish state under Israeli control. Not as a certainty, but as a possibility the US has up its sleeve.

Shaun Ramewe
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Shaun Ramewe

All the sneaky terrorist-abetting coward-pervert false-flagging liar-loser war criminals in the ZioUS-led all-lied coalition and their sicko mercenaries will still be illegally hiding out in the ME in new disguises.

penrose
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penrose

Couldn’t the War Mongers just crawl in a hole and hibernate for the next 2000 years?

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Putin’s State of the Nation Part III – Raising Russians

President Putin’s State of the Nation talk began with the most important element of any society – the family.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Parts I and II of this series outline much of Russia’s “face towards the world” in terms of both economic / trade and military matters. Part III actually comprises the great majority of what President Putin addressed in the Russian State of the Nation Address on Wednesday, 20 February. As he pledged upon his re-election to his fourth presidential term, the 66-year old leader focused primarily on domestic affairs within the Russian Federation.

The whole speech is available at Kremlin.ru, and by following this hyperlink.

We have selected excerpts along the reasoning of illuminating those parts of domestic policy in Russia that reveal why the globalist and secularist elíte in the West are so determined to block Russia’s success as a nation, even to isolate it and destroy it if possible. We will emphasize and comment on various points from the speech.

One of the biggest differences in Russia from the US is the centrality of traditional families, with children. Children are wanted and needed in the Russian Federation, and President Putin started his speech by addressing the matter of raising new Russians:

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Members of the Federation Council, State Duma deputies, citizens of Russia,

Today’s Address is primarily devoted to matters of domestic social and economic development. I would like to focus on the objectives set forth in the May 2018 Executive Order and detailed in the national projects. Their content and the targets they set are a reflection of the demands and expectations of Russia’s citizens. People are at the core of the national projects, which are designed to bring about a new quality of life for all generations. This can only be achieved by generating momentum in Russia’s development…

Therefore, the work of the executive branch at all levels should be coordinated, meaningful and energetic. The Government of Russia must set the tone.

At the same time, I would like to emphasise and repeat: our development projects are not federal and even less so agency-based. They are national. Their results must be visible in each region of the Federation, in every municipality. It is here, on the ground, that the majority of specific tasks is implemented.

Here, President Putin seems to be alluding to the importance of nation. While Russia has a much more openly socialist style government than the US does, it is nonetheless also much more efficient in its work in many ways. Communism failed, but it did teach some lessons about how to do a lot of work with few resources. There is a reason the largest nation on earth does not have to go into huge debt year after year.

Let me now share some specifics on our objectives. I will begin with the key objective of , which means providing all-around support to families.

Family, childbirth, procreation and respect for the elderly have always served as a powerful moral framework for Russia and its multi-ethnic people. We have been doing everything in our power to strengthen family values and are committed to doing so in the future. In fact, our future is at stake. This is a task shared by the state, civil society, religious organisations, political parties and the media.

This, while states in the US are trying to pass radical abortion laws to even be able to kill babies who survive abortions.

Russia has entered an extremely challenging period in terms of demographics. As you know, the birth rate is declining…

We succeeded in overcoming the negative demographic trends in the early 2000s, when our country faced extreme challenges. This seemed to be an impossible challenge at the time. Nevertheless, we succeeded, and I strongly believe that we can do it again by returning to natural population growth by late 2023 – early 2024.

Today, I wanted to talk about a new package of measures that has already been prepared to support families.

First: It is important that having children and bringing them up do not put families at the risk of poverty or undermine their wellbeing. As you know, we have already provided for the payment of subsidies for the first two children until they reach 18 months…

Starting January 1, 2020, I propose raising the bar to two subsistence wages per family member. This is what people have requested and these requests come directly into the Executive Office. This measure will increase the number of families entitled to additional benefits by almost 50 percent. Some 70 percent of families with one or two children will be able to benefit from help from the Government.

Second: At present, carers looking after children with disabilities and people disabled since childhood receive an allowance of only 5,500 rubles. I suggest increasing this to 10,000 rubles, starting July 1. Of course, I understand that it is still a small amount. However, it will be an additional measure of support for families with a child who needs special care.

Third: The income of Russian families must, of course, increase. This is a serious task that requires a comprehensive solution. I will speak about this in greater detail later. But we need direct measures. First of all, the tax burden on families needs to be relieved. The approach should be very simple: the more children there are, the lower the tax. I propose increasing federal tax relief on real estate for families with many children. I also propose lifting taxes on 5 square metres in a flat and 7 square metres in a house per each child…

Fourth: The Government and the Central Bank need to consistently maintain the policy to lower mortgage rates to 9 percent, and then to 8 percent or below, as stipulated in the May 2018 Executive Order. At the same time, special measures of support should be provided for families with children, of course… A family making a decision to buy housing certainly makes plans for a long or at least medium term, a lasting investment. But with this [present] programm, they take out a loan, start paying the installments, and the grace period ends. The interest is actually subsidized only for the first 3 or 5 years. I propose extending the benefit for the entire term of the mortgage loan.

Yes, of course, it will require additional funding, and the cost will be rather high: 7.6 billion rubles in 2019, 21.7 billion rubles in 2020, and 30.6 billion rubles in 2021. But the programme is estimated to reach as many as 600,000 families. We certainly need to find the money. We know where to get it. We have it, and we just need to use it in the areas that are of major importance to us.

And one more direct action solution. Considering the sustainability and stability of the macroeconomic situation in the country and the growth of the state’s revenues, I consider it possible to introduce another measure of support for families having a third and subsequent children. I suggest paying 450,000 rubles directly from the federal budget to cover this sum from their mortgage. Importantly, I propose backdating this payment starting January 1, 2019, recalculating it and allocating relevant sums in this year’s budget.

Let us see what we have. If we add this sum to the maternity capital, which can also be used for mortgage payments, we will get over 900,000 rubles. In many regions, this is a substantial part of the cost of a flat. I would like to draw the attention of the Government and the State Duma to this issue. If need be, the budget will have to be adjusted accordingly. An additional 26.2 billion rubles will be required for this in 2019. The relevant figures for 2020 and 2021 are 28.6 billion rubles and 30.1 billion rubles, respectively. These are huge funds but they should be allocated and used in what I have already described as a very important area.

There is a great deal more detail on the notion of various tax breaks for families with children. It is worth a read, and it is also worth noting the very clear language set forth here. It appears rather refreshing to hear these ideas laid out in such a blunt fashion.

 

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Pressure mounts on Theresa May to agree to 3 month Brexit extension (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 181.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at how the EU, in coordination with forces inside the British Parliament, are pushing for Theresa May to agree to a three month “Brexit day” extension.

According to a Bloomberg, Theresa May must resign as British prime minister and Conservative leader later this year after delivering Brexit, according to politicians at the highest levels of her own government.  May has promised her party she will stand down before the next general election, slated for 2022, but she’s likely to face pressure to go within the next three months. Once the U.K. is out of the European Union, and local district elections on May 2 are over, the premier will have no reason to stay in office, one senior minister said, speaking privately. Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc on March 29.

A person familiar with another minister’s views agreed with the timescale, arguing that the prime minister should leave in the summer, so a new leader can be in place in time for the party’s annual conference in October. A third senior member of May’s administration pointed out that Tories had no way of formally seeking to remove May before December under the party’s internal leadership rules. May will never voluntarily resign, despite her previous pledge, the person said.

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Via Zerohedge

Theresa May once again failed to extract concessions from the EU27 on Wednesday after yet another meeting with Juncker (surprise, surprise) as the Continent refuses to budge on May’s demands for “legally binding changes” to the deal – specifically to the troublesome Irish backstop, which many Brexiteers fear could result in the UK being reduced to a “vassal state” of the EU by becoming interminably trapped in the customs union, with zero say over its rules. Talks between Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and EU27 chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday were similarly inconclusive.

And with only 36 days left until “Brexit Day”, it’s becoming increasingly clear that May will need to ask her EU colleagues for an extension to the two-year negotiating period, something that would cut against her commitment to take the UK out of the EU “as scheduled”, though she has never explicitly ruled it out. According to Bloombergthe EU expects May to request a 3-month “technical extension,” which would be the first, and hopefully only, delay, (because anything further would ratchet up the pressure for the UK to participate in the upcoming European Parliament elections…an unnecessary complication).

Still, without meaningful concessions on the backstop, it’s difficult to see a way forward. Rebellious Tories and the “Independent Group” have so far focused their efforts on securing a legally-binding commitment to take a “no-deal” exit off the table. And with the deadline unlikely to be extended past this point, if a deal isn’t reached during the March 21-22 UK-EU summit, he way forward will appear impossibly vague.

But with dozens of Tories reportedly ready to rebel unless the PM offers concrete reassurances that ‘no deal’ isn’t an option, and that rebellion will likely take the form of support for an amendment tabled by former minister Sir Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Yvette Cooper to give Parliament the power to delay Brexit Day if no deal is reached by mid-March.

Meanwhile, thanks to the latest round of defections, the “Independent Group” has become the fourth-largest party in Parliament.

But all of these threats likely won’t take on real significance until the March summit with the EU, thanks to the Continent’s reputation for holding out until the last minute. Meanwhile, MPs have told the media that a vote on May’s Brexit “Plan B” deal – which had been set for next week – is unlikely.

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Trump’s Syria military pullout, not under John Bolton’s watch (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 89.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the announcement from the Trump White House that the United States has decided to station a ‘peacekeeping group’ of roughly 200 US soldiers in Syria for a ‘period of time’ after the much hyped withdrawal.

Once again we see that once the US enters a country for a regime change mission, it becomes nearly impossible to fully disengage, ultimately leaving America in the role of invader and occupier, for an indefinite amount of time.

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Via RT…

Despite President Donald Trump’s promises to withdraw American troops out of Syria, the US intends to maintain presence on the ground with a “small peacekeeping group” for an unspecified “period” of time, the White House said.

“A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement without elaborating.

Trump took the world by surprise back in December, when he announced the US withdrawal from Syria without specifying a timetable. The initiative was not well received in the Pentagon, even forcing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign after clashing with Trump, as both the generals and politicians have been claiming that US presence in Syria is vital and that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group would inevitably reemerge if all of some 2,000 Americans leave.

The US withdrawal is being stalled by concerns about potential Turkish incursion into the territories currently controlled by the US-backed Syrian Kurds. On Thursday, Trump had another phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the issue. Washington wants Turkey to agree to a buffer ‘safe zone’ in northeastern Syria and is also contemplating arming the Syrian Kurds, despite Ankara’s strong opposition.

While the US continues its diplomatic maneuvering, some noted the irony, wondering if the White House was using the term ‘peacekeeping’ correctly or was even aware of what it actually means. Others questioned the logic and the motive of maintaining such a contingent on the ground, noting that 200 troops could serve as a human shield, but is unlikely to really sway the outcome of the conflict.

Traditionally, the term peacekeeping has been used to describe the UN Blue Helmets whose missions are strictly mandated by the Security Council. American troops, however, hardly have any legal basis to remain in Syria, as they had never been invited by the official government in Damascus.

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