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Is MBS now looking for war? If so will it be against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against Qatar?

Rumours of Saudi military strike against Iran’s Middle East allies Hezbollah and Qatar sweep the Middle East

Alexander Mercouris

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Reports from the Middle East that an extraordinary Arab League Summit is being convened at the instigation of Saudi Arabia, supposedly to discuss “Iranian interference” in the region, come alongside growing rumours that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s volatile de facto ruler, is planning a military strike against those in the Middle East whom he can come to see as Iran’s allies: Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Gulf state of Qatar, which is currently under Saudi blockade.

Such a military strike would be in character with the wilful behaviour Muhammad bin Salman has been exhibiting since he burst on the Middle East’s political scene following the accession of his father King Salman in January 2015.

Muhammad bin Salman is believed to have played the decisive role in the disastrous decision by Saudi Arabia to invade neighbouring Yemen in March 2015, and he is also widely and almost certainly credited with being the person who was behind the Saudi decision earlier this year to impose the blockade on Qatar.

With reports of Saudi F-15 fighters flying over Saudi bases, most speculation centref on a possible Saudi air strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon as a follow-up to the Saudi enforced ‘resignation’ of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

A Saudi air strike on Hezbollah however faces an obvious obstacle.  The most direct line for Saudi F-15s to launch a strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon would be across Iraq and Syria.

Iraq – which is becoming increasingly aligned with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – would presumably refuse the Saudis permission to send their F-15 fighters through its air space for such a purpose, and Syria undoubtedly would.

Muhammad bin Salman might be reckless enough to send his F-15s across Iraqi and Syrian air space regardless, trusting in the fact that the Iraqi and Syrian air forces and air defence systems are unlikely to be able to intercept them.

However it would be a gamble, especially in the case of Syria which does operate advanced anti aircraft missile systems independently of the Russians, and which might be actually capable of shooting Saudi Arabia’s F-15s down.

The alternative would be to launch the air strike from bases in Turkey, Jordan or Egypt.

However Turkey – currently on bad terms with Saudi Arabia after siding with Qatar in the quarrel between Qatar and Saudi Arabia – would probably not agree, whilst an air strike from Jordan would have to overfly Israel which would need Israeli permission, something which despite the de facto alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia might still be controversial with Islamist feeling in Saudi Arabia,

That leaves Egypt as the only obvious choice for a Saudi air strike on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Whilst that is possible, and the planned Arab League summit meeting in Cairo might be intended to provide cover for it, it would mean Saudi F-15s would have to cover a considerable distance over the Mediterranean sea to reach Hezbollah positions in Lebanon.

That is a type of operation the Saudi air force has never done before and of which it has no experience.

Moreover the Saudis would have to consider that their F-15s would be continuously tracked en route from Egypt to Lebanon by the Russians, who have advanced radars in Syria and with their Mediterranean fleet that would enable to do this.

Whilst the Russians would be extremely unlikely to shoot the Saudi F-15s down, they might give Hezbollah a tip-off, which would give Hezbollah time to prepare.

Assuming that the Saudi F-15s did finally get to Lebanon it is not clear what they would achieve there.

Lebanon is a country which is being almost continuously bombed by the Israeli air force, an air force immeasurably more powerful than that of the Saudis.

Nearly all this Israeli bombing targets Hezbollah, which has therefore long since learnt to prepare itself for bombing.  As it happens Israel’s bombing has never injured Hezbollah to any significant degree, and an intensive month long Israeli bombing campaign against Hezbollah in 2006 actually left the movement stronger.

It is impossible to see what damage the Saudi air force could realistically hope to do to Hezbollah which the far more powerful Israeli air force has not tried and failed to do previously, making the whole exercise look both expensive and pointless.

Whilst Muhammad bin Salman comes across as an impulsive and wilful individual, one must assume that there are people within the Saudi air force who are pointing this all out to him, and are advising him that an air strike on Hezbollah in Lebanon would be both extremely complicated and militarily pointless.

If Muhammad bin Salman really is intent on making trouble for Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon – as seems to be the case – then his obvious course is not through an over-complicated and militarily pointless air strike but through stirring up the profound sectarian differences that constantly beset  Lebanon.

Unfortunately because of the depth and extent of Lebanon’s sectarian divisions this is a policy which has a real prospect of success, and the current visit of Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch to Saudi Arabia – where he is supposed to meet with Saad Harari – suggests that this is precisely the route Muhammad bin Salman is taking.

After all doing so would be consistent with previous Saudi policy, which has always been to try to exploit sectarian differences to achieve political goals, as for example in the undeclared war Saudi Arabia has waged against President Assad of Syria.

Whilst with someone as volatile and unpredictable as Muhammad bin Salman it is never possible to be sure, my own view is that if he really is intent on war then the more obvious target is not Hezbollah in Lebanon but Qatar, which is a tiny country with a border with Saudi Arabia which is easy for Saudi Arabia to attack and which because of its small size in the event of a Saudi attack would be incapable of defending itself.

I discussed this possibility back in June when the Saudi blockade of Qatar was first imposed.  I pointed out then that the blockade of Qatar looked very much like it was intended to set the scene for an armed invasion

Whilst I do not know this for a fact, I think it is at least possible that Saudi Arabia’s breaking of diplomatic relations and the land and air blockade it imposed on Qatar were intended to be followed up by a ground invasion of Qatar.

Such an aggressive step would be very much in character for Saudi Arabia’s volatile de facto leader Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In a follow-up article written shortly afterwards I discussed this possibility in more detail

…….there has to be a risk that rather than be humiliated by climbing down or having his ultimatum exposed as a bluff Prince Mohammed bin Salman might decide instead to double down further, and do what Saddam Hussein did in 1980, which is launch a ground invasion of a small but rich neighbouring Arab country which is daring to defy him.

After all like Saddam Hussein he already has form.  Just as before attacking Kuwait in 1990 Saddam Hussein had previously in 1981 attacked Iran, so in March 2015 – just weeks after his father became King – Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the prime instigator of the disastrous Saudi intervention in Yemen.

If Prince Mohammed bin Salman really does order an attack on Qatar then there is a serious danger that the situation could spiral out of control.

In the event the invasion which I feared in June never happened, either because it was never planned or because Muhammad bin Salman was talked of it by the other Saudi Princes or by the US, or because he was deterred by the strong statements Turkish President Erdogan made at the time which seemed to hint that in the event of a Saudi attack on Qatar Turkey would come to Qatar’s rescue.

I will here state my view – which is broadly the same as the Moon of Alabama’s – that it was internal criticism within Saudi Arabia following his failure in June to bring Qatar to heel which provoked Muhammad bin Salman into launching his purge.

Now however with talk of war in the Middle East growing, an article has appeared by Paul Cochrane on Consortium News which speculates that a Saudi invasion of Qatar may be on the cards again

Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Washington D.C.-based consultancy Gulf State Analytics, posits that Qatar could be brought under Saudi Arabia’s umbrella by force to seize the country’s huge gas reserves, the third largest in the world.

Who knows, black swan events do occur, and the global powers would vocally oppose such a move but likely not exercise military intervention a la 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. troops based in Qatar would just stay in their base; the Trump administration has signalled it has sided with Riyadh, even though the State Department has been more nuanced towards Doha. As for the Turks and the Iranians, they would not want to be brought into a conflagration with Riyadh and the ATQ. That really would tear the MENA apart.

Ultimately, there’s not much to stop a Saudi gas grab. There’s not much desire internationally for yet another Middle Eastern military “adventure” following the debacles in Iraq and Libya, while nobody’s lifted a finger against Saudi Arabia for its war against Yemen. As long as Qatari gas exports remain uninterrupted, the global powers might readily accept a change of management.

The point in this article about the possibility of Saudi Arabia seizing Qatar’s huge gas reserves being a strong incentive to launch an invasion is an important one.

Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991 was largely caused by his urgent need for money to rebuild Iraq’s economy and shore up his regime following the massively costly Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Muhammad bin Salman, with his Homerically ambitious and hopelessly unrealistic Saudi Vision 2030 project to finance at a time when Saudi Arabia is short of funds because of the oil price fall, is potentially also someone on the lookout for money.  As I pointed out in my recent article discussing Muhammad bin Salman’s purge, the money he has seized from the Saudi princes and their followers he has rounded up is nowhere near enough.  The temptation to add to Saudi Arabia’s resources by seizing Qatar’s huge oil and gas wealth must therefore be very strong.

Whether a Saudi invasion of Qatar would be as risk-free as Paul Cochrane’s article suggests is however another matter.

The two strongest military powers in the region – Iran and Turkey – back Qatar.  It is not inconceivable that in the event of a Saudi invasion of Qatar they may feel they have no choice but to come to Qatar’s rescue.

If so that would bring the crisis in the Gulf to stratospheric levels, with the US caught in the middle in a war between two sets of US allies: Turkey and Qatar on the one side versus Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the other Gulf states on the other.

The fact that the US has its single biggest Middle East military base in Qatar, that Iran would side with Turkey and Qatar in such a war, and that Qatar – as the country under attack – would have international law on its side, would make the problems the US would face in the event of such a crisis even worse.

Given all these risks one would assume that US diplomacy would be doing all in its power to warn Muhammad bin Salman against such a reckless venture.

Sadly, it seems US diplomacy in the Middle East is asleep at the wheel,  There is no sign of any diplomatic move by the US to get Muhammad bin Salman to restrain himself, which given the dysfunctional state of US policy in the wake of the Russiagate scandal is unsurprising.

The situation in the Middle East is extremely tense as the fallout from the Russian-Iranian victory in the Syrian war, the recent Iraqi victory over the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the emergence in Saudi Arabia of Muhammad bin Salman, transform the region.

We may have some anxious days ahead.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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