Connect with us

Latest

News

Staff Picks

France botched its Syrian diplomacy with Russia and the UN

France squanders its prestige and good will in Moscow by engaging in a diplomatic circus at the UN Security Council and in connection with Putin’s trip to Paris.

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

5,357 Views

The events of the last 2 weeks stand testament to the extent to which West has lost the initiative in Syria, and of the calamitous decline of France.

The commonly repeated claim that the US pulled out of all diplomatic contact with Moscow about Syria following the collapse of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, is simply untrue.  Kerry and Lavrov talk to each other about Syria – and no doubt about other matters – by telephone practically every day. 

What the US did pull out of was not diplomatic contact with Moscow about Syria; it was the talks concerning the setting up of the ceasefire that was envisaged by the Kerry-Lavrov agreement.  Since by the time the US took this step both the Russians and the Syrians were saying the ceasefire had broken, it made no sense to continue with these talks, and for once the US acted properly by ending them.

Kerry and Lavrov have of course just met in Lausanne in the format of an international meeting to discuss Syria, though their meeting does not seem to have achieved anything much.  Far from this being a US climbdown or reversal as some are saying, this meeting is simply a continuation of the ongoing diplomatic discussions that constantly take place between the US and the Russians.

However what is true is that following the collapse of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement Kerry was in no hurry to engage publicly in one to one talks with the Russians. 

Beyond questions of prestige and of political convenience, it is not surprising if Kerry has been too embarrassed to meet personally with Lavrov since the Kerry-Lavrov agreement collapsed. 

Kerry has been continuously bested by Lavrov in every meeting he has had with Lavrov over Syria.  His deep sense of humiliation about this was all too obvious in the leaked transcript of his meeting with the Syrian opposition activists which took place at the UN General Assembly.

It is completely understandable therefore why Kerry might not have wished to meet with Lavrov so soon after the collapse of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, given that he would have known that Lavrov would have used the opportunity to carpet him over the US’s failure to separate Syrian opposition fighters from Jabhat Al-Nusra.  This together with the US attack on Deir Ezzor and the Jihadi attacks on the Castello road is the single most important reason why the Kerry-Lavrov agreement has collapsed.

In this situation Kerry turned to the French.

Here something should be said about Kerry’s relationship with France. 

Kerry has very strong personal connections to France going back to his childhood, and speaks French fluently.  He is familiar with the French political world, has longstanding friendships with several French politicians, and is even first cousin to one of them: Brice Lalonde, a former French Green Party leader and a minister in the French government in the 1990s, who was once mayor of the Breton village where Kerry as a child and as a young man used to holiday.

It is completely understandable therefore that Kerry – reluctant to face Lavrov and Putin himself – turned for help to the French.

The French for their part would have been only too eager to oblige.  Not only would this have put them at the forefront of international diplomacy.  France also has a long historic connection to Syria, which was once a French colony.  France has been an outspoken supporter of the Syrian opposition and of the attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and has hankered for a major role in the diplomacy concerning Syria.

The story of what followed is of how the French under the incompetent leadership of President Hollande blew it.

The French diplomatic initiative began with a trip by French Foreign Minister Jean-March Ayrault to Moscow on Thursday 6th October 2016 to discuss a draft Resolution the French had prepared concerning the situation in Aleppo.   

As to the contents of this draft Resolution, Reuters claims to have seen it and says that it

“…..ask(ed) U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to propose options for a U.N.-supervised monitoring of a truce and threaten(ed) to “take further measures” in the event of non-compliance by “any party to the Syrian domestic conflict.””

The reference to “further measures” is clearly a reference to article 42 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which says

“Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”

In other words the French draft Resolution was intended to impose a ceasefire and to prepare the ground for UN authorised military action (probably a no-fly zone) in the event that it did not stick.

We know more about the text of this Resolution from Russian sources. 

It put the entire blame for the collapse of the ceasefire on the Syrian government.  It also demanded an end to Russian and Syrian bombing of the Jihadi rebels in eastern Aleppo.

In other words the Resolution blamed the Syrian government for the failure of the ceasefire, ordered it and the Russians to desist from bombing the Jihadis in Aleppo, demanded another ceasefire, and threatened military action against the Syrian army if the ceasefire broke down, without apparently making equivalent demands of the Jihadis.

The proposed Resolution was obviously completely lopsided and was therefore unacceptable to the Syrians and the Russians.

On the eve of Ayrault’s visit to Moscow Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, warned that the draft of this proposed Resolution was unacceptable.  However he offered talks to see if it could be salvaged so as to enable the UN Security Council to take a united position on Syria and on the situation in Aleppo.

For what happened during Ayrault’s visit to Moscow and immediately thereafter we must turn to Putin, who gave the following account during a press conference in Moscow. 

“Our respected friend and colleague, the French foreign minister came to Moscow and presented the French resolution. To which our foreign minister said: “We will not vote against it if you take our amendments and considerations on this issue into account. We are deeply involved in this crisis, in these problems; we know the details.” To which his French counterpart said: “Yes, of course, nor do we want to be slapped with this kind of veto.” Our representative to the UN in New York was told the same. Lavrov laid out the Russian position and there is nothing excessive in it.

I can tell you frankly what this was all about. The French resolution blamed the situation entirely on the Syrian authorities and said nothing about the opposition – in this case I am not talking about terrorists – the opposition that should also bear some responsibility, and some tasks should also be put before it. That is my first point.

Second, we stated that we were willing to endorse the initiative of the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy Mr de Mistura regarding the militants’ withdrawal from Aleppo. The French side took a positive view of that. We expected further joint constructive work both with France and with other Security Council members.

So what happened next? The French foreign minister left Moscow for Washington and the following day he and Mr Kerry accused Russia of every sin imaginable; no one talked to us and discussed nothing with us, and they threw this resolution at the Security Council, clearly expecting our veto. Why?”

These words of Putin’s clarify the changes the Russians wanted made to the Resolution.

Firstly a Resolution that placed the entire blame for the collapse of the ceasefire on the Syrian government was obviously unacceptable to the Russians, who have repeatedly said that the reason the ceasefire broke down was because the Jihadi rebels the US backs refused to abide by the ceasefire or separate themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra. 

The Russians insisted that the text of the Resolution be amended to shift at least part of the blame for the failure of the ceasefire onto the Syrian opposition, and to make demands upon them that were at least equivalent to those made of the Syrian government.

Secondly the Russians sought to incorporate into the ceasefire a proposal floated by Staffan de Mistura, Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on Syria.

Staffan de Mistura’s proposal almost certainly was prompted by Kerry and the US, who have previously used de Mistura and the UN’s various humanitarian agencies to float proposals they are unwilling to put forward themselves.

The single most important part of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement was the provision that provided for the withdrawal of Jihadi fighters from eastern Aleppo by way of the Castello road.  The Kerry-Lavrov agreement failed because the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo refused to leave eastern Aleppo by way of the Castello road or to separate themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra.

De Mistura’s proposal resurrected this part of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, without however making it a formal commitment.  De Mistura proposed that Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters voluntarily quit eastern Aleppo and he offered to accompany them as they left.

The Russians welcomed de Mistura’s proposal.  However they insisted that it be incorporated into the Resolution, turning it from a personal proposal by de Mistura into a binding commitment having the force of international law.

The Jihadis in eastern Aleppo rejected the de Mistura proposal and it became clear during the diplomatic discussions leading up to the UN Security Council meeting on Saturday 8th October 2016 that the Western powers were not prepared to incorporate it into the UN Security Council Resolution or into any other diplomatic document.

De Mistura’s proposal was never intended seriously.  De Mistura himself undermined it by saying that Jabhat Al-Nusra accounts for just 900 out of the 8,000 Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo. 

Not only is this contrary to most authoritative claims – which agree that Jabhat Al-Nusra is actually the dominant force in eastern Aleppo – but it contradicts what de Mistura himself has previously said.  In previous statements de Mistura has admitted that Jabhat Al-Nusra accounts for half the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo. 

In a press conference on Thursday 6th October 2016 de Mistura gave a convoluted explanation in which he tried to reconcile his contradictory statements by claiming that his previous claim that Jabhat Al-Nusra accounted for half the fighters in eastern Aleppo had now been “updated”

“We have done a much more updated analysis of the al-Nusra reality in eastern Aleppo. I know I was quoted, and is correct, I did refer to a figure which was close to 50%, you must have heard it, I think it was in the context of the Security Council. Well based on a more accurate estimates, which are also more up to date, and which are never completely perfect but are in my opinion, quite reliable, we are talking now about a presence in eastern Aleppo of at maximum 900 people, 900 people. The previous figure probably was also based on the out of date figure, that about 1500 al-Nusra fighters had left Idlib and other locations in order to join the al- Ramousseh battle which you remember took place some time ago when they attempted to re-take al-Ramousseh road. But they, according to our information, did withdraw, once this counter-offensive did not succeed and failed. So this amends, and please take it now as the line, which can always be amended by facts and figures, and more effective analysis, but that amends the so-called 50% thing. 900 al-Nusra fighters in eastern Aleppo.”

De Mistura (of course) provided no evidence to back his latest ‘update’, which he insists must now be “taken as the line” (ie. which it is impermissible to challenge).  As for his claim that the UN had previously mistakenly added the Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters engaged in the August offensive to those  actually inside eastern Aleppo, that is simply silly. Frankly de Mistura’s comments read like they were made up on the fly.

What however actually spelt the end of de Mistura’s proposal was the suggestions the Russians made about what should follow it. 

In public statements the Russians said that once the Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters had left eastern Aleppo the whole district should be reoccupied by the Syrian army.  The Russians sugared the pill by saying the Syrian army should form joint patrols with the remaining Jihadi fighters to restore law and order and ‘reassure the population’ in the district.  In Lavrov’s words

“In the first place, those who don’t leave with ‘Nusra’ should clearly separate themselves [from it], on paper, officially sign such a commitment.  Maybe then the government law enforcers and this armed opposition will be able to form some kind of joint law-and-order bodies to ensure normal life, so that people would feel safe.”

This of course is a demand for the surrender of eastern Aleppo to the Syrian government.  That is obviously something the Jihadi fighters and to the Western powers will never formally agree to, and the moment the Russians demanded it the de Mistura proposal was dead.

The other amendment the Russians are known to have demanded was one that deleted all references in the Resolution to a prohibition on aircraft (meaning of course Russian or Syrian aircraft) overflying Aleppo .

I have previously discussed the absurdity of this demand, made previously by Kerry and other Western leaders, which amounts to a demand that the Russians and the Syrians agree to impose a no-fly zone on themselves. 

“……..Kerry is demanding is that the Syrians and the Russians agree to impose a no-fly zone on themselves so as to let Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Jihadis win in order to enable regime change to take place in Syria.”

The French draft Resolution repeated this absurd demand, which as I said before Kerry and other Western officials must know the Russians and the Syrians would never agree to.  In the event the Russians rejected it, as they were bound to do, insisting that it be deleted from the text.

According to Putin Ayrault agreed to give serious thought to the Russian amendments.  However he failed to do so.  On going to Washington the following day he instead (according to Putin)

“….accused Russia of every sin imaginable; no one talked to us and discussed nothing with us, and they threw this resolution at the Security Council, clearly expecting our veto.”

Putin is being disingenuous here.  The changes the Russians proposed to the Resolution were so fundamental they would have changed completely its whole character, even if they had left the bulk of the text unchanged.  Once he saw the original text of the Resolution the French were proposing Putin cannot seriously have believed the French would agree to the Russian changes.  Nor can he have seriously believed Washington would agree to them either.

The whole episode of the French Resolution and of Ayrault’s trip to Moscow in truth looks less like a serious negotiation and more like an exercise in diplomatic posing.  Kerry and the French pretended they could embarrass the Russians into shifting their position on Aleppo by threatening to present a Resolution that would isolate the Russians in the UN Security Council.

Presumably de Mistura’s proposal, which appeared to offer the Russians what they have always wanted – the removal of Jihadi fighters from eastern Aleppo – whilst in reality doing no such thing, was held out as some form of bait.  The fact the Western powers refused to incorporate it in the Resolution or in any other diplomatic document shows that it was never intended seriously, and by demanding that it should be the Russians effortlessly exposed it for the sham it was.

That the whole episode of the Resolution was nothing more than an exercise in diplomatic posing is confirmed by the Reuters report of 5th October 2016, published on the eve of Ayrault’s trip to Moscow.  It says

“French officials have said that if Moscow were to oppose the resolution they would be ready to put it forward anyway to force Moscow into a veto, underscoring its complicity with the Syrian government.”

In other words the French and the US were never negotiating with the Russians seriously.  The pretended plan was to scare the Russians into backing down by threatening them with a Resolution they would be too embarrassed to veto. 

That neither the US nor the French ever really believed this plan would work is however shown by the comments a French diplomat is reported to have made to Reuters

“It’s all that’s left. We’re not fools. The Russians aren’t going to begin respecting human rights from one day to the next, but it’s all we have to put pressure on them.”

These words expose the emptiness of the whole affair.  If the French knew all along the plan would not work and that the Russians would not be embarrassed into backing down and would veto the Resolution when it was put to the UN Security Council, then what was the point of the whole exercise?

In the event not only did the Russians not back down but they turned the tables on the US and the French by proposing a Resolution of their own.  Apparently this closely followed the text of the French draft.  However it incorporated all the changes the Russians had previously insisted on, and which Putin says Ayrault had previously agreed to consider.

The Russian counter-Resolution was not intended simply as a spoiler.  It was intended to help the Chinese make public their support for the Russian position without putting the Chinese in a position where they would have to veto a Resolution which had the support of the majority of the states on the UN Security Council. 

China has a longstanding policy of not vetoing Resolutions which have majority support in the UN Security Council except in very exceptional circumstances.  Clearly what happened was that the Russians and the Chinese worked together to enable China to cast a vote supporting Russia at the UN Security Council without having to cast a veto when the French Resolution was put to the vote.  By proposing their Resolution the Russians made it possible for the Chinese to abstain on the French Resolution – which was guaranteed the support of a majority of states on the UN Security Council because it had the support of the US and its allies – whilst making it possible for the Chinese to make their support for Russia clear by voting for the Russian Resolution. 

This in fact is what happened with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador to the UN, speaking out strongly at the UN Security Council in support of the Russian Resolution whilst making clear China’s unhappiness with the French Resolution.  Here is how the UN’s press centre summarises his comments

“The draft text from France and Spain contained several important elements, but some of its contents did not reflect full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and independence, nor did it incorporate constructive views from some Council members (NB: this is a clear reference to the amendments proposed by Russia – AM).  On the other hand, the Russian Federation’s draft text did reflect respect for Syria’s sovereignty.  Noting that he had voted for the latter text, he voiced regret it had not been adopted.”

(bold italics added)

As it happens the Russian draft Resolution gathered more support in the UN Security Council than the Western powers and perhaps the Russians anticipated.  Russia, China and Venezuela voted for it and Angola abstained – as was to be expected.  However Egypt, traditionally a US ally and the one Arab state represented on the UN Security Council, also voted for it, whilst Uruguay – the one genuinely non-aligned state on the UN Security Council, also abstained (ie. refused to vote against it).  This left just those states on the UN Security Council who are known to be allies of the US to vote it down.

If the plan behind the French Resolution was therefore to embarrass Russia by isolating it on the UN Security Council, then deft Russian diplomacy meant that it failed.

In passing, the battle over the rival Resolutions at the UN Security Council on 8th October 2016 may be causing a rethink in Beijing of China’s traditional policy of not vetoing save in exceptional circumstances Resolutions which have majority support. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to be hinting his dissatisfaction with this policy and his belief  that China should in future play a more assertive role in the UN Security Council in alliance with Russia.  Interfax reports him telling Putin (his “old friend”) at the BRICS summit in Goa that the Chinese and the Russians should in future coordinate even more closely their positions at the UN Security Council to achieve a “fairer” world

“As UN Security Council members and leading countries, we should step up our coordination and interaction within the framework of multilateral institutions.  Key issues should be addressed through coordination between you and us, so that our combined efforts help ensure a fairer and more reasonable world order.”

(bold italics added)

The Russians have complained that presentation of a Resolution to the UN Security Council that had no possibility of being adopted simply in order to embarrass one of its members and to score a public relations point is an abuse of the procedures of the UN Security Council.  They are of course right.

Whilst it is the sort of thing that has happened before, and which will doubtless happen again, it is nonetheless an extraordinary misuse of the UN Security Council – not to mention an extraordinary waste of time – to behave in this way.

It is also a sad reflection of the state of French diplomacy.  The country that invented modern diplomacy has wasted a week of diplomatic time on what was essentially a farce.  That time could have been used to look for a serious diplomatic solution to the problem of Aleppo. 

Once upon a time French diplomacy would have sought to do just that – striving to shape a Resolution the UN Security Council could adopt that might have brought some sort of peace to Aleppo.  The basic groundwork after all has already been done in the form of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement.  Clever French diplomacy would have sought to revive the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, and to enshrine it in an enforceable UN Security Council Resolution, which would have had behind it the force of international law.

Instead the time was misused – and the energies of diplomats were wasted – on an act of grandstanding conducted one suspects for the benefit of the Western media and with an eye to the French Presidential election next year.

It beggars belief that the France of De Gaulle or Mitterrand would have agreed to let itself be used in this way.  If Kerry and his officials had wanted to put on a show at the UN Security Council then the French in former times would have told them to do it themselves rather than involve France in it.  As it is the prestige of French diplomacy has been diminished.

It was what happened next which however brought the complex if empty diplomatic manoeuvres of the previous days down to the level of bad farce.

Stung by the Russian vote against the Resolution – or more probably intent on striking yet another pose – French President Francois Hollande publicly declared that he intended to use Putin’s forthcoming visit to France to harangue Putin over Syria. 

To that end he cancelled an official opening ceremony for a newly built Russian religious and cultural centre in Paris, which had been the ostensible purpose of Putin’s visit, supposedly so that the visit could focus exclusively on Syria.

Hollande’s pitch has echoes of the equally unfortunate and equally empty proclamation by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott that he would use the G20 summit in Brisbane to “shirtfront Putin” over MH17, though it is more likely that what Hollande had in mind was a once famous incident when French President Mitterrand gained widespread praise in France and in the West by embarrassing his Soviet hosts by publicly bringing up the subject of the then jailed Soviet dissident Andrey Sakharov at a Kremlin banquet.

The Russians however robbed Hollande’s gesture of its whole point by simply calling off the visit.  In doing so they exposed the irrelevance of France, brought about by the hollowness of France’s diplomacy. 

Putin cruelly turned the knife in an interview with French reporters in which he cheerfully said that attending the opening of a Russian religious and cultural centre in Paris was more important than holding talks with the French President 

‘…..it is not that we are renouncing the visit, but simply that we were told that the main reason for this visit, namely, opening the religious and cultural centre, is not appropriate at this moment. But if the main reason for my visit to Paris is not appropriate, we will probably find another opportunity to meet and discuss Syria. We set no limitations concerning this matter and we are open for dialogue.”

(bold italics added)

This interview is as it happens a good example of Putin enjoying himself. 

He teased his interviewers by pretending the Russians had not called off the visit but had merely “postponed” it.  He patronised them by saying the visit would happen when it was “most convenient” (to whom?).  He dismissed French talk of Russian war crimes as “political rhetoric that does not have great significance”.  Instead of letting himself get baited on the situation in Aleppo, he lectured his interviewers on the situation in Aleppo as if he was a schoolteacher addressing a class of backward children.

Question: Mr President, the thing is that the French do not understand why you are bombing these people you call terrorists. After all, it was ISIS who attacked us, but there are no ISIS forces in Aleppo. This is what the French do not understand.

Vladimir Putin: Let me explain. It is another terrorist group, Jabhat al-Nusra, that controls the situation in Aleppo. This group was always considered a wing of Al Qaeda and is included in the UN’s list of terrorist organisations.”

Not surprisingly much of the French political class – including all the conservative and right wing contenders in next year’s Presidential election – have rounded on Hollande for his inept handling of the whole affair.

France remains a potentially important country, drawing huge prestige from its history and its culture.  Leaders like De Gaulle, Mitterrand, Chirac, and even to some extent Sarkozy, have shown how effective if used properly French diplomacy can be. 

The shabby events of the last two weeks show how under the inept leadership of Francois Hollande this asset is being squandered.  The big loser is France.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

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

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 166.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

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.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

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.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

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

Published

on

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.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

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.

Published

on

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.”

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending