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Final thoughts on the Putin-Erdogan summit: a positive step in a complex relationship

The summit achieved all that could be expected given the huge range of issues that separate Turkey and Russia.

Alexander Mercouris

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In the aftermath of Erdogan’s visit to Russia the danger of overly-high expectations is illustrated by an article by the veteran Russia watcher John Helmer. 

In a lengthy discussion of the Putin and Erdogan meeting he portrays a manipulative Erdogan getting essentially all that he wanted from a furious Putin.  In particular he makes much of the fact that the summit produced no actual agreements:

“The official record of the delegation talks, which started at 1 in the afternoon, and ended after three hours, reported no discussion and no agreement on a single Russian political or security priority. The presidential press conference revealed that despite declarations of best intentions, nothing of importance to either side was agreed. The Russian Foreign Ministry has reported nothing on Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s meeting with his counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, hours after it concluded.”

The Russians had however already said before the meeting that no formal agreements were expected.  I said as much in my article discussing what to expect from the summit written before it took place (“The Russians have said that there will be no formal agreements”).  If one looks at what John Helmer was hoping the Russians might get from Erdogan during the summit one can see why:

“The priority is the commitment from Turkey to stop attempts at regime change in Syria, the Russian Caucasus, and the CIS states, including Armenia and Tajikistan. This means the expulsion of Chechen fighters from their havens in Turkey and areas under Turkish control; closure of the Turkish-Syrian border for ISIS and other jihadis; and an end to Turkish support for the Azeri war against Armenia and for Islamic oppositionists in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Crimea.

Another Russian priority – the key to the wars which the Kremlin fought against the Ottomans for more than two centuries — is Turkey’s undertaking not to violate the limits of the treaties governing the straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and not to allow a permanent NATO naval deployment of Aegis missile systems, targeted against Russia in the Black Sea.

The political corollary is that Russia and Turkey will not allow the US and NATO to establish and arm Turkish forces under a NATO flag on the territory of Cyprus.”

No doubt this is an accurate wish list of what the Russians might want from Turkey in a perfect world.  I cannot however believe that there was a single Russian official who seriously supposed Erdogan would agree to any of this, and especially not in return for a gas pipeline, a nuclear reactor, more Russian tourists, and the lifting of a Russian ban on the import of Turkish vegetables and tomatoes.  There is no evidence that the Russians ever demanded it, precisely because they would have known that Erdogan would never agree to it.

Erdogan is currently very angry with the US and grateful to Russia and his previous record shows that he has no feelings of hostility to Russia.  However it is simply unrealistic to expect him to overturn decades long or even (as in the case of the Straits) centuries long policies in a few short days just to please the Russians.  He would be making his position in Turkey untenable if he did.

That does not mean that the summit meeting was a failure.  Simply because Russia and Turkey have not become allies and remain deeply in conflict on many issues it does not mean that they cannot develop close relations on questions where they have a mutual interest.  The gas pipeline and nuclear reactor projects benefit Russia as they do Turkey, as in a rather different way do the agreements about tourism and vegetable and tomato imports.  To argue otherwise is to say that it is better for Russia to have bad relations with Turkey rather than good ones, which is a view hardly anyone in the Russian government would share.

If the summit meeting is understood in that way then it was a success, paving a possible way for further convergence on other issues including conceivably a free trade agreement and even eventually Syria.

Lastly there is one specific point I do want to make about one particular matter which has been widely discussed about the summit.  This is Putin’s supposedly poor body language which Helmer and others see as a sign that the summit from Putin’s point of view was a failure. 

Studying a leader’s body language is a fully legitimate way to assess the results of a summit. Obama’s and Putin’s bad body language during their meetings is a good sign the two men don’t get on with each other.   However in the case of the meeting with Erdogan there were perfectly understandable reasons why Putin’s body language might be poor which had no connection to the summit itself.

Firstly it is a near certainty that Putin was tired and felt under pressure.  On the previous day he had met with his security advisers early in the morning and had then flown to Baku for a complex and probably difficult meeting with the Presidents of Iran and Azerbaijan.  He then had to fly to St. Petersburg for an even more difficult meeting with Erdogan on the following day whilst somehow also finding the time on the same day to have a probably lengthy telephone conversation with British Prime Theresa May.  Whilst meeting with Erdogan he would have known that on the following day in Moscow he had a scheduled meeting with members of his government to discuss economic and education policy, a scheduled video conference with Prime Minister Modi of India, and a scheduled meeting later that day with President Sargsyan of Armenia, to be followed by another press conference. Throughout all these journeys and meetings he would have needed to be kept informed about the situations in Aleppo and Crimea, with the security crisis in Crimea especially causing him particular worry. 

In light of all this it is not surprising if during his meeting with Erdogan Putin at times looked tired and distracted.  In all the oceans of words said and written about Putin scarcely any mention is ever made about how hard he works. 

Beyond this it would have anyway been politically unwise for Putin to appear too obviously pleased to meet with Erdogan.  The anger in Russia over the SU24 incident has by no means fully abated.  Some of that anger is almost certainly shared by Putin himself.  It might be easy for Erdogan to talk of his “friend Putin”.  It would not be so easy for Putin to talk of his “friend Erdogan” even if he felt inclined to do so, which he almost certainly doesn’t.

All in all, if one puts some of the excessive expectations which preceded the Erdogan – Putin summit to one side, it can be seen that the summit went just about as well as could reasonably be expected, and as was in fact predicted.  The thing to take away from the summit is that Russia and Turkey now have an active political dialogue and burgeoning economic relationship.  It is not a realignment or an alliance, but that was never likely and was never demanded or on offer.  Both Putin and Erdogan are almost certainly pleased with what they have achieved, even if there is still much work to do.

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Venezuela to Iran and Abrams to Pompeo, neocon warmongers had a bad week (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 86.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at neocon foreign policy blunders in Venezuela, and Iran.

Neocon war criminal Elliott Abrams was humiliated and demolished by Rep. Ilhan Omar over his history of illegal Latin American regime change operations. In Poland Vice President Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo were rebuked, as their Iran warmongering conference feel flat to a European audience.

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Via Zerohedge


Rep. Ilhan Omar clashed with newly minted Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams during a Wednesday hearing in front of the House Foreign Relations Committee discussing the role of the US military in Central America.

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by president George H.W. Bush,” began Omar. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”

“If I could respond to that…” interjected Abrams.

It was not a question,” shot back Omar.

After a brief exchange in which Abrams protested “It was not right!” Omar cut Abrams off, saying “Thank you for your participation.”

Omar: “On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate foreign relations committee about US policy in El Salvador. In that hearing you dismissed as communist propaganda, a report about the massacre of El Mozote in which more than 800 civilians – including children as young as two-years old – were brutally murdered by US-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them. You later said that the US policy in El Salvador was a “fabulous achievement.”

“Yes or no – do you still think so?” asked Omar.

Abrams replied: “From, the day that Duarte was elected in a free election, to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That’s a fabulous achievement.”

Omar shot back: “Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?”

Abrams protested: “That is a ridiculous question—

to which Omar shot back, “Yes or no,” cutting him off.

“No!” exclaimed Abrams, who added “I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack – which is not a question.”

Omar pushed back: “Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, if you believe they were serving US interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?

I am not going to respond to that question, I’m sorry. I don’t think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, and so I will not reply.” said Abrams.

Watch:

As Joseph Duggan of American Greatness noted two weeks ago;

Abrams is the pre-eminent prophet and practitioner of hyper-interventionist approaches to destabilize or overthrow governments – of foes and friends alike – that do not pass his democracy-is-the-end-all-and-be-all litmus test. His closest friends and associates, from whom his political positions are indistinguishable, include some of President Trump’s most rabid enemies, false-flag “conservatives” Bill Kristol and Max Boot.

Abrams, who had served in the Reagan State Department, faced multiple felony charges for lying to Congress and defying U.S. law in his role as a mastermind of the Iran-Contra debacle.Abrams’ dishonesty almost destroyed Ronald Reagan’s presidency and put Reagan in jeopardy of impeachment. Abrams was allowed to plead guilty to two reduced charges and later was pardoned by George H.W. Bush, who feared impeachment because of his own role in Iran-Contra.

After having expressed antagonism towards nation-building during the 2000 campaign, newly elected President George W. Bush appointed Abrams as deputy national security adviser, where Abrams’ role was essentially nation builder-in-chief.

Abrams was even more consequential as nation-wrecker. He was one of the principal architects of the invasion of Iraq. He is an inveterate advocate of “regime change” against countries whose policies he doesn’t like. He has a track record in attempting to overthrow foreign governments both by covert action and outright military invasion. –American Greatness

Wednesday’s heated exchange followed a controversial week for Rep. Omar, who came under bipartisan fire for her criticism of Israeli money in US politics, which was widely interpreted as anti-Semitic.

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More evidence of Clinton election meddling, as calls for investigation grow louder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 85.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the real case for Russia collusion before and during the 2016 US Presidential election, not against Donald Trump, but the Clinton’s and the Democrat Party.

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Authored by John Solomon, via The Hill


With Republicans on both House and Senate investigative committees having found no evidence of Donald Trump being guilty of Democrat-inspired allegations of Russian collusion, it is worth revisiting one anecdote that escaped significant attention during the hysteria but continues to have U.S. security implications.

As secretary of State, Hillary Clinton worked with Russian leaders, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-President Dmitri Medvedev, to create U.S. technology partnerships with Moscow’s version of Silicon Valley, a sprawling high-tech campus known as Skolkovo.

Clinton’s handprint was everywhere on the 2009-2010 project, the tip of a diplomatic spear to reboot U.S.-Russian relations after years of hostility prompted by Vladimir Putin’s military action against the former Soviet republic and now U.S. ally Georgia.

A donor to the Clinton Foundation, Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, led the Russian side of the effort, and several American donors to the Clinton charity got involved. Clinton’s State Department facilitated U.S. companies working with the Russian project, and she personally invited Medvedev to visit Silicon Valley.

The collaboration occurred at the exact same time Bill Clinton made his now infamous trip to Russia to pick up a jaw-dropping $500,000 check for a single speech.

The former president’s trip secretly raised eyebrows inside his wife’s State Department, internal emails show.

That’s because he asked permission to meet Vekselberg, the head of Skolkovo, and Arkady Dvorkovich, a senior official of Rosatom, the Russian nuclear giant seeking State’s permission to buy Uranium One, a Canadian company with massive U.S. uranium reserves.

Years later, intelligence documents show, both the Skolkovo and Uranium One projects raised serious security concerns.

In 2013, the U.S. military’s leading intelligence think tank in Europe sounded alarm that the Skolkovo project might be a front for economic and military espionage.

“Skolkovo is an ambitious enterprise, aiming to promote technology transfer generally, by inbound direct investment, and occasionally, through selected acquisitions. As such, Skolkovo is arguably an overt alternative to clandestine industrial espionage — with the additional distinction that it can achieve such a transfer on a much larger scale and more efficiently,” EUCOM’s intelligence bulletin wrote in 2013.

“Implicit in Russia’s development of Skolkovo is a critical question — a question that Russia may be asking itself — why bother spying on foreign companies and government laboratories if they will voluntarily hand over all the expertise Russia seeks?”

A year later, the FBI went further and sent letters warning several U.S. technology companies that had become entangled with Skolkovo that they risked possible espionage. And an agent in the bureau’s Boston office wrote an extraordinary op-ed to publicize the alarm.

Skolkovo “may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobro wrote in the Boston Business Journal.

The FBI had equal concern about Rosatom’s acquisition of Uranium One. An informer named William Douglas Campbell had gotten inside the Russian nuclear giant in 2009 and gathered evidence that Rosatom’s agents in the United States were engaged in a racketeering scheme involving kickbacks, extortion and bribery.

Campbell also obtained written evidence that Putin wanted to buy Uranium One as part of a strategy to obtain monopolistic domination of the global uranium markets, including leverage over the U.S.

Campbell also warned that a major in-kind donor to the Clinton Global Initiative was simultaneously working for Rosatom while the decision for U.S. approval was pending before Hillary Clinton’s department. Ultimately, her department and the Obama administration approved the transaction.

The evidence shows the Clintons financially benefited from Russia — personally and inside their charity — at the same time they were involved in U.S. government actions that rewarded Moscow and increased U.S. security risks.

The intersections between the Clintons, the Democrats and Russia carried into 2016, when a major political opposition research project designed to portray GOP rival Donald Trump as compromised by Moscow was launched by Clinton’s presidential campaign and brought to the FBI.

Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS research firm was secretly hired by the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party through their law firm, Perkins Coie.

Simpson then hired retired British intelligence operative Christopher Steele — whom the FBI learned was “desperate” to defeat Trump — to write an unverified dossier suggesting that Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia to hijack the election.

Simpson, Steele and Perkins Coie all walked Trump-Russia related allegations into the FBI the summer before the election, prompting agents who openly disliked Trump to launch a counterintelligence probe of the GOP nominee shortly before Election Day.

Simpson and Steele also went to the news media to air the allegations in what senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr would later write was a “Hail Mary” effort to influence the election.

Congressional investigators have painstakingly pieced together evidence that shows the Clinton research project had extensive contact with Russians.

Ohr’s notes show that Steele’s main source of uncorroborated allegationsagainst Trump came from an ex-Russian intelligence officer. “Much of the collection about the Trump campaign ties to Russia comes from a former Russian intelligence officer (? not entirely clear) who lives in the U.S.,” Ohr scribbled.

Steele’s dossier also relied on information from a Belarus-born Russian businessman, according to numerous reports and a book on the Russia scandal.

Steele and Simpson had Russian-tied business connections, too, while they formulated the dossier.

Steele worked for the lawyers for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and tried to leverage those connections to help the FBI get evidence from the Russian aluminum magnate against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The effort resulted in FBI agents visiting Deripaska in fall 2016. Deripaska told the agents that no collusion existed.

Likewise, Simpson worked in 2016 for the Russian company Prevezon — which was trying to escape U.S. government penalties — and one of its Russian lawyers, Natalia Veselnitskaya. In sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Simpson admitted he dined with Veselnitskaya both the night before and the night after her infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016.

Simpson insists the two dinners sandwiching one of the seminal events in the Trump collusion narrative had nothing to do with the Trump Tower meeting, a claim many Republicans distrust.

Whatever the case, there’s little doubt the main instigators of the Clinton-inspired allegations against Trump got information from Russians and were consorting with them during the political opposition project.

This past week, we learned from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) that his committee came to the same conclusion as the House: There is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But now there is growing evidence — of Democratic connections to Russia. It’s enough that former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) believes a probe should be opened.

There is “obvious collusion the Democrats had through Glenn Simpson and through Fusion GPS, that they were talking directly to Russia,” Nunes told Hill.TV’s “Rising” in an interview to be aired Monday.

Collusion can be criminal if it involves conspiracy to break federal laws, or it can involve perfectly legal, unwitting actions that still jeopardize America’s security against a “frenemy” like Russia.

There is clear evidence now that shows Hillary Clinton’s family and charity profited from Moscow and simultaneously facilitated official government actions benefiting Russia that have raised security concerns.

And there’s irrefutable evidence that her opposition research effort on Trump — one that inspired an FBI probe — was carried out by people who got information from Russia and were consorting with Russians.

It would seem those questions deserve at least some of the scrutiny afforded the Trump-Russia collusion inquiry that is now two-plus years old.


NOTE: This story has been updated from the original to correct that Uranium One is a Canadian company and to clarify that House and Senate investigating committees have cleared the president.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video

 

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Douma chemical weapons hoax exposed by BBC producer

Very frightening for us all is the coordination of propaganda between the States of US, Britain, France and Israel.

Richard Galustian

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It is beyond doubt that the White Helmets ‘staged’ the false flag operation at the Douma hospital that caused President Trump to attack Syria last April.

Days after the attack the much to be admired, yet still maligned by many, investigative reporter, Robert Fisk was on the ground in Douma and interviewed countless people, videoed the scene, made it public in the newspapers and by TV the fact of the fake sarin attack.

What happened next were attempts to rubbish Fisk’s story; a almost frightening Orwellian propaganda machine kicked in….and went into overdrive. That is to say a combination of ‘corrupt’ reporters; some just naive or dumb, many of whom had never been to Douma or even Syria, plus the full weight of the US, British and French Governments and finally, not forgetting, one of the greatest fraudsters of this century an absolute nobody, that calls himself Eliot Higgins and his ‘Bellycat Organisation’, all weighed in to accuse Fisk of lying.

Clearly not in order of importance but suffice to say Elliot Higgins, is now obviously ‘used’ as a convenient tool for Russia bashing by certain Western powers, but is a total fraud. Rather than write too much about this person, judge by reading an exposé that couldn’t be more revealing, uncovering his lie in the Daily Telegraph (link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10730163/The-blogger-who-tracks-Syrian-rockets-from-his-sofa.html).

Not much more need be said about this con-man turned ‘G-Man’. However later in this piece, I will quote some of the Douma ridiculing propaganda of Higgins/Bellingcat, as it is too crass not to be reminded of the way our governments operate.

So based on a complete lie, President Trump ordered an attack on an Assad controlled area in Syria using several bombs including 66 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 19 JASSM-ER (fired from USAF fighters, air to surface standoff missiles). The price for all was around $200million. Much needed money wasted that belongs to the people of US in these austere times.

That by the way does not include the cost of the coordinated attack by the British and French of a total (together) of 17 stormshadow missiles dropped from fighters. Its worth mentioning that in a pathetic display of oneupmanship directed at the British, the French made a last minute decision to add a meagre three more missile types to their attack; ‘Missiles de Croisière Navals’.

As said earlier it is important to remember the Orwellian ‘anti-truth’ propaganda and instead of commenting on it, I’ll just quote what Higgins/Bellingcat said at the time. “The OPCW-FFM report on the February 4 2018 chemical attack in Saraqib, Idlib, reveals not only information about the Saraqib attack, but also the broader use of chemical weapons in Syria by Assad, and additional evidence to support the theory that Assad’s Syrian government forces were behind the April 7 2018 chemical attack in Douma, Damascus. Consistent with Bellingcat’s earlier investigation into the Saraqib chemical attack, the OPCW-FFM report establishes it was the same case in Douma.”

Nonsense.

This scandal of this and other fake White Helmets videos is developing as more details emerge daily, so expect more facts matched with more disinformation and lies from the US and UK.

What we have is first a copy of a twitter exchange which is self explanatory:

So as to be absolutely clear, on February 13th, BBC Syria’s Producer said he could “without a doubt” prove that the Douma hospital scene was false, a White Helmets (WH) fake event.

He said “the Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital. All the WH, activists and people I spoke to are either in Idlib or Euphrates Shield areas.

Only one person was in Damascus.”

The evidence is seen above in the tweet at 05:33 – 13 February 2019, the BBC Producer wrote on his personal, verified Twitter account, which has since been made private or perhaps blocked by persons or governments unknown, anyway someone who controls Twitter.

So some sort of what clearly must have been a false flag attack did happen at Douma but it was like a film scene, staged, using as left over evidence, cylinders filled with say oxygen even chlorine, anything but poison gas and certainly not Sarin gas. The cylinders were left in tact, undamaged as if laid there on the site rather than dropped from thousands of feet from the sky – and who can prove Assad’s airforce dropped them? – and how come they remained undamaged when hitting the ground? – ridiculous; how stupid do our governments think we, the people, are.

“Everything around the attack was manufactured for maximum effect.”

Adding “I can tell you that Jaysh al-Islam ruled Douma with an iron fist. They co-opted activists, doctors and humanitarians with fear and intimidation.”

In fact, one of the 4 people filming the scene was Dr. Abu Bakr Hanan, whom the BBC Producer described as a “brute and shifty” doctor affiliated with Jaysh Al-Islam. The Producer further stating that the narrative should be that “there weren’t enough doctors”. That said, there was one even (seen and filmed) filming and not taking part in the rescue efforts.” A joke!

Why, we must all ask, has no major newspaper or TV any large media outlet in US, UK or France headlined or even mentioned these new facts, that Douma was a lie, that it was staged?

On 9 February, James Harkin, published in ‘The Intercept’ an article where Harkin speaks about Jaysh al-Islam’s rule in Douma, among others. His article ends with “What government pummels its citizens with bombs and chlorine to get them to pressure rebels to leave their city? At the same time, Jaish Al-Islam was sending volleys of improvised rockets into Damascus and snatching activists and members of religious minorities for ransom or to be disappeared. It’s between these two violent truths that the real story of the Syrian conflict begins to emerge not in a bewildering collage of images sent from a war zone, designed to terrify and outrage.”

To conclude, the BBC Producer was so disgusted at pro-rebel activists and rebels’ conduct and the seeming complicity of Western officials, he decide to speak out.

As far as the Russian government is concerned, they now are counter accusing the British government of ordering the White Helmets to fake a chemical attack to help persuade President Trump to unleash cruise missiles. The Russian response was to an allegation by the British government that the “demonisation” of the (thoroughly already discredited) White Helmets comes from the Russian government itself.

Which version do you believe?

Very frightening for us all is the coordination of propaganda between the States of US, Britain, France and Israel.

ALL these wars must stop.

I am neither pro-nor against Russia, but it is very clear to anyone that these wars and attempts at regime changing is a US/British/Israeli idea.

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