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Netanyahu in Moscow for Victory Day: why did Putin invite him?

Putin’s invitation to Netanyahu was diplomacy not surrender at a time when the Middle East is on fire and war with Iran may be coming

Alexander Mercouris

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News of the recent attendance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Moscow’s 9th May Victory Day Parade provoked a predictable range of reactions ranging from anger, dismay, denial and – on the part of some of the US’s and Israel’s friends – even a certain amount of gloating.

For an example of the latter, see for example these words by the British historian Niall Ferguson in a lengthy article hailing Donald Trump’s supposed masterstroke in pulling out of the JCPOA.

Economically weak enough to suffer a wave of riots in December and January, the Iranians will not find it easy to withstand the snap-back of sanctions and the roll-back of its forces abroad. And if you think the Russians will help them, you must have missed Binyamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin last week.

By contrast The Saker – normally a supporter of Putin’s – sees the whole episode as disgraceful, and the Israeli missile strike on Syria which also happened on Victory Day, as a humiliation for Putin and for Russia

……Bibi Netanyahu [was] invited to Moscow to the Victory Day Parade in spite of him bombing Syria, a Russian ally, just on the eve of his visit. Once in Moscow, Netanyahu compared Iran to, what else, Nazi Germany. How original and profound indeed! Then he proceeded to order the bombing of Syria for a second time, while still in Moscow. But then, what can we expect from a self-worshiping narcissist who finds it appropriate to serve food to the Japanese Prime Minister in a specially made shoe? The man is clearly batshit crazy (which in no way makes him less evil or dangerous). But it is the Russian reaction which is so totally disgusting: nothing, absolutely nothing. Unlike others, I have clearly said that it is not the Russian responsibility to “protect” Syria (or Iran) from the Israelis. But there is no doubt in my mind that Netanyahu has just publicly thumbed his nose at Putin and that Putin took it. For all my respect for Putin, this time he allowed Netanyahu to treat him just like Trump treated Macron. Except that in the case of Putin, he was so treated in his own capital. That makes it even worse……

…..it appears undeniable that the Zionists have enough power to simultaneously force not one, but two (supposed) superpowers to cave in to their demands. Not only that, they have the power to do that while also putting these two superpowers on a collision course against each other. At the very least, this shows two things: the United States has completely lost its sovereignty and is now an Israeli protectorate. As for Russia, well, she is doing comparatively better, but the full re-sovereignization the Russian people have voted for when they gave their overwhelming support to Putin will not happen…..

The fact that the event took place at a time when the situation in the Middle East has been particularly fraught undoubtedly strengthened those reactions.

Now that the dust has settled a little, it may be a good moment to review what actually happened during Netanyahu’s visit and to judge which if any of these reactions were justified.

Guest of Honour or not?

The part of my article which first reported Russia’s invitation to Netanyahu to attend the 9th May Victory Parade which provoked the strongest reaction was its title, which referred to Netanyahu as being invited to the Victory Day celebrations as “guest of honour”.

Several commentators – including on the thread of the article – seized on the fact that the Kremlin’s announcement of the invitation did not use the words “guest of honour” in order to deny that this was the case.  At its most extreme there were even suggestions that Netanyahu’s trip to Moscow was no more than a working visit which happened to coincide with the Victory Day celebrations.

The optics of the visit however tell a different story.

During the parade Netanyahu was on the podium, flanking Putin on his left whilst the other guest of honour, Serb President Alexander Vučić, flanked Putin on his right.

Netanyahu also flanked Putin on his left when Putin ceremoniously laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden near the Kremlin Wall (Vučić was again positioned to Putin’s right)

Netanyahu also marched alongside Putin during the March of the Immortal Regiment, and the Kremlin press service has released pictures of them together, this time showing Netanyahu on Putin’s right and Vučić on Putin’s left

Netanyahu also attended the official reception in the Kremlin.  Here he is during the reception with Putin and Vučić in a group photograph with a group of Russian soldiers

And here is Netanyahu again with Putin and Vučić during the formal dinner

And here is Netanyahu again, this time talking to Putin during the dinner

Note that Netanyahu, unlike Vučić, was careful to wear a Russian St. George’s Ribbon throughout the ceremonies.

In light of the prominence given to Netanyahu during the Victory Day celebrations I think it is simply impossible to deny that he together with President Vučić of Serbia was the guest of honour.

Why then did the Russians extend such an invitation to him?  Is it – as some argue – because Russia and Israel are in fact allies?

Russia and Israel are not allies

Two countries may be said to be allies if they (1) have a mutual defence or security pact with each other; or (2) share common enemies with each other.

Russia and Israel do not have a defence or security pact with each other.  Neither Russia nor Israel have pledged to come to the defence of the other if either one of them is attacked.  They cannot therefore be allies in that sense.

Do they however have enemies in common?

In recent years Russia has emerged as Syria’s most important ally and guarantor, and is forging increasingly friendly ties with Iran.

It is Syria and Iran which Israel says are its major state enemies.  Yet it turns out that far from being Russia’s enemies they are Russia’s friends.

Israel for its part is a longstanding and close ally of the US – with which it does have a security pact – but which is Russia’s main geopolitical adversary.

Clearly Russia and Israel do not have state enemies in common, so they cannot be allies in that sense either.

Russia and Israel both say that they oppose Jihadi terrorism.

However, Israel (as it admits) has been providing material aid to Jihadi fighters fighting the Syrian government in the Golan Heights even though these are people whom Russia calls terrorists, whist Russia for its part maintains contacts with the Palestinian group Hamas, which Israel says is a terrorist organisation.

It turns out that not only do Russia and Israel not have state enemies in common, but their definition of who is a terrorist is so different as to render it effectively impossible for them cooperate with each other to fight terrorism together.

On the basis of the usual criteria used to define allies – a mutual defence or security arrangement and/or enemies in common – Russia and Israel are not allies.  On the contrary, they are friends of each other’s adversaries.

Are Russia and Israel however allies in any some other less formal sense?

I cannot see how, unless the meaning of the word “ally” is to be stretched so far as to include all states which are on good terms with each other, in which case the word becomes effectively meaningless.

Russia and Israel are clearly not allies, and their relationship should not be described in that way.

Russia did not invite Netanyahu to the 9th Day Victory Parade in Moscow because Russia and Israel are allies.  Any discussion of the invitation based on that theory is therefore wrong.

Russia and Israel are not enemies

If Russia and Israel are not allies, and should not be called that, it is also true that they are in no sense enemies.

I have discussed this on numerous occasions and at great length.

Briefly, with respect to Russia, when Russia did for a period become Israel’s enemy by siding with the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the result was a disaster for Russia

…….no one in Moscow wants to see Russia become embroiled in the Syrian-Israeli conflict, which far predates Russia’s intervention in Syria, and which goes back all the way to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948.

When following the 1967 Six Days War the Russians did commit themselves wholeheartedly to one side in the Arab-Israeli conflict – backing the Arabs diplomatically, arming the Arabs intensively, sending a strong military force to defend Egypt in 1970 from Israeli air attacks, and breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel – the result for Moscow was a catastrophe.

The USSR’s large Jewish community became alienated, the USSR found that by making an enemy of Israel it had further poisoned its relations with the Western powers at precisely the time when it was seeking detente with them, and the USSR quickly discovered that its Arab ‘allies’ in whom it had invested so much were both ungrateful and treacherous, so that by 1980 the USSR’s entire position in the Middle East had completely collapsed.

The final straw came after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, when volunteers from across the Arab world rushed to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, in a way that they had never shown the slightest indication of wanting to do against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Not surprisingly, the Russians have therefore since the mid-1980s been determined never to become directly involved in any part of the Arab-Israel conflict again.

Thus whilst Russia maintains good relations with the Arab states, and whilst Russia continues to voice support for the Palestinians, Russia has always striven to maintain good relations with Israel as well, and has forged significant economic links with Israel.

As for Israel, it knows that the only country which is even theoretically capable of redressing the military balance in the Middle East in Iran’s and the Arabs’ favour to the point of creating a genuine existential threat for Israel is Russia.

It was after all only during the period of the USSR’s intervention on the Arab side in the Arab-Israeli conflict when – especially during the period 1969 to 1973 – the conventional military balance shifted so far in the Arabs’ favour that Israel faced a serious risk of defeat in a conventional war.

Crucially, the only occasion when Israel lost its regional supremacy against its adversaries in the air was when it found itself pitted against the Soviet military in 1970 when the Soviet military successfully brought Israeli air raids into Egypt west of the Suez canal to a stop as a result of what the Soviets called Operation Kavkaz.

That fact in itself suffices to explain why Israel does not want to make an enemy of Russia.

Russia and Israel are (within limits) friends

If Russia and Israel have strong reasons not to want to be enemies of each other, they also have positive reasons for wanting to be friends.

Jewish immigration to Israel from the USSR and from Russia has created a substantial Russian speaking community in Israel, numbering around 900,000 people out of Israel’s total population of 8.8 million.

In keeping with their large numbers, Russian speaking Israelis now form a substantial electoral constituency, with one of their political leaders, Avigdor Lieberman, being Israel’s Defence Minister.

Though Russian speaking Israelis do not have a single set of views about Russia or indeed about anything else, many of them are proud of their connection to Russia, and are resolute in holding on to the Russian language and to Russian culture.

Many of them also seem to take an active interest in what is happening in Russia, and some of them not only retain links to Russia but are also active there.

The large number of Russian speaking Israelis therefore provides a strong electoral constituency within Israel which tends to support good relations between Israel and Russia.

Netanyahu, whose electoral coalition depends heavily on the votes of Russian speaking Israelis, and whose position as Israel’s Prime Minister depends heavily on the support of Russian speaking Israeli politicians like Lieberman, therefore has a strong political reason to want good relations with Russia.

Looking at the same issue from the Russian point of view, Israel is not only a powerful country, with which it would be in Russia’s interests to be on good terms, but it is also the one important Western ally of the US which has consistently refused over the last decade to join in the mounting campaign against Russia which has had the rest of the West in its grip.

Lieberman put it best in a recent interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant, reproduced here by TASS

Israel reveres its relationship with Russia, which has flourished into efficient and transparent cooperation over the past couple of decades, even against the background of tough pressure from its closest partners, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Kommersant.

“For example, as far as the anti-Russia sanctions go, we flatly refused to join them. Many states expelled Russian diplomats not long ago, all due to the standoff regarding the use or non-use of nerve gas and so on. Israel did not join this action. We have a normal relationship with Russia and we comprehend its interests,” he said, adding that Tel Aviv also expects Moscow to “take into consideration our interests in the Middle East.”

Asked why the positions of Russia and Israel vary widely on such issues as the Syrian crisis, he said that Tel Aviv does not seek to pursue tensions with Russia. “On the contrary, we have established a very clear and frank, transparent dialogue with Russia over the past years, whenever we share opinions and even when we do not share opinions,” the minister said. “We do not interfere in Syria’s domestic affairs. In my viewpoint, Assad is a war criminal responsible for killing over half a million of his own citizens. Assad, the Islamic State, Al Qaeda (outlawed in Russia – TASS), all radicals, Hezbollah are no different in essence. Nevertheless, we do not intend to interfere in Syria’s domestic affairs. What we are not going to accept are any efforts taken by Iran to turn Syria into a foothold targeting us,” he added.

Lieberman acknowledged that Russian and Israeli actions are coordinated in Syria. “There is a phone hotline between Israel’s Defense Forces and the Russian contingent deployed in Syria. We always take into account Russia’s interests in Syria and hope very much that Russia will take into account Israel’s interests related to its security” he stressed.

According to the minister, Israel also bears no threat to Syria’s integrity. “There has been a murderous war for many years there, with at least half a million people dead, hundreds of thousands wounded, and I think the sooner it ends the sooner all of us could breathe easier,” he noted.

In fact the very attendance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Russia’s 9th May Victory Day Parade illustrates the point.

What other prominent Western leader would accept a Russian invitation to attend Russia’s 9th May Victory Day Parade at this time?  Since the start of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 the answer is none of them.  The last Western head of government to be offered an invitation to attend the Parade was Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in 2015.  Characteristically, and to the great annoyance of the Russians, he failed to turn up.

Given that this is so, it is not surprising that the Russian leadership should value the continued friendship of Israel – the only member of the Western alliance which still seems capable of conducting a foreign policy independent of Washington’s – and should wish to preserve it.

That by definition requires – as Lieberman says (see above) – a need for Russia to take Israel’s concerns into account.

Having said all of this, it is important to stress that this friendship – real though it is – has limits.

Nothing can alter the fact that Israel is ultimately an ally of the US and is aligned with the West, and that its adversaries in the Middle East are Russia’s friends.

That does not mean that Russia and Israel cannot be friends with each other.  It is a fallacy that countries cannot be friends even whilst they disagree on many issues with each other.

However, it does place a limit on how far that friendship can go, and it also means that the management of relations between the two countries requires careful handling.

No S-300 missiles for Syria

This accounts for Russia’s decision to refuse to supply S-300 anti aircraft missiles to Syria.

In the aftermath of the recent US missile strike on Syria there was talk that Russia might reconsider its decision to refuse to supply S-300 anti aircraft missiles to Syria.

I was skeptical.

Recently there has been some discussion in the media about the possibility of Russia supplying S-300 anti aircraft systems to Syria by way of response to the recent US missile strike on Syria.

Precisely because the supply of S-300 anti aircraft systems to Syria has the potential to disrupt Russia’s otherwise excellent relations with Israel – and given that the US strike on Syria was completely ineffective – I personally doubt the supply of S-300 anti aircraft systems to Syria will take place.

In the event – and to predictable cries of betrayal – the Russians have now confirmed that the supply of S-300 anti aircraft missiles to Syria will not take place.

This is a logical decision since from a Russian point of view supply of S-300 missiles to Syria at this time would be counterproductive and would make little sense.

The point about the S-300 missile system is that it is (1) a system of such range and power that it could potentially put at risk Israeli aircraft operating over Israel itself; and (2) the failure of the US raid on Syria, and the possible failure of the more recent Israeli raid on Syria, begs the question of whether Syria needs it anyway.

In fact it is very easy to see how the supply of the S-300 anti aircraft system to Syria, far from protecting Syria, might actually be dangerous for Syria.

The Israelis would be bound to see its presence in Syria under Syrian military control as a major escalation and as a challenge to their air supremacy.  The risk would be that they would react to this challenge by planning a major air offensive to destroy it.  In this they would unquestionably have the total support – including the technical support – of the US.

The Israeli air force – if it were to throw all its resources into doing it and if it were backed by the full might of the US – would undoubtedly have the means to destroy whatever limited number of S-300 systems Russia might supply to Syria, even if the Israelis were to suffer some losses in the process.

At that point the world would undoubtedly construe what had happened as a Syrian defeat, and that would almost certainly be the perception within Syria itself.

Syria’s many enemies would be emboldened, Russia would be humiliated, and pressure in the West from the regime change lobby for the sort of all encompassing air offensive against Syria which they have always hankered for would increase.

It is impossible to see how any of this would benefit either Syria or Russia.

Ultimately the only way the Russians can be sure of stopping all Israeli raids on Syria would be if they assumed direct responsibility for the defence of the entirety of Syrian air space themselves.

That is what the Soviets did in 1970 when they came to Egypt’s defence in what the Russians call Operation Kavkaz, but which the Israelis misleadingly call the “War of Attrition”.

However that would pitch the Russians right back to the centre of the Arab-Israeli conflict, making them again a direct player in that conflict, forfeiting Israel’s friendship in the process, and risking a repeat of the catastrophe which Russia suffered in the 1970s.

No one in authority in Moscow wants that, and the Russian people certainly do not want it either.

When I previously discussed the possibility of Russia supplying S-300 missiles to Syria I speculated that the Russians – if they were really considering doing such a thing – would give the Israelis assurances that they would retain operational control over the missiles so that they could not endanger Israeli aircraft.

That would however have taken away the whole point of supplying S-300 missiles to Syria in the first place, so wisely, if that idea was ever considered, it has been dropped.

In truth it is impossible to see why the Russians would want to change an air defence situation in Syria which from their point of view is working well.

The Russians have established a powerful air defence system under their own control in Syria.  It includes advanced S-400 and S-300V4 Antey-2500 air aircraft missiles and their associated radar systems as well as shorter range Buk-M3 and Tor-M2 missile systems and the very effective Pantsir-S1 point defence system.

This air defence system is supplemented by the powerful Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system, and is able to call on various electronic reconnaissance aircraft including the Beriev A-50 AWACS aircraft, which now routinely operates in Syria.

The Russians have repeatedly made clear to the US, the Israelis and the Turks that this system is ready for use and is there to enforce Russia’s red lines in Syria.

These prohibit (1) attacks on Russian troops or Russian bases in Syria; (2) attacks which threaten the survival of the Syrian government; and (3) attacks which disrupt the Syrian military’s anti Jihadi operations.

The Russians have established hotlines with the US, Israeli and Turkish militaries, enabling them to coordinate with those militaries and to warn those militaries when it appears that those militaries are coming close to crossing Russia’s red lines.

Whenever the US, Israeli or Turkish militaries have in fact come close to crossing Russia’s red lines the Russians have responded forcefully, in some cases by switching off the hotlines.  On three occasions when that has happened it has forced the US and Turkish militaries to limit their air operations in Syria because of fear of action by the Russian air defence system.

Since the US missile strike on Syria in April last year the Russians have also upgraded Syria’s own air defence system.

This has been done without the supply of S-300 missiles to Syria, hugely risky and destabilising as that would be.

Instead it has been done by the radical upgrade of Syria’s existing air defence system, with technical improvements to Syria’s Soviet era systems, a comprehensive retraining of Syrian air defence personnel, and an apparently successful attempt to unify the system and to improve its radar surveillance capabilities.  In addition a number of short range but highly effective Pantsir-S1 systems have been supplied, providing the Syrians with effective point defence against missile strikes on their key facilities.

Russian accounts of the recent US and Israeli raids on Syria suggest that this effort to upgrade the Syrian air defence system has been successful.  Given that this is so, why take the enormous risk of supplying Syria with the S-300?

In summary, supplying Syria with S-300 missiles from a Russian point of view makes no sense, and no one should be surprised that the Russians have decided not to do it.

Almost certainly the Russians are telling the truth when they say that it was not Netanyahu who talked them out of it.  I say this because almost certainly they never seriously planned to do it in the first place,.

As for the talk that they might do it, in retrospect that looks like the angry talk of some Russian officials immediately after the US strike.  Decisions made in anger are repented at leisure and the Russians, knowing this, pulled back when their anger died down.

Though the Russians would not have needed Netanyahu to talk them out of the idea of supplying S-300 missiles to Syria, they did probably make use of his visit to inform him that the supply of S-300 missiles to Syria would not take place.

That of course would have improved the atmosphere of the visit, which from the Russian point of view would have been the one benefit they would gained from this affair.

As for suggestions I have seen that the Russians extracted concessions from Netanyahu in return for agreeing not to supply S-300 missiles to Syria, there is no evidence of that and I am sure it did not happen.

The growing crisis in the Middle East

Why then was Netanyahu invited to come to Moscow at this time?

For the answer to that it is first necessary to look at the fast deteriorating situation in the Middle East.

Since the Russians extended their invitation to Netanyahu the following things have happened in the Middle East in quick succession:

(1) The US has pulled out of the JCPOA and has announced that it intends to impose all encompassing sanctions on Iran.  Moreover the US is making clear that it intends to enforce these sanctions by imposing secondary sanctions on third country companies or businesses – including European companies and businesses – which continue to do business with Iran.  Already the French oil major Total is saying that the US sanctions will cause it to disinvest from Iran unless it is provided with a waiver by the US authorities.

(2) Israel has launched a major air strike on Syria, which gives every impression of having been  intended to defeat the Syrian air defence system the Russians have upgraded there;

(3) The US has transferred its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem;

(4) There has been a massacre of Palestinians in Gaza protesting the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and demanding for all Palestinians their right to return to their homeland.

All of this has been happening against a background of increasingly angry rhetoric, including a preposterous comment by Netanyahu whilst in Moscow comparing Iran to Nazi Germany.

Adding to the tension are what look like reliable rumours, which have been – somewhat  unconvincingly-  denied, that a position paper is being circulated within the US National Security Council calling for a US sponsored regime change/’colour revolution’ to be organised by the US in Iran.

It is not difficult to see in all this a drift towards war in the Middle East, and that is what many people are increasingly saying is happening.

No change in Russia’s Middle East policies

A second point to make about Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow, is to point out what has not happened in the Middle East following that visit.

There has been no change in Russian Middle East policy whatsoever.

Russia continues to support Syria militarily, with the Syrian military backed by the Russian air force continuing to score advances against Jihadi fighters throughout Syria.  Damascus is now on the brink of being fully secured, and the remaining Jihadi pockets in central Syria have now been almost completely cleared.

Russia continues to be committed to the JCPOA with Iran.  It has rejected US and Israeli calls for the JCPOA to be scrapped and for a new deal with Iran to be negotiated.

Far from scaling down its economic relations with Iran in response to the US sanctions, Russia appears intent on upgrading its economic relations with Iran.  Talks continue to be underway to establish a free trade area between the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union and Iran.  The ‘oil for goods’ deal Russia and Iran agreed with each in 2015 remains in effect.

Russia continues to make clear its strong disagreement with the US decision to transfer the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  It continues to call for East Jerusalem to be made the capital of a future Palestinian state, explicitly rejecting Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is and can only be Israel’s sole undivided capital.

Russia continues to say that it will only transfer its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on the day when it is able to open an embassy to Palestine in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

In addition Russia continues to be strongly opposed to any military action by the US or Israel against Iran.

In no sense has Netanyahu’s visit to Russia brought about any change in Russia’s policy positions in the Middle East.

Russian policy remains consistent in its opposition to recent US and Israeli moves against Iran, and to the US’s regime change policies in Syria (which are supported by Israel).

Russia also continues to support Palestinian ownership of East Jerusalem and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in Palestine.

Russia’s priority: prevent a Middle East war

These two facts – the gathering crisis in the Middle East and Russia’s continued adherence to its well established and unchanging foreign positions – provide the reasons for the invitation to Netanyahu.

The Russians do not want war in the Middle East and are alarmed by the deterioration of the situation there, and are doing what they can to prevent it from deteriorating further.

They do not want war between Israel and Iran in Syria because such a war could rapidly escalate, threatening to drag them in, and putting the future of the Syrian government, which the Russians have worked so hard to save, in jeopardy.

They do not want war between the US and Israel and Iran because that would disrupt their plans to extend the Eurasian institutions into Central Asia, and would risk creating a further zone of chaos and crisis there in a region close to Russia.

They cannot talk to Donald Trump about these matters because the Russiagate scandal has made high level contact between them and him all but impossible.

On the rare occasions when Trump and Putin have talked or met with each other, the result has been uproar and scandal in the US, making meaningful discussions between the two men impossible.

Since the Russians cannot talk to Trump they have no choice but to talk to the other leading player in the anti Iran enterprise, who is at least willing to talk to them, and who is none other than Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

That is why the Russians invited Netanyahu to Moscow.

The talks in Moscow

The Russians have only provided the text of the introductory comments Putin and Netanyahu exchanged with each other when the two men met following the festivities on Victory Day.

By this point the two men would have been physically exhausted after a packed day’s events, making it unlikely that the talks went on for very long, or that they were very detailed.

However we know from things Netanyahu said before the talks that the focus of the talks was the situation in Syria, with Netanyahu raising Israeli concerns about the supposed Iranian build up in Syria, and the supposed need by Israel to counter this supposed Iranian build up there.

That makes it possible, based on the known positions the two leaders have previously expressed, to make educated guesses about what they said to each other during the talks.

Putin would have taken the opportunity to remind Netanyahu of Russia’s red lines in Syria.

I have set these out many times, but for the sake of clarity I will now do so again.  They are

(1) a prohibition on attacks on Russian bases and Russian facilities in Syria, and on attacks which threaten the lives of Russian soldiers in Syria;

(2) a prohibition on attacks which threaten the survival of the Syrian government; and

(3) a prohibition on attacks which disrupt the operations of the Syrian military against the Jihadis the Syrian military and the Russians are fighting.

Contrary to what some people are saying, I think it is most unlikely that Putin would have given Netanyahu any assurances that Russia would act to rein in Iranian activities in Syria.

If Netanyahu asked Putin for such assurances (which I also think unlikely) Putin would almost certainly have told him what the Russians always say when faced with requests for such assurances: Iran and Syria are sovereign states and Russia cannot interfere in arrangements two sovereign states make with each other.

Netanyahu must know Putin sufficiently well by now to know that this would be Putin’s answer if he were ever asked for such an assurance, which is why I doubt a request for such an assurance was made.

However Putin almost certainly did reassure Netanyahu that provided Russia’s red lines are not crossed Russia will not interfere in any Israeli military operations in Syria, including those which Netanyahu says are directed against Iran.

Putin might have used the opportunity to remind Netanyahu that Russia is not a party to the Arab-Israel conflict or to the state of war which has existed since 1948 between Israel and Syria.

However as Netanyahu knows this already, I think that is also unlikely.

In return Netanyahu would have assured Putin that Israel would continue to observe Russia’s red lines in Syria.

As it happens the Israeli raid on Syria on 9th May 2018 did observe Russia’s red lines, showing that the Russian warnings are being heeded.  Talk of this raid being a humiliation for Putin and for Russia is therefore wrong.

The JCPOA would undoubtedly also have been discussed, though the exchanges on this subject would have been short, since Putin and Netanyahu had discussed it previously over the course of a  telephone conversation the two had with each other just days before.

Putin would have reaffirmed Russia’s support for the JCPOA, and would have made clear that Russia remains committed to improving its relations with Iran.

However what look like strategically placed leaks suggest that Putin may have reassured Netanyahu that Russia would not supply “offensive weapons” to Iran.

“Offensive weapons” in this context means weapons like the SU-35 fighter and the Iskander land attack missile which Iran could use to attack Israel from Iranian territory.

An Interfax report timed 13:15 on 9th May 2018 (the day of the talks) says Russian Deputy Defence Minister Fomin confirmed that “Russia [is] not supplying offensive weapons to Iran”.

That almost certainly repeats an assurance Putin gave to Netanyahu during the talks.

Since Netanyahu knows of Russia’s intention to improve its relations with Iran, and would also have known that nothing he could say would change Putin’s mind about that, he was probably satisfied with this assurance.

It would have told him that Russia, despite forging ahead in its relations with Iran, is not going to put Iran in a position where Iran can challenge Israel militarily from its own national territory.

Almost certainly the question of a possible military attack by the US or Israel on Iran was not discussed.

There do not seem to be any plans for such an attack at the moment, and Putin would not have wanted to spoil the mood on what was after all a festive day by talking about a possible attack which may never happen.

However Netanyahu and Israel are under no doubt of Russia’s strong opposition to any such attack.

Russia made known its strong opposition to such an attack a decade ago when the possibility was first floated by hardliners within the George W. Bush administration.  Nothing has changed to alter Russia’s position about that.

In summary, the primary purpose of the talks and of the invitation to Netanyahu was – almost certainly – (1) to give Netanyahu a forceful reminder of Russia’s red lines in Syria at a time of heightened conflict between Israel and Syria and Israel and Iran; and (2) to give Netanyahu a promise that provided Israel exercised restraint and observed Russia’s red lines Russia would not interfere in Israeli military operations in Syria or provide Iran with weapons which Iran could use to challenge Israel from Iranian territory.

Over and above this, with the threat of a war in the Middle East increasing almost by the day, the invitation to Netanyahu keeps open a line of communication to one of the likely parties in that war, should such a war ever come to pass.

That is essential if diplomatic action is ever needed either to prevent that war happening or – if the war cannot be prevented – to prevent the war spreading and to limit the damage it causes whilst preparing the ground for diplomatic action to broker a compromise with the intention of bringing the war to an end.

The need to maintain a line of communication to Netanyahu – meaningful communication with Donald Trump being for the moment impossible – explains Russia’s muted reaction to the recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

Many people are very upset by this.  From the Russian point of view the need however to keep a channel of communication open to Netanyahu overrides the rhetorical benefits of a condemnation which can in practice change nothing.

If that seems calculated and cold blooded, then that is because it is.  However it is the tough minded way the Russians conduct their diplomacy.

Why Victory Day?

All of this could have been discussed between Putin and Netanyahu at any time.  Why then did the Russians take the further step of inviting Netanyahu to Moscow on Victory Day?

Undoubtedly one reason was to reassure Netanyahu that despite Russia’s increasingly close relations with Iran Russia continues to place a high value on its good relations with Israel.  It would be difficult to imagine a better or more public way to do that than to invite Netanyahu to attend what has become Russia’s most important and emotionally charged public holiday: the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow.

However if the invitation was in part a case of extending the velvet glove, it also came with a very public brandishing of the mailed fist.

It would be difficult to imagine a better way to impress on someone like Netanyahu the reality of Russia’s military power than to make them sit through the gigantic military parade Russia now routinely puts on in Red Square every year on Victory Day.

The sight of tens of thousands of perfectly drilled Russian troops – drilled to a level of perfection no longer attainable by any Western army, including the Israeli army – as well as the hugely impressive display of advanced weaponry, including S-400, Buk-M3, Tor-M2 and Pantsir-S1 anti aircraft systems deployed in Syria and the Iskander and Tornado land attack missiles and the SU-35 and SU-34 fighters and fighter bombers also deployed there, tells its own story.

This is the powerful military that is now entrenched across Israel’s border in Syria.  Does Israel want to tangle with it?

Perhaps Netanyahu is oblivious to that sort of warning, or perhaps he is not the sort of man to be impressed by a warning like that.

However with the Middle East drifting into crisis it is very easy to see why the Russians might think differently, and might think that now is a good time for such a warning to be given to him.

Dressing up a warning as a compliment is perfect diplomacy, and by common agreement diplomacy is something the Russians are very good at.

As a matter of fact Netanyahu, despite his belligerent reputation, is a strongly risk averse leader who has so far kept Israel out of wars.

I suspect that he understands the implicit warning he was given perfectly well, and understands fully the enormous risks he and Israel would be taking if they tried to take on Russia.

That is a major constraint on Netanyahu’s and Israel’s behaviour, and the pointed reminder of Russia’s military might Netanyahu was given on Victory Day can only have reinforced it.

Summary

As the situation in the Middle East deteriorates Russia, probably to its own surprise, finds itself at the centre of Middle East diplomacy.

Russia is now the only country able to talk to and influence both sides in the coming conflict: the alliance of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel on the one hand, and the so-called “Axis of Resistance” of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and possibly Iraq on the other.

The invitation to Netanyahu is not an act of capitulation, or a sign that Russia is succumbing to Israeli influence.  Nor in my opinion is it some great public relations misstep.

It is the exercise of diplomacy at a particularly dangerous moment in the contemporary history of the Middle East.

The same is true of the other steps the Russians have been recently taking, such as President Putin’s two recent telephone conversations with Turkish President Erdogan, and the latest meeting in Sochi between President Putin and Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad.

Indeed at a time when no else is conducting diplomacy in the Middle East there will be many who think that it is just as well that the Russians are doing it.

This is being said in some surprising quarters.  By way of example, the Financial Times, normally a relentless critic of President Putin and of the Russian government, has recently published an editorial with the extraordinary headline: “The march to another Middle East disaster; Only Putin and the balance of terror stand between Iran, Israel and war“.

This editorial ends with these interesting words

In this far-from-ideal situation, the only country with viable bridges to both Israel and Iran is Russia. Fortunately, President Vladimir Putin is speaking to both sides. Whatever his motives, he looks the stronger for it.

Whether Russian diplomacy really can prevent war from breaking out in the Middle East is debatable.  However even if war does break out that does not mean that Russia’s actions would be wasted.

Positioning Russia where it can talk to both sides in a future war, and where it has leverage over both, might make it possible for the Russians to limit the conflict and to prevent it escalating beyond a certain point.

At the very least it puts Russia in a better position where it can act to protect its own interests.

There is no doubt that much of the ill feeling about Netanyahu’s presence in Moscow on Victory Day stems from a widespread view that Netanyahu is a war criminal and the arch warmonger in the Middle East.

It is doubtful however whether the Russian leadership sees the situation in that way.  From their point of view Netanyahu is the leader of a powerful country, which though a member of the Western alliance and a close ally of the US continues to want friendship with Russia at a time when relations between the West and Russia have become extremely bad.

Netanyahu and Israel are also central players in the Middle East, a region in which Russia is now heavily involved, and where it now has important interests..

For all these reasons the Russians must talk to Netanyahu, both in order to preserve their good relations with him and Israel, and so that they can pursue their own strategies unhindered in Iran and Syria.

In the particular circumstances of the moment Victory Day in Moscow provided the perfect venue to do it, and nobody who studies Russian policy carefully should therefore be surprised that the Russians invited Netanyahu to it.

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Pat Buchanan: Caravan Puts Trump Legacy on the Line

Unwanted mass migration is the issue of our time, as there is no foreseeable end to it before it alters America irremediably.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Our mainstream media remain consumed with the grisly killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and how President Donald Trump will deal with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Understandably so, for this is the most riveting murder story since O.J. Simpson and has strategic implications across the Middle East.

Yet far more critical to the future of our civilization is the ongoing invasion of the West from the Third World.

Consider the impact of the decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 to throw open Germany’s doors to 1 million refugees from Syria’s civil war.

Last weekend, in a crushing blow to Merkel, the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of her CDU, won its smallest share of the vote in half a century, 37 percent. Her coalition party, the SPD, saw its share of the Bavarian vote fall to a historic low of less than 10 percent.

The right-wing Alternative for Deutchland saw its support rise to 10 percent and has become a force in German politics. Some conservatives are urging the CDU to adopt the AfD hardline on illegal immigration.

The message sent by the Bavarian electorate is the message voters across Europe have been sending to their own capitals for years: You are failing in your first duty — defense of the homeland from foreign invasion. Mass migration of unassimilable peoples and cultures from a global South represents an existential threat to our Europe.

As Merkel’s chancellorship approaches its end, French President Emmanuel Macron, her progressive EU partner, has seen his approval fall to below 30 percent.

The U.S.-led NATO alliance may guard the Baltic and Black Sea regions against a Russian invasion from the east. But in Central, Southern and Western Europe, the more feared invaders are the peoples of Africa and the Muslim world, whose numbers are expected to triple or quadruple by this century’s end.

And as their numbers grow, so, too, does their desperation to escape, even at risk of their lives, the poverty, wars and repression of their homelands to cross the Med and fill the empty spaces left by a depopulating Europe.

It also now appears that the U.S. elections, not three weeks away, may be affected by another immigration crisis on the U.S. border.

As of Thursday, a caravan of 4,000 refugees without visas had crossed from Honduras into Guatemala and was heading toward Mexico. By Election Day, it will either have been stopped, or it will be here. And this caravan is a portent of things to come.

According to The Washington Post, during FY 2018, which ended last month, 107,212 members of “family units” crossed over into the U.S., “obliterating the previous record of 77,857 set in 2016.”

Citing DHS figures, the Post adds, “Border patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members in September alone, the highest one-month total on record and an 80 percent increase from July.”

When Trump, under intense political fire, ended his “zero tolerance” policy of separating refugees from their children, this message went out to Mexico and Central America:

Bring your kids with you when you cross the border. They will have to stay with you, and they cannot be held for more than 20 days. Thus, when they are released, you will be released to await a hearing on your claim of asylum. The odds are excellent that you can vanish into the U.S. population and never be sent back.

Enraged, Trump has threatened to cut off aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala if they do not stop the caravans and has warned Mexico he will use the U.S. military to secure our border.

Unwanted mass migration is the issue of our time, as there is no foreseeable end to it before it alters America irremediably.

As these migrants are almost all poor, not highly skilled, and do not speak English, most will join that segment of our population that pays no income taxes but qualifies for social welfare benefits like food stamps, medical care and free education in our public schools.

They are thus a net drain upon the resources of a nation that is already, at full employment, running a deficit of $779 billion a year.

These migrants, however, are a present and future benefit to the Democratic Party that built and maintains our mammoth welfare state, and which, in presidential elections, routinely wins 70 to 90 percent of the votes of people whose trace their ancestry to Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Not without reason, Democrats believe that if they can change the composition of the American electorate, they can control America forever.

If Donald Trump was elected on any one issue, it was immigration and his promises to secure the border, build the wall and halt the invasion.

How he deals with the impending crisis of the migrant caravan may affect both the fate of his party in November and his presidency in 2020.

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‘Mohammad bin Salman Must Go’, but US-Saudi Ties Are Here to Stay

Was it possible that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was so arrogant that he could not imagine the consequences of such a heinous crime?

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Mohammad bin Salman is fully aware of the Western elite’s understanding of its own values. While he may be given a pass to bomb Yemen and kill thousands of innocent civilians, he should know better than to dare touch a Washington Post columnist – “one of ours”, as one MSNBC host said. Did he not realize there would be consequences?

As more information came out, many analysts began to confront the most obvious question. Was it possible that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was so arrogant that he could not imagine the consequences of such a heinous crime? How could MBS betray Trump this way, not anticipating that the Democrats and the mainstream media would jump all over Trump’s friendship with him? Could he be so foolish as to place in jeopardy foreign investments planned at the Davos in the Desert conference on October 23? The answer to that question is apparently: yes, he could.

The only rational explanation for this behavior is that MBS thought he could get away with it. Remember that we are talking about someone who had Saad Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon, kidnapped and carried off to the Kingdom, with his whereabouts unknown for days but with very little reaction from the mainstream media or Western politicians. It is possible that in this instance, MBS simply misjudged the level of Khashoggi’s popularity amongst neoliberals of the Washington establishment, provoking an unexpected response. Furthermore, the thesis that the Saudis understood that they had some kind of green light from Trump is not to be totally dismissed. Such a backlash is what you get from having a big mouthpraise your friends too much, and tweet all the time.

The rapidity with which the US media, and especially dozens of Republican and Democratic senators, attacked Saudi Arabia, blaming it for the atrocious crime, is rather unusual. After all, the Saudi elites have been inclined to behave in such a manner over the last 40 years. But it also highlights the ongoing inconsistency and double standards: nothing is said about Yemen, but the Kingdom is currently under the strongest censure for allegedly offing a journalist.

As I had already pointed out in my previous article, Khashoggi was clearly part of a faction opposed to the current ruling royal family in Saudi Arabia, headed by MBS. To understand this Saudi golden boy of the US mainstream media as well as military-industrial-spying complex, we have to go back to Mohammed bin Nayef. Bin Nayef has been under house arrest for almost two years, immediately purged by MBS as soon as he assumed power as crown prince. Bin Nayef has for decades been the CIA’s go-to man in Riyadh, helping the CIA & Co. pretend to “fight” al Qaeda in the Kingdom while using al Qaeda as a tool to inflict damage on US geopolitical adversaries.

The removal of bin Nayef by MBS was greeted with anger by a part of the US establishment close to Washington think tanks and the CIA and was never fully digested. MBS and his father, King Salman, needed to consolidate power around the throne at the time, and bin Nayef was certainly part of the faction opposing MBS, as was Khashoggi.

Naturally, these antipathies were set aside by the CIA, think tanks and neoliberals in the media due to to the importance of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US, especially vis-a-vis the US Petrodollar. MBS even undertook a tour in the US to help smooth the relationship with the West, being hailed as a new reformer, if you can believe that.

Nowadays,the relationship between Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Washington is based on the strong friendship between Trump and MBS and Trump and Netanyahu. Furthermore, the strengthened link between Trump and MBS, facilitated by son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is close to Israel, served to create a new alliance, perhaps even hinting at the possibility of an Arab NATO. Israel is eager to see more Saudi and US engagement against Iran in the region, and the Saudis similarly praise Israel and the US for being engaged in a fight against Iranian influence in the region. In this way, Trump can please his Israeli friends and see Saudi money pour in as investments.

These agreements have led to a series of disasters in the Middle East that go against the interests of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US. Israel’s recklessness has led to the deployment of a wide range of Russian state-of-the-art weapons to Syria, preventing Israel and the US from acting as freely as before. The disastrous Saudi war in Yemen, the almost diplomatic break with Canada, the kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon, and now the Khashoggi affair, have further weakened and isolated Saudi Arabia, MBS, and therefore Trump. The US is no longer able to influence events on the ground in Syria, and so the initial plans of Israel and Saudi Arabia have foundered, after having devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to arm and train terrorists to overthrow Assad.

The Khashoggi affair plays into this situation, exacerbating the war between elites in the US as their strategies in the Middle East continue to fail. The neoliberal mainstream media immediately used the Khashoggi story to pressure Trump into taking a firm stance against one of his last friends and financiers, trying to further isolate him as the midterms approach. Many in the US deep state are convinced – as they were convinced that Clinton would win the presidency – that the House and Senate will end up in Democratic hands in the November elections, paving the way for Trump’s impeachment and for Mike Pence to become president. Pence, a prominent figure of the evangelical right, would be the perfect president for Israel, placing Tel Aviv in the driving seat of US foreign policy as never before. In this scenario, it would certainly be preferable for certain parts of the elite to have a different figure at the helm in Saudi Arabia, seeing as MBS appears to be an unstable leader. Possibly they would prefer someone tied to the US secret services – someone like Mohammed bin Nayef. For these reasons, Democrats, some Republicans and the mainstream media have gone all out against MBS and Trump.

Turkey seems to be using the situation to further widen the fracture between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world. Since Doha is paying the bills for Erdogan these days, with the Turkish lira at a low, it is essentially the Al Thani family running the PR show in the Turkish media. It looks like the Qatari media are paying back with interests all the negative media they received from the Saudis over the past year. Despite this, neither Ankara nor Riyadh is intent on any kind escalation, both knowing that any suffering on their part is a boon for their enemies.

An interesting aspect related to the Khashoggi affair concerns the sources of the news about the investigation, all anonymous and coming from Turkish police or from people linked to the top echelons of the Turkish state. Knowing the odd state of relations between Ankara and Riyadh, and especially between Turkish ally Qatar and Saudi Arabia, all this news coming from one source should at least be taken with a grain of salt. What is certain is that the Turks had immediate knowledge of the matter regarding who, what, where, when and why. This means that they must have bugged the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, allowing the MIT, Turkey’s intelligence service, to know in real time what was happening to Khashoggi. The story concerning the Apple watch appears to be an attempt by the Turks to thrown off the scent Saudis who may be scratching their heads wondering how the Turks came to have such intimate knowledge of what transpired in their consulate.

For Turkey, the Khashoggi affair could be the occasion for a rapprochement with the US, following a deterioration in relations in the last two years. Turkey has few friends left, and after being cornered by Russia and Iran in Astana with regards to Syria,  it also has to deal with the tensions between Riyadh and Qatar as well as balance its relations with Iran and Israel. Erdogan would like to exploit this event as much as possible, and the release of Pastor Brunson seems to indicate Ankara’s willingness to extend an olive branch to Washington.

Russia, Syria and Iran have everything to benefit from this ongoing internal quarrel between elements within Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Qatar and the US. Whatever the outcome of the Khashoggi affair, Moscow, Tehran and Damascus can only benefit from any deterioration of relations between these countries.

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Boycott Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Here’s Why

The way to boycott Facebook, Twitter, and Google, is to NOT respond to their ads, but instead to blacklist their advertisers and all media that rely upon those giant social-media sites.

Eric Zuesse

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Originally posted at strategic-culture.org:


NATO — the neoconservatives, the marketeers for firms such as Lockheed Martin and BAE — has taken over the social-media giants and much of online international ‘news’-reporting, including that of virtually all independent news-sites and blogs.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google, in recent days, delivered what might be the death-blows.

NATO’s main PR agency, think-tank, and lobbying organization, is ‘non-profit’ — a legal tax-dodge that’s financed by donations from those weapons-making firms and their supporting firms and their ‘non-profits’, so that the taxes that it doesn’t pay will need to be paid instead by the general public. Billionaires know how to avoid taxes, and they hire politicians who write the laws with all the ‘right’ loopholes for them — and only for the very richest — to use. This PR agency is called “The Atlantic Council,” and it was set up in 1961, the exact same year that U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower left office warning that “the military-industrial complex” might take control of the U.S. Well, it did so, with The Atlantic Council’s help; and, now, it is finally lowering the boom against democracy itself — at least among the U.S. and its allied nations (the governments whose weapons-manufacturing firms are in, and sell to, NATO governments). The aim is to drive up the percentage of government-expenditures there that go to pay those firms, and so to reduce the percentages that go to pay everything else. The aim, in short, is the permanent-warfare-economy. After all, firms such as Lockheed Martin and BAE sell only to allied governments. They have virtually no consumers except those governments. So: their (and their ‘charities’) basic message is ‘austerity’ — except on ‘defense’ or realistically called “aggression.” This is national ‘defense’ such as against Iraq in 2003, and against Libya in 2011 — it is instead sheer aggression. George Orwell predicted “Newspeak” — well, here it is. It’s today’s norm, so normal that the public think it’s just natural, and conservatives and even many liberals think it’s the way that ‘a free market’ ought to be.

Here was Facebook’s announcement, on October 11th:

——

newsroom.fb.com

11 October 2018

Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

——

Those 559 and 251 weren’t identified; none of them were. Facebook wants them to need to scream in order for them to be able to be noticed at all by the public. The announcement didn’t even say by what criteria they were measuring ‘Inauthentic Activity’ versus ‘legitimate political debate’. Their announcement did say “we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove,” but unless they make public what the actual algorithms are by means of which they remove sites, no one should trust them, at all, because they can remove whatever NATO or The Atlantic Council (neither of which their announcement even mentioned) want them to remove.

The background for this act by the war-economy’s billionaires had already been reported at Mint Press on May 18th“Facebook Partners With Hawkish Atlantic Council, a NATO Lobby Group, to ‘Protect Democracy’”, where Elliott Gabriel opened:

Facebook is hoping that a new alliance with the Atlantic Council — a leading geopolitical strategy think-tank seen as a de facto PR agency for the U.S. government and NATO military alliance – will not only solve its “fake news” and “disinformation” controversy, but will also help the social media monolith play “a positive role” in ensuring democracy on a global level.

The new partnership will effectively ensure that Atlantic Council will serve as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” according to a company press statement. With its leadership comprised of retired military officers, former policymakers, and top figures from the U.S. National Security State and Western business elites, the Atlantic Council’s role policing the social network should be viewed as a virtual takeover of Facebook by the imperialist state and the council’s extensive list of ultra-wealthy and corporate donors.

Then, on October 12th, Mint Press’s Whitney Webb bannered “Facebook Purges US-Based Independent Media For Political Disinformation”, and reported that,

Notably, Facebook’s statement on the mass purge of pages was co-authored by Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher, who is a former White House National Security Council director of cybersecurity policy.

Twitter also banned many of the pages targeted for deletion by Facebook on Thursday, suggesting a coordinated censorship effort between the two most popular social media platforms.

Many of the pages banned had millions of likes, such as the Free Thought Project (3.1 million likes), Antimedia (2.1 million), Cop Block (1.7 million), and Police the Police (1.9 million). Several of the pages that were deleted on Thursday had been targeted by Facebook in recent months, both through new censorship algorithms and Facebook’s controversial team of “fact checkers.”

For instance, the Free Thought Project had been flagged earlier this year as “fake news” by Facebook “fact checking” partner organizations, including  the Associated Press (AP) and Snopes. In one case, a story published by the Free Thought Project was flagged as “false” by the AP. That story, which detailed the documented case of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) being forcibly removed from a DHS migrant detention center that had once been a Walmart, was marked false because the AP asserted that the article made the claim that Walmart was housing immigrants for DHS. However, the article does not make the claim, instead accurately noting that the facility used to be a Walmart.

Censorship algorithms had also greatly affected traffic to the recently deleted pages for much of the past year. In the case of Antimedia, its traffic dropped from around 150,000 page views per day in early June to around 12,000 by the end of that month. As a reference, in June of last year, Antimedia’s traffic stood at nearly 300,000 views per day.

Also on October 12th, heavy dot com bannered “‘Facebook Purge’: List of Some Deleted Accounts on Left & Right” and listed a few dozen sites that the article’s writer had seen online screaming about having been removed.

Meanwhile, in UK’s very mainstream Daily Mail (the second-largest-circulation of all UK’s newspapers), columnist Michael Burleigh headlined on October 13th “Putin’s taking over Libya by stealth in order to point a new weapon at the West — millions of desperate migrants” and he opened:

So bloody and extensive is President Putin’s record of aggression, not least in Syria and Ukraine, that an incursion into the empty deserts of North Africa might hardly seem worth noting.

Yet the discovery that Russia is moving troops and missiles into war-torn Libya has rightly caused alarms to sound throughout the capitals of Europe.

It is a step of huge significance, and one with potentially disastrous results for Western nations.

The discovery that Vladimir Putin, above, and his government is moving troops and missiles into war-torn Libya has rightly caused alarm. Russia – this time in the form of Rosneft, the huge oil company controlled by Putin’s sinister crony Igor Sechin – is interested in a slice of Libya’s vast oil reserves, the largest in Africa

Libya has both oil and Mediterranean ports, and Russia is hungry for both.

But was it Russia that in 2011 had invaded and destroyed Libya, or was it U.S., UK, and France, who invaded and destroyed Libya — a country that like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and others which The West has destroyed, had never threatened nor invaded any of them?

Burleigh continued:

– cause enough for concern, perhaps. Yet the real fear for European governments is this: Libya, with its porous southern borders, has become the main jumping-off point for the hundreds of thousands of African migrants now seeking to cross the Mediterranean to the shores of the EU and, in particular, Italy.

So, his own country, UK, had helped with the bombing of Libya that had caused all those ‘migrants’ (actually refugees) into Europe, but now he’s trying to blame Putin for it, as if Russia and not UK, U.S., and France were the cause of it. Doesn’t that “mislead people”?

But is the Daily Mail being strangled by Facebook, Twitter, and Google; or is it instead being done to the small-fry political sites, which aren’t owned and controlled by the aristocracies of the U.S., UK, France, and their allied aristocracies — all the aristocracies that are in NATO and promoted by The Atlantic Council?

Here is yet more from Elliott Gabriel’s excellent news-report at Mint Press on May 18th, providing background to the present purges and censorships:

The announcement, made last Thursday in a Facebook Newsroom post, explained that the social network’s security, policy and product teams will coordinate their work with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) to analyze “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.”

DFRLab employees include pro-war media activist Eliot Higgins (of Bellingcat fame) and Ben Nimmo — a senior fellow for information defense at the Atlantic Council, who earned infamy for his groundless accusations that actual Twitter users are Russian trolls.

Read more on Facebook

Continuing, Facebook global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath explained:

“This will help increase the number of ‘eyes and ears’ we have working to spot potential abuse on our service — enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”

“We know that tackling these problems effectively also requires the right policies and regulatory structures, so that governments and companies can help prevent abuse while also ensuring that people have a voice during elections. The Atlantic Council’s network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face in the near- and long-term.”

“The think-tank’s Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions will also be tapped by the social network during elections and “other highly sensitive moments” to allow Facebook the ability to zero in on key locales and monitor alleged misinformation and foreign interference.”

Who is the Atlantic Council?

Hillary Clinton at the 2013 Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards (Photo: Atlantic Council)

The Atlantic Council was recently in the news for receiving a donation of $900,000 from the U.S. State Department for a “Peace Process Support Network” program to “promote non-violent conflict resolution” in support of Venezuela’s scattered opposition, with which the council enjoys very close ties. The council also advocates the arming of extremist militants in Syria (a “National Stabilization Force”) and a hard-line policy toward Russia.

Established in 1961 by former U.S. Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Christian Herter, the Atlantic Council of the United States was originally conceived as a means to drum up support for the Cold War-era NATO alliance, which had formed in 1949 as the basis of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture during the post-WWII competition with the Soviet Union. Dozens of similar Atlantic Councils were eventually established throughout the NATO and Partnership for Peace states.

The council is a part of the Atlantic Treaty Association, a NATO offshoot that claims to unite “political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty, namely: democracy, freedom, liberty, peace, security, and the rule of law.”

In general, groups such as the Atlantic Council are meant to secure the legitimacy of U.S. policies and neoliberal economics in the eyes of world audiences and academia, whether they live in the “advanced democracies” (the imperialist center) or “developing democracies” (the post-colonial and economically exploited nations).

Mint Press — a real news-operation, instead of the fake-news operations that are being boosted by Facebook, Twitter, and Google — apparently hasn’t yet been removed by Facebook, but the permanent-war-economy is only just starting to lower the boom. And, who knows what’s next, in American ‘democracy’, now?

The way to boycott Facebook, Twitter, and Google, is to NOT respond to their ads, but instead to blacklist their advertisers and all media that rely upon those giant social-media sites. There are competitors, and those need to be aggressively favored by anyone who doesn’t want to be mentally strangulated by these three giant corporations.

These media-giants want to strangle the public; so, the public needs to strangle them first.

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