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Istanbul Summit: Frozen conflict in Idlib, and Erdogan’s two front war (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 142.

Alex Christoforou

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The recent Istanbul Summit on Syria showcases that the plan to peace in Syria is fraught with difficulty.

The end to the Assad regime change war appears to be over, but Turkey, Russia, and the United States are jockeying for power in a post war Syria.

The EU is desperate to plug up the migrant crisis they created by helping to dismantle Syria.

Divergent interests brought together the leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany in Istanbul, in an effort to piece together a compromise to deal with a broken and fragmented Syria.

The US was absent from the meeting.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss what was accomplished during the Istanbul Summit, and how the reality on the ground, (specifically in Idlib province) appears to be heading towards a frozen conflict for Russia, and a two front war for Turkey…which pits NATO against NATO, in a Turkish effort to drive out the Kurds who are under American protection.

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Authored by Melkulangara Bhadrakumar for Strategic Culture


The four-nation Turkey-Russia-Germany-France summit on Syria on October 27 in Istanbul had an impressive outcome. All participants – each with own interests – has some ‘takeaway’ from the summit, which itself is a measure of the success of the event. This is also important because the participants now have a reason to work together.

Such an outcome can be interpreted in the following ways. First and foremost, a major regional conflict impacting international security was addressed without US participation. A sign of our times?

Second, participants didn’t quarrel over President Bashar Al-Assad’s “fate”. The debate becomes pedantic today in terms of ground realities. The Syrian nation should decide on its future. That’s also been Assad’s demand.

Third, some serious thought has been given to the journey towards a Syrian settlement – ceasefire, drafting of new constitution followed by elections under UN supervision. Four, the participants snubbed the US-Israeli plan to balkanize Syria into “spheres of influence” and have also squashed the Israeli dreams of getting international legitimacy for its illegal occupation of Golan Heights as part of any settlement.

Five, Germany and France have become amenable to the Russian demand pressing the urgency for rendering humanitarian aid to Syria and help in reconstruction. (US made this conditional on Assad’s removal.) We’ll have to see how it pans out, but the summit also stressed the importance of return of Syrian refugees (which is a key issue for European countries.)

Six, the participants recognized that the remaining terrorists in Syria must be destroyed – although, significantly, they also supported the Idlib ceasefire deal brokered by Turkey and Russia.

The bottom line is that it is the post-war Syrian order that is under discussion now. However, it must be understood as well that the proxy war is not ending but is rather morphing into the diplomatic war that lies ahead, which of course will be keenly fought, given the divergent interests of the foreign protagonists.

Generally speaking, Russia and Turkey are in command as of now. Their own equations are good but there are grey areas, too. The importance of close coordination between Russia and Turkey cannot but be stressed.

Iran cannot be happy that it has been excluded from the Istanbul summit. But it may prove an underestimation that Iran is in no position to assert its legitimate interests. The close consultations between Russia and Iran – not only regarding Syria – are of course the mitigating factor here.

Similarly, “post-Khashoggi” Saudi attitude to Syria remains the “known unknown”. The US is in a position to blackmail Saudi Arabia to continue to bankroll its military presence in Syria, but Saudis cannot be having their heart in the overreach to project power abroad. Something has fundamentally changed – Saudis are not used to their prestige being dragged in the mud as in this past month and the traumatic experience cannot but have a sobering effect.

Besides, Saudis dare not cross swords with Turkey on the latter’s Syrian playpen. Above all, Saudis would not want to undermine Russian efforts to stabilize Syria, since Moscow’s goodwill and cooperation is extremely vital for Riyadh in the coming period, now that the raison d’etre of Riyadh’s “Look East” is beyond doubt.

Basically, France and Germany are lightweights in Syria. They had a limited agenda at the Istanbul summit. Russia must know fully well that in the final analysis, US involvement is crucial. It is entirely conceivable that at the forthcoming Russian-American summit in Paris on November 11, Syria will be a major topic of discussion.

The US policy in Syria is at a crossroad and will hinge greatly on the standing of President Trump in the aftermath of the November 6 mid-term elections in the US.

Clearly, this was far from a situation of three major allies of the US staging a mutiny on the NATO ship. Germany and France would have consulted Washington most certainly ahead of the Istanbul summit (which has been in the making for months.)

The big question is how the Turkish-American relations evolve. The Khashoggi affair has brought about certain US-Turkey “proximity”. Ironically, the Deep State in America and Trump are on the same page here – rediscovering the vital importance of Turkey for the US regional strategies.

The spokesmen of the Deep State used to defame Turkish President Recep Erdogan for being “Islamist” and “authoritarian” and so on and probably even tried to overthrow him in the failed coup of 2016, but today, they laud him for espousing Islamic democracy as the panacea for the region.

Erdogan, in turn – or at least a part of him – had always hankered for recognition by the West when he sought Turkey’s historic leadership role in the Middle East and uniqueness to act as a bridge between the West and the region. Equally, Trump is eternally grateful to Erdogan to refrain from spilling the beans on the Khashoggi affair and for helping him finesse a major crisis for his presidency on the foreign-policy front.

Suffice to say, this “transition” in the US-Turkey tough love can profoundly affect the geopolitics of the Middle East – provided of course Washington plays its cards carefully in regard of Erdogan’s wish list on a host of pending issues, including some of great sensitivity.

Syria is somewhere at the top of Erdogan’s priorities. Howsoever unpalatable it may appear, Erdogan will expect the Americans to throw their Syrian Kurdish allies under the bus. Yesterday, Turkish army bombarded Kurdish positions east of Euphrates.

Now, how Turkish policies play out in Syria is difficult to predict, since the variables are too many. A US-Turkey rapprochement is hard to reach. But then, Turks and Americans are also old allies and they have a way of knocking their heads together and start working together again.

Top Photo | From left, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin,Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a news conference following their summit on Syria, in Istanbul, Oct. 27, 2018. Photo | Turkish Presidential Press Service

Melkulangara Bhadrakumar is a former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. Devoted much of his 3-decade long career to the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran desks in the Ministry of External Affairs and in assignments on the territory of the former Soviet Union. After leaving the diplomatic service, took to writing and contribute to The Asia Times, The Hindu and Deccan Herald. Lives in New Delhi.

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Shaun RameweSarahJohn BurnsBob Valdez Recent comment authors
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Bob Valdez
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Bob Valdez

Without watching the video, we can see the look on President putin’s face, clearly saying “Why am I even bothering with these utter morons?” Crap-on wants to rush home to his mummy/wife, Jerkel wants to find a rock to hide under and Erdo-gollum, well, he is just being full of himself.

Shaun Ramewe
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Shaun Ramewe

Yes – Putin looks like he just beat a trio of checkers players with just one chess move!! LOL

Shaun Ramewe
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Shaun Ramewe

That disgusting two-faced Turkish ErDOGan coward-liar war criminal just wants to keep sneakily saving, remorphing and abetting terrorists to sadistically steal more oil, national treasures, body organs and so on (FSA murderers = former ISIS/Nusra/Qaeda/Rebel/Sham/etc sickos) while slyly and perversely brutalizing more sovereign Syrian civilians (particularly real anti-terrorist Kurds and especially those who are politically partial to Syrian sovereignty again since they are easy targets). This suits their NATerrorO partners the dirty-lying illegal-invader ZioYanks to the ground because it is their sicko mercenary black-flag terrorists they too wish to also covertly abet the most. F offfff.

Shaun Ramewe
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Shaun Ramewe

~ Equally depraved ZOG-liar war-profiteering false-flagging global-traitor Macron is absolutely hating every moment of Russia’s, Syria’s and Iran’s anti-terrorist pro-democracy victory as well (the ZioWestern/Arabian/Turkish loss eats him up). Merkel just doesn’t seem to care any more!! ISISrael, US’A-hole’ and United Kuntdom will likely restart more terror attacks in Europe again.

John Burns
Guest

After 15 years of studying Putin, I rather feel that he attended this meeting to be seen to keep a dialogue in the knowledge that nothing significant could be achieved. The time has long passed when the Syrian population reached its fill of violence and inhuman cruelty. Now is the time to scour this evil influence from the independent land of Syria.

Sarah
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Sarah

Stop calling it ‘Assad Regime’!, It is Assad / Syrian Government. Stop parroting msm language, please.

Shaun Ramewe
Guest
Shaun Ramewe

It was a success for anti-terrorist pro-democracy Syria’s preservation of sovereignty and its self-directing political future – just as Damascus has always stood for. As for the sick-minded all-lied ZioWestern/Arabian/Turkish/NATerrorO co-illusion war criminals – it was an absolute ego-crushing defeat. The deceitful Geneva talks will again amount to shit so well done Russia, Syria and Iran for the Astana accords that have brought about the near-total victory of regional hero-warrior anti-terror forces against the ZioUS-led coward-pervert false-flagging media-lying illegal-invading terrorist-abetting resource-thieving civilian-murdering Evil-Axis. Boohoo global traitors ISISrael, US’A-hole’, United Kuntdom, Saudi sicko Arabia, filthy France and two-faced Turkey and all… Read more »

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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